Tag Archives: family

Goodbye Forever, Box

30 Aug

At some point during the life span of this blog I wrote about how the state of my room (AKA a mess assessment….amessment? Yes? No?) was a clear reflection of how things in my life were going. And, actually, perhaps more to the point it was, is, a reflection of how things in my head are going. I don’t mean that in any big way, really. I am a relatively even keeled person. I would say that on a happy-to-sad spectrum I generally reside closer to the former than the latter, with some forays into sadness and a vacation home in anger and disbelief. I would categorize myself as my friend Ashlie described herself, a loud introvert. I had never really heard that term before but the second it came out of Ashlie’s mouth I thought to myself,

yes, that’s me.

Anyway, my room. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you: my room is always a little bit of a disaster. In college a pile of clothes would migrate from my bed to my desk chair and back again depending on which of those things I needed at the moment. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been better about putting my clothes away (although truth be told a bag of clean laundry sits outside the door of my bedroom because I haven’t felt like dealing with it) but still the clutter remains. Shoes litter the floor, piles of New Yorker magazines reside on my desk and coffee table, unopened mail with personal data lies unopened, awaiting an afternoon of shredding. For years my awesome ex-boyfriend kept my mess, and my mood, in check but since he moved away about a year and a half ago things have gotten progressively messier. Both in my head and in my room. I stopped doing the things I have always done by sheer force of will, desire and habit: writing and running. I started keeping to myself more, seeing friends less, allowing my room to become an embarrassing disaster. The worst of it all was The Box.

You see a few years ago me and my roommates, boyfriend included!, moved from the second floor to the third. My landlord was redoing the apartments and the girls upstairs had moved out so we took over the newly renovated space. We all sort of haphazardly packed up our things and carried them up the single flight of stairs to restart our lives in a slightly better version of the place we had been living in for years. At the end of the packing process, I threw a bunch of odds and ends into a big box, figuring I would unpack it and put the things away. That was years ago. The box has remained packed, if you can even call it that, since 2012. Every time I went to deal with it I would be overcome with anxiety. Where does all of this stuff go? What do I do with it? How do I organize it? I would inevitably throw everything back in the box and head out for a run in an attempt to refocus and have another go when I got back. I never had another go. The Box stayed. And then, last week, I had enough. I came into my room with the intention of going through the box, organizing things, putting things in rightful places, feeling accomplished and like having The Box take up this huge swathe of space in my room, and my brain, for the past forever actually had some purpose. Like it wasn’t all for naught. I stood in front of The Box, looked inside, and simply said

Fuck it. Fuck you, Box. I hate you.

I got the garbage can and simply threw everything away.* I threw away the old articles from grad school. The weird candle holders I never used. The picture frames I bought at Bed&Bath in 2002 (saved the photos, though). The broken jewelry. The notebooks. All of that shit that has been causing me anxiety for all this time just gone. I took the garbage out, went back to my room, changed into running clothes and went out for the first run I have wanted to go on for as long as I can remember. And I started thinking about my next blog and my next marathon.

It’s been a long and sad road this past year and a half. And it’s crazy how you don’t even realize you’re on it until one day, you just make a turn and all of a sudden the fog sort of lifts. One day you just go into your room and you tackle some seemingly small project that is somehow the physical manifestation of all of the shit that has beaten you down over the past 19 months and you look outside and the sun is shining and rather than forcing yourself to go out there you want to do it. It’s a crazy thing and I don’t know what did it but whatever it is, fuck am I grateful because this shit — the sadness, the anxiety, the overwhelming feeling that I have been letting everyone down, myself more than anyone else — was getting tired. And was starting to make me feel like I had made some turn away from my old bright self into someone far more muted, someone about ready to burst into tears without reason or warning at any moment. I thought I was the only one who noticed but apparently I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, after visiting my parents for the night, I received the following text message from my father:

Hi, glad you came out yesterday. I missed you. I have to say I am a little worried about you. Seeing you made it easier. I hope you can use this trip as a reassessment period to come back and just be happier. Anything I can do to help let me know. I love you.

And so to my dad and everyone else: I am back. The Box is gone. And now I am going to go out into the world because I want to. And see my friends who I love. And get ready for an awesome fucking adventure through Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. And then, who knows. But I think it will probably be great.

*To be fair I recycled some of it but I felt like that took away some of the drama.

My Shiny Quarter

22 Jun

I know this is probably the worst time to publish a blog post considering that the USA are playing Portugal in the World Cup as I type, but whatever, when you are inspired you are inspired and I never pretended to be smart about this whole blogging thing.  So it is not secret that my year has sucked.  I wrote about it here. Also, here.  Oh and then there was this thing that happened that I wrote about here.  And let us not forget about this.  So this isn’t a blog about me complaining about how I am having an off year, and how my life has sort of been like a line of dominoes, where one of them falls and knocks every other one down in rapid succession.  It is about something else.

So on Friday I was walking home from getting some juice when I stumbled upon a quarter.  I walked past it about 5 paces or so and then stopped, thinking about my friend Monica.  She has also had a rough couple of weeks ever since her dog went missing.  I thought about how Monica always picks up pennies.  It’s this really endearing compulsion that she has.  We would be running through the streets of New York and no matter what we were talking about, she would always see the pennies, always pick them up.  I turned back around and, with Monica and Lark on my mind, I picked up the quarter.  I took it in my fingers, turned it over, and decided that that very moment would be the moment that I would stop thinking about what a crappy year I have been having, I would stop dooming myself to more misfortune, and just change my mindset.  That quarter, I decided, was going to be my change in luck, that place in the domino line when you get them all wrong and the one falling somehow misses its neighbor and the rest of the pieces remain standing.  I know this might seem a lot to put into one small piece of currency, but in the face of thinking that you have somehow run into a string of unexplainable bad luck it really seems like the most logical next step.

(I just heard screaming from an adjacent building.  Somehow the US has overtaken Portugal?  How surprising.)This is going to sound really cheesy.  Perhaps even cheesier than the things I have already written in this post.  I was just watching an episode of Gossip Girl (I know, I know), and Rufus Humphrey said something to Dan over breakfast that really just got to me:”…success, people praising you, it goes away.  And when that day comes, if you don’t like who you are, you’re done.”I don’t know.  I have spent a good amount of time trying to figure out what has been happening recently.  I have spent a lot of brain power, shed a lot of tears (more than I really care to admit to) trying to understand what the fuck I ever did to have all this happen.  But then I realized I didn’t actually do anything.  It’s just life, it’s the world.  This is how shit goes.  And I can either feel sorry for myself, or laugh at myself.  I can either look backwards, or look forwards.  I can either wonder why there are so many assholes, or I can be happy that I like who I am and anyone who doesn’t, well, they simply aren’t worth my time.  From here on out I am choosing the latter in all three of those scenarios.As it turns out, a quarter really can be the harbinger of good things to come.  I mean, if I was going to somehow attribute all my good fortune to some weird universal bullshit, why not assign some of my good fortune to a quarter.  Right?  Right.So that is it.  That is the end of me thinking this is an off year, and wishing I had a bear-free cave to live in.  This is the beginning of me realizing I have an amazing support system all of whom I love and appreciate; I have a fantastic family; I have a warm house with great roommates and two annoying as hell but incredibly sweet cats; I have my health; I wake up most mornings feeling lucky that I am who I am; I have this shiny new quarter.  The rest, I think, will come in time.

A Letter to my Dad on his Birthday

9 Mar

Sorry my blog has been so quiet as of late. It’s been a stressful few weeks and also I just got back from a week long trip in Peru!  It was so fun.  Stay tuned for some adventure stories but for now, I have someone important to write about.  My dad.  Today is my dad’s birthday, AKA the second best day of the year (the first best obviously being my birthday which, in case you were wondering when to send gifts, is on July 19th), and so I figured I would write him a letter.  So, here goes.

Dear Daaaaad,

First thing first: happy, happy, happy birthday.  Since you are not having a big birthday party this year and I therefore don’t get the chance to bail you out of a botched speech with my own impromptu genius, I figured the next best thing would be to write you a letter.  You, Dad, are one of my favorite people in the world.  I’m sure there were times growing up when I was mad at you or when we got in fights or maybe when, in the heat of the moment, I told you that I hated you, something which all children do at some point I think, but sitting here at my computer right now I cannot conjure a single negative memory.  There are plenty of things that I do remember, however.  I remember us watching PeeWee together and am still sad I couldn’t get us tickets to his one man show on Broadway.  I remember us going to the car dealership to buy something moderately practical for a family of five and ending up returning home with a Mercedes convertible with only two seats.  I remember us, year after year, going shopping for mom’s presents at the last possible moment and always coming back with something awesome.  I remember watching that episode of Ren and Stimpy where there is a fire in the building and this woman is throwing all these things out of the window – an elephant, her huge baby, a walrus, herself – and laughing so hard that we cried.  I remember the countless pep talks you have given me over the years when I have had a hard time and doubted myself.  I remember sock puppet which, I believe, is still stuck in the pocket of one of your jackets, just waiting to make another appearance or brag about another trip to the Bahamas.  I remember us sneaking off in Disney World and going to eat sushi, coming up with the genius code word “the booths” so Mom and Lucy wouldn’t know where we were.  I remember your swordfish license plate.  I remember labeling all my leftovers “Dad: Do Not Eat!” so I wouldn’t come home with expectations of delicious food and find, well, nothing.  More than anything else, I just remember laughing.

I know that there are other dads in the world who are great, but I think Lucy, Aaron, Claire and I really got the best one.  There are so many people who didn’t have fathers, who didn’t or don’t have good relationships with theirs, and I really cannot imagine what that must have been like for them, what that continues to be like.  I just feel so god damn lucky.  When I think about the things that I have done and the person who I am, a person that I am proud to be, I really think that so much of the credit for all of that has to go to you and to Mom.  You guys created such a loving and supportive household, a place I am still so happy to return to.  You guys created an environment where, as long as I was trying and as long as I was kind, you would always be proud.  I know, no matter what I do in life I will always have the two of you in my corner cheering me on when things are great and cheering me up when they aren’t.

So, thank you, Dad. I know you know how much I love you, but sometimes it is just nice to have it in writing.  You are the best Dad, and one of the best people, in the entire world.  So happy birthday, Dad.  Here’s to so many more years of laughter.

Love always


PS  King Triton doesn’t have shit on you.

PPS  Where is that star tie I gave you for your birthday in the 2nd grade?  Best tie ever.

Merry Christmas, Mima

25 Dec

For as long as I remember, on Christmas Eve morning my parents, my two siblings and I would pile into whatever car my dad happened to be driving at the time (except for when he and I went out car shopping together in which case we always returned home with some completely impractical 2-seat convertible, meaning we would have to take my mom’s Saab for the trip because my mom has basically always driven a Saab) and head up north to New Salem, New York to celebrate Christmas with the Wehren half of the family.  My dad would drive, my mom would be in the passenger seat, and my sister Lucy and I would take our turn at the dreaded middle seat.  (Aaron never had to sit in the middle because he was “older and taller,” whatever, so unfair.)  The trunk would be full of suitcases and neatly wrapped presents.  My mom is excellent at wrapping presents.  We’re talking crisp corners, multi-colored ribbons which were often times the ones that if you dragged the sharp edge of the scissor over they would end up all curly like a pig’s tail, and cool cards always signed, in my mom’s unique handwriting, Love; Mom and Dad although my Dad did none of the shopping and basically was just as surprised as we were by the contents of each of the boxes.  Inevitably, on the seemingly arduous ride up (it was only 2 1/2 hours, a walk in the park by my post-India travel adventures but seemed like forever when I was 8) we would stop at the Sloatsburg Travel Plaza off the New York Thruway for some Burger King and Sbarro.  My dad always got a stomach ache.  And then it was back on the road.

Once we got off the highway at our destination, we would wind our way through Voorheesville and New Salem.  For most of the time we went up there, the town only had one stop light so it was pretty much smooth sailing.  We would drive past the two houses where I have this vague memory of a story I was told about two teenage kids, some phone calls and a police visit; we would drive past the high school and the police station; past the Smitty’s and the middle school with it’s fancy wooden playground and then arrive at my grandma, Mima’s, little house behind a bigger house, about 6 houses down on the left.  (My uncle Pat used to live in the front house.  As a little kid I was pretty afraid of Pat and his house because he always wore army clothes, never smiled, and basically kept the lights in the house off at all times.)  Sometimes Mima would  hear us coming up the driveway and would meet us out front and sometimes not, but we knew she was home waiting.  As we got older we would grab what we could and make our way in, but as little kids we would barrel into the house always making sure to close the outer door before opening the inner one so as not to allow Something, Mima’s rather sassy cat, to escape.  The rest of the afternoon and evening was full of tree decorating, eating the candy Mima always kept around but couldn’t eat (she was diabetic) and lots of talking.  Lucy could usually be found in the corner reading a book.  We gave Mima a new ornament yearly, and we always, always, got to open one present on Christmas Eve.  When I was younger, I would pick one that looked like a book and leave the bigger and oddly shaped presents, the more exciting ones, for the next day.  I always loved those Christmas Eves.

After dinner the 5 of us would leave Mima and head back to the hotel for a good night sleep before we headed back to her house for a full day of Wehren-family fun.  When we got older, and after Uncle Pat passed away and my Aunt Vida moved into his house (she painted the walls colors and turned on the lights!) me, Aaron and Lucy would all sleep there, taking care to pack pajama layers because Vida basically doesn’t believe in turning the heat above 65 degrees.  Brr.  Christmas day was always full.  My cousin Jessica and I generally got matching sweaters.  I seem to remember one year we got matching red leggings and a sweater with a reindeer on it which we changed into immediately and wore around for the rest of the day.  We loved getting matching sweaters.  I think that stopped when we were about 11. There were gifts, there were stories, there were mashed potatoes, there was the inevitable argument among the Wehren siblings about religion, education and politics (they are all varying degrees of extremely liberal).  My dad always went back to the hotel to take a nap in the middle of the day.  I think it was all a little much for him.  The next morning we would all meet at a nearby diner for breakfast before we headed home to Jersey.  That was the typical Chirstmas.  But there were a few incidents that I will always remember.

There was the time when my cousin Jessica and I decided to go back to the hotel with my dad during his afternoon nap.  We wandered the halls, playing games, pretending someone was following us through the halls of the hotel.  We didn’t know what room he this mystery man was staying in but we knew he was after us.  At one point, riding the elevator from one floor to another, we got impatient and hit basically all the buttons.  We got stuck in the elevator for about ten minutes.  To this day elevators still make me uncomfortable.

Then there was the time, after Mima started getting sick so we moved Christmas dinner down the driveway to Vida’s house, when there was a lot of snow.  Like, a lot of snow.  So much snow that, when all the pipes froze due to the insane cold, we had to go outside and get snow to melt in order to wash the dishes.  Even though this was in the era when Lucy, Aaron and I normally stayed with Vida, my dad insisted we all stay in the hotel so he didn’t have to drive to pick us up in the morning and brave all the snow.  We headed out.  The snow was pretty deep and falling fast.  Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “I Like Big Butts” was playing on the radio.  My brother and I (I think this might have been the year Lucy was in Florence) were singing along at high volume.  My dad, deciding one road seemed to be a little more treacherous than he liked, decided to attempt a K-turn into a snow bank in the Saab.  Needless to say we got stuck.  Aaron and I kept singing.  My dad did not think it was funny.  I’m pretty sure my mom tried to stay neutral but was on our side.

The time (or was it times?) when Aaron would block my exit from the revolving door and I would go around and around and around, unable to enter the hotel if we were getting back, or leave the hotel if we were headed out.

Whether there was an event or not, it was always fun.  It got harder as we got older.  We all had our separate lives.  Aaron got married and started spending Christmas at my sister-in-law, Claire’s, house.  Lucy moved to Boston.  Mima got sick and could no longer really participate in conversations like she used to.  But it was always nice going up there.  Always nice to talk to Mima about what we had been up to.  I told her about my running, my studies, and my traveling.  She seemed to be proud and impressed no matter what I was up to which I find funny because Mima is basically one of the most impressive women ever.  Mima raised 6 kids by herself and managed to feed and clothe them all.  And keep a functioning house.  I don’t think Mima had very much fun but all the kids, in the end, turned out great.  Whenever I hear some politician comment on how single women are incapable of raising well-rounded children, I want to counter with the example of my grandmother.  The older I get, the more amazed by her I am.

This is my second Christmas staying in Brooklyn.  My second Christmas after Mima died.  And while it is nice to be home and avoid the holiday travel, I really do miss all five of us piling into that car, stopping unnecessarily on the way up, seeing the family we only got to see twice a year.  I miss decorating a tree with the same ornaments year after year.  I miss making fun of my dad for his Chirstmas afternoon nap.  I miss the matching sweaters.  Most of all, though, I miss Mima.  So, Mima, where ever you are, a very merry Christmas.  I miss you more today than the other 364.