20 Years Later…

Weeks ago I blogged about whether or not to attend my upcoming 20 year high school reunion.  I detailed the specifics and asked readers to weigh in on the issue (via the post SHOULD I STAY or SHOULD I GO?) Thanks to many of you for offering your opinions and encouragement (and even bigger thanks to my folks for getting me a free hotel room), I made the decision to – GO FOR IT!

I spent Thanksgiving Day in Maine with my family, cooking and feasting, and the rest of the weekend traveling to & from Philadelphia for this “once in a lifetime” event.  And as promised, I’m BACK to blog all about it!  WOOT!  I’ll try not to dwell on the drive – which for a normal person would have been grueling but for someone like me (with Meniere’s) was just shy of hellish, and instead focus on the PARTY.  My 20 year high school reunion in a nutshell?  CRAZY FUN.  Truly one of the most unforgettable and surreal experiences of my life (drive included).

Picture yourself traveling back in time… 5 years.. 10 years.. 15, 20… You step into a room filled with former classmates, and…

From the moment I arrived at the reunion, I was transported – not just back to high school, but all the way to childhood.  Greeting me at check-in was a friend I’d known since I was 5, who’d slipped a Van Halen poster into my 6th grade desk to impress me.  There stood friends I’d known for YEARS, people who’d played with me as children, laughed with me as adolescents, and Yes, even dated me as teenagers.  Most of my very best friends were in attendance, all of us reunited under one roof.  And seeing each of their faces, changed after so many years, and yet so fundamentally the same, was worth every bit of the travel agony I had endured.

My 20 year high school reunion was amazing, not just because of the memories it brought back, but because of our collective present.  Teenage insecurity, awkwardness and fear be damned!  Each of us returned to this reunion armed with 20 years of personal growth.  Regardless of career choice, whether married or not, childless or not, rich /poor/ or in between, all of us are now (thankfully) adults.  And at age 38/39, most of us seem to like ourselves.

And you know what?  It shows.  From the get-go I was astounded by just how great everyone looks!  Sure, we’ve all aged, but on the whole we’re far more attractive now than we were in high school.  Why?  Because 20 years later… we’ve grown up.  And not just up; we’ve grown INTO ourselves.  As teens we thought we knew everything, but we spent more time wondering what others were thinking than ever truly thinking.  We worried, we picked, we agonized over minutia.  Time has erased many of those petty concerns, replacing them with understanding and PRIORITIES.  We’ve faced challenges, we’ve made accomplishments and we didn’t need to waste the night trying to prove anything.

Instead we enjoyed each other, and ourselves. We made chit-chat with those we recognized, we delved deep with those we’d truly known, and I for one came away changed. That’s what happens when you reunite.  You can close a chapter on your life with a smile, and without regret. Whether you’ve told someone they were special, or said you were sorry for a past wrong, reunions are an opportunity to explore another side of yourself. A former side, finally at peace with the present.  It was a wonderful night.

Huge thanks to the reunion committee for all their hard work, and to the many people whose photographs I’ve reprinted here — thanks for the memories!

Photos courtesy of Amy Eisman Kaplan, Jill Katz, Shawn Kwon-Chang, and Brian Miller, Chorus Media.
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5 months of hellos & goodbyes.

I know some of you are feeling abandoned, and for this I apologize. But moving is neither pretty nor particularly interesting. It’s much closer to mourning, in fact, for those undertaking it. Over the course of the past 5 months, I have weeded through the sum total of my possessions, twice.  Assessing, analyzing, weighing the merits of each physical fragment of my existence.  And with each object – whatever it is – deciding whether it will have a place in my new life.  Much of the accumulation has been easy to part with, because it never meant much to me.  But the most difficult parting has been with the place itself.

We left Philly on March 21st; my older daughter’s ninth birthday.  We said goodbye to our home and everything we’d ever known, the comfort and support of community, and the love of family and friends.  We moved to Portland looking for a better life, seeking a place where our children could grow without fear.  It has been both easy and hard.  The first month was exhilarating, but it was also the loneliest I’ve ever known.  Now – 5 months later, I find myself moving with dexterity through once unfamiliar streets, the longing that gripped me months ago blurred to an often distant haze.  But sometimes, it just can’t be helped.

Last month we sold our house in Philadelphia.  It’s been a very mixed bag of emotions for us all, but especially for me.  I get really attached to places.  Almost as much as if they were people.  I recall times as a child, when we would travel, feeling an almost palpable sense of sadness after leaving not just loved ones – but locations.  I still feel that same acute sorrow when we leave our dear friends cabin in Vermont.  So you can imagine how difficult it was for me, having to say goodbye forever to our first home.  We went back to Philly over the 4th of July weekend, to pack up everything we’d left behind; all the bits that were too big or too trivial to make the initial trek north.  We spent the days hauling ASS.  And the nights I spent sobbing.  While fireworks flashed in the distance, my husband and I toasted our last Independence Day the way we had the previous 7.  On the roof of our home.  Now a lovely couple are hanging their clothes in what used to be our closets, and showering in what used to be our bathroom, perhaps even cleaning the mildew off the tile I never wanted to clean.  And I wish them all the best.  But now that they’re on the mortgage, it is time to move on – literally.

In three days, we move into our new house.  OUR NEW HOME!!!!  And I cannot even begin to tell you all about it.  How elated we all are!!  To have found something so lovely, so unique, so historic, to call home – is truly beyond description.  This new home, this piece of – America.  Finally, to plant our roots in the soil, to nourish, to grow and thrive in our new environment, perhaps even to seed…. TO BE HOME.  Those three words bring tears to my eyes.  So long awaited, so tenderly missed.  I love Portland.  I love Maine.  As much as any place I have ever known.  The beauty, the salty kiss of the ocean, the feeling I get in my heart each time I gaze around.. the feeling of finally being Home.

Sorry I’ve been AWOL..

The past few weeks for me have been interminably long. In a good way, though. Somehow, it just feels as though time started and stopped mid-October, and although days keep progressing on, I’m somehow fixed within the calendar. Three weeks ago, I was in New York. The night was blustery, raining, just plain ugly, but I was giddy inside. John and I had gotten tickets to the premier of a movie we’d discovered a year before. A Cricket in the Court of Akbar. The tale of a white guy from Texas, who discovers Indian music and falls in love… with the sitar. He learns to play, and eventually goes to India – to win a music competition – not once, but twice. TRUE STORY, by the way. I’d stumbled upon the trailer on youtube months and months ago, it struck such a chord (no pun intended). When I found out the movie was premiering at the Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea October 25th, I bought tickets w/out hesitation. That night, girls safely deposited at John’s grandmother’s, the weather miserable, I was elated. Few things matter to me more than a truly compelling story, and I was not disappointed. After a meal of sushi & Sapporo, we made our way to the museum. John got seats in the front row. We watched as the star and director sat directly beside us. WOW. The movie… just plain amazing. Captivating, start to finish. Afterward, Andrew Mendelson answered audience questions. We got home late, tired, bleary eyed, and happy.

The next week wrought another tremendous surprise. As a lifelong Philadelphian, I know I fall prey to the mentality of doubt which pervades this city like so much garbage. A year ago, Philadelphians were rumored to be the ugliest people in the nation, according to a poll conducted by Travel & Leisure Magazine. Before that we endured the whole FAT THING, with the American Obesity Association ranking Philadelphia in the top ten for overweight people SIX YEARS IN A ROW. In sum, Philadelphians have long succumbed to being the less worthy, less interesting, less sophisticated shadows of our cosmopolitan cousins to the north and south.

Until October 29th… when somehow, someway this city rose above its tarnished image to win the title of WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS. No longer would Philadelphians be the has-beens, the not-quites, those sorry sacks incapable of sealing the deal. We were WINNERS! and BOY was victory sweet. We turned out by the millions to celebrate on Halloween Day. To cheer on our beloved Phils, and to embrace something not felt for 28 years. The thrill of success. And that collective charge made us – as a city, and as a people, ONE.

Last week, fate parlayed Philadelphia’s victory onto the nation. NO LONGER WILL THE WORLD SCORN – B/c November 4th 2008, Barack Obama made history. His election, like Philly’s World Series Championship, has restored the faith of – not just millions of people across the Delaware Valley, but BILLIONS WORLD WIDE. By becoming the 44th President of the United States, and the first of hopefully many of color, Barack Obama proved – for once and for all – that we are not prisoners of our checkered history.

In the ensuing days I have done many things on a personal level. Hours of work went into the upgrading of my eponymous low sodium recipe site, THE DAILY DISH, which launched the same day as the election. I’ve spent nearly every day since in the kitchen, testing recipes, taking photographs, and having an exhausting but grand ole time reacquainting myself w/ what it’s like to be creating art on a daily basis. Last Thursday we took in an unbelievable lecture by the world famous Dr. Irene Pepperberg, whose African Grey Parrot, Alex, changed the world’s perception of what a “bird brain” really is. You KNOW I was first in line for the signing too, tears in my eyes. “To Christy & Kiwi, with kindest regards, Irene & Alex.”

My dad spent last weekend with us – leaving Tuesday morn. And now my beloved sister and her brand new & FABBBBULOUS boyfriend are coming Saturday afternoon. Leaving me two days to get the house in order for the ensuing chaos, once again. To meet with the girls teachers for parent conferences, to assess direction and performance. To commune with nature and spot another Ruby-Crowned Kinglet . To do all the schtuff that one needs to do, always.

Having spent many, many days now listening to the radio, to people’s opinions, to stories of what is happening to our nation, to the world’s economy.. Listening to the election recap, hearing how people are being slaughtered in the Congo, how the civilian casualties are rising in Afghanistan.. I can’t help but wonder.. WHERE ARE WE HEADED NEXT? As bad as things seem – and they do seem dire for a whole lot of people – sitting here typing away in Philadelphia. I remain hopeful. Things which seemed impossible even a month ago, today are reality. I cannot help but wonder, WHAT NEXT??

Barack Obama accomplished something the critics never thought possible. And unbelievably, Philadelphia did too. Can you imagine what could happen if we as a collective envisioned victory in a way we never had before – and MADE IT HAPPEN? The possibilities are endless.

Life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness

It’s amazing how a day away from things can give perspective. Severed from my electrical umbilical cord, I AM A WHOLE NEW PERSON. Well not really, but it did allow me to put a day’s distance between me & THE DISH.

Part of the reason I had to stay off the computer was so I wouldn’t cave. B/c part of me just doesn’t want to stop doing The Daily Dish. Day in and day out. Forever and ever. Amen. This *part* of me is stubborn. It doesn’t care about ME. It is devoted to others. Their well-being. Their welfare. Their nutritional goals. SCREW YOU, it says. I call it Utilitarian Me, after John Stuart Mill. This part of me is always super determined. Disciplined. Moral. And now. ANGRY.

It is hard giving something up. Doubly so, when a part of you reeeeaaaaalllly doesn’t want to. Even if it’s bad for you or drives you crazy or makes you smell. Which isn’t my case, really, but you catch my drift. The Daily Dish is a good thing – a great thing, even. But it isn’t good for me right now. I am already juggling too much between the website, the kitchen, and my life. And now that summer’s fast approaching, I have been spending an exorbitant amount of time stressing over how I will get everything done with BOTH daughters at home. I shouldn’t be worried about any of that. I should be thinking of all the fun we’ll be having over the next few months. The beautiful weather. The hot days full of adventures and memories and time together. Instead I am thinking about the stupid website.

My daughters are, and have always been, my first priority. I gave up my career to stay home full time and I’ve never regretted it. I should feel no obligation to maintain a website I created out of the goodness of my own heart. And yet, I do. OF COURSE YOU KNOW I DO. But WHY? When I do it for no pay and it is becoming too taxing for words, that’s a bad thing. Lately I’ve felt like a fox in a trap, wondering whether I’ll have to chew off my own leg to save myself. My urge to maintain the status quo is almost too strong for my own good.

For now, it’s necessary to take a break. The website will remain as it’s been. I am not taking it down. I have avoided even changing it from the Memorial Day page, for fear I’ll CAVE. For the past year and a half, some part of my brain, sometimes all of it, has been consumed with this website. It’s like a baby. I literally gave birth to it, and it has been my passion. Developing recipes, deciding what to make, how to make it. What to work on, what to drop. I was already crazy about food and photography, but you put them together and I AM INSANE. When I was sick, I kept going. Doing anything dizzy is not a lot of fun. But still I did it, because I felt others were counting on me. When I went on vacation, I worried about my readers. Would they be okay? Would they be cheating? I thought more about them than I did myself.

I cannot tell you how liberating it is, after all these months, to taste FREEDOM. I spent 8 hours today cleaning my house. And even though I despise cleaning, today it felt good. No website. No recipe. As I scrubbed toilets, I thought about how SPARKLING THEY WERE. As I vacuumed, I thought how wondrous a machine a vacuum is, and how glad I am to have one. As my back ached while I bent over mopping the last floor of the house, I thanked GOD that I was finished. I wasn’t preoccupied with getting THE DISH done so I could take pictures while the light was good. Or having to orchestrate cooking of THE DISH so that it would conveniently coincide w/ mealtime. I didn’t have to think about any of that. Now my house is clean. And NOT ONLY THAT. BUT my priorities are straight, and summer is almost here.

So please don’t be sad. I want you all to know that this isn’t the end – it’s really, truly, the beginning. I have the next 3 months w/ my girls. I am SO EXCITED!! We will have so much fun together, and I will be blogging here about it all, sharing everything w/ you, my friends. In the fall, my daughters will BOTH be going off to school. And then – the fun BEGINS. The start of a real adventure for me. I’ve spent the past 8 years at home, being here for my family. Loving them, taking care of them, making everyone else a priority. For good bad & or UGLY, I’ve done it all. But come September, it’s Christy Time. IT’S ALL ME. And then anything is possible. Stay tuned. B/c come what may, I promise, it’ll be fun.