December 8, 2014

home, here and there.



I write a lot about home, both the one I come from and the one I've built, and part of me thinks I keep writing about it because I haven't quite captured how I feel about things yet. For me, it's hard to understand the divide between here and there, and now and then, and where everything overlaps and intersects. I'm still trying to figure out what it means to miss something old while loving something new. How do you describe that feeling? Optimistically nostalgic? Happily melancholy?

In any case, I found some words I've been looking for — someone else's words, that is. A writer named Renee Dale, in a Self essay called "Homeward Bound," perfectly describes all the awful, wonderful feelings that go along with returning to you childhood home, then coming back:

"Sometimes, going Back Home makes me feel understood; sometimes alienated, as if it no longer represents me at all. But this means it worked. This is the job of home: to teach you how to go out and make your own . . . My Back Home self still lives with me here, with her insecurities and melancholy, but she's accompanied by grown-up confidence and gratitude for just how lovely home can be. In this place, I can be who I was then, who I am now, and who I may yet become. This is home, at last."

December 1, 2014

33 wedding-day memories i hope i never forget.


Over the weekend, we made our first trip back to our wedding venue since the big day. We live only orty minutes from the Napa resort, but for whatever reason, we haven't stopped by. Maybe because it feels a bit sacred, somehow, as if it needs to be saved for a special occasion. In any case, we were able to stay the night thanks to a sweet anniversary present, and I was surprised by how surreal it felt. We (of course) felt nostalgic, and as we stood beneath the arch of oak trees where we said "I do," I thought about all the things I don't want to forget about our wedding. And so, two and a half years later...

33 Wedding-Day Memories I Hope I Never Forget

1. Waking up to my mom's voice as she sang, "Happy wedding day to you, happy wedding day to you, happy wedding day, Mrs. Almost Meyers, happy wedding day to you!"

2. All the bridesmaids sipping on canned Sofia Champagne while getting ready.

3. My dad walking in with a shrug and his signature smirk, saying, "Looking good, kid."

4. Stepping into my giant dress, all the girls and my mom around me.


5. The silence, and the sound of my dress rustling against the brick walkway as I approached Radley for our first look. And how he raised his hands up in the air when he turned around.

6. The bridal party packing into a white van to go take pictures, my dress spilling onto Radley.

7. My dad taking my arm to lead me down the aisle, and the clouds parting right in that moment as he said, "And there's the sun, Marie. Just for you." (That was my cue to cry.)

8. Radley's tight-lipped, trying-not-to-cry smile at the end of the aisle.

9. Scanning the crowd and feeling, in the most surreal way, buoyed by our friends and family.


10. Finishing my vows, catching Radley's eye, and cracking up as he joked, half to the crowd and half to me, "This isn't fair. She's a writer!"

11. This line of Radley's vows: "I promise to always find time for our love."

12. My veil slipping off as we made our way back down the aisle, delirious with joy, and Radley catching the veil as it fell. The most perfect imperfection.


13. The biggest, best hug fest in the entire world as everyone came to congratulate us.

14. Slipping away with Radley to take pictures, and the look of sheer amazement on his face as he whispered, "Can you believe this? Can you believe it's really happening?"

15. Joining the cocktail party and laughing at all the drink chuggers.

16. The bridal party's really, really incredible dance moves during the introductions.

17. Swallowing so, so hard as my dad delivered his toast, and the ridiculously sweet look on my brother's face when he gave him a birthday shout out, since he turned 30 the next day.


18. Bursting out with a big cackle-laugh in the middle of our first dance when Radley whispered, "Damn, I didn't realize how long this song was..."

19. *NSYNC playing right at the start, and everyone being just as excited about it as I was.

20. Radley's uncle pulling up his shirt and tying it at his chest, then standing on stage to lead the most ridiculous, amazing "YMCA" singalong in the history of YMCA singalongs.

21. Rocking out to Salt-N-Pepa like our lives depended on it.


21. Cutting the cake, then walking over to the cookie tray, where Radley and I both ate giant peanut-butter cookie sandwiches in one bite. (Nobody does it like Susie Cakes.)

22. The DJ turning to me and saying, "I've had a lot of wild groups. This one takes the cake."

23. Everyone throwing their arms around one another and stomping really, really hard and really, really loudly to the beat as Mumford and Sons's "Little Lion Man" played.

24. My adorable nieces and nephews twirling across the dance floor, giddy and tired.

25. Rapping onstage alongside Radley and my friends, because nothing says elegance and sophistication quite like a bride rapping E-40's "Tell Me When to Go" in her lace gown.


26. Ducking behind a few cars nearby with Kira and Heidi, who helped me (somehow) slip into the shorter dress I'd bought in case of 100-degree weather. (It was about 60 degrees.)

27. My parents stopping me on the dance floor so that we could stop and cry and repeat again and again that this was the best day in the whole world. Wishing one another a happy anniversary.

27. Ben and Eric hoisting Radley and I up on to their shoulders, and Kel swooping in to adjust my dress so that the pictures would all be PG.


28. The DJ ending the night with "Time of My Life," and asking the crowd to form a big circle around Radley and I so that we could have a Dirty Dancing moment... then everyone mobbing into the dance floor as soon as the song picked up, and thinking it was the best moment I've ever had.

29. Running off with Radley to jump into his aunt's incredible Studebaker, then thinking of that epic Father of the Bride goodbye scene as we drove down the resort's long driveway.

30. Approaching the hotel mansion and being can't-breathe, out-of-control shocked by the sea of sparklers in front of me. (Shout out to my mom, who pulled all kinds of strings for that one!)


31. Friends and family dishing out all kinds of emotional, slurred, perfect We love yous.

32. Walking away from it all with Radley and turning back, some of the sparklers still aglow, the sound of everyone we love laughing and cheering and shouting in the distance.

33. Ordering Domino's pizza to be delivered to our suite, because we're nothing if not classy.

You can see all our wedding pictures here, and our wedding videos here.

November 30, 2014

a letter to madison mae.

A couple weeks ago, my best friend Kelly welcomed a baby girl with her husband, Matt. Kel and I met on the first day of college, became instant best friends along with our third counterpart, Erin, and quite seriously didn't separate over the next four years. Two years ago, we stood beside each other at our weddings, which were two weeks apart, and it's been surreal and incredible to see her become a mother. Here, a little letter to her beautiful daughter, Madison Mae.


Dear Madison,

You're going to hear this a lot throughout your life, but let me just point out the obvious right away and say that you're the luckiest little girl in the world. Your mother is one of a kind, your father is one of the most insightful men I've ever known, and don't even get me started on your grandparents.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let me tell you about your mom. Because she's always been special, and you make her even more so, but if you're anything like her, you're outrageously curious, and you'll someday want to know who she was before she was your mom.

The day I met her, we were eighteen years old and moving into our freshman-year dorm rooms. She wore crisp white shorts and a sleeveless black polo, and her easy laugh made me feel like I might just be okay when my parents drove away. I was right. That night, your mom, Erin, and I were the first to hit the dance floor during a ridiculously awkward welcome party. We laughed over brand-new inside jokes like we'd known each other for years, and there was something about being together that made us feel instantly, deeply ourselves. As you'll fully understand someday, that was just the first of many dance parties we started together. (Play Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It" around us. I dare you.)

It didn't take long for me to feel lucky to be counted among your mom's best friends. She's charming and magnetic in a way that's almost superhuman, and what makes her so likable is that she's always, in every situation, unapologetically herself. You can find her in any place, among any group of people, and your mom will be the same person each and every time. No matter what, she'll crack the same silly jokes and ask all kinds of questions and her laugh will be one of the loudest in the room.

Your dad fell for her quickly, and when he made his first appearance in our dorm room, I remember seeing her light up in a way that I'd never seen before. They were very different, but also the same, and they challenged each other in all the right ways. He asked her questions she'd never considered before, and she made him laugh in a way that left him lighter, somehow. Weeks into their relationship, he talked about marrying her, and although we laughed, it felt inevitable to all of us.

Some of this will be true forever, and some of this may change, but this is your mom...

She drives with the windows down, one foot curled beneath her or propped up on the dash. She blasts country songs on the radio and belts them out, and if she doesn't know the words, she'll make them up. She cries over the sad songs, but not for long. As with most things, she bounces back quickly.

She prefers wine to beer, and she's either the first to go to bed or the first to suggest shots.

She likes Bobbi Brown makeup and funny romantic comedies and cable-knit everything. Most of the time, she's wearing yoga pants and a white tee, and if she's not, you can bet she's sporting a maxi dress or a sweater, and it's probably black, white, navy, or gray. Maybe striped.

She's up for anything, and afraid of almost nothing.

Madison, she's thought about you for a long time. When we were nineteen and twenty, your mom and I slept in twin beds only a few feet apart, and as we were falling asleep, we'd talk about what our kids might be like someday. We'd brainstorm baby names and laugh at how weird we are and hope that our kids would be totally weird, too. She talked a lot about wanting to be a mom, and knowing she would be, and how Matt would be the most amazing dad. (She was right.)

There's so much I want to tell you, and so much I want to save for later — for a random summer night when you're older and we're all curled up on the couch in your parents' living room and we're laughing and swapping stories and you ask me to tell you more. There's so much more, Madison.

Ask me about the 7 a.m. frozen yogurt runs and the midnight campus walks and the time your mom threw limes at a guy across the bar because he'd hurt one of us. Ask about the Amsterdam dinner and the Rome pub crawl and the time we cried watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle in Paris.

Ask me about the day your mom told me she really loved your dad, and ask me what he said about her when I interviewed him for a school project about relationships. Ask me about their wedding day. Ask me how giddy she looked while getting ready, how his eyes welled up as she walked down the aisle, how hard she laughed during each and every speech throughout the weekend.

Ask me about anything, Madison, okay? That's what your hilariously nosy mom would do. And if there's one thing I hope you understand in all of this, it's that your mom is someone to emulate. She laughs loudly and easily, and that's all you really need to know, isn't it?


*          *          *          *

More on Kelly:

November 26, 2014

what your currency is going to be


"If you are lucky, there is a moment in your life when you have some say as to what your currency is going to be. I decided early on it was not going to be my looks... My currency became what I wrote and said and did." 
— Amy Poehler, Yes Please

November 19, 2014

the plot points of your life.


I've been thinking a lot about plot points lately. For one thing, I'm chugging along with National Novel Writing Month, and in framing the story, it's all about choosing the Big Moments, the ones that Create Change so that everything falls into a very clear, very compelling Before and After.

And then, of course, amid all those musings, you end up wondering about your plot points.

In the story of my life, I keep thinking, what are the major moments that affected me most? What choices and people and events drew a line in the sand, one marking a before and an after, as only the truly important things do? What were the good ones? The bad ones? And what were the ones that felt bad at the time, outrageously so, only to reveal themselves as something sort of incredible?

For a team-building exercise, Radley once had to talk about the five things in his life that affected him most. Some of them were circumstances, some were relationships, and others were choices or events — and, almost impossibly, when he asked me what I thought his five things might be, I guessed some form of every single one. And yes, part of that came from just really, really knowing him, but what struck us both is how obvious they felt. As if we could look at his story, and his character, and channel our fifth grade book-report days to say, "Here's why he is who he is."

There was obviously some gray area, and some of the moments I brought up, he hadn't thought of before. That, to me, may be the most interesting thing of all — that someone else can see what makes you you, and you never gave that moment or place or choice a second thought.

Anyway, it's clear that I'm knee deep in a story, but I think there's something to be said for recognizing the plot points of your own life. For knowing, or at least trying to understand, why this led to that, and what that meant for you, and how everything fits together, somehow.

Or maybe it doesn't fit together, which makes for a far more interesting story.

November 17, 2014

the doing of the thing.


Wanting to do something and wanting to do what it takes to do something can be two different things. It's a point I've heard time and time again when it comes to writing; you can want to be a writer, or want to write a book, but do you want to spend a lot of hours sitting at your desk, typing away? Do you want to log a whole lot of alone time? Do you enjoy the doing of the thing, or do you just hope to be an author? Luckily, with writing, I really, really enjoy the doing of the thing, but I can't stop thinking about that idea, and that difference — the doing vs. the being.

It's probably safe to say that we've all come up against that same feeling. Sure, I'd love to be the sort of cook who whips up original dishes all the time, but honestly, I have absolutely zero patience when it comes to experimenting in the kitchen. I'm a by-the-book, follow-a-recipe kind of girl, and although it would be great to be more creative in the kitchen, I don't want to do it.

For me, this doing vs. being thing has become a measurement of sorts. Like anyone, I have a long bucket list, and I'm a big believer in setting goals and writing to-do lists of any and every kind. But at some point, the realist in me kicks into gear, and it's actually been really fascinating to take a hard look at the things I "want to do" and ask myself if I really want to do what it takes to do them.

At first, I thought I might feel guilty about crossing a few things off my list, but to be honest, I actually felt proud. It's easy to tick off a million things you'd like to do, but it's takes some true strength and resolve to narrow down that list and do what you actually want to do.

And who knows? When it comes to cooking, maybe someday I'll actually want to get creative with something other than an extra-special PBJ. But, I mean, I won't hold my breath.

November 3, 2014

aaand here we go...

This isn't the first year a friend has tried to convince me to join National Novel Writing Month, but it is the first time I've agreed. And now, two days in, my brain is as blurry as this picture.

It's always been easier for me to write during the fall and winter months. There's just something about being all bundled up and cozy with a cup of hot tea that makes me feel more like a capital-w Writer. (Plus, let's be honest, it's far easier to coop yourself up and write when you aren't tempted by the 80-degree weather outside.) In any case, now felt like as good a time as any to really set aside some time to write, so now I'm aiming for that 50,000-words-in-a-month goal... Any other takers?

If you're a writer, too, and you're interested in taking on the challenge, sign up at NaNoWriMo.org and then let me know! It's way more fun to do this sort of thing with a few friends, so if you decide to start a new novel, keep me posted — any and all support helps, right?

"You write about the thing that sank its teeth into you and wouldn't let go." — Paul West

October 29, 2014

the home we carry within us.

Fall arrives later here, the leaves changing throughout October and November, the trees finally bare by December. It's taken me a couple years to learn what life looks like in northern California, and slowly but surely it's starting to feel normal. Less and less I find myself saying, "Well, in the Midwest..." and "Back in Chicago..." but the comparisons are still there, and they always will be.

It's funny how much of home we carry within us, though, and how those everyday details you took for granted growing up feel so comforting after you've left. My parents' house always has some sort of warm, vanilla-cinnamon, we-just-baked-something scent, and I still don't quite know where it comes from because my mom definitely isn't a candle person. (One friend once joked, "It's probably just your mom, because if she had a scent, that would be it — all warm and cozy and Fall-like.")

I found that scent, though, in (yes) a candle I bought recently, and it's almost silly how much I've come to love it. I may not live in the same house, and the odd San Francisco mix of pines and palm trees may be a far cry from the tall oaks I'm used to, but damn if it doesn't smell like home around here. And damn if it doesn't feel like home, too... Although, you know, that probably has more to do with Radley than all the maple-hazelnut candles I'm burning, but still. The details help.

(Above, our home in San Francisco, and below, my hometown.)

October 27, 2014

on having the courage to change your mind.

There are a lot of reasons why I love Lena Dunham, and a lot of reasons why I love her book, but it's mostly because she has a way of being both hilarious and poignant all at the same time. Of the many Lena quotes I love, there's one that stuck out to me in her book, Not That Kind of Girl. While talking about one of her past relationships, and wanting to end it, she said, "It's okay to change your mind. About a feeling, a person, a promise of love. I can't stay just to avoid contradicting myself."

Her words are simple — it's okay to change your mind — but they struck a chord, echoing the same strange, hard-to-pinpoint problem so many of my friends have mentioned lately.

In the past month or so, one girlfriend told me she's doesn't want to "give up" on her city. Another told me she doesn't want to leave her job because she's "not a quitter," and another said she wasn't happy, but she wasn't going to end her relationship because it's "what she chose." All of them were disappointed in one way or another, and all of them felt guilty about that — about feeling disappointed, as if what they'd chosen for themselves had been wrong, a mistake. Their fault.

That isn't the way it works, though, you know? Just because something isn't right right now, that doesn't mean it never was. That doesn't mean it was a wrong choice, or that when you turned one way, you should have turned another. It just means that what worked for you before doesn't work for you anymore, and that might have everything or nothing to do with your choices. Things change, and your feelings about them can change, too, and even though that can seem a little bit unsettling, wouldn't it be far more unsettling to be so stubborn and so scared that you never let go of anything, just because you wanted to prove something to yourself? 

The strength isn't in holding on to something just to prove yourself right. The strength is in being mindful and self-aware enough to move on when you know that's what you need to do.

There's a lot of courage in quitting, I think.

October 20, 2014

some birthday musings for radley.

Today Radley turns 27 years old — exactly six months after I did, because opposites attract or something? — and as usual, I find myself looking back at birthdays past. Over the last couple years, I've written him little birthday notes, so it felt only appropriate to do the same today, too.


Dear Radley,

I remember when you turned 21. We'd only been together a short time, but as we sat at that long table with all our friends, drinks and brand-new memories between us, I watched you laugh until you cried and I thought that I'd like to be beside you for more birthdays. Maybe even all of them.

I remember when you left the keys in your motorcycle not once, but twice, and I remember sitting together, waiting for help, and the way you blushed when you said you'd forgotten because you were nervous, because you were excited to see me. Sometimes, when you're sweetly embarrassed, I see that same smile. You've changed so much, but all the right things have stayed the same.

I remember when we were walking along the beach between our houses and you were genuinely worried about me stepping barefoot on the sidewalk. You offered me your size-14 flip flops and I laughed and laughed, and when I walked over a sharp rock, you didn't say I told you so.

I remember when we moved in together and everyone thought we were crazy and we did too, and then we had a picnic in the living room and I decided crazy was a good thing to be.

I remember when someone asked me to tell them all about you, and all I could say was, "He's just so good." It's been six years and sometimes that's still the best way to say it. You're so good.

I remember our wedding day, and your face when we saw each other. It was quiet, the only sound my dress rustling along the brick walkway, and you were stepping back and forth, one foot to the other, so nervous I thought I'd laugh and sob at the same time. And then your face. Your face.

To all the birthdays that still lie ahead, XO

And letters from birthdays past...