March 18, 2015

the only thing that matters.

Somehow, I just learned about StoryCorps this week, and I ended up binge-listening to episode after episode (after episode) of the NPR podcast during my commute. There were several stories that struck me — and a few that made me cry on the bus — but it was one woman's words in particular that made me stop, hit pause, press rewind, and listen again.

Her name is Jenny. Ten years ago, her son Sean was in an accident that left him in a wheelchair with a traumatic brain injury. He can't walk or talk, and Jenny's his caretaker. At one point during the pair's interview, using an iPad to communicate, Sean said, "I want you to know how thankful I am for what you have done for me. You gave up your life to give me a life." Her response?

"Yeah. But it's okay. Time's really the value commodity that we have, and if you can share time with somebody else, that's probably the most important thing you can do for someone. It's the only thing that matters." 

An important reminder, don't you think?

You can listen to that episode here, and you can find the full StoryCorps archive here.

February 23, 2015

moving on without letting go.

As someone who gets, well, more than a little nostalgic for the places I love, I've kept my distance from San Diego since college. That city's at the center of so many of my most special memories, and I thought it would be best to rip off the band-aid and never look back. A quick, clean goodbye.

Turns out, that wasn't the case.

Until last week, there had only been a handful of trips back to the beach — a wedding, a writers conference, a bachelorette party. It's just a short flight away, but I've steered clear of San Diego, terrified that I'd go back and feel homesick for the city, wistful and weighed down.

But as with (admittedly) a lot of things, I'd let the idea of the thing become bigger than it deserved. Sure, there was a bit of melancholy when we first landed, but more than anything, I felt glad. Flying over Balboa Park as the sun went down, the city skyline and the bright blue bay beneath us, I didn't miss that time of my life. I just felt really, really grateful for it.

How refreshing, and what a relief, not to ache for what you used to have and where you used to be. It's taken me a long, long time to learn that you don't have to miss something to make it mean something. A place (or a person) can be important to you without pining for it, and moving on — it doesn't have to be dismissive. There are different shades of letting go. 

February 22, 2015

a little essay about love.

Several months ago, my friend Meg asked me to write a post about love — about the notion of wanting, but not necessarily needing, a relationship. A handful of sharp, thoughtful writers had already contributed to her series, and I wasn't sure where my (married) voice might fit into the conversation. In any case, I decided to weigh in, and you can read my essay here: 

So many thanks to the lovely Meg for her kind words, and for always kicking off the most compelling, heartfelt conversations. Honored to be a part of it!

February 8, 2015

today i believe...

... that rainy-day, Sunday-morning coffees are the best kind.

... that it's perfectly understandable if you found yourself freaking out and texting all your friends when you watched Jimmy Fallon's incredible Saved by the Bell reunion.

... that sometimes, there's just something to be said for forgiving easily.

... that friends from home can feel more like sisters.

... that The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison is a must read.

... that you're never, ever too old to build a fort with chairs and blankets in your living room, and that when you do, flashlights and old summertime stories should definitely be involved.

... that honestly, what you find strange in yourself is probably what makes you great.

... that there's no shame in being the person who cries over goodbyes.

... and that it's never, ever too late to reconnect with that old friend you used to care about, because chances are, it'll mean just as much to them, too. (Write the letter. Make the call.)

*          *          *

January 30, 2015

the middle ground.

There are eleven, maybe twelve blog posts sitting in my drafts folder. There's one about a difficult day four Decembers ago, another about having, for the first time ever, just one New Year's resolution instead of a laundry list. There's a post about a strange, sunny day on the bay, a post about an adventure with our friends, a post about something Radley said that stopped me in my tracks, surprising me in a way — a good way — that words haven't surprised me in years.

Sometimes this happens. I have so many things to say that I don't know where to start, and I end up saying nothing at all. Do you ever have that dream? The one where you're trying to talk to someone, and although you hear the words in your mind, muffled, as if you're underwater, you can't speak? 

*          *          *

It's been a good month. A really, really good month. The kind that's so good, you have to force yourself not to grow suspicious that something difficult must be around the corner. That feeling has been nagging at me, though, and there's nothing worse than that train of thought — the when-will-the-other-shoe-drop kind. It comes from a place of such fear and guilt, as if you have to pay for your happiness, as if joy will always be followed with some kind of inevitable sadness.

That's a defense mechanism, of course. When things feel like they're moving in the right direction, you can't help but brace yourself for whatever challenge will come up first.

*          *          *

I hear my dad's voice in my head a lot. On the soccer field and in the stands during basketball games, he'd shout, "Anticipate! Anticipate, Marie!" He has a big bellow of a yell, the kind that intimidated teammates but motivated me. Pushed me to work harder, and work smarter.  

I hear my mom's voice in my head, too — a much softer one. With five kids and a Girl Scout background, she's the kind of mom who always carries not just a first-aid kit for medical emergencies, but a first-aid kit for, well, life. From her purse, I've seen my mother pull out everything from garland to full boxes of cereal, just in case. She's a big just-in-case type, and before I ever did anything (go to school, take a test, leave for a night out), she'd repeat, "Be prepared."

Be prepared.

 So much of parenting boils down to readying your kids for what's next, and helping them learn how to ready themselves. My parents instilled in me a borderline-ridiculous affinity for planning, and it's one of the passed-down habits I'm most grateful I adopted. There's something to be said for training yourself to anticipate what's coming, and to be prepared for your next move. 

But here's where I've sometimes mixed up their message: You're not always anticipating a blow; sometimes you're preparing for something great. You can't know that, of course, but you can learn to understand that good can follow good. There are ups and then there are downs, but sometimes there are ups, and then more ups, and then the down isn't so far to fall, after all.

*          *          *

The words come quickly when things are really hard, and when things are really good. Maybe it's because the emotions feel more extreme, the thoughts more defined. It's the middle ground that's tough to sort through, I think. Even easy joy can be hard to navigate sometimes.

December 31, 2014

2014, a year of opposites.

After 2012, a whirlwind, and 2013, a year of so many firsts, these past twelve months have been a lesson in balance. For so many reasons it felt like an in-between year, with twenty-seven feeling like an in-between age. I'm not very young, and not very old. Not single, and not a parent. These days, and this year, felt like mine to spend as I wanted, which seemed both liberating and sort of terrifying. There was a lot of work — my three-year anniversary at PopSugar! — and a lot of adventure — three weeks in Europe! — but more than anything else, there was a lot of simplicity. Everyday-ness. A gradual settling after years of so much change. This year, I learned that I like to be still.

January: Award-show madness, PopSugar parties, and the time Zac Efron charmed our office.
February: A quick trip to Chicago and a long weekend in Cabo. Beers with our best friends. BBQs and bikinis in the wintertime. (Re)Falling in love with California.
March: A big stack of books I'd been dying to read. Coffee and crosswords in bed. Sunday brunches. Birthday surprises. Long, hilly, hikes in our backyard.
April: Confetti in my hair, friends at my sides. A picture with Jamie Foxx. The time Andrew Garfield thought I was 18. Giants games and palm trees and ice-cream dates on weeknights.
May: A Disney World family reunion. Matching orange t-shirts. Nieces and nephews and enough popcorn to make you sick. More hikes, more BBQs, sunburns on our cheeks.
June: Spontaneous date days. Late-night dance parties.
July: Writing, writing, writing. A long weekend with friends in Denver, a long weekend with family in LA. Chris Pratt in our office and trying very, very hard to keep it together.
August: Beyoncé. Europe. The return to Oxford, and the adventure of a lifetime with the person I love the most. Paris at sunset, Munich beers the size of our heads, rainy London nights spent walking and talking and ducking into dark, cozy pubs. Castles, Will and Kate's house, morning strolls along the Seine. Buses and trains and a well of gratitude so deep I couldn't put it into words.
September: Baseball, football, repeat. Radley's face during the first game at Levi's Stadium. Sunny weekends, girls' nights, and watching some of the people we love say "I do."
October: Rolling fog and hot, hot days. Drinks on the deck, dinner by the bay. Sunsets and Napa and laughing so hard my stomach hurt while Lena Dunham read her essays aloud.
November: Back to basics, and back to the book. Gorgeous beach days with our favorite people. A fancy party. A trip to Mexico. The most special weekend back at our wedding venue.
 December: Parties and sequins and the latest, most festive nights. Three years at PopSugar! Home, family, and more Portillo's than anyone should ever eat. Hockey games. Board games. Old friends and old home videos on repeat because you just cannot, will not stop laughing.
2014, you were a special one.
Cheers to 2015!

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?

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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