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Archive for the ‘Happy’ Category

Bikers in Austin. I am almost this cool.

You are not going to believe what is happening in Austin today. I am sitting in the library by the window, my hands wrapped around a warm cup of coffee, and I am watching the rain drops fall from the trees.

That’s right. It’s been raining for two days now and the world could not be a better place. Life in Austin is looking up.

It’s true that the rain was a bit inconvenient. For example: last night was national “look at the moon night” and when I dragged some new friends over to the lake, we discovered that for the first time in two months, it was cloudy. For the first time in two months, I should say, there was no moon.

And it’s true that I showed up to several important meetings with mud sprayed up my back and my clothes dripping wet, something that used to be standard fare but that hasn’t happened in a long time now. Today was the first opportunity in months for me to perform my “superwoman” transformation, from mud-splattered bicyclist to professional young adult.

(The texans, I should say, were impressed.)

But what the rain lacks in convenience it makes up for in general good will. Biking to campus yesterday, I started thinking that my soul responds to rain just the way a plant does. The grim is washed away, and I can stand up straight again.

I know you’ve been flooded for weeks in New England, and I know that excessive rain leads to mildew and disaffection. But after two months of sun, I’m embracing this chance to curl up in an armchair with a hot beverage and a good book.

Because by next week, it’s sure to be back in the 90s again.

Weather:
70 degrees and cloudy in Austin. 75 degrees and clear in Somerville.

Mood:
Hannah: 8 out of 10. If I wasn’t so overloaded with work I’d probably be jumping with joy.

*Photo credit to rkphoto.com

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It’s been exactly two years since I moved to the city.

All March, I had been frantically searching for apartments on Craigslist, trying to find the perfect place that wouldn’t break the bank, and kept striking out. Crumbling walls. Exposed wires. Crazy layouts. Possible death traps.

Finally, in mid-March of 2009, I walked into my current place, took one look around, and asked for the lease.

At the time, I was what my mother would call “transitioning.” I had returned from Haifa the summer before, started a new job in the winter of ’08/’09, and finally put together enough pieces of the post-graduate puzzle to move to the city. The only problem was that I didn’t know anyone. Or, barely anyone.

I started joking about Friend #1, a Cornellian who was starting his PhD coursework, and Friends #2 and #3, who had recently  married each other. I had a terrible feeling I’d never meet numbers 4, 5, and 6. That I’d wander around on weekends, sit in cafes, watch the city hum with energy, and feel utterly outside all the excitement.

But things quickly fell into place after I signed for my apartment. I ran into old friends on the street, caught up with them over coffee, and began connecting with new people. Soon enough, I didn’t have to number my Boston friends anymore.

2009 seems like a lifetime ago now, but when I reach back into my memory on this two year anniversary, I can still tap into that original anxiety.

Weather: It snowed again today, and that’s not an April Fool’s Day joke.

Moods:

Anna – 7 out of 10. Weekend!

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This post is a week overdue, but I hope you’ll indulge me.

I can’t remember ever really hating Valentine’s Day. Most years it’s just a pink and red square on my mind’s calendar. In grade school, I loved buying packs of Valentine’s Day cards, signing my name, and affixing a packet of candy to each note. The school required that if you gave one person a valentine, you had to give one to every kid in the class—a sound policy. But, of course, there were inevitably a few people I thought deserved extra special congratulations for being rad (fourth grade in the 90s, rad = ubercool). Something like these:

So, I’d sort my cards, separate the ones with the best messages and illustrations, and give those to my crush(es). Of course, there were always at least 4 copies of each card, so for every crush that received an accurate message, there were usually at least 2 non-crushes that received exactly the same message. Noting that my system had flaws, I decided to offset this by adding candy hearts to each note. I sorted the candies based on message, shoved the hearts reading “Be Mine” and “Luv Ya!” into my crush(es) envelope(s), and taped them shut so that my plan couldn’t go awry. I figured the killer combo of sugar, pithy declarations, and cartoons would make my admiration clear and my crushes smitten.

Fail.

But these days when I think about Valentine’s Day, I remember my senior year of college.

Ithaca got thwacked by a massive snowstorm on February 14, 2007. I holed up in my warmly-lit room reading Jane Eyre for class, unwilling to venture into the snow drifts until I had to.

And then a visitor knocked on my door. One of my best friends (and former boyfriend)—let’s call him Q. because it sounds daring and mysterious—knocked on my door with a massive plate of cookies. And not just any cookies—frosted cookies fresh from the oven, sprinkled with mini M&Ms.

While I had been holed up, Q. had been making the rounds, bringing cheer in the form of baked goods to a handful his closest friends. And now, four years later, that’s my most vivid (and default) memory of Valentine’s Day. A day filled with sugary declarations of friendship, not mass market candies.

Weather: Sunny. 34 degrees.

Moods:

Anna – 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Happy memories.

Hannah – ? out of 10.

 

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Early this fall, in a fit of energy, four friends and I set out on a mini road trip. Our first stop was Portland, Maine. There was a cold edge to the air, but the sun was shining, and we were thrilled to be adventuring. There was only one problem: one of our close friends and connector-extraordinaire, D., had just moved across the country. We felt her absence.

It was also clear that, if anything, this was going to be our last blast of summer. That the cold edge was quickly going to become an all-consuming freeze. And that soon enough, we’d be taking day trips to cross country ski, not eat and explore.

Over lunch, someone suggested we band together to throw a party. We could rent a space, invite friends, and convince D. to fly back for the celebration. But when? Our Google calendars were already crammed with back-to-the-grind fall events, then the holidays loomed. So we settled on the worst month of all, the month when everyone seems bored and slightly on edge: February.

Which leads me to this past weekend. Saturday night, it poured, but at the Four Winds, we took little notice—we were laughing and chattering and dancing. I (subtly) put my newly-acquired DDR moves to good use, which proved easy enough thanks to the infectious rhythms created by DJ Face. D. even hopped in a plane, flew 3,000 miles, and joined us for a night of sorely-needed good cheer.

People kept asking why or what we were celebrating. Our answer: excellent friends who make the bleakest of months seem sunny.

Weather: Blue skies and warm-ish. Hopefully the 38-degree temperature will melt the snow and prevent more roof collapses.

Moods:

Anna – 5 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Back to reality.

Hannah – 4.5 out of 10. Monday.

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Last night, I ventured onto the not-yet-fully-cleared sidewalks of Somerville in search of food at Highland Kitchen.

“Highland Kitchen?” you think. “Kinda sounds like a greasy-spoon diner.” Or at least, that’s what I thought when I first heard about it.

Located a slightly-inconvenient distance between Porter Square and Harvard Square (it’s a 25-minute walk from Porter and a 30-minute walk from Harvard), Highland Kitchen hardly resembles the restaurant I expected when I first went there a year ago.

It’s actually a warmly-decorated space full of interesting-looking people that seems to be full by 6:45pm every night. And their menu is nothing like that of a greasy-spoon diner, although it has more than a few comfort-food options. A sampling includes smoked bluefish cakes, a spicy coconut curried goat stew, and their decadent Highland cheeseburger.

Keep in mind I had trudged through mounds of snow to get to the restaurant. Before I sat down, I had to peel off a zillion layers (see The Coldest Cold to fully understand this). And then I ordered The Dorchester.

The Dorchester is made with vodka, triple sec, pink lemonade, and a cucumber, and since Highland Kitchen likes to share, you can even find out how to mix it here.

Let me tell you, it is, hands down, the PERFECT summer drink. Which is exactly what I told the waiter, after saying that it would be even better if a) summer were actually here, b) I had a porch, and c) I were sitting on said imagined porch. Something, perhaps, like this:

Kind, optimistic man that he was, he responded, “But it gets you into that frame of mind, doesn’t it?”

It did. For a minute, I could almost feel the sun on my face. And then I looked outside.

Weather: 16 degrees in Boston when I left my apartment this morning, but at least it’s bright.

Moods:

Anna – 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Feeling pretty good.

Hannah – 5 out of 10. Long week.

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As Hannah indicated, I’ve been traveling the world, or at least part of it, for the past couple of weeks. Stops included Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Thessalonike, Meteora, Athens, and Nafplion. That’s a lot of travel for only 15 nights.

Highlights included all imperial palaces, castles, summer estates, and massive Greek temples, particularly those elaborately decorated with delicate inlays and master carvings. Sort of like my apartment. Or not.

Just like home.

Despite adventuring, I realize that I’ve returned without any killer stories. There were no crazy encounters. No out of body experiences. No swashbuckling tales. But there were some tasty morsels of food, excellent birds-eye views, and more than a few masterpieces along the way.

I haven’t taken a two-week vacation from work for nearly three years. Last summer I had a week-long escape to Maine, prior to which I had had a terrible fever (which led doctors to mistakenly believe I had cat scratch fever). My body was recovering when I left, I didn’t feel up to snuff, and taking antibiotics every morning and evening of the trip did not spur relaxation. It was not ideal.

When I was a kid, my dad and brother and I would take long, leisurely vacations to tropical islands—the more remote, the better. About five or six days in, my father would declare he was finally starting to relax. A highly knowledgeable seven-year-old, I’d counsel my father to relax more quickly. Who could possibly need all that time (practically a year!) to adjust to frozen drinks and blossoming flowers?

But when I arrived in Vienna (Trip Day 5), I realized it had taken that long to stop thinking about work. Day 5 was followed by a week of actual relaxation, and also full of museum-hopping. It wasn’t until the Friday before I flew back to the States that thoughts of current and future projects again pushed their way to the surface. Fifteen nights left me with seven blissful, carefree days. And now I’m thinking that two-week sojourns may have to be here to stay.

Weather: Mountains of snow. And even when it’s not snowing, the wind whips the snow around, making it look like we’re being further buried.

Moods:

Anna – 5 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Still getting back in the swing of things.

Hannah – 4 out of 10. She’s had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Luckily, it’s a Friday.

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In November, Louisa wrote a guest post for Ditch The Umbrella about her Thanksgiving experiences, promising a post-holiday update. Luckily for us, she’s blogged about another fascinating emotional calendar subject: seasonal dissonance. Here goes!

I wrote a post about a month ago about Thanksgiving—an emotional hotspot for me. I’m way overdue for an update, since Christmas is only two weeks away! Happily, Thanksgiving went off without a hitch this year, as it often does. My emotional mind was less charged up, which made for a much more enjoyable dinner for me, and especially my family. We went to my uncle’s house in western Massachusetts and feasted on turkey, squash, stuffing, and cranberry sauce: the whole nine yards. (Squash is my personal favorite.) I felt happy to be with my family and celebrate with them, and although the memory of that Thanksgiving fourteen years ago was still present, I also see how its effect on my emotions diminishes a little bit every year.

But of course, most people’s focus has moved to Christmas. It’s coming soon. I’m excited, and also quite proud of myself for already having most of my shopping done. With Christmas comes the cold weather, though, and this year it seems to be particularly frigid. In the past week, the high temperature has only been about 40° F, and that was last Saturday. The wind has made it especially bad, letting everyone know that winter is here to stay. Of course, if this were February, temperatures in the 40s would seem almost warm (at least in New England). But we have been cursed (or blessed, as most people would say) with some extremely warm days in November. According to weather.com, the high temperature in Concord on Nov. 13 was 65°. It felt more like mid-spring than late fall. That day was followed by 64° on the 17th, 56° on the 22nd, and 62° on the 23rd.

Regardless of how you feel about this type of weather in November, December seems particularly Arctic in comparison. I don’t like warm November days—such weather gives me a strong sense of seasonal dissonance, which happens when your mind is in one season and your body is in another. The calendar says Thanksgiving, but the weather says Memorial Day! This contradiction throws off my sense of stability, it makes me feel out of place, and it makes it far harder for me to get used to the December cold. For my sanity, I’m hoping that it won’t happen again, but the next time we have a really warm winter day—or even a really cold one in June—stop and see how your body and your mind react to the unfamiliar weather.

Weather: Frigid and gray.

Moods:

Anna – 7.5 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. She’s energized.

Hannah – 7 out of 10. On the one hand, it’s cold and gray. On the other hand, she is excited to be at the Athenaeum!

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