Thankfulness Project: Bird.


Today, I’m thankful for my grandmother.  Grannybird, if you will.

My whole life, Granny has been someone I could count on.  When I was young, I remember meeting her in a Friendly’s parking lot in Gettysburg.  It was the halfway point between home and Frederick, so it became the place that my mom or dad would drop Tyler and I off to go spend the weekend on the farm.  Every Christmas, she’d read me Mr. Willoby’s Christmas Tree.  As I grew older, her steadfastness never faltered.  She gave me my first glass of wine, and she taught me how to make homemade mashed potatoes.  (Although, we still disagree on how much butter is “too much” butter.)  For my 16th birthday, she strutted her stuff all over New York City.  A few months later, I was nervous to bring my first boyfriend over, but she didn’t hesitate to accept him with open arms.  (To this day, a picture of Nate Lebo in front of a closed bar in New Orleans remains stapled to the picture board in the kitchen.)  She made the drive to Carlisle for a picture or two before every dance during my high school years, and when graduation came around, she excitedly boarded a plane with me and we jet-setted to Paris.  With my first year of college came many transitions, and she helped me through every one.  She then supported me in my difficult decision to transfer to Pitt.  I have now lived in Pittsburgh for over four years, and she has physically helped me move twice, visited a large handful of times, stocked my kitchen with groceries, and listened to my tearful “What am I going to do with my life?” phone calls.  She drove through the awful winter weather to support me as I received my college diploma, and throughout my lifetime, she’s given me gifts that I’ll never be able to repay.

Today, she did it again.

Although I’ve never lived just down the road from her, she has always been such an important part of my life.  We have traditions and inside jokes and we know each other’s history.  She’s strong and steady, adventurous and a creature of habit, all at the same time.  I talk to her like she’s one of my best friends, and maybe that’s because she’s my grandmother, and she is.

I’m thankful every day for the things she’s taught me, the traits she’s passed on to me, and the opportunities she’s given me.

Thank you, Bird.  You’re my #1.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thankfulness Project.

Thankfulness Project.

I’m sure you’ve seen it all over social media.  November is the month of thankfulness, so each day is dedicated to something you’re thankful for.  I’ve decided to jump on this bandwagon, because I’m not sure I ever adequately express my gratitude for the things I’ve been blessed with in my life.

Continue reading “Thankfulness Project.”

October: A Recap.

As many of you know, I think October is the most wonderful month.  It’s a time of transition and change, and it always excites the what if and the why not within me.

Because October excites me in such an inexplicable way, it’s also one of my busiest months of the year.  I feel like the Energizer Bunny and I just go, go, go.

Relive my favorite moments as I recap my favorite month.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

October 1: My month started with two tickets to see the Pirates play the Cincinnati Reds in the Wild Card game at PNC Park. (Shout out to American Eagle for the sweet hook up.)  It had been 21 years since the Pirates played in the Playoffs, and this year’s fate rested on the game that night.  It was crisp, dark, and the energy in that stadium was unlike anything I had ever witnessed.  I was quite literally on the edge of my seat on more than one occasion.  The Pirates won 6-2 that night, spurring a city wide celebration.

October 3 – October 6: A few days later, I crossed the Mason Dixon to spend a wonderful weekend with my grandparents on their farm in Maryland.  Read all about my stay here.

October 11 – October 13:  The next weekend, I hopped back into my car and drove back to Maryland.  I had been anticipating this weekend for weeks.  See, my mom, aunt and grandma have forever been this adventurous and unstoppable foursome, but when I moved to Pittsburgh and Stella was added to the mix, I found myself appreciating our time together so much more.  Saturday night, we celebrated my birthday at Ayse Meze, a unique Eastern Mediterranean restaurant with food that is mouth-watering, finger-licking, order-seconds delicious.  (Also, for any wine connoisseurs out there: Yarden’s 2012 Syrah is impeccable.)  I sadly returned to Pittsburgh the next day, with a heart full of love and happiness from two wonderful weekends with my family.

October 16:  The most wonderful day of the month — my birthday!  (Just kidding.  Sort of.)  I spent my day at work, which I felt was a very adult thing to do.  In college, it was like a rule to not go to class on your birthday.  I knew someone had made plans for the night, but for once — and I say this with love — they were actually able to keep the secret from me!  I left work a little early to take a nap (true story), and was rudely woken up by Nate Williams, whose presence was my present.  We cracked a beer, and I started to get ready for our 8:30 reservation.  At 8:31, I arrived at Tamari, one of my very favorite restaurants in the city, with some of my closest friends.  The wine, champagne and food was flowing!  Among the several dishes we ordered, my favorite was bone marrow.  Plated with cauliflower, kabocha crème, pickled jalepeños and grilled bread, tissue has never tasted so good.

October 19 – October 20:  Our friends packed up a few belongings, and headed north to taste wines in Erie.  The day was a success, and I came home with 8 bottles of delicious wine.  Most other details are hazy.

October 23:  American Eagle put a ring on it.  (Metaphorically.)  I’ve been working at AEO’s corporate office for over a year, but I was cheating the system to do it.  Today, we made it officially official with a giant raise, benefits and a 401k.  I’m now a real adult.

October 24:  My first “official” day of work consisted of zipping around in a bright yellow convertible with 12 red balloons.  Not a bad “first day” at all.

October 27:  I walked out my front door Sunday night and quite literally ran into a couple on a tandem bike.  They looked a little lost, so I asked them if they needed any help.  Turns out, they had biked from Minnesota in 28 days, sleeping at hostels and YMCAs along the way.  When they arrived in Pittsburgh, they found that the hostel they had been searching for was now a Chinese restaurant and they were looking for a place to stay.  Long story short, we opened up our house to them and they spent the evening telling us stories of their past travels and future plans.  Carl said it best when he said that karma is a real thing, and I believe this couple (Lacey and Snot, by the way) will pay it forward when the time comes.

October 31:  Today has been pretty uneventful, besides the ounce of sadness that arises when I think about how my favorite month is coming to an end.  Maybe I’ll go out with a bang.  It’s Halloween and our last softball game of the season, so I’m sure I’ll have one heck of a story tomorrow.

On a happier note, Christmas is in 55 days!

Falling for Fall.

Falling for Fall.

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s the first day of fall, and there is literally nothing I don’t love about this season.

I love the smell. The earthy, musty scent of falling leaves, the dewy mornings, the spice of cinnamon, clove, amber and nutmeg, the comfort of a mug of apple cider, and the familiarity of an old favorite sweater.

I love the sound. The crackle of a fire, the crunch of fallen leaves, the soft whistle of a wind chime, the roar of a football game, and the scratch of a knife as a pumpkin is carved.

I love the feel. The cool, crisp air in my lungs, the warmth of the perfect cup of cider in my hands, the extra skip in my (booted) step, the excitement of adventure, and the anticipation of change.

I love the clothes. Boots, scarves, and oversized sweaters.

I love the food. Pumpkin-flavored everything, warm apple pie, hearty and comforting soup, red wine, and a warm cup of coffee.

I love the fun. Carving pumpkins, picking apples, tasting wines, taking long walks, and celebrating my birthday.

And last, but certainly not least, I love Autumn.  Seriously, I love fall so much that I chose my best friend based on her seasonally appropriate name.  (Just kidding. She’s actually pretty alright, and I don’t get to see her nearly as much as I’d like to.)

What are your favorite things about fall?

Precious Moments.

Precious Moments.

Precious Moments.

Precious moments, besides being a collection of figurines that my great-grandmother gave me every year for my birthday, are some of the most wonderful things in life.  In this blog, I talk a lot about clothes, shoes, accessories, and home goods — things that can be collected, but are superficial.  While I will always love a well-put-together outfit, and I believe in the power of retail therapy, it’s important to talk about collecting moments, too.  Inevitably, I will eat too much vegetable lo mein, and I will no longer fit into the dress I’m wearing today.  Years from now when I have a baby, my fingers will get fat and the above-the-knuckle rings that are on-trend right now won’t even fit down my pinky.  When those things happen, I’ll still have my collection of moments.  And these are some of my favorites:

The way I measured my height according to buttons on Pap’s shirts. Going to Ocean City, Maryland every year over the 4th of July.  Decorating Charlie Brown Christmas trees at Granny’s every year.  Spending 10 days gallivanting through Amsterdam.  Getting accepted to my top choice college.  Piling in to the Rampage at the drive-ins.  Spending a week in Paris with my mom, aunt, and grandmother, stuffing our mouths with as much cheese and wine as we could.  The look on my brother’s face when he thought he only got coal for Christmas… and then when he realized his car was parked outside.  The way my brothers’ eyes grow big when I am able to come home from Pittsburgh and surprise them.  The way Memaw used to say “fat and sassy.”  Eating extra delicious homemade stuffing on Thanksgiving.  When I walked outside to help “carry in groceries,” and my first little lemon car was waiting in the driveway with a bow on it.  All the times my car has told me I have “0 miles to empty.”  Scoring during a field hockey game; placing in a track event.  My first time on a motorcycle.  Working at Children’s Hospital.  My first trip to St. Augustine.  Watching the sun rise from above the tree line of Longs Peak.

All of these moments (and so many more) comprise my most prized collection: moments, not things.  These moments will always fit, and they will always bring a huge smile to my face.

What moments have you collected?

How a French Major Thinks.

I admit I have an ugly fondness for generalizations, so perhaps I may be forgiven when I declare that there is always something weird about a girl who majors in French. […] She has been betrayed into the study of French, heedless of the terrible consequences, by her enchantment with this language, which has ruined more young American women than any other foreign tongue.

Second, if her studies were confined simply to grammar and vocabulary, then perhaps the French major would develop no differently from those who study Spanish or German, but the unlucky girl who pursues her studies past the second year come inevitably and headlong into contact with French Literature, potentially one of the most destructive forces known to mankind; and she begins to relish such previously unglamorous elements of her vocabulary as languor and funeste, and, speaking English, inverts her adjectives to let one know that she sometimes even thinks in French. The writers she comes to appreciate–Breton, Baudelaire, Sartre, de Sade, Cocteau–have an alienating effect, especially on her attitude toward love, and her manner of expressing her emotions becomes difficult and theatrical; while those French writers whose influence might be healthy, such as Stendhal or Flaubert, she dislikes and takes to reading in translation, where their effect on her thought and speech is negligible; or she willfully misreads Madame Bovary and La Chartreuse, making dark romances of them. […] This is how a female French major thinks.

Have you ever read something so profoundly true and applicable to yourself that you read it over and over and over again until you could almost recite it back word-for-word?  I have, many times.  Today, it was this excerpt from Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

What’s a Sundial in the Shade?


I have strengths.  Those strengths are different than your strengths and my boyfriend’s and my coworker’s and brother’s and my mom’s and my neighbor’s and pretty much everyone I have ever met.  Sometimes these differences are obvious.  When I was a freshman in college, my classmates were way better at science than I was.  They could successfully execute experiments, memorize mechanisms and understand the complexities of microbiology.  I, on the other hand, was much better in my French, Writing and Public Speaking courses, despite the fact that I was a biology major.  They all went on to be incredibly successful in the sciences (think: Ive League, PhDs, and award-winning research), and I took a entirely different path.  My point is this: all too often, our natural talents go untapped.  I spent four and a half years trying (and failing) to fix my shortcomings —  I was never cut out to be a scientist — rather than developing my innate strengths.

American Eagle is really into personality tests.  All employees are required to take the OAD Survey, and my department recently measured our 4-letter formula according to the Briggs Meyers questionnaire.  These are all designed to ensure that I am being coached, questioned and supported in the way that best motivates me.  The most interesting personality test, however, was Gallup’s StrengthsFinder.  The results rank 34 personality themes from strongest to weakest, and disclose strategies for applying your best strengths.  My top 5 strengths came as no surprise to me; it was just never something I took the time to think about.  Had I, my journey would have looked a little different.

  • INPUT.  I am inquisitive.  I collect things and information, and I find many things interesting.  The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity.  I travel to keep my mind fresh.
  • WOO.  Winning others over.  Strangers are rarely intimidating.  I enjoy the challenge of meeting new people.  I am drawn to them.  I want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find common interest.
  • COMMUNICATION.  I like to explain, to describe and to write (she says, on her blog).  I need to bring ideas and events to life, to energize them, to make them exciting and vivid.  I acknowledge that most people have a very short attention span, and I want my information to survive.  I want to capture attention, so I hunt for the perfect phrase and dramatic words.
  • POSITIVITY.  I am generous with praise and quick to smile.  My cup is half full, and my enthusiasm is contagious.  I celebrate every achievement, from big to small.  No matter the setbacks, I refuse to lose my sense of humor.
  • ADAPTABILITY.  I live in the moment.  The future is not a fixed destination, but rather a place that I create with the choices I am making right now.  I am easily able to respond to the demands of the moment, and I expect detours along my journey.  I am, at heart, a flexible person.

It is with these strengths in mind that I tackle projects at work, and even personal relationships.  Each person — and their strengths — are different.  But no matter what, use your talents.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, “What’s a sundial in the shade?”

The Value of Solitude.

ImageThere is a certain social stigma toward solitude and introverted personality traits; however, I often find myself looking forward to weekends without any plans to be social.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore my friends and the adventures we get ourselves into, but my oh my is “me time” good for my soul.

My creativity flows freely.  When I am alone in my house, I’m also alone in my head.  I redecorate everything I can get my hands on.  I start reading as many books as I can get my hands on, including this one.  I doodle.  I head to the kitchen and test-drive new and interesting recipes, like this one.  I am free to do whatever my heart desires, and it’s a happy feeling.

I can slow down and recharge.  In the solitude of my home, I don’t feel guilty about taking naps, long showers, and lighting every candle I own.  I can come and go as I please, and in stark contrast to the hectic schedule of my work-week, I don’t have anyone to report to or any deadlines.  It’s calming.

Reflect on life.  It’s my time for soul-searching.  Am I happy with where I am in life at this very moment?  What do I want to achieve that I can begin right now?  Have I made the best choices for myself?  What do I need to work on?  I am able to put my life into perspective.  When I’m not happy with something, I can work out a plan for change.  It’s difficult to take stock of these things when I’m constantly on the go and surrounded by others.

There is time for my guilty pleasures.  (Read: The Bachelorette and my Alanis Morrisette playlist on Pandora.)

Serious focus improvement.  At work, when it is most important for me to stay focused, I can’t. I’m easily distracted by the candy bar or the occasional adorable puppy that is prancing around the office.  The second that my intern asks me a question, my mind darts in the opposite direction of the work I had just been doing.  But being on my own is like a heavy-duty Adderall.

So take a day, or a weekend.  Make no plans.  Recharge.  I promise you it’s worth it.