October 21, 2014

Connecticut
















There's this line in a Death Cab for Cutie song that I love, which is always true for every Death Cab song. But the particular song in my head now talks about traveling by folding a map in half; and that's what this weekend felt like. We took off, pushing through the outskirts of the city like fighting a tangled mess of rubber bands--and then snap! It was behind us and we were propelled into the countryside, fully dressed in autumnal glory now. So unused to being in such close proximity to numerous places, we treated ourselves to crossing several state borders, just to say we had, and took in the sights of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

I remember very little of my childhood in Connecticut. It was a small chunk of it, after all, but there are fuzzy memories. Our drives through the dense forests down hilly, winding roads lined with orange and red did much to drive them to the front of my mind though, so that even though I haven't been to the place I was born in more than 20 years, it still felt oddly homey to me. Maybe it was those first views of the world scrapbooked somewhere inside my head. 

Of course, it could have just as easily been that it all reminded me of a different place entirely. A light fog crept low through all the trees and reflected a silvery light between its back and the clouds. The greens were as green as spring, dampened by the air; and all the other colors were saturated, neon, more vibrant than I could have imagined. Unexpected gaps in the trees offered prime views of valleys, sometimes of those patchwork forest tops; but also of pastures, all divided up by stone walls. I had worn wellies just hoping it would be like that, and it wasn't until I got out and sunk down into the soft grass just a bit that it struck me what it felt like: England. 

So whether the birthplace of my body or the place pieces of my heart were born, the point is that I have always been drawn to such a place and I felt completed a bit somehow, being there. All the while, I couldn't help looking over at Trevor during the drive, thinking about how he is always making my dreams come true and that, while I don't expect him to complete me, he does. It's not that he has all the traits I don't and so together we are a whole person. I don't think love works that way. It's that he strives to build the life I always dreamed of, to make the desires of my heart my realities. He knows the person I am, and he also seems to know the person I want to be. He loves both of those people equally, and he likes to help me close the space between them. This weekend, there I was, and there she was--we stood together as the same person on top of a mountain (well, hill) looking out over the colors of fall in New England. Check that off the bucket list.

We stayed in Woodstock at a little white inn, that was quite possibly constructed from the stuff of my daydreams. There were gravel paths to the meadows and trees out back; a cutting garden bursting with bright pinks and red; pumpkins peeked out of hiding places and along the rocked gates or maybe set high atop the wall of chopped firewood, some of which would be used for the fire at breakfast the next morning. We'd had our fill of exploring outside just as the storm blew in and the leaves fluttered from the trees foreshadowing the rain. At dinner, my darling girls sat up straight in their chairs like princesses and ate their fruit cups and sipped their juices from fancy glasses and finished their pasta without being coaxed, like they knew their exquisite behavior during mommy and daddy's anniversary dinner was the best gift that could be given.

Just when I thought there was no more idyllic way to spend a day, we decided the next morning to pick some pumpkins before the journey back to the city. And we found this little farm, built by hand and toiled over in love, where chickens and geese roamed the fields by the pond and the baby calves anxiously stuck their noses through the barn doors to be pet by the little hands that belonged to squealing girls. There we rode around in old carts and chose the pumpkins we liked best, and with the morning dew not yet dried, we had the place to ourselves to boot. "What a place to grow up," Trevor said; and just like that, we had the pangs of how much we love the countryside settled in our hearts for just a bit. 

We head back to the city, and the traffic was brutal. The trek was long and hard. Still, a sense of humor was abounding and the radio seemed keen on tossing us some old high school favorites. We danced and laughed and had bubble-blowing contests with BubbleTape. Then we finally crossed the water and there was the city, standing tall and majestic and proud, and it was so funny to think, "I'm home." I looked over at Trevor once more, and I thought again about how he is always making my dreams come true.

October 17, 2014

Six


Tomorrow will be our sixth wedding anniversary, and Trevor is whisking me and the girls away to Connecticut for a weekend of leaves and pumpkins [and pumpkin-spiced things] and a cute little inn that I am deliriously excited about. And he knew I would be, which is why he picked it, because he was good at knowing those things even before we became an old married couple of six years.

This year is the year of iron. Our marriage is now the manifestation of Proverbs 21:17, I suppose. "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."

The Proverb is completely accurate, and it is accurate for a lot of reasons. We have lived together, and we have become better for it. We have challenged each other, and we have become better for it. We have hurt or mourned together, and we have become better for it. We have learned together, and we are better. We have struggled together (thankfully more than we have struggled against), and we are far better for it. Most importantly, we have continued to love one another, and we are our best selves because of that. (And what's more, we still love even when we are not that.)

It goes without saying that iron is strong. It is the stuff of skyscrapers and mammoth bridges. Our modern life is dependent on its sturdiness and endurance. And not that marriage ever stops being work, but something about becoming iron speaks to powerful and reliable longevity. Here is something that will stand the test of time.

For all its uses and good qualities, the thing about iron is that it's a refined substance. It can be changed and molded and be strong. It can be mixed with other substances for a new and reinforced material. It offers up its best and still lends itself to other ways that it might be used or needed. And in six years, while I know that I can count on a bettering partner and a strong relationship, I am learning to notice how we change too. Six years is exciting! Because maybe we are on our way to being that "old married couple," but baby, how we've changed in six years. I've changed, he's changed, we've changed. "Us" is still made of that good strong stuff, but we have been willing and excited to grow and adventure and to become what we needed for each other and for this family.

So in some ways, six years is a our strong and sturdy anniversary, and it's our soft and tender one. Did you know that Hallmark says six years is also the candy anniversary? (Bless you, Hallmark!) The tough, powerful anniversary is counterbalanced by something sweet and simple and delicious. 

I think that sums it up, my love--where you are strong, I am soft; where I am tough, you are tender. Here we are tall and proud and sturdy, and in some of the sweetest moments we've had yet.

Happy six years to the most wonderful man in the world.

Anniversaries 2, 3, 4, 5, and the whole gosh darn love story!
See all of our wedding photos at Lauren Stocker Photography.

October 13, 2014

Natural: Honest


Since living in our little NYC apartment, with no backyard to speak of, and finding the bulk of my days dedicated to getting somewhere, some of my natural living practices have...adjusted. Running short on time, I haven't kept to making all of my cleaners and detergents. Running short on storage, it's become cumbersome to store open boxes of Borax and sodas.

Unwilling to give up safe and natural cleaning, I turned to The Honest Company. It can be pricey to order products in this way, but NYC living is about weighing a variety of costs; and for me, anything that saves me time and space is valuable. It's also convenient having items delivered rather than having to trek across Brooklyn with my cleaning cabinet stashed in the undercarriage of the stroller.

I've kept some of my old tricks of the trade, and for others, I have loved using Honest. Pictured above are a few of my favorite products. I love keeping things fresh-smelling, and have admittedly been a Febreeze addict even after I converted all else over to natural cleaners. Honest has a great solution, and it's completely pure and safe. The multi-surface cleaner is so fabulous, especially since I try to get all of my cleaning done in one day. It's great for kitchens, bathroom surfaces, and even floors. I love that I can buy small concentrated refills--really helps with my storage issue. And those little pods are oxy-boosts. They keep my whites white, and I have been amazed at their stain removing capabilities.

If you'd like to check out these and other Honest Company products, click here.

I post "Natural" stories from time-to-time as I try to find ways to engage in simpler living. I'm not an expert, just finding my way and happy to share what I learn.

October 7, 2014

Hurd Family Farm










We snaked through the Hudson Valley last weekend, over what I call hills, though they are more mountain than anything else I've seen out here. The land rolls up and down, unlike a horizon suddenly interrupted by a majestic rocky formation, and more like the unfurling of a patchwork quilt frozen before it's laid all the way flat. All of the deciduous trees are so old and established, from up above it looks as though they've grown together, and the only distinguishing factors are the changing colors of the leaves. Gold grows into orange which turns to the most fiery red I've ever seen on a tree. Of course, I knew red leaves existed. I was shocked to discover there are also purple and pink leaves? I saw a tree that was legitimately pink. It couldn't be called any other color. And dotted through these warm tones were the trees not yet willing to let go of summer, boasting greens from hunter to bright lime, like they supposed they alone could stand against time and nature.  

The car fell silent as the babes were rocked into early naps, and I sipped my cliche spiced latte that seemed an appropriate treat for the first fall outing. Honestly, it was the kind of day that very few of us love, the rain unending and the fog settling around peaks like crowns for those that reached the highest. It seemed the whole world was bathed in magical silvery light, adding to the surreal feeling of actually emerging from the city. Even though I've seen what America looks like far past New York, when you're here, it really can feel like the whole world. That was two hours behind us nearly, and we found nature's versions of avenues and skyscrapers, putting on their best to greet October just as the city is prime this time of year.

Our exit led us down small highways and then windy roads that are exactly what you picture when you think of an east coast back country drive in autumn. I couldn't believe that what I'd attributed only to my mind's eye or a movie scene did, in fact, exist in real life. After a time, the trees gave way, and we found ourselves at Hurd Family Farm, the rain still falling quite steadily though not deterring anyone from making a day of apple picking. It seems that New Yorkers are not only hardcore about their city living, rather apply their go-get-it nature in all ventures. 

We splashed through the muddy puddles, the girls fascinated by their new wellies and dry feet. We wound through rows of apple trees, laughing with friends about the absurdity of such an activity in the pouring down rain, but relishing it all the same. We drenched our arms reaching high into the branches for the best apples and filled our pecks to the brim. When the rains fell harder, we dashed up the path and into the sturdy red barn. There we could eat apple fritter donuts and warm our hands around cider, resting on hay bales as the kids rummaged through farm-themed toys. There was a ridiculous diner lunch before we head back for the city, back through the clouds and colorful canopies. While we crossed the George Washington bridge, I looked over my shoulder to see these incredible rocky cliffs, speckled with white houses and the same orange and red we'd just been driving underneath.

Then there she was: The city. Man's version of the sudden majestic rocky formation. I rode in the car, as quietly as possible (the drive back was much more lively than the restful trip up), and as we opened the sunroof to let in the light, I thought about how strange it was to love such two extremes so much. When we broke free from New York's concrete and into the wilderness, I felt a peacefulness come over me. But after a few hours, as we dove back in, it was like I came alive. Maybe a person needs both. Maybe I thought I was on a journey to find which one spoke to me more loudly, but really it's more about balancing the two--about feeding the soul in different ways. 

These are the kinds of things you can decide in autumn. In autumn, all parts of the world offer you her best in this still, outreaching way. It's a blip on the spectrum of a calendar year, just a few weeks really; and yet every year it is the period of epiphany for me. It's a few moments of crisp clarity. It's a chance to see the world in technicolor and realize how all forms of creation mirror each other--city and nature. And since we are creations and creators, to remember that that exists in us too.