Almost August (and everything after)

Nostalgia and rain have the same smell, so the monsoon season in the desert alway feels personally cathartic — a little sad, a little relieving, a lot refreshing.

I’m an Arizona native, so it’s no wonder I am in love  with the rain.  It’s a serious relationship. When I can, I invite it to tea. I’d throw its party, snapping a picture of it blowing out its 4.54 billion candles. I’ve caught the flu for the rain. If I could, I’d send it roses just because. I haven’t used an umbrella in years, and it’s not just because I live in Phoenix.

A raindrop falls from the sky and it’s in your hair. In your hand. On your neck. It seeps through your t-shirt and leaves a mark before being absorbed by the cotton, then your skin, then your blood, then your bones. It’s in your heart.

And then? Evaporation.

The most harrowing thing you’ll ever do. You have to let it go. And you’d think, living in Arizona, that evaporation would proceed quickly amongst the scalding temperatures. But of course that’s not the case. Oh no, your personal humidity and just how very stagnant the air around you has become makes the process slow down to the point of ludicrous visibility. In other words, you can feel the rain leave you. You can see it float away. Life’s logic is rather unreasonable at times.

Just keep the faith. It’ll rain harder. It’ll rain better.

In the mean time, however, there’s no shame in taking my heart out back and shooting it.

Kidding, guys! Just seeing if you were paying attention. Sheesh. It’s just a keyboard and a little melodrama.

Can’t believe summer is coming to a close. Well, summer break, not the season, if we’re being specific. The past few weeks have been a hot, messy blur of so many happy memories.  Lots of swimming, G-rated movies, dinner after dark, wine before 5, watching Big Brother with my big sister, and everyone (EVERYONE) being pregnant. So, this is what it’s like to be 27. Sweet.

Other items on my mind include this poem:

Second Helpings
by John Brehm

I wear my heart on my sleeve,
or rather both sleeves, since
it’s usually broken.
Sometimes when I join my hands
to pray, the jagged edges
briefly touch,
like a plate that fell and cracked
apart from being asked
to hold too much.

…these links:

Sometimes Reddit, you do it for me. 

What exactly are Jay-Z’s problems? — I don’t know, but this cute old lady isn’t one of them. 

By Pitchfork, but for movies. 

A song in a restaurant. 

You are my wild. 

Kind of funny.

…and cereal.

What I Know at 26

Summertime in Phoenix is capable of turning our insides out. It’s the heat and the flavors of its heavy July air.  It’s seeing the sky as a bruise, purple tinged with a sour yellow sunset. Summer’s got gall. It cuts you in line at the DMV. It resents your promotion. It spits in your french fries. If you’re not careful, it delivers bitterness of spirit.

But there is also never a more promising season than summer. Because just when you think you can’t handle another gust of hot wind or seatbelt buckle burn, it rains. It sprinkles softly, stealthily sneaking up to your front door in the middle of the night. If you’re lucky, it taps on your window or wakes you up with lightening. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have someone who won’t let you miss it.

Monsoon season clouds and then clears my judgement, providing fresh perspective on where I’ve been and where I’m going. Twenty-six snuck up on me awfully fast. People who don’t know me and meet me for the first time usually think I’m younger and shorter than I am, but I blame both of those on my tendency towards flat shoes (which I’m working on, by the way. It’s a personal goal of mine to invest in more heels). I myself am bad at guessing people’s ages. Age is time, and time is a healing force at best, a burden at worst, and always a process I’ve never cared for.

As I slowly and quickly race and drag my feet towards 30, this is what I know about myself and Earth so far:

You have to break some eggs to make an omelette.

In order to get well, you have to hold very still.

I know how to get results.

I know how to tell someone an unpleasant truth and still keep their dignity intact. Some people crave brutality, but I cannot give it. I am honest, but I’m honest with affection and compassion and a practiced ability to quickly identify the brightest spots in others. I genuinely believe in kindness still, which I think is rare in adults.

Wait until the morning to decide if you want that bridge to burn.

You have to let go in order to receive.

Book lovers never go to bed alone.

You will never regret pushing yourself. It toughens you and strengthens your resolve. On the flip side, people who have been enabled or cannot take responsibility for their own actions do not deserve respect.

Don’t apologize for something that’s not your fault. (Just because I’ve learned this truth does not mean I don’t struggle with this one.)

Amazingly enough, speaking is frequently optional.

You win some; you lose some.

Know the body you’ve got. It’s limitations, it’s tendencies, it’s potential.

I don’t need people to reassure me that they like me. I won’t lie that my feelings, while not naive to a sledgehammer, waver in the winds of disapproval. However, I don’t need to be liked to be efficient at who I am.

People don’t change. There, I said it. I’m made of the same exact mud I was when I was 6, 10, 14, 18, 22, and yesterday, and so are you. People don’t change at their cores. We can come into our own, we can achieve goals, we can switch directions, grow, regress, evolve, and multiply — but we don’t morph into new beings. We will have the same tendencies, the same weak points. We will repeat history. This is a blessing and a curse. I am all of the best of me, and I am all of the worst, and no matter how badly I want it or severely I fear it, I cannot be anyone else.

That said, I’m aware of my best and worst qualities. I’ve had them my whole life. I’m overly guarded (walk with my eyes on the ground), overly analytical (I know what you really meant), overly nostalgic (paired with the curse of a photographic memory), and just plain mean when I’m wounded (though you’ll have to cut deep). But the fact of the matter is that I’ve always been smart and I’ve always been kind and I’ve always had a moral compass, and while that may be boring in knitting, baking, book-club sort of way, it’s also noble and stable and pure. People don’t change. 

“I love your dress!” and “Did you cut your hair?” are not real compliments.

“You’re ugly” isn’t a real insult.

No, you shouldn’t have to ask. But if you don’t, it’ll never get done.

The best smiles are loud and melodious and reveal teeth.

The only way to be is soulful, realistic, and humorous.

I know how to love completely and put everything on the line.

I’ve learned how to drop everything and run.

Precious energy is wasted on gossip and judgement.

No matter how good or bad the situation is, it will not be like that forever.

No matter what type of relationship it is, it is impossible to hold hands, share secrets, cry on shoulders, and laugh together without falling in some sort of love. Live accordingly.

Human beings can be beautiful in their limitations.

I am not defined by what I didn’t know or didn’t do.

“This time last year, everything was different” usually applies.

Just because you don’t talk to someone doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking of you.

No matter how often you revisit the past, there really isn’t anything new to see.

Don’t think you know the last page so well that you stop reading the first.  

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I’m sure there are more than one summer day can lift to the surface. But as for right now, it’s overcast, and I’m getting tired just being near a window.

If I go it’s not impossible, but possible is probably wrong.

In the sooty gray of a mid winter afternoon, maybe in February, the trees are black mascara drips across an anemic sky. Normally the trees would obscure the pastel yellow and green and white colonials, but this time of year you can see right to the front doors (most of them red). I don’t know what the most common native tree species of Massachusetts are. Red maple? White pine? Some kind of birch. These specific trees are on a hill on Blueberry Street, where the school bus swings by my house at 6:50am.

That’s the big difference between New England and the Southwest: back east, trees conceal everyone’s secrets. Down here, you can see for miles and miles in any one direction. The goods are on the brown desert table, you could say.

Of my time spent living anywhere else, I have spent the vast majority of my life on the west side of the Valley (of the Sun, not the Dolls — though we do try our damnedest to be a mini-California in these parts). I’ve come to conclude that the lack of geographical privacy gives Arizonans a complex. We complain that there are no trees because they’d be pretty — but truthfully, they’d also protect us.

I used to run Blueberry Estates to condition for field hockey. Or to escape the processed, heated air of my house. Or to cure boredom in a small minuscule town. Regardless, winter runs were nearly always shocking because you could see my neighbor’s yards, front and back (there aren’t concrete block walls around them like there are here). You could see their porches, their swing sets, the pattern of the curtains on their windows. You could see the people inside.

In Phoenix, there are no trees, and that’s a year-round sort of fact. If it weren’t for the manmade fences around everyone’s yards, you’d see right into the pool decks and the drying laundry and the Fisher Price kitchenettes and the yellowed, dying grass. You can always see through the front windows. Where I live now, I don’t really talk to my neighbors. But I know whether or not their yards are clean. I know what their kitchen tabletops are made of. I know what’s in their garages.

But it’s more than the trees. Down here, we’re missing the blankets of snow and a fair share of overcast days. We’re missing mountains. And it’s more than the privacy. There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to living with no shade.

I don’t have much to hide. I have a clean record, and I’m leading a pretty nuts and bolts suburban existence as a 25-year old teacher, married with a baby and a dog. (Sometimes I forget to take my recycling out — my neighbors are aware of this.) There’s nothing dark or mysterious or skeletal in my walk-in closet. And maybe it’s just me with the complex. But some trees would be nice.

Insta-Friday and Breezing Back In

Hello. It’s been awhile. I’ve been out and about, living the good life. One of the most important people in my life, Miss Lauren Coletta, came down for a visit during her break from medical school. I can’t believe we’ve been friends for over a decade now. It’s ludicrous to me that it’s been that long since we were 14, playing field hockey and reading Harry Potter and otherwise spending every moment of every day together (we had all the same classes for years, it’s a good thing we got along – ha!) Under perfect circumstances, she’d have been here for the release of the final Potter film, but we made do with fine dining, pedicures, baseball, and a day-trip to an Arizona ghost town. This is the fourth (I think?) time Coletta’s been to Phoenix, and each time has been at the hottest time possible. Poor thing.

Today, I’m faced with the sad realization that she’s back home and that it is already July 1st. As a teacher, July is a last-chance for high-hopes. It marks the second half of summer, which is flying by all too quickly. What all can fit into these next few weeks?

Sitting up for a ride in a shopping cart is just one of Carter-Bird’s crazy adventures that went down this week. He’s also decided he can roll multiple times in quick succession and army crawl.

One…

Two…

Three…

Sunday was for making cookies from Erin’s blog.

Saturday night, I drove down to the airport to pick up Lauren. Airport navigation isn’t my favorite, but standstill traffic at 9pm on the way there was a “that figures” moment. Turns out, there was a nasty accident with a bus. Didn’t look like anyone was hurt, thankfully.

We both made it on time :)

First stop: flip flop purchases. Excellent selection. Very good, very nice. (Awful and worse in person).

Crackle toes.

Look at them cheeks.

<3

Shots from a delicious dinner with friends at La Grande Orange in Phoenix.

Silly.

Jerome, AZ: America’s Most Vertical City

One of my favorite places to visit in Jerome.

Wine tasting! I’d never done this before — so much fun.

Caduceus Cellars

Coletta in front of a ghost town brothel.

Diamondbacks vs. Indians. We lost, but the froyo was good.

Miley at her dance class.

Love these men.

No better way to come to the close of a week than with a piece of made-with-love heaven. How lucky am I to have such a close friend that always thinks to swing by with treats?

What It’s Like: Being Raised on 75th Ave and Sweetwater

Here’s what it’s like: you are twelve or thirteen and your mother is angry because you won’t tease your bangs and you prefer to wear Charlotte Russe tops under overalls to the seventh grade.

You’ve got a trampoline in your backyard, and you’ve discovered how much easier it is to do a back flip than to flip forward. You spend a lot of time at night on that trampoline: laying on it, beating on it, using it to get high enough to see the horses over the fence. You’ve named those horses, and you talk to that moon. You jump until your legs ache and your throat burns, but you can’t stop because you’re talking to the moon. The moon and you, you have certain understandings of the truth: Boys hurt you. Friends lie. People protect themselves before they would you. You should learn to do the same. Family changes. Family is crazy. Family loves the most.

It is only a matter of time before Mrs. Hallman is awarded her sainthood. She survived the tenth slumber party of the school year. Last night’s total: eight preteen girls, four karaoke versions of “I Want It That Way”, two thirteen-year old boys’ houses TPed, one entire chocolate cake devoured.

The boy you are “going out” with is one and ½ inches shorter than you, and you like it when he comes to the door wearing his rollerblades, because then, when the two of you awkwardly hug, your forehead touches his chin – instead of what occurs sans rollerblades, where his eyes would otherwise be locked right on your… collarbone. Not that you have much of a collarbone. But you wish you did.

Your Christmas present was a separate phone line “for the kids” – but you have to share it with the dial-up internet. Your little brother likes to look at the lingerie section of the JC Penny catalog, and you fight a lot, but sometimes you sneak into each other’s rooms to play, and you let his Power Rangers take your Barbies for a spin in the convertible. That is, after you’ve unpacked the aforementioned dolls from the attic for the third time that month. Someday, they’ll stay up there for good.

This is what it’s like: there aren’t any other girls your age that live on your street, but there is one eighth grader who dyes a streak of her brown hair blonde, right down the middle. This, combined with her practice of snarling her lip and scrunching her nose as if she’s just caught wind of an open sewer in August, has earned her the pet name “The Skunk”. Your mother always preaches that if you make a face long enough, it’ll stick. You worry for The Skunk.

There is no world outside of what falls between 75th and 83rd or what extends north or south of Cactus and Thunderbird — except maybe the mall, and your mom won’t let you hang out there with your friends anyway (something about mall rats). It’s debatable as to whether there is a world beyond how you perceive life and how you, specifically and only, are affected by it.

Lyndsay likes Ryan. Or Brandon. Katie likes Brandon. Amanda likes Dustin and Mike. Melissa likes Dustin and Brandon. Nicole likes Dustin and Sean. You like Dustin. And Sean. And Zach. Ryan likes Jessica, and Jessica likes Ryan. Until she finds Pat. Kelley likes Ryan. Ryan likes Lyndsay. Or You. Dustin likes Amanda. And Britnee. And you, again, maybe. Marissa likes older boys with juicy lips. Sean (not that Sean, another Sean) likes Katie, but Katie just got her first kiss from Aaron playing spin the bottle. Most of these incontrovertible facts have been established in chat rooms.

And so, this is what it’s like when you have come to the conclusion that all boys, and all girls, are the same.

You have an older sister. She’s in *~high school~*. She’s so pretty, it’s offensive. She’s a freshman, and she’s the starting pitcher for the high school softball team. (You try to play softball, too, but you’ve broken your nose four times now and it’s probably best to give it up.) She has a boyfriend who’s a senior.

Sometimes, you’re allowed to go to the mall, if your sister goes with you. Sometimes, her boyfriend drives you there. All the time, your friends stare at him.

You’ve seen Titanic three times in theaters. It is awesome. Mandy Moore is better than Britney Spears, Limp Bizkit is dumb, and Freddie Prinze Jr. is hot.

You keep a journal religiously. October 6, 1999. 10:14pm. There’s gonna be a slumber party this Friday at Lyndsay’s house. I think Mom will let me go. I LOOOVE slumber parties, especially when Katie and Amanda are there. Sometimes (most of the time) we get spastically hyper and start singing and making up songs like drunk old men.  Whenever you write a swear word in your journal, you apologize. You are melodramatic and passionate and unintentionally hilarious. March 11, 2000. I feel as if someone unplugged the drain on my heart and it is leaking everywhere in my body. There’s nothing I can do about it. I am bleeding everywhere and no one can see! I can’t even cry, I’m numb. It hurts all over. I can’t trust anyone.

Some days are great. You feel brave and mature and even pretty. You are smart and funny. You are the second best secret-keeper you know. Other days, life is hell. Your best friend keeps liking whoever you like. Your mom made you sign off AOL just when the conversation was getting good. You try too hard, and someone took the terrible liberty of telling all your secrets.

You are only 12, 13, 14, but you know what it’s like when love leaves. You know what it’s like to be rendered useless in adult situations. You’ve learned what it’s like to have a best friend trade you in for a better model, what it’s like to say something you can’t take back, what it’s like to be admired, and what it’s like to be despised.

And now, when you are 25, you are suprised, slightly creeped out, and thoroughly pleased that you remember what it’s like.

Arizona Blogger Meet Up

Well, it is high time that I get around to posting about attending the day sesh of the Arizona Blogger Meet Up. Such a fun afternoon spent in downtown Phoenix, wearing out the soles of our shoes and visiting some great boutiques.

Erin and I headed out, baby-free due to my doting husband. We arrived with enough time to explore the Phoenix Public Market on our own.

Phoenix Public Market

Phoenix Public Market

Phoenix Public Market

After peeking about, we met down at the Civic Space Park while we waited for all the bloggers to arrive. You could hear the cracking as we came out of our shells! We met up with Katy and her friend here, too.

Shy to Start!

Fillmore and Central, with the Space Park in the background.

Ladies Sipping Cactus Tea Arnold Palmers

Commence an afternoon of painting Phoenix a lovely shade of lavender (I’m sure it turned red at the dinner, which I had to miss out on — I’ve got a wee one!)

Bloggers Unite!

Wall Art as We Walked

Near the Grow Op

Taking on Downtown.

We got to go to some of my old favorite spots in downtown, and I got introduced to so many new places to visit! Among the places we were spotted at were Misty’s Vintage, The Grow Op, Frances, and Butter Toast Boutique (where I got the cutest vintage sundress that I’ll be posting about later).

Lovely Misty of Misty's Vintage

New Friends Outside of the Grow Op

The weather was perfect and no amount of walking could deter us. I felt like I was taking pictures the whole time, but in retrospect, I didn’t take enough! To see more, visit the Flickr pool. I had to steal a couple to fill in the holes of this post! Extra special thanks to Karie Denny.

I picked up Carter's new favorite toy, a handmade donut rattle made by Katy Verga, at the Grow Op.

Katy's Kismets for sale at the Grow Op.

To see more of Katy’s creations, visit her the Huckleberry Faye Etsy Shop.

Making fresh flower crowns (or an anklet, in my case!)

Love this photo of Erin!

A Snapshot of All of US

It was a whirlwind of fun. I’m hoping for another soon!

And for your time…

Sweetest thing I’ve seen in quite some time. Thanks for posting, Ashley!