On Green Bananas . . .

bananas

There are some people who talk to their grandparents once a week, once a month or only on special occasions. I, however, am the complete opposite. I talk to my grandparents about three times a day – making sure to add every exhilarating detail of my life, like how Harris Teeter never seems to have zucchini in stock.

 Most of my conversations with my grandparents seem to go as follows:

  • How do I know what type of light bulb to buy for a standing lamp?
  • Can you BELIEVE that it cost this much to register your car in DC?
  • If I don’t have buttercream, what can I substitute it with to make banana bread?
  • Wow – Fairmont got a Dunkin’ Donuts … finally!

As you can see, my grandparents are basically my form of Google, except their answers are always a little unpredictable and more hilarious.

When I moved to D.C. on a Capitol Hill staffer’s salary, my family (Stanley included) told me that I was in charge of my own finances. I remember the first paycheck I received and how it was somehow lower than my rent. One would think that I would become good at budgeting, but in fact, I learned that another poor soul living in the city would sublet a walk-in closet from me. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

After four years, you would think that I would learn how to budget money, but, alas, I have not. On one particular day, my conversation with Stanley was about how I never seem to save any money at the end of the month. My priorities are in this precise order: rent, food, dog, food, traveling, wine, and food. Lately (read: usually), my savings account hasn’t seen any deposits.

This would bother some people, but I don’t lose sleep over it.

Most people would tell their children that they need to “be responsible” and “start saving in case of an emergency.”

So, when I called Stanley about my irresponsible spending habits, I expected a conversation like the one above to happen.

To my surprise, Stanley said the following:

You gotta have fun while you can — you could die tomorrow! Heck, at my age, I don’t even buy green bananas anymore.

And that’s when I knew what my New Year’s resolution would be: to save even less and travel even more.

Traveling with Stanley, pt 4

venice38

Vicariously in Venice (day 5)

Imagine walking around a city that was built on water — you almost feel magical. And that is exactly how Venice made us feel. 

I knew that I was supposed to meet a girl named Rebecca to obtain our apartment keys at certain points within the city, but I had no clue what she looked like and we couldn’t connect via phone. Within moments, I see a girl running towards me with her arms extended saying, “Ciao, Devin!”

Upon meeting Rebecca, an instant connection was made and I felt as though I had known her for years. After many twists and turns through the narrow Venetian streets, we finally arrived to our apartment.

We were greeted with cookies and candies. We exchanged stories, and Stanley drew Rebecca a lineage of our family history and explained that our family came from Atessa (which is nowhere near Venice.) Stanley then called my Noni and more stories were shared, including all of my Noni’s recipes.

Rebecca laughed and shared her family stories, and at one moment, Stanley started singing her karaoke. I thought to myself, “An actual Saint is standing in front of us.”

Rebecca then walked us to a local restaurant and her beautiful Italian words got a table near the window. I’m not sure if I was famished or tired of German food, but that was the BEST. LASAGNA. I. HAD. EVER. TASTED.

venice39

Waking Up in Venice (day 6)

The next day happened to be my 25th birthday and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We decided that a visit to the Rialto Bridge would be appropriate, and along the way we stumbled upon a restaurant that overlooked the Grand Canal. Yes, this was absolutely touristy and a bit overpriced, but the pasta was actually delicious and the view was to die for.

If you ask me what my favorite part of the trip was, I would tell you that I enjoyed the challenge of getting from one city to the next. I loved meeting people from different cultures and getting to know them.

If you ask Stanley what his favorite part of the trip was, he will more than likely tell you that he enjoyed singing Dean Martin in a gondola.

As soon as we stumbled upon the gondolas in Venice, I knew our afternoon was over. With the gondolier dressed in the traditional striped t-shirt, this was a scene out of a movie. What made this experience even better was that Stanley taught the gondolier every Dean Martin song that he knew. Spectators could hear us coming, and most of them would stop to watch wondering what in the heck was going on. To paint the picture an even more elaborate color, Stanley would scream in his best Italian accent, “GIVE ME A THUMBS UP!” and would then snap a photo of each person we passed.

This went on for two hours.

A Day with Rebecca (day 7)

Our new friend, Rebecca, had blocked off her entire day to take us sightseeing and show us the more local side of Venice. She met us and brought her mother, Bonita, along.

venice22

Words cannot describe the day we had, but at the end of the day we had new, true friends. We walked over 10 miles and ate like locals, learned the dialect, and taught each other about our cultures.

I have tried to write a post about our time in Venice, but didn’t feel as though I could adequately describe the amount of love that we felt from this city, which is all due to Rebecca.

So Rebecca, thank YOU for extending your love of life and vibrant attitude to us for this day. You helped us fall in love with Venice and all it has to offer. We cannot wait to come visit you and your family again.

Pictures from this day (and the rest of the trip!):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Fleeing to Florence (day 8)

 After an incredible adventure in Venice, it was time to travel to our last city: Florence. We went to the train station and settled for a relaxing journey through Tuscany.

We were finally accustomed to the nomadic lifestyle and couldn’t wait to meet the people of Firenze!

venice14

 

Up, Up and Apart

Balloon

It’s here. I’ve finally hit the “mid-twenties mark.”

I celebrated my 25th birthday in Venice, which was magical. Eating pasta Bolognese while overlooking the Grand Canal is a moment that I’ll probably refer to for the rest of my life.

“When I was 25, I was wearing a fedora hat and feeding a stray dog bread while looking at Ponte di Rialto …”

I feel like every time I travel, I talk about how my life has been changed forever. This time was no exception, but that deserves it’s own post which will come later; mainly because my sweet grandpa Stanley accompanied me and we spent 14 days traveling through Germany, Austria and Italy.

But I digress.

You know how those more experienced will tell you what to expect for your upcoming birthday?

12? She will grow like a weed!

23? You’ll experience your first hangover.

The day I turned 30, my metabolism changed over night!

At 40, you may have your first mid-life crisis, and you’ll lose your vision at the same time. So splendid!

What about 25? Nothing. It’s the middle child of birthdays. It’s passive; it’s just there. You aren’t changing the world and you aren’t settling down, but you’re just living. It’s not as exciting as 21, and not as dreadful as 30.

So, here I am writing to tell you that things will change. You may not wake up with an epiphany or a crease in your forehead, but day after day you will notice things are marginally different.

You will notice that people are moving on.

One day I woke up and realized that the people that I held near and dear to my heart just weren’t as close as they used to be. Instead of feeling every heart beat and ache together like we used to, we all have found our own path in the world. Group texts of everyone sharing horrid first-date stories have diminished and, instead, are filled with individual tales of dating, wedding dress shopping and traveling. Wednesday nights that were once dedicated to wine and figuring out how to get a promotion are now filled with receptions and work events. Instead of complaining about our jobs, we now actually fit in and are most likely the root of frustration with those our junior. I was so busy fulfilling my own life that I didn’t stop to realize that my friends were doing the exact same thing.

It’s a strange feeling to one day realize that while everyone was diligently moving, things ended up a bit rattled and aren’t fitting together just like they used to. You’re not going to fully understand why your friends are so invested in their job or love life and they aren’t going to understand why you aren’t devoted to the things they find important.

So while this may seem disheartening, it is also OK.

The shift from being an early-twenty-year-old to a semi-functioning adult is so gradual that you may not realize it until you meticulously look at each detail that got you from point A to point B. Like riding in a hot air balloon, you see what is behind you, but you’re not exactly sure where you’re going to land. And that is part of the excitement.

Home(town)less

Coffee

Sometimes I miss home. I miss the way folks know exactly what you want to drink when you go to the local diner. I miss the way that neighborhoods have block parties, and kids run in the middle of the street with no worry of getting hit by a car – because the whole street is there and not a soul is driving. I miss summer on the river, hometown grocery stores, and the fact that in my hometown you can show up to your neighbors’ home unannounced and end up staying for a few hours discussing local news over a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

But, over the past few years, I’ve become a local to a new hometown. I’m officially a big city gal who has a metro card, understands you can’t give directions by using minutes or landmarks (even if you turn left at the church on the corner, and then walk four minutes and you’ll see the restaurant on your right), and has learned the art of training a puppy with no backyard.

In my new hometown, people aren’t as friendly. People push, people shove, people yell and people honk. And it’s really easy to become jaded and to say, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” But no matter how many times I try, I can’t shove someone on the metro or get mad at a kid running too fast on the sidewalk – because everyone has a story, and mostly everyone came here from somewhere else.

So this spring I decided that the best way to cure my homesickness for the kindness and compassion that small towns have to offer was to extend a hand to those in need. I decided to help feed the hungry.

In a city where there are roughly 7,700 homeless persons on any given night, I realized that I couldn’t help every single one, but I could help a few by serving them breakfast. So I took on the task. I was up at 5:00 a.m. and arrived very sleepy and confused, and a tad scared.

But then the coordinator asked, “Can you serve coffee?”

You bet your bottom dollar I can. Growing up in the restaurant business, I can serve coffee over my shoulder with my eyes closed. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration.

“Sugar is over there, coffee is over here. They get three sugars per cup,” she said.

Seems simple enough.

Promptly at 6:30 a.m., the doors swung open and people started walking in. There were elderly folks dressed for church, single moms, single dads, groups of friends, and those by themselves.

“Miss, can I have some coffee?” a man asked.

And every time they asked for coffee, I then asked how many sugars they wanted. And every single person replied with three. Three sugars. Take that in for a moment.

We live in a society where most of us need coffee to get going in the morning. We need a few cups to function, and then by the afternoon, we need a pick-me-up. We spend $5 for a brewed latte with a fancy logo, and we view this as a necessity. How many times have you heard yourself saying, “Hold on, I just need a cup of coffee before I can start this meeting.” I’m sure a lot.

But, here I saw a group of people who would like a cup of coffee, and they would also like three sugars because they don’t get the luxury of having this everyday. Something so simple, like sugar with your coffee is a thing that every hometown takes for granted.

I asked each person how his or her day was going and learned a lot from each person I spoke with. One man played the piano for the guests, and we learned who liked blues music, who liked oldies, and who could dance really well. We learned each other’s names, who likes grits and who likes bacon, and we learned who the favorite basketball team was in the room. And we learned all of this from who likes sugar with their coffee, which made me feel like I was home for a little bit.

I was trying to describe you to someone . . .

flowers.JPG

I was trying to describe you to someone, and I couldn’t quite form the words.

I couldn’t find the shade of blue that your eyes are, somewhere between cerulean and sapphire. And that your face is round, and when you don’t cut your hair for a while, the combination makes you look younger.

I told them how I remember the first time I saw you. You were wearing a light grey suit with a plain, white button up. As you leaned up against the side of the restaurant, you turned and smiled at me.

Do you remember watching your favorite TV show when you were younger? You knew it was going to end and that you would have to get off the sofa and go to bed, but you wanted each minute to last an hour. You wanted to sit there forever.

That’s how I felt with you the night we met.

I told them how I remember when you cooked me dinner for the first time. We sat on the floor and drank a bottle of wine in our pajamas. And I was trying to describe how you looked in a plain white t-shirt, but I couldn’t quite form the words.

They asked me my favorite memory with you, and I told them that after months that we had broken up, we connected again. I was trying to describe the way we talked about religion and purpose and power, and how it felt so natural. How we questioned each other. How we were honest about our pasts. How we opened up about secrets.

You were trying to describe your feelings to me. You told me that it feels different, but it’s not different. And that maybe we are better off as friends right now.

And I said ok.

I was trying to describe to someone why we kept coming back to each other, even though we knew our relationship was messy, and I couldn’t quite form the words.

Time Given

windows

I find myself choosing to be alone. I like to stroll through neighborhoods and glance into windows, looking at either meticulously planted shrubs, or noticing that the residents of a certain home haven’t quite shoveled the steps since the snow started. I like to be alone because you are able to notice things that you haven’t before; you get to wander and observe the details that make up the minutes in our lives.

Yesterday I found myself walking to church in the middle of the day. Now, it was Ash Wednesday, so it wasn’t out of the normalcy to go to church during the workday. But, I went alone. I was able to sit in the wooden pews of an old stone structure and stare at the kaleidoscope of colors coming from the windows. I was able to dedicate myself to a community for an hour to simply listen.

This year, I’m trying to focus on myself. I want to learn more of what makes me happy, grow as a person, disconnect from the lenses of society and wander into the unknown. I find that each week has become predictable, and I simply want to notice new details.

Through this challenge, I’ve decided to reconnect with my faith. The past couple of months have tested me beyond belief – through family illness, death, divorce, and heartbreak. It’s easy to be frustrated, to question the sequence of events, and to stray. And, I did that. All of the above.

And then I realized that everything in life is out of my control. Whatever His plan is for me, I must accept and have faith in the bigger picture. I’m taking these challenges as an opportunity to learn, grow and reflect. And the only thing that I can control is how I make others feel and the service I give back.

But, back to church. As we talked about Lent and the sacrifice that we are willing to make, I used my “alone” time for greater good. I usually give up soda, sweets, coffee, or anything else that gives me a slight addiction. One year I gave up cereal and I had actual WITHDRAWAL. People, I ate two boxes of Special K on Easter and threw up grains for days.

But I digress (because you probably don’t want to hear about my bodily functions).

This year, I am giving up an intangible object with the hopes of learning more about myself. I’m giving up my time.

We all know how much I love grandpas, so I am going to give my time to the elderly in need, whether it be cooking them meals, taking them to the doctor, or simply listening to their most coveted stories.

It only took time alone to realize that time given is invaluable

An Ode to 2015

It’s hard to believe that 2015 has come and gone. With every year that passes, I like to reflect and realize the growth, struggles, and laughs that have come along with it.

I’m super excited for 2016, because 1) quite frankly, this year has been a roller coaster, and 2) I turn 25!

Here are the tales of my year, with all of the fortune and misgivings included.

January

I started the year celebrating with my best gals in Pittsburgh. I should have known it was going to be an interesting year when two of my friends ended up 60 miles outside of the city in the middle of the night. If we were looking for a sign that things may go a little off course for the rest of the year, this was it.

NYE

February  

Valentine’s Day … the holiday that all girls (and guys, too, I suppose) either love or dread. While the winter was FRIGID, I was cozied up in a small basement at one of the best Italian restaurants in town. Pasta, wine and tiramisu are guaranteed to help you fall in love. Gentlemen, take note.

March

Who decides to go on a bar crawl without a phone? This gal. Navigating the streets of D.C. are hard enough, but adding a few glasses of booze into your system makes it nearly impossible. While at the end of my crawl (which happened to be at approximately 4:30 p.m.), I realized I had Sally’s number memorized. Thanks to Harris Teeter’s rewards program. Instead of saving me, Sally proceeded to join in on the fun. And we all came out alive.

Sally

April

April was full of firsts … especially for my Nonna. The sassy little lady came to visit D.C. for the first time! We went out on the town, and I ordered an Uber black car, because I want people to think my life is together. I told Nonna that the Uber was arriving, and when she saw it she exclaimed, “Dev, you doin’ so GOOD.” The Uber continued to drop us off at a restaurant, we had a wonderful meal, and I ordered another car. WHATDOYAKNOW, the same Uber arrived.

Nonna screamed, “You just been drivin’ ‘round?” And the Uber driver replied, “Well, yes ma’am.” Once we got home, Nonna looked at the driver and screamed, “HUBER, YOU GO HOME NOW. WE ARE GOIN’ TO BED.”

She then looked at me and said, “Dev, I didn’t know your job paid you SO GOOD.”

Note: This is one way to trick your grandparents into thinking you are rich.

May

Folks, I traveled to Europe with Elizabeth and Sally. That is the short version.

The long version includes staying in hostels, drinking the bar out of Amstel, making friends, falling in love, seeing the Queen of England (gasp), missing flights, getting lost in Amsterdam, running into concrete barriers, seeing nakey gals in the Red Light district, being questioned by TSA three times, and more adventures that I possibly cannot name. Because what happens in Europe stays in Europe. Except for Sally’s relationship status … that changed ;).

Amsterdam

June

Oh, the month of heartbreak. Literally. June was a scary month. My grandpa, whom I adore beyond words, had a heart attack and then was rushed into triple bypass surgery. I rushed home and made it to the hospital in time to see Stanley and talk to him before his surgery. He was wheeled away, and after a few moments of prayer, we went into the waiting room to await news from the doctor.

Here’s the thing about heart attacks – they happen so quickly that it instantly bonds a family together. Stanley is the rock of our family – the one everyone goes to when they need something fixed, whether it is in their house or their life. For six hours, my family and closest friends waited and laughed, waited and cried. We were there for Stanley just as he has always been there for us.

The doctor came out and told us everything was A-OK, and we all let out a deep sigh. And in case anyone is wondering, Stanley graduated first in his cardio therapy class because he is just THAT badass.

July

There is something special about being in D.C. during the Fourth of July. And by something special, I mean it’s actually fantastic and nutso crazy. Instead of partaking in the festivities, I played Apples to Apples with my friend Katie and her parents as we drank three bottles of wine. And if that doesn’t scream MURICA, then I don’t know what does.

August

Have you ever scheduled a bachelorette weekend in Pittsburgh with 11 gals? You should try it. Laughter will be guaranteed. My best friend FOREVER, Rachel, decided the only way to properly celebrate marriage is by taking over a city. Festivities included, but not limited to, horrible dancing in fancy clubs, breaking hotel showers, Luke Bryan concerts, and matching t-shirts.

Rachel

September

September was a scene out of Steel Magnolias. At the beginning of the month, I celebrated Rachel and Bradley’s marriage with a perfect ceremony and a reception. Later that week, my grandma passed away from ovarian cancer. I then found out my parents were getting a divorce. All the feelings.

If there is a silver lining in all of this, it’s that Rachel spent her one-week anniversary comforting and laughing with me. Old friends are truly the best friends.

October 

I love my Chi Omega sisters. Joining Chi Omega was, by far, the best decision I made in college. My pledge class BFFs try to get together twice a year, and this year’s reunion happened to be in D.C. over Halloween weekend. For a slight moment in time, we were 19 years old and we were at a themed party. To add to the nostalgia, Laura even lost her phone. Some things never change (except our alcohol tolerance…)

November

When is your life is already hectic, what do you do? You buy a puppy. I welcomed sweet Murphy into my life and instantly said goodbye to my sleep schedule. Murphy is a three-month-old Labradoodle who loves cuddling, his bone, and peanut butter treats.

While Murphy is adjusting to city life, I am adjusting to puppyhood. It’s not easy, but we’re in this together for the long run. Devin + Murphy Furever.

Murphy

December

THE LAST MONTH. I have never been so excited to welcome December. Even though it’s not officially over, I am ending this year on a bang. There’s approximately two more weeks of work, and then Murph and I are making the long trek back to West Virginia. From there, I will be flying to Paris followed by Copenhagen with Katie and will returning back to the states at the beginning of January.

Au revoir, 2015!