Time Given


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

A Broken Family Tradition

I remember sitting on a stool in my family’s restaurant watching the chefs scurrying around an iron kitchen and cooking delectable plates of food for the hundreds of people who chose to spend their special evening with us. In order to not mess up the assembly line of pasta being scooped on plates, vegetables being steamed and sauce being stirred, my job was to sprinkle parsley on the outgoing plates. Seems easy, right? You betcha.

As I got older, I realized that these family genes – the ones that made my “Big Noni” (aka: great-grandma) a legend who is still talked about to this day, and the ones that have been passed down to EVERY. SINGLE. HUMAN in our family – must have decided to skip-a-doodle-do right on over me. Probably due to the fact that I will settle for Raisin Bran Crunch and not shed a single tear over soggy asparagus.

This is where I precisely gained a hatred for the TV Network because if people can watch “30 Minute Meals” with Rachael Ray and learn how to make pot roast, then why did I not absorb the hours and hours of free lessons while sitting on that green stool at the end of the kitchen. WHY, I MUST ASK WHY?

I digress.

In case you are wondering where this panic is striking from, I’m starting to develop this irrational fear that I will soon be asked to a dinner party and will have nothing to show thanks with in return. Right now, the best I could do is arrange some bagel bites on a plate and call it a day. Oh, my Big Noni would be rolling over in her grave and calling me every name under the sun. Scustumad. Stunad. I can hear it now.

Recipes, prayers and a scotch tape cross.
A look into Noni’s cabinet: Recipes, prayers and a scotch tape cross.

I have asked my Noni (aka: grandma) to write down her recipes, which are etched into her kitchen cabinets, and she has refused. Actually, it goes something like this:

Me: “Noni, I would really like to have the family meatball recipe. You think we can make this happen?”

Noni: * Laughs * “Babe, I don’t think there is hope for you.”

People, this is a problem. I don’t know if my family has put two and two together, but I am the only one. No more Sears children in this family line. Zero. Zip. Zilch. I feel as though it is my civic duty to pasta lovers across the world to learn how to make this sauce that has been passed down from Noni to Noni and son to son. Heck, even Stanley knows the recipe and he’s not even Italian!

So, with Thanksgiving upon us, you know what this means? I get to spend 5 – you read that correctly – days badgering my family until they have no other choice than to teach me their ways. Pictures will follow, assuming no one dies.

A Gal and Her Home: A Love Affair

I have moved three times in the past year. Yes, you read that correctly. With each move came new experiences, creaks in the floor and a hot water tank that wasn’t quite suitable for my liking. Also, with each move came numerous boxes, pulled muscles and a few times that I mentally said, “I am never doing this again.” But, I did.

My first move was drastic. Within 10 days of graduation, I managed to pack my entire life into a U-Haul, enlist in some strong boys, and drove 222 miles to my new “home.” Stanley and I were in my handy Jeep, my dad was in Stanley’s car (looking back, I’m not sure why he didn’t drive his own vehicle), and my moving army drove the truck that had all of my belongings in it.

If you know me, you know that I am a planner. Spontaneity is not a trait that I possess. I plan my life in 15-minute intervals, and I make a to-do list about once an hour, so this move put me into a weeklong panic attack. In theory, I thought that I did everything in my possible power to ensure a painless move. However, if you know my family, you know that technology isn’t a forte of ours. So, when we got in D.C., my dad, who was driving approximately 27 cars behind us at this point, informed us that he didn’t know how to work his GPS. Pairing that with the impossible obstacle of navigating a boxed truck on Capitol Hill, you can imagine how that move went. Oh, and my dad got stopped by the Capitol police three times and secret service twice. And then it started pouring.

The above paragraph should serve as an indication of how my first year in D.C. went. I lived in a dark apartment with camel shag carpet. In order to fit in the bathroom, you had to turn sideways, and when you washed your face, you would hit your forehead on the mirror if you didn’t back up three inches. And the bathroom was the best part of the apartment, aside from the lack of hot water during the first month. When you made your way to the kitchen, you could touch all four walls by extending your arms and rotating in a circle. Y’all – I am 5’2. Let that sink in. And, our dryer was attached to the ceiling. Not quite sure how gravity didn’t come into play, but it stayed on the wall and I only ruined four sweaters in that monster.

To say the least, my first “home” was not a home, but a living situation that made me miss my home more than I thought I ever could. So, as year one came and went and my lease was up for renewal, I decided that perhaps it was time for an upgrade. I searched for apartments for months, but sadly did not find anything in my price range. I found a similar row house that was much bigger and had updated appliances (I say that loosely). With being a few days away from being homeless, I signed a lease and moved into “The Upgrade.” Something still didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t the fact that my oven did not work at all.

After a month of living in “The Upgrade.” I decided to take a risk – which is not something that planners do. I signed a lease on a beautiful condo and put my apartment on Craigslist with hopes that some soul in DC was looking for a slight improvement from their current living situation. Each day, I showed a new stranger whom I met on the Internet my house and answered each question with enthusiasm the best I could.

“Yes, that is a queen bed. I know the room is so big!”

“The cobalt blue tile lightens the kitchen so much, and it’s great for decorating.”

“Unfortunately, I do own all of the furniture.”

After a few weeks, I was packing up my apartment again. I asked local restaurants for boxes, sold my couches to strangers whom I met on the Internet again (sorry, Mom), and seriously questioned my shopping addiction with each shift dress that I put into a box.

The day before my move, Sally and I picked up our keys, measured our living room and questioned exactly how we were going to move all of our things in one day during a Nationals baseball game. Sweet Stanley assured me that it wouldn’t take too long, but 13 hours later and we finally had finished hauling every single thing to the 11th floor.

Now that I have been moved in for a few days and do not feel like a truck has hit me, I can honestly say that I feel at home in this city. We live in a community that has ice cream socials for their dogs and free continental breakfast each morning for their humans (I guess the dogs could eat pastries, too). We have a rooftop pool where you can see the nation’s capitol in the distance and our kitchen has a dishwasher. It’s the little things. For the first time, I enjoy coming home after work and cooking dinner in a functioning kitchen.

So, here’s to new beginnings and finally having a place that I can call home.

P.S. Even in my luxurious condo, I didn’t have hot water for a day. I guess I am just cursed.