Monday, January 17, 2011

The Hunger

I don’t know what started it, or where it began—this deep, gnawing in my heart of hearts for family and togetherness. I grew up in a feast of family, raised by an army of mothers and fathers, daughters and sons. Not always functional or healthy or saying the right thing, but every fat man knows that any almost any food eaten in enough quantity will make you full.

I grew up fat—fat with family, fat with love, fat with dysfunction and plenty of painful memories sure, but full. My own family was almost always wonderful. Mom had a way of constantly guarding our hearts—protecting us and calling us great, making home the ultimate safe place— and Dad consistently knew how to say the right thing, calming any storm.

We were encased in this womb of greater community, and at any moment I knew I could go to my Alabama mommy for decorating advice or “What’s the best china?” or the best banana bread this side of the Mississippi; there was strong mommy who was solid and safe and steady, whose house was everybody’s home—I would go to her for relationship advice, questions about how to deal with difficult people, and “What do I do in this weird situation?” Uncle Troy who called me “Lady Jessica” and always teased me about marrying a man shorter than me, and Mommy Gail who gave the best hugs and left the best voicemails and was never, ever unkind…

So you see, I grew up in wealth. And one day, whether very suddenly or very slowly I can’t say, it all changed.

I can’t remember specifically the moment, the hour, the day, when I all of a sudden felt alone, but I know that it was jarring. I know that I was in LA, and I was probably in my car, either driving home after school or Bible study or sitting parked outside my apartment building, when I realized… I’m lonely. It was such a foreign feeling, such an utterly obscene concept to my consistently well-nourished soul, that I must have almost questioned its appearance. “Lonely, you say? Who are you?” But it was true. I was lonely. I had plenty of friends, my social circle was growing every day, but something about it was different, something in me had changed… My soul was alone.

You see, after I moved away from home to go to school, everything about home changed. Mom died: immediate family demolished. Or at least, severely damaged. Church falls apart: my safety net, my resting place, my greater womb of family, disintegrated. It was all gone. And all that was left in its place were little jagged fragments—tiny blocks of ice to cling to, all drifting away from a center where the solid iceberg used to be. Home was gone.

And that’s when Lonely came.

I don’t pretend to think I’m the only person in the world who feels this way, and I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I’m the only 20-something who’s moved away from home and feels alone in the world, but often I think of my friends who are married, or married with children, or people who still live in the small, tight-knit towns that birthed them… I wonder, do they feel the same kind of stark aloneness that I feel? When these women my age fall into bed at night, warmed by their husbands beside them, do their hearts feel as clanging and tinny as mine does as I turn out the light? Or have they simply gone from one meal to the next? Nourished by one family, and on to another of their own making.

If this is so, then I am utterly and insanely jealous.

But if it’s not, then good God what is this? And how do we make it stop?

Recently I moved to what I have now come to believe is the greatest city in the world. I live a life deemed glamorous by some—I work in a high rise on a famous street at a great job, I live in a beautiful apartment I love… What could I possibly need? Please understand, I am so unbelievably blessed and thankful to live where I do and work where I am, but underneath it all there is this vacuum of desire for family, for home. And no amount of fabulous dates or high heels from Bloomingdales or dinners at the Plaza will ever be able to ease it. I just want… home. And some day, God willing, I’ll get it back.

Monday, August 23, 2010

City Soul

There’s something about New York that still feels like a dream to me. Not a fuzzy, warm romantic fantasy, all hazy at the edges and softly swaying to Frank Sinatra music… But a weird, disorienting, unreal yet happy existence that can’t possibly be true. There is nothing about this life that my soul can grasp, that my whiplashed mind can wrap itself around. Occasionally I’ll be walking through the streets, plodding along between tall concrete buildings that look like nothing I’ve ever existed with before, and it’s like my mind has to separate in two—one half gripping the other by the shoulders, shaking firmly as it says, “This is real. This is REAL. This is New York, and you live here.”

I don’t know what to say about New York that hasn’t been said before. Any attempt at originality would be a regurgitation of songs and literature, stories and poetry and slogans I’ve ingested over the years about this myth of a city in which I now reside. I have nothing new to add to a dialogue about this strange and weird and wonderful and unreal metropolis that I now call my home. It is what everyone says it is. Everything you have heard of New York City, every whisper, every anecdote, every limerick and lyric… everything is true. And yet somehow, it’s still a mystery, still a complex Rubik’s cube of experience and transportation and love. This city has a soul that is infinitely explorable.

The things I’ve learned are small—seemingly insignificant when faced with the task of conquering this mountain of a city. But they serve as touchstones, little pieces that make this Xanadu world seem real… Never forgetting one’s umbrella, walking with purpose and economy, knowing when to flash a warm smile at the man behind the counter at the corner market and when to set your face like flint when the woman behind a table on the street calls out to sell a handbag… These are things, however small, that make up a life in New York.

However cold and unwelcoming the city may seem, my experience has proved just the opposite. Beside every crass construction worker cat-calling and sneering as you walk to work, there is a sweet old Italian man who shouts, “Good morning!” as he leans from his second-story window. There is the sweet woman at the flea market who wants to know your name and tucks an extra pair of vintage earrings in your bag because they looked “just divine” on you. Amidst all the awkward shuffling and purposeful avoiding of eye contact on the commuter train, there are the moments you lock eyes with the person across from you when something funny or weird or awful happens and you smile together.

This is what I know New York to be. It’s not that the city is cold, she’s just not easily won over. And I can respect that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I’ve lived in California my whole life. I thought I knew what summer was like… I considered myself an expert on warm, sunny, flip-flop weather. Bathing suit weather. Air conditioning weather.

But I was not prepared for summer in New York.

The air is thick with sweat. Dense and still, it presses in all around you as soon as you step outside. A thick hot mist envelops with every step you take to the train station and back again. Descending into the dungeon-like, fiery, still heat of the subway station is even worse. You stand waiting—praying—for that long golden light to come plunging from the darkness, for the cool silver bullet to open its doors and whisk you away from this hell-like hotness.

Beads of salty perspiration make their way in rivulets down your back, neck, legs… Puddling against your neckline, waistline, back of your knees. You are sweating. But so is the ground you walk on, the buildings you cross between, the air you breathe in and out. The city sweats too. Everything seems damp with this omnipresent, all-encompassing Heat. And when it rains, it’s as if the sky itself is weeping from the smoldering sun, spontaneously bursting into fat, lukewarm tears that rain down, dampening already damp bodies. Even rain does nothing to cool the swelter.

Last week I was walking home from work, crossing the final blocks until I reached the solace of my cool room and my cool bed, where I was planning on dropping everything I was carrying, peeling off every layer of clothing, and laying scantily clad beneath my beautiful, gorgeous, magnificent, wonderful, holy air conditioner, when I saw two children standing behind a table on the sidewalk. The air was thick with 6 o’clock heat, and I wondered what two adorable kids in a rich neighborhood were doing standing outside voluntarily. I had to see.

So I crossed over to the side of the narrow, tree-lined road and saw that they had tall, icy pitchers of lemonade and iced tea and were pouring them into little clear plastic cups. Now, I am a firm believer that children should never stop selling lemonade, and will consider it a great societal grievance if young ones ever lose the entrepreneurial ambition to pander watered down beverages to passers-by, so a smile began to play on the edge of my lips when I saw them there.

As I approached the little propped up table I saw a hand-crafted sign, as child-run lemonade stands are wont to have. Except this one said, “Free Lemonade and Iced Tea.” …What? No quarter? No dollar? You don’t want any money for video games or comic books or Frappuccinos? You’re standing out here in this heat, pouring iced tea for strangers, and you don’t want anything for it?

I walked up to the little boy, his blonde hair swooping across his forehead, blue eyes lowered shyly to the ground, and asked for, “Lemonade and iced tea together—half and half. Is that okay?” He nodded his head and poured me my special Arnold Palmer. I asked, “Is it really free? …What are you doing this for?” Still avoiding my gaze he shuffled and said, “It’s for the church. We know it’s hot and we want people to be cooler.” I looked back at the “Free Lemonade” sign and saw that at the very bottom was scrawled, “Donations accepted,” and my gaze traveled up to see a little blonde girl come tumbling out of two wide wooden doors. Church doors. I hadn’t noticed until just right now that we were standing in front of a church.

I pulled out the biggest bill I could find, and handed it, folded, to the boy. “Thank you very much,” I said. His eyes still fixed on the ground he shuffled his feet and smiled softly, “Thank you.”

As I continued my walk home, only two blocks more at this point, I sipped from my sidewalk purchase and thought, “I’m happy to be in New York in the summer."

Sunday, August 1, 2010


So here I am. I’m really here and it’s already been a week.

It’s hard to shake the illusion that this is just a trip—only a few more days and I’ll be home again with the California sun on my shoulders, driving my convertible through traffic on the freeway, falling asleep beneath the soft whirs of the fan above my bed. But it’s not true. My car is sold, my bed is filled, and here I am sending off the sun. …It’ll take a few hours for it to get to you.

I’m in New York.

I’m in.... New York.

Maybe if I say it enough, it’ll sink in to my jet-lagged brain that yes, I really did move across the country in a week. And yes, I really am living in the most beautiful apartment I’ve ever seen. And yes, I did go from working as a hostess at a restaurant where I had to wear pants that smelled like meat and orthopedic shoes to an office on Wall Street where I wore a red dress and four inch heels two days ago. It really is… real.

Last night I climbed the steps of my five-story walk-up to rest on the beautiful roof-deck atop my building. The cool summer breeze whipped around my shoulders as I turned to gaze at the Empire State Building in all its lit-up, regal glory, and I thought, “It’s good to be here.” Yes, it still feels like I’m on a trip, and yes, I still miss California and my friends and my car and the weather (!) and the beach… And Home. But for now, I’m here. I'm "home."

The night I moved in, I took a tiny calendar from the top of one of my boxes and flipped it to the date. Each day on this calendar has a little saying or inspirational phrase, and it always makes me smile. And last Saturday, July 24th, my move-to-New-York day, it read:

So be truly glad! There is wonderful Joy ahead.
1 Peter 1:6

Lord, let it be true.

Friday, September 25, 2009

These are the days

These are the days. These are the days that rattle in my chest against the clanging of my tinny heartbeat. Soft thuds beating mercilessly against the cage of rib bone.

This is when every breath hurts. Every sigh feels full of the dust of broken glass. This is when every moment, every movement, feels false and numb. Dumb and lifeless. I want to run away, busy myself into a frantic tizzy to match the torrents swirling inside, but my body, my legs, my back, are made of hard cement and I can’t seem to go anywhere.

So please, let’s walk and get frozen yogurt. Let’s go to the beach and lay against the silky sand, bodies stretched beneath the fading sun. Let’s curl up on the sofa, you and I, and fall asleep heads and arms and hands tangled and intertwined. Let’s let the love soak in until I’m drunk and it’s dry.

These are the days when I can’t believe that I can’t believe she’s gone. And it’s the moments when I wish I didn’t still miss her, that I miss her most of all.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I Don't Know

I don’t care if you have a Ph.D you earned at Yale or in Scotland. Just stand in front of the mirror, all alone, nobody around, shrug, and say “I don’t know…I really don’t know.” You can add, “I can’t tell you why that happened. I don’t know.”

The great news is that God never shrugs. He never says that. With acute perception He says, “I know exactly why this happened. I know the way you take. I know why. I know how long you’ll be there and I know what will be the end result.”

Shrugging and deity are incompatible.

While you’re shrugging in genuine humility, saying “I don’t know,” He’s saying, “Good for you. Rely on me in the mystery. Trust me.” God never promised He would inform us ahead of time all about His plan. He’s just promised He has one. Ultimately, it’s for our good and His glory. He knows- we don’t. That’s why we shrug and admit, “I don’t know."

But I do know this: The death of His Son was not in vain. And I do know this: Christ died for you. And I do know this: If you believe in Him, He will forgive your sins and you will go to live with Him forever. You’ll have heaven and all the blessings of it, I do know that. It’s a tough journey, getting there. Full of a lot of confusion, a lot of struggle, a lot of shrugs followed by a lot of “I don’t knows.” But when the heavens open and we’re there, hey, there will be no more shrugs.

“Now I know.”

-Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance, Charles Swindoll

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Julie and Julia

Are you ready for another big announcement? Because brace yourself-- this one's pretty big.

On Monday (as in two days from now), this here humble little blog will be the featured "Blog of the Day" on the website for the amazing, gorgeous, hilarious movie Julie and Julia.
*cue adolescent girl scream*

You can watch the trailer here:

I have been so excited to see this movie ever since I heard about it coming out, so needless to say I was pretty thrilled when I was contacted to be featured on their website this month!

On Monday if you go to their website, it'll be my name in the cute little box on the bottom right corner where it says "Featured Blog."
*cue adolescent girl scream*

Sorry. I couldn't help myself.

I mean, we all know I love to cook. And I'm already about to pee my pants thinking about Meryl Streep's face being next to my name. (It's a stretch I know, but just work with me here.) It's just so COOL!

Okay that's it. Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Princess

The Princess of the Castle / La Princesa del Castillo by Barandalla (via Flickr)

Sometimes I think about princesses. The ones in fairy tales that scores of princes came to prove their valor for. I think about how a princess must have grown up, always knowing that someday this test would be placed before the men of lands near and far because her hand wasn't just any hand-- it was worth fighting for. I think about what it must have felt like to stand at the window and see them all parading up to the castle door, seeing what each one brought, what tools or props were packed to aid in the test before them.

I wonder if the princess ever picked a favorite, ever had one she was really rooting for. I'm sure it must have gotten tiring watching them all come, and how she must have secretly hoped for some of them to fail. But I wonder if any of them ever caught her eye. I wonder if there was ever something about the way one of them looked at her, or the way one bowed before her father, or a certain something in the way another one stood that captured her attention. How her heart may have started to race with the idea, the thought, the hope and the anticipation that finally-- finally!-- this could be the one! This could be the one brave enough and strong enough and smart enough to tear down the castle walls that kept her royal prisoner.

...And how it must have felt to see them fail. To see them drop in the middle of a race or tap out in the middle of a fight. The grief and shame they felt were probably no match for the flood of lonely disappointment that must have filled the chambers of her heart.

Oh the pain. To know one's worth and know no one worthy enough to own it. Is there anything more wounding to the heart?

Monday, June 22, 2009


So I just got back from my first spin class.  I've been trying to be more physically active lately (blah de blah... white noise... aren't we all...?), and when I heard about a free spin class being given by a friend of mine who's a personal trainer, I decided to gather my nonexistent cajones and give it a shot.  I had only ever heard painful, torturous things about spin class, but looking for a new way to boost my booty, I figured 45 minutes sweating my brains out in a dark room for free would at least be educational.  

Here are my thoughts.

1. I didn’t know it was possible for a human to sweat out their body weight in 45 minutes. Much less did I think it was possible for ME to sweat out my body weight in 45 minutes. But it is. Apparently. (I mean, my WRISTS were sweaty… What?!)

2. There was a point about 2/3 of the way through the class when the searing pain was not in my thighs, calves, arms, or abs… But a VERY centralized location where I didn’t realize numbness could be so scandalously painful. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

3. I was, by far, the youngest person in the room. And I was also, by far, the slowest.

4. If we are, on any level, friends, I’m really glad you weren’t there. I hit a point, trudging up that imaginary hill listening to Freddie Mercury sing about my "bottom", that brought out some very animalistic qualities… Let’s just say there was some grunting and snarling.

5. I stink. I mean, I really stink. But I guess that’s a repeat of #1.

Currently I’m curled up trying to move as little as possible. My body feels like an abused refugee. I could hardly walk out to the car, let alone climb the steps to my apartment. But if it doesn’t kill me, I’ll be back on Friday. Let's do this.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The incredibly talented Tracy at shutterbean posted this lovely little q&a yesterday and I was so inspired by her answers I had to respond to her open invitation to fill it out for myself.  Let's go!

what is your current obsession?
-Mediterranean food and pictures from the graduation fiesta I went to on Saturday night. Ole!

what is your weirdest obsession?
- Cereal

what are you wearing today?
-Black yoga pants, gray deep-v, and my yellow wrap/ hoodie/ sweater

what’s for dinner?
-Trader Joe's pizza, split with Zo.  Extra Tapatio please.

what would you eat for your last meal?
-Chocolate cake.  Extra frosting.

what’s the last thing you bought?
-A slip.  Yep, like the ones your grandma wears.

what are you listening to right now?
-The new Hillsong CD.  And the fan softly whirring above my head.

what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
-Brown Butter Brickle from Scoops in Los Feliz.  You have no idea...

if you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would it be?
- A big, beautiful, sweeping plantation-style house Savannah, Georgia with a wrap-around porch and a hammock and a big beautiful kitchen with lots of windows.  Or just a fatty mansion on Lake Como, right next to George's house.

if you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour where would you go?
-The beach on the north shore of Kauai, belly full of fish tacos I just ate with my dad.

what language do you want to learn?
- Love and grace.

What’s your favorite fruit?
-Apples.  Chilled please.

what is one of your favorite daily/weekly rituals?
- Making breakfast.

if you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?

-New sneakers.  Embarrassing.

Do you admire anyone’s style?

-Whenever I'm stuck trying to decide whether or not to buy something, if I'm really honest I always think, "Would Marilyn Monroe wear this?"  If she wouldn't, I don't.

Describe your personal style?
-Relaxed, easy glamour.  I never want to look like I'm trying too hard, or like there's been too much effort put into what I'm wearing--not too "done"-- but I like looking put-together and a little romantic.  Feminine.  Relaxed.  Glamorous.  An outfit has to have that magic.  I want you to think *I'm* beautiful, not what I'm wearing.

What are your fave films?
-Gladiator and Pride and Prejudice are tied for first.  But more recently, I just watched Tootsie and it rocked my world.

What inspires you?
-Romance.  Seeing people's hearts peek out in unexpected ways.