Took a short road trip last weekend and was dazzled by Fall colors on the drive upstate. Just 2 hours north and it was like a different world, particularly since we came home to weirdly muggy weather for this time of year. Driving back home was like turning back the clock as we got closer to the city – greener trees and higher temps, but maybe the perception of time slowed down is ok. You know once Halloween hits it’s an accelerated rush towards the holidays and I’m not in any hurry.
In Ithaca we visited a big farmer’s market which I had never been to before. It was good to go someplace new in a town that has so many past associations. I spent a good deal of time here when we used to have long summer breaks in art school and I’ve camped out in nearby Finger Lakes National Forest. It’s beautiful out here with lakes, forests and waterfalls. Driving through the back country roads towards Ithaca where there’s nothing but farm country reminds me of those years when gas was cheap and we had nothing but time. Driving, for the sake of driving, with music blaring and windows rolled down seem like a luxury now. This part of the state reminds me of my brother too. He spent a decade attending schools and later working at Cornell and I used to love visiting him at the Vet School. He’d show me jarred animal organs floating in formaldehyde in the labs and we’d go visit the cows and horses in the barn. What I remember the most though was the barn cat. He had multiple toes, something like 8-12 toes on each paw, and he was a sight. I always point out the store where Ed adopted my cat for me to the girls whenever we’re up here. It’s a funny story, really, of the night that Tobi spent with him before he was driven down to the East Village where we were living back in ’97. He was tiny, just shy of 3 months old, and wasn’t particularly thrilled to be plucked out of the litter of cats. That night, my brother dropped a heavy typewriter in the living room a few yards away from Tobi and it sent him in a panic under the sofa where he stayed until he had to be pried away for the drive down to my house. Tobi was scarred for life and hated my brother since then. Cats, unlike dogs, can hold long grudges it seems.
For the past couple of years, our short trips upstate involve family and visits to a nursing home. It’s hard not to get sad during these visits no matter how nice the facility is and I find myself choking back tears whenever we leave. It’s a reminder of our own mortality too. We’re getting old alongside our parents and we’re all grappling with physical changes that we can, but also can’t see. Some things are within our control and we can change our lifestyles to shape our future, but it’s also just a roll of the dice with genetics and pure chance at play. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair, but life isn’t always fair, is it?
Posted by Jenna | 5 Comments
The obligatory seasonal apple picking post. Comes around every year like a marker of time.
Today was the first day where I wished I wore a heavier jacket and a bigger scarf as I was walking around; it was legitimately chilly. But Fall in New York has been glorious the last few weeks like it always is every year – and the leaves haven’t even turned yet. Summer will always be enshrouded now in the memory of loss. The slowed down pace of longer days, the heaviness of the heat, the rhythmic buzz of the cicadas, and the feeling of suspended time will always remind me of a period of mourning. The change in seasons and hitting up all the Fall activities like we do every year feels like a reset on life. The crisp air signals that transition. I admit that every so often I feel a tinge of guilt for starting to move on. There’s more laughter than sadness now. I know that doesn’t make sense, this guilt, but maybe that is part of the process too. I know that he would want me to live my life. I never really believed in guardian angels before, but maybe I do now. It’s a nice thought, especially in regards to the children who were left behind. Whatever gets us through the days.
I feel a like there’s been a fairly big shift in my life right now and I’m not just talking about the job or my loss. Every once in a while that happens. You find yourself looking at a different vantage point and you realize that the people that you connect with and talk to everyday are suddenly a different cast of characters. If sort of feels like I was on one side of a Rubik’s cube and someone just picked it up, turned it one click clockwise to the right, and sat it down again. Everything and everyone that I know is still on the cube, but I’m suddenly on a new side, dropped into a different puzzle of colors than where I was before.
So maybe these yearly seasonal rituals like apple picking not only marks the season, but act like anchors. So we don’t float away and so we don’t get overwhelmed by all the turns that we take in life. The leaves – they’ll always change colors and the apples will always fall from branches. But they do come back every time.
Posted by Jenna | 33 Comments
There are days when I think I’m crazy for trying to do too much. I don’t usually get to everything that I’d like to do in any given week (close enough, however) and this is almost always a set up for failure, yet I can’t help myself. Maybe it’s a great quality to have – ambition and drive, blind faith that it will all get done – or maybe it’ll be my greatest downfall. Overcommitment. Crash and burn. I haven’t yet and this fuels the perception that it can always be done, so I push on a little more; pile more things on to the list; say yes to everything.
I will say that even though this has been a year like no other, I did accomplish a goal I set out to do, or at least the start of one. Back when I wrote this post about career change, I didn’t have a plan or vision aside from a sense that for the first time, I could make out a foggy path. Sometimes the universe does orchestrate things to open doors that were previously unknown. Or maybe I was fed up enough with stagnation that I willed things to happen. It could be a little of both.
So in addition to running our business and freelance designing, this part time summer job thing got a little more permanent (though what job is secure these days, right? I’m still a little cautious, I guess). This means that I’ll be spending more time at this job, and less time freelancing while I finally attempt to steer my career into a different direction.
The thoughts that sometimes keep me up at night? That I’m crazy to take all of this on. Managing our business while freelancing often pulls me in different directions because I’m essentially running 2 businesses that consist of multiple clients, customers and accounts, so am I crazy to add a third in the mix? Maybe! But I also don’t want to walk away from an opportunity to create something with a smart team of people. With all the risks involved in an early-stage tech startup, I know that there are no guarantees for anything and the likelihood to crash and burn is high if you pay close attention to statistics. It’s a rollercoaster ride, but one that I apparently want to be on.
So why would I want to join another company when I should probably focus on growing my own business rather than someone else’s? I ask myself this all the time, especially since I had all but made up my mind to do just that earlier on in the year. I can’t say that I know the answer, but sometimes you have to go with a gut feeling and trust that it doesn’t let you down when something else crosses your path that compels you to make a decision. Our business is such that it runs fairly smoothly and we know what to expect every year. What we’re not really doing is growing or expanding and we probably won’t unless I turn more of my attention towards helping to make that happen. I’m fairly sure I will at some point in the future, but for now, this other thing feels right. I don’t know if the events this summer steered me towards this decision because I badly needed a change; it was symbolic of how I viewed life now – before and after my brother. I certainly wasn’t looking for a job that I had to commute to (and indeed, the commute a few times a week is the worst part. Getting dressed for work, on the other hand, doesn’t suck despite the fact that the incubator space we share with other startups is mostly guys in hoodies), but I’m enjoying being part of a team that is sort of like family now. This dynamic is something I haven’t experienced in a while. The next 6 or so months should be interesting. I really have no idea what the picture looks like for the first time in a long time. But that is sort of exciting, is it not?
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Do you know how sometimes among friends it can be hard to collectively agree on plans? Everyone throws out ideas and then you do this back and forth dance until a decision is finally made. It ends up sounding a little something like this:
So what do you guys want to do today?
Do you want to go to a museum?
Do you want to go to the street fair?
Do you want to go to the East Village? I think there’s a traveling circus performing today.
Do you want to go to Dumbo? There’s an art festival there.
I don’t want to go to Dumbo, I don’t want to go anywhere.
When your kids get older and start expressing their opinions about weekend plans, it gets much harder to motivate the family out of the house sometimes because there’s always that one person who disagrees and throws everything off when you have 4 people trying to make decisions. Sure, we can exercise our parental powers and make all the decisions – and we often do otherwise we’d be going to Coney Island every single weekend if they had their way – but we do like to give the kids a vote on how we spend our weekends sometimes. But holy hell! It can be a painful process.
When we finally got out of the house in the afternoon on Sunday after much group deliberation, Dumbo was already teeming with people. The Dumbo Arts Festival is an annual three day art event with exhibits, open studios and plenty of tables and supplies on the street to make your own little pieces of art. Despite the crowds, it was one of those weekend days that made the effort of getting out of the house quite worth it. Sometimes crowds can be draining and other times it can be energizing, and Sunday was one of those days where it felt good to be out in the city amongst other New Yorkers, looking at art, getting inspired and enjoying what is probably the last of the lingering summer weather. NY was full of energy last weekend; so many different kinds of events happening all over the city. And thank you to those who stopped by our booth at the Chile Festival on Saturday. If we appeared frazzled, I apologize. It’s always our biggest event of the year and this year proved no different. It isn’t often that I’m at these events, so it makes me really happy to hear people come back to say that the Chocolate Curry Fudgsicles were the best thing they had at the Festival or that they had never tasted this flavor combination before. And to that man who enjoyed the Massaman Curry Peanut Butter Sandwiches so much that he saved the last bite in a napkin to enjoy later because he didn’t want the cookie to end – you made my day.
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These are new things we’re bringing to the weekend markets this Fall – pecan pie bars with a shortbread crust. I have a distinct association with them which I won’t share at this time, but they are quite delicious and I think everyone who bought them last Saturday would agree. It’s always nice when people come back to the table for seconds. This week we’re getting ready for the Chile Pepper Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It’s our biggest event every year and one of the only events where we “work” the booth as a family, and I put work loosely in quotes because well, let’s face it – Mark does most of the work. The kids get super excited about the Chile Festival every year and this year we’ll have our friend Megan working the table as well. Come say hello if you attend – it’s supposed to be another gorgeous warm day on Saturday.
But this post isn’t about cookies or the business. Fall is officially here. I feel like summer is bookended by months of complex emotions and transitions. September in particular is a month of change and renewal, but also when the natural world around us dies down and retreats into deep hibernation. It isn’t surprising then that it’s often a time for re-evaluation – of life, career, friends, relationships. I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships in particular these past few weeks and how it can feel like it’s in constant flux. All these online relationships complicate things too. It’s easy to come under the illusion that you have a lot of friends, but who, really, are your friends? I find myself digging deep, back to older friendships lately because there’s history there and the familiarity is comforting.
A few different fiends of mine and I have debated this theory on whether or not social media and texting contributes to an increase in flakiness among people. I’m totally generalizing here, but because we’re always (over)connected all of the time and chatting on various platforms, plans get loosely made, but sometimes lack follow through and there’s this general acceptance that it’s par for the course these days. Would you agree? I could be wrong, but I don’t remember this being so prevalent in ancient times before the internet. When you made plans or agreed to get together, you really meant it back in those days (or so it seems)! It’s sort of unthinkable now to pick up a phone and talk to someone to make plans. The irony of it all is that sometimes all the chatter and online noise magnifies our loneliness.
Posted by Jenna | 15 Comments