What is it they say, about living life to its fullest? The happy moments alongside the tragic, the stress alongside those moments of contentment? Anger, frustration, elation, victory, anxiety. Well, if that’s true, then this has been a very full year. I suppose I believe, more or less, in that theory that life doesn’t hurl things at you that you can’t handle. All that stuff about life lessons learned and getting stronger…after awhile it’s just noise. Most times you put one foot in front of the other because what other choice do you have? Keep up or drown and somewhere in between, hope that you’re making a difference in somebody’s life.
It hasn’t been easy writing posts lately. I used to bang out a blog post every night (who was that person?). Now it takes days to finish ones I’ve started. Putting down words is harder. There’s less I want to say, and there are some things I need to keep closer to my heart for now (more of life’s little blindsiding surprises). The road ahead of me isn’t going to be easy, but that’s my mistake for thinking there might be some kind of closure. There will be hard times, but lots of good ones too. In all of this, I’m actually thankful I can feel. Because when you stop taking in all these complex emotions and start feeling nothing, that’s when you should be worried. So the fact that I can stop and marvel at the colorful leaves, admire a flower on somebody’s desk, crave a certain food, or laugh at something the kids have said, is an encouraging sign that I haven’t given up. Far from it.
Posted by Jenna | 16 Comments
A bit late this year, though I thought I was being proactive and on top of things because I actually started the calendars in September. And then…life happened (the NY one will hopefully be coming in a week). The 2015 Food Calendar is available here or here.
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I’ve been asked why I don’t delete offensive comments – and I do publish them all unless it attacks another blog reader. Let me explain. This is my blog, yes, but I don’t really believe that it’s “my little corner of the internet”. I do believe that everyone is entitled to express their opinions because even though this is my blog, it’s published in a public space. Aside from the sometimes polarizing opinions around online censorship, I leave comments alone, no matter how harsh or personally offensive, as a reminder of this.
I think sometimes we might get a little too insulated in our own little blog bubbles. There may be this false sense of security leftover from the early blogging days back when our audiences were smaller (well, this blog has gone back to being small) and it really was a community of bloggers and readers who were just trying to figure out what blogging was about. The internet in the late 90s and early 2000s is vastly different than the internet today. There wasn’t as much noise or opinions or conversations. There was just less of everything. Blogging back then really did feel like a journal that you shared with anybody who happened to stumble across it, and even though there weren’t as many ways to promote your site, people did find you because they were seeking communities with the same interests; those communities were just only forming. At least that’s how it worked when I ran my Asian-American webzine and a few years later started a product design blog for new parents, both of which were one of the first sites to exist in their respective online spaces. I’ve certainly learned a lot from running public webzines and blogs for the past 14 years and I’ve made a few mistakes, but there are no regrets. How can there be? When you go into uncharted waters it all feels like an experiment. It’s really only in hindsight that you can draw conclusions on what you could have done differently because there was no precedent to learn from at the time.
We’re also the first (or maybe 1.5) generation of parents who are raising kids in the age of social media. The way in which we conduct ourselves online is essentially our road map to teaching our kids about being smart in their own online identities and interactions. I’d rather be the one stumbling my way around social media networks and learning from mistakes than my kids for now, though I recognize that I won’t be able to keep up with all the new and yet to be developed networks and platforms that are cropping up every day. But this groundwork informs what we teach them about using social media responsibly regardless of whatever app is popular.
The girls don’t have social media accounts yet, but I know that’s inevitable. It’s encouraging that our public school is starting to include internet safety in their 5th grade curriculum and I can only imagine that this will become the norm if it isn’t already. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen too many times, it can really be a matter of life and death. The gravity of that statement is overwhelming, but this is our reality.
I would hope, though I realize it’s probably too idealistic, that people would exercise basic courtesy, restraint and sensitivity in their responses and comments on any public website, but if you have ever read a comment thread on CNN (though interestingly enough they disabled comments to most of their stories), then you know that doesn’t always happen. I was dismayed to learn that my mom read a recent comment that was particularly judgmental, but we talked about it and it served as a jumping point to other related issues that we then discussed. The internet isn’t always the safe haven that we’d like to imagine it to be and these are just periodic reminders of that reality. But there’s always something to be learned, I think. I’ve certainly taken a deeper look at myself whenever I’ve been called out in comments, and I’ve grown a bit more careful about the things that I’m now willing to share. These are good things. Besides, I’ve never been one to craft a certain image or lifestyle on my blog. It therefore seems wrong to me, no matter how flawed that thinking might be, to prune and censor blog comments to read a certain way. So those blog comments that I sometimes wish I hadn’t read? It’s just part of the story.
Posted by Jenna | 13 Comments
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 | 36 Comments