Friday, September 28, 2012

My blog world...shattered

For the past 7 months, I have existed in a blog world that was full of happiness, hope, community, and sometimes even a little sadness. Before this week, my blog world was void of hate. But this week, I saw the ugly side of blogging.

I was forced to face the truth about the blogging world: It's no different than the real world.

This week, I read a post in which the author declared that she was tired of driving through a poor, mostly black and Hispanic, area of her city on her way to work and seeing people drinking from brown paper bags and smoking cigarettes and that she was sick of her tax dollars going to these people. Upon reading this, I made a comment that poverty is a cycle and that being poor does not automatically mean one is lazy. My comment, among others (including several from my sister), set off a flurry of debate.

I saw women begin stacking their soapboxes to see whose could stand the tallest without falling. I saw women throwing around stereotypes like they were truths. I saw women unapologetic for their complete insensitivity. I saw women who were unabashedly unaware of their privilege. And worst of all, I saw women completely dismiss the original comment as a "joke" and a part of the blogger's "humor".

I had spent 7 months thinking I had finally found a little part of the world where people truly cared about each other, regardless of race, ethnicity, social status, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. And I had let myself become comfortable.

The day the post went up, I felt so disappointed that a part of my world that I had seen as so pure and safe was exposed as hostile and tainted by hatred. I was distracted at work and couldn't stop thinking about it.

My sister and I talked about it a lot that night. I found it interesting that even though we grew up in the same household, we reacted in very different ways. While I was disappointed by the comment, I wasn't shocked. It seems that in many different places in my life, I have been exposed to such behavior often. In high school, I was the target of racist remarks that I was told were just jokes. In college, I also saw racism in action through incidents that happened to my close friends. In one of my first jobs out of college, I was told to "take off my Hispanic hat" and try to be like the rest of my white co-workers in the room so that we could better make progress.

Sometimes I wonder if I am just overly sensitive to racism and hate because I know how much it hurts to be the target.

My sister on the other hand, was shocked by the number of women our age who truly believed that it was acceptable to judge the people in the neighborhood in question. On Wednesday, she posted an articulate, beautifully written piece about treating others with grace and dignity. If you haven't read this piece yet, please do. You will be as moved as I was.

The blog world needs more posts like my sister's. Posts that challenge others to not only be better bloggers, but to be better people in real life too. Posts that encourage us to reach beyond our own communities and try to understand the communities that surround us...communities that we may have judged negatively before.

I will never again believe that the blog world is immune to hate. Instead, I have even more motivation to use my voice as a voice for those who have lost theirs or were never given one in the first place.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Passion and Popularity

When I started writing my blog back in March, I knew that for the most part, I wanted it to be light and funny and to reflect my every day life. As I've continued writing, I've realized that part of reflecting my every day life is writing about things I'm passionate about.
Anyone who knows me would use the word passionate to describe me. There is no way you won't know my opinion on any given topic. That's just me and it's always been me.

I also know that being passionate is not always popular. I am fully aware that at times, my passion alienates people. People feel intimidated by how heated I get about certain topics and I can't say I blame them.

I've never been the most popular girl at school or the girl people would vote as most friendly. That doesn't mean I'm mean or disrespectful, but I know that some people perceive my passion as being unfriendly. I always listen to others' opinions and points of view and love to engage in a good debate. And I always have friends who are willing to do that with me.

One thing that I will always want for this blog is for it to truly reflect me. And I mean all of me. The passionate part. The funny part. The goofy part. The nerdy part. All of me.

I know that this may not be a popular way to blog. I know that this isn't the way bloggers typically gain readers. But honestly, I'm willing to sacrifice readers or followers if that means I am going to stay true to myself and to my values. I'm willing to have fewer followers if it means that the ones I do have are truly engaged in what I have to say and are willing to engage in a real discussion with me.

I often think of the blogging community like real life communities. There are the mommies, the fashionistas, the artsy girls, the popular girls, the quiet girls, the party girls. And just like in real life, I'm not sure I fit into any one of those categories exclusively and I'm not sure I want to. I just want to be me. I want to be a blogger who makes true connections with other bloggers who might or might not agree with me, but who are passionate just like me. So far, that's been my favorite part about blogging.

I hope that you will follow along as I continue to find my voice and my passions and that you'll share yours with me too. Tell me, what are you passionate about?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Welcome Daily Tay Readers!

Welcome everyone who is coming over from The Daily Tay! I'm so happy to have you!

If you're here for more than a guacamole recipe, even better! 

First thing to know about me is that I'm married to Mr. LoLo. He's not only a fabulous husband, but he's also a pretty awesome roommate.  Together, we love to have crazy adventures and lots of laughs. You may have heard about the time he changed the channel on the tv I was watching in Maine while he was in NYC. I also have a series called "According to LoLo" (this one and this one are my favorites) that you'll enjoy if you enjoy people who speak English as a second language and are creative with how they speak English.

We also have the cutest little puppy ever, Bronx. And yes, you guessed it. He's named after the Bronx, New York.

After college, I lived in New York City for about 6 years before I decided it was time to come home to Maine. LoLo and I bought a house on the same day I found out I would be losing my job.

At the beginning of my blog, I talked a lot about my "funemployment" but shortly after I began writing, I found a dream job.

My sister, Emily, writes a blog too. In fact she inspired me to write mine. Just a few weeks ago, I surprised her by announcing on my blog that I was on a plane to Chicago to see her for her birthday.

Most of the times, I like to keep it pretty fun and light over here, but sometimes, I can't hold back and I have to write about things I think are important like Immigration Reform, the word "Ghetto", and Cinco de Mayo.

And now is the part of the post when I shamelessly use my puppy to beg you to stick around.

Come on. He's crying. How can you say no to that little face??

My Replacement

Saturday morning, I made the drive out to a pretty rural part of Maine to go to a friend's baby shower. As I drove closer and closer to her house, I started to feel a little bit emotional. I hadn't made that drive in about 10 years.
Scene along my drive
My friend Hanna and I were the very best of friends throughout high school. We were together all of the time. When you saw one of us, you saw the other. We had sleepovers at least 2 nights a week during our senior year. Hanna was the first person I called when I received my letters from colleges saying I was in. She was the only one who stood up for me when I was bullied from Freshman year until Junior year. The only one.

There used to be days when I would get to school and inside my locker would be a little book or a little stuffed animal and a note from Hanna saying simple things like "Have a good day!" or "I'm so glad we are friends."

After high school, I went off to college and Hanna went to England to live and work with some family friends. She and I kept in touch through letters and $40 phone calls. After my freshman year at UVM, Hanna came home to Maine and met her future husband. She and I both made mistakes and our friendship fell apart.

At some point, about 7 years later, she and I started emailing each other and tried to talk things out. We eventually met up and had dinner together, but it was clear things weren't the same. Since I moved home to Maine two years ago, Hanna and I have slowly started to regain our friendship. About a month ago, we went to dinner and ended up sitting in the restaurant for almost 4 hours laughing about old times.

At her baby shower, a wave of sadness came over me. While I was happy to be there and happy to celebrate her first baby with her, I was sad that I was there as a peripheral friend. I didn't know anyone there except for her mother and a family friend who didn't even remember ever meeting me (even though I stayed at her house once on a road trip with Hanna).

And I met my replacement. I met the girl who must have picked up right where I left off. I met Hanna's "new" best friend.

I couldn't help but be sad knowing that it would have been me planning that shower. It would have been me laughing with her family and hugging her mother when she was overcome with joy at how lovely the shower turned out.

As I get older, I'm sometimes saddened by the friends I've lost along the way, but I'm also starting to realize that some of these friends were placed in my path for very specific reasons. I'm so glad Hanna has come back onto my path and that we have a chance to keep moving forward together.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My New York Story, Part II

My first few months in New York were spent exploring the city from top to bottom. Learning the subway system, walking all around my neighborhood to figure out where the best deli was, figuring out that I could drop off my laundry across the street and come back after 5 pm that night and it would be washed, dried, and folded into a perfect rectangular stack wrapped in plastic for around $7.

I was working in college admissions at the time and summer is definitely the slowest time of the year so I had a chance to get my bearings and make a plan for the busy fall season which involved getting to between 50-75 high schools all throughout the city.

I first devised my plan by laying out the huge subway map on my desk and determining, using a huuuuge directory of New York City High Schools, which train stop each school was closest to. Then, I made a schedule of when I would visit each school based on which schools were closest to each other. 
I know this map like the back of my hand! via
What I didn't plan for was the field trips that one school would be taking on the day I was visiting the other 3 high schools in the neighborhood. So, the elaborate plan I made over the summer was scrapped.

That fall, I racked up some serious miles on my MetroCard. Some days I took a 2 hour train ride to the very bottom of Brooklyn, near Sheepshead Bay. Some days I went from the Bronx to Brooklyn and back to Manhattan. Some days I went to Queens and took the train as far as I could go and then took a cab to my actual destination.

By the end of that summer, I knew New York better than my friends who grew up there. Sometimes, they had to call me to find out how to get home from places and which trains to take to get where they wanted to go.

And there's where my New York story differs from so many others. So many people I know who have lived in New York their entire lives have never actually seen the city. I got out and saw the city. I saw parts of Brooklyn that looked like they could have been out in the suburbs. I got lost in Queens because there is not only 34th Street, but there's also 34th Road and 34th Avenue. I walked up the hill in Riverdale (in the Bronx) near Manhattan College and almost forgot I was in the city. I took the bus all through the Lower East Side, through Alphabet City, all the way to the FDR.

My New York story isn't just based in one place. My New York story was about exploration and discovery; not just of a city of 8 million people, but of myself.

I made my own way that summer and from that first summer, I was ready to take on the city!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Snapping Out of the Trance

Most of my childhood, we didn't have cable in our house. Not because my parents were trying to shelter us from the horrors of cable television, but more because my father got angry one day when the cable company decided they were going to raise the rates and cancelled it.

My parents' house was cable-less until 2005 when the Red Sox games stopped being broadcast on the basic channels and were only on NESN, a cable channel dedicated to New England sports. My mother is a huge fan of the Red Sox, so no cable was no longer an option.

For the past couple of weeks, LoLo and I have been thinking about getting rid of cable. At first, I was nervous. How would I watch the Kardashians? Or Empire Girls (my new obsession)? Friends suggested the Hulu and Netflix combo. But what about when I want to watch the Red Sox?

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a reality tv junkie. But last night it hit me. I've hit a new bottom. I was watching this:

While I was brainlessly watching this show, I had an epiphany: getting rid of cable will force me to be more deliberate about what I spend my time watching.

There are so many aspects of my life that I feel like I sleepwalk through and this is one of them. Instead of just watching shows because they're on, maybe it's time to turn off the tv and take Bronx for a walk or work on projects I've wanted to try.

My hope is that by getting rid of cable, I will only choose to watch tv when there is something I truly enjoy watching rather than something mildly entertaining that happens to be on. And if I want to watch the Red Sox, I can go to a bar with LoLo and have a date and sneakily try to watch or go to my parents' house to watch with them.

It's time to snap out of the trance that cable television has put me in. Time to be more deliberate and make the decision to live my life instead of watching someone else live theirs. 

What aspects of your life do you just sleepwalk through? What little changes could you make to wake yourself up?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Friendship, Equality, and of course, Ice Cream Trucks

On Saturday, LoLo and I attended the wedding of a friend of mine that I have known since I was 5 years old. Chris was one of my first friends in school. In first grade, our teacher put me and Chris in the corner on bean bag chairs and told us to choose a chapter book and just read because the other kids needed to learn to read and we were giving away all the answers.

In high school, we were lab partners in Biology class, which probably wasn't a good idea because we were both extremely chatty. We loved laughing together and would make fun of ourselves when we didn't understand concepts. One time, we even celebrated because we both got 40's on a quiz. Our teacher tried to act upset with us but she couldn't hold in her laughter.

By senior year, we were named the Class Chatterboxes. Shocker,  I know. Please ignore my hair in the picture below. It was completely unruly in high school.

We're in the principal's office with tape on our mouths that says: "talking" with a \ through it.
Fast forward about 15 years to last summer. One stormy day while it was thundering and lightning, I heard the ice cream truck drive by, music blasting. And you all know about my obsession with the ice cream truck. I wrote on my facebook, "Why does the ice cream truck come when it's a huge storm but not when it's warm and sunny??". A few minutes later, Chris commented and said "That's weird! An ice cream truck just went by my house too!" I bet you know where this is going. Turns out, Chris lives on my tiny street.

Saturday, we had the honor of celebrating the wedding of Chris to his partner of four years, Max. I've only known Max for a year, but I knew right from the start that he was perfect for Chris. He has a calming presence that is the perfect complement to Chris's loud, over-the-top (but always super fun) personality.

Their ceremony was short and sweet. They wrote vows for each other and in typical Chris fashion, he made sure that through the tears of joy, there was also laughter. After Max finished his beautifully written vows, Chris said, "That's what I had written!". And then he proceeded to read his own vows that were just as tear-worthy.

Max reading his vows to Chris

Today, they are off to their honeymoon in Europe. They're even making a stop in the Swiss Alps so Chris can yell "RIIIIIIICOLAAAAAA!!!" (I'm not even joking. Chris told me he was going to do that. See now why he and I are friends??)

Throughout the wedding, all I could think was: Why can't this wedding be legally recognized?! Their true love for each other was obvious. I could see the way they looked at each other. It was the same way me and LoLo looked on our wedding day: like there was no one else around. Their vows were just as sincere as mine and LoLo's. They made the same promises, felt the same emotions, exchanged rings just like me and LoLo. So then, why should LoLo's and my love get to be recognized by society and the government, but not theirs?

I was happy they decided to have this celebration, despite the fact that they couldn't receive a marriage certificate afterwards the same way LoLo and I did. I have no doubt that their partnership is forever and that one day, that commitment will be recognized by the government. But Saturday, their commitment was recognized by the people that matter most: their friends and family.

Old friends
Thank you Chris and Max for letting me and LoLo be a part of your beautiful celebration. It was an honor to share such a special day with you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

There (was) a Stranger in My House

Until about a month ago, LoLo worked at a job that he really didn't enjoy at all. They worked him too hard in crazy high temperatures for crazy amounts of hours.

In short, they stole his soul.

I'm not kidding. There were times when I felt like the person I married was missing and someone else had taken over his body. He didn't laugh as much. He didn't smile as much. He wasn't as affectionate as usual. He got upset with me so easily. He spent all of his free time in the cave man.

For a while, I felt so alone. I would come home from work and sit alone for about an hour before LoLo would even come home. And even when he did, sometimes he wouldn't even come upstairs to say hi for another half an hour or more.

But for the last month, it feels like my husband has returned. He watched the Kardashians with me the other night. Sitting immediately next to me on the couch. Not on the loveseat. This is huge. I can see his energy coming back. He asks how my day was before I can even ask about his. Last night, I came home and dinner was ready.

After dinner, we were sitting together and I said, "LoLo, jump in the photo booth with me!" meaning the photo booth on my Mac. We started taking pictures together and just couldn't stop laughing. I haven't laughed that hard with him in so long. It felt so good.

These pictures are ridiculous. But I'm still going to post them. Because you may remember, yesterday I said that us bloggers are always posting pretty pictures and never the less perfect, less posed, less primped pictures. Well, I'm going to walk the walk, people.
"Really Erin???"

OMG such a creeper!!! (this is the picture that sent me into a major fit of laughter)
Last one!!
There you have it. Us being completely cray cray and me putting it on the interwebs for the world to see. Walking the walk.

And finally, I'd just like to wish my grandmother a very happy, happy birthday. Every year, she gets a year younger so this is probably her 30th birthday! I love you Gumma!!!! (This is how I said "grandma" when I was little...and now everyone calls her that. I know, I'm a trend setter.) I hope this birthday brings you lots of cake, new clothes, bags, shoes, gift certificates to IHOP, and a trip to the mall to pick out your present from Papa.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Photo Shoot in the Gangway

When I went to Chicago last week, our blogs were Em's and my favorite topic. And when Adrian went out to buy food for the barbeque he was putting together on Labor Day, we figured it was the perfect time for an impromptu photo shoot.

Picture this: my sister standing on a broken chair in the gangway (the little space between her house and the one next door) taking pictures of me in a 3/4 sleeve shirt, jeans, and heels on a 90 degree plus day. All while I am standing on downward sloping concrete in heels I had no business being in since I could barely walk.

Cute right? Thanks, Em.
I know, I know, bloggers are supposed to be all "Oh yeah, I wear 6 inch heels all day every day" and "Please, I look this good when I wake up", but I like to be real.

You see the slope, right?
You will not catch me walking or even stumbling down the street in heels that high, but I have no shame taking a cute picture to post on my blog. And yep, those are orange and yellow hair elastics on my wrist too because I don't like having my hair down on 90 plus degree days. But my hair sure did look cute in those pictures!

Sometimes I think it's funny that as bloggers, we show the pretty side of our lives. We show the pictures in heels, the cutest outfits we own, the days when our hair looks great.

But isn't the other side also just as important? The days when I don't feel like washing my hair, the days when I don't have time to put on make-up because I slept a little too late or read one too many blogs in the morning.

That's the real me. And maybe someday I'll show that side too. But for now, enjoy the pretty side. And enjoy my sister's work as she balanced on a broken chair.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Will Never Forget

I will never forget the tragedy that hit the city that I fell in love with. I will never forget the sacrifices so many New Yorkers (and others) made and the stories that they left behind.

When I moved to New York in 2004, my dad used to always ask me, "Why do you want to be there? Terrorists probably won't strike Maine."

And my answer was always that I loved that city. I loved the people. I loved the vibrancy. I loved the spirit. I loved the triumph.

I still do. And I always will. I carry the legacy of those heroes in my heart, along with my love for New York City and for my husband who was luckily not where he was supposed to be on that day (click here to read more).

Don't forget the sacrifices of the heroes of 9/11. 

I <3 New York.

Monday, September 10, 2012

According to LoLo....Words of Wisdom

It's been quite a while since I've had an installment of According to LoLo. As many of you know, my husband's first language is Spanish and sometimes he mixes up common English phrases and sometimes, he just makes up his own. Here are a couple of gems that have come out of LoLo's mouth lately.

After I came home from Chicago, Bronx was all about giving me lots of love. After a while, he went over to LoLo but LoLo hates that I'm Bronx's first choice. This hatred led to LoLo screaming this: "I'm not the second plate on your table, man!!" Apparently, LoLo doesn't like playing second fiddle. Or being the second plate on anyone's table.

A few weeks ago, LoLo and I woke up on a Saturday morning and were just laying in bed being lazy. While we were laying there, he said, "Erin, I love you more than life loves itself!" I hope life loves itself a lot. I think this is his interpretation of what I always say to him "I love you more than life itself!".

Saturday night LoLo told me I needed to do the dishes before he got home from work Sunday afternoon. Anyone who knows me knows I am the worst procrastinator ever. LoLo knows this all too well and his advice was "Better soon than sorry!!" So true, LoLo, so true...

And his last phrase that is actually my favorite is what LoLo says when he steals someone's seat. "You move, you snooze!" What this means, I do not know, but it always makes me laugh.

One of my favorite things about LoLo is his sense of humor. I'm trying to convince him to do another vlog with me. Let's hope he says yes! His words of wisdom should be shared with the world!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The People of Chicago

I'm back from Chicago!

I had a wonderful week spending hours with my sister, Emily, and her husband, Adrian. I ate so much good food (including several incredible meals cooked by Adrian). But most importantly, I met the real people of Chicago.

First stop: TGI Friday's for some lunch after getting off the plane. Imagine this: a welcoming committee of 3 different hosts; a young Hispanic man, a young black woman, and a white woman in her 60's or 70's. I'm not exaggerating. She was at least 65. After all three of them seated us, the manager came over to greet us. In his best "sleazy game show host" voice, he informed us that he "had a special menu, JUST for you!"

Needless to say, we were a bit uncomfortable. But this was just the beginning of my strange encounters with the people of Chicago.

Next Stop: Friday Night Karaoke at a sports bar. There are basically 4 men who sing here with a couple other random people mixed in.

The 4 men are:
The Karaoke Host: a guy in his mid 20's who runs the karaoke but also makes sure to mix in some 90's pop-rock songs that he can sing all while looking like he's constipated and completely frightened at the same time.
Jack: a Mexican-American or possibly Native American man in his 50's who is SERIOUS about karaoke.
Party Marty: a white guy in his 50's with blue eyes who looks like he just stepped off the streets of South Boston and sounds like he may have had a few too many before grabbing the mike.
Felix: a Mexican-American guy in his 50's who sings songs that made us think a woman may have just left him.

These people provided endless entertainment. And apparently they are there EVERY Friday night.

Jack! The other face has been blurred to protect the innocent :)
 And our final stop on the weird people of Chicago tour: Panera Downtown Chicago.

Em, Adrian, and I were enjoying a lovely lunch at Panera when suddenly, the woman next to us struck up a conversation with us. At first, the conversation seemed random but completely harmless. But then, it took a turn for the worst. This woman told us about a book she'd read called "The Belly Fat Cure" and stood up to show us that her t-shirt and shorts were loose on her because of this book. We sat there, eating our chips, carb-heavy sandwiches, and scones while she proceeded to tell us that we all needed to lose a significant amount of weight. She even mentioned that sometimes she's afraid to tell people about the book because she's afraid she might get their dinner in her face. She's lucky she didn't get an orange scone to the face that day. Her parting words? It was God's will that had put her in Panera at that moment so that she could tell us how to lose the weight. My thoughts? It is God's will that I'm fat. There's too much good food in the world that God wants me to try.

Monday, September 3, 2012

True Partnership

Tomorrow is my sister and Adrian's anniversary and today, she wrote a post about it. Her post really got me thinking. You may remember I talked about my marriage a while back and also wrote about how my husband is the best roommate I've ever had. Em's post today and the time I've spent with her and Adrian this weekend got me thinking more about marriage.

When I think about marriage, I always think about partnerships and both people bringing something to the table. I think my sister and I are really lucky to have found partners that balance us out. They stand behind us while we continue to grow. LoLo has been really supportive of my new-found hobby. He's encouraged me to continue writing and to grow my little blog. He was also a huge support for me when I was unemployed. He said all along something great was coming, and it did. I think this is the secret: having balance in the relationship and understanding each others' roles.

The same can be said for Em and Adrian. Saturday night when we were having a cake for my sister's birthday, Adrian cut each piece very carefully and placed it standing up on the plate so that she could take a picture for her blog. Then, he made a cute little backdrop for the picture. It was a perfect little example of their partnership.

On their wedding day
As we get older, I realize more and more how much I have learned from my parents' partnership and how much I respect it. My parents both have their individual weaknesses, but they balance each other out perfectly. P-Dids can be a little selectively social (only social with people he knows very well), but my mother pushes him to extend beyond his comfort zone. This year, he went to his 40th high school reunion, even though he has only kept in touch with maybe 2 or 3 of his 500 classmates. None of us expected him to do that. In their partnership, my dad would do anything for my mom. I remember one time when all of us kids had moved out of their house and my dad was working a job in Vermont. There was supposed to be a huge snowstorm so my dad finished his job a day early and raced back to Maine to make sure he was in the house by the time the storm hit. He told me he just didn't want my mom to have to deal with it alone. They have been married for 33 years.

Aren't they cute?
 My aunts and uncles, my cousins, and both sets of grandparents have all shown me what true partnerships look like. I feel lucky that I have had so many amazing examples of good marriages. I only hope that LoLo and I can continue to balance each other out as we get older the same way my parents have.