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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween & Other Holiday Fun

Life is like a giant choose-your-own-adventure novel, except when you don’t solve the mystery, or when you die by being crushed by a bed of nails in a snake pit in a cave somewhere, you can’t just go back to page 75 and choose differently.

Think about it, that’s super deep.

This Friday is Halloween! There is just something about holidays. I love holidays. The family time, the festive atmosphere, the celebration. Many holidays actually make me think about the future or the past.

I generally enjoy most holidays, but Halloween has a special significance to me. I LOVE HALLOWEEN. I love thinking of something interesting to be (last year I was Quailman, another year was a sumo wrestler, yet another was a penguin, etc.), I love putting together a costume, I love nagging Boyfriend into going costume shopping and carving a pumpkin together.

I’ve long held this theory that Halloween and fireworks shows are the two times that adults, no matter how old or stuffy they are, seem to enjoy something with the delight and abandon of a child. On Halloween, kids and adults alike will dress up as characters, and enjoy the pretending just one more time. Fireworks shows amaze us all, and if you ever take a second to look at the crowd during a fireworks show, you’ll see that everyone, young or old, are staring up and smiling. It’s a happy thing, and I love that we never truly get over the fireworks magic.

The 4th of July, is another favorite holiday. At one time in my life, it was simply a festive celebration of the anniversary of our independence as a nation. This is the time I usually reflect on the freedoms I take for granted, that other countries don’t have, and that so many other people don’t enjoy. Having grown up in America, I was taught to question everything, including the government. As a society, Americans have an obligation to question the government and make sure that we are taking part in making changes and protecting our freedoms.

I do feel like voting is a civic obligation. No one has any right to complain about our government unless they are willing to at LEAST vote and try to make a difference. Not that our government is perfect, or that I believe they are doing everything right. Far from it. But I care about our country and our freedoms and our laws, and I vote so that I can have a small part in placing the people I believe are right for the jobs, in office.

Aside from those musings, the 4th of July has come to mean so much more to me in the last 7 years. My niece’s birthday is July 5th, and we all get together as a family to celebrate her birth and 4th of July together. We do the parade in DC, and we shoot off fireworks in the neighborhood. It’s very fun!

Other holidays I love are Hanukkah/Christmas (of course!), my birthday (duh), as well as the birthdays of my friends and family, and Thanksgiving.

When I was a kid, my dad’s family had a big family reunion every year for Thanksgiving. We cooked, we ate, we sat around talking about how full we were, we played board games, and exchanged Hanukkah presents. It was a great tradition, and one that ended abruptly about 6 years ago, when all of the kids were starting to move away, going into or out of college and such, and it became more difficult to get everyone in one place.  

THIS YEAR, we are bringing the tradition back, and I for one, cannot wait. It will be so awesome having us all together again!

But for now, Halloween is the focus. This is the first year in four that I managed to convince Boyfriend to do semi-matching costumes (he would be a mad scientist every year from now until death if we let him; he is unnaturally attached to his costume lab coat). We’re being a flapper and mobster! Excited!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Adult-y Things & Great Advice

I have a love-hate relationship with food.

I was a very picky eater as a kid, and the older I get, the more I have intentionally branched out and tried new things. It’s amazing! There are all sorts of wonderful foods that I have tried and loved, like scallops and crab and sweet potatoes.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some foods that my 8 year old self was completely right in hating irrationally. Squash and zucchini are perfect examples. I clearly remember being about 8 or 9 years old, and telling my mom that squash made me throw up. She did not believe me and made me eat some. I promptly threw up, and have not touched either one since.

I also have a weird texture thing with food. I don’t like odd or unexpected or contrasting textures. Cottage cheese is a great example. It’s smooth like yogurt, but has lumpy disgusting things in it that look like the lumps in spoiled milk. Is it delicious? I will never, ever know.

Tomatoes are another example of the texture thing. I can’t bring myself to eat raw tomatoes. They are smooth and shiny on the outside, mushy on the inside, and then have phlegmy looking seeds in the middle. Nope nope nope.
But in the last 5 years or so, I have made sure to try new things. It’s great! Turns out I love scallops and crab. I still hate mushrooms, but I learned that I enjoy the hell out of sweet potatoes! I like haricot vert and sauteed kale, but I still dislike nuts.

Maybe I’m building it up in my head, but I see this willingness to try new things as a very adult-y thing. I’M SO GROWN UP, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.

My stepdad says that when you’re really an adult, you won’t have to tell people that you’re grown up. But what does he know, anyway? I’m 28 years old, a college graduate, a city dweller (well, Brooklyn, but it’s way better. Trust me.), a relationship-haver, and a really awesome Aunt to 3 of the cutest shorties I’ll ever know (unless I get more, then the ranks will swell, though it will not diminish the cuteness of the current frontrunners).

Since when does being an adult mean not having any kidlike fun? SINCE NEVER. I have seen many an adult enjoy go karts, laser tag, paintball, bouncy houses, fireworks shows, and trampolines.
[Sidebar: Saw a funny joke online. Relevant. “They used to be called jumpolines, until your mom jumped on one back in ‘79.” lol!]

I think being an adult means being self-reliant, self-sufficient, and a contributing member of society. I do NOT think being an adult means that you can’t enjoy things with the childlike ease or happiness of young people. I take my nieces and nephew out, and I cannot adequately explain the joy I get out of introducing them to new things, or seeing things from their perspective (Their perspective on parades is the same as mine. BO-ring.). My nephew has more fun running in circles than I do with practically anything!

Why lose that joy? What makes us lose the sense of wonder in the world around us? And though we grow up, grow skeptical and somewhat jaded, does that justify us losing the thing that lets us still see magic in the world around us? Not to me!

Boundless optimism may annoy some people, and that’s fine. I never claimed to be easy to be around all the time, or adult about everything. Can I argue competently about the political issues I care about? Sure. Do I read the news so that I’m not willfully ignorant of what is happening in the world? Yes. Do I still jump in puddles sometimes and sing happy little songs that make me laugh? Of course. Do I still love Halloween and the cham and joy of dressing up, and nag Boyfriend into dressing up and force him to enjoy himself as well? YEP.

Being an adult means being whomever you want to be. It means being comfortable with and confident in who you are, regardless of what others may want or expect from you. Being an adult means working hard and doing your job well because you are paid to do so, paying your bills and taxes because it’s required, and then being who you are simply because being that person makes you happy.

We all have flaws. I certainly do! But overall, I am happy with who I am. How many of us can say that and mean it?

So here’s my advice to you, World: Really figure out who you are, or who you want to be. Embrace it, love it, and be confident in yourself and your abilities. Confidence is honestly the key to everything good in your life. Confidence shows in how you carry yourself, how you interact with others, how you do your job, and more. Confidence allows you to enjoy yourself without fear of reprisal from others, such as dancing like no one is watching, even when they are. Because I am confident and happy with myself, I don’t care that others may not like my dancing, at least I am enjoying it!

Go forth and be confident. And if you can’t be wholly confident yet, here is a secret: Fake it ‘til you make it. Force yourself to carry yourself and act confidently, and over time, it will become real. Be proud of who you are and what you look like.
In conclusion, Dr. Seuss is the best: “Today You are You. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

If I could someday teach my kids only one thing, it would be this. Not in the “you’re a special snowflake, everyone is a winner, here’s a participation ribbon” type of way, but in the “be yourself, be happy, learn who you are and embrace your weirdness” kind of way.