From This Day Forward

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On the day of my wedding, June 18, 2016, I had eyes only for Jim. I can’t wait to see the photographer’s pictures, mostly because I want to know what other people at my wedding were actually doing there. All I remember is looking at him (or looking for him), dancing with him, eating with him, kissing him, thinking about him.

It was the best day of my life, and it was absolutely perfect.

I could regale you with 16 pages worth of details about the wedding, because that’s what I wrote down after we got back from the honeymoon. I was and am determined not to forget a single moment. But I’ll spare you and just give you the highlights, the parts that made our wedding special to us.  Continue reading

What You Don’t Know, As You Head Off to College

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This past weekend, my family gathered to celebrate my cousin Abby’s graduation from high school. Aunts and uncles and cousins came together from all over Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia to celebrate the twelfth cousin of the family to graduate and head off to college.

As the newest inductee into the high school graduate club, my cousin doesn’t know yet what she is in for. She’s about to start her next chapter in life at the University of Dayton in Ohio. She doesn’t even know yet how good it’s going to be. She doesn’t understand the college memes or the post-grad-problems or the Buzzfeed lists. She can’t yet fathom how much trouble she’ll get into. She doesn’t know which girls will become her best friends or which boys will break her heart. She can’t know that yet, but she will.

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Fourteen Weddings

As of yesterday, 14 of the 18 cousins I have on my mom’s side are married. And I have been lucky enough to attend 12 of those Ohio weddings, one of them as a bridesmaid.

My family has come to accept and love these weddings, looking forward to the next one as soon as the doors close on the receptions. I’ve always loved the romance of it all–the way the word “love” slips easily in between sentences and echoes through the church rafters. The way the bride and groom smile at each other and whisper during the first dance (I’ve always wondered what they talk about…) The way that seeing one couple happily starting their journey together makes all the other couples fall in love all over again.

941887_10201108533545574_682753255_nMy parents and siblings have been through a lot at these weddings. We know what to expect at most of them. We wait anxiously to see the dress the bride chose, craning our necks to watch her walk down the aisle (because inevitably we were late and are seated in the back along the wall). We ooh and ahh over the bridesmaids and the flowers and the centerpieces. We take advantage of everything offered and are usually one of the last to leave. We eat, drink, dance and use the little toiletries provided for the girls in the bathrooms. We play the name game and try to remember the names of all the cousins and who’s married to who. Then we start on their kids, but we’ve about given up at this point. The family is getting too big.

When I was younger, I was often too shy to dance much at the weddings. We would sit with our chairs facing the dance floor and watch our parents start doing the YMCA. Sometimes I would get up the courage to do the Chicken Dance, or to dance with my dad during a slower song. But I do remember they would play this funny song that sounded like, “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on, O-H-I-O.” (Anyone in Ohio will know what I’m talking about.) At first I would refuse to dance to it. I was extremely proud that I was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and I wouldn’t be caught dead cheering for the other team. And then I went to a few more weddings and realized it was actually pretty fun. It was the one song where almost every single person in the room got up and waved their arms around.

When I was about ten or eleven years old, I suddenly and astonishingly got over my shy-ness for approximately three minutes. A slow song came on and I was tired of sitting on the side watching my mom and dad dance together without me. So I walked over to a boy about my age and asked him to dance. And he did. I had no idea who he was and had never spoken to him before. He was probably from the other side of the wedding party, because I never saw him again. But we have pictures of me dancing with this boy.

I had my first drink at one of the weddings, when I was about fifteen. I didn’t order it myself though because I couldn’t bring myself to say “Fuzzy Navel” or “Buttery Nipple” without busting out laughing and giving away my age. But there’s a picture of me and my cousin, Kimberly, arms linked holding our drinks high and proud. (She could order a Buttery Nipple without any problem.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was one wedding where the favor was a deck of cards at each place setting. My siblings and I played cards during the songs we didn’t want to dance to. At the end of the night, when most of the other guests had gone home and we were lingering with goodbyes, we snatched up a bunch of the decks that were left behind and stuffed our purses and pockets. We got home with about 25 decks of cards that say “Sarah & Matt.” Now I’ll never need to buy cards again, and I’ll always remember that Matt’s wife’s name is Sarah.

At another wedding, there was a photo booth in lieu of favors. We jumped in that booth over and over, whenever we saw it was vacant. The strips of pictures from that night still hang on our dresser mirrors, our goofy faces cheek-to-cheek in the tiny box. “Jennifer & Zachary” is pasted at the bottom of each strip, so we’ll never forget who Jen got married to either.

Some of the weddings had a “dollar dance” where you paid a dollar to dance with either the bride or the groom. I would beg a dollar off my dad and stand in line to dance with the groom, whom I had never met. (Maybe I was less shy at these weddings than I thought.)

525900_10150995743237357_838711366_nLast year I was honored to be a bridesmaid in my cousin Kimberly’s wedding. I met her friends and helped her get ready and held her dress in the bathroom. We rode in a limo and drank and danced and celebrated, and I got to see one of my closest cousins marry her best friend.

And yesterday, my cousin Nate got married. He has been bringing Jenna to family Christmases and Thanksgivings for years and it was truly wonderful to be at their wedding and see them so happy. My siblings and I didn’t play cards or the name game and I drank wine, so no need to worry about ordering Fuzzy Navels. But we danced all night and were still among the last to leave, enjoying every moment.

I wish Jenna and Nate all the best in their new life together, and the same for my other 13 married cousins.

Only four more cousins left–I wonder who’s next…

Post-College Campus Tour

Abby, Lindsay and I with the statue of James Madison

Abby, Lindsay and I with the statue of James Madison

I visited my sister at James Madison University this past weekend.

Let me remind you, tales of my journeys are not to be taken lightly. Traveling and/or driving somewhere new is a big deal for me.

Luckily, I was not alone.

My cousin Abby is a junior in high school. She is at that magical age when you start to look at all the possibilities that are just beyond the classrooms that you begin to refer to as prison cells. But just barely. She thought (or maybe her parents thought) it would be a good idea to check out JMU. It’s easy enough to visit, while my sister is there, so why not?

We drove down on Friday morning. I won’t get too much into my little antics on the drive down–we all know I have trouble with directions. Let’s just say, my parents told me about a “shortcut” (which I guess it was) but apparently my knowledge of geography is lacking. I got a little confused (read: freaking out) when I noticed a sign for Maryland about two hours in. I thought I had somehow driven the entire way across Pennsylvania to get to Maryland. (Who knew you could go from Pennsylvania to Maryland to West Virginia to Virginia within fifteen minutes??? Obviously not me.)

Anyways….we got there just fine.

Since it was Easter weekend, Lindsay said that her roommate and suitemates would be gone for the weekend and were generously offering their beds to sleep in if we needed them.

Two of her suite-mates were still there when we got there, so we got to meet them. They said Lindsay and I are exactly alike. That’s news to me.

Overlooking the JMU campus

Overlooking the JMU campus

Then Lindsay took us on a short walking tour of the campus. And let me tell you, JMU is BEAUTIFUL. If I were in my cousin’s position, I would look no further. The campus is idyllic in that it is everything you think of when you think of going away to college and staying on a campus. It has that impressive campus feel. Pretty gray brick buildings that match, lots of walking paths, green fields, a quad, statues. Dorms were in clusters with names like Hillside and Fox and the Village. Huge dining halls and other places to eat in almost every building. (Apparently JMU is ranked #4 in best food on campus.) Not to mention the picturesque Virginia mountains in the background.

I couldn’t help comparing everything we did with my experiences at the University of Delaware. I’m not saying that I would have traded those experiences. But maybe had I looked at JMU when I was in high school, I would have considered it. I was tallying up the pros and cons, and as far as I could see in a weekend visit, there weren’t many cons.

**Maybe I should make a note here: this is not, I repeat NOT a paid endorsement for James Madison University. I swear. I was simply in love with the campus.

jamesmadisonMiraculously, we had beautiful weather that weekend. Blue skies and sun. We took pictures overlooking the campus and the mountains and with James Madison himself, of course.

We got to meet some of Lindsay’s friends and classmates, and see a few other dorms and apartments. We visited the campus bookstore and bought matching JMU t-shirts. Because everyone needs a bright neon shirt. We got to eat at the dining hall and a place called Dukes. Dining hall food is still dining hall food, no matter where you go, but I was not complaining–they had tater tots and bacon, what more could I want?

We were going to try to see a movie Saturday afternoon, but apparently they were having some electrical issues and couldn’t get the power to stay on. We ended up getting our money back, but I would have to say that was a con for the school. We went to the mall instead. Small mall but at least they had a few good stores. And it was very close to campus, close to restaurants and a bowling alley.

We went out to dinner at a place called Clementine’s. It was fantastic. I wish we could have stayed for the live music but it wasn’t until 10 PM. So after dinner we went to an ice cream place called Kline’s, where they serve their own homemade ice-cream.

On Sunday morning we went to Easter mass on campus. It was really refreshing to see a mass held on a college campus, with students singing and playing guitar.

We left soon after that. And don’t worry, we got home without any mishaps.

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There’s a lot I could say about going on this trip with  my cousin looking at colleges.

Like, how does any 17-year-old high school kid know what they’re looking for? How do they know if they want the serene, 19th-century campus, or the busy city campus? How do they know what they want to do with their lives after high school?

Or, if you had the chance, would you do it differently? Did your actual college experience hold true to those campus-tour-expectations? If you knew what else was out there, how it could have been somewhere else, would you change your mind?

I like to believe that the choices you make take you where you’re supposed to go. I wouldn’t be who I am or have some amazing people in my life if I hadn’t gone to Delaware.

But when you’re on a beautiful campus, on a gorgeous day, it’s hard not to wonder.

Enough of 2012, Bring on the New Year

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The last time I took a moment to reflect about an entire year, I was a freshman in college and had experienced so much change between high school and the University of Delaware that it would have been wrong for me not to think back on it and appreciate it. At that time, I was growing up, moving out, making new friends, having new experiences and learning from everything.

This too, has been a year of changes. If I could have made a prediction years ago about where I would be at this point in my life, it would not be here. I would not be living at home with my parents, I would not still be serving at a restaurant, I would not even be in Pittsburgh. But now that I’m here, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Today, January 1st, 2013, looks just like yesterday, December 31, 2012. The sky is gray, snowflakes are falling gently from the sky onto what already looks like a foot of snow on the ground. The house is cold, the coffee is brewing, the TV is on. But people love a new year because we all want to say goodbye to the old and look ahead to what we have to come. We want closure for our troubles and we want a new beginning, a fresh start.

Well last night, my fresh start began with a glass of champagne and my dog, hanging out in the kitchen watching my parents and their friends play “Catchphrase.” I had to work last night. And I guess it was a fitting way to end the year. This year that I spent more time in a restaurant waiting tables than I did anywhere else. Why not end it that way too? But this is starting to sound depressing and my year was anything but. So I’ve said before, the best place to begin a story is at the beginning.

Last year I celebrated the new year in Buffalo, New York with a kiss from my boyfriend in a room full of strangers. It was a scene from a movie and it was perfect. A perfect prelude for the year to come.

I was finishing up my senior year of college. From January through May, my days mostly alternated between waitressing and going to classes. During my final semester, I only had to take three classes and had four day weekends. Which of course left more time for working. I worked a lot, but I made a little time for fun.

I enjoyed a memorable end to the production of my student-run television show. We successfully produced five shows during the spring semester and celebrated our accomplishments. I worked with some great people on that show, people with big ideas who will definitely go places. Without them, the show would not have been the same.

Jim and I took a short trip to Washington, D.C. in March to walk through all of the museums. It was an absolutely wonderful day. We went to Virginia Beach for a few days together during our spring break. The weather wasn’t on our side, but we had more fun than I thought possible in such a short amount of time.

In April I was honored to be a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding and watch her walk down the aisle to her new husband, so obviously in love and so obviously perfect for each other.

Jim dragged me to a Rick Ross concert at the end of our senior year. I tried to keep an open mind, allow my musical tastes to expand. But I don’t think they expanded that much.

I graduated from the University of Delaware at the end of May, one day before I turned 22. I graduated cum laude with a degree in Communication, a well-rounded resume and no job to speak of. I decided to celebrate anyway.

And then I had what I’m sure will later become known as The Summer of Frustration. The day after I moved back home, I pulled out the computer and typed up cover letters, tweaked my resume and scoured the job boards. I had goals, I had a system, I read “how-to-get-a-job” blogs and “how-to-ace-an-interview” articles (although I didn’t get many interviews). I updated my social media profiles and launched Measure with Coffee Spoons. I went on a solo trip to New York City to meet with a friend’s boss and talk about her company. And in between all that, I watched seasons three through seven of Grey’s Anatomy. Jim and I travelled back and forth between Pittsburgh and Buffalo. I went to a few Pirates games with my family. I went on my family vacation to Myrtle Beach. I babysat. I taught private swimming lessons. And I started running. All the while, wallowing in self-pity because I was job-less, living at home, and I missed my Delaware friends terribly.

By the end of the summer, I got hired at a new restaurant as a server and things started to look up. I took my nose ring out, got off the couch, and got a Macbook. I started interning at Steeltown Entertainment Project and loved it. I volunteered to work as a production assistant for an independent film being produced in the area.

Through all of that, I met some of the greatest people. I worked with some great servers and chefs and kids they call server’s assistants. People who love restaurant work and people who are in it for the money. People with big dreams and small incomes. People who are juggling school and work and children and husbands. People who are taking a break from school but when they go, they’ll make something of themselves. People who are perfectionists, who want every lemon on every plate to be facing the same way. People who don’t care, who bus the tables and get their stuff done so they can go out with friends. People who have climbed the ladder, who’ve fallen and gotten back up. You don’t know their stories, but they are inspirational.

I met great people on the set of “Lemonade.” People who are doing what they love, even if they don’t get paid for it. People who know what they want and are working to get there. People who don’t know what they want, but are figuring it out. People who have exactly what they want and every scene is a relaxing joy for them.

And I’ve met great people at Steeltown. People whom I hope to get to know better. Because I’ve accepted my first real job with them. And I start tomorrow.

This past year was about meeting and spending time with some amazing people. They helped me get where I am and I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

Here’s to closure for 2012. Now bring on the new year.

(photo via)

The True Meaning of Christmas Consumerism

treeI think the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier every year. Before you know it, the United States will turn into a larger version of Who-ville, celebrating and preparing for Christmas Day all year long. Bells will ring for the winners who max out their credit cards, and every day will feature a new item with a 90% mark-down price. No one will even bother to take their Christmas lights down and in fact, they’ll just build up their displays higher and brighter until everything just runs together and the world becomes one big neon light-emitting-diode.

But during the first week of December, Christmas seems so far away and the holiday season seems so long. You get a little tired of some of the songs on the radio because you start hearing them the day after Halloween. Children get to see Santa in malls and restaurants at least three or four times, and they have enough time in between visits to completely change their mind about what they want. And then all of a sudden Christmas Eve is upon you and you haven’t wrapped a thing. The actual holiday comes and goes so quickly but what is all this hustle and bustle that comes first?

I think most people would agree that today, Christmas Day, is a happy one. It’s a day for family to spend time together and appreciate each other, to celebrate traditions, to eat and be merry. Ideally. The massive consumerism that occurs for roughly five weeks prior to this day is just part of the package. It’s the preparation that is necessary to get us to this day where we can relax. The entire month of shopping, decorating, baking and preparation is really what makes the holiday season so joyous and festive. If it weren’t for all these weeks of hearing Jingle Bells over and over again, Christmas would be like any other holiday. Like Easter. Or Mother’s Day. Just one day. Who would want that? The question that should be asked is whether it’s worth it. Maybe it is, for some people.

When I was little, I counted my presents. What mattered was the number, not how awesome they were. Even though I had some that were pretty awesome. It was amazing, to come downstairs on Christmas morning and where once the floor under the tree was bare, now boxes were piled high. When you truly believed in Santa Claus, there is nothing more miraculous. When you’re that little, the consumerism means nothing. You don’t even know it exists.

When you’re young, it’s all about you. You ask for presents, people ask you what’s on your list, you open up everything with your name on it and determine if you’ve gotten everything you asked for. When you visit family, they ask you what you got and you proudly tell them. Sure, you might buy presents for siblings and parents, but your ultimate focus is still yourself. Maybe you become a little less selfish as you get older, but still, so many people focus on what they got for Christmas. Let me ask you something this year.

What did you give?

If we are all going to be so obsessed with sales and clearance racks and Black Friday and free shipping (which we obviously are), then it must be worth something. Because if it’s not, if we are all still as selfish as we were when we were children and counting our presents, then society is surely on a downward slope. And since I sincerely hope that’s not the case, I like to think that our shopping obsession means something. I like to think it means that we give.

This year, I gave my sister a brown leather jacket and a vegetarian cookbook. I gave my little brother new headphones. I gave my other brother a DVD because he’s hard to buy for and who doesn’t love a new movie to add to the collection? We gave our mom a keyboard for her iPad and my dad got a coupon for rock climbing. I gave my grandparents a digital picture frame filled with pictures of family memories and extra gigs for more to come.

On Christmas Day, it’s so tempting and easy to shout out everything you got, to tell your friends or neighbors how good Santa was to you. But this year, like every year, I was so excited to give these gifts to my family, and that’s more important than anything else.

And what was the ultimate lesson the Grinch learned?

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

The Door Only Swings One Way– But It’s Always Open

I never expected to move back home after college. I never thought I’d be allowed back. I used to quote my parents saying, “the door only swings one way.” Lucky for me, that door swung back open after I graduated.

It took two cars to bring home the belongings I hadn’t sold. I claimed a bed, a dresser, and a room. And I found myself settling back into the old routine. But one thing was different–both my brother and sister went away to school this time.

Being the oldest, it had been easy for me to leave home and go to college. At eighteen, I was the typical high school senior who is very ready to go away. I left my younger siblings and embarked on the new life that is college. I came home for holidays and summers; and whenever I came back we were all together again. I never saw a void because it was filled with classes and swimming and new friends and jobs.

But this year, it’s the middle children who are at school, leaving my brother and me here to fight over the cereal and shower time. I didn’t know the house could even get this quiet–until both my parents are working and Josh is at school. I didn’t realize that the dog actually rotates through every couch and every bed in the house when she thinks no one is home, but the second she hears the garage  door open she’s on the floor. I didn’t realize that with multiple vehicles, figuring out where to park, or who is parked in, would be a challenge. I didn’t realize that so many shows could be recorded on a DVR. And I didn’t realize how much my little brother had grown up without me.

We have this little unspoken ritual, Josh and I. Or maybe we have many, but it’s hard to notice all of them. He is tall, so he points the shower head out farther when he takes his showers at 6:30AM. I am short(er) so every day  at 8AM I have to point the shower head back down or it will leak all over the floor. The next morning, he points it back up. He uses his sink on his side of the bathroom. I use mine. If it wasn’t my mess, it was his. It may seem silly but it’s simple, consistent.

How easy it would have been, to only have one sibling, to be a family of four. That’s what I’m thinking until Thanksgiving break rolls around and the doorbell rings and my long-lost brother and sister are back. Lindsay’s clothes are all over the floor of my room, the music on Andy’s computer is blaring, and all is now right with the world.

I hadn’t seen the void when I was at school because it was filled with so many other things. Now that I’m home, I haven’t seen the void because it’s so big I can’t even see the edges. Family is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Family is loud and annoying and messy. There’s toothpaste all over the sink and my favorite cereal is gone the day after I open it. There is never enough gas in the tanks and every mile must be accounted for so that the right person can pay their share. My favorite socks look extremely similar to someone else’s socks so that I never have the truly correct match. Someone wants to watch one show on TV but someone else is recording something and someone else wants to watch this movie and despite the fact that there is more than one TV in the house, we all want to be in the same room. If someone is saving something in the fridge for later and there isn’t a note reading “Do Not Eat” on that container of leftovers, it will be eaten. And even if there is a note, there will probably be a few bites out of it anyway. If I want to go to bed at ten I can expect to be woken up when someone gets in at 2AM. If I want to sleep in, I should be prepared to be woken at dawn. We don’t sit down for dinner all at the same time. This is family and family is messy.

But this crazy family is back together for Thanksgiving and I suddenly remember what I’ve missed. My sister’s clothes scattered on my floor remind me that we can still share some shirts, even though she’s a few inches taller. The laundry was sorted wrong because all of the kids are home and my mom isn’t sure who has what anymore. My cereal gets eaten before I get any but at least it’s not getting stale. There are too many shows that we want to watch, but at least we can all fit together on the couches. We eat someone’s leftovers and when they’re mad, at least they’re there to get mad. And when we finally all sit down together for dinner, we notice. And we love it.

This is what Thanksgiving is for–for being together and giving thanks. For realizing that you already have everything you need. I would venture to guess that the number one thing people say they are thankful for is family. Easy to say, more difficult to explain.

My little brother is growing up and I’m grateful that I moved back home to be part of that. My family has always been important, but sometimes it takes seeing the void to realize the true value.

I am still very ready to move out and live on my own. I am ready for my own independence and I would be perfectly happy doing my own laundry and eating my own leftovers. But I’m thankful for my messy family and I’m glad this door is always open.

It’s the People at the Restaurant, Not the Tips

There are a lot of things I could say about working in a restaurant, and things that I already have.  Most things you notice about restaurants, whether you eat at them or work in them, are obvious. The food, the service, the tips, busy nights and slow nights and late nights. There is good service and bad service. People leave good tips for good service, or bad tips because they were never taught otherwise. Or no tips, I get those too. But I don’t want to tell you about tips. I want to tell you about people.

Servers are there to make money. Let’s not step around that fact. We are there for the tips. The good ones, that is. But sometimes, every once in awhile, you get a chance to slow down a little, you step out of the kitchen and away from the computer. Your tables are happy and no one needs anything. And when you look around you, you get a chance to see the moments of other people’s lives. You get a glimpse into other people’s worlds. You can see what other people are going through, or you can imagine what their lives might be like when they get home to their kids. And this is something that I have found spectacular about working in a restaurant. You see so many kinds of different people, so many people, all the people. You say a few words to these people and watch them for a few seconds. You see them eat food for a few minutes and a whole world opens up behind them.

On busy days, there isn’t much time for people-watching, but sometimes there is the rare day when it’s a slow afternoon and at several tables are seated just the most intriguing human beings.

There’s the e-Harmony date. A man and a woman walk in and sit at a table near the bar. They sit across from each other and order a bottle of red wine at 12:30pm. The woman is rather loud, the man is more soft-spoken, with a kind face. They’re leaning in to each other and laughing a lot throughout their conversation. It’s probably a good date, maybe there will be a second. They sit there until 5pm, three bottles of wine later. Definitely a good date. She had mentioned several bad first dates she had been on, so maybe that’s a good sign. Maybe she’ll go home after the date and call up her girl friend and talk all about the kind, gentle guy she’d gone out with and how he’s completely different from the other guys she’s dated and she’ll talk about possibilities. Maybe he’ll go home and Google-search her for a third time. Make sure she’s not too good to be true. Or maybe not. But I saw that they were on a date and enjoying each other’s company.

There is a table with a very young couple. Probably about 17– at least driving age. At first the boy looks mad; it looks like they’re fighting. The host told me he had slammed the car door shut and walked in about 10 feet in front of her. But then they’re at the table and while we’re speculating what the fight is about, he starts crying. Maybe his uncle was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe his grandmother died. His girlfriend is comforting him as best she can and they are clearly not fighting. They have a quick lunch and leave together. Just a glimpse into someone’s life while they eat.

At another table sits an older couple. It’s the end of the night, the crowd has died down and they’re sitting next to each other in a rounded booth, clearly still in love after 40, 50, 60 years but quiet, as if maybe they’ve said all they needed to say out loud over the years and now words aren’t needed. So when I greet them they are anxious to talk and they tell me about their lives. The man told me that they were from Delaware, since I’d mentioned that I just graduated from school there. He said he went to school at Duquesne and it took him thirteen years to graduate, taking night classes, because he was already married with kids and working a full-time job. But he did graduate and he is still with his Mrs. having dinner.

Every table has a story. But as waiters and waitresses, all we see are the minutes when they’re sitting at the table and all we can do is speculate. But each table, each snapshot is unique. Each family looks different and acts differently. Some families are loud and messy, with lots of children. Their lives are probably hectic and they probably don’t get out to eat very often. Maybe they’re like my family and celebrating a good report card. Other families are quiet. The kids are older and don’t want to be seen with their parents but their parents love them anyways. Some tables contain old friends that haven’t seen in each other in years. They order a drink and wait hours to order their meal, just to make the time pass more slowly. They pay the check and sit for a few more hours, their glasses of water all but empty. Maybe they were college roommates, or maybe they both got screwed over by the same guy and found a common bond that lasted all their lives.

These are the moments that make up these lives. Their trip to the restaurant might become part of the story they tell their grandkids. Their moments are special and brief, for us, but maybe for a few minutes I can live vicariously through them. I can be at their business meeting or their jewelry party and be part of that moment. I can take a picture of the old friends and I can make small talk and smile. I can give them that because they all have given me these small glimpses into their lives.

Maybe this is what makes people like working in a restuarant so much. Seeing a moment of another person’s life, speculating what the rest of it might look like. It’s just a snapshot, but sometimes, a picture equals a thousand words.

An Explanation of My Life’s Next Chapter

And suddenly, with little notice, the unemployed has found herself incredibly busy.

For the first half, or more like two-thirds, of the summer, my days consisted of my morning coffee and newspaper routine, while watching the Today Show, followed by a trip to the gym or to the park for a run, then a few hours scanning career search engines and company websites, sending out a few resumes here and there…and then I would relax, read a book, sit in the backyard and get a tan, watch movies, take naps. I had quite the life, you might say. Student loans, cell phone bills and the prospect of a needing a new computer were hanging over my head, but no matter–I had time to nap. What working adult can say that?

But then I finally got through my server training and now my schedule has me waiting tables about 35 hours a week. I continued teaching swimming lessons to my neighbor as long as I could but I taught the last one last week. I still have my coffee in the mornings, but I don’t always have time to run or play around on the internet. Definitely no time to nap. And as soon as I got used to this new routine, I got an interview for an internship with a non-profit entertainment media company. I interviewed on a Thursday and on Monday, I got an email telling me I could come in to start the very next day. So now I’m interning two mornings a week and am able to keep working full time at the restaurant. Thankfully there are no more swim lessons.

I’m busy now, but grateful to have something to keep me occupied. Since the work schedules only come out the week before, I can only take my life one week at a time, but this suits me for now. I can still request some days off to visit my boyfriend or see a Steelers game. And let’s face it, too much time spent with the family would have started making me crazy after awhile.

So this little blurb is brought to you by a busy working girl to explain the lack of recent posts. And I have just gotten my new computer, so now I will be so excited to use it that you should probably expect a post every day. Or twice a day. Because it’s such a pretty little computer and I can’t let it just sit there.

My Big Fat Family Vacation

I just got back from my family vacation in Myrtle Beach. It was actually a smaller beach just south of there, called Garden City, but no one would know what I was talking about if I told them that. My family has been vacationing there every summer practically since I was born. My grandparents rent a huge house and we stuff in as many parents and kids as we can. There are 29 people total on my dad’s side of the family and recently we’ve usually had about 20 people in the house (after subtracting the busy kids who can’t make it). We’ve done the same kinds of “vacation-y” things every year. We lay out on the beach, jump the waves, swim in the pool, go goofy golfing (“put-put” for you non-Pittsburghers), play games at the arcade, and browse the cheap gift shops.

For the past three years or so, I keep saying that they might have to count me out of vacation. I kept thinking I wouldn’t be able to take a week off from my summer job or internship, or I’ve just been crossing my fingers that I’ll have something important happening that will start my career or change my life. And for the past three years or so, none of those things have been happening, so I’ve enjoyed all of my family’s vacations. This year was probably our last one because after 20-some years, we are just too big. Family vacations are always fun; it’s always great to get away from life at home (even if my life at home kind of is a vacation right now) and just spend some time at the beach. But we’ve been looking forward to the exact same thing year after year and all of a sudden, you realize that everyone is growing up.

All the families and all the kids used to come down to the beach. Now we’re missing a whole family and a spouse and a couple kids who have jobs. Kids used to be small enough to sleep together in beds or share with parents. But now, some kids refuse to share beds, others are just to big to share. We brought down like six air mattresses this year, because there weren’t quite enough places to sleep. We’ve got kids on the living room couch, some rolling down the hallway. It was just easier when they were babies.

I keep saying “kids” but what I really mean is “kids/teenagers in large adult bodies.” We practically needed to take out a loan just to go out to dinner, because these large adolescent boys can eat. The kitty for grocery money needed refilled more often than it used to. We went through six boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts in two days. No joke. (I am proud to say I resisted and only had one and a half the whole week.)

We used to get tired of the beach when we were little, so our parents would take us to Wild Water and Wheels or the Cheese Maze. But not every parent would want to go, of course, so those were the days when we would throw ten kids in a car, double-buckle and put some behind the backseat of the van. (I’m pretty sure the old “double-buckle” tactic would be highly frowned upon in today’s uptight, car-seat-till-they’re-ten world.)

When we were younger, the parents were very wary of explosive devices (for good reason). I remember the first time they let us have sparklers under the house. It was the best night at the beach ever. And as we got older, we just couldn’t be satisfied with tiny sparks that lasted two minutes. We had to get the big guns, and spend a small fortune on major fireworks that were probably not allowed on the beach anyway. We wanted to sit right next to them and the best part was when they shot off the wrong direction and almost hit someone! And then this year, we mentioned not doing the fireworks thing, especially since we’d just seen them on the 4th of July, and most of us were like, eh, whatever, I just want to get a tan.

And finally, the things we pack have changed so dramatically, I can hardly begin. We used to bring toys and shovels and buckets. We brought a craft box full of paper, markers and stickers for when we were tired of the sand. We brought paint to decorate our collections of shells, and movies that always got lost or taken home by the wrong family. We brought board games and GameBoys and Walkmans and CD players. We brought Barbies and action figures to play with in the car. All of these fun things have been replaced by umbrellas, chairs and shoes. (A pair of shoes to match each of the outfits we wanted to wear out, running shoes for our morning work outs, beach shoes for the hot sand, etc.) We don’t need toys or beach stuff anymore, all we need for entertainment for the whole week is a few books and an ipod. Instead of crafts, we pack chargers– phone charger, camera charger, ipod charger, Nook charger, computer charger. Instead of movies, we bring hair dryers and straighteners and make-up bags. But even though we’ve technically replaced things, we still can barely fit everything into the car to make the trip because we’re just so big! The boys knees are digging into the backs of the seats, their feet near my lap. My seat is pushed forward as far as it will go, but we still have no space because this year we needed three bags of golf clubs instead of one.

We had a great time at the beach, like we always do. We relaxed on the sand with books and ipods, we drank beer and went out to a really great local restaurant called the Hot Fish Club. We played cards and volleyball and got a little sunburned. And 72 donuts and one week later, we were saying goodbye to the beach all too soon. It’s too sad to think that this might have been our last year at the beach…but maybe we just need a bigger house.