Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Life in a Weekend

Sometimes it feels like everything happens all at once. And this sentiment is often supported in clichés: When it rains, it pours, When God shuts a door, he opens a window, etc.

I was recently caught up in the nittiest, grittiest versions of one of these spells. My car was hit in a parking lot (thankfully, I wasn’t in it), my hard drive crashed and burned (even the guy at the Genius Bar said, “Oh, that’s really bad.”), I changed jobs and I suddenly had to find a new apartment. I complained and I was annoyed. And, I bet, I was also pretty annoying — because who likes a complainer?

I was also weighted with the stress of traveling home for the whirlwind wedding weekend of my fiancé’s sister. I was very excited about the actual wedding, but telecommuting for work was proving difficult without a hard drive and we weren’t sure if the car was drivable to the airport and we would only have days to pack the apartment upon our return, and there were one hundred other questions piling up about work, life and where to live.

A week before the trip, my cousin had a baby and I was excited to add, “visit beautiful baby” to the itinerary.  Then, just days before the trip, my uncle, who had been battling an illness, passed away. I felt very guilty that my flight, long on the books, had me landing in the middle of the funeral. The logistics of changing the flight and attending the funeral were unbeatable. 

I was navigating a family loss and additions in one weekend. While I am being added to my fiancé’s family in November, I felt honored to be part of the group welcoming my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s new husband. In a way, this wasn’t just a weekend where we gained the groom, but I felt I had already gained a new extended family as we celebrated the couple together, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents — the whole shebang. I also found a moment in the wedding festivities to pick up my own wedding dress and bring it to the seamstress.

That’s the thing about living far away. You squeeze in everything you can on visits home. Sometimes, it’s seeing the family dentist out of convenience and, for me, it’s been wedding plans on my last few trips home. This rigid scheduling can be hard when all you want to do is grab froyo with your best friend and watch Netflix guilty pleasures with your mom.

Add life events to your trip, and you won’t have a moment to yourself. But that’s ok because going home is its own therapeutic vortex.

Considering additions on this most recent trip, I welcomed my cousin’s beautiful new baby girl. The wedding was on Sunday night and Monday morning I went to my cousin’s home and met a very new and delicate member of the family. I haven’t been around a lot of new babies, but Camellia (isn’t that a lovely name?!) was small and strong and so full of love. It was so beautiful to see my cousin in a new role. Her house was now a family home. And the visit was very happy. The big happy pink hydrangeas from the day before’s centerpieces brightened my cousin’s home and looked like they had been intended for the new little girl all along.

I picked up some maroon potted flowers that my dad thought would look nice in his sister’s garden. We went to my aunt’s house and visited with her and my cousins. There was coffee like always and lots of talk about new babies and weddings like always (a big family is often fodder for happy gossip). But, the visit, like all visits after a loss, had a cloud of sadness. Though, for the moment, we were simply enjoying togetherness and catching up.

The weekend was beautiful. And fulfilling. And sad. While I know not every weekend is so full of life, thank goodness, it made me wonder what else I miss living so far from home. There is a wholeness that I feel on my trips back to Louisiana. And, when life is good in Pennsylvania, I don’t always feel the void. Though there is always a small ache in living away. There’s a twinge when you realize you have to consult a map to go anywhere in a city where you are a new resident. A coldness when you don’t intuitively expect the seasonal weather. A loneliness when you feel you’ve exhausted new friends. And, a pang on Mother’s Day when you realize mom is two flights away.

While there is adventure in uncertainty and excitement in discovering new cities, there’s no place like home.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

National Geographic Photo Walk in Pittsburgh's Strip District

This weekend National Geographic Your Shot hosted a photo walk and workshop in the Pittsburgh Strip District. Local photographers could meet up and go on a guided photo walk with bona fide National Geographic photographers. I am not a photographer, but I heard about the event through the grapevine as a Nat Geo contractor and Young Explorer. I have always wanted to learn more about photography and have used this blog in the past as a way to push myself. I threw myself into the deep end with the photo walk. And, though my pictures aren't technically the best (some of the people at this meet up were amazing!), it was really fun to step outside my comfort zone and try something new. It was my first time shooting manual. And, it was the first time I walked around with the sole purpose of taking pictures. 

For my final assignment at the workshop, I took pictures in one of my favorite Strip District bakeries, Colangelo's ... in the kitchen.  It was a little bit trial by fire. But, I got one shot that I really like, I call it, "Take the cannoli" ;) 

Thanks so much to Colangelo's for letting me in behind the scenes! Thanks to Grandpa Joe's Candy, S&D Polish Deli and many other people and businesses in the Strip for putting up with me and my clumsy picture taking! And a big thank you to Your Shot for hosting the event! 

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