A Less-Than-Ideal Christmas

Let me be honest: looking forward to Christmas this year has been a huge struggle for me. Not slight, not moderate, but a huge struggle. My husband would tell you that I woke up the morning after Thanksgiving and cried because of Christmas. True story.

It’s just been a tough pill to swallow: our first married Christmas, my first Christmas away from my family, and we will be in Brooklyn … alone, with Logan working on Christmas Day (can we all please boycott sporting events on holidays?? Thank you.). Even thinking about how to plan for Christmas has just depressed me. How can I plan Christmas Eve when Christmas Eve has always meant church and appetizers and presents with my family?? How can I plan a Christmas morning that consists of me and a cat?? As I told Logan tearfully, as he sweetly, patiently looked up fun Christmas activities for us to do… I just have no framework for this! 

In all reality… I’ve been having a big fat Italian pity party. A gigantic pity party. Yes, I know that we’ve been blessed beyond imagination. Yes, I know that there are tons of people out there with way WAYYYY worse scenarios. But for some reason, I’ve been really unable to get past these entitled, sad feelings.

A huge thing I’m leaving out is those all-important first six letters of Christmas and totally neglecting to consider the meaning of this holiday. It might as well be called Emilymas for the way I’ve been moping around like a martyr.

Today I finally decided to drag myself off the couch and actually pray about this and read the Bible. The praying just turned into crying and entitlement, so I stopped praying and turned to the Bible and started reading the stories of Christ’s birth. I mean, that’s a good way to prepare for Christmas, right??

I read the account in Matthew… and Mark…and finally turned to Luke. Luke has a much more detailed account of the events leading up to Jesus’ birth, including Mary finding out she was going to have a baby. As I read her story and her joyful response to this news, it hit me that this really was not ideal for Mary. Not ideal at all. She’s engaged to be married and she gets pregnant!? Does God really want her to go through that embarrassment!?

Then as the story goes onto Jesus’ birth, he has to be born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough. Now that is really not ideal. Can you imagine a pregnant woman today giving birth in a pig pen and then setting her baby in a feeding trough?? And being joyful about it??

This is the thought that then hit me: God used less-than-ideal circumstances for His perfect plan. He used a less-than-ideal situation and chain of events to bring his story of redemption into the world.

If that is the case, where do these holiday pressures come from?? Why are the holidays filled with so many expectations?? Why do I think that I need to have the perfect Christmas, go to exactly 3.5  Christmas parties with my husband on my arm, have the very perfect Christmas morning huddled around the tree sipping cocoa and wearing festive pajamas? Not only is God bigger than the less-than-ideal circumstances, but he does his best work within them. What a humbling thought.

Friends have encouraged me to find some good distractions this Christmas to focus on something outside of myself… crafting, baking, volunteering. I think all of those things are great, but before I can do any of those things, I need to come to accept things for how they are and find joy instead of putting a band-aid on.

I am so grateful to know a God that works in less-than-ideal circumstances.

I’m so grateful that God sent his son to cover my sin and my entitlement, selfishness, and whiney days like today.

I’m so grateful that God doesn’t require my life to be picture perfect to work in and through me.

My prayer this Christmas is that God would grow me closer to Him through these less-than-ideal circumstances and grow in me a faith like Mary’s.

Luke 1:45 “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”

 Luke 2:49 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

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How to Live in a 1890s Walk-Up

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, y’all! Yes, I’m holding onto the y’all to keep the southern charm alive.

Sorry it’s been awhile since I posted. Things got a little crazy with Thanksgiving, a few rounds of visitors, and now Christmas is knocking at our door. And of course, when I say “our door,” I mean the double-deadbolted door of our 650 square foot fourth-floor walk-up.

Anyway, the past month has been filled with interesting moments involving our living arrangements, so I thought I’d divulge some of our finest moments.

Our little home

Our little home

We live in a building that was built before 1900. I’ve heard people call it a pre-war building, but then I read that “pre-war” means elevator, and we definitely do not have an elevator. Pre-war buildings are known for their high ceilings, hardwood floors, and charm. They should also be known for their archaic heating and plumbing systems.

What? You're hot? No problem! Let me adjust the thermostat.

What? You’re hot? No problem! Let me adjust the thermostat.

1) Heat: Our heat in this building is definitely extreme. Either we have no heat on a 38-degree night, or we have it blowing full blown on Thanksgiving when it’s 55 degrees out. There is really no telling. It took about the first month of the cold season to actually get our heat consistently on, but now that it’s on… it is HOT. It’s steam heat, and there is absolutely no way to regulate it. Our thermostat is the number of windows we open to let some cold air in. Seeing that my husband refers to me as “the human furnace,” you can guess how the heat agrees with me. The heaters also have a distinctive HISS. My parents visited last weekend and wondered how we sleep with the heat hissing on and off all night. What can I say? It’s a gift!

Even sweet Peaches knows how to stay comfortable in this sauna.

Even sweet Peaches knows the way to stay comfortable!

2) Plumbing: We’ve had a little bit of a draining issue in our bathtub. It seems okay when we moved it, but we noticed that taking a shower was more like taking a bath. The water would pool up to our ankles and the bathtub would take a good 10 minutes to drain after a shower. It was so frustrating. I tried Draino at least three times. I tried plunging the drain. Nothing worked for months.

The gateway to luxury bathing

The gateway to luxury bathing

I finally called the landlord to get it looked at. The man came, and it turns out that there is this obscure little metal thing between the tub and the sink (hidden behind our shower curtain) that controls the bath. This is very deceiving, because the tub itself has the little lever like my childhood bathtub.

Needless to say, I felt like an idiot when he made a slight adjustment and it flowed freely. I said, “You have made us SO HAPPY!!!!!!!!!” and held back from hugging our 70-yr-old Haitian maintenance man.

The good news is that now the shower feels like a luxury without water gathering around our ankles!

 

3) Renovations: It seems that these buildings have certain stylistic qualities. For example, exposed wooden beams. We have two beams in our bedroom ceiling. We’ve always kind of noticed that one seems to be sagging a little, but figured the gigantic bolts had it stabilized. A few weeks ago, Logan said he heard a cracking noise and said that the beam had pulled down even more from the ceiling! For fear of death by blunt-force trauma, I spent not one, not two, but three nights on the couch sleeping with Peaches (“sleeping” being a very loose term for what you experience when a cat wakes you up every few hours by repositioning herself on your face, stomach, feet, etc.).

The killer beams of November 2012

The treacherous beams of November 2012

 

It took the landlord two days to come look, and then an additional day for a handyman to come out with a ladder tall enough to reach our high ceiling. This is the best part: the beam is STYROFOAM. Yes, I slept on the couch for three nights because of a styrofoam threat. They are just styled and painted to look authentic. Note: my dear husband didn’t abandon me to the couch. He offered his side of the bed, so I could sleep in safety, but of course I didn’t want him to die by being brave and sleeping under the killer beam. 

I think that’s about it for the housing updates. Sorry that was so long. Apparently I have a lot of pent up energy after six weeks of not writing. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holidays!! The three of us will be holding down the fort here in Brooklyn … hopefully without gathering any more material for the ol’ blog.

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Breast Cancer Awareness

You probably haven’t noticed my absence, but my last post was September 28th. I pretty much missed the entire month of October, which, in a way, I feel like I did miss the month of October.

ImageMy mom was diagnosed with breast cancer on October 8th. For the second time. She had breast cancer a little under five years ago. Needless to say, routine mammograms are a source of high anxiety. My mom went for her routine mammogram on October 4th, and they found something. She had a biopsy on October 5th, and on October 8th, she found out that it was cancer. Again. 
 
The thing about cancer is that it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you had cancer already and had your “turn.” It doesn’t care if you are only 49 or 53 years old. It doesn’t care that you’ve watched friends and neighbors die from this disease
 
My first response was incredible sadness and anger. Why MY mom? Why is she having to go through this again? I also felt angry with God. Why would he let this happen again?? I know he can heal, but what if he doesn’t? Once I got past the initial angry feelings, I was able to see God’s hand and his goodness and be grateful amidst this situation. 
 
Grateful that we have now have friends and support in NYC. 
 
Grateful that I had the freedom and ability to go to NC for 12 days and help my mom during and after surgery.
 
Grateful that they caught the cancer early and labelled it a Stage 0. 
 
I have to focus on the little signs of God’s faithfulness, because if I see the big picture of how much has happened in the past six months, I can be easily overwhelmed. 
 
My mom is an incredibly strong woman. I am so proud of her faith and courage in the face of this trial. Only someone as sweet as my mom would say, “Am I complaining too much?” after a major surgery. 
 
Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful that breast cancer has so much support and visibility. But imagine for a moment that it was you that had cancer, and every single place you went was a reminder of that. Pink ribbons. Pink kitchen utensils. Requests for donations. Teams wearing pink jerseys. Tons of commercials. It’s a constant reminder of the cancer that invaded your body.
 
Breast cancer awareness month? 
 
I’m aware. 
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The Reason We Moved

I tend to be a little calendar obsessive. I’m a date-driven person… anniversaries, birthdays, first kisses, first glances, everything. For many months, April 28th (our wedding day) was the big end date on my calendar. Then it quickly shifted to September 28th: the opening of Barclays Center.

To some of you, this means nothing. To others of you (Brooklyn friends), it elicits polarized feelings. To me, it was the driving force behind our decision (four weeks from our wedding) to move to Brooklyn 36 hours after returning from our honeymoon. It was an unexpected opportunity and whirlwind that I’m so grateful for.

 

As we’ve settled in over the past few months, our life has had the undercurrent of anticipating this date. I’ve watched my husband go from his first day to his 100th day at work (and this month, his 16+ hour days).  I could not be more proud of him for taking on this position and for handling it with such grace, poise, and diligence. I am a lucky lady.

Tonight, Jay-Z takes the stage at the Barclays Center for the first of eight sold-out performances. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to a show, but I am so excited for this milestone in our first year of marriage. I’m crossing my fingers that Brooklyn will soon discover country music. Lady Antebellum, I’m talking to you.

On an unrelated note, my small group leader pointed out that Barclays Center sits RIGHT  where four different Brooklyn neighborhoods meet (Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Park Slope (our home), and Boerum Hill). It’s meant to be.

In honor of the arena opening, Jay-Z, our new home, and five months of marriage with my amazing husband (who LOVES to sing this song) … I leave you with, Empire State of Mind.

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The Test Kitchen of Emily Meier

For those of you that know me, you know that I have a wonderful older sister, Melissa. She’s a little over two years older than me, but she got married earlier than I did. So she’s been honing what I like to call wife skills.

Not only is she having a baby boy in October (!!!!!!!!!!), but she also manages to work a demanding full-time job as the Director of Catering at a fancy hotel, sew for her Etsy shop, and keep up a cooking blog that gets 10,000 hits a day. Let’s just say that I’ve maintained my sense of confidence by being the cute little chunky one (see photo below).

Needless to say, she leaves BIG (and many) shoes to fill. I’ve always looked up to her because she’s always one step ahead of me. Lately, this involves bothering her mercilessly about cooking/recipes/etc. My mom is an incredible cook and passed along her recipes to us, and now Melis is the Martha Stewart that researches and creates all of these fancy meals.

Last night I was texting her about my latest cooking-related mishaps, and she told me that I should write a blog titled “The Test Kitchen of Emily Meier” as a spoof of hers, The Test Kitchen of Melissa Fallis.

So here we go… advice straight from the kitchen of Emily Meier:

My arch nemesis

1) Never grab an Oxo container from the top unless you are completely certain that it sealed. If you do, and it’s not sealed, you might just dump sugar all over your pantry. And it might just fall down (hour-glass style) through all of the cracks and you can hear it hitting the plastic bags you store in the bottom. This is based on personal experience from this morning (mess yet to be cleaned up).

2) There IS a difference between confectioners sugar and regular sugar, and your baked good might turn out a little wrong if you confuse the two (confectioners = fancy name for POWDERED). Rookie mistake a few years ago.

3) You cannot freeze lettuce. No matter how tempting it might seem if you only use lettuce little bits at a time, don’t try it.

4) You should not stir fry with Pam. Olive oil only, people. It should be a clue to you if you have to open the windows because your house gets smoky whenever you try to cook one meal (pre-marriage mistake).

5) Always check to make sure you have your wallet before you do your grocery shopping for the week (yup, that was last night).

6) For you city folks, never buy more than you can carry. Your paper Trader Joe’s bags might just rip, and you might be awkwardly on a busy sidewalk in downtown Brooklyn with your groceries dangerously in limbo.

7) Mashing chicken with a fork first is a great way to shred it if you’re too impatient to do the with-the-grain slow method.

Jokes aside, I’d say I’m a pretty decent cook. I try to make a variety of meals, family favorites and new recipes. I think I’m just a little clumsy or something. Who knows.

This is where the magic happens.

Time to go make chocolate chip cheesecake bars! Here’s to hoping that there won’t be a second installment of this post… this afternoon.

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The Little Things

I’m sitting here at a Starbucks off Broadway and 26th Street passing the time between two commitments in Midtown. New York is feeling more and more comfortable, that’s for sure. I walked out of an interview today, over one avenue, and I was standing near Times Square. No big deal, right? It’s weird how there comes a point when even Times Square seems familiar.

When you move to a city like this, there are a lot of things you anticipate changing, but there are also a ton of tiny things you don’t really think about until this become your new lifestyle.

The convenience of a car is not just about transportation. It’s also about storage while you are out and about. Examples: 1) Say you want to go out and run a bunch of errands. You can’t really do that unless you can carry everything. 2) How about when you want to do some freelance work on the hour-long train ride to Yankee Stadium? You can’t, because laptops are forbidden in the stadium and you don’t have a trunk to store it in. 3) Or let’s say you have an interview in the city with just a few hours before you have other plans. Do you have anywhere to store a change of clothes? Not so much, unless you want to carry a huge bag into your interview. So instead you just carry around your heels and suit jacket the rest of the night and wear your Fast Flats. Clearly.

Talking in transit is nearly eliminated. Making phone calls on my commute to and from everywhere was a huge part of my Raleigh routine. Driving from Raleigh to Durham? Perfect 20 minutes to make a call! Driving down to the beach? Perfect few hours to call my Grandma and sing hymns, or call Jess or Kim. Cell phones don’t work on the subway, and even if they did, no one wants to listen to your conversation. You can’t really call people on the way to the subway because after 9 minutes, you’re like “Well, thanks for entertaining me, but I’m heading underground now!”  (My mom is probably the one kind soul that puts up with this treatment). Once in awhile, I’ll call on the other end of the ride, but even then the talk time is limited. And who really wants to listen to me huff and puff as I carry my stuff up to the 4th floor?? Or have the, “Oh sorry about the sirens/loud truck/loud people/loud noises/distractedness!” disclaimer.

You also lose the quality chat time that car rides usually provide with friends/family. I realized this when Logan and I went back to Nebraska and had a 4-hour drive in the rental car. I miss our car conversations, as silly as that sounds, since we spend tons of time together. The subway is so distracting. And so PUBLIC.

Now that I’ve gone over some of the unexpected things that have forced me to change up my routine, here are a few little things that I love.

1) Sitting on the roof with my hubs, drinking beer and looking at the beautiful skyline.
2) Reading. Tons of time to read.
3) Finding out the traditions of a new place. Like that the grounds crew for the Yankees does the YMCA.
4) Being able to help lost tourists on the subway.
5) Walking the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset.
6) When someone asks about my barely-there Southern accent.

Happy Monday, y’all!

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Living the Dream as a Tri-State Resident

It’s about time I actually posted something about states that touch, eh??

Amidst all of the excitement, adjustment, and chaos … I’ve totally neglected a glaring point that is of utmost importance to this blog. I currently live (driving) about 7.5* miles from New Jersey, 36* miles from Connecticut, and 77* miles from Pennsylvania [*all of these values are based on my arbitrary eyeball estimates on Google Maps].

I could have never dreamed of being this close to so many other states at once while I was living in North Carolina. Frankly, I’m not sure how I sleep at night. Oh wait, maybe that’s our new, highly vocal cat (name TBD).

The feline formerly known as Maria. Her previous name incited one too many broadway musical numbers.

In my three months here, I’ve had a few highly memorable state-touching days.

This is not a photo of us. It is from the River Country website. I didn’t want to get my phone or camera wet, clearly.

1) Tubing: We went with a friend of ours and her crew tubing down the Delaware River. Not only did this day include driving from New York, through New Jersey, to Pennslyvania, but we actually tubed ON the border for at least three hours. Right when I thought standing at roadside border signs was the epitome of state-touching goodness, I realized I totally forgot about RIVERS. It’s genius.

2) Outlet shopping: Yesterday I went outlet shopping.  In order to get to this outlet mall in New York, we had to drive out of NY, through New Jersey, and back into New York.

3) Staten Island Ferry: Okay. I might be dreaming this one, and I need to do some research. BUT, while I was riding the Staten Island Ferry, I (obviously) pulled out my trusty iPhone to watch that faithful green dot on the map. What!? What is that I see?? The green dot is following the New York/New Jersey border perfectly. Could it be true? Does the Staten Island Ferry run ON the state line?? 

I can’t wait to see how many states we manage to visit while we live here. Rhode Island? Vermont? Maine? The sky is the limit!

Actually … Canada is the limit, unless we bring our passports.

 

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The Uprooted Extrovert

I think it’s finally starting to hit me that this is not a temporary move. It’s indefinite. The first few months were filled with newness, looking for an apartment, busyness, visitors, unpacking, etc., but the novelty of all of that is starting to wear off. My blog normally consists of my silly experiences living in a new city, but today I just wanted to “be real,” as my lovely old roommate would put it.

I’ve never lived farther than 25 minutes away from my parents.

I’ve never lived outside of a 30-mile radius. 

My best friends are friends I’ve known for more than 10 years. 

My life has always had this way of transitioning easily, always meeting groups of people that would help usher me in to the next stage: connecting with older UNC students while working at a summer camp prior to my freshman year at college … joining a bible study of other girls in the choir as I graduated college and entered adult life. It’s always been a pretty seamless transition. 

This transition has been a bit different. I have my wonderful, kind, incredibly patient husband, and a smattering of people that I know throughout the city. Yes, I have met wonderful people and am so grateful for that, but I miss the old soft shoe relationships and familiarity of Raleigh.

I know we are supposed to be here and that God has great purpose for this season. Maybe it’s to teach me that my worth and value aren’t found in busyness and in people. Or in a job. Or a google calendar that is jam packed three months out. 

I am going to wait hopefully to see what God has in store for me here, and right now that might just be one thing: contentment. 

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The Grievances of My Feet

Dear Emily,

We’re not sure what we did to deserve this torture. A bad day six months ago consisted of when you’d accidentally wear heels on days you needed to run some errands after work. Now a bad day… is REALLY BAD.

First of all, what happened to your car?? Remember that?? We used to push the gas and the brake pedals so faithfully. It seems like you’ve traded it in for a new walking lifestyle.   You know, it’s probably good for us to get out a little more and be more mobile, but could you have given us some warning or something? We thought that week in Mexico on the beach was a nice break for us from those long 8-hour days sitting at your desk, but boy were we wrong.

Second of all, can we please discuss your shoes? The flip flops are okay for short trips, but not for marathon days of walking. We get caught on things, stubbed, and rubbed raw. Dirt and dog pee coat us to the point of you having to wash your feet when you return home. One day, you put tennis shoes on us and we thought we finally had hope, but then we heard you tell someone you’d only wear tennis shoes with athletic clothes (which is roughly equal to 0.04% of the time).

We’re also confused that back in NC, you used to get pedicures when we barely worked at ALL, and now you work us to the bone and there is no reward. What happened to the massages?? The hot stones??

We spend our days gazing across the sidewalk and the subway floors wondering how the other feet feel. Sometimes it’s relief: “That woman has no regard for her feet in those 5-inch heels!” Sometimes it’s envy: “Why won’t Emily wear tennis shoes with  dresses like that group of tourists over there?”

All complaints aside, we are grateful for the rain boots. And we think that you should start considering your husband’s pleas for a Vespa. Think about it.

With regards,

Your feet

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Two Months in Brooklyn: President Obama, Visitors, & Coney Island

Today marks exactly two months of living in Brooklyn! It actually feels like a lot longer, probably since we’ve done so much in the past two months!

Overall, it has been a wonderful month of just settling in.

I love our new neighborhood (Park Slope) and just figuring out life here. I also love googling which famous people have lived and still live here. Barack Obama lived on our exact same street right after he graduated college in the 1980s!

 

Logan and I had a great 4th of July at Coney Island followed by watching the Macy’s fireworks show from our roof.

I was very blessed to have both my mom and my sister come to visit and experience our new surroundings.

Although I have my disgruntled moments with how difficult the little things seem to be here, I am really loving living in this new city and building our marriage with only each other to depend on.

Let’s revisit my goals for the past month and see how I did:

  1. Move into our apartment. 

    We moved into our place on June 9th! Thank goodness for movers, that’s all I’m saying. We have slowly gotten unpacked and more settled. We got AC after the first week, my wonderful mom came to visit and helped us unpack/organize, and now we’re just waiting on our couch to arrive and need to hang some stuff on the walls! Almost there.

  2. Start the process of looking for a job.

    I didn’t meet this one, unless you count casually perusing craigslist amidst trying to accomplish 1,000 other things. This goal will have to move to month three. Thank goodness that I’m still working part time for my old company!! It’s such a blessing to have a flexible job right now.

  3. Make one new friend that I didn’t know before.

    This goal has been met over and above. We’ve met two couples on our floor that are a blast, and both of those women are also at home during the days. Through a very distant connection, I met another newlywed and newcomer to Brooklyn. It’s fun to have someone to do the post-wedding things with… like make a morning out of Crate & Barrel and Bed Bath & Beyond returns! I joined a small group of girls that live all over NYC and go to all different churches in reading a book over the summer. I’m definitely a girls girl at heart, so it’s nice to be starting some friendships here!

  4. Buy one hipster item.

    I thought this dress was kind of hipsterish when paired with my red Toms, but my sister and hubs said I probably need some sort of accessory. You know, like giant glasses or a scarf (in July).

    Maybe I should just stick to classic, Southern girl.

    How about that awesome fluorescent, Subway station lighting in this photo??

  5. Ride the Staten Island ferry.

    YES!! Such a beautiful view! And you can’t beat FREE.

  6. Legally change my name to Emily Bucci Meier.

    Well, it depends where you look.

    My Social Security card says Emily Bucci Meier. My future driver’s license will say Emily Lynn Meier, because New York won’t accept a maiden name as a middle name unless you jump through a lot of hoops (which I conveniently realized after 3.5 hours at the DMV yesterday). So I’m not actually sure what my legal name is right now!

  7. Open wedding gifts
  8. Start writing thank you notes (oh dear).

    EEK! What’s the rule again? Six months??

Goals for month three:

  1. Start the process of looking for a job.
  2. Get a cute interview outfit. Cute is a must.
  3. Start writing thank-you notes.
  4. No Box Left Behind (find a spot for the things in the few remaining boxes).
  5. Bake something new using my shiny, new KitchenAid.
  6. Finish the third Hunger Games book. Very important.
  7. Get a job being the only kind person at the DMV. Just kidding, I wouldn’t last one day.
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