Day 10 – Like coming home

I spend a lot of time reflecting on my college days, partly because I spend my days working with college students and partly because I tend to start feeling a little sentimental every time Stevie and I have been away from New York too long and I start itching to spend time with the people I miss every moment of every single day since we left the east coast ten-and-a-half years ago.

It’s hard to explain the connection I feel to this place without sounding overly nostalgic, but I always feel the need to try. I guess that’s just the writer in me–unable to deny that urge to try and put the giant surge of emotions down on paper and arrange the words in a way that might explain the way this place calls to me and why I remain so firmly tethered to the people we met and the connections I made there.

Going to college was my first step (a giant 1,500-mile step) away from my family and out on my own, and with that heady rush of newfound freedom and adventure came an almost paralyzing sense of self-doubt and isolation. Yet the first time I ever stepped foot on Concordia’s campus, I got the distinct feeling that I was coming home.

The families we come from are our default. They teach us how to love, how to fight, how to forgive. They give us our first sense of the world–its beauty and its chaos. The families we leave when we set out on our own will always be with us. They will always be part of us. But it’s the families we create for ourselves that truly reflect who we are and give shape to who we will become. The people we connect with, the people we return to and invest our time in are the people who reflect the very best of who we are, the very best of who we hope to be.

People matter. Connections matter. Kindness matters. Honesty matters. Love matters.

Everything else is just noise.

Day 5 – The best pizza in Lincoln

There were a lot of compromises when Stevie and I made the decision to leave New York. We left Stevie’s family, some of our best friends and most trusted mentors, and a whole lot of amazing food.

Every spot on the globe has something all its own when it comes to food–some signature dish or cuisine that is uniquely local and difficult to replicate. I think the one thing that differentiates New York is that the flavors of the world have quite literally migrated and established themselves in restaurants and bakeries and sidewalk stands and food trucks throughout the city. You could taste the world without ever leaving the five boroughs.

One of the things Stevie and I miss the most is the variety. After we started dating, we had a habit of hopping in the car and driving to Manhattan every Friday night for dinner. We had a favorite sushi restaurant, Yoko, in the West Village where we ate so often that we didn’t even need to order. The chefs knew our tastes and favorites, and would begin sending beautiful plates you couldn’t find on the menu over to our table as soon as we sat down. Other nights, we would just pick a flavor or type of cuisine, look up the name of some random restaurant that served it, and go.

We were never disappointed.

We haven’t been able to settle into quite the same routine since we left New York. Now that the kids are getting a little older (and Henry is finally entering the reasonable phase that follows the fit-throwing insanity of the two’s and early three’s), we’re hoping to get back to being adventurous. Sure, there aren’t nearly as many options here in Lincoln, but there is some really great food in this town and a lot of places we haven’t even had a chance to try yet.

The one food we have thoroughly tried here though (and have been thoroughly disappointed with) is the pizza.

Nobody does pizza like New York.

We tried every pizza place in Lincoln since moving here in 2011. Every. Single. One.

Lazzari’s was our frontrunner there for six months or so back in 2011-2012. Crust was almost true NY-style and the sauce was decent. Then one day the sauce started tasting a little too sweet. (Hear this now people, sauce should NEVER be sweet! You add pinches of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. That’s it. If it’s sweet AT ALL, you’re doing it wrong!) We tried again a few weeks later, sauce was still sweet and the crust was burned. One more try a few months after that and we had too-sweet sauce, overdone crust, and so much extra cheese piled on that the pizza slices were drooping in our hands even folded in half. Strike three. We’ve never gone back.

Yia Yia’s gets a pass because it’s unique, and they have some delicious flavor combinations. We dig it, but the ultra-thin cracker-like crust keeps us from classifying it as traditional pizza. It’s good, but we stick to small doses.

MoMo Pizzeria & Ristorante is the only place we will actually endorse. The pizzas you’ll find on the menu are Neopolitan style and wood-fired, and there are some really incredible flavors. Stevie has always been a fan of plain cheese pizza, but even he enjoyed sampling some of the unique toppings like Lobster & Shrimp Hollandaise and Prosciutto & Egg. One day, by chance, Stevie found that by asking the server if we could have just a plain cheese pizza for Cadence that he could get a smaller version of the closest to true NY-style pizza we’d found since leaving New York. Major props to MoMo (for both the pizza and for having hands down some of the finest food in Lincoln).

Still, because we just couldn’t seem to find any true NY-style pizza, I made it my mission to figure it out. And I did, back in 2015. You canĀ CLICK HERE to read all about it. Since then, we haven’t bothered to order to eat a pizza anywhere but in our own kitchen, and we don’t have a desire to.

Well…unless we hope a plane and head back to New York. In that case, we might have to make an exception.

Tonight, it was homemade pizza for dinner, and I couldn’t have been any prouder than the moment I looked across the table and saw my kids’ New York come out. Henry had a slice in each hand and was eating it almost as fast as I could make it, and Cadence was folding slices in half like a pro.

What can we say? We’ve taught them well.

Enough already

I don’t even know if I can pinpoint a beginning to the madness–a traffic cone or two, a few cryptic lines and arrows spray painted on the pavement. Then the trucks and the machines moved in and the men in the bright orange vests started closing lanes and digging holes in the concrete.

Nine Years and Nine Months

Nine years ago there was a massive rainstorm, a flooded apartment, a frenzied move, and an impromptu wedding in Pastor Schenkel’s office on Long Island. Stevie wore shorts and his blue flame Converse. I wore jeans and my flowered Doc Martens. We celebrated at the Candlelight Inn with hot wings and beer.

A little piece of perfection

We’ve still got a long way to go to find our new normal. That’s just how it goes when life throws so many things at you at once. And let me tell you, it’s been like some really twisted version of 52 Card Pick-Up around here since Christmas. Every time we think we’re gaining control and getting our deck stacked neatly, it gets wrested away from us and scattered all over again. But we’re holding on and hanging in there and we are actually starting to feel like we’re standing on solid ground again.

And after what we’ve been through these past few months, I’d say that’s one hell of an accomplishment.

I have to admit, though, it’s taking a little effort for us to relax, for me in particular (which seems really strange, because I’ve always been the one who is able to roll with the punches and just let things roll off). Maybe it’s because I’ve been running in high gear for so long. Or maybe it’s because my brain and my body just need a little time to finish processing all the stress. Either way, I’ve had to force myself to slow down this week. Several times I’ve had to stop myself and very deliberately shift into a lower gear, one where I could turn off all the worry and the frustration and the fear that keep making me feel way too anxious when all I really need to focus on right now is my husband and my hound and my two beautiful babies, because if there is any lesson I have learned from all of this, it’s that there is nothing in this whole world more important to me than the people I love.

Nothing.

So today, after Cadence got back from her movie playdate and we had a few hours to kill before we had to run and pick up my car from the shop, we made the executive decision to spent those hours soaking up some sun and enjoying the beautiful weather. March is spoiling us here in the heartland. And when you’re handed a little piece of perfection on a day like today, you better make it a priority to enjoy it.

And we did.

And it was awesome.

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The ‘Burbs

My favorite line from the old 1989 Tom Hanks movie, The ‘Burbs, is the one repeated by Corey Feldman’s character throughout the movie whenever something good or bad or crazy or unusual or hilarious happens in the neighborhood.

“God, I love this street! Of the

I think I have been waiting my whole life to feel that way. 

When I was young, we were always moving too much. I never really got too attached to any of the houses we lived in. Bird City was too small and claustrophobic. Holdrege was too cliquish and just never really felt like home. New York felt like home, but the apartments I lived in never did. Arizona was too hot and just never seemed to be the right fit. And the first house here in Lincoln was just too old (well, Stevie thought so anyway), and just seemed to be missing something.

And then we moved here, and I gotta say, it feels like home. It felt like home the minute we walked through the door and held the keys in our hand and, for me, that feeling only grew stronger the day we brought Henry home with us from the hospital. I love our house and our neighborhood and the little park that’s only a short walk away. I love the fact that we can actually go trick-or-treating through our own neighborhood , and that there is a little Par 3 golf course that we can join and play. I love that there are families that have grown up here, and a whole slew of new families like ours starting to move in. I love the fact that there is a steady stream of children chasing each other through the neighborhood every day after school and all summer long. I love the way the trees arch over the road like a canopy and that all of the houses are beautiful and unique.

Most of all, I love the fact that I have the opportunity to build a life here and raise my children here.

I guess I’ll just go ahead and say it…God, I love this street.