Best Nine of 2019

I love the trend of posting your best nine pics of a given year. Not only is it a chance to revisit some excellent memories and gather them all into one collage (remember making actual collages in the 90s, pasting together photos and stickers and ticket stubs? Am I dating myself?), but pulling together nine pictures from across a year reminds you just how blessed you are.

Maybe I’ve just had an extraordinarily *good* year. Maybe I’m just getting better at seeing the positives. Either way, this year I struggled to narrow down my 2019 experiences into nine thumbnail-sized shots. So what are blogs for, if not reminiscing?

At the beginning of the year, we got a perfect snow in St. Louis–enough to disrupt work for a day, not enough to put us on lockdown. One of the neighborhood restaurants opened its patio that night and provided free spiked hot chocolate/hot toddies around fire pits. Such a midwestern thing to do, and such spontaneous, snowy fun!

We also went to our first (and only) musical at the Fox Theatre while in the Lou. Fiddler on the Roof was every bit as magical as I remember it being when I watched it on VHS in middle school (moreso, since it was live, and I was old enough to appreciate what was going on in the story–I did NOT realize how dark it gets in Act II!).

Taking advantage of our location, we did a long weekend in the other Lou–touring bourbon distilleries, appreciating the baseball history, and visiting Churchill Downs. Louisville remains one of my favorite trips we’ve taken, and I can’t wait to visit again!

2019 saw the first newborn member inducted into the Olin Boys’ Club, as well as a whole host of get-togethers and adventures with our b-school buddies. These include Olin’s formal, graduation, and a trip to the Ozarks, to feature a few. The hubs turned 30, which we celebrated with bowling followed by a rooftop bar.

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We also enjoyed adult beverages in the street, because St. Louis.

We visited Chicago and continued an hour north to see Milwaukee (my favorite of the small cities we’ve visited since moving to St. Louis). We popped home in time to watch the Blues win the Stanley Cup. Then began our journey east.

After a pit stop in Indianapolis (and another, not-pictured, in Pittsburgh), we made it to our new home in DC. I worked on polishing my manuscript and query materials, and began seeking agent representation for my novel.

My brother visited during his (too) brief tour of the US before returning to Korea. I bravely (for me) explored DC on my own, between job-hunting and writing. And my in-laws (after at least 8 years of talking about it) *finally* bought a home in Old Town.

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We made it out to Rehoboth Beach, where we discovered we’re no longer used to the brilliance of a sun reflecting off ocean waves.

An agent responded to one of my queries, complimenting my writing sample and requesting more. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire walk home from our new favorite pizza place. My husband bought a car (unrelated, but almost as exciting for him).

Dear friends tied the knot. Others have growing families. I turned 30.

And celebrated with a parade. Okay, that was for the Nationals, since they won the World Series and all. I started a new job with a fun group of people. I watched so much Great British Baking Show that I was inspired…

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The challah that started it all!

I spent time with those adorable faces (and equally adorable sister- and brother-in-law, not pictured). I baked a lot more delicious stuff. Turns out, I’m a baker! #challahatyagirl

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As the year winds down, holiday parties are filling the calendar. Crazy to think there’s only a week left in 2019, and in the 2010s! What a decade it was. Here’s to the memories, friendships, and epic life changes!

And to 2020: No pressure. 😉

Thanks to This Blog, I Found Out my Husband is Afraid of the Same Movie

The other day we were walking up the stairs and he mentioned ever so casually that “Darkness Falls scared me too. I still think about every so often when I realize I’m standing in the dark.” And I was like *yay I’m not the only loser still deeply affected by a horror film about tooth fairies* and then I thought wait, how did I not know this until now? and THEN I realized: “Hey! You read my blog post!” which shouldn’t have been surprising because he always does read them. He’s just been so busy with school and applying for jobs and carefully not mentioning reading my blog because then I’ll ask if he’s read the most recent book chapter I’ve sent him and really passive aggressively mention something along the lines of “so much for reading a chapter a day, huh?” and he’ll feel guilty because he loves me but hates reading apparently, and I’ll feel guilty for feeling pleased that I made him feel guilty and it’s just a whole big thing.

 

My Husband Loves His Parents so Much it’s Both Adorable and Maddening

Guys, he just invited them along on our mini spring break trip. We’re stuck in the middle of a crazy midwest winter, so we’ve been discussing a long weekend somewhere warm and new and easily accessible given our central location in St. Louis (think: Dallas, New Orleans, Phoenix, Santa Fe…)

But we are both beach people, and it only took one mention of palm trees and warm sands for us to agree we’d love a beach trip if we could swing one. This led to me suggesting places like the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, and him to look into Bermuda–a locale where he made many a happy childhood memory.

A quick Google search showed reasonable prices–too reasonable. He HAD to call his parents to find out if the places they’d splurge on might have gone downhill. One conversation with his father later, and I’m pretty sure we’re all going to do a long weekend in Bermuda in March to take advantage of the great off-season pricing.

To reiterate: my husband just invited his parents on our romantic getaway. Fortunately for him (and my sanity) I think it’s absolutely adorable that he and his dad are such good buddies they discussed a whole fun adventure before remembering that their wives might want to tag along.

Lou Brew Reviews: 4Hands, Round 2

We recently revisited 4Hands in downtown St. Louis, and it was a lot of fun! My husband and I are big fans of their Single Speed blonde ale, but we also like City Wide (he the pils, me the pale ale).

My parents were in town and we wanted to give them a bit of the local beer scene flavor. We were going to do Schlafly (their tours are pretty fun and as I’ve said, their beer selection is fantastic), but they were setting up for a big weekend to-do. We ended up at 4Hands, because I like their beers and I remembered it was a fun atmosphere.

Mom and I loved the On Cue–Himalayan salt, cucumber, and hibiscus–but the men did NOT (the enjoyed their pilsners and free arcade games). Dad had a great time crushing it on Galaga while Mom and I played skee ball (even if it took us a little while to realize we had to push “start” for our points to start counting…). We giggled a lot and I may have panicked and way over-tipped the bartender at one point (you’re welcome for that 60% tip, sir) and it was a great time.

Something I think we figured out last time but forgot this go round: they have different drinks at the downstairs bar and the upstairs bar, but your tab is accessible through either. Just something to keep in mind if you start a tab downstairs then head up to the game area and decide to try a beer up there!

Ephesians 5:25

“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives…”
~Ephesians 5:25-28 MSG

The first time I heard this verse, this way, it broke my heart. I’d all but convinced myself I expected too much from the idea of “true love,” that real life looks nothing like the novels or movies I love. I was ready to settle for a faded out shade of love offered by a boy whose brokenness only sharpened my own.

Then I heard those words, and it captured perfectly what I’d wanted my whole life. Here was proof I wasn’t being completely unrealistic in my hopes for a love that lifts up without first tearing down.

I wrote my favorite snippet on an index card and hung it up over my computer: His words evoke her beauty. And I resolved to believe that sort of love was waiting for me.

It wasn’t some magical, life-altering thing. I didn’t end my current relationship — not right away. I wanted still to believe it could happen between us. And when we fell apart completely, I was hollowed out and worried I’d missed my chance.

When I met my husband, he made it very clear from the moment he said hello that he was interested in me. He wooed me like an oldfashioned gentleman, with gifts left outside my door and little notes just to say he was thinking of me. He made me feel wanted and adored and powerful, and not just with him, or because of him. I felt like the whole world should be able to see me that way, too. I’d never experienced anything like him, and I couldn’t find the words to explain just how amazing I felt.

Sometime in those early weeks, I opened a drawer I hadn’t since moving to my new apartment, and right on top sat an index card a hopeful me had scribbled more than two years earlier. His words evoke her beauty.

That’s how he loved me, even before he’d admitted those three words. That’s how he loves me still, seven years after our first date.

Rambling Review: A Quiet Place

This is — obviously — not a book review, but I just saw A Quiet Place this weekend and I want to tell everyone about it.

It was SO good. I DO NOT do horror movies — my imagination is over-active enough as it is, thankyouverymuch — so believe me when I say everyone should see this movie (yes, Mom, even you). Sure, it is suspenseful. There are a those sudden “jump out” scenes. There are flashes of gore (very brief, and I’d say almost tastefully done). So much of the movie is spent feeling a chill creep up your spine, feeling each tiny hair on the back of your neck stand up in that delicious anticipation of terror. Don’t get me wrong, this movie definitely has those elements that make great horror movies (I assume, as like I said: NOT my thing).

But there is such a depth to the story as well. The premise is fairly simple: sound = death. There are creatures who hunt solely by sound, so the family has to live in silence. Because of this, the viewer gets to interpret the story in their own way, more so than in most movies. Actions truly do speak louder than words, and the beauty of the story is found in the facial expressions, in gestures and sign language. A life lived on mute makes everything more profound — both the joys and the pains.

I was afraid I’d be terrified to make noise the whole time, but there was a comfort in the crack of popcorn kernels and the seat shifting going on around me. There were times when I breathed into my sweatshirt, trying to convey advice to the characters on the screen. And I audibly gasped, empathizing with them. The movie made me stress-sweat, wondering if I could bear what they do without making a sound. And my admiration for them all grew with each scene.

I’ve said it many times, but I love for my entertainment to also move me. This movie did that. I cried, I rejoiced, I feared, and I cheered. It lingers in a way that doesn’t make me need to keep a light on to sleep, but makes me appreciate the little things like being able to swear loudly when I stub my toe — and the big things, like how much my own parents love me.

It is suspenseful without being horrifying, sweet without being trite, sad without wallowing, and triumphant without being cheesy. A Quiet Place is so well done, and so worth seeing.

Mom Knows Best

I’m a sucker for those Buzzfeed lists of tumblr posts and tweets. When the title is something like “20 tweets guaranteed to make you laugh,” I’ve gotta click on it and see just how funny this article is (or is not). Usually, I’m surprised if one or two make me laugh — and I have to share it myself if most of them do.

I really like the ones collecting tweets about adulthood or marriage or being a woman. But the inspiration for this post came from a comment on one list of adulthood posts. A woman said her kids always text her asking how to do stuff, and she wonders why they don’t just Google the answer. Don’t they realize she’s just Googling it herself?

My mom says the same thing to me. It would take the same amount of time (or less) to type the question into Google than into a text, and the answer would probably be faster and more accurate.

I can’t say why my first instinct when faced with something I don’t know is to ask my parents, but I think it’s kind of beautiful. In this technological age where Google settles fact-based discussions far too early and the need to logic out an answer for oneself is practically non-existent, kids still think of their parents as the be-all, end-all in terms of wisdom.

Sure, sometimes it’s because there was a specific way I remember my mom doing something when I was little, or a certain home remedy she had. Sometimes it’s something my dad tried to teach me a dozen times, so it’s practically a joke at this point to say “hey dad, I’m trying to do X, which tool should I use again?”

But a lot of the time, something will come up and immediately I’m grateful to have a wise adult in my life to run the question by. Even if it’s something like “the right way to boil a hotdog”, I know my mom will have the answer. Now that I’m older, I’m figuring out that parents don’t have all the answers — like most adults, they’re just winging it and hoping no one catches on. Still, I like that there’s still something magical about parenthood that makes kids reach for their phones and ask Mom or Dad before even considering Google.

Sonoma and Babies

So I wrote this post last week (because I planned to be up to my eyeballs in adorableness today and have no time for blogging) but due to shitty weather basically everywhere except St Louis, all flights to the Bay Area were canceled/sold out/outrageously expensive. Still, the irony of it all was too heartbreaking-ly perfect not to still share. Sending my nephew wishes for the happiest of first birthdays from half a country away!

(Original post):

A year ago, our nephew was born in sunny California. He’s beautiful and rambunctious and perfect in every way — he’s the first of the next generation of our families, so he’s quite special.

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As such, we are using my husband’s spring break to fly out to Cali and celebrate this little munchkin turning 1. It’s a quick trip, because while he has 2 weeks off, I have a limited number of vacation days. I plan to soak up the sun and the delight of my nephew for the few days we have out there, and cross my fingers for another snow day.

See, last year around this time, our flight home was delayed due to bad weather on the east coast. We ended up staying an extra day, one of the nicest days of our trip, and got to experience California Wine Country for the second time (we’d previously been to Napa over Thanksgiving).

The first thing I liked about Sonoma was its sass. As we arrived, a sign let us know we were in the “REAL wine country” and I knew this was my kind of place. The town of Sonoma was very cute. We had a delicious lunch and wandered around the square, reading about the historical sites.

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The vineyards also had more of a look and feel that my husband and I are used to, similar to Virginia wine country: rolling hills and acres of grape vines. The wine was delicious, and of course enjoying a glass with such awesome views is always a plus.

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This year, if we do happen to get an extra day, we’ll probably spend it with the family rather than another road trip adventure, but I wouldn’t complain about that at all.

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Magic of Home

So as I was driving home the other day, I was trying to think of the right words to explain the love I feel for where I am. Every time I try to simply say “I love Saint Louis,” it doesn’t capture what I mean. My husband is able to make it smaller, explain away the magic with rationalities like the convenience of city living or the newness of this environment for us.

And he’s right, but he’s also so very wrong. When I say how much I love it here, I mean so much more than the architecture or stores or restaurants or people. They’re all fantastic, sure. But there’s something…more. Deeper. More pure. It’s a knowledge in my bones that I belong in the world. It’s magical. It’s home.

And as I reached my exit, I glanced up at the bridge that spans the highway like I always do — there’s often someone standing up there, just watching the cars pass, and for whatever reason, it makes me smile. Today, though, was more magic.

Someone had written a marriage proposal in painted cups wedged into the chain link barricade. Whoever Jonna (Ionna? Tonna?) is, I hope they say yes.


And for all the other people dating other Jonnas who take 44E home, tonight may get a little awkward.

MAGIC, GUYS!

St. Louis City Museum

My brother came to visit us in our new city just before Thanksgiving, which gave me the perfect excuse to check another “touristy” item off my STL bucket list: the City Museum.

It’s basically a giant jungle gym for kids and adults alike. There’s a “tree house” of metal caging, caverns that lead to spiral stairs — that climb all the way to the top of a 10-story slide. They have an outdoor ball pit surrounded by elevated walkways and castle-like turrets. The roof supposedly has even more awesome things (including a ferris wheel), but it was too cold, wet, and windy when we went so we did not get to check it out.

The whole time I was chasing my baby brother through the obstacles and losing him in the caverns, I kept thinking just how awesome a place like that would have been when I was younger. When I was little, my swing-set was my palace, a felled tree my pirate ship, the space under the porch my bandit’s hideout. My imagination ran wild with the simplest of settings, so how much more could I have been with whales to crawl through, cages to dangle from, and castle towers to climb? I’m pretty sure my parents would never have gotten me to leave. Even now, my imagination kicked in and I found myself dreaming up pretend adventures — which made the realization I’d reached the thin catwalk that led to the top of the 10-story slide slightly less stomach-dropping.

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My not-so-baby brother was too tall for some parts…not that we didn’t try to stuff him in!

The City Museum is a great experience for any age. I’ve read they have adults-only nights on the weekends, when a DJ fills the building with the hottest hits and it’s less weird to order drinks at the bar. However, even when the place was overrun with kids, we had a blast.

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