Wednesday, December 31, 2014

This year

It's New Year's eve.  I am sitting in my sunlit living room, gingerly sipping a very full cup of coffee (the way only a chronic spiller would) and ruminating on just how much has changed this year.

I've been scanning my inner lexicon for an adequate word to describe 2014 and the one I settled on--that most closely approximates all the things I've experienced and felt--is significant.

It's been a significant year.

Significant in some really wonderful ways and in some really terrible ways.

So many things that we had been anticipating for so long finally happened this year: Moses completing his PhD, getting engaged, moving back to the east coast, finding professional success.

And at least one thing that I never imagined would happen did.

And that eclipses everything else.

And I am okay with that.

Learning to sacrifice things that I wanted for my siblings was one of the best lessons I ever learned.  It's made me a better human, a better partner, and one day, I know will make me a better parent.

I don't mind that this will not be remembered as Wendy's year--this is my brother John's year.  The year that we learned just how strong and brave he was and how strong and brave he could make all of us.

John was the most significant part of my year and I will always cherish this year because of that.

I read an article not that long ago by a woman who had lost her mother and was surprised to find the experience, for her, was not transformative.  I've thought about that article a lot since and I've asked myself similar questions: was I transformed by the loss of my brother?  Am I a different person?

It's a complicated answer.  In some ways, I feel exactly the same.  In other ways, I feel like I will never be the same again.

The more I think about it, the less it seems that loss was the transformative thing: I think it was John who transformed me.  I try to be more kind because John was kind.  I try to argue less with my siblings because John hated it when we bickered.  I try to joke and laugh and enjoy my life as much as possible because that's exactly what John did.

Above all, John reminded me of what unconditional love is.  What a gift to be reminded of that, especially so soon before my wedding.

It's okay, John, you can have 2014 because 2015 is going to be allll about me me me.

Kidding.

A very happy holidays and a happy new year to you and yours...

From the Kozaks



And the Kozak-Wilkses

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hodgepodge

This post will be pretty on-trend for me: equal parts fragmented and sincere.  Don't you prefer your gifts uneven but lovingly handcrafted?  Good, me too.  (Not really.)

All things considered, I had a pretty good Thanksgiving.  How was yours?

That's nice.  But enough about you.

A couple weekends before Thanksgiving, Moses and I had a date night, which despite being together nearly all the time, we rarely have.  We saw Interstellar in IMAX--a movie I knew virtually nothing about other than it being directed by Christopher Nolan and that my brothers went to go see it and loved it--afterwards, we grabbed seafood and old fashions at Mare, an Italian Seafood restaurant in the North End, and we capped off the evening with cannolis from the famous Mike's Bakery, which boasts creamy ricotta fillings, long lines, and a spectacular tin ceiling.

And I would recommend all those things: date nights with Moses, Interstellar in IMAX, seeing a movie you know little about, seafood, old fashions, cannolis, and tin ceilings.

What I wouldn't recommend?  Listening to the asinine conversations of your fellow Interstellar movie-goers:

Wait, so, what's a wormhole again? I guess you must have missed that episode of Two and a Half Men when they explained it.

or There was too much pseudoscience!  Yes, too much pseudoscience in this science fiction movie. Or was it a documentary?  It was documentary, right?  Nailed it!

or Well, I think that Heidegger zzzzzzzzzzzzz.  I am sorry, I fell asleep during the last part of that comment because it was sooooo boring. (And probably wrong.)

Ugh, why must my talent be for insults?  Why couldn't it be something useful like french braiding or stylizing my instagram photos?

I'm not too proud to admit that I straight up w.e.p.t. at Interstellar.  Like harder than I did at the google chrome commercial but not as hard as I did at The Whale.  You can visualize my precise level of hysterics now, right?  Okay, great.  Anyways, I left the theater convinced that I, like a total pro, had successfully practiced the art of silent crying. Until I mentioned this to Moses who, the supportive partner that he is, assured me that: Oh no, it was quite audible.

I've noticed that in my family, we do this thing where anytime one of us expresses doubts about ourselves, be it imposed from an internal or external source, someone else instinctively chimes in with a line of positive reassurance:

You're not fat.

S/he's just jealous!

Maybe you're just too smart/pretty/talented/good clogging that they feel intimated.

That's how we Kozaks roll.  Just stoking each other's egos like a long burning fire.

Moses needs to get on that.

I think in this instance, the Spice Girls said it best: If you want to be my lover, you gotta get with my familial behavior of constant reaffirmation.

Hmm...let's see, what else can we talk about?

I recently discovered that listening to audio books while I am at work is incredibly pleasant and I would highly advocate doing this to anyone who can reasonably get away with wearing a pair of headphone while toiling away at their respective place of business.  Unfortunately, this counts you out waiters.  Sorry. Now stop reading this and get back to work. The terse businessman at table 12 isn't done shaming you for your life choices.

But Wendy, you say, what about just listening to the same podcasts over and over again?  Isn't that more enjoyable?  For sure but as it happens, being able to recite podcasts that no one else has ever heard or has listened to a grand total of once isn't as entertaining at dinner parties as one might think.

So, last Monday, I joined Audible and used my one free credit to download Amy Poehlr's Yes Please, which was really, really good: less funny but more substantive than I was expecting.

In addition to being endearingly effusive about all of her SNL and Parks and Rec castmates (heart by still), Amy Poehlr also doles out some pretty solid advice and manages to be unpretentiously thought-provoking.

Here are just a few things her book made me consider/reconsider:

-How and when to apologize: I apologize a lot. For things that are in no way my fault.  The polar vortex?  I am sorry.  Your mascara a little clumpy? Super sorry (mine too, perhaps I should purchase some more than just once every four years).  The fact that your husband bought the wrong kind of milk.  I am...actually not that sorry; men should never be trusted with those types of things. Anyways, you get the gist: it's like a tick and I know that some (most) people find it annoying but I just can't seem to help it.

Well, how about trying to help it?  Your apologies will mean more if you give them less.  Also, don't punctuate the apology with an explanation.  It doesn't matter why you thought you were right, you weren't.  Own it.

Thanks, Amy.  I will try and most likely fail at this but you know, unofficial new years resolution fodder fo' show.

-My relationship to social media: I realize I have a blog and everything and every now and then I feel pretty conflicted about that because do we really need to document everything?  I mean, I know I only post at most twice a month but, I check social media a lot.   Like a lot a lot.  Robotically, I will click into instagram, facebook, or other blogs I pretend I don't actually read (but secretly do) like an electrical socket, and it rarely serves any other purpose than for me to indulge my inner restoration-lit level voyeur.  And once more, it doesn't typically make me feel good: I will get annoyed at an ignorant article that so and so I met once or twice at a party posts on facebook or feel ashamed that I still haven't hung up my clothes from my Thanksgiving suitcase when so and so's house is looking so beautiful and luminescent on instagram.  How are your houses so luminescent?  I have at least three separate bbq sauce and chocolate stains on my walls from the last ten days and I don't have dogs or kids.  So...social media, why do I let you do this to me?  More importantly, why do I let me do this to me?

-You have to work for what you get: this is a big one for me.  And I really agree with what Amy Poehlr has to say on this topic because I do believe you have to work hard for what you want. Sometimes, by sheer happenstance, you will luck into something.  But those instances are statistical anomalies; those people are the exception and not the rule.

But I realized while listening to Amy Poehlr speak about the myth of "being discovered," as if landing your ideal gig was a spontaneous singularly occurring event like the alignments of the planets rather than a slow adjusting and edging toward.  I do sometimes think like that.  Not with my job but with building new friendships (and I guess maybe readership too?  Who knows.  Don't look at me.)

I am relatively introverted and I enjoy having a few meaningful friendships with people who inspire me over having more friendships than I could possibly sustain with people I marginally tolerate.  It's not elitism, it's just...well, elitism.  Although, I prefer to think of it more poetically as the soul selecting her own society and then shutting the door. (ED foreva.)

Of course, when you find yourself in a new city, cultivating friendships with people in your new environment is important. But I seem to somehow think that all it takes is me being clever in front of someone once and they will pursue a friendship with me because clearly I am brilliant and charming and everyone wants to date me.  Right?  Nope.  No one wants to date me.  It's like junior high all over again except with (much) better outfits and probably better hair (but only fractionally).

The fact is, you could be the most delightful person in the world but you won't really make friends unless you make an effort.  You have to go to happy hours (which, turns out, is not a thing in Boston) and you have to get to know people--you have to work at it.  And you probably have to save your dryer humor (or in my case, all humor) until you know the other person can handle it.

I take solace in the fact that my most valued adult friendships are with people who I maybe didn't have an immediate connection with.

So I will work on making friends by putting myself out there more.  I'll do it this afternoon, I swear.

-Care less about what others thinks: I don't mean be less insecure because that's not really my problem.  What I mean is that I am considerate to a fault.  If I catch glares from the people sitting next to me in the restaurant because of how hard and loud Moses and I are talking and laughing and generally enjoying each other's company, I will feel really uncomfortable and usually try to tone it down a bit.

This is all fine and good when you are dealing with reasonable people with reasonable expectations. Like, yeah, maybe if we were sitting next to someone holding a sleeping baby in an otherwise quiet restaurant (that probably doesn't exist anywhere) and Moses and I were being a little too rowdy, maybe then it would make sense to adjust our behavior in order to be kind to that person.  But if someone is just annoyed at you because you are having fun with your partner and they are sitting across from someone who thinks discussing different salad dressing flavors is good dinner conversation, than why should you do anything to accommodate these dum-dums?  The point is that you shouldn't.  So I will try not to.

And now our tangents have finally brought us to an awkward stopping place. Where I plan to leave you, bewildered and befuddled as you might be.  I guess I prescribe to the Hansel and Gretel method of blogging: lead you out into the woods and abandon you.

I'm sure you can find your own way out.

Oh and in case you are wondering--but of course you were--this is what 30 looks like.

Extra, extra! Stand next to the tree in the Prudential Center and you will looked photoshopped into the picture.

I moonlight as Roxy Heart on the weekends.
 At least on me.



 So, be thankful.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What They Don't Tell You About Being (Almost) 30.

In a few weeks, I turn the big 3-0.  I know.  I know.  Thee most significant event that has ever happened in the course of human history.  Duh, that's why I am blawging about it...

Okay, so yeah, not actually a big deal. It's just that 30 has always been my: I'll have it together by then age.  Which has now been (safely) bumped to 100. I'll have it together by 100 and I will enjoy for three blissful seconds before I die.

Anyways, as I approach this vague milestone, I've been reflecting a lot: on expectations, on past iterations of myself, and how many fleece lined sweatpants I will purchase before I've decided I really have enough (3 and counting).  You know.  The usual stuff.

And I've decided that what they don't necessarily tell you about 30 or maybe what you don't believe about 30 until you get there is...

It feels really, really good.

Identity is such a strange thing: it is as rigid as it is malleable.  It's like metal in that way. I've basically been the same person all my life, except for all the fine grooves and dents and alloyed markers that give me shape, ensuring that while compositionally still same, I am really not the same at all.

Every year I feel a little more settled in my frame: I become less selfish, less neurotic, less unsure, less willing to yield to anything that will disrupt the placidity.  I love better, I cook better, I write better; I become more articulate, clever, and thoughtful.  It's fabulous.

I remember when I was eighteen, sitting at the picnic tables behind my high school, watching the cowl of morning mist over the wooded hills and scribbling what was totally going to my first novel in my green Five Star Notebook. Remember Five Star?  #nostalgia.

I remember feeling good: feeling like I knew who I was and what I believed and what I wanted.  And I am sure at that moment, compared with the awkwardness and paranoia of adolescence, I did feel good.

But honestly, home girl didn't know from good.

And I certainly didn't know how much better it would get.  Because even though I don't "have it together" in the way that I had maybe initially envisioned at 30, I'm getting there.  And once more, I don't feel the pressure of not "having it together" like I used to or I am at least discerning enough now not let it consume me like it once did.

At various points in my life 30 was the age when I would have my PhD, have a family, have a book deal, have a record deal, have a house, travel the world and make my mark on it.  Arguably, I haven't done any of those things, but I don't feel unaccomplished.

At 30, I've learned to cherish what I actually have in a really profound way.  I think less about what I don't have or what I haven't done.  I compare myself less to those around me.

Of course, I can't be sure how much of this stems from being 30 and how much of it comes from loss. But I will never really know what it's like to be 30 without that.

You won't hear me echo that refrain that so often punctuates the musings on hardship--I wouldn't have it any other way--because I would give literally give anything to have things be different (at least in that respect). But they can't be, so it's not worth dwelling on.

At 30, it's generally easier to let things go.

And in one last note, as we edge towards Thanksgiving and Christmas, the season that begs us, at least in spirit, to remember what we are grateful for, I wanted to let you all know how much I am grateful for you: for reading, for listening, for offering support and kindness and everything I needed but never wanted to ask for during these last few months.

Thank you.  You are so valued (and I am sure, not just by me).

Unless you are Justin Beaver, in which case, no one likes you.

And that's another thing about 30.  Your hangovers are harder (so enjoy them while you can, kiddies) and you are much more susceptible to sentimental pap.

Or maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things I've Noticed:

-Despite how much I lament my hair styling impotency, despite how many beautiful hair tutorials I post on my Hairy Carey pinterest wall and fancy styling creams I purchase on amazon and subsequently justify with free two day shipping, I will always always always opt to sleep an extra 30 minutes over getting up and testing out a new coiffure. Nope it'll be remedial bun, ponytail, or side braid for me. To infinity and beyond.

-Walking outside on a warm fall night has always filled me with a sense of anticipation but for what, I am never quite sure.

-I always get the urge to blog on Wednesday but typically don't follow through with it until Friday.

-But a quick look through my archive would reveal that I actually might not have a handle on my blogging habits...

-Naming the pig that is part of Moses' experiment at work was a bad idea.

-Moses hasn't mentioned Wilbur in weeks.

-Wilbur is probably dead.

-The week goes by quicker when a holiday falls on a Tuesday.

-I've seen more commercials for Joanne Fabrics this week than I have in my entire life.

-I used to think that Joanne Fabrics was a really quaint place to buy gifts for people.

-It's really not.

-Even though I know they'll be hard, I am starting to feel excited about the holidays.

-Starbucks busting out their holiday-themed cups had absolutely nothing to with this.

-I'm a consumer whore.

-Tom Hanks puts the same olive into his martini twice in the movie You've Got Mail #maybethecontinuitysupervisorwasinthebathroom?

-I have definitely not seen that movie too many times.

-Being almost 30 feels so much better than being almost 20.

-Except that my feet and lower back hurt more.

-When in doubt, add coconut oil to your dessert recipe and it will turn out grand.

-Use the word "grand" on a regular basis and people will think you are affected.

-Conversations you overhear in art museums will always sounds like something out of a Portlandia sketch.

-Other people in art museums rival other people in grocery stores for being the worst.

-When vaguely promising to yourself that you will slim down for your wedding and then changing literally nothing about your eating or exercising habits, don't be surprised when the results are spectacular.

-Nothing is more inspiring for a work out than the thought of rewarding yourself with a glass of wine and a brownie right after it.

-Our radiators click on at seemingly random times.  This bodes well for winter.

-I have written so many variations of this type of post before that it's ridiculous.

-You won't notice.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Growing Back Those Parts of You

This won't be a long post.  I am tired.  I have a soup that needs stirring.  I have calories that need working off from the big bad indulgent lunch I had yesterday because it was Wednesday and, you know, who cares about life?  So.  Cursory is what you shall get, love.

There is so much about grief that is unexpected.  How inexplicably good you feel some days, how wretchedly you feel the next.  How swiftly time passes yet drags its laden heels: months feel like eons yet somehow you still can't believe that tomorrow is Friday and wasn't it just Sunday when you were baking muffins and watching out the window as the snowflakes bulged and melted before they hit the ground?

I am even surprised sometimes by my own adaptability and resilience.  It makes me feel guilty--as if I am acclimating too quickly.  As if there were such a thing when it comes to simply surviving.

But I think what I find most startling about all of this is my loss of sympathy.

I am a deeply compassionate person by nature.  If three months ago you sat with me over a cup of coffee and told me of your sick dog or career hurdles or relationship vexations, I would have listened patiently, I would have felt for you, I would have offered words of comfort and encouragement.

But now whenever I hear stories of other's struggles, I mostly feel nothing.  Or worse, I feel contempt.  Oh boohoo, you dropped your keys in the dumpster, well my brother died.

I know this is a ludicrous reaction.  For many reasons, not the least of which because I know what that feels like--I have definitely dropped my keys into the dumpster before and it sucks--it is day-ruiningly frustrating.

Sure it's troublesome--I don't want to be a sociopath--but I know it's not permanent.  I try to cut myself some slack and remember that I lost a lot of things when I lost my brother and that, eventually, those parts of me will grow back and be mostly the same as they were.  And that's okay.

In the meantime, I am going to choose empathy.  It's not always easy and it's not as instinctive as it used to be, but it's important I remember that my hurt is not the worst hurt, that it's not a competition, that just because I am hurting doesn't mean that it's any less annoying for someone else when the washing machine overflows.

I am not posting this to be preachy or smug or piteous.  I am mostly posting this as a reminder to myself for the times when I need it.

So that's what's up with me.  How are you?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Things I (Surprisingly) Like

There are a lot of things I am not terribly keen on: black licorice, J├Ągermeister (incidentally because it tastes like black licorice), crop tops, books that are cultural phenomenons (minus Harry Potter, of course), Nicki Minaj songs, most top-forty songs (minus Tswift, of course), people who use poor grammar, people who always correct other people's grammar, other people in general at Trader Joe's...I could keep going but we would literally be here for the rest of your life (because clearly, I plan on outliving you).  And that's another one: people who misuse the word literally.  Anyways, whenever my immediate, knee jerk reaction to something is not "this is the worst," it's always good, if not a little unexpected, especially when it is something that falls squarely outside the traditional range of the Wendy-likey spectrum.  Gross. Control X.  Cut from memory.


Okay, we can begin now.

1. This cover of "Once Upon a Dream" by Lana Del Rey




I am not normally a fan of Lana Del Rey, or the original version of this song for that matter but this cover randomly snuck into my auditory system via Pandora on the train ride home from work one day (and no, I totally wasn't listening to my "Colors of the Wind" radio station) and I gotta say...I didn't hate it.  I know, I was surprised too.  I even listened to it again later that evening. Crazier still.  I find the haunting, dream-like quality of it to be quite pleasant and the vocals--though a little sleepy (maybe that was a conscious choice given the subject matter?)--to be fairly decent. Will I add to my list of all-time favorite jams? Um, no.  That is reserved solely for Queen and Tswift.

Good lord, off to an inauspicious start. Like always.

2. House Hunters

I doubt it will come as a shock that I like this show--I mean, have you met me? Reality TV and I are soulmates--BUT, it may come as surprise that I had actually never seen an episode of this show until October of this year, when they uploaded a whole collection of them on netflix and now...I'm officially obsessed. I even managed to work in some house hunter vernacular--crown molding and built-in--into a conversation about someone's apartment recently and felt really impressed with myself.

3. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale




Call off the search, I've finally found the ultimate heavy weight pumpkin ale champion.  It's a little difficult to find (not in the two liquor stores near my apartment=difficult to find) but it was totally worth the two week wait of having my sister buy it for me and hold on to it until our car was fixed so that I could go and pick it up from her so I wouldn't have to awkwardly lug it around on the T.

It tops nearly everyone's best pumpkin ale list, which is no surprise because it essentially tastes like pumpkin pie flavored beer, which is precisely everything I always wanted.

4. Fleece-lined Tights

Living in Los Angeles for the past seven years has turned me into a dress-wearing all year round type of gal, so you can imagine my level of disgruntlement at the prospect of abandoning this upon moving back to the East Coast, since winter and wind chills makes this type of lifestyle seem, how shall I put this?...less sustainable.  I remember my sister and I would sometimes wear wool tights back in our elementary school days but my initial googling for such a product yielded less than compelling results.  


Um...no thanks.

It seems that within the past 20 years or so there has been a trending away from wool tights toward fleecier pastures and reader, I could not be happier about this.  I found these at urban outfitters for $16 and they are a-mazing.  The quality to price ratio here is in stark contrast to much of their clothing, which is a whopping $60+ for what looks like a garment sewn by rhesus monkeys. And we all know what terrible sewers they are [actual evidence to support this pending.] 

5. Ponchos


From Forever 21 (although I am edging in on Forever 30...)

Sure they are a little Clint Eastwood from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but to be fair, I base most of my fashion choices on him.  That's where I got my crotchety old man uniform I now wear daily.

Actual picture of me from this past Sunday. Complete with scowl.

6. This cartoon




I am not typically a fan of this sort of thing.  But the "recently became friends with Bird" got me.

7. Instagram

What is this? 2010?  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I'm a little tardy to this party but, after a period of some serious ambivalence, I've finally decided that I do in fact like this whole instagram thing. Although you won't see me posting selfies of myself on the T like my 20-something counterparts (my artistic dream is to take an inappropriate selfie with someone taking an inappropriate selfie in the background), I've managed to find the enjoyment in selecting a picture from my camera roll, slapping a vintagey looking filter on it, and basking in the validation I get when people admire my heavily edited, photogenic life (where my cowlick is only marginally visible).

Go see for yourself at wkozak1.   Yes, my originality for screen names knows no bounds.  I'll give you one guess as to what it is for pinterest and literally every other online account that I have...

I'll give you a hint: it's not zzzzzzzzzzz84, but for the level of effort I put into it, it probably should be.

8. Spiced Apple Pie

My Polish grandmother used to make the best apple pie, but like most of her recipes, she didn't write it down because written recipes are for noobs.  Newbs?  Nubes? Whatever the cool kids are calling it these days. 

Probably for this reason, I have never been able to find an apple pie recipe that I like.  They are either too buttery or too plain or too fill in the blank.  After our grand apple picking adventure at Lookout Farms a couple of weekends ago (side note: this place is one of the longest running farms in New England, which you would think bodes well for it, but what doesn't is the four dollar sign expense rating it has on yelp.  I originally assumed that this was a mistake because, to put this in perspective, Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio's restaurant Craft in LA has four dollar signs.  What kind of u-pick farm would have four dollar signs? Am I right?  Wrong. So. wrong.  We had to pay an entrance fee and a u-pick fee and as I don't particularly enjoy tyranny I will likely not be returning), when our volume of apples ballooned to an overwhelming figure, Moses and I decided it was high time to do some much needed apple-related baking, so we googled around and found this recipe, which ended up being shockingly good. (No pictures for this one, we eated it all of it.)

Hmm...that's pretty much all I got.  But Wendy, you ask, why are your lists never normal numbers? Can't you think of two other things you like to round this off?  Nope.  Sorry.  Not happening. And don't expect another blog post any time soon, either.  I can only manage unconventionally numbered lists and bi-monthly entries.  It's just who I is.

And if you can't tell by the level of sass, I am starting to feel a little more and more like myself each day.

Monday, October 20, 2014

He liked it, so he put a ring on it

I am (secretly) a total sucker for the how we met/how we got engaged stories. 

Don't tell anyone.  If you do, I'll just deny it. After all, some of us have sardonic reputations to uphold.

I've been wanting to type out my own engagement story for awhile now but, to be honest...I haven't felt like it.  I've sat down maybe half a dozen times to attempt it over the past week or so to no avail. BUT I have washed every dish every night consecutively for the past few days so...you win some, you lose some.

Anyways, onto the story.

So, Wenoses--as we have come to be called exclusively by myself and two of my more enabling friends--has been a thing, solidly, for just a smidge over a decade now.  And I say solidly because Moses and I were never on again, off again the way so many young, long term couples often are.  (If you can't tell, I only feel marginally smug about this.) No, we were always very much on, even the year we spent long distance (while he lived in LA and I live in NY), which will go on record as one of the more miserable years in my typically hyperbolized life of misery.

Over the course of our ten years together, Moses and I have only rarely spoken about marriage. But, for some inexplicable reason, from an embarrassingly early point in our relationship, I was under the false assumption that Moses was perpetually on the verge of proposing.

The first fake-out--if it can truly be called that--was during our second year together.  Moses had just returned from spring break (us poor plebeians working in the food service industry never got spring break--bitter much much?  Yes.) and he said he had something important he wanted to give me.  Now, keep in mind that at this moment in time, Moses and I hadn't even so much as joked about marriage and yet, as I sat there in my bedroom, cell phone pressed against my earlobe, I could only think: Something important. To give to me... holy expletive, he's going to propose!

At the time, we were both very young and although I was madly in love with Moses and wanted to be with him for as long as was earthly possible, I hadn't finished college yet and once more, I wasn't even sure how I felt about marriage.  At the time, I still hadn't quite let go of this bohemian notion I had about commitment--you know, the kind of romanticized ideals you can only have before you actually understand what it means to be an adult and pay taxes.

I maybe had an Anne Shirley complex. But that's neither here nor there.

So with all these thoughts and fears and conjectures abuzz in my brain, I agreed to meet him at his fraternity--yes, his fraternity but don't worry, it has a legacy of nerds, not date-rapists.  When I arrived, he was out front waiting for me.  He said he wanted to take me somewhere more private--a secluded area of the lawn enclosed by brush and abutting a small stream.  As he led me there, my mind raced. Well, this could go one of two ways: he could ask me to marry him or he could stone-cold murder me.  I mean, it was a good spot for either of those things; it alluded view from both the house and the cars on the adjacent road.  

When we had reached the edge of the water, he paused and turned to me.  He held my hands in his and told me how much he cared for me.  My heart was in my throat.  This is it.  This is the moment.  I was so certain and so positively petrified.  I had no idea what I would say if he asked me.  And then, he procured his fraternity pin from a pocket and asked me to take it and I was all:

...ummmmmmmmmmm, what?

He was “pinning” me.  Apparently it’s some sort of tradition among fraternity members with serious girlfriends.

I stammered out some response that I don’t remember that may or may not have included a joke about us going steady.  I felt like such an idiot.  How could I have thought he was going to propose?  We were only twenty-one and this wasn’t the 19th century.

But over the next few years, there was a moment on nearly every birthday, every anniversary, every news years eve, valentines day, and christmas when I experienced a similar embroilment.  It was like I had some form of brain tourettes that on special occasions caused this thought to unceremoniously and uncontrollably flare in my mind.  What made it all the more frustrating was that I was never that girl; I didn’t go to college to minor in getting a husband, I didn’t participate in the “marriage” ceremonies on the elementary school playground that were sanctified by ring pops, and I was never the type to fantasize about my wedding day.  Not that there is anything wrong with being someone who does that--I just was not and am not.  It never really interested me much. So what the hell is wrong with me that I kept expecting it?

It wasn’t until I hit twenty-five that I found myself actively wanting to marry Moses. (And spoiler alert: I got engaged at twenty-nine, so, hold onto your butts because clearly the next four years, in which nothing happens, are going to be preeeetty riveting.  Picture a longer version of the movie The Hours but with equally prominent noses on the protagonists.)  

By this point in our relationship, Moses and I had progressed to having casual conversations about getting married.  I never pressed the issue but if it came up organically, I would subtly nurture the discussion, asking as many illuminating yet totally nonchalant questions as I could.  From all of these fleeting exchanges, one thing seemed perfectly clear: Moses did not want to get engaged while he was in graduate school.  He wanted to be able to revel in the joy and excitement of getting engaged and somehow couldn’t imagine doing that while working 12 hours days in the lab.

I knew this on some level, but if “no one gets engaged at twenty-one” didn’t stop me from making my erroneous assumptions, clearly “no engagement until after graduate school” wouldn’t either.  

There were two particular instances of note during this time: one christmas at the beginning of my graduate studies and an afternoon at the conclusion of my graduate studies.

When Moses and I were living in Los Angeles, we would always fly back to Ithaca for the holidays.  Because of this, we are often limited in the presents we could get for one another. Anything too fragile, too large, or too valuable were automatically out because we would have to lug it back with us and, as a graduate student, shelling out 25 bucks a pop for potentially lost checked luggage seemed an outrageous expense.

On the Christmas in question, Moses returned to Los Angeles a week earlier than I.  We were talking over the phone one evening and he told me that he had a present waiting for me back in Los Angeles.  As I am sure I’ve mentioned before, I am the worst person, possibly ever in human history, to inform of an impending surprise.  I will kill it.  And not “kill it” in the way I am totally killing this blog post [high five].  No, I mean that I will kill it dead.  I will ask so many obnoxious, probing questions that it’s impossible for anyone to get any enjoyment out it: the surpriser’s enthusiasm undoubtedly dampens after the 50th guess as to what the surprise could be and the surprisee can’t delight in the actual surprise in such a fog of preoccupation.  

To give you an idea of just how bad this is, I will admit to sometimes reading the plot summaries of thrillers as I am watching them.  I am much better about this with books.

No, that’s a bold face lie. Even then, I will often flip ahead to the reveal.

As adorable as this character trait is it. drives. Moses. bonkers.  Anyone’s guess as to why.  So, when he told me I had a gift waiting for me, he unintentionally triggered a torturous chain reaction that went on for several days.  And although I didn’t come out and say it, I was convinced that I would come home to find a small box and a ring waiting for me.

On the evening of my return to Los Angeles, Moses picked me up at the airport.  Normally, I would be relatively somber with homesickness for my family the first couple nights back after a long trip but this time, I could barely contain my excitement.  After all, I had a BIG surprise waiting for me.  

The engagement theory had never seemed more plausible than it did at this moment.  When we arrived home, I tentatively opened the door to our apartment and my heart plummeted instantly when I spotted a large box perched on our coffee table.  

Now that I knew what it wasn’t, I had no idea of what it actually could be. I hastily tore the wrapping to discover the bird plates that Moses and I had fought about getting several months earlier.  It was an amazing gift and I wasn’t at all disappointed but still, part of me was like: Damn, it Kozak! Stop doing this to yourself!

And I did.  The bird plates was the first turning point; the second would come a year or so later.  

I had wanted those plates so badly and receiving them was so unexpected that it made that moment all the more special.  I realized that if I wanted my engagement to be remotely like that, I needed to stop trying to anticipate it.

Besides, it was exhausting.  It was like some cruel, extended, yet relatively low-stakes version of emotional roulette.  At the time, I was nearing the end of my graduate program, simultaneously teaching two courses, taking two courses, and studying for my comprehensive exam; I didn’t have the mental capacity or psychological punchiness to sustain this charade.  

So, I stopped.  Just like that.  For nearly an entire year.  Until one fateful evening, when I returned home late from one of my classes, and peeled a receipt from a renowned Westwood jewelry store from my heel. I studied it for a moment, perplexed, trying in my haze of fatigue to differentiate it from the usual junk mail that would often carelessly find its way to the floor of our bedroom.  My eyes traced down the purple lines of the carbon copied slip and bulged when they found the total.  It was a lot.  Like, a lot a lot.  Like way way way more than I would spend on anything other than tuition or rent.  But by this point I had (mostly) learned my lesson.  Don’t overreact, I thought.  It’s probably not what you think.

But secretly I was like:

excited animated GIF


I stealthily slipped the receipt face down onto our night stand--where I believed was its initially intended resting place--and promptly logged onto to gchat to speculate wildly with my friend Ruth (who had recently made a similarly suspicious discovery of her own) as to what all this could mean.  

Well, reader, let me give you a little clue as to how our respective stories end: Ruth’s ends with a sapphire ring and mine...does not.  Not yet anyways.

Despite my initial excitement, I was still in the throes of final papers and exams, so what quickly consumed my thoughts just as quickly dissipated and was pushed into the furthest recesses of my mind.

On the afternoon of my very last final, my last obligation of graduate school, Moses came out into the living room while I was hastily preparing to leave.  The test began in a few hours and I was unprepared to say the least: I was stressed, I was harried, I had barely studied for this exam and I hadn’t yet finished editing one of the papers I needed to turn in alongside it.  

Seeing how overwhelmed I was when searching for a shoe, Moses asked me to sit down on our couch for a moment.  I obliged, although distractedly.  He said that he thought he had something that would make me feel better; something to celebrate the fact that I was almost done.  He went to the bedroom and retrieved a small-ish red box and told me to open it.

In spite of myself, almost as certain as I had been nearly five years before when Moses held my hand in his in that secluded piece of wilderness at his fraternity, I opened the package and…

There, inside of it, was the most exquisite ring.

Kidding.

No. No ring.  Skunked again.

Instead, I found a beautiful pearl necklace with matching pearl earrings.  Moses said something about the elegance of pearls and how they suited me.  I don’t really remember.  I was so happy, shocked, embarrassed, tired--have I sufficiently expressed just how tired I was at this moment? because I was dawg tired--my conflicted expression and soft, breathy o-oh! must have been such a disappointing reaction. It was such a lovely, meaningful gift to give me at such an important moment in my life, and here I was, unable to adequately convey how much it meant to me, merely because I was expecting something else.  So I kissed him good and hard and thanked him and in that moment, I resolved that I didn’t care when or if we ever got engaged.  I loved this man--this man who gave me bird plates, pins, and pearls, who made me such a better, steadier person--I loved him with all of heart.

A few years pass. We attend weddings together and toast other friends’ engagement with happiness and ease.  Moses and I have the same vague discussions about marriage but I am generally less invested, less eager to prolong them past their natural ebbing.

One evening, sometime last year, I was recounting to Moses the tale of two of our dearest LA friends getting engaged.  It was one of those very grown-up stories about two committed partners entering into a conversation and coming out of it engaged.  Moses and I were thrilled for them--we loved them both and they were so perfectly matched--but when the conversation turned to precisely how they got engaged, I said something to the effect of: “I think if it were me, though, I would want to be surprised.”  I am not sure what he said in response to this or if he even acknowledged it.

Fast forward to this summer. Moses has successfully defended his dissertation and we are preparing for our cross-country move.  We are inventorying our belongings, packing boxes, donating clothes and furniture, cleaning our apartment, dining and drinking with as many friends on as many nights as we can manage.  We talk about our new apartment and new life in Boston with a sense of excitement and anticipation.  

Moving to Boston meant moving closer to the life we knew we wanted. As happy as we were in LA, we knew we didn’t want to settle there permanently (too expensive, too far from our parents), so staying there felt like a perpetual postponement.  But this, this felt like we were finally embracing the future.

A few weeks before the move, we were sitting around the dining room table at Moses’ Aunt Linda's condo. She and Moses’ grandmother were asking me questions about my wedding: where I would like it to be and when.  This didn't make me particularly suspicious--it wasn't anything out of the ordinary.  At this point, Moses and I were approaching our ten year anniversary--I was about eight years passed acting coy on this subject.  I humored them by answering but made sure to couch everything in the language of: you know this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, right?  Moses’ grandmother then said something that should have been the first clue as to what was to come: “I bet it will happen sooner than you think.”  I didn’t think anything of this; I chalked it up to Moses’ grandmother's wishful thinking. Remember, I had quit the proposal speculation game; I had firmly learned my lesson and wasn’t about regress into over-analyzing every little comment like some frenzied animal, attempting to sniff out hidden truffles.

The day before we left Los Angeles was a rough one.  The movers were delayed in coming to collect our stuff and when they finally arrived gave us a price much much more than what we were originally quoted.   And because they were behind, we were behind--we couldn’t exactly give our apartment the thorough once-over it needed when colossal sculptures of cardboard boxes blocked us at every turn.

We took a break around 6PM to grab dinner with Moses’ brother and his girlfriend at our favorite Culver City restaurant--one final hurrah, before we left the place that for seven years we had called home.

After dinner, we returned to our apartment where I spent the remainder of evening scraping off globs of jam from our refrigerator shelves and scrubbing coffee grinds from the grout in our kitchen tiles. When we were finished, we were planning on spending the night at Moses’ brother’s apartment since our bed was already on its way east with the movers.  At 3:30AM, we made the weary walk there, laden with the knowledge that we would be rising at 7AM the following morning to begin the first leg of our journey.

When my head finally hit the pillow that evening, I fell asleep almost instantly.  Moses, however, tossed and turned for hours. Again, I didn’t find this especially strange; Moses often had trouble falling asleep. (Clue #2 for those of you keeping track.)

Moses and I planned most of our route around landmarks and the bungalows of various friends. The first day of our trip would be LA to the Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon.  I had never been to the Grand Canyon before and I knew that I did not want to leave the West without seeing it.  When we first decided on stopping there, I remember thinking, however fleetingly, I wonder if Moses will propose.  But then I instantly talked myself out of it: nope, don’t go down that rabbit hole, Kozak.

After saying goodbye to Moses’ brother and his brother’s girlfriend, we grabbed one last bagel and cup of coffee from our favorite cafe and began making our way through the labyrinth of freeways leading out of Los Angeles. I remember feeling so sentimental glancing at the downtown LA skyline in the rear view mirror. How original, you say. Do you write films as well? Duh. Do you think I'd waste this talent just on blogging?

I took the first half of the drive, since Moses hadn’t slept well and things went relatively smoothly: we listened to podcasts, made several more stops for coffee, and managed to avoid traffic until we hit the Hoover Dam. When we finally reached the Hoover Dam overlook, we were solidly a half an hour or so behind schedule but Moses didn't seemed too bother by this, and we leisurely strolled the bridge and snapped pictures of both ridiculous and non-ridiculous nature. You know how we roll.








We hit some more traffic on the way out of Nevada but it wasn't until we hit up an Arizona Walgreens at 4:30PM--to find sunscreen and aloe because pearly white skin + desert sun = no bueno (always and forever)--that I noticed Moses was trying to hurrying us along a bit. He seemed generally less content to have me wander the aisles aimlessly with my starbucks double shot in hand, bemusedly perusing the as seen on t.v. and greeting cards selections. You know, as one does in Walgreens.

Moses said he wanted to hit the road because he really wanted us to make it to the Grand Canyon before dark. I know, total red flag (Clue #189 for those of you bored enough to still be keeping track). And yet, I didn't think anything of it. I could totally understand wanting to get there by sundown. Made sense to me.


So Moses took the wheel and sped us along the deserted desert highways towards the Southern Rim of the canyon.  For those of you unfamiliar, this part of the canyon is surrounded by acre upon acre of lush forest and grassy field (complete with Bison!).  We hit the entrance to the park around 5:30PM; still easily 30-45 minutes from canyon edge.  As the sun began to dip in the sky, and we continued to wind our way up the narrow curve of the country roads, I noticed that Moses was starting to look a little nervous and drive a little faster.  And again, like a dum-dum, I thought to myself:  wow, he really wants to see the Grand Canyon at sunset!

When we spotted a herd of bison, like a jerk--without knowing I was being a jerk--I told Moses to pull over and proceeded to unhurriedly snap the following photographs:









I can only imagine what was going through Moses' head at this moment.  But, I am fairly certain that it looked something like this:





I know, I am the worst. Get over it.

So, as I am sure you can see by the slant of the light in those pictures, we were racing against the sun at this point.  As soon as I was done sufficiently fawning over the bison calves, Moses and I once again took off at an alarming pace towards the vista points.


The turns were becoming increasingly tight, the drops exponentially steep, and the roadways progressively thin. I was beginning to feel a bit unnerved by how reckless Moses was being.  It felt like we were seconds away from unintentionally Thelma and Louise-ing it at any moment.  What was the big deal? Why did it really matter if we made it there right at sunset?


I became instantly distracted from Moses' suspect driving the second I caught my first glimpse of the rim from the passenger window.  Moses had been insisting that the Grand Canyon was not overrated and I had done my fair share of skeptical scoffing but...he was right.  I literally gasped when I saw it--it was breath taking.  


We reach the top of the vista point right at sunset. I excitedly hopped out of the car and began to make my way down to the overlook. Moses, however, did not follow.  He was fishing for something in his backpack.  When I asked him what he was doing, he said rather casually: "Oh, I'm just looking for the binoculars."


At this point, I felt a twinge of suspicion, because I knew the binoculars were in the glove compartment.  But again, I talk myself out of it: you've been driving for eight hours, your car is packed to the gills, who remembers where anything is?


I told Moses he was searching in the wrong place and he asked me if I could grab the binoculars for him, which I did as quickly as I could because I really wanted to get down there and start exploring.  I couldn’t understand why he was stalling; we had speed racered it up there at a death defying velocities and now he wanted to take his sweet time?  I didn’t get it.


Armed with our binoculars, the sky now a soft pinkish indigo, we walked to vista and began to taking some photographs.














There were a few other families there, but I was pleasantly surprised by how generally uncrowded it was.  I thought Moses seemed a little distracted when taking pictures, but I figured he was just tired from long drive.  We were sharing the overlook with an older man and his camera (pictured below), as the other families began to clear out and make their way to their vehicles, the old man remained, so we finished up our photo shoot and followed the others back to the top.





Before we reached the car, Moses said that he noticed a pretty view from a clearing over by a wooded area.  I wasn’t quite ready to leave yet, so I told him to lead the way.  When we reached the spot--which did in fact boast a spectacular view--I noticed for the first time that we were alone.  Although we had be alone together most of the day, it was still nice to be alone together there, amidst the stirring landscape of the canyon.  

He put his arm around me and I talked about the sublime (an annoying habit of mine in these types of situations) and we spoke about how excited we were for the next chapter in our lives.  Moses then mentioned something about how I had moved across country twice for him now and how much I meant to him and about a half a dozen other lovely things that I promptly forgot because at the end of his speech, he held out a little red box with a sapphire ring inside of it.  My reply is Moses’ favorite part of this story.  With tears in my eyes, I hugged him and said: “Of course I will marry you, you idiot.”  Tell Hallmark, I’m prepared to put that in card form if the price is right.


I must admit readers, the thing that made me most nervous about the prospect of a surprise proposal was the ring because...hello, I’m picky.  No! C’est impossible! I know.  But I am.  In fact weeks prior, I had a dream that Moses gave me fabric ring like this:




And… I was horrified.


But my actual ring, is perfect.  I could not have picked out a better one myself.  In fact, a month or so before Moses proposed, I did some research on rings, just in case he asked me for suggestions (he didn't) and I discovered that what I like most were vintage art deco style rings that--for ethical reasons--had gem centerstone rather than a diamond.  And that is precisely the type of ring that Moses got me--that he picked it out completely by himself.  The only people who even knew that Moses was planning on proposing were his Aunt Linda and his grandmother because Moses had asked them for help in where to buy the ring.





I marveled at my ring and at the surprise proposal all the way back to the lodge, where we were set to stay the night. By sheer happenstance, the lodge, which overlooked the rim of the canyon, also played host to a band of local astronomers and their equipment, so after dinner, Moses and I went star gazing.  It was single-handedly the most romantic evening of my life.


Over the past few months, I’ve thought back to those moments following the proposal--a lot--I was so incredibly happy.  Sometimes remembering that happiness makes me feel better and sometimes it makes me feel worse.  It makes me wonder if I will ever be that happy again, but duh Emo Phillips, of course I will.  It’s just that, this will never be remembered as the year that Moses and I got engaged.  But I suppose that doesn’t really matter because it’s still a great story.  I should have maybe split it up into chapters and made you wait but...as we’ve already established, I am terrible with surprises.