I spent a weekend in April visiting my friend, Michella, in Massachusetts. Michella and I met at Hanover College when we became roommates our senior year, and she quickly became one of my most cherished friends. She dated a guy named Tony Marino, whose uncle was coincidentally my elementary school principal. Tony and Ryan were fraternity brothers and friends, as well, which is always fun! About three years ago, Michella and Tony moved out to Amherst, MA so that Chella could pursue a Ph.D. in history. I had never traveled out to that part of the country and vowed to visit as soon as possible.

Michella's notorious stacks of library books. She has fines in all 50 states!

Then I got pregnant. I didn't plan ahead well enough to make the trip before my third trimester came around, and then with breastfeeding for a year, I didn't want to be away for very long. Pumping was NOT my favorite thing! This past Fall, I signed up for a research study where I answered questions in a group for 2 hours, and they paid me $250. Seriously. I called Chella right away, knowing exactly how I could best spend the money - visiting her and Tony in Massachusetts!

Ryan and Noah dropped me off at the airport, and after crying one tear too many, I walked into the airport and soon began to get really excited for the trip. I was due for some time away with a girlfriend, and as I sat down at my gate, I realized that I could do anything I wanted. That may sound crazy to some of you, but seriously, since I've had Noah, my wants and needs have gone second to his - and rightly so. It was so quiet (except for that classic cell phone screamer you always run into in public), so I decided to finish reading a book called Cowboy and Wills. It's a true story about a boy with autism, so if you are interested, you can check it out HERE. After that book, I started reading My Sister's Keeper. I guess that is what happens during uninterrupted time to yourself. I had forgotten how much a person could accomplish alone.

After a short layover in Washington, DC, I found myself in the wonderful state of Massachusetts. Michella picked me up soon after, and we were off to Amherst. I quickly learned how rural western MA really is. I loved it! The big green trees, the farmland, the beautiful views of the river - I loved it all! As we pulled into Amherst (the 'H' is silent), I realized why Chella and Tony were in love with the place. It is the college town of all college towns! Cute Mom and Pop restaurants lined the streets.

Pedestrians have the right of way - seriously - if you started to walk into the road, any cars near you had to stop. This was MUCH different from my recent trip to New York City (stay tuned for the future blog). Another cool thing about walking in Amherst and Northampton, which we visited a couple times, is that you can walk corner to corner as a cross walk rather than just across the street. We usually had to run a bit, but it saved a lot of time!

The first night I was in town, Chella and Tony took me to Northampton to meet a bunch of their friends. We grabbed a quick drink at Paradise City Taven before having dinner at Joe's Pizza & Spaghetti. This pizza was AMAZING! Their friend, Chris, and I shared a large pizza and ate the entire thing! I am NOT kidding. I was starving, and it was really that good!


The building where Chella has roller derby practice!

The next morning Chella and I woke up and began one of our deep, long conversations about organic food. Chella had just purchased Food, Inc., so we enjoyed a delicious English muffin with organic, all natural peanut butter while watching one of the most informative documentaries ever. Seeing Food, Inc. was just what I needed to take the next step in healthy eating for my family. We've changed so much about what we are buying, so thanks, Chella!! Afterward we went back to Northampton to do some shopping. I found a great Cart-to-Car reusable grocery bag. You put it in your shopping cart, and it fills up the entire space. Then, after you purchase your groceries, you can move just that one bag into your car. It saves space and time! We had lunch at Zen, a fabulous restaurant with asian cuisine, too.
A view at Amherst College

Tony, Chella, Chris, Chris, and me

That evening we met up again with their friends Chris and Chris, who are also history majors and live across the hall from Chella and Tony. We had dinner at the Amherst Brewing Company. I wish I could tell you in detail about why this became probably the funniest night of my entire life, but there is no way to put into words what happened. You will think I am strange. You will never read my blog again. You will think, "How could she ever laugh-so-hard-she-cried for about 30 minutes straight, only to have more bouts of laughter throughout the night, crying included."

Really? You want to know?

Are you sure?

Ok, well I hope you aren't sorry after reading the details. So, Michella, Tony, Chris, Chris, and I went to a restaurant called Amherst Brewing Company. We ordered our meals and decided to get a couple appetizers, one of which was mozzarella cheese sticks. I heart cheese sticks - seriously - I can't go to a restaurant that offers them and not order them. The hot, oozing sticks of goodness were delivered to our table, and we all began eating. In the middle of a bite, I looked across the table to see one of the Chris' choking on his cheese stick. His body was doing that slow-rolling gagging movement, and his eyes were like a deer in headlights. I panicked. I asked him if he wanted a drink. Chris shook his head 'no' and put up one finger as if to say, "Just a second." Another huge body rolling gag followed. I started sweating! Chella said, "It probably doesn't help that we're all staring at you, huh?" Chris shook his head 'no' again. My eyes quickly fell to my lap. I didn't know what to do! My mind was racing - should I get help? Am I going to have to give the Heimlich Manuveur? Is he going to be sick in front of everyone in this restaurant? I was spinning! I guess in an attempt to keep things "normal," Chella began eating and chatting again - yes, while Chris was still choking two seats away! I was like, "Are you freaking serious???" I was still sweating! Finally, after what seriously felt like an etermity, Chris was able to swallow the cheese stick. I didn't know what to say or do. I mean, how do you recover from something like that? Chella said something - I can't even remember what - and I just started DYING LAUGHING! I was crying so hard and laughing even harder. I could not pull it together! I think it was a release from feeling so completely tense for 5 minutes while reviewing the Heimlich Manuveur in my head. Regardless, I could not stop laughing!!! Chella asked me why I was laughing, and I said something about how I would never for the rest of my life eat another cheese stick without thinking of that moment. She then started talking about going out to eat in the future and a server saying that the special was mozzarella cheese sticks. She called for a moment of silence, and then poured some marinera sauce out onto the plate in memory of "a fallen comrade." I LOST IT!!! I was crying all over myself, hardly breathing, and I could not pull it together. Poor Chris...he was the victim of it all, but he handled everything with class. In fact, there was one last cheese stick left, and none of us wanted to touch it, so Chris said that he would eat it! I almost died. For the rest of the meal, I went back and forth between taking small bites of food (and chewing them 20 times each) and panicking over the possibility that Chris would again choke on his food. Chella, Tony, and I continued to laugh all night, long after dinner had ended. When I retold the story to Ryan on the phone, I could barely make out the words I was laughing so hard. I don't know if the story feels as funny or uncomfortable to you as it did to me that night, but to me, I have truly never laughed harder in my entire life.

The next morning, Chella and I did some shopping in Amherst and then met Tony at a bagel shop. It was delicious! Then Chella took me to University of Massachusetts to see where she teaches and used to attend classes. I loved seeing her office in Herter Hall, and then I really enjoyed going up to one of the top floors of the school's library. It provided a great view of the university, as well as the outlying area.

So proud of you, Chella! Can't wait to call you Dr. Marino!

The U Mass Library

Before Chella and Tony took me back to Hartford, CT later that afternoon to catch my flight out of town, we made one last stop at Antonio's Pizza by the Slice. It was delicious!!! All in all, I had a wonderful trip to MA. Chella and Tony were wonderful hosts, and I got to see a part of the country that I've never visited. Thank you, Chella and Tony, for making my stay so wonderful and hilarious!!!

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