Always the hurricanes blowing, but I and my welcome mat remained safe

No, Irma did not sweep me away! My lack of blogging for two weeks wasn’t because I was blown to Georgia, but because I was packing, storm-proofing, and travelling to crash at my brother’s place in North Carolina to avoid Irma altogether. And then I spent one week catching up on all of the how-are-you-surviving-Irma emails from family and friends. I feared for a while I had writer’s block. But I’ve been simply typed out.

It would have been helpful to issue a PSA of some kind that said: not only am I safe, I am absolutely unaffected in pretty much every way by this storm.

Truly. Few people in Florida have less to do than me. Leaving town for a couple weeks is very simple for me. (Partially because my carryon and toiletries are always packed ready to go in case I feel so inclined in moment’s notice.) I was not put out in any way and it was actually a pretty rare happenstance that I got to spend so much time with my brother, uninterrupted by Christmas, or weddings, or a revolving door of other people.

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I say “leaving town” being using the word “evacuate” seems dramatic and like we were in danger. We weren’t. I promise the only thing that would have happened to us if we had stayed was that we’d have spent likely one night without air conditioning. That’s all that happened to our building. One night without power. My car wasn’t washed away, no debris damage. I even forgot to take in my seashell welcome mat before we left, and it was still there when we returned over a week later! Our home, our belongings were all fine. No looters even cared to take my cello.

In reality, I didn’t have any reason to stick around for the storm at all. I could have hopped the next flight out to YYZ, or YYT for that matter, and escaped it all. But I’ve never done the hurricane thing here yet living as a Floridian, so I figured I’d see what it was all about, and also be a supportive spouse since my husband had to stay close to school.

How I prepped for the hurricane:

  • Bought a three days’ supply of non-perishable food, at the recommendation of the Florida Governor’s tweets
  • Made my own ice packs from the freezer’s ice maker and Ziploc baggies for the cooler because I listened to my husband when he said the town would be SOLD OUT of ice
  • Went to Walmart to buy a cooler to save all of the hormone-free, boneless, skinless chicken breast I’ve been hoarding in my freezer from the Buy-One-Get-One sales (#housewifelife) and discovered STACKS of ice cheaper than my Ziploc bags
  • Did a few loads of laundry in case we lost power
  • Took out some cash in case debit machines went down and ATMs ran out
  • Cleaned the bath tubs and sinks once we decided to leave the next day to prevent mildew from growing
  • Ran the dishwasher so nothing dirty was left to get gross
  • Emptied the fridge of everything perishable and turned down the temperature inside to keep it cooler longer in case we lost power
  • Made healthy chicken wraps and other snacks to eat on the road, foreseeing traffic would be bad and we wouldn’t have time to stop for food
  • Packed air mattress, sheets, pillows, cooler, important documents like our marriage certificate and visas, my passport (you know, in case I do get the itch)
  • Closed all the blinds and curtains to block out sun so that our air conditioning didn’t have to have a heart attack when it returned after a power outage, trying to cool down the place (and save me a heart attack from the bill)

How my husband prepared for the hurricane:

  • Put gas in both our vehicles
  • Unplugged the tv
  • Patted himself on the back for trading in his sports car for his pickup truck

…yup.

We did leave during the recommended voluntary evacuation when it looked like Daytona was going to get hit bad. I posted a quippy Facebook post from the road to tame the fear mongering back home. While CNN was likely showing footage of highway traffic out of Miami, I wanted to reassure everyone that we were fiiiiiiiine and it wasn’t THAT bad. Turns out it did get THAT bad, especially in Georgia, and then more so in South Carolina. We were crawling at 10 mph at best.

My pro tip for evacuating: DO NOT DRINK ANY LIQUIDS. I was a champ who held it for about five hours, distracted only by the mystery flavour pack of Haribo gummy bears. Skip the coffee before you leave if you’re just the passenger, because you’ll nap from the boredom anyway. Save yourself. The 8 hour drive took over 13 and I ate crow. I could also later safely eat chicken, though, because everything stayed perfectly frozen in the cooler #winning #housewifestsyle.

And while my brother was a terrific host, it felt like at times we had evacuated to a shelter. He’s renting, you see, before moving into a house, so he wisely left most of his things in storage until then. Things, you know, kettles, toasters, FURNITURE. So while I did bring an air mattress and sheets, I did not quite expect to find no other furniture except one very tiny love seat in the whole apartment. We ate every meal cross legged on the floor. I spent my time either watching Grey’s Anatomy from my slow-leaking air mattress, which transitions to a hammock pretty well, or using a Tupperware container of my brother’s kitchen stuff he didn’t care to unpack as a short desk upon which I’d answer emails. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite like a shelter, but it was like camping indoors. Should have brought my beach chair. Boiling water in a pot on the stove to make coffee and using the oven broiler to toast bread was the closet to camping I hope I ever get again.

By the way, since so many of the emails I got out of love and concern could have been answered with this one reply, I’ll post it here so I don’t have to again: Yes, we’re fine, and no, please do not look forward to meeting a baby Irma, nor Irmo, in June #sorrynotsorry.

And although I was simply in a different apartment, not all that different from my life in Florida, it started to feel like time was crawling. My brother cooked, which was a treat. And it’s rude to clean someone else’s place so there went most of what I do with my time, except that one time his kitchen sink’s garbage disposal clogged and made the pipes spew rotting crap, and I got to sweep in and get my hands in some soap and help! My husband and I got so sick of seeing other all the time, from doing nothing, from sitting on the floor for hours until I eventually wanted to grab my sister-in-law’s yoga ball and scream WILSON!

We headed back the day before his school reopened come hell or high water (too soon?). We left not knowing if we had power, but at least driving back gave us something to do. Greenville seems to have held my attention about as long as Daytona does.

The drive back was equally painful as the way up. Slow moving traffic, inching our way through South Carolina. FINALLY we see four lanes again, and it’s clear up ahead, and we can put on cruise control and just drive. It was a little eery seeing the National Guard posted at every exit, but it was nonetheless delightful to be returning to Florida at such speed. I closed my eyes to doze off again, only to open them to find us EXITING the interstate, onto a small state road, definitely off course, and definitely the WRONG direction from home. My husband decided, clearly on his own, that it was the day (it was not) to taste his favourite burger chain in America, so he was taking a DETOUR from our already 12 hour drive to add another 45 minutes to it by driving to a small town for Whataburger. We were headed east, which is where Irma did her worst, as evident by the missing roof tops on a lot of buildings.

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Turns out Whataburger wasn’t even open to eat-in, so we didn’t get to stretch our legs or use the restroom, but instead we sat in the drive-thru for another 15 minutes. And I ate a burger that wasn’t what I ordered.

I’m sooo over evacuating. And I’m restless from boredom, and feeling useless when there’s so much help needed now.

I’ve applied to volunteer with the Red Cross. I’m pretty sure I won’t be sent to Puerto Rico, seeing as how under the section titled knowledge of: I almost wrote “West Side Story.” Didn’t think it was appropriate timing to remind them of the unflattering lyrics in “America.” Even Florida now is prone to tropic di-sea-ses, anyway. I could, though, potentially be sent to the Keys or Miami, because the clean-up down there will take months. I also wouldn’t mind being sent to Tampa where I hear Kristin Bell is still helping out. (We could sing Frozen duets.) They were looking for volunteers especially who had availability to go on two-week assignments. Considering my only true commitments left to 2017 are two weddings and one rehearsal dinner, I’m hoping they make use of me. I don’t, however, have a Social Security Number down here yet, so I’m crossing my fingers it doesn’t get my application tossed out.

But let me reiterate that we were very fortunate. Fortunate that we had nothing damaged. Fortunate we had family to stay with within driving distance. Many people here in our county alone have lost their homes, their cars, their belongings, and had to stay in hotels they could not afford, eating meals out they could not afford, lost time from work they could not afford, and stay in shelters. The shelters were run out of local elementary schools, which are now back in session this week, displacing all of those who needed that service and now have nowhere to go. The local Red Cross is asking for hotels to assist with free rooms, and people with extra bed rooms in their homes to be generous, because there is a desperate need.

I posted my husband’s old table and chairs on a local buy & sell group on Facebook this weekend. In joining the group, I got caught up in all of the ads of people looking for help. For extra paid work. For extra child care so they can go to work. For rides to work because they no longer have a car. But one ad finally broke me, and I cried. One woman needed to borrow four puppy pads until she got paid, because she couldn’t take shifts during the storm, and then she’d replace them for you. My husband found me sitting on the floor crying over that one, and he was the first to say that we should just go buy her a pack and drop them off. I searched frantically for the ad to reply, but I hope its disappearance means someone already helped.

So please don’t worry about how we are surviving. There are many who need your thoughts and prayers far more. Especially any child name Irmo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day I Moved to a New and Shiny Place (America)

I’m a pretty big Neil Diamond fan. And when I say fan, I mean more than Sweet Caroline. I love his whole songbook. It’s peculiar for someone my age, but I’ve loved him since childhood and more so since seeing The Jazz Singer. My mother believed I should grow up seeing key movies from the eighties – Beaches, Steel Magnolias, Ghost, Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Weekend at Bernie’s, and The Jazz Singer. My fandom of Neil Diamond has led me down a couple of very interesting paths in my life, but I most recently drew inspiration from his song America.

I had a direct flight from St. John’s to Orlando booked for my big move to America, three weeks after the wedding. It seemed easier that way, and safer for my cello. Add travelling at humane hours and Michael Scott would call this a win-win-WIN. I’d arrive in time to drive to Tia Cori’s for fish tacos. Delish.

girl stuffs face with fish taco

Spoiler alert: sadly, I tasted my favorite tacos two weeks after my arrival.

I was just taking 1/3 of my wardrobe, my music books, my cello, and a few pink tchotchkes. No furniture. No car. No coats (yay!). It was going to be simple because my husband could take an extra checked bag with him when he left. Oh, but right. Then he got sciatica and couldn’t even manage his own carry-on when he returned to Florida a few weeks ahead of me. Wait. Okay. (Counting number of bags on fingers.) Shit.

I ended up flying down with a little more weight and a few more bags than I intended, including one very heavy personal item, containing all of the wedding gifts from people who MISSED THE MEMO that our registry shipped directly to Daytona.

Few people have likely gone through airport security in St. John’s with Waterford Crystal in their bag, stuffed with ankle socks and wrapped in my Yale sweatpants. The agent peered at the screen and looked up at me to ask “hey, crystal? Nice!” And then I responded with the Richard Burke all-knowing head nod, and said, “wedding gift.” He nodded in solidarity, like he too had once flown with Waterford Crystal strapped to his body.

I landed uneventfully in Orlando, ready to be a wife! Got my married name passport to boot, whether I wanted it or not. Yes, I mean, deep down I guess I did want to change my name. But then “immigration” (actually, I think it was just a woman at my husband’s university named Judy) tells you you really SHOULD change your name, because it would make immigrating so much easier, and your paperwork to enter as a dependent would be processed so much faster, and entering through customs with a matching last name to my spouse would make it so much smoother. I followed Judy’s instruction blindly.

I stood in the customs line up with my paperwork in hand, Canadian passport sparkling on top. A Hector Elizondo doppelgänger was directing the flow of passengers. He took a look at my passport and asked me en français if I spoke French. I feigned all humble, and bashfully say “no, no, not very well.” And he said having a second language was the best thing a person could have in this world, after the language of music. And then I swept him off his feet by adding that I’m a cellist. And wouldn’t you know – his brother lives in Italy and conducts an orchestra there, but he himself was a drummer and plays the bossa nova exclusively. And then Hector closed his eyes and held up his hands in a partner hold and hummed a bossa nova while his feet took little steps.

Judy was right, this was going so smoothly! I’m obviously going to charm the pants off these people. Wait until they learn I’m from the place Come From Away is set.

But things quickly turned bumpy. I took my cello playing, NL butt to the customs desk, now humming The Girl from Ipanema myself, but this young officer just took one brief, casual, sideways glance at my dependent paperwork and said, “let’s just get a better look at this inside.”

But I am inside already. What did he mean?

He meant inside secondary customs screening, which I now believe was designed to replicate the experience upon arrival at Ellis Island. Except there was no feeling of hope. Just tears and fears.

No more humming. I sat in silence, deflated. I sat with my carry-on in my lap, so I could still feel the crystal and make sure it was intact. No phones were allowed. Someone had theirs confiscated not long after I arrived, so I didn’t even attempt to try to send my husband a message. He would be getting so worried. How long could this take anyway?

HOURS went by. I kept busy memorizing the government website posted on the wall to file complaints about my customs experience. I just knew I would have them. There was no rhyme or reason to the processing. I tried to figure out the delay, but there was no use reading lips, because I don’t speak Spanish. Judy didn’t mention this. My neighbor, though, was young and kind of cute, and he spoke a bit of English. He told me my name was beautiful, and pronounced it like LAO (like plow)-RA with a rolled “r,” and I thought, oooh, that’s kind of sexy. So we got to chatting away, and he was teaching me little phrases in Spanish and I started to re-inflate.

Until a woman threw herself at the glass door from the outside, screeching, hands splayed, most likely breaking her nose in the process. Seriously THREW herself at the door, like a bird flying into a window pane that then dies immediately upon impact. She knelt down, I thought to mourn her nose or possibly wipe the blood smear off the glass, but instead she slid a set of house keys under the door.

Until people were getting barked at to have their fingers inked and “booked.” WTF. Was I going to be finger printed? And all of a sudden my Spanish teacher neighbor was hauled out of his seat to be “booked” and taken to what I can only assume to be an interrogation room (I think they labeled it “tertiary screening”). A very large, intimidating officer then gruffly snapped a blue latex glove over his chubby hand, wriggling his fingers through to the very tips, and followed behind, letting the door slam shut behind him. JUDY!

Now, I’m no detective. But I’ve watched enough CBS crime dramas to understand a blue gloved hand is not good news. I was prepared for a lot in this new phase of married life. Plus I had this new name, didn’t I? This was supposed to make sure entering the country went smoothly. But I was definitely never prepared for this. Nothing about a blue gloved hand entering an a**hole was smooth. AM I NEXT?! IS THIS MY COMING TO AMERICA NEIL DIAMOND SANG ABOUT ALL THESE YEARS?

No, thankfully, I was not searched for drugs. As it turned out, processing was exceptionally delayed and slow because my new friend and several others were seemingly trying to enter illegally while carrying some illegal things (in WEIRD places), and they were being shipped back to where they came from. They were “booked” in time to catch a flight being held for them. Maybe it is the storyline for Come From Away, the sequel.

Almost three hours had passed, and the convenience of my four-hour direct flight was now moot. I really needed to let my husband know I was okay. I nervously approached the two officers and shyly asked to use the restroom. The now-gloveless officer grunted for me to follow him. We walked through some type of locker room, and then rounded the corner to the “restroom.” It was much more like an condemned high school gym’s forgotten toilet, with no door. The opposite of safe. The very contradiction of sanitary. The officer turned back on to the toilet, folded his arms, and I had no choice but to accept him as a human shield. Thank GOD I spent whole weekends binge watching Homeland. Because I *may have* pulled a Carrie Mathison, going rogue and breaking the rules. I was going to get a message out to my husband to tell him where I was, no matter the risk. He must have been worried sick. The officer is distracted, so I sneak the cold tap water on very gently to make it sound like I’m peeing longer than I really am, and I frantically try to connect to Orlando International’s wi-fi to send a What’s-App message. Trying to quickly get the important stuff out in as few words as needed: Landed safely, stuck in customs. No. In customs, go find cello. Mmm. Tighten it up. At customs, have tacos? SEND.

Discretely turn off water, flush, wash hands, feel like an absolute BAD ASS UNDERCOVER AGENT. I slip my phone back into my purse in the waiting room, only to see “failure to send” flash across the screen. Goddamn. I likely just risked the blue glove treatment because I was too curious about my tacos.

But they released me not long after, and I hustled out of there as fast as one can hustle with Waterford Crystal bouncing at your side.

I still had to pick up my cello and oversized suitcase, which were left standing helpless out in the open and seemingly free for the taking (thanks, MCO). I piled all my bags onto a cart to make my way to take the shuttle to change terminals. I’m stopped by two airport authorities who are peering down at me with their arms crossed, like they’re Harry and Marv. Nope, not allowed to take the cart. I had no option but to saddle up. Cello strapped to my back, crystal strapped to my front. I crammed my body, a hard shell cello case, two suitcases and my carry-ons onto an escalator, TWICE.

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This whole time a smug, short, middle-aged man in a business suit is taking the exact same route, wheeling one very tiny carry-on. He watches me try to load onto the shuttle. He watches me skid halfway down the shuttle as it launches forward and I have nothing to grip because for some f*cking reason people did not shop off my registry and I’m burdened with precious breakables. He follows me, and I avoid eye contact with him, even though I can feel he’s trying to catch my eye, because I’m afraid I will shout at him “CAN I HELP YOU? OH WAIT. THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE YOUR LINE.

I channel every ounce of Gal Gadot I have in me (which turns out is not a lot except for our eyebrows when I don’t over-tweeze). One of my cello case straps snaps from the strain, and now I’m lopsided, and I have one suitcase with spinner wheels, one that needs to be dragged, and I’m sweating a lot, and WHERE IS MY HUSBAND? I just moved to a new country for him, he could at least show up.

I dig out my phone and call him. I’m breathless. I just carted well over my own body weight here in bags hanging off my body and I need someone to take something off me before I break. Literally physically break. I can’t see him anywhere. He must be worried sick…

It turns out I took so long, he got hungry waiting for me, so he went to a restaurant and ordered a salad, he’d be right there.

My coming to America. This land was not so sweet to me today, which is just as well, because in this moment I’m not exactly thrilled with it either. Of thee I do not sing. Not today.

newlyweds posing by vineyard in Napa

After the honeymoon, husband & wife return to respective planets

Even if that was our half-honeymoon, it is WHOLLY over. Remember how sentimental my last post (Men are from Mars, women are from Venus: together, they try to honeymoon) ended? How easily charmed I was that I found my husband doing *gasp* his own laundry once we got home?

I spoke too soon.

He did, to his credit, complete one full load. I found it seven days later in the dryer. He did attempt a second, which I found, also seven days later, in the washer. Let me back up:

We, duh, went to watch the eclipse on campus. Aerospace engineering students do not miss this rare phenomenon. Although campus ran out of glasses, we were able to sneak behind a laboratory thanks to a friend, and watch the whole thing through welding masks (yes, adjusted correctly). We left with plans for this friend to join us for dinner later, and off I headed to the gym.

I run now. (I’ll pause here to allow you to pick your jaw up off the floor.) I find it centers me or calms me down if I’m anxious from boredom or from living in a republican county. On this particular run, I was centering: dinner would have to be gluten-free. Fine, I have a stash of gluten-free pasta in the pantry just for this friend. Turkey sausages were already thawed, marinara sauce was two-for-one this week at the grocery store – I was set. I even remembered our friend can drink wine, not beer, so we picked up both on the way home from campus. My only other to-do item was my laundry. I hadn’t needed to do a load since we got back from the honeymoon.

I skip off the treadmill feeling calm. Quiet. Centered. Happy to cook dinner for my husband and friend.

I walk in the apartment to find the living room and bedroom empty, which is strange, because my husband’s truck is in the parking lot. (Oh yeah, we own a truck now, not a sports car. Another time.) The door to his office is half open, and I see a pair of cargo shorts on the floor. He’s lying on our brand new guest bed in his underwear, with his headphones on and eyes closed. (The guest bed he fought me on since day one. Obviously I won.)

Anyway, so he’s on the bed. He also doesn’t seem to hear me. His hands are folded over his chest like he’s been laid to rest. A woman’s face on his laptop screen on the desk next to him catches my eye and she’s very lovely to look at. Slavic, maybe. I have to break his trance to ask “WTF” and I’m informed it’s ASMR. Sure!

Oh, you don’t know what that is? Let me explain, because I didn’t either. ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. It’s when you’re soothed by the visual of someone caressing your scalp and it sends tingling feelings down your body. So that beautiful face you see on the screen? She’s pretending to touch you. He describes it as relaxing. Yup… that’s one word for it.

He looks annoyed that I broke him out of his trance, and I comment “she’s quite pretty,” channeling my best Emma Thompson impression from Love Actually. “She’s not even one of the pretty ones,” was his response. Ah, I think. That makes this better.

I back out of the room slowly, silently. Close the door behind me. I feel like the mother of a teenager who has accidentally walked in on her son and even though nothing was explicitly happening, it’s still pretty awkward and you want to leave him in privacy. Okay, stay centered, Stay calm.

Laundry! I’ll feel less irritated once I accomplish something. I open the washer to let it fill, but it’s already full of wet clothes. His clothes. Wrangled and wrinkly and soggy. I softly open the door to his office and sweetly ask how long has the wet clothes been sitting there. He reluctantly pulls the headphones down and apparently has no idea. I close the door again, and head back to the laundry room for the dreaded sniff test. I wrack my brain and can’t recall any time he’s stepped foot in the laundry room except for… no… it can’t be. I did not need to get very close to the clothes to know the answer was most definitely seven days. Great. So now I have to re-do his mildew scented laundry. (Did I mention the honeymoon was SO over?) I guess mine will wait until tomorrow.

Upon further inspection, his wet laundry consisted of a dress shirt, cargo shorts, a new ivory towel, and a black t-shirt, among other various smaller articles. Now, I may not be a rocket scientist, but that is one poorly constructed load. To his credit (I’m really playing it fast and loose here with the word credit), I did learn on our honeymoon that this aversion and disinterest in laundry is likely genetic.

And as tired as I feel from just having finished my run, I want to bolt out the front door and do it all again. I am so far from centered.

I open the door, this time with more force, and barge in. Relaxation be damned. “You know you can’t do that, right?” He looks at me, annoyed, and pulls his headphones down around his neck. “Guess quiet time is over,” he mutters, now also irritated. GUESS SO, I shout inside my head. But on the outside, I am smiling. Like Claire Dunphy laughing, but not with her eyes.

Fast forward to an hour later. I’m a goddess in the kitchen, with pots on all burners, chopping a side salad, setting the table. The boys are now outside measuring the truck. (I dunno, I guess it’s what men do when they own a truck.) They come in and pour up wine, and our friend takes a seat in one of our counter-height chairs facing me across the island. Jazz is on in the background. I’m chopping. I’m stirring. I’m sautéeing. Did I mention I’m a goddess? My husband has not lifted a finger to contribute to this meal, but yet feels so moved by the ambience of it all, he whips out a clean dish towel (after asking me where I keep them) and throws it over his shoulder so he can look like Sam Malone. I can’t. make. this. up.

Cheers

“Take. It. Off.” I don’t want him to even pretend that he’s helping.

Fast forward to the next day. I wake up to a sparkling clean kitchen, because, no shit, I cleaned it myself. Except for the wine glasses. We have an understanding I said once and he ignored that when he uses wine glasses, he has to clean them. They’re the shape and brand he insists on owning, but they don’t fit in the dishwasher. I see four dirty wine glasses strewn around the place, so I collect them all and line them up next to the sink. Next to the sink. In retrospect, I should have left a little sign propped up against them that said “wash me”.

I finally get to my laundry. He comes home from a pizza party at school. I head out to Wal-Mart for toilet paper. As I’m leaving, he’s heading into the bedroom for a nap. Guess that pizza party took a lot out him. After Wal-Mart, I head to the grocery store and buy a week’s worth. It’s time consuming, because I’m meal planning in my head on the fly, and trying to stick to his diet guidelines. Like a pack mule, I load myself up with every bag out of my Corolla, and slowly make my way up the stairs to our second floor apartment. I’m moving at the speed of one of those 150 year-old tortoises.

I’m winded at the top and can hardly fit me and my reusable bags through the door. Now he’s splayed out on the couch watching Friends reruns. Guess nap time is over. I drag the bags into the kitchen and within minutes, everything is stored way and I have beef sitting in a homemade marinade (thanks to my new friend Anna) in the fridge for two days’ time. The wine glasses are still just sitting there.

After dinner, I gently point out that they really need to be washed. I’m sticking to my guns on this one. I’m not going to clean them. If he thinks he’s gonna wait me out, he’s wrong. “I’ll get to it later,” he assures me.

Fast forward to 11:39 pm and I just made homemade oatmeal as a late night snack. We’re on the couch, still watching reruns, talking about going to bed soon. I look over at the sink and the wine glasses haven’t budged. I less than gently point it out, again. “Those will have to wait to tomorrow. It’s too late now. But I’ll put the rest of the dishes away.” He picks up his bowl, walks past me AND MY EMPTY BOWL and heads toward the dishwasher.

I’m exasperated. I lose my ability to make sound. I’m gesticulating wildly at my bowl.

“Are these clean or dirty?” he asks, standing immediately in front of the dishwasher. I manage to squeak out “I don’t know.” But it’s a bold-faced lie. I ALWAYS know. I always know because I’m pretty much the only person who ever empties it. And I’m also pretty much the last person to ever load it. I usually to have to re-do what’s been stowed inside. Maybe if I had married a civil engineer… “Open it,” is my helpful response. Good God, tell me you can see the difference.

Soon I hear laughter coming out of my mouth but I’m actually frightened. My husband does not see dishes. Or dirt. Or comprehend chores. It’s precious, really (thanks, Michael in TO, for the word choice inspiration). And I don’t want to nag. As gentle as I try to be (it’s not in my nature), he’s driving me insane. I’ll probably get an ulcer this way. And I know it’s not malevolent. I know he wants to help out and, most importantly, he definitely wants to end the nagging.

I plead with him. There must be a way. A better system. So we hashed it out. Wanna know what the PhD and I came up with? Here’s the new system:

I am to send him a daily text message in the morning detailing what chores he must accomplish that day. Yes, you read that correctly. A daily text message. From his wife. To tell him what chores exist in our two-bedroom apartment.

I’m about to send today’s message. There’s no text to compose, it is solely one photo.

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Men are from Mars, women are from Venus: together, they try to honeymoon

My goal was to write a blog post once a week. But then my husband and I took a pretty impromptu trip to California and I kept forgetting the wifi codes wherever we were staying, so I missed last week. Not that writing a blog on your honeymoon takes priority. It shouldn’t. So I kept sneaking notes on my iPhone so I wouldn’t forget.

We actually aren’t sure if that was our honeymoon or not. His family seemed to have declared it so in a family email. It was somewhat half-assed in its planning. We booked flights one week beforehand, hotel about three days beforehand. We knew we wanted wine, and that we needed a break from the oppressive humidity of central Florida in the summer. Northern California seemed like a good match for both. I wore sneakers most days, rode a bike for two of them, and hiked for one. Not exactly what I thought my honeymoon would look like. But it was our first trip together as a married couple, so perhaps that is the only criteria that matters. Maybe my wardrobe criteria are secondary.

I knew before moving to Florida that there would be times when my husband and I did things differently. I knew, for example, that he plans his bedtime so that he always gets 8 hours of sleep, whereas I only sleep once my Netflix series binge du jour has come to a sufficient emotional cadence.

Once I moved in, there were others. Small. Many.

  • I prefer Dove soap, he prefers Ivory.
  • I like the fresh linen scented Bounce sheets, he insists on free and gentle. Though I do all the laundry, I’m not a monster, so I buy both and only use linen for my things.
  • He cleans using paper towels, I use soap and dish cloths.
  • I like to decorate with area rugs and cute pillows. He likes to decorate with coffee mugs and beer bottles half full. Sometimes I think I’m on the set of the M. Night Shyamalan sci-fi thriller, Signs. 
  • I like to take my shoes off in the porch, he likes to walk his all over the carpet. (I should introduce him to our vacuum and he might change his perspective there a bit.)
  • When he decides it’s time for bed, he simply turns off the light, makes a beeline to the bed, promptly gets under the covers, and begins to snore. When I decide it’s time for bed, I first turn the light back on, tidy up the living room, put anything dirty in the dishwasher, wipe down the counter tops one last time, refill the Brita filter to make coffee in the morning, take out something in the freezer for dinner the next day, bring in the garbage can from the nightly collection service, deadbolt the front door, set an alarm for the morning, and floss.

So it shouldn’t surprise me that when preparing for our half-honeymoon, we would also have different approaches.

Usually for a two week trip, I plan months in advance. Make lists. Monitor weather forecasts. Read travel guide books. Make more lists. Break in new shoes. Refill my miniature toiletries. I’m packed usually a few days before I go. Every outfit gets tried on before going in my suitcase. It might sound crazy, but the payoff is worth it. My travel usually unfolds seamlessly – never overpacked, or under. Never overdressed or under. It’s a process that works for me. I didn’t have months this time. I had a couple days. And since I’m trying to embrace this beachcomber life, I was playing it cool. I was stifling the Monica Gellar within me.

Only two days of weather forecasts. I would shout out loud so my husband could hear me that the temperatures in San Francisco are just like St. John’s – foggy, cool. Only a couple Google searches on San Francisco packing tips. Again, I would shout out loud so he could hear me that layers would be smart. I searched for vineyard dress codes. Confession: I did also Google what to wear while riding a bike, since I have not done so in 20 years. I put the outfits for the second week of the trip on the bottom of my suitcase so that everything I need for the first is on top, and things remain folded and less wrinkly from constant rooting. I was packed the night before we left. I was even the gracious housewife I’m grooming myself to become by doing two loads of his laundry.

His process is different, I’ve now seen it firsthand. How he waits until three hours before our flight to get out his suitcase. How he balls up anything clean in his closet and quite literally dumps it in. How he packs only toothpaste and deodorant because he assumes he will either mooch off of my shampoo or use what he can find in the hotel. A hunter/gatherer approach to travel.

Three hours before we leave, he asks “do I need pants?” And I facepalm. I choke down what I/Monica want/s to say – I’m trying to be gracious. This man is a rocket scientist. Quite literally a rocket scientist.

Two hours before we leave for the airport, he holds up a pair of dirty black shorts hung on the back his bathroom door I missed and asks “these didn’t get washed?”

One hour before we leave for the airport (while he’s finishing his first load of laundry since I moved here), he leaves to buy new shoes. Yes, leaves to go shopping. For shoes he needs to wear every day on the trip. When he leaves, I also dart out to Wal-Mart to buy him miniature shampoo and conditioner because I’m definitely not gracious enough to share my mini supply.

And while all of this made me want to scream and shout ARE YOU KIDDING ME, I didn’t (#growth). But it bespeaks how the rest of our trip unfolds.

For instance, day one in San Francisco was à la Laura. The night before, I had researched a must-do spot for brunch (cross-referenced with its Yelp review). I checked to see if we should take public transportation there or if it was easier to Uber (Uber won). Next, I had already reserved our bicycle rentals online to save 20% and pickup was conveniently right next to brunch #coincidenceIthinknot. We cycled about 9 miles, including across the gorgeous Golden Gate bridge. Lunch was in Sausalito, and then we were to cross by ferry back to SF. My husband deviated from my plan slightly, but we reconvened at the Aquarium before riding a cable car to Chinatown for an epic, five-star Szechuan dinner. It was an expertly planned, well-executed day, knocking off lots of San Francisco highlights.

Day two was up to my husband. We started by waiting for a bus at a bus stop that no longer existed. After a quick rerouting, we ended up in an hour and a half line up for brunch. Then we bailed on the line and waited for another bus. Then we bailed on the bus and walked on foot… And although the day improved dramatically from there (once I took the reigns again, whether they were offered to me or not) – you can see how our styles remained polar opposite.

Similarly in Napa, I would pour over the wine country magazines with rankings and suggestions based on grape, cross-referencing with the recommendations from his uncle Kevin to map an entire day of wine tasting in a convenient driving loop, with lunch stops between winery 2 & 3. So we came to agree that I am a natural travel agent and guide, and he is content to be a passive participant, to be led to wine like a horse to water. Once we settled into this groove, we were all the happier for it.

I’m still uploading the several hundred photos I took before I share the highlights. And now I’m also distracted losing the SEVEN pounds I gained. Jesus. Imagine if I hadn’t gone cycling or hiking.

But most impressive is the fact that he did two loads of his own laundry upon our return before I had even finished my first coffee. Maybe it was our honeymoon after all…

 

 

colorful ceramic mosaic tile in Old Town of American and Spanish flags

First Florida Expedition: St. Augustine

My husband and I love road trips. We loved driving my old Yaris to Keels & King’s Cove in the summers and his old Jeep to Humber Valley for ski vacations in the winters. I bake cookies and we sing along to Neil Diamond and Barenaked Ladies like we’re a couple of soccer moms and dads. (I still need to learn all the words to Desiree because it’s getting embarrassing.)

Our least favorite road trip was the one where we towed all of his stuff from Newfoundland to Daytona Beach in four days. Because it’s practically impossible to cover that distance in four days comfortably, safely, and with your sanity intact. Roughly 4,000 km (that’s 2,485 mi for my American friends) and Google Maps clocks it at 50 hours. The engineer half of us (note: I am not the engineer) did not account for the weight of tow load. So our speed was reduced and we were driving for 16, 17 hours a day with no time for breaks. Just drive-throughs and roadside hotels, leg cramps and an overnight ferry crossing with no air conditioning. It very nearly ended our relationship, much like our first ski vacation where he thought he could teach me to downhill ski for the first time by simply letting me loose at the top of the slope.

So we were overdue for another fun road trip, finally, two years later. Our first destination in Florida was supposed to be Miami, but thesis life had other plans. Instead, our first road trip came highly recommended by his Aunt Michelle – St. Augustine, about an hour north of Daytona Beach.

We set off in my new Corolla. We were dieting, so this time there was no homemade cookies. We took the slightly longer, but much more scenic route, the A1A highway, which follows the coast from the unsubtle “World’s Famous Beach” sign, along the oceanfront and sandy beaches, lined with coastal mansions, palm trees and Trump supporter signs. Ignoring the latter, it’s a very beautiful drive.

 

St. Augustine is a lot like St. John’s, the small city where I’m from. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement on the continental USofA, founded in 1565 by a Spanish admiral. St. John’s was officially established as a permanent community sometime after 1630, but because it existed on maps as early as 1519, it is the oldest city in North America.

St. Augustine was the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years, until Spain gave up Florida to the US in 1819. St. Augustine still looks like a small Spanish village on the Mediterranean, and its historical character makes it a major tourist attraction. That, and it’s the birthplace of Ray Charles. Enter: me.

 

The change in pace, in setting, in culture, in beauty from DB was instantly refreshing and I felt like I was transported to Europe. The first stop of the day was the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental US. The first coquina stones (rock made up almost entirely of seashells) were laid in 1672 and it was completed in 1695. This makes it about 100 years older than the original fortifications at Fort Amherst in Newfoundland.

coquina stone, made almost entirely of seashells

I admit I was too cheap to pay the admission to actually go in the Castillo (just as I was content to view Stonehenge through its looped wire fencing), but I enjoyed walking the perimeter of the impressive fort, with the gorgeous view of the Matanzas Bay, and witnessing an awesome awkward family photo.

 

siblings posing next to canons all in a row

This would make a great pregnancy announcement for their 8th baby

Then we walked the historical district, on the pedestrian-only roads of St. George’s and Avilés, packed with little local shops and galleries and cafés that spill out into the cobblestone streets, where you can touch the textiles, taste the tapas, and see original oil paintings. There’s endless handcrafted jewellery and gauzy asymmetrical dresses. The streets look cheerful and colorful, almost like an Epcot pavilion.

St-George-Street

I’ve noticed something that I’ve come to admire about Americans and that’s their unrelenting enthusiasm to celebrate their own history. Signs everywhere for “the first school house”, the “first drug store,” all looking slightly inauthentic and cartoony. Here, they also have embraced the European history, too, with a one-tenth scale (and hilarious) replica of the Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada.

 

We had lunch at a small Cuban restaurant, and headed off on a quick walking tour before the real point of our afternoon. We saw the tiled mosaic, the Government House, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Augustine, the former Hotel Alcazar (now the Lightner Museum and City Hall), and Flagler College. There are trolleys and horse-drawn carriages to cart you around, but the whole town is very easily accessible by foot.

 

I really loved seeing the gift from St. Augustine’s sister city, Avilés, in Asturias, Spain. Displayed in Old Town, on Charlotte Street, it’s a beautiful ceramic tile mosaic depiction of the history linking to the two countries against the backdrop of their respective flags.

colorful ceramic mosaic tile in Old Town of American and Spanish flags

But for us, the highlights of the day were our FREE tours of the St. Augustine Distillery and the San Sebastien Winery, both of which also included FREE tastings! If you look on Trip Advisor for the top things to do here, the Distillery tour is #1. It’s locally owned in a restored ice plant from 1907, and produces handcrafted, award-winning rum, bourbon, whiskey, gin, and vodka. (All made from regionally grown, sustainably sourced ingredients, if you’re into that kinda great thing.) Our guide Amber was wicked and the tour was quite brief (mostly one room, in fact). But you don’t mind the brevity once you realize you’re being herded into a tasting room as your last stop and get to sample not one, not two, but FOUR craft liquor cocktails.

Now, I’m not a big drinker, except for gin, and there was gin, but I loved tasting their craft bourbon, rum and vodka. I had the best gin & tonic I’ve ever tasted there, and sure, the Rum Tiki was very popular. But the Florida Mule blew me away and I wanted to make off with a giant bottle of that gingery mule mix and take a bath in it.

A stone’s throw away was the San Sebastien Winery. We were there on a Sunday afternoon, which meant a self-guided tour (read: speed walking from tasting station to tasting station). This free tour came with not two, not six, but EIGHT free wine tastings, from dry whites to fruity reds and sweets rosés and then a port and sherry. Just call me Fraser Crane. The wines weren’t that good, but the cheese samples were delish and I had a brief nap in the video theatre where I remember hearing Florida is (surprisingly) the birthplace of American wine.

 

We strolled back to the old part of town, stopping for one last wine flight for my husband, before cruising back to Daytona, all in time for me to cook a two-veg-one-protein supper. The day was a win, and one of the best days in Florida we’ve had. I plan to go back once the school semester starts up so I can properly shop in the boutiques and maybe pick out something to hang on our walls. I also want to stay on the other side of the Bay and climb the famous lighthouse. This day trip will also be a highly rated “must-do” for any visitors that stay with me. Thank you, St. Augustine, for being the beautiful little European-esque oasis that you are. I’ll be seeing you.

 

 

 

This bride’s advice on how to plan an awesome wedding

 

I’m taking a time-out from describing the monotony of housewife life. And hey, shout out to Martha for her wedding magazines. They have always been my favorite, and her etiquette there is on point. So, since my wedding was pretty kick-ass, I am going to share my best wedding planning advice.

I have being planning imaginary weddings since I was about 12. I have a stack of bridal magazines dating back to 2001 that’s about as tall as I am. I’ve also run a wedding music business for 10 years, which has allowed me to attend and study hundreds of real weddings. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly (actually visually ugly). Almost two decades of bridal trends closely followed, closely scrutinized.

My wedding date was basically chosen by my brother. It ended up being the perfect date, so props for him for telling me neither he or his wife could travel in June, July, or August, with their wedding in September, leaving us one long weekend in May to maximize out-of-town travellers. The weekend where any weather is possible, although notoriously poor. But I ran with it. Getting married the day after your birthday, which you share with your husband, made for an epic weekend.

Here’s the most cliché advice ever:

  • Give your guests free drinks. We had a “signature drink” that was passed around when guests first arrived (not really our signature, we were offered one extra ingredient to add to the Prosecco), plus wine, plus full open bar all night. Perhaps no one enjoyed this as much as I did.
  • Feed your guests food they like. Our bbq buffet was delicious and got everyone fed fast. People raved about the food afterward, except that one guy with the feta allergy I didn’t know about. Can’t please ’em all. I don’t remember the passed hors d’oeuvres (too busy enjoying my signature) but I do remember the cake and cupcakes, and late night buffet of fries, dressing, gravy, and cheese curds. The cheese curds were probably also enjoyed most by me.
  • Have awesome live music/ give your guests an enjoyable experience. Having been musicians in our past lives, this was also important to us. Live jazz band at the welcome party, live string quartet for the prelude, live piano and opera singing during the ceremony, and a live dance band for the reception. We cut the things that tend to drag out an experience, like screech-ins, slide shows, and kissing games.

Less cliché, but my top tips on what to do to have an awesome wedding: 

  • If you’re going to personalize anything, skip the dress hangers, the shot glasses, the cocktail napkins. Personalize your ceremony – the actual act of getting married – so that it’s meaningful to you and your partner. Skip generic readings and generic vows and spend time making the most important part of the day personal.
  • We asked guests not to take photos or videos of their own, from any type of device, during the ceremony. This was really important to me. I wanted our team of professionals, literally the best in the biz, to be able to work uninterrupted and unobstructed. Capturing the day like I had asked. It would also let everyone just watch our wedding, be part of the day that matters most and in the actual moment with us. So, dear old uncle, put down your iPad, and enjoy. Almost everyone respected this. Not quite everyone, but few enough that I didn’t transform into bridezilla at the altar.
  • Eat alone. No, not by yourself. But just with your spouse. You’re so over the feeling of being on display at that point. (The signature drink will help with that, too.) But you will be hungry, and tired, and tired of talking. So sit just the two of you and eat.

    Laura-Neil-Wedding2017-44003

    Photo by Greg Locke, Stray Light Media, Inc.

  • Have a maid of honour who wears a rain coat with you, and helps you tear down the rented table cloths at the end of the party, and drag out arrangements of branches and peonies during freezing rain in the middle of the night because SAVE THE PEONIES.
  • Have a Riley to be your third arm. Who, despite the third wheel and almost-husband jokes, is the best third anything you could have in your life. Someone who can read your mind with one facial expression. Who carries your wedding dress out of the hotel the day after. Saves you from eating dairy the day before. Someone whose intuition and good humour keeps you in good humour.
  • Ask people to read at your ceremony who actually read. This matters. Our ceremony was honest and real because they were literate souls who really cared about their readings. Some consulted professional actors, others tested out accents. It was terribly exciting and definitely worth the videography!

But here’s some real, honest advice. The good stuff. The stuff behind the scenes to truly make the day as awesome as mine.

Here’s what not to do to have an awesome wedding:

  • Don’t follow traditions that have no meaning to you. Don’t get sucked in. Obviously we cancelled the gross garter search/toss. I didn’t believe in being given away, so I wasn’t. We don’t go to church, so there was no reference to God. I even had *gasp* my brother stand on MY side.
  • Don’t make the day miserable for your bridal party, who have dressed themselves and traveled for you already. Remember that you like these people the most. For us, that meant sparing them from the receiving line, from following us around for cheesy posed photos, from fist pumping through an awkward grand entrance, and from having to do the ever-awkward bridal party dance. Just. don’t. do it.
  • Don’t have a theme. You’re not at a birthday party. Togas, poodle skirts not required.
  • Don’t bore your guests with inside jokes. I learned that both sides of our family were preparing speeches we hadn’t asked to be given. It was handled by people to whom I am forever indebted. Because inside jokes or stories aren’t entertaining for those not part of them, and it’s better when the whole room (/I) can just eat and drink without interruption.
  • Don’t just have a best man. Have a Goodman. Mine comes in the form of a 6’2″ sweetheart who checked in with me consistently leading up to the wedding, cheerleading me on from afar. He took charge getting men out the door dressed and pressed. He allowed me to text him all night and all morning reminders of cufflinks and pocket squares. I gave his number to all my vendors because he is a man of military precision and punctuality. We once joked that the two of us could plan and execute a wedding from proposal to vows in just 24 hours #lifedreams.

Here’s how to create drama while planning your wedding:

  • Perhaps the most highly debated, contentious part of the guest list: not inviting small children. Sorry kids, today’s not for you. Some day, when you’re bigger and do not cry during once-in-a-lifetime quiet moments, and do not need a high chair or special meals, and do not need to take over a dance floor with your spins and twirls, some day someone else you know will have a wedding and you will get to go it and act bored. It was highly debated, both in front of me and behind me, but people forget small humans can exist on all sides of the family, and our number started growing well into the double digits. Winnebag-no. Which leads me to…
  • Remember you’re planning a wedding and not a family reunion. People will always feel they’re entitled to come to your wedding because they can trace back through their bloodline and link themselves to you. They will take interest in you all of a sudden during your engagement, leaving you scratching your head wondering when you last spoke. But you will want people there who know you better. Friends. Colleagues. Teachers. Trivia teams. People you spend your time with, who see you regularly. Wedding invitations do not come with blood tests. It’s okay.
  • And ah, yes. The ever infamous “plus one.” We didn’t do them. We stuck to our guns despite the subtle hints and not-so-subtle pleading. We had a tight floor plan, and tight numbers. No strangers allowed is absolutely okay to say on your wedding day.

Here’s how to best prepare yourself for your wedding:

  • Stop working out weeks in advance. Do you feel good when exercising regularly and eating healthy? Well, you won’t get to in the weeks immediately leading up to your wedding day, so practice loving your lumpy body, eating processed food, and handling breakouts on your face in advance. I personally gave up exercising 2.5 months beforehand.
  • Have a rehearsal. Practice getting married, from start to finish. I felt like I was Maggie Carpenter about to lace up her white runners at my rehearsal. I sweated profusely. I cried. I looked terrified. It was 100% necessary for me to practice getting married. To practice walking while being stared at. (Could have practiced that a little more, I think.) To practice keeping a poker face. To practice acting calm and gracious. These attributes do not come naturally to me.

    runawaybrides

    Me & Maggie Carpenter, both pretty sweaty. Got our sh*t’s gettin’ real faces on.

  • Have an officiant you trust. I didn’t want to be married by a stranger. When I look back at wedding photos, I wanted to see the face between mine and the groom’s and not struggle to remember their name. I chose one of my best friends to officiate. He is one of the very few people in my life to always be one step ahead of me, and he was there anticipating every one of my obsessive worries and concerns.
  • Have a Kristina. Someone not in your bridal party but there with you. Someone who you trust inherently because they are kind and good and goddamn helpful. Someone who can read a situation quicker than anyone else in it and create the solution before I can verbalize the problem. Someone who is good with names and faces, and making people feel comfortable. Having a Kristina is key. Without one, you are simply sad Meredith.
  • Know that while people will say it’s all about you, that it is not. And that’s a good thing. Because too many people staring and doting and constantly checking on you will freak you out. It’s nice to be able to stand in a room and not have to speak. To be able to collect your thoughts because no one is talking to you.

It’s more about people seeing each other for the first time in a long time. Surprise cousins. Surprise haircuts. First time visitors to Newfoundland. Group meals without you. Waking up on your birthday to an empty house. You will appreciate the space. You will appreciate your guests being happy and entertained and occupied. You will want the time to think. Because when they do talk to you, in the precious days before marriage, you will have conversations about how to cook using tinfoil, the worries about the weather forecast, did I know when so-and-so was arriving, where should one park, how is your fiancé’s back. It is so not about you. To the one person who looked at me when she first arrived and said I looked happy and relaxed, I love you. I clung to that for the next four days. (Thanks, Lark.) To the one person who hugged me and said that they were proud of me, I love you. I clung to that for the next 30 hours. (Thanks, Stephanie.) Those moments, as quick and brief as they were, were the most about me leading up to the wedding in the blur that the week had become. And they were all I needed to get through.

  • Raid the the miniature section of Shoppers Drug Mart so that you have enough small toothbrushes, deodorants, breath mints, Tums, floss and hair spray to stuff in any sized purse or bag you take with you. This for me became my gym bag, having gone unused for 2.5 months.

Lastly, I can’t decide if this is what to do, or what not to do, but I Googled how to write wedding vows at 2 a.m. on the day of my wedding. Yes, me. I, who typed out guides and itineraries and welcome emails to my guests, waited until the final hours. Even after giving my fiancé a much earlier deadline. And truth be told, it made me focus. Hone in all the crazy emotions from the week. Slow down the rush. Stick to the word count I’d assigned to both of us. Say only what matters. I totally killed it with my vows. They are concise, they are in the now, they are for the future. At 2 a.m. it’s easy to be honest.

vowreading

Practicing my vows for the first time. No time like the present.

I had the best time at my wedding. Despite my husband’s sciatic pain. Despite the unprecedented freezing temperatures. I ate fries and cake and steak, and drank pink Prosecco and gin and red wine with 120 of my favorite people. People say it goes down as one of the best weddings they’ve been to. I stand by my advice and I wouldn’t change a thing. Except my husband’s sciatica. (Edit: Husband)

wooooo

Photo by Greg Locke, Stray Light Media, Inc.

 

 

 

 

Dear Martha Stewart, this housewife calls bullsh*t

Dear Martha,

I humbly call bullsh*t. Granted I am a new housewife, but I still feel after this much time (about 5 weeks, excluding my bust out time in TO), I can still call you out. Yes, you, and your haughty laughter. Your divorce jokes over the ineptitude of folding fitted sheets. Well, mine may not come from the Martha Stewart Collection, but I still looked to you for help. For guidance. Instead, I came away feeling pitiful. Like a fitted sheet folding failure, and thus call bullsh*t on you, and your expert opinion.

Because here’s the thing: I may not have wanted to be a stay-at-home wife at this point in my life, but if this is my path for three years, I’m damn well gonna be the best housewife out there in Volusia County. I can already feel things inside me starting to shift. Instead of reading the classics – Tolstoy, the Brontës – I now fall asleep at night reading cook books (Michael Smith, I call bullsh*t on you, too, if you must know). I wake up in the middle of the night with burning questions like how often should I launder the pillow protectors? And I’m not sure why, but I lined the tops of my cupboards with, well, liner. I dunno. I saw it at Wal-Mart and thought my one piece of good crystal deserved to sit atop protective and cushiony liner, that’s easy to clean and easy to grip. I, with my measuring tape, climbed to the tops of my cupboards one day to dutifully measure and dutifully cut.

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My hands constantly smell like dish detergent.  I wipe down my countertops more times in a day than I check Facebook. Hard water stains are the bane of my kitchen. I love how my laundry room smells. And for Christmas, instead of asking for a new Kate Spade purse, I’ve already got a pepper grinder on the list.

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I’m finding the romance in housewife life. I buy rainbow chard and enchanted rose potatoes at the grocery store because they sound pretty. Speaking of, my grocery lists are scrawled on Disney themed notepads. My vacuum is my daily dance partner, because I still need some obsessive tendency in my life.

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I’m changing. I fold all my towels the same way so they stack prettily. (Never thought I’d give a flying f*ck about that in my life, but here we are.) So it shouldn’t be strange that I’d like my linen closet to look as uniform. No blobs allowed. But as I watched your fitted sheet how-to video on repeat while practicing with my own, you made me doubt myself. At first I was giggling, like your idiot guest (without the fandom drool), and I, too, was flipping corners inside-out and right side-in, trying to gather them to form an edge. But then I started to get pissed off. You made me feel like anyone who can’t fold a fitted sheet isn’t worthy of calling themselves a housewife. Or a wife. I felt defeated, and so in my defeat, I took a nap on the floor inside the fitted sheet like a cocoon.

Today, as I charge through a week’s worth of chores and cleaning in one day (because I can’t stand to do them every day), I put my hands in fists on my hips and stared down at my 500-thread count Percale nemesis. Forget you, Martha. You can take your haughtiness elsewhere. Today, I conquered the fitted sheet on my own. Today, I created my own method of folding, and it was fine enough for me. My sets of bedsheets now stack like Jenga. So I call bullsh*t on you. You will not enter my living room again. I can do this, without you. And that’s a good thing.

I’m learning that being a housewife is more than just one hat. It’s many hats, like:

  • human alarm clock, when your husband is the only one who needs to be somewhere each morning but yet fails to wake up after his three alarms go off. I wake up, after the first one. Every time. I lie there waiting, through the second and third, counting the minutes to see how long he’ll go. And if I didn’t physically kick him wake him, he’d never get anywhere on time.
  • dietitian & nutritionist, for when your husband announces he’d like to net 2,000 calories a day now that he’s back to working out, so I scramble to figure out what that means, because I am also the:
  • personal shopper, for all things food, home, and wardrobe related
  • personal chef, and of course,
  • personal laundry service
  • housecleaner

Someone recently asked me how much cleaning can be done in one apartment? Let’s put it this way – I asked my husband the other day when was the last time he dusted. He gazed, pensively, up at the ceiling and guessed it had probably been since he briefly joined the Reserves down in Pleasantville. Folks, this predates our courtship, so before 2011. Needless to say, our apartment hadn’t been dusted. Ever.

I didn’t bother, then, to ask when the last time the floors had been washed. I know better now than to ask. I just clean without question.

There are still things that intimidate me about housewife life. Braising, for one. Checking to see if the white mouse figure is a life-like poisonous rodent repellent or an actual dead rodent behind my bottom oven drawer. (Only saw it once, too afraid to look again.) Figuring out the difference between radishes and radicchio. Overcoming my irrational fear of rappini (what an unfortunate name). Understanding why every cookbook is obsessed with shallots and learning why an onion won’t do the trick. (Always kinda thought they were the same thing.)

I try not to get frustrated, like when after meal planning over the course of four Grey’s Anatomy reruns (thanks, Niamh), I get to the store and there’s no cod. Just flounder. (Nope. This Ariel doesn’t fry her flounder.) So I have change to the plan. Or when I find a great marinade recipe for the beef I saved a bundle on, but then I read down to the bottom and it calls for red wine vinegar. Seriously?! How many kinds of vinegar exist? I already have distilled white for cleaning, apple cider for attempted sunburn remedy, and rice vinegar for my now-weekly cauliflower rice. Frig sakes. There is no room for all of the condiments I need in my fridge door. No one tells you these things before becoming a housewife!

So Martha, I do not need your disapproving tone. I find you to be nothing but a Yankee yuppity bully. I am doing the best I can. There was no major in Housewifery at university. So you can take your perfectly folded fitted sheet and shove it up what I’m sure is your perfectly bleached a**hole.

Yours truly,

Housewife-in-Training in Volusia County