Thirty is not the dirty word I should have feared

Twenty nine, again. Twenty nine + 1. Both ways I’d been viewing my upcoming birthday. Something seems terribly adult about being thirty, and I haven’t been feeling so certain about the adult things in my life.

But I had it all wrong. Thanks to a little lot of help from my friends, 30 is going to be great. Compared to the 28-about-to-turn-29 year old me, this girl today has grown up so much. My expectations for myself, my life, and those in it, have become much more focused and much more precious.

There’s a small market down the road from where I’m staying in Seattle, and the sign at the cash register says they card anyone who looks 30 or younger. I have yet to be carded in the 28 days I’ve been here, and finally last week I laughed out loud as the cashier once again sold me wine. He (rightfully) thought I was crazy when I thanked him through the giggles, because my trips to Ken’s Market have humbled me and forced me to get over myself and this fear of thirty. He doesn’t have to know I keep up a friendship with my high school boyfriend really only because when we meet now as adults, he tells me I still look sixteen. (Kidding about the only part. Not kidding about how I always fish for the compliment.)

The word I should have feared all year was not thirty at all, but housewife, a self-imposed label I’ve been trying out for the better part of a year. I thought it was okay to call myself that. Because of my visa that graciously allows me to live in the US, I’m not allowed to go to work. So I have to stay at home. I don’t have kids so I’m not a stay-at-home mom. I tried to embrace being a housewife without a house, learning to cook and clean in my apartment like a domestic ingénue. Thanks to Brian & Chad for introducing me to this gem:

I did briefly try calling myself a domestic scientist, especially around the weeks of research that went into my first turkey dinner. But people laughed at that. I don’t blame them. There’s nothing overly scientific about watching reruns of Gilmore Girls and West Wing all day.

I had no idea that people home loathed my housewife label so much. My mother and my other mother, Corina, held their tongues for months. And I appreciated the space to try out the title and bizarre new role on my own. But no mother actually enjoys hearing her capable, intelligent daughter label herself a housewife. One could even say reduce. Turns out no friends do, either. And I mean no disrespect to those housewives out there. I have mad respect for stay-at-home moms. I think I would fare much better at that. But when you’re only 29 and you’re buffing basically imaginary rust stains out of your shower rod with tinfoil two days in a row, you wonder if maybe you sold yourself short somewhere along the way.

It took me 9 months to start to really wonder if I had lost my fucking mind. It wasn’t until I was in Newfoundland in March that I started to work through this. I changed my ticket for an extra 6 days because I knew I was on the verge of a break through, and the time with my friends and family was crucial. I met new friends in Pam and David and watched their bewildered WTF expressions as I introduced myself as a housewife. They both insisted I give that up that title. Strangers have an uncanny ability to say the honest shit to your face your friends and family have been choking back for months. Their immediate rejection of my housewife life sparked something inside me that I haven’t been able to ignore since.

In those extra days home, I would cradle my friend’s new baby boy and cry over him. I would lie on my belly alongside my friend’s baby girl during her tummy time and whine. I would go to coffees and Sprout lunches and Piatto dinners with girlfriends and great aunts and ask about life and relationships. I am grateful for the sisterhood I have home, women from all facets of my life who always find time for me when I come back. The older I get, the more I rely on the women in my life for guidance and knowledge and I cling to their experiences and stories, and relate them to my own.

There was nothing more comforting than listening to my friend explain she’d been waiting her partner out for weeks, watching how long he could go without cleaning their only bathroom. (A very gross experiment that she had to end after several weeks for her own sanity.)  I also enjoyed watching my friend face palm at Piatto after she texted her husband to check on their sleeping baby, and after asking for a picture, he sent a selfie of his bearded mug. It’s comforting talking to my friends who are married to students. Or those with spouses who are also at home and out of work. Or those who have lived somewhere where they didn’t really fit in. All of their words helped me realize how badly I no longer want to be a Volusia County housewife. I can’t just sit around and vacuum my days away. I need to do, something. Work, somehow. Feel capable and talented and intelligent more than just during the precious few weeks I give myself home.

I texted one of my closest friends a few of these realizations one evening before we drove together to our other friend’s house for an adult sleepover. (Adult sleepovers are better than childhood ones, I’ve discovered, because they involve wine and fresh bed sheets.) I was a bit nervous for his reply, because for me, this all seemed so BIG and NEW and my head was spinning. But his reply was perfect, and I’ll never forget it. He said “mmm, I feel like I’ve always known this about you.” And I wanted to plant a big kiss on his forehead in relief. My friends so get me. They have never forgotten pre-housewife Laura and apparently most of them have been biting their tongues just waiting for me to come to my senses on my own.

During tummy time when I made similar confessions to my girlfriend, she might not remember, but I always will, how the words tumbled quickly out of her mouth as she then confessed how she thought of me every day, worried about me doing so little daily. I had no idea everyone else seemed as panicked as I was about this housewife lifestyle I couldn’t quite grasp. (Have I mentioned my friends are the best?)

So for my 30th birthday, the gift I’m giving myself isn’t a trip to Vietnam. Isn’t a tattoo. It isn’t the tickets to Yo-Yo Ma & James Taylor I enjoyed last week. Those were all great. But my gift to myself is dropping the housewife label. I won’t call myself that anymore. And I won’t live my days like that anymore, either. I’m going to quit the domestic goddess hashtags and just focus on goddess instead. Happy Birthday, to me.

Home is where the cello is. (Alternatively: my ode to the NSO.)

Xin Chào! I’m back from Vietnam, no worse for wear. Just perhaps a little softer around the middle from eating so many noodles, as I set out to do. I initially referred to that trip as my “Eat, Pray, Love” experience, except that’s perhaps the wrong novel/movie/franchise to reference. It was a major stepping stone in my own pursuit of happiness. The tattoo I got late one night in downtown Hanoi supposedly translates to happiness as well, though there was some debate between waiters at the restaurant where the tattoo plan was conceived. It’s either the Chinese character for happiness or for woman, either of which I’m fine with. Happy woman would be all the better.

lying in chair in tattoo parlour in Hanoi

But I’m flip flopping around my life here, because I can’t stop thinking about my amazing trip back to Newfoundland in March, which really launched this whole happiness thing. I guess there really was something to that Ode to Joy. I did not expect that after two weeks home, I’d be frantically trying to change my flight to buy myself more time. More conversation. More insight into my own life. And so, I stayed, an extra week. And I can’t imagine my life today without those precious six days. I need a little more time to find the words of gratitude that are swelling inside this noodle-filled belly to thank my friends and family for their company. But I have found the words to explain the reason I always come back home…

Few people (possibly no one else, actually) plan their travel to Newfoundland around the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra’s season, but I do. It’s a rare moment of luck in my life that Cathy Dinn saw the potential in my 8-year old man hands and gave me an instrument much larger than the violin I had signed up to learn. And although playing solo was never my thing (spontaneous nosebleeds, anyone?), I fell in love playing with people. Duos, trios, chamber groups. But then the pinnacle of it all: orchestra. For 12 seasons I sat amidst the NSO cello section and played my heart out. Cathy will never understand what a gift she gave me.

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My life was transformed by the experiences, opportunities, and relationships that playing in my local youth orchestra and, sequentially, symphony provided. Through the  turmoil that frequented my teenage years and the confusion and trepidation of early adulthood, I found comfort in the cello section. Playing in the NSO has consistently brought me joy, given me a sense of belonging, and kept me grounded. In essence, it’s been my happy place. (Happy is a big word for me, these days.) My membership in this orchestra ignited a passion for community and volunteerism, and led me to become a very young Chair of the Board of Directors for the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra, its first executive director, and a seat on the NSO’s own board and fund-raising committee. Being a cellist with the NSO gave me invaluable experience working for my community, at times leading, at times helping, but all the while transforming me into the person I am today.

It hasn’t all been rainbows and roses. In my expectation for a safe and respectful teaching environment, I had no choice but to leave my cello studies at university and flounder around several science faculties while wondering what to do next. I was sexually harassed in an arts job by an older man, with only older men to report him to. I’ve had to tell friends, colleagues, mentors that their contracts would not be renewed. My car has been vandalized, my email hacked, and I’ve twice now been threatened to be sued. That’s a lot, I feel, for a 29 year old. Being so young also meant having to work twice as hard, do twice the homework, and arrive twice as prepared to get my voice heard and counted. (Not a bad lesson, though.)

I often say that the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra is my other family. And it is. I was 16 when I first performed with the NSO, and over the next 12 years, the musicians and staff were an integral part of my village, my community, who I readily acknowledge helped raise me. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: it takes a village to raise a child. And the NSO has been my village. My home. So although it may sound crazy to some, when I step off my plane in Newfoundland, give me 24 hours and I’m either walking off the elevator on the 3rd floor Arts & Culture Centre to say hello, or tearing tickets at an Atlantic String Quartet recital downtown at the Anglican Cathedral. And it isn’t just because my mother works there. Or my cousin. Because its CEOs and musicians and guest artists have equally become part of my circle, people I hug goodbye and hug hello and send funny texts to in between.

I knew 2016/17 would my final whole season home for a long time. It also happened to be the season my beloved cello teacher and section leader, Theo Weber, took a sabbatical. It was very special to me that it so happened his early return aligned with my official final concert. Playing in his section for so long has been a great privilege in my life, and I was even more honoured when Theo played at my wedding ceremony just one month later, solo cello as I walked tripped down the aisle. (Not so much like The Swan…)

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And in a world where so many of my incredible influences, music teachers, and conductors have been men, it is through the NSO that I also found strong, inspiring female role models. Again, not just my mother, although her patient demeanour and poker face is something I can always learn from. There’s no better example than Heather McKinnon, a fierce woman that I admire and aspire to be more like. A woman whose leadership I was lucky to observe and just be around to remind myself that I do not have to “be the girl who gets asked how it feels to be trotting along at the genius’s heels.” (Oh wait. Maybe Jason Robert Brown wrote that line first #lastfiveyears.) Heather’s dedication to the NSO remains an inspiration to me, as I am only coming to realize the depth of my love for the Newfoundland arts community and my desire to be home in it.

I often bemoan (a more polite word than complain, I think) the fact that Daytona Beach does not have a resident symphony.  I know now, for the first time, what it’s like to live somewhere without an orchestra.  To live where in any direction, I have to drive at least an hour and a half to hear an orchestra only half as good as the NSO. You St. John’s folks have no idea how lucky you are to live what, 10, 15 minutes in any directions from the Arts & Culture Centre. When hosting the last Masterworks concert of the 2016/17 season, I asked the audience to take care of the NSO in my absence. To celebrate them, applaud for them, and buy tickets to support them. And the standing ovation we received from a sold-out audience after performing Beethoven’s 9th in March was a wonderful display to see that the NSO is cherished by so many others.

My pursuit of happiness is only just beginning, but I know anytime I come home to play, it fills me with joy. Having tea and pie with principal cellist, and my teacher, Theo Weber, brings me comfort. Playing with old friends and new always puts a huge smile on my face, as pictured below. It thrills me that such a large part of my identity home is associated with the NSO and as a cellist. That makes me happy.

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Edit: If you’re curious to know when I’ll be home next year, take a look at the NSO’s 2018/19 season brochure.

 

 

 

A very literal “good morning, Vietnam!”

Truthfully I’m not sure what day it is in Canada. But I’m in Vietnam, so it really doesn’t matter much to me. Good Morning, Vietnam!

It is rather odd that I find myself in Southeast Asia on my own, but stranger things have happened (and will continue to happen) to me. I am here by my own choosing, although even I admit it is a bit random.

I alluded before that January was a very difficult month for me. I’ve never felt so down, isolated, and alone. I was stuck binge watching Scandal and started to believe I could actually feel my brain melting. I had two periods (like COME ON, UNIVERSE), and feared after a quick Google search I was either pregnant or dying, neither of which I wanted. That prompted my first attempt at navigating the American healthcare system, which left me reeling in more despair. Everyone I knew here, husband included, drove past my front door to go out to hear live music one weekend, and forgot to invite me. Finally by the end of the month, I tried to save money by getting my roots done at a cheaper hair salon and ended up as a dead match for Legolas. I cried so hard on January 31st that my pillowcase was stained with all kinds of fluids from my face and I gave up my no-drinking-alone-in-Daytona rule and drank a bottle of $4 red wine with a Walmart chocolate cake on the side.

(amiright?!)

I desperately needed a change of scenery. I wanted to be far, far away from Daytona. I wanted something new and exciting in my life. Something to turn my brain back on and let me feel vibrant again. I tried to include some friends and family in various travel plans and ideas, but in the end, I wanted something to just be mine, my own adventure. And the real kicker – something that had nothing to do with my husband. No offence. (Well, maybe a little.) But, like, my whole life in Florida is based around him and I spend too much time saying his name and not enough saying mine. I wanted a trip that would give me time and space to regroup and get my life back to being about me. Something like an eat, pray, love experience. Except no praying. No loving. Just eating.

I settled on Vietnam because:

  1. I knew I wanted to go to Asia
  2. it was cheap
  3. I love pho, and
  4. I knew literally NOTHING about the place.

It was the perfect place to get me off my Scandal-laden ass and to the library, where I read thousands of pages on its history and culture. I feel like I could have a minor in Vietnamese history. The trip proved to an excellent project to keep me busy even before it actually began, on April 10th.

I have wavered between excited and nervous. I’m excited because I love to travel. I’m a good traveler, a smart traveler, and I knew I could do this. For the past three years, my only travel has been between Daytona and home, which has left my deep wanderlust unquenched. It was long past time to get off the continent again. I was nervous because when I started running the idea past family members, their reactions were at first very cautious and confused, strongly suggesting I shouldn’t go. Their initial comments left me feeling unsafe, conscious of my Legolas locks, and vulnerable. If there is anything worse than a young woman being made to feel vulnerable or unsafe because of her gender, I don’t know what is. I hate it. It makes me FURIOUS. It made me dig my heels in even more, because I am strong and I am fierce and believe I can go anywhere I want in this world, and certainly without a male escort. (Escort in the chaperone sense of the word.) Someone even suggested I dye my hair and chop it off before I go. Um, no thanks. I just spent $$$ toning my hair and several hours holding my stylist’s hand begging for her forgiveness. I’m not touching a hair.

I said something in my thank you speech at my wedding, and I’m constantly reminded by it’s poignancy. (Not a lot I said in that speech was so meaningful, on account of the tasty signature drink, and my references to drinking wine in kitchens with Corina and Alicia.) But I thanked my great aunts for being in attendance, and for being great in every sense of the word. And they constantly come through for me. After my grandmother prompted me to announce my travel plans one evening, my Aunt Margie beamed at me and said I was a “breath of fresh air.” I felt highly complimented. She also said something about being the most adventurous person in our family, and I glowed. After feeling like such a shut-in, with no purpose or plan, I suddenly felt like I was Cheryl Strayed. My Aunt Yvonne had a similar reaction, telling me to go write my own life, not just my blog. These women get it. They make me feel empowered and I am so lucky to have them in my life.

Vietnam is 9.5 hours ahead of Newfoundland. I’m in the future, and let me tell you, it’s PHO-KING amazing. I am reclaiming my old self here and making plans to keep her around. On this trip I’ll travel south to north to see Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hoi An, Danang, Halong Bay, and Hanoi. I won’t be totally alone, I did book this through a small group tour. There’s about 20 of us all together but I don’t know a soul and have my own room. There’s flexibility to be with the group or to go off on your own and I predict I’ll do a combination. I’m tired of always being alone. But I’m looking forward to being somewhere that isn’t home (Newfoundland) and isn’t Daytona to really clear my mind and meditate on what I want to do in life and where. Scattered spring roll won’t hurt, either!

I’ve got updated vaccines, 30% Deet spray, and semi-stylish mosquito repellent bracelets. I could not be more prepared, in terms of health. I could have, I think, prepared a little more language to get by. I survived two weeks in Russia on my own only knowing a single word, “spasiba,” which translates to “thank you,” but I used it for “hello,” “please,” “help,” and “I’m being kidnaped” (but only once). I hope to find a word in Vietnamese that will be so useful.

I’m writing this from my 12 hr flight from Los Angeles to Taipei after a breakfast of pork-fried noodles. This new continent already sooooo gets me. I’m being politely scolded to turn off my phone, so off I go!

Bai bai, gặp lại sau nhé!

(I think I just told you ‘see you soon,’ at least that was my intention!)

(Edit: landed in Taipei to a beautiful soundtrack of solo cello… my heart…)

You want to go where everybody knows your name

In one glorious week, I’ll be on my flight back to Newfoundland, for a chance to visit with my mom, my Yorkie, play Beethoven’s 9th with my symphony and hang out with friends and family nonstop. It’ll be my third trip home in the ten months since I moved to the US. For some perspective for those who don’t know me well, I’d lived on the same street as my maternal grandparents for the past twenty years. My mom and I are often indistinguishable by voice and mannerism, so much time have we spent together. It has obviously been a big change living somewhere 4,300 km away from home, from everyone you know except your husband.

I’d like to say my favourite thing to do while visiting Newfoundland is “hike Signal Hill” or “eat treats from Rocket Bakery.” But I can’t. I mean, I really like to do one of those things (nom nom nom). My actual favourite thing to do while home is TALK. Because entire days can go by in my life now where I don’t speak to anyone. I croaked out an embarrassing voice mail recently, realizing they were the first words I’d spoken, at 4:50 pm in the evening.

Now with two trips home under my belt, I’ve learned there’s an awful lot of small talk that clouds my conversations, sort of “required” questions people think they need to ask me. You have my permission to skip any of the following talking points. I’m happy to dive in, real talk, straight up, let’s just get to it. I only have 15 days on the ground and I don’t want to waste another minute discussing Cheeto-in-Chief. Today’s post covers the first 6 things people are likely to ask me.

For a lot of the folks I will see while home, I am merely a spokesperson for the person they actually want to see and talk to, that is, my husband. And I don’t just mean his family. My family, our friends. You see, what I’ve realized is that by coming home four  times as frequently as he is able, I’m no longer a subject of interest. I’m old news. I’ve also given up replying to the regularly occurring emails seeking updates on my husband. It doesn’t seem to prevent repeating the conversation in person, anyway. Amazingly, he has his own email. I’ll promise I’ll bcc you on an update if he’s ever indisposed.

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This is me, dutifully posed as my husband’s personal secretary in 196- oh wait…

The 3 most popular questions I’m asked:

1. How are you?

Spoiler alert: I wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s my best coping mechanism to keep anxiety down. I don’t pretend, I don’t sugarcoat. What I say is the truth, and how I’m really feeling. But what I’m learning as I get older, is that the truthful answer isn’t exactly what people are looking for. They want to see my teeth in a wide smile, hear that I’m brilliantly happy, and be told everything is wonderful. But that only makes them feel better, and leaves me feeling insincere and unheard. So I don’t beat around the bush. I’m pretty open about how challenging the isolation here is for me, how I feel like a fish out of water trying to adjust to domestic life, where yesterday’s biggest concern was running out of individual hummus packs for my husband’s lunch.

I always answer this question honestly. I’ll start with something gentle: “it was an adjustment at first, but it’s getting better.” (See? That was positive! And not a lie!) Then, I’ll add: “it’s a bit lonely, but I’m…” before I’m cut off with the second most (really the most) popular question, one where I am always able to answer in full, and am pressed for more detail:

2.  How is [husband’s name]?

In the chance you don’t know either of us personally, for his privacy, I’ll call him “Niall.” Here is where I do flash my toothy smile and say honestly, but also ironically: “Niall is great.” Because he is great. He is a happy person. He enjoys school. He is in good health. He has kind friends and a gorgeous wife that usually has dinner ready for him when he walks in the door (barring any exceptional circumstance, like this week’s first degree burn from cast iron pan coming out of the oven). What I want to also say is: how can his life not be great? He now has a personal cook, personal shopper, personal laundry, personal housecleaner, personal assistant to tend to his every need. Niall gets his favourite deodorant replaced within hours without communicating a single word because his housewife cleans his bathroom so frequently she saw the used one in the trash.

Next immediate question:

3. How is Niall’s back?!

Here is where I grit my teeth, and my smile becomes fake, and I am Claire Dunphy once again, smiling, but not with my eyes.

Can I just… yeah, I need to… I just have to say I am so F**KING TIRED OF THIS QUESTION! I mean, I kind of get it. Readers at our wedding will recall my husband then also gritting his teeth through a sciatica flare up, and spending the entire dance laying on his back behind the head table unable to participate, or even stand. But hear me out. Once I watched back the wedding video, I learned, months later, despite arguing before the wedding day until I was red in the face, that he found the stamina on our wedding day morn to fry himself and the groomsmen some cooked breakfast. Standing on his two feet, over a stove, on hard ceramic tile. Energy well spent, my love. Thank you for resting up for our $$$$$$ day.

Yes, for a single, unfortunate week last May, my husband was taking pain killers for unbearable back pain. About 3 days after his return to Florida, he was without symptom, off the pain meds, and back to all regular sitting/walking/standing functions. Call it a miracle, call it wedding jitters (I dare you), it is fantastic that it was so acute, it is even better that it’s over, and now 10 months later it is no longer news. (My scoliosis though, you know, the curve in my spine that had me in a back brace during puberty, and my repetitive strain injury in my neck that I’m still receiving regular treatment for, by the way, are both fiiiiiiiine. Thank you for asking.)

Then I’ll get these 3 most popular statements/exclamations:

1. You’re so tanned!

This is kind of an awkward one for me. I’m not sure you mean that in a positive way. It’s not actually a compliment. Just an observation. It reminds me of the thinly veiled insult I would often receive from an older man I worked WITH, not FOR, who would often say “you’re very driven.” (He wanted to knock me down several pegs, I secretly took it as a compliment that he felt his dominance waning.) I’m never sure if that means you think I look good, or are jealous of my sun consumption, or think I look like I sell spray tans to couples like the Kranks before a cruise.

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But I stand before you feeling uncomfortably on display, not sure where to look. I wear SPF 45 all the time. When I sit outside to read, I’m covered from head to hip, only letting the sun on my (45 coated) legs. I’m not trying to fast track melanoma, but a tan is kind of unavoidable in my climate. I also think my distant Inuit heritage leaves me predisposed for a more golden skin tone. I never had the pinky-white Celtic complexion like most folks home. Maybe I’ll start greeting people home with “you’re so pale!”

2. You must be living the dream!

Grit teeth. Fake smile. Brace self.

It’s sweet that you think that. And I appreciate the positive spin you’re putting on this. And sure, like any other 65 year old who has worked hard in post-secondary, enjoyed a fulfilling and exciting career while adequately saving for retirement, rooted themselves in their community through volunteerism, and had an active life in the performing arts, it really was my time to slow down, retire, and move to sunny Florida, where people go to die… OH BUT WAIT. I’m not 65. I’m TWENTY-NINE. I only recently finished school. I only recently found a job I loved. Two, really. I volunteered so much it became a paid position. Sang in a choir, played in a symphony, ran a wedding business on weekends, I was just hitting my stride. What about living unable to work, or unable or volunteer or no local symphony sounds like my dream? What about living away from all family and friends seems delightful? And here’s the kicker – what about existing to cook and clean for a man to pass the time sounds like something I was desperately yearning to do? Hello, have we met?

But okay. I understand why Newfoundlanders think I must be in heaven. The weather in the winter is spectacular (except that one off-week in January when Daytonians saw icicles for the first time in about 100 years) and it never gets old being able to wear shorts and sunglasses every day. If my windshield wasn’t so grimy, I’d take more pictures of the beautiful Florida sunsets this week on my return trip from the grocery store.

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Sorry to burst your bubble. This is not the dream. I do not go to Disney World anytime I fancy. I do not go to the outlets anytime I wish (although I am discreetly unpacking one at a time the shoe boxes in my trunk hidden behind reusable grocery bags to make it look like they’ve always been in my closet). Remember that I’m unemployed and my husband is a student. I should be asking you: how is it to have a disposable income? What’s THAT like?

3. (This is usually the immediate follow up to #2, which is such an obvious oxymoron, I can’t believe you need to ask me) So how do you feel about Trump/what do you think about Trump/anything really with disbelief about Trump?!

Deep sigh. I live in a red state, in a red county, and in a town that celebrates the sitting president with signage still proudly displayed on their lawns, or you know, that patch by their trailers. I have cooked Republican friends Thanksgiving dinner. As an immigrant, as a woman, as a human being, I think it’s pretty clear where I might stand on Trump. But it’s not just him. The authorities in my county were totally in favour of arming teachers, before it came out of Cheeto-Benito’s mouth. Out of courtesy to each other, people around here don’t talk a lot of politics. It’s very divided, now more than ever since the Parkland shooting. People lower their voices when I say I’m Canadian and say “you’re lucky.” I once walked out of a lineup at Walmart because I feared the loud, aggressive man causing a disturbance might have a gun. I do not go out alone when it’s dark (ahem, 6:30pm ish). The one time I did, an armed security officer insisted he walk me the 200 feet from the concert venue to my parked car, which I could see across the intersection under a street light. He told me, in is charming Southern drawl that 8:30 on a Wednesday evening was too dangerous for a young woman to be alone in “these parts.”

Last week I sat in front of my tv for two hours with tears pouring down my face, watching students in Tallahassee beg for their safety. I finally had to stop watching because I felt like I could vomit. My children will go to school in this country. Last week I read in my town’s news that in the 2 days immediately following the Parkland shooting, 15 threats were made by students to shoot in schools in my county. By the start of this week, that number was over 28, with some teenagers being charged as felons. There are only 71 schools in my county…

So go back to the part where you think I’m living the dream. Doesn’t quite sound like one anymore, does it? But to reassure you, I do have a nice life. A pleasant existence. I don’t have too much to complain about other than boredom and isolation and another time I’ll share my beef with getting birth control around here. But the constant awareness of my personal safety is an unnerving feeling, something as a Canadian I took for granted.

By now you’re terrified to ask me anything! But you can always ask me this: am I looking forward to coming home?

YES! (Authentic big toothy smile included.)

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Housewife survives, succeeds in 1st American Thanksgiving (Part II)

I know you’re probably thinking American Thanksgiving must have broken me. But it didn’t! I’m still here! I enjoyed a very leisurely Christmas break and it was hard to get back into the swing of things. One I stopped moving, it was very easy to stay that way. Something about that law of inertia. Plus I endured a very blue January. I didn’t see it coming. I should have – I know by now I always need something to look toward, to work toward every month. In brighter news, I’ve got plans now for each month up to August to keep me from getting so down and so bored. Big Plans. Still working out some of the details, but Laurida will be going international this spring. Enter Lauretnam and Laurain.

But can I just boast? I did not merely survive American Thanksgiving, I NAILED American Thanksgiving. (No casualties!) Martha who? Move over, Martha! I still can’t believe the menu and the evening turned out to be the successes that they all were, but it’s true. I have my husband remind me often. It’s my biggest accomplishment so far in housewife life.

To my Newfoundland and Canadian family & friends: American turkey dinner is WAY harder than ours! Each vegetable is its own dish. So you must own enough dishes and have enough ovens to cook it all. American stuffing is DELICIOUS and I used sage, no savoury. Would I do it all again? Probably, with a few tweaks, because I had a whole week to devote to it. But all I can figure is that American Thanksgiving is a meal best shared between family and friends – and shared in the sense that everyone contributes to the meal, not just everyone shows up to eat. Bringing one casserole dish to a dinner is something I can get behind. Holiday cooking should not fall to one person all the time. It is no longer then a holiday for that person.

Thanksgiving Day (hereby referred to as T-Day) began after a fairly sleepless night where I dreamed about my mashed potato methodology. I didn’t need to be up early, but I couldn’t sleep late if I tried. The news in Daytona that morning was: STORM WARNING. Yeah, I’ll say.

I didn’t need to start in the kitchen until 12:30pm, so to pass the time once out of bed, I started to sweep, vacuum and then wash the linoleum flooring of my front entrance. Once the floors were shining, I realized the walls of the front entrance also looked quite grubby and needed washing. I worked my way back through the whole apartment, tackling all of the floors and baseboards, and the guest bathroom. Upon reflection, it was not the best use of my energy. I would have done well to chill out and save myself for the 6 hour marathon in the kitchen approaching. Then, like my grandmother would have done the day before, I set the table. I sadly do not have a picture, but it picture it with a silver sparkly table cloth from Target and an aqua lantern centrepiece I (soberly) stole from my girlfriend’s wedding.

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My husband did look worried when he woke up later and saw me with the A/C vent unscrewed from the wall, attacking the grime with vigour. I assured him that it was a totally normal thing to be doing. I also filled in the nicks and scratches of my Mainstays coffee table with black Sharpie marker. Again, all totally normal. The smell of it made me a bit woozy and I realized I hadn’t yet had breakfast. I don’t remember this part fully (possibly high on the Sharpie), but at some point I also decided to wash the couch pillow covers. The only part I really remember is 15 minutes before guests arriving, having to hustle my husband to grab them from the dryer and stuff the pillows back in, and then hearing him tear the first cover.

To answer some popular questions:

YES – I did cut myself. My first step the day before was to cut cold butter into flour for my pie crusts. I keep my food processor’s blade and discs in a container out of harm’s way (read: husband’s reach) so that he doesn’t ever cut himself grabbing something out of a drawer. So naturally in between crusts, I grab the blade and slice my index finger to draw blood. Off to a good start. In fact, the whole pie process was a bit of a pain.

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I carefully chose my recipes so that they avoided pie weights. Because WTF are pie weights? They look like a terribly uncomfortable 50 Shades sex toy, so I avoided them at all costs (see proof here). Martha did, though, suggest fashioning your own pie shields out of tinfoil, should you suspect your crust is browning too far ahead of the rest of your pie. What Martha doesn’t tell you is that you will risk burning your fingerprints off trying to get stupid f**king strips of tinfoil to hang warily balanced around the perimeter of your pie plate. And you will curse often, as you negotiate laying the tinfoil with the oven racks pulled out, only to all topple off as you gently try to slide the rack back in, or as you bend your body like Hansel or Gretel to fit your torso slightly inside the oven entrance to carefully balance those f**king strips without any rack movement. (I now own proper pie shields.)

YES – I did burn myself. No, not with my crap pie shields. Better. While making the easiest dish on my list on T-Day, the gluten-free stuffing for my one gluten-free guest, from A BOX. I don’t even remember how, but I did burn the fleshly part at the base of my thumb. I tried to press on.

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YES – I did have one mental breakdown. I rushed my burned hand to cold water, fearful that I may now have to do this all (channel Rob Lowe here) literally with one hand behind my back. I did not build time into my schedule of 5-minute intervals for treating first degree burns, but I was in tears faster than the blister bubbled on my skin. I had a few “I can’t do this” cries and “now it’s all ruined” sobs for dramatic effect.  My husband took his cue and bravely entered the kitchen to comfort to me, commiserate with me, and then let me kick him out again like a martyr because THE SHOW MUST GO ON.

YES – I did set off the smoke alarm. But just once! I was a little heavy handed with the heat when frying my cornstarch-dipped shallot rings, to serve as a homemade alternative to the American classic, French’s Crispy Fried Onions, popular for green bean casseroles. The rings actually look like little octopi and lost any appeal after I charred them black.

YES – I did have a total monster moment. A very bitchy 5 minutes that I’m not proud of. In my (weak) defence, I had all four burners going at the time, with two dishes prepping for the oven, when my husband asks “is this okay?” and gestures toward his cheese tray, seeking my approval for the three cheese plating with corresponding purple sticky tabs ripped in half to label each one. “The labels look stupid” was my immediate, ever-gentle reply. And I felt the monster rise within me. I did not stop there. Perhaps it was the fact that his three cheeses cost more than DOUBLE my 14.5 -pound turkey. Perhaps I had worn myself out a bit with the housecleaning earlier in the day. Perhaps I was sweaty, and hungry, and overwhelmed with the work still ahead of me. But I unapologetically snapped a bit more at him with remarks like “does it look like I have time for this?” and “this was your idea, you deal with it,” and “I don’t care, I have more important things to worry about.” In his defence, I loved the cheese and ate most of it myself late that night when finishing the wine after the guests had gone. Back to my defence, none of the guests ate the damn cheese.

NO – there is no video this time of me handling the turkey. I was in warrior-mode once I entered the kitchen, and there was no time to be grossed out. I am very thankful my mom made me practice. Because I handled that thing like I snapped its neck myself – no mercy, no holding back. Except what the JESUS was the extra thing inside his cavity? Neck, check. Bag of gizzards (still not sure why they’re in there, but) check. Then this THING (this organ?) that look almost like a set of dentures. I wish I had a picture of me holding it up next to my mouth, with my teeth bared, before I realized it was likely the heart. Then I dropped it in the sink and carried on. Regretfully, I have no photos of the final turkey product either, and hardly any of the prep along the way. There was simply NO TIME.

Well, okay, except, that ONE time I was checking the turkey at the the 1 hour mark. I took it out to add some carrots and celery around it. Feeling quite pleased with myself, I was snapping a few pics of my bird when my mom texted me at the very same moment. “Don’t open the oven unless absolutely necessary to keep the heat in.” Wise. Timely. That’s my mom. Photoshoot over. I popped the turkey back in sheepishly and decided not to post to Instagram for fear of being found a novice.

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If I hadn’t practiced in Newfoundland, I would have severely undercooked my turkey/ served up some Salmonella. I had 4.5 hours to roast it, and not a minute more. The oven was scheduled for use for two more dishes immediately at the 4.5 hr mark. The Butterball instructions said to roast at 325 F. I have learned from experience my oven is not the strongest, so I started at 350. After the first hour, he was still looking quite pale, so I jacked it up to 375. At the 2 hour mark, I began to panic, and jacked it again to 400. Thank. God. My meat thermometer read 165 when time was up, and I could finally exhale deeply.

My all-American Thanksgiving was served to 2 Canadians, 2 Germans, 1 Spaniard, 1 Mongolian, and actually just 1 American. His mom, though, is a Cordon Bleu trained chef, so I grilled him for feedback and hung on to every compliment he gave. That’s right, complimentS! My guests LOVED the food. They all had seconds. My husband said, wait for it, that it was the best turkey dinner he’d ever eaten. I smiled demurely. Modestly accepting their praise. But inside I was Winona Ryder at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

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Dinner was supposed to be at 6:00, but we actually sat down to eat at 6:30. I (predictably) ran into a snafu trying to make the gravy, and starting running out of clean bowls to sieve it into. i had only ever watched my mom make gravy once, with flour. And I was trying to make it, without her, with cornstarch (remember, gluten-free!). Strangely, unpredictably, my husband swooped in at that moment, and saved the gravy. He calls it his Hans Solo moment…

I was able to manage almost all by myself but thankfully my one female guest generously asked to help upon her arrival. She probably didn’t expect me to thrust so quickly a dutch oven of boiled potatoes in her arms, but I needed them peeled, and had no idea how to do it. I used the opportunity to duck into the master bathroom to compose myself. I was glistening (from sweat). (And perhaps a runny nose.) I stuck washcloths under my armpits to cool down. The temperature in my apartment was boiling, the oven and stove cooking us as well as the food. I wondered if anyone would notice if I didn’t come out.  Should have nabbed the wine on my way.

I calmly reappeared to find Tamara bravely finishing up her task. I had read, somewhere along the way, that the trick to the best mashed potatoes was to boil them with the skins on. Something to do with lower water absorption, better starch preservation, all for a tastier, fluffier mash. Good in theory – but poor in practice because then those scalding sons of b*tches have to be carefully held in a hand towel so you don’t burn yourself. I just couldn’t deal. (Thanks, Tamara!)

I’ll do a review of the recipes I used, what worked, and what didn’t, another time. I have to admit that I’m a Martha convert now because her recipes were easy to follow, easy to execute, and delicious. I read dozens of recipes, and hers were consistent the with the American style and flavours I was seeking, with accessible ingredients that I normally use/can easily find in my grocery store.

I’m thankful I had such a kind group of guests for my first go. They pretended not to notice the sink full of dirty dishes draped with hand towels because there was nowhere to hide the mess. They waited until I took up my dinner and sat down before any of them lifted a fork. (Right?!) They toasted to me with their wine glasses at the beginning, and, NOT A WORD OF A LIE, applauded me at the end of the night. It was magical. I should like to receive more applause for doing domestic duties. Perhaps the icing on the cake was someone’s comment that my apartment was “the cleanest apartment they’d ever been in.” (Someone please call my mom to make sure she still has a pulse. She’s probably hit the floor.)

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They all left around midnight. Which was GREAT because I polished off the Rioja and cheese tray to muster up the energy to clean the kitchen. That’s when I found those damn homemade fried shallots. I’d accidentally forgotten about them and had stashed them in a cupboard when I ran out of precious countertop space. Whoops (#sonotworthit). Don’t they look gross?

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If you can see the time there, my day ended at 1:48 am the next day. That’s when I left the kitchen, with pretty much everything finally back in its place. My deepest moment of thanks was that I could sleep for a solid 12 hours afterward.

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I want a button that says “I survived American Thanksgiving!”

 

 

This Housewife’s 1st American Thanksgiving: Part I

It was mid-October and all of our family and friends back in Canada were eating turkey dinners and posting on Facebook all that they were thankful for. I cook for my husband every day so I made the executive decision not to add to my workload in the kitchen by celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with food. We were both content to eat pizza from a box and drink wine from a box that particular Sunday evening. The emails started pouring in, from female family and friends. Happy First Married Thanksgiving! What traditions have you started? How big was your turkey? I read them with a confused look on my face, cross-legged on the couch as we watched Parks & Recreation, chewing thoughtfully on my pizza crust. Have I already dropped the housewife-life ball? Did we miss a big part of our first year of marriage by not slaving away all day over a turkey dinner for two? Am I… not a good housewife? 

But I mean, sorry fam, no one in Florida gave two clucks about Canadian Thanksgiving. It’s just off the radar, and off ours. And since we are living here in America, it made more sense in our minds to celebrate the American version. So in order to redeem myself as a brilliant housewife, I vowed (to myself, really, since I’m alone every day) to cook an authentic, completely-from-scratch American Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, that’s right. For human consumption. My husband was pretty chuffed over the idea of us hosting a dinner, and we now have a group of 7 expected to attend.

While I was visiting Newfoundland recently, it occurred to me that I’ve actually never cooked a turkey before. Never helped handle or prepare one. Thankfully (see, I was thankful for something last month) my mom had the genius idea that it would be worth practicing. (The title photo is proof that this did indeed happen, but hang in there until the video at the end to see for yourself. And no one got Salmonella.) I actually know nothing about American Thanksgiving at all, except for what I learned on Friends. Please pray for me.

Once I returned to the US in mid-November, I hit the ground running. A lot of me cruising around buying extra dining chairs, flatware, and trying out tablecloths. There’ll be paper napkins, though, at this feast. If you want cloth, then you can drive 8 hours north to my brother’s place because I believe he registered for them in four shades. Then I had to figure out who the heck is gluten free and dairy free. One of our guests is definitely gluten free. I am the dairy-downer these days, but I can also juggle bites with non-dairy dishes and survive. Once I read the literature, though, I knew it would be impossible for me, the housewife ingénue, to manage a dinner free of both gluten and dairy. I am the sacrificial lamb this year. We are going (mostly) gluten free.

Then, well, then I went to Disney for an overnight with my cousin (#selfcare?). But I did spend all of Sunday nailing down recipes, writing out ingredient lists and consolidating them into one giant shopping list. This year I have decided to tackle all American recipes. And who better to go head-to-head with once more but Martha Stewart herself. Yes, even after my fitted sheet failure, I am taking on a mostly-Martha holiday. I can hear some Newfoundlanders groaning and bemoaning the fact there is no boiled veg, no salt beef, no puddin’ at this meal. But hey! I’m not broken up about it at all. We chose to go all-American (when in Rome, as they say), and since most of our guests are international, it’s pretty much initiation for us all. I’ll never cook a Newfoundland dinner better than Nan, anyway.

Fun/stressful/pull-your-hair-out fact: Martha has recipes for Perfect, Classic, Luxurious, and Every Day mashed potatoes. I mean, how do you choose? I actually can’t remember right now which one I chose. One with whole milk and half-and-half. (I might pass on eating the mashed potatoes in order to live long enough to see pie.)

As I write this, it’s late Monday night. Dinner is being served at 6 pm on Thursday. Yesterday I already baked Martha’s Skillet Cornbread for my stuffing. My turkey was moved from freezer to fridge to thaw. I also lined up all of my bakeware that I got from our wedding registry to make sure I had enough.

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Today I bought everything on my shopping list, which included two trips to Aldi since I forgot my f**king quarter for the shopping carts the first time around. (For non-Aldi shoppers: you can’t unlock your shopping cart to use without one.) I almost had a melt down in Publix because all of the fresh sage was GONE, and the only dried labels said “rubbed” and I have no idea what “rubbed sage” even is. Well, I’m using it now. Tomorrow, I’ll make the orange-scented cranberry sauce, and figure out what the heck flat washers and lock washers are in order to assemble the additional chairs.

Wednesday, I will bake the gluten-free brownies, apple pie, chocolate pecan pie, and dinner rolls. I’ll prep all of my vegetables for the next day by washing, trimming, chopping. Plus, I’ll assemble the sweet potato casserole to leave in the fridge until baking time on Turkey Day. Before going to bed, I’ll toast the white bread, cornbread, and pecans for Martha’s Classic Stuffing.

Then it’s Thanksgiving! The turkey will go in early afternoon and I’ll make and assemble the stuffing up until baking point. Once the turkey is out, it’s my Everest. I have enough time to bake the sweet potato casserole and stuffing in the oven both at once. The casserole will come out first, leaving me time to reheat my homemade dinner rolls. On the stove top, I’ll also start the mashed potatoes, glazed carrots with thyme, and deconstructed green bean casserole (my only non-Martha recipe). And forget the French’s Crispy Fried Onions. Remember this dinner is ALL FROM SCRATCH. Those crispy b*stards will be shallots hand-fried in corn starch, because corn starch is GLUTEN FREE. (Confession: I bought a gluten-free stuffing mix because I was feeling overwhelmed at the thought of baking more homemade bread. Sue me.)

And then gravy. While the rolls are heating, I have to make the gravy. Somehow.

SOUNDS SIMPLE, DOESN’T IT?! Don’t blink, you might miss a dish.

I have to do this. There is no room for error. Stores will be closed on Thursday, and there will be no chance to buy boxed potatoes or stuffing, or packet gravy. If I don’t succeed, we all go down together.

My husband did offer to help, by the way. He requested to make the cranberry sauce, which I promptly vetoed. 2 reasons: he would require stove top time that does not fit in my Turkey Day Timetable, jeopardizing all of the dishes I’m responsible for, and more importantly, he only wants the cranberry sauce so he can make Chan-berry references and then brag about his one contribution all night over dinner. Not on my watch.

So there’s the plan. It’s ambitious, I know, especially since i’ve never made any of these recipes before. If you’re reading this, I’m probably elbows deep into my 14.5 pound turkey. The process and end result will be documented and I’ll report back with how it all turned out. How many casualties.  In the meantime, I did document the first time I ever touched and cleaned a turkey, last month. All me, unscripted:

(I apologize for shooting this in portrait mode. It was a day of firsts.)

 

The Life Changing Magic of His & Hers Closets

This week I’m in full on Martha-mode prepping for my first American Thanksgiving. There is no time to do anything but study how to cook everything I’m serving, count how many sticks of butter I’ll need, and stress tweeze my eyebrows. But I did find this post that I’d started writing a few weeks ago during my month- long trip to Canada.

I have a sweet friend who is considering moving across the country. She asked if we could have coffee to talk about my “process” for moving to Florida. I happily agreed because pretty much all I did in my weeks back home was hold my friends’ babies and drink good coffee. But upon reflecting on my own move, I was doubtful I’d be any help to her. I truly had no process when I upped and moved to a new country. Now that I’m long moved in, and have travelled home again, I have a better perspective on what one truly needs to move to Florida.

Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version of What to Take When You Move to Florida, but more importantly What Not to Take:

To Take:

  • A stockpile of birth control because it’s six months in and I’m still without a health insurance card, and have no doctor. My pharmacist thinks I’m an idiot who “lost” three months’ worth last June, but really I was like an estrogen-hoarding chipmunk, stuffing my cheeks with enough supply to last me until I returned to Newfoundland again.
  • Ankle socks.
  • Bikinis. Everyone wears bikinis here. No one pieces. No tankinis. And there’s zero judgement. It’ll take about 20 seconds to look beyond your fears and insecurities because it is hot and you will be thankful you’re wearing as little of the polyester-spandex blend as possible.

Not to Take:

  • 5 pairs of identical Levi’s dark wash skinny jeans. I could have made do with one pair to wear when travelling back to Canada.
  • 2 twin packs of 20 oz containers of contact lens solution. (Exactly five pounds of Opti-Free.) News flash: it’s also sold here in Walmart and is (no shit) cheaper to buy than to ship to a different country.
  • 2 half-used tubes of toothpaste. Same note as above: they do sell toothpaste in Florida.
  • Long gym pants. You’ll die from heat exhaustion. Just get over your thigh jiggle and wear shorts.

I wanted to move most of my stuff so that I felt at home in a new place. Oh, but right. Then my husband got sciatica and couldn’t even manage his stuff when he returned to Florida a few weeks ahead of me. So then I was stuck moving his own crap first, and all of my to-do list got shoved to the back burner and basically went up in flames, like my first attempt at cooking rice. I panicked, and that’s how half-used toiletries ended up crossing the border.

On my last day living in NL, my list was still a mile long, and all I ended up doing that morning was pick up cake pops for me and Janine and hang out at my old workplace wistfully. Moving sucks.

Good thing I love UPS. I love Peter at the Hamlyn Road location because he put up with me bringing in my wardrobe, laundry basket by laundry basket, every day for a full week. I started shipping our belongings like a crazy person. Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook? Sure. Precious soprano sax? Definitely. Millennium Falcon figurine? If I have to. Insurance? Meh. Let’s just MOVE.

I underestimated the size of my spring/summer wardrobe. I ended up shipping 200 pounds of clothing and shoes. It actually probably would have cost the same to just donate it all and buy new in Florida, but I got swept up in the sentiment of keeping everything I’ve bought since 2003 (read: started high school) and “borrowed” from my mother’s closet.

Peter would pack my clothes neatly in clear blue recycling bags so that when the customs offices or border control or whoever opened them up, they could clearly see what was inside and that the contents matched his shipping descriptions. “18 pairs of shoes!” “Very nice purses.” I loved his descriptions. But one particular last load of clothes comprised things I was hoping to have room for in my suitcases, but ran out. My “unmentionables.” A palm tree printed nightie. A garter belt I’ve never worn because puh-lease tell me I must have bought one only intended to fasten around one thigh. A black bikini. Some other very PG-13 lacy items. No big deal. Later, when I opened up the boxes in Florida, I hauled out the clear blue bags only to find a single, black Billy Boot garbage bag at the very bottom. (For non-NL readers, Billy Boot is the t’ickest and toughest garbage bag made in our province.) My “indecent” articles were all inside. Thank you, Peter, for your ultimate discretion, so that no man or woman need lay eyes on my Joe Fresh lingerie. Your attention to detail was immaculate #notallconceptionisthough.

Two weeks later after I flew down, my 200 pounds of UPS packages arrived. Oh honeyyyyy, I’m home.

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It was clear this would not all fit in the closet in our master bedroom. My husband’s belongings take up the bulk of that precious space, including important every day items such as this tactical vest and plate carrier (plate carrier is the softened version of what you probably would normally call it):

 

Please try to imagine my surprise when I discovered these vests while home alone during one of my first days here. I ended up leaving these vests and their respective paraphernalia untouched, and took over the closet in the guest room. Our closets are the only his and hers we have in the apartment, no monogrammed towels or mugs for us. Then I stumbled across The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and apart from thinking Marie Kondo really needed a boyfriend during her teenage years, I also kind of thought she is my soulmate. My spirit animal of organization. She inspired me to get rid of all clothes I owned in high school. Confession: I kept one skirt from 2003, because I still believe I can pull it off, as featured below during my brother’s wedding weekend this past September:

 

 

I also purged anything I had “borrowed” from my mother’s closet (no offence, Mom, just trying to keep it hip) and everything I had bought from Mark’s Work Wearhouse & LOFT while trying to look like an accountant back home in my day job. And something I think a lot of us are guilty of – I got rid of everything I was hoping I’d fit into someday.  I work out here every day and eat as healthy as I’m ever prepared to, so this is it. This is my final form. There will be no size smaller. Goodbye, Tiffany blue Calvin Klein dress I’ve never worn.

Marie’s motto is: Does it spark joy? If not, dispose of it. My husband should count his blessings that he, through the house cleaning horrors and roommate adjustments, still brings me joy (for now).

Now that my closet here has some breathing room and no one knows how old I am, I’m convinced with enough research on Pinterest I can fool the locals into thinking I’m rocking my mid-twenties for the next decade. I’m not a trendy person but since I have the time (all the time, really), I took it on as a mission to look to look like a local. Like an American girl. After days of pinning and browsing the outlets, the upgrades to my wardrobe included: a J. Crew Chambray shirt, white tennis sneakers, and distressed jeans. It was hard not to feel like Bugs Bunny in my new white kicks, but it’s getting better. I’m also now used to always feeling a slight breeze against my thigh in my expensive jeans with holes in the them.

I downsized my closet when back in Newfoundland, too. Anything that I didn’t wear after my three & half weeks there was shoved in a bag for my cousin to decide to keep or donate. A bunch of items went on consignment to sell (LOFT is still a commodity for current working accountants and moms, it seems). And in owning less clothes (about 75% less), it’s much easier to get dressed in the morning and make cooler outfits. I even now own one of those cool shirt-dress things that have the shoulders cut out, because it’s actually really hard to find shirts in Florida that do have full sleeves.

In hindsight when moving, I could have just checked one extra 50 pound suitcase of clothing instead of shipping anything, because I’ve donated about 100 pounds, and brought the remaining 50 back to Newfoundland this fall. Turns out it wasn’t the amount of stuff I moved with me that made me feel at home here. But don’t gag – it also wasn’t the joy and love of finally living with my husband. I think it really came down to the pink curtains I hung in the living room.

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Now that sparks my joy.