Friday, December 14, 2012

On a Somber Note:

I went in to our bedroom and sat on our bed, and looked at my husband reading Harry Potter, tucked snugly into our sheets.

"I'm thinking of cereal bowls left in kitchen sinks." I said, ripping a square of paper towel off of a roll I had dragged in there. "I'm thinking of still warm pajamas left on floors, teddy bears with dried sweat stiffening their fur. Toys left out that will never be returned to."

"The kids that died today. The people that died today." Brett supplied quietly, as I curled into myself.

"I don't understand. I can't begin to." I sobbed. "But do you know what I am having the hardest time understanding? Why I spent 2 hours of my morning complaining about my life to my Mom today. Why I picked a fight with you during lunch. Why did I not look both ways before crossing the street this afternoon? I almost killed that biker."

"Not to contribute to your depression, but you kind of do that all the time and I'd wish you'd stop." He whispered.

"I just don't understand how...we don't get it." I pressed on, blowing my nose. "We don't get it. We don't get that life is this fragile and delicate thing, and it floats around in this really bad place...and bad things happen to good people. And, we can't stop it."

"It's not always a bad place, sweetheart. It can be, yes. But we can choose, each of us, to make it better.  To put the light taken out back into the world. I know it sounds hollow right now, but we can choose love. We can choose life. We can choose peace."

His words stuck with me as I remembered jumping online earlier that afternoon to be met with an onslaught of opinions via my favorite social networking site hours after the massacre had happened. When I heard the news, I was on a treadmill at my local gym...and when it flashed over my screen I just stopped and thought: "Nope. No. No. This isn't...nope. Going home."

And numbly walked home, drenched in sweat, heart beating crazily out of control while I flipped my laptop open to facebook.

I didn't see what I expected.

I expected more updates speaking to the way I was feeling: numb, lost, cold, grief-stricken, scared. Instead, what I found was update after update of people I knew and loved on their "Don't take my gun away from me!" soapbox. Fights were breaking out left and right. Cruel insults were slung. People on both sides of the argument were engaging in virtual fisticuffs, and my stomach clenched with every update.

Wait- wasn't this crime...about hate? Wasn't the man that committed this crime...a hateful person?

So- what were we doing here, exactly?

Were OTHER people out there thinking of the empty and cold cereal bowls left in sinks? The mothers and fathers that tonight would curl up in toddler beds and weep until their eyes were swollen? The families broken? The souls lost?

Why were people insulting the president for crying during his press release? Or posting their 2nd amendment rights to their wall? I get you have your beliefs and your rights and your passion to uphold them...but now? This second? Today?

Can't we just...literally lay down our weapons and pray?

For one day can we all just draw together and think of something other than our political views, our selfish passions, our hate, our anger...and can we mourn? As a nation?

I went to yoga tonight, and usually the touchy-feely stuff they read at the end when we are mediating gets under my skin. But tonight the instructor read: "Look up into the sky. The trees may have all lost their leaves. They may be barren, and you may feel like spring will never kiss them again. But keep your eyes to the sky. The brilliant sky. And wait for the sun to touch you."

Choose love, my friends. Lay down your weapons.

Let us all band together. And wait for spring.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Flying with your husband 101: The Holiday edition.

The other night Brett and I were sleepily traversing the Pittsburgh airport together, me half leaning on his arm and talking about the possibility of burgers in my near future. As we rounded the corner I lifted a finger towards a statue by the escalators.

"Look!" I cooed dreamily. "A pirate-Thanksgiving-man statue. That's so nice."

Brett stopped walking and looked down at me, eyebrows raised. "Are you asleep?"


"What is a pirate-Thanksgiving statue?" 

"That." I said, pointing again impatiently. "Honestly, Brett. It's nice though, isn't it? Festive."

He looked in the direction of my finger, and turned to me again. We were still not moving.

"You mean..." he started, before abruptly jerking into a fast walk until we were in front of the statue. "This historic mannequin of our first president of the United States?"

"A Thanksgiving pirate, to my recollection, was never  a president, Brett."


"Oh." I returned in a small voice as we boarded the escalator and I sank heavily into him. I looked up at his face furtively before I whispered into his sleeve: "I didn't know George Washington was a Thanksgiving-pirate."

He smacked his palm to his forehead.

The holidays are upon us and with that comes a whole lot of traveling. We had just come back from a weekend in Seattle, and it never fails to amaze me how we are such good traveling partners for people that generally bicker 99% of the day. The morning of our trip Brett cornered me in the bathroom angrily.

"Do you eat soap?" He snapped at me as I staggered out of the shower and rudely pushed past him.

"That tangy-Irish crap we buy? I would never." I retorted angrily.

"I'm just asking because we go through about 2 bars a week, which is insane. And, if we run out? Replace it please? Maybe not leave a sliver in the shower for me to clean my entire body with?!"

"You're impossible. And I'm hungry."

"I made breakfast. It's on the table."

Like a child, I pouted miserably. "I don't want that."

"You. Don't. Know. What. It. Is."

"It's berries and toast." I replied smugly, handing him a bar of soap. His face gave away that it was indeed berries and toast and I smiled triumphantly.

"I'm in the mood for just coffee today."

We're not like that normally. Only the day of traveling. I mean, yes, we bicker constantly, but it is usually not about things like forgoing a made breakfast to be spiteful or insinuating the other eats toiletry products. We bicker about normal things, but we keep up a steady stream of it during our day to day lives. He remarks on my wet towels on the bed. I pick at him over his piles and piles of mail and magazines he leaves throughout the house like he can't find his way back to the bedroom and needs to leave himself clues. He hates that I leave water glasses beside the bed and I hate the fact that he insists to pan fry EVERYTHING WE EAT ALL THE TIME IN OUR SMALL, AIRLESS APARTMENT. But, we always return to love. We always end up laughing at ourselves and airing out the apartment or bringing the water glasses back to the sink in a silent movement of romanticism. We do love each other.

We just...disagree.

All that goes out the window during the morning of a trip, and we're usually pretty cruel up until we board the plane. But then, something majestic takes place. Brett loads my bag into the overhead compartment for me and settles me in to my seat before he takes his. He usually procures a snack for me and I make sure his magazines and books are organized in front of him. If he is particularly stressed, I know just the scotch to order him. And he will massage my hands as we take off, knowing take-off stresses me out, but I would never admit to it.

In the air, we're cordial, social, sweet, and loving. We calmly discuss politics and religion. We share food and drinks and shoulders for sleeping. We discuss dreams and fears. Desires and flaws. Flight attendants always remark on how cute we are and ask how long we've been married.

"Oh, two years." I'll say sweetly, while squeezing his arm. Little do they know 3 hours before I was ready to shove a bar of Irish Spring down his throat.

It reminds me of how we all are with our family during the holidays. When we have to be on our best behavior, we can be. It can almost come naturally with a glass of wine and a People magazine. But, it also reminds me how we can be the worst to the people we love the most. Maybe Brett and I put on a lovely show in the air because we know we're being watched. But, what about those private moments in the bathroom right before where we are cruel? And insensitive? And impatient? I don't want to be that person. I want to be the Melissa in seat 23 C that is kind and thoughtful and giving.

For Thanksgiving this year, I'm going to pretend I'm flying with my husband with an audience of well dressed, perky flight attendants. I'm going to be patient. And loving. And sweet.

And maybe give him a hand massage during dinner when my mom starts telling the story about how I was "PRACTICALLY A STILL-BORN AND OH MY GOD THE SAC SHE CAME IN WAS GREEN."

He deserves it.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. May we all travel...lovingly.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Magical Christmas Santa Amish Dragons Sci-fi

"What is that?" Brett asked me, repulsed, when I put his nose into a jar I was holding.

"An AUTHENTIC Amish candle." I whispered reverently, ducking to check the tag glossed on the side. "In the scent of Santa-Winter."

We were in the middle of a small town in Pennsylvania that was having a Christmas celebration. The streets were lined with local Amish people laden down with quilts, jams, candles, and home-made trinkets. I was beside myself with glee, running from stall to stall, and Brett was reluctantly trudging behind me muttering stuff about how "we haven't even had Thanksgiving yet" under his breath. White noise, essentially. I was in a jaunty red coat even though it was 65 degrees. Nat King Cole was blaring from some hidden Amish speakers, and I was buying some Amish candles, damnit. I was in authentic Amish heaven.

"Want an authentic Amish doughnut?" I asked Brett, who shook his head over an Amish woman holding up a Steelers quilt she had undoubtedly stitched by candlelight. "And after we get one we can go say hi to Santa."

"Santa?" He asked, incredulously.

I pointed to the street where Santa and Mrs. Santa were mingling with the crowd, shaking hands and posing for pictures. "Oooh. He's a good one. Real beard! Take my picture?"

"This is ridiculous." Brett said, turning on his heel. "I'll be right back."

I shrugged and continued my shopping, filling my greedy hands with Amish candles and stuffed snowmen. I was trying to decide between a candle labeled "Country Cabin" and another labeled "Cranberry-Apple-Spice-Christmas" when Brett appeared at my elbow.

"They aren't real Amish people." He said flatly, when I turned to offer him a sniff. "You're being swindled. They just dress like that to get people to buy stuff. It's all fake. I just asked them."

You know that expression "my face fell?"

My face literally fell.

It was perkily pinched up in a constant smile only seconds before. My nose was tingling with about 76 different candle concoctions, I was humming under my breath and really excited to 1. Support the Amish community, and 2. Support the North Pole community by spending some time with Santa and the Mrs. later. I understood Brett's desire for true authenticity...and facts...but my face fell. And my heart fell.

And I put the candles and the authentic Amish snowmen back.

Did I really think a bunch of Amish people decided to come hang out on the street and peddle doughnuts and Steeler's quilts out of their kind, God fearing hearts? Not really. Did I notice a few Amish women taking smoke breaks? Yes. But, like a child wants to believe in the magic of Christmas, I wanted to believe too. I wanted to believe in the wholesome magic of the Amish. In the town that was so little we had to cross a covered bridge to get to it. In the doughnuts that were served up soft and warm in wax paper by women with smiling, round faces under their stiff white bonnets.

I wanted to believe in something magical.

On the way home, Brett looked over at me and squeezed my hand as I stared out the window. "How many candles did you buy?" He asked.

"I didn't buy any." I returned flatly. And I saw him bite his lip and stare straight ahead as the fading last rays of sun flickered and danced before the flame gave way to dusk.


Two days later I found myself in a candle aisle at Target. I had a hand basket filled with boring, adult things, but I couldn't ignore the pull of cinnamon and spruce and pumpkin wax wafting over the Home section.

I slowly placed my basket on the floor and lost myself in the colorful jars, before choosing three and walking to the cash register. On my walk there, I passed the book section, and my eye caught the newest installment of a sci-fi series I know Brett loves.

I fingered the cover of the book for awhile. In truth, the series is designed for teen-agers, but the covers are catchy, the writing is swift and smart, and the stories so magical they take my husband away to far-off lands where he never lets himself go. We had walked by this same book in a store a week ago, and he paused before it.

"Get it!" I urged.

He hesitated, and then seemed to find some kind of resolve. "No." He said firmly. "I don't have time. School is crazy right now. There is no time for that kind of frivolity."

"If you don't buy it, I will." I snapped, grabbing the book and placing it next to a mound of make-up.

"Please. Don't." His voice caught and he put the book back slowly. "There isn't time for stuff like that."

It broke my heart, but we walked away. And I remember driving home and looking over at him and hoping he still made time, once and awhile, for the magical things. Because a life so full of rules and regulations is a life sorely imbalanced. 

Needless to say, I bought the book. And after I cleaned up from dinner and walked into our bedroom, I found Brett curled up on the bed, reading it voraciously, his school books abandoned on the floor.

"Good book?" I asked him with a raised eyebrow. And, he put it down and looked at me.

"Some of the Amish people were real Amish people, by the way. I should have told you that."

We looked at each other and smiled.

"Make sure you read at least half that book tonight." I told him.

Make time for the magic, my friends. 

Whatever it may be.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Housework is the new Porn.

The other night I was at one of my two book-clubs, sipping on wine and not discussing the book- when an interesting conversation popped up among the group of wives.


Now, we're all educated, hard working, modern women who enjoy Avant-garde films, curry, and our careers. (Well, I don't actually have a career yet, but I enjoy talking to other people about their careers. So, I count too.) BUT YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED at the level of passion that is elicited when the topic of a clean house comes up. One of my friends leaned back against the couch and sighed orgasmically when I described a recent night where I made dinner, froze leftovers, and then cleaned my kitchen top to bottom- taking special care to mop the floors and bleach the counters.

"Don't you love," she started dreamily, "the way a dishwasher sounds at the end of the day?"

A ripple of murmured agreements swept through our small gathering, and we found ourselves trying to top one another with recollections of sexy housecleaning escapades.

"One time, the husband was out of town...and I just got so excited to clean the whole house and come see it still clean."

"Oh, and Meyer's hand soap and dish washing soap? I mean, yes, it is a crime how expensive it is. But, so worth it, right?!"

"God. I just put up new shelving units in our mud room, and I swear to God I came when I saw how organized everything was." (no one actually said this, but I am trying to paint a picture.)

I greedily chimed in: "Even if I cooked dinner that night, I'll insist on cleaning up. He just can't do it like I can...and I swear to God- that last hour of the day, with my glass of wine and the sponge...that hour is the most relaxing."

All of the woman turned to me and nodded encouragingly when I confessed my kitchen fetish, which only made me laugh. "You do realize we are all lustfully describing housework practices, right?"

But, I stopped laughing. Because this was serious. And seriously sexy.

The next night I met a few girlfriends for cocktails, and I almost spit my Moscow mule drink out when the conversation AGAIN, OH MY GOD turned to housework. I held up my hand as I sputtered.

"We can't really be talking about this, right? You all worked today! Tell me about your work day! A guy flashed me on the street the other day, want to hear about that? I finally wrote some poetry the other night...I voted! Want to talk about that?!"

But I didn't really say any of those things because I was excitedly recounting the baked chicken recipe I was going to make that night. And my fool-proof plan for left-overs and clean up.

Maybe I'm getting older.

I actually used wine in my cooking tonight. So, there's that.

But, it's ok.

Because no one...and I mean no one can bring a wooden floor back to life like I can. Or, scour off grease stains with my amazing ability. Or, make amazing cookies with only 2 ingredients.

It's the little things. The sexy, domestic, little things.

Thursday, October 11, 2012



The other day I realized my favorite author David Sedaris was coming to town for a reading, and I casually brought this up with Brett over dinner. And by casually "brought it up" I mean I was jumping up and down in my chair with excitement as I yelled the news in my husband's face.


Brett leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes for a minute. He does this a lot when I am excited. Or talking. Or in the room.

" going to be weird? Like the last time we saw him?"

"I was not weird the last time we saw him. I was an appreciative fan."

"You held up the line for 20 minutes and invited him to our wedding. Repeatedly."

"That wasn't weird. That was polite."

"You understand the man is in a committed relationship right? And gay?"

"I'm not in love with him, Brett."

"You told him you were in love with him. 97 times. Before we were basically asked to leave."

"That is just say. I'm a fan."


It's true, in a way. I get a little...excited about my favorite authors. Some women go crazy for their favorite band- fainting and screaming and flinging their panties at the musicians as they are pressed up against the stage, sweaty and hopeful and delirious in their adoration.

I'm kind of like that at book readings.

Even the authors that have long since died get the full weight of my frothy fandom. When we went to Rome on our honeymoon, Brett brought me to the Spanish Steps at twilight in a sweet attempt at romance. I was beyond excited, and could barely keep still as he tried to hold my hand. He seemed pleased I was so obviously thrilled, and as he bent to kiss me, he pulled back, alarmed.

"Your hands are sweating like crazy, are you ok?"

"I'm ok." I panted, lifting my gaze away from his eyes and fixing it on the house behind him. "I just...oh my God. Keats died in that house right behind you! Oh God. I can't breathe. This is amazing. Can you take my picture?!"

Which is how, on my honeymoon in one of the most romantic places in the world, I posed for a picture with a house as couples all around us made out like teenagers.

Brett puts up with my obsessive adoration with a level of patience I think is beginning to wane. Last year I had to do a project on Emily Dickinson, and for 3 nights in a row I locked myself in our office, drank wine in the dark, and memorized her poetry. He would pop his head in once and awhile to check on me, shaking his head when I whispered drunkenly that I "just loved her so much."

"Isn't your project a painting? How is getting drunk in the dark helping you with the painting? Do you even have any paint in here?" He asked, trying to flick on the lights.

"I have to FEEL her first, Brett. I can't just paint. Don't be ridiculous."

"So you feel her through a bottle of red wine?"

"It's my way of tapping into her."

"She didn't drink you know. She was a recluse."

"ExACTly! Which is why I am reclusing myself!"

"Not a word."

(I got an A on the project, so it shows how much he knows.)

I realized the other day that if my own husband was nervous about attending a BOOK READING with me, I should probably pull the ridiculousness back a little bit. It's ok to be excited about the artists we admire, but I could probably swing a little of the fandom his way.

On our walk today I told him I was a big fan...of him.

And asked him again to go see David Sedaris with me.

And I solemnly promised to only take 15 minutes in the book signing line.

Because marriage is all about compromise.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"If Music Be The Food Of Love...Play On."

The first time I managed to wrangle a date out of (my now husband) Brett, I cooked for him in my small apartment and promptly burned everything while I sat perched on the counter, babbling away, ignoring the food while drinking wine.

He was horrified, to say the least, and dinner was uncomfortable. He gloomily eyed the "blackened-not-by-intention" chicken and somberly sipped his wine. I sat across from him on my hands, feeling absolutely sure that I would not have a second date with this man, mainly because he was probably going to die from the carcinogenic meal. As we cleaned up, I mumbled that I had 'picked up' (read: BOUGHT. FOR HIM.) a copy of "Finding Nemo." He had mentioned in passing in a crowded and loud bar that he loved that movie- weeks before.

And I went out and bought it, never breaking the plastic. Hoping I could trick him into coming over.

He looked at me, eyes softened. And well...was mine. (Editor's Note: Um. Not in a creepy sexual way. More along the lines of- let's have a second date and then I'm going to marry you way. Ok- carry on.)

It wasn't until I cooked with his family that I realized why he seemed so bummed out over a piece of chicken. To put it simply: Brett loves food. He adores it. It is his heart and soul and the truest form of art to him. He spends hours planning meals, shopping for ingredients, concocting new marriages of flavors and textures...while I still perch on the counter and watch him, babbling. He liked me ok when he first met me, thought I was cute even, but when I thoughtlessly threw wooden chicken on a plate with some frozen vegetables...I basically broke his heart.

For my husband, food is love. To watch him talk about his time when he lived in Italy is to understand this man. He'll look off as his face relaxes and his hands absently travel to his stomach. He'll dreamily talk of how every night he would shave off salty tendrils of prosciutto and enjoy it with a local wine, watching the golden sun dip and shimmer in its fading ballet over the Tuscan rooftops. He'll describe that flank of prosciutto that hung from the worn, wooden rafters of his Tuscan home like he was remembering a gorgeous lover.

What I would give to be a salty flank of prosciutto.

This love definitely came from his mother, and any time we visit I find them in the kitchen in the early hours of the morning, drinking tea in the middle of mountains of cookbooks. It's a life I am happy that I joined, and I have been blessed to have eaten my way through two countries with his parents. Yes, sometimes I ate eyeballs. And fish with the bones still in them as they looked up at me through milky, sightless eyes. And yes, I ate a duck heart once, and now I adore a little foie gras smeared on my steak, and I am no stranger to the elegance of shaved truffle on...well, anything. And Brett cooks 99% of the time, so as long as I keep our wine filled and the conversation flowing, I have nothing to complain about.


Now I have to cook more because Brett is so busy with school. And I am so busy not with school.

And I am shit at cooking duck hearts.

This morning Brett asked me what was for dinner, and I went into full on-panic mode. "What is defrosted?" I asked warily, praying it didn't have a head or wasn't an intestine of some sort.

"Ground beef." He replied. "I figured you are comfortable cooking that?"

"I am comfortable cooking that." I answered. "Are you comfortable with meatballs?"

He laughed. "Your meatballs are great. They really are. You should try branching out a little though! You have come so far since you first started cooking. Your stuff is really good- you could try a cookbook, see what fun things you can-"

"I am anti-cookbook. You know that."

"You're also anti-maps. And anti-directions. And anti-following rule-"

"Point made. But, I really am NOT opening a cookbook. I'm not. I'll figure something out, and you'll love it." I snapped.

"I will, you're right." And he kissed me on the forehead as I warily regarded the ground beef.

In our 7 years together I have become a great eater and an ok chef. My confidence wanes in the kitchen, and I'm happier letting Brett take the reigns as I volunteer to chop, saute, or gossip. I make a few things he loves and a lot of things he questions, but eats. But, I want to try. If this is love to my husband- if this is the language between us that can quickly convey my gratitude and affection- I want to learn it. I want to Rosetta Stone the crap out of it.

Which is why I found myself plumping currants today.

And caramelizing onions.

And adding lamb with the beef and trying to...make art.

And say I love you.

Sometimes words are hollow little boxes we accumulate in life. We stack them away in the recesses of our heart where they gather dust and sit, forgotten. I chose to crack open one of those boxes- and fill it. Fill it with action and with proof and fill it with manifestations of my love.

Tonight we'll eat something I made just for him. And as I set it down with (slightly) burnt hands, it is set before him with a full heart.

And it has LAMB in it. Good God.

That is not even love. 

It's porn.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I'll live.

This morning, as Brett bounded out of bed to throw on his running clothes and flick on every light in the house, I rolled over and groaned into my pillow.

"Oh my God. I think I have left jaw-bone cancer."

"What?" Brett asked, and then thinking better, ignored me. "Want to go for a run with me?"

"That would be pretty hard to do, considering the jaw cancer I am trying to tell you about."

He rolled his eyes. "Why haven't you made a doctor's appointment here yet? Not for your 'jaw cancer', but you seriously need to make an appointment. Don't you have to.." he gestured with his hand wildly in the direction of my uterus. "Get that all checked out and everything?"

"Is there something wrong with it?"

He shot me a warning look as he laced his shoes. "Please make some doctor's appointments, ok? Some check ups. And your back has been bothering you too, so we should focus on your core..."

He was right, as usual. (However, my "core" is none of his business.) I had not been to a doctor in a long time, and it was entirely irresponsible of me. I had been in a new city and had made no moves to choose a new dentist, gyno, wine distributor, nada. Usually I am passionate about upkeep. I have seen too many people I love in my life find things wrong when it was too late...and as a functioning hypochondriac I always prided myself on remaining MORE than up-to-date on my body's check ups. 

I come from what I will call a "medical" family. My father works for a funeral home, and at a VA hospital- so there is a WEALTH of information there that he can supply me with. My mother has always been known to drag heavy volumes of medical dictionaries to my pediatric doctor's appointments, gently trying to imply through garbled Latin medical terms that I was probably in danger of dying every 5 seconds. She would balance the awkward book on her lap and watch with hawk eyes everything they did to me, slipping tongue depressors in her pocket as we left. (She's now in nursing school. Congrats mom! Glad I could help!) With this sort of rich history, I grew up way too aware of my own body. When my mother started assisting with colonoscopies at her training hospital, I sat down with my doctor a week later, asking him if it was time for me to get checked out there.

"Are you having any problems? Have you noticed any changes?" He asked, worriedly, scribbling on his pad.

"Well, no." I answered. 

He paused and looked up at me as I avoided his gaze to check out a poster on the early signs of melanoma. Hm.

"You're very young, and very healthy. I don't think we need to explore that yet." 

"Explore that? Ha."

"I trust you remember the way out?" He asked, standing.

And I did. Of course. 

I've come to understand that my fear of disease comes from a fear of not living enough. I lie awake and watch Brett's chest rise and fall as he slumbers, his hands delicately placed over his chest in an x-pattern as he sleeps on his back. (I hate that he does that. It's like a wake in my bed every night.) Last night I woke him up twice, pushing cold toes into his calf muscles until he snorted awake.

"Wha--- WHAT?! ARE YOU OK?!" he would ask, gasping and breaking his funeral mode of sleep.

"Well, I'm fine now." I'd reply primly, rolling over onto my side. 

(That will teach him to sleep like a dead person.)

Lately, life has taken on a certain sort of...uncertainty. We have no idea where we will be living in a few months. We have no idea if anyone wants to ever hire me. We have no idea where we will make a home, if we will have kids, or dogs, or end up with a llama farm.

But, we have a certain sort of control over our heath. Or, I do. I just hope this left-jaw-bone-cancer isn't serious.

Because I'd like to see the next chapter in this very (healthy) life. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Elephant In The Room. (Or, in the Book Club.)

Someone asked me the other night, during a book club gathering at my house if I had just gotten married.

"Oh. No. I got married 2 years ago, actually." I sheepishly replied. She just smiled and nodded at me, and I realized I had been going on and on about our wedding. Even to the point where I dragged out our 90 pound album to show to a house full of (lovely) ladies I had just met.

So, you know, I wasn't acting like an insane person at all.

The worst part was, my friend Heather did just get married. And this should have been her time to gush over the details and discuss colors and fun moments of the day and share with us all her honeymoon plans. But noooo. I just kept babbling away about MY day like I was freshly plied out of my wedding dress.

I hate women like that.

I was a woman like that.

The next night Brett came home from a business trip, and as he kissed me hello and sat down on the couch to talk about our day, I immediately blurted out: "I really want to hear EVERYTHING about your trip, but I really, really need to also tell you every single detail from book club last night so you can help me decide if I was a crazy person and have no hope whatsoever of making friends here."

"I missed you too." He said.

"Brett. This is important. I think I was a...little unhinged."

"A little?"

"Ok. A lottle."

"Not a word."

"This isn't helping. I'm kind of embarrassed. I did my frantic-everything-has-to-be-perfect-but-then-just-drank-too-much-and-talked-loudly-about-myself routine."

"Ohhh. That's a fun one."

I covered my face with my hands and deflated into him. "Why did you marry me?" I whimpered into his shoulder.

"Well, for starters, you weren't doing that routine. But, you were wearing a hot pink sweatshirt with a cartoon elephant on it that said "Nothing wrong with a little junk in the trunk." At church."

"That was a great sweatshirt."

"It wasn't." He said, kissing my forehead. "But, what I am trying to say is- you can be pretty charming and fun when you aren't trying so hard. I think the move has you feeling insecure, but you shouldn't be. People will like you. And if they don't, well...who cares? When you just relax into yourself, you're unstoppable. And I'm sure no one at the party thought you were a crazy person."

"I interrupted everyone constantly AND showed them our Christmas card from 2 years ago."

"Oh. Well...we don't need friends here anyway."


Before Brett moved from California to Pittsburgh, we were packing up our belongings in our bedroom and I was wearing that hot pink elephant sweatshirt. I was holding a box, and was about to topple over from the weight of it when Brett quickly grabbed the front of my shirt to steady me- ripping it in the process.

I looked down, horrified. "You RIPPED it!" I wailed.

"Oh. No." Came his flat reply as he tried to hide a smirk. "That's too bad. We'll have to throw it away."

"Like hell. This shirt is special! I'll sew it."

"You don't sew. Besides, the thing is really, really old. Can't we just bury it? In some kind of ritual? A good-bye to the past, a hello to a quieter, less pepto-bismol pink future?"

"Brett. I met you in this shirt." I said, patting the elephant lovingly.

"I don't need that shirt to remember that night." He answered softly. "But, we'll cut the elephant out, ok? And maybe put it on a baby blanket someday. And we can tell our daughter that Mommy was wearing the most obnoxious shirt ever. Because Mommy is kind of obnoxious. And colorful, like this shirt. But, that makes her special."

"And there is nothing wrong with a little junk in the trunk." I added somberly.

And Brett rolled his eyes. And carefully cut the elephant out.

I found the elephant the day after book club in a jewelry box I had unpacked a few days before. I laughed when I pulled the hot pink elephant out, and sat down on the floor with it reverently in my hands. It was winking, which I didn't remember, and that made the whole thing more hysterical. This fat, cartoon, garish winking elephant seemed to be exactly what I needed to hold on to in this moment. Like, it was telling me everything was going to be ok. And yes, I was obnoxious. And yes, sometimes not the easiest person to love. But hey. Be kind to yourself. Life is fun. It's not supposed to be so serious all of the time. And- *wink, wink,* lighten up a little.

So, I hope everyone embraces their own elephants. I hope they can cut them out of the cloth of their past and carry that little part around with them forever. I hope you can embrace a tiny part of yourself that you see as a flaw.

Because, it's not a flaw. You are not a flaw.

And there is nothing wrong with a little junk.
In your trunk.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Not your Mom. But, you're pretty cute, kid.

I recently took the 3 hour drive from Pittsburgh to Ohio to help my Mom out with a few things in our family, thrilled that I: 1. Could drop everything and go to her, and 2. Would be cooking for a family that thinks everything I whip up in the kitchen is culinary gold. (Not to say Brett doesn't, but I'm pretty sure the man is tired of my meatloaf.) The interesting thing about my Mother's living situation is that my sister lives right next door. Like, right there. Next door. With her 2 kids and feral cat and new husband and RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO MY MOM. This means daughter/sister time doubles with Auntie time, and there is no real escaping it. Not that I would want to, but living in California-far away for so long left me with this nagging feeling I wasn't really good at any of these demanding roles. I could barely figure out the whole wife thing. Having to equally balance all other parts of me sometimes proved daunting.

But, this trip I was determined to master them all.

I've made no real secret that the idea of children, and having my own, dances around my head from time to time. I no longer accept my friend's proffered babies with panic and unease. Instead, I greedily reach for them, pretending to gobble their feet and wedge my nose into the baby neck fat, and do all of the things I saw other people do before and thought was disgusting and borderline insane. I'm not ready for children, but I want to hold everyone's baby all of the time, and I absently tested out a carriage in a Neiman Marcus before I realized that is was $3,000 and WHY THE HELL WAS I LOOKING/TESTING OUT CARRIAGES? I even murmured to my friend who was with me that the wheel system was "great for long marathon-type runs."

I have never run a marathon, and even MORE IMPORTANTLY I AM NOT PREGNANT NOR CLOSE TO BEING SO.


After wrapping some daughter duties up with my Mom, making a baked macaroni and cheese for dinner that everyone fawned over like it was cooked with shaved truffles, I called my sister and arranged to pick up my 5 year old nephew for some "Auntie and Elias" time. She agreed, and asked if I wanted to take her 2 year old as well.

"Both? Like, at the same time?" I stammered into the phone, as I sat on the porch and looked into her windows like a creeper. "I mean, am I allowed to do that?"

I don't think that exactly won her confidence, so it was just me and Elias the next day, and he met me very formally in front of the house. He looked over my outfit and awkwardly adjusted his glasses.

"You look...really shiny." He offered, reaching up to pat me on the arm. "I like your earrings."

"I like your shirt!" I replied, walking him to my car. "Where would you like to sit? Wait. I should know where you are supposed to sit in a car, but I can't remember. You don't have a car seat. Right?"

He squinted up at me. "I'm 5."

"Well, yeah. I know. But, you can't be in the front. I think."

"Mommy always lets me sit in the front."

"Are you lying?"

He smiled and shrugged. "No?"

"You're going to get me arrested by the end of the day. I think you should sit in the back."

He turned his huge brown eyes on me and pouted. "I just want to be close to you, Auntie. You smell so nice. Please let me be close to you?"

I melted, and at the same time helped him into the front THAT NOW I KNOW IS A DEATH TRAP FOR CHILDREN, SO HOLY CRAP, BUT DID YOU HEAR WHAT HE SAID? He was immensely proud of himself, and kept grinning over at me as we drove the very short, short distance to a local McDonalds.

Now, I hate, hate, hate, McDonalds, but this is not my child, and if he asks for chicken nuggets, he is going to get chicken nuggets and a romp through the very germy play place. And I will play with him there, and half heartedly try to get him to eat the rubbery apples that they now put in Happy Meals, and I will do it all with a frantic and manic glee because I WILL BE THE FUN AUNT. Some of my best memories of my own "dates" with my aunts involved contraband food and my first taste of coffee at 6. So, judge all you want, but you know you would do the same thing.

As Elias played, I nibbled on the remains of his slimy apples and chatted with some parents that gathered around the Flu Station. (a.k.a The neon play structure.) And I noticed something kind of amazing. If you had a kid with you, anyone would talk to you. I was approached by 2 woman and one young father, and they perched at my table and started gushing over my "cute" son, and "how great I looked" to have a kid.

I'm not joking.

I should have corrected them. I should have been offended. (I look 'good' for having a 5 year old?! Thanks?) but I was quite the opposite. I smiled. I preened. I said things in the middle of our parental discussions like, "Don't take your socks off, Eli!" and "Hey! Make good decisions!" As I good naturedly rolled my eyes at the other parents and shrugged in a gesture of "you know how kids are." My creepy role-playing was broken when Elias marched up to me, socks in hand and thrust his little face in mine.

"Are we still on our date Auntie?!" He yelled. "Do I get that transformer toy yet?!"

It suddenly got quiet. And I suddenly yanked Elias' shoes on and suddenly left my brand new parent friends that looked at each other with expressions that can only convey that I probably won't be invited to play time again. I sat in the car, feeling ridiculous and thoroughly embarrassed and wondering why I played along in that weird situation. I went in trying to be the fun, spirited Aunt- but left dragging my unknowing nephew out after I had turned into one of those desperate women that use baby talk and probably own a lot of denim Winnie-The-Pooh shirts.

Elias interrupted my depressing thought stream with an uncontrollable giggle.

"Grayson though you were my mommy." He laughed, shaking his head.

"Who is Grayson?"

"The little girl I was playing with. With the orange shirt."

"That was a boy honey. I think he just likes to wear earrings, which is totally ok if you ever feel like that is something you want to do."

Elias frowned at me. "Isn't that CRAZY?" He asked. "You! My mommy! I told her that you can't be a mommy- because you are an Auntie. I mean. Obviously."

I pulled a piece of chewed up apple from my scarf and reached over to ruffle his hair. "Obviously. Now. Let's see about that transformer toy."

We got the transformer, and we sat in my car for an hour as I struggled with the long instruction sheet and tried turning this cheap piece of plastic into a truck from a robot. Elias watched my every move, and was in awe when I finally presented the mangled and finished toy to him. We then went grocery shopping, and as he was shyly showing the cashier his new toy, she grinned at me. "Your son is adorable!" She gushed.

"Oh, he's my nephew, but thank you! I'm very proud." I answered as Elias stuck his transformer into my bra.

"You two seem very close." She offered, bagging my groceries. I was agreeing when Elias wriggled around to look at me.



While I can't master every role perfectly, I can take it slow and assemble a toy in a car. Or shrug at a confused grocery store cashier as my nephew wails about not wanting to wear earrings as I offer up a lame: "I guess he's not into that look right now," and suppress a giggle. I can bring him home, and kiss him a million times and be grateful for the fact that I am an Aunt and not a mommy yet, obviously.

And then go home and drink a glass of wine with my Mom as I tell her that her daughter is a totally creepy, flawed, and weirdo human being.

But, very very good at transformer assembly.

Those fuckers are hard.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Heart Crazy Women.


In a kind effort to break me out of my shell a bit and thrust me into something "of my own" in unfamiliar Pittsburgh, my husband signed me up for a semester of voice lessons with a former opera singer.

I was pleased initially, but this morning hid under the covers as I watched the dreaded hour-of-singing approach. I tried explaining my new reluctance to Brett. "I just...don't know where the campus is." I moaned.

"Yes you do." He returned.

"Do you think I am a bad singer? What if I am a really, really bad singer?"

He shot me a look of warning. "You know you can sing."

I nodded somberly. "I'm awfully good at drunk karaoke. But, you always tip the D.J's a lot of money, so that makes me question my abilities."

"If you don't want to go, you don't need to go." He reasoned. "But, I think you should. Like any musician you should practice, and I actually think you need to get out of the house for a little while."

I knew he was right. I was dangerously close to stretching my little pity party into a week long blow out. Kegs and all. This pity party was threatening to soon be off the hook, man. 

So. I went.

I dragged my feet the entire walk to campus, and soon found myself in a very cold, white room with nothing in it except a gloriously romantic-looking baby grand piano. I didn't know what to expect. I tried imagining my instructor. I was pretty close to getting up and pretending to play the piano when She walked in.

There was something about her. I don't even know how to describe it. She was a flurry of cowboy boots, a colorful, swirly fabric of a dress that danced around her bare, tan legs- clutching a huge colorful cookie between her teeth, her colorful self just colorfully bouncing off the color-less walls.

So, she was pretty colorful.

I immediately felt that mixture of complete ease and horrified unease. My posture was calm, but my palms were sweating. My face broke out into an automatic smile at her entrance, but my foot tapped nervously and I adjusted my glasses too many times.

She stooped short when she saw me.

"How old are you?" She demanded.


"You look 22." She said, cocking her head to the side, biting into her cookie. "So. You moved here for a man?"

"Well. No. My husband goes to school here, so I...uh. I moved here..."

"Is your husband a man, sweetheart?"

"He is. A man." I mumbled.

She smiled then. Quick and beautiful and I found myself giggling.

"Holy shit. I moved for a man!" I laughed. "That sounds bad. It's not like that."

"It's only bad if you don't do something for yourself too. You work?"

"I do not work at this moment, no."

"You need to. I can see it all over you. You know what I thought about you when I first walked in this door?" She asked, dumping her bag of piano music on the bench and brushing crumbs of cookie off of her jacket. "I thought: this girl. Her glasses. I get her. She needs to be doing something spectacular, and she is going to fade in this city if she doesn't get on it soon."


She looked at me impatiently. "Have you seen your glasses? Have you looked around this town? You know what your glasses tell me? You don't give a shi- uh- crap about being cookie cutter 'perfect.'. Sure- a million hipsters have those glasses. You're no hipster, don't get me wrong- but you are an artist. You are a non-working artist. I can see it all over your body. And, the worst part is I think you have given up on yourself a little bit, but you are not beyond saving."

I sat there, opening and closing my mouth and trying not to stress-sweat. Who was this woman? Where had she been my whole life?

"We're not going to sing today." She said, closing the piano. "You need to talk. I need to listen. We'll do that today. I'll unlock your inner artist. But, for today, I want to talk to you. So- where were you born?"

"Concord, New Hampshire." I whispered. And we were off.


One time Brett and I were laughing over a story I was elaborately acting out about my day, and he stopped me, his eyes glittering. "The craziest stuff happens to you." He said. "I've never known anyone where stuff...just happens to them, falls in their lap, all of the time. It's amazing."

I brushed it off then, but I am sitting down now at our table and thinking about it. Last night I cried into my dinner about how my life wasn't making sense. How I moved here and felt like my drive and my dreams were all dropping away and it was my fault. Brett's loving answer to my pathetic little pity party was the gift of voice lessons.

He was trying to give me back my voice. (Not that I ever truly lost it. I mean, let's be real here. Expressing myself is not usually a...problem. To a fault.) But, here I was in this cold little room with a woman I trusted implicitly who seemed to love learning every inch of the miles that brought me here. This stranger believed in me, and saw something that I had stopped looking for in myself. What a crazy thing to happen.

She walked me out after my "singing" time was through, and we lingered in the doorway like new lovers. "I'm giving you 4 days to get a job."

"4?!" I returned, laughing. "Listen. You obviously don't know me as much as I thought you did. Maybe we need another "voice" lesson."

She smiled. "There you go! I like it! Ok. A week. That's it, New Hampshire. You got this."

"Ok. A week. And I'll see YOU next week. Same time?"

"Same time." She answered, and then stopped me as I walked out the door. "I don't want you to find a job because I think you are lazy. I want you to really start in the arts- your passion- because I know your very soul depends on it. I don't want you to look back on your life in 15 years and be unhappy. I don't want you to give up. I think you are about to, and I cannot let that happen. Got me?"

"I've got you."

"And New Hampshire? Next week we sing. We sing the shit out of something. You're ready."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dating While Married: 101

The other day, as I sat in the kitchen excitedly telling Brett about a party I was planning once our house was settled and not a war zone, I started reciting the guest list before I stopped mid-count, crestfallen.

"Oh no." I said.

"Oh no what?" He dryly responded without looking up from his paper. "Oh no this is going to be expensive?"

"Oh no- we have no friends." I shot back.

"We have friends, Melissa."

"Ok. List them."

Brett leaned back and started rattling off 3 couples we knew in Pittsburgh. And then he faltered.

"See? 3 couples. Which is great. I love them a lot. But, we basically know 6 people in Pittsburgh. 6."

"If you include us, it will be a party of 8." He wisely returned. "And everyone knows that parties of 8 are the best kind of parties. And besides? Why are you so concerned with numbers? Is this a popularity contest?"

"Well, if it is, we're losing." I grumbled.

"Oh my God."

"No, it's not that. Its- ok. Think about how exhausting I can be, right? And we have 3 sets of friends- which means they will be in heavy rotation. And will have to deal with us, ok, me- 1/3 of the time. Which could be pretty frequent once the holiday season ramps up. And we want to keep these friends, right? So- wouldn't we be a much more desirable social option for them if they only had us in small shifts? Or our presence was diluted with the addition of a lot of other people around us? At our upcoming party?"

"Again. Oh. My. God."

"It's basic mathematics. And science. And"-

"Craziness." He cut in.



When we lived together in California, we had a vibrant and colorful social circle of very dear friends. We all attended endless dinner parties, concerts, birthday celebrations, work celebrations, and one or two 3am dance parties in our living room together. A lot of these friends were couples- which can be a great thing to have as you all traverse the sometimes confusing and unfamiliar terrain of marriage. One by one these couples moved away- and we were left behind. When we moved too, we had to start all over again. And it was like dating. Couple dating.

We'd dress for these "dates" and frantically adjust one another's clothing with frantic assessments. "That dress is a little low for a first dinner, no?" Brett would ask.

"Oh God. I didn't think of that. You're right. I wouldn't want to give the wrong impression. Glasses or no glasses?"

"Definitely glasses. Do you like this shirt?"

"It's purple."

"I know. You're right-too much. Blue?"

"Better. But, unbutton the top. You don't want to appear uptight."

"Ok. So, let's go easy on the wine tonight. I'll drive, but we don't want to seem sloppy."

"Ok. But, I LOVED that one couple that got super drunk. It was hilarious."

"We're thinking long term, though. Let's be ourselves- but the best part of ourselves."

"Like, the fancy part?"


While this conversation isn't word-for-word accurate- it is pretty damn close. And we'll navigate through the date much like you would a first romantic date. We'll ask questions about family, education, background, hobbies. I'll always throw in questions about kids after my second glass of wine, and we'll gossip in the car after on the way home- trading notes.

Sometimes the husbands will hit it off while the wife will eye me warily through the entire dinner. Which only makes me drink more and try harder, and that never ends well. Sometimes I will become best friends 4-EVA with the wife and the husbands will awkwardly talk about sports with little enthusiasm. And sometimes- sometimes- we hit it off so well with BOTH parties, we cannot contain our excitement.

And then the nervous oh-my-God-how-can-we-make-them-like-us-forever panic sets in. At least for me. Brett is decidedly more chill about these social arrangements.

There was a time recently where we hit the couple jackpot. During our summer in Ohio, we met this amazing couple: Natalie and Scott. Natalie and I HIT IT OFF and I fell in love with her instantly. We were at an orientation for the company our husbands worked for, and as we chatted happily over dinner, I noticed Brett and Scott hitting it off as well. I was beyond excited and later that night bounced on our hotel bed as I recited everything I really like about the two of them.

"She's pretty and funny and smart and Scott is funny and smart and Natalie laughed at all my jokes and didn't look at me weird when I ordered a second drink-"

"They are great, Melissa. But you didn't exactly let Natalie talk all that much."

"But, she did! She was laughing! A lot! That is very much like talking."

"She was laughing because you launched into your nervous stand up comedian routine."

"You're no fun. I only told a few jokes."

"You told every joke you know- but they are funny. Let's email them tomorrow. Too soon?"

"I already got her number and have texted her 3 times, so..."

"Oh God."

I have no doubt that Brett and I will "date" successfully in Pittsburgh. After all, we have met 3 couples that seem to like us both, and we'll do everything to continue to make those commitments work. Maybe I'll go out and buy them all flowers. Maybe I'll send a "I'm thinking of youuuuu!" text.

Maybe that is entirely weird.

While the only person I really need is my husband- sometimes it is nice to sit with another couple, Linger and laugh over dinner, trading stories and dreams and hopes for the future.

And have a 3am dance party in your living room. You know, to keep things spicy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How To Be A Wife: Anniversary Edition.

I'm a gal who loves a good party, but for some reason prefer anniversaries to be pretty low-key affairs. I think this boggles the mind of my dear husband, since I insist on celebrating every holiday from Saint Patricks Day to Hanukkah...and I'm not Jewish. We also celebrate made-up holidays- or "anything-I-feel-like-celebrating-if-I-need-to-spice-things-up-or-am-particularly-bored-days." It is normal for Brett to come thorough the door to find our walls covered in random decorations, cheap champagne chilling, and a chocolate in the shape of a fish. Or a note from me telling him to meet me out for Thai food for "Thai Day"where I gift him with a few awesome children's books. There is no rhyme or reason to these celebrations, which makes it even more fun.

So, today is our 2 year Anniversary. And we will cook dinner at home, drink a good bottle of wine, and exchange simple gifts. And then probably assemble some furniture we bought at Ikea yesterday. You know, if we are feeling particularly crazy.

This sounds perfect to me, especially because I informed him that we are celebrating the holiday of "Anniversary-Dessert-Edition" in a week where we exchange the "cotton" 2 year gift and eat cake. Mainly because it is too hot to eat cake tonight, and I need to eat cake on a holiday. Obviously.

It says a lot about Brett that he didn't even bat an eye at my request. Or, demand.

Anyway, this year has been the hardest one we have had in our 6 year run together. We're basically newlyweds at this point- learning to live with each other and accept one another. We sometimes get shy, we sometimes get ridiculously angry, but we always laugh and he is my best friend. I know that phrase in married relationships is often overused, but NO REALLY GUYS, HE IS. He is seriously the only person that has put up with me on a semi-consistant basis for 6. Years. He takes a lot of crap, he sticks up for me when I'm blatantly wrong, and he conjures up a healthy interest in my celebrity obsession, my rants about the very common abuse of the arts, and my disdain for scrambled eggs. When people tipsily grip his arm at cocktail parties and say " OH MY GOD...your wife is so funnnnnnny!!!!!" He just nods politely, sips his drink and probably thinks, "Cool. Glad you think that. Spend a weekend listening to her tell that same story 949874 times and then we'll talk. Ok buddy?"

No. He wouldn't really think that. Brett has never used the word "buddy."

He's a trooper. And he's very good at the board game Battleship. This should be said.

When I was ten years old, our teacher asked us what super power we would want to have if we could choose. My answer was immediate. "I'd wish that God could tell me who I was going to marry."

I attended a private christian school, so it wasn't a shock I mixed God into the "super-power" territory, but my teacher was confused nonetheless.

"Well, that is not exactly a super power, right?" She ventured. "I mean, you could just pray that God would direct you to the man that was intended for you."

"Oh no." I wisely returned. "I'd want a specific answer right away, so I was hoping the super power part would be that I had this hologram tablet-thing that let me know everything I needed to know. Right away. And maybe give me a picture of him and his favorite foods and stuff." (sorry techie-internet-people- I'm pretty sure this is me inventing the ipad and the internet all in one go, so you know...sorry I beat you to it. And anyone that corrects me and says "the internet was actually around during this time." IT WASN'T REALLY BECAUSE WE STILL USED ENCYCLOPEDIAS TO WRITE ESSAYS AND COMPUTERS WERE THE SIZE OF MINI COOPERS. SO BACK OFF.)

The real reason behind my desire for this power-that-isn't-really-a-power was the fact that I DESPERATELY wanted to marry Joey Lawrence, and I was interested to see what God on my hologram tablet had to say about that. I didn't want the mystery of adult dating-(which I still thought was sharing ice cream cones, (ew.) Followed by a swift and chaste proposal. And hopefully sparkling apple juice because that was the bomb and made me feel ridiculously fancy.) I just wanted answers. I wanted them right then and there and at my fingertips AND with a wax stamp of approval from the All Mighty.

Wouldn't life be great if it worked like that?

Well, I didn't marry Joey Lawrence. He was heartbroken, but I was all: "Dude, chill. You will have a full life of mediocre sitcoms and a stint on 'Dancing With The Stars' and still be, you know, handsome. And bald. Oh yeah. Sorry. You'll be bald. BUT YOU'LL HAVE ABS!"

And thankfully he moved on...because I found Brett.

Brett who loves to dance with me and sings the lyrics of the song in my ear. Brett who cuts fruit for me in the morning and cooks elaborate dinners for me at night. Brett who listens to me talk about scrambled eggs for 3 hours, patiently and with interest, and then will tell his own story about duck hunting for 3 hours.

And I'll listen patiently too. And not think of Joey Lawrence AT ALL.

Because I married the real star.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm Awesome And I Know It, (well, not right now...but soon. I promise. Maybe. I just have to change my pants.)


"Want to go for a run?" Brett asked me early this morning.

"No. Maybe. In a half hour." I mumbled from under his pillow. (His pillow is much more appealing in the morning, and I always reach for it at dawn leaving him pillowless and baffled. But he never reaches for it back, which baffles me.)

EXACTLY a half hour later, Brett jumped up to fling on the lights and started yanking socks on my feet as I kicked away frantically. "You're already wearing running pants AND a sports bra" he surveyed, tossing me my sneakers as I burrowed deeply into the bed. "So, that's convenient. And weird. Let's go."

I looked down and realized I was, in fact wearing work-out clothes. From yesterday. That I didn't work out in. "Oh my God." I whispered to Brett. "Am I letting myself go?"

Brett's eyes widened as he realized he was probably stepping into a minefield at 8 am and was not exactly prepared for it. He pulled me to my feet and said grandly: "You're really pretty."

And we were off.

"I had a dream last night that I was stuck on an island of talking soldier monkeys. The island was haunted, and at night we had to huddle in this circle that protected us from the ghosts. I was a prisoner of the monkey soldiers, obviously, but I started helping them concoct a blessing when you RUDELY WOKE ME UP." I said as we jogged along.

Brett looked over at me and shook his head. "You NEED to be a writer. Or do something creative. Please don't ever get a desk job- your brain is just too...special."

"I'm thinking you mean special in a good way." I retorted as I bent to tie a wayward shoelace that wasn't wayward at all, but saved me from gasping for air in a very unattractive way. (I tie my shoelaces a lot when I run.)

"Of course." He said." I don't even dream at all. And monkey soldiers?! "

As amazingly supportive over my brain as Brett was being, his comments struck a chord in me. I have been looking for jobs. Real people jobs that come after college when you start wanting things like cars without dents and houses and nice bottles of wine. And I was looking for jobs during a time I could not believe in myself less.

I write paragraphs and erase them. I wear workout clothes around the house while not actually...working out. The only thing I accomplished yesterday was a successful nail appointment and a dinner of unburned steak. Brett has been picking up on my subtle cues of depression, (like crying in front of the refrigerator the other day while I ate 6 month old truffles,) and he has handled it gracefully. He peppers the odd compliment into our conversations. (Like last night, he grinned at me and said: "Have I ever told you that you ARE SO GOOD at caramelizing onions?!" I kind of feel like if he had a gold medal in the shape of an onion he would have placed it around my neck in his rapture over said wilted onions.) He has been- in a word- supportive. Supportive over his moody-and-treading-water-half-assedly-wife.

It is not his job to do so, but I appreciate it all the same. And our run this morning reminded me that I could you know...try a little. Like, dress for bed like an adult. Agree that I should have a creative job and GO FOR IT instead of feeling like I'm not good enough, pretty enough, capable, or actually very good at caramelizing onions.

I'll admit I am scared at this new phase in life. I kind of feel out of my element, a hippie Berkeley fish out of water, unsure of the next step or the appropriate outfit required to meet that step. I mean, running pants are awesome- but RUN IN THEM FOR GOD SAKE. Don't sit at the kitchen table in them, working on your resume by adding stupid things to it to amuse yourself. No one cares you know how to make homemade spaghetti sauce. Or can speak Klingon. (And if Brett knew I added weird things like that for about- oh, 3 hours a day, he might not be terribly enthused.) Just- Do It. Live by the Nike slogan. Hitch your wagon to a star. Put it in your pocket. (Same song? No?) Have the eye of the tiger. Get the moves like Jagger.



I'm wearing jeans today, so there's that. I will dress these jeans up for dinner tonight with girlfriends, and tomorrow I will submit a spaghetti-sauce-queen-free resume to the local theaters and prepare myself for change.

And I will meet that change with my Capable Smart Girl pants on. And not my running pants.

Although they are terribly comfortable.

And make me look like I work out, like, ALL the time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sometimes Marriage Is Not Super Fun-All-The-Time-Awesome-Unicorns-And-Sparkles. And that is ok.

You know what is interesting?

Having a blog. Over a year. And being able  to look back over that year and see how you have grown/not grown/gotten fatter/ even though you became 98% vegetarian.

Case in point: A year ago I wrote this blog-

This was written ONE YEAR AGO FROM TODAY.

What was today in 2012 like?

Today I woke up next to my husband. I went out for coffee, leaving my new home. I looked for a nail salon. I could not find one close by. I tripped over a bump in the side-walk and was mortified for over an hour. I came home and set out champagne and love notes and chocolate...because 6 years ago on this day Brett asked me to OFFICIALLY be his girlfriend. We don't normally celebrate this day, but we needed some celebrating.

Let me tell you something about marriage: it. is. hard. And sometimes messy. And sticky. And cranky. And low in blood sugar. BUT, ALWAYS WORTH IT. And, when you can celebrate something- anything...celebrate the shit out of it.

Brett and I just got back from a week long road trip from San Francisco to Pittsburgh. We stopped in amazing cities, we drank wine, we ate Tex-Mex, we laughed, we got bites from bed bugs, we met a celebrity, we made out like teen-agers on cheap motel beds, we petted horses on the side of the road, we sang, we giggled, and we listened to the entire unabridged version of "Little Women" on cassette tape. It was basically the stuff dreams are made of. However, anyone that actively knows us is probably perplexed by this. We could NOT be more different. We could NOT argue more than we do. But, stick us in a 90's tin can of a car, slap some literature from the 1800's on us, and suddenly we are having the time of our lives?

Uh. Yes.

As soon as our feet touched hallowed Pittsburgh ground we were at each other. We argued about air conditioners, diet, decor, hard alcohol, friends, t.v. shows, family, makeup, and any other little thing we could conjur up in our foamy craziness. We went out for drinks with friends, only to bicker bitterly the entire walk home over non-existant problems. We got to the point where we could not stand one another and we were in the same one bedroom apartment.

It was refreshing, actually.

Let me tell you why.

We're all drawn to the friends that have the perfect marriages with the perfectly dressed children and the perfectly decorated house a'la Pottery Barn. We pine over details like designer lounge chairs and in-home movie theaters and pool decks and in-law cottages we pray the in laws will never use. It is a life constructed out of perfection that is fed to us- by who?

I admit I fail in this way- in this wanting. One day, in between Texas and somewhere not Texas, Brett looked over at me and said: "Bear?" (his pet name for me. OKAY, NOW YOU ALL KNOW IT.) "Where would you be? If life was just how you wanted it? And money was not an issue?"

I immediately gave him my robotic answer. "House, yard, kids, dog, good career, no wrinkles, lots of traveling." He didn't say anything, but smiled sadly and squeezed my hand.

And it only took until the day I decided to blog to see how stupid I was.

Life is not about that, is it? I mean, YES, IT WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE A HOUSE...but I would rather have a husband to argue with over why Amy March is such a bitch but really is so good for Laurie. (read Little Woman. Right Now.) I would rather have my husband get so mad at me he melodramatically tries to sleep on our all-white-sofa, but knowing it is all white lays a sheet down before begrudgingly returning to our bed, hoping I don't notice out of pride. I'd rather have a life that consits of happy errors, loving mistakes, and stupid fights.

This blog is deeper than usual, but I felt like I had a message to say. GUESS WHAT FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES ABOUT TO GET MARRIED OR NEWLY MARRIED? Sometimes it all sucks. It all sucks ass. But, there are flickers of moments in those sucky ass moments that make you realize the most important thing:

Someone loves you enough to stand beside you. And sleep on your white couch. And roll their eyes at you. And make you coffee in the morning and say: "Hey- you suck sometimes. But I really love you. And I will love you forever. No matter how sucky you can be."

And hopefully they will follow this statement with a pat on the ass.

Because...that is THE BEST part of marriage.


Friday, August 3, 2012

I'm Glad You Were Born. most of the time.

"It's that time of year again." Brett said to me hesitantly over dinner the over night. "Your birthday is coming up. What would you like to do?"

I describe him as asking this question hesitantly, because he totally was. And as he asked it he sort of flinched and leaned back in his chair a bit. And maybe held his breath. I could be imagining all of these things, but I'm pretty sure I am 100% right that that was what was happening.

I pushed my food back and shrugged. "I don't know. Dinner? And I need a new hair straightener since my last one blew up at that haunted chateau in Normandy."

Brett opened his mouth to argue that the chateau was not haunted. (It was. He slept through the haunting. And, even if I imagined it we were staying in a mansion that was approximately 7 billion years old, sleeping on a canopy bed that had portraits of dead children hanging over our heads along with snippets of their powdery hair. AND, OH THE LIGHTS KEPT TURNING OFF AND ON AND THE COUNT RUNNING THE ESTATE WAS LIKE, "OH NO WORRIES. THAT IS JUST MY DEAD MOTHER.") Anyway, before he started his argument he seemed to actually hear what my preferences were for my birthday, and he stopped.

"No cake? Balloons? Surprise parties you ask for? No special champagne? No drawn out birthday week?!" 

"No. And you make me sound very high maintenance. Which makes me want to go out and BUY STUFF. But no... well, maybe some cake."

"I'm worried." He said, practically wringing his hands. "I'm just going to come out and say that I am really worried. Is this a trap? A test? I mean- I know my wife. This is totally a test, right? So you want a big party?" As Brett started trailing off and muttering about how he knew he would be dead meat if he simply handed me a hair straightener over dinner on my birthday, I stopped him.

"Brett- I just...don't feel like celebrating this year. I'm going to be 29. The 20's are almost over. I was just getting good at them, and now they are gone."

"Yeah, I don't think you have to worry about that. I think you'll be a little bit too good at your 30's too."

(He's always incredibly helpful.)

This conversation made me realize two things. One: My poor husband acts like a scared and cornered animal whenever he mentions my birthday, and I may be slightly to blame for it. I'm not a monster (is the thing all monsters say...) But I'm not. Honest. My husband is an only child, and got so much attention as it was, birthdays just...weren't a big deal. In fact, until I came into the picture, I don't think he had celebrated one since he was about 7. And then it took me 6 years of over-the-top celebrations of him to realize he actually isn't a fan of birthdays at all. (Not that it stops me. It slows me a bit, sure. Like- I won't rent the clown for him or anything, but there may still be a jumpy house.) And I come from a massive family. There are too many of us kids to have constant attention. I once RAN AWAY and my mom didn't even notice. Granted, I was sitting in a tree across the road, eating peanut butter sandwiches and watching my house angrily, sure someone was going to run out screaming my name. But no one did. You know why? Because there were nine thousand of us. I don't even think I know all of my sibling's names.

But on your birthday- things were different. I was born at 3:40 am, and for the longest time my mom would creep into my room to kiss me at that exact moment. She would whisper a happy birthday in my ear, and we both relished the thought that she always said the first happy birthday of the day. I was always awake for this private moment, squirming in my bed, knowing any second I would see her silhouette illuminated from the golden light of my nightlight. That stopped eventually, maybe when I became a surly preteen and OHMYGOD MOM THAT IS SO EMBARRASSING. But, I miss it. I want that moment back. I'm sure Brett wouldn't be weirded out at all by my mom joining us at 3:40 am every August 5th.

After the private celebration came the day o'treats. Breakfast in bed, a big, splashy birthday party, dinner picked by the birthday girl, and an entire day where I didn't have to share any toys-at-all-no-way. Even during the lean years, my mom somehow made the entire thing special. We didn't have much, but we had the celebration. It was magic.

And then the next day I went back to being a face among the masses, but not without the lingering glow from the day before.

So, you see the tough act Brett has to follow, but he has taken on the challenge beautifully- year after year blessing me with thoughtful notes and planned trips, and sometimes very quiet and lovely nights at home. It was just about recognizing the fact that I was here, and nudging me on the shoulder over a glass of wine and saying: "Hey. I'm really glad you were born."

So, that brings me to the Second thing I realized about our conversation.

What didn't I want to celebrate, exactly?

Yes, I'm going to be 29. Yes, 30 is looming and I am scared of 30. I feel like I haven't finished my 20's yet. I feel like I'm playing this board game I have only NOW started to get the hang of, and we're switching to yahtzee or something like that. And yahtzee is ridiculously boring. But, you know what is more boring? BEING BORING. Being that person that gripes about being old, being tired, only wanting a hair straightener because what's the point. I don't have to be that person. I can exist outside of numbers- it's really only up to me.

And then I remembered I asked for the hair straightener in a way that wasn't boring at all. How many people fight with their husbands over an evening's events in a HAUNTED CHATEAU IN FRANCE? How many people can say they watched a hair straightener BLOW UP? LITERALLY. BLOW. UP.

And I can.

So, I'll be 29 on Sunday, but that doesn't mean a thing. What matters most is how I spend that day. And the 365 days after. And the 365 days after that.

I'm hoping it involves a lot of explosions. A lot of funny stories. And definitely numerous glasses of wine with the people I love in this life. Where I can look over at them and say:

"Hey. I'm really glad you were born."

Monday, July 30, 2012

How A Duvet Cover Changed My Life And Made Me Plan A Trip To Italy.

Oh you know, just going to make breakfast...

Last night Brett "caught" me with a duvet cover, and things got really embarrassing.

We were making the bed, and when he left the room I surreptitiously snuck over to our linen dresser. (Yes, we have one of those. Yes, it's obnoxious.) As I quickly checked over my shoulder to make sure he hadn't returned, I pulled out a gorgeous, stark white, brand new, luxurious duvet cover. Lined in warm chocolate piping with our monogram in the center- it was a wedding present that I kept hidden away. It was...perfect. Apparently when I registered for it I never expected that Brett and I would have kids or pets, or be human in any way. I never actually expected someone would buy it for us when I put it on the registry. It was just so over-the-top expensive and frivolous, but someone out there probably knew I just HAD to have it hanging out in my linen drawer.

Where it has been since we received it. 2 years ago.

"What's that?"

I whirled around, shoving it behind my back as Brett stepped closer. "Nothing!" I shouted, which only made Brett smile and reach around me.

"What is this?" He asked as he incredulously unrolled it.

"Um. A duvet cover?"

"We have a duvet?"

"Well, yes. We got a really nice one for the wedding. It's in a box somewhere."

He looked confused as he smoothed out the white perfection of the cover, and watching him touch it made my pulse quicken.

"Don' Don't touch that. Is it weird I am really anxious that you are touching that? Please stop." I babbled as I backed against the linen drawer. He saw me back towards it and a wicked smile slowly spread over his face.

"There is more in there, isn't there?"


He moved me aside and found THE STASH. A set of sheets to match the duvet cover, pillowcases, other pretty bed things still in plastic and gleaming with their purity.

"God, it's like you are a Pottery Barn hoarder." He murmured as he started pulling everything out.

"BRETT! Those sheets are NOT to be slept on!" I yelled out as he started putting a perfect pillow case on his pillow. As soon as the words left my lips, I clapped my hand over my mouth, eyes bugging out.

And then I couldn't stop laughing.

I consider myself a relatively normal person with a few lovable (I hope,) quirks. However, as I watched Brett ransack this private drawer, I was alarmed at how stressed out it was making me. I also couldn't stop my maniacal laughter. What was I thinking?

Brett wanted to know the same thing. "So, what are the sheets and the duvet cover for?" he asked.

"Um. I think for show. In the future."

"Oh, ok. So, when we have people over in the future we have these on the bed, but when they leave.."

"Yeah. We change it. I think it makes total sense. Like throw pillows."

"There is nothing about a throw pillow that make sense."

"It's just- it's like guest towels!" I offered, my voice getting a little desperate. "You have them out when people come over...for them to use!"

"So, guests can use our duvet cover and fancy sheets?"

"God. No...but they can look at them."

At this point Brett was climbing into bed, a huge smile on his face as he tested out the sainted sheets he had just put on. He stretched and sighed, a huge smile on his face as he rolled around the bed like a pig in PERFECT, VERY EXPENSIVE SHIT. I watched slightly horrified from the doorway.

"Come to bed." He smiled.

"No." I whispered. "I am so annoyed with you right now."

"Okayyy!" he sang, jumping up. "Your loss. I'm going to go brush my teeth. I will be leaving the room in case you want to pull some towels made out of gold and angel hair out of the linen dresser to just look at and then put away."

As he left the room, I dressed for bed keeping my eyes on the sheets that had now practically been defiled. Inching towards them, I slipped in...

and smiled.

They were really nice. They were really, really white. They felt amazing against my bare legs and I tried not to think that I should shower several times before touching these to keep them pristine. I buried my face into Brett's pillow and finally let go. I don't need to keep things hidden away, afraid the living of life will taint their perfection. Nothing in life is perfect. These were...just sheets. It was just a duvet. We wouldn't have them in 10 years, I wouldn't be thinking about them on my death bed. They were not anything to really set on the altar of the linen drawer and worship privately. I guess I was just...waiting for the right time to use them.


I once read a story about an old women who, after she died, her daughter found an entire chest full of beautiful nightgowns that she never remembered her mother wearing. When she asked her father about the nightgowns- their silk perfection still nestled in tissue paper- her father just shrugged sadly and said: "She thought they were too nice. Maybe she felt undeserving. She was waiting for the right time to put them on."

That time never came, and if Brett hadn't forcibly made our bed with these sheets, my time to use them might have never come either. The thought made me incredibly sad because these sheets were seriously soft and scented with ground up unicorn or something magical like that. What "right time" was I waiting for? When would I wake up and feel like the world was incredibly perfect, everything was perfect, and that perfection deserved new bedding?

When Brett joined me in bed we sat up talking about how weird I am. I rolled over on my side and met his eyes. "We have boxes and boxes of perfect china, you know. Unused. Waiting for "the right time."

"Let's make the right time now," he offered. "Let's make occasions fit for china and awesome sheets- instead of waiting for them to come to us."

He was right. And I was tired of putting things in boxes waiting for the "right" time to pull them out. That book I'm always talking about writing? What better time than now? That gorgeous guitar I own but am afraid to touch? Let's break a few strings learning how to play that baby. That trip to Venice I keep talking about? Well- it's literally sinking, so I better go now.

And maybe my daughter, long after I'm gone will tell people her mother wore silky nightgowns and feather boas to breakfast. And invited her to tea parties with stuffed animals using her wedding china. And lived every single second of her life- a life that was truly and beautifully, unpacked.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I thought I wanted a Baby. But I guess I just wanted a lawn. Same Thing.

The other day I realized every one in the world has gotten pregnant except for me.

The realization came on a normal day. It was the afternoon, I was listening to the Spice Girls, drinking coffee, and scrolling through a friend's photos of her son, Felix. Never mind I have never physically met this girl. We are friends, her son is adorable, and no matter how weird Brett thinks it is that I spend hours going through her facebook pictures- I do it. I do it and I enjoy it, and I don't want to wear her skin or anything, so please stop saying that, Brett.

Anyway, on that particular afternoon it seemed like every real and imaginary and virtual friend I had was doing something with their kids. Or was having a kid at that moment. Or was talking about just getting pregnant with one. For one brief, sweeping and incredibly irrational moment I felt so. left. out. Like parenting was this elite and super colorful club that I was picked last for. If you were picked last for clubs like you were picked last for a kickball team. (And I was that person that no one wanted to play kickball with because of chronic asthma and penchant for lying in the grass.)

So, extremely off topic, but hopefully you understand how I felt.

The moment passed, as much of my irrational moments do, and then the heart of the issue became glaringly obvious.

I want a house.

The jump from wanting a baby to wanting a house is obviously extremely rational and very healthy. And truthfully, I don't want a baby right now. I like babies a lot. I like other people's babies. But I still like to drink wine at night and watch endless episodes of a t.v. show that is largely targeted towards preteens. I can't be bothered right now, is all I am saying. I have way too much wine to drink and t.v. to watch. There is simply no time to nurture.

The house thing started when a few of our friends became first time home-owners. They would have conversations with us about the "pains" of keeping up a permanent and expensive home. "Your apartment grounds are so lovely." They would croon. "I mean, who needs a backyard? You are so lucky that you don't even have to deal with that right now. God, Herb spent all of Saturday just mowing our lawn before we could even stop by the block party the Maschowitz's were hosting. We almost missed the lemonade."

Ok, so I don't have any friends named Herb. But, it's fitting given the situation. I want to have a lawn that needs to be mowed. I want to live in a Jewish neighborhood even though we're not all. I want lemonade, for god sake.

This weird need for a foundation is one I keep very private and very hidden, like a drug habit. So, it's nice that I'm putting it on my blog. Because no one will see it here, ever. I've taken to cramming real estate fliers in my purse like I'm pilfering sugar packets from diners. I have gone to a few open houses (hanging my head in shame over this,) alone. But, I always come up with a fake name and hang out in the kitchen far longer than anyone else, so it's totally normal. I check house prices with every city Brett and I visit or live in. And we've amassed quite a list. I'll casually sip my coffee over breakfast in Ohio and slip in how much a local brick 5 bedroom with a pool costs.

"I just...stopped by to check it out. There is a GREAT local country club nearby, and the schools are absolutely fantastic." I'll say. Naturally.

Brett will squint at me and clear his throat. "Why do we need to look at schools?"

I'll roll my eyes and sigh dramatically. "For the children. We don't have."

"You know you grew up in rural New Hampshire, right?" He'll ask. Meanly.

"What are you getting at?" I'll snap, and then soften. "I actually have some housing prices for there too. In my purse."

"Well, country clubs? I mean. Melissa. I'm still in grad school. You don't actually have a job."

I'll sniff. Because that is what people who belong to country clubs do. "I work in social media."

"You update your blog and play on facebook all day."

This is usually the end of the conversation.

It's honestly not about the country clubs or the block parties or the manicured lawn that our friendly neighbor Herb takes care of when we are out of town. I think this is the manifestation of my desire to (gasp, groan, cringe,) put down roots. And shop at Pottery Barn.

Maybe it is because Brett and I have spent this last year apart and I lived in an apartment that had ACTUAL BULLET HOLES on the outside of it. Maybe I see my friends toting their newborns around their newborn lawns as they drink lemonade with their newborn friends. Maybe I just stop moving around for a little while.

Maybe I just need a place that actually feels like home. Preferably near a country club. I'll even take a YMCA.

I think Brett picked up on this weird yearning, and, (most likely incredibly grateful I wasn't asking for babies,) said the sweetest thing to me the other day.

"You know," he sang to me as we walked into the apartment #2 we live in. "This place could really use some decoration. And more lights. And a few more fun furniture pieces. Maybe we should take a trip to  IKEA, and you can pick out ANYTHING YOU WANT to make this place more homey."

It was kind of like being offered a discount Swedish baby, a bar of chocolate, and a bottle of wine all at once. It was suddenly everything I wanted and needed and every inch a love letter from him to me. In that moment Herb could keep his mowed front lawn, and his stupid block party. I was going to buy us some new lamps, some cliche wall art, and make our own damn lemonade.

With vodka.