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The Crap in His Pockets

I mentioned in this post that our mattress-less futon was still sitting in two pieces in the family room because we’d lost the pins that hold the thing together during our move, but what I didn’t say was how certain I was that Michael had lost them. I was sure it was all his fault. I just knew it. After all, I’d watched him take the futon apart in Harlem, watched the various screws and bolts and pins roll across the hardwood floors. I’d scrambled to pick up the errant hardware and I’d put it all together in one of our nightstand drawers and then taped it shut, all the while fearing I’d missed something, irritated that he’d left the hardware to roll into oblivion, certain we’d come up short in LA. So when we unpacked everything and, in fact, two integral pieces of hardware were missing, I knew he was the one to blame.

Meanwhile, he was adamant that he had not lost the pins, he’d put them in a safe place, they were around here somewhere.

“Are you sure you haven’t seen two L-shaped metal pins somewhere?”
“I’m positive.”
“Because I know they are around here somewhere. I know it.”
“Haven’t seen them. Pretty sure you lost them.”
“I didn’t lose them. They’re here somewhere.”

Then I’d watch, shaking my head, while he tore through boxes and rummaged through tools, muttering to himself that he knew he had them, he knew he saw them after we unloaded the truck in Los Angeles, they’ve got to be around here somewhere.

When I wash Mike’s laundry I find the strangest things in his pockets – bottle caps, drill bits, rubber washers, half-chewed dog biscuits. These items end up in my own pockets, and then they find their way into various drawers and baskets and sometimes, my jewelry box. Why don’t I just put them with his tools? Normally I would, but for the four months we lived with my parents, I didn’t know where his tools were, so whenever I’d empty his pockets, or clean off the top of his nightstand, I’d put the random odds and ends in my jewelry box. (Not the bottle caps and half-chewed dog biscuits, mind you. Just the drill bits and rubber washers.) This weekend I was cleaning up the bedroom, putting away some of the jewelry I’d worn during the week. I opened my jewelry box and rolled my eyes because there amongst the baubles were two allen wrenches. Clearly from Michael’s pockets. And then it hit me. Like a slow-motion scene in a movie, the memory came flooding back.  It’s August. I’m cleaning the guest room we’re living in at my parent’s house. There are two L-shaped pins on the night table and I put them in my jewelry box because I don’t know where else to put them and I figure they’re probably important. Flash forward to this conversation, had as I’m digging through my jewelry box deciding which earrings to pair with that day’s outfit:

“Are you sure you haven’t seen two L-shaped metal pins somewhere?”
“I’m positive.”
“Because I know they are around here somewhere. I know it.”
“Haven’t seen them. Pretty sure you lost them.”
“I didn’t lose them. They’re here somewhere.”

You guys. He didn’t lose them. I’ve been looking at those damn pins nearly every day for six months, all the while rolling my eyes and tsk-tsk-tsk-ing because Michael lost the pins that hold our futon together. So I snapped a picture of the pins with my BlackBerry and emailed it to Michael with a note that read, “Do you need these? Can I toss them?”

futon pins

Motel 6

Our building was built in 1987, so it’s just new enough that it lacks any of the old-timey charm our previous homes have had and it’s just old enough that everything in it is slightly tacky. It’s not that it isn’t nice enough. It’s nice enough. I thought it was really shabby when we first moved in, but now that I’ve scrubbed the whole place down – I’m not kidding, I had to use steel wool in the showers and a pumice stone on the toilet – I see that it’s not shabby, it just looks like an eighties-era Motel 6.

I think that’s what we’ll call this place. The Motel. It’s significant because this home is only temporary.  Sure, we’ll be here for a few years, three, four, five maybe, but as soon as we can buy a house we’ll be outey like gouty.  What?

We got this place for two hundred bucks below our budget, and it has nearly everything we wanted except hardwood/laminate flooring. It’s carpeted, but I think it might be the original carpeting from 1987, so when Theo rubs his ass on it I don’t feel as bad. Of course I want to get the dog butt-smear out of the carpeting, but I don’t feel guilty about it.

When we were apartment hunting we looked at this really nice condo just a few blocks from where we live now. It was only a one-bedroom and it was more expensive than the Motel, but it had a brand new washer and dryer in unit. It only had two windows, but it had a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, and a walk-in closet. We were so excited to see it. We walked in and the owner greeted us at the door, smiled warmly, held out his hand, and asked us to take off our shoes.

This is my biggest pet peeve. I understand why people want you to take your shoes off in their house, I get the logic behind it completely. But when I have had no advance warning and my toenails are all scabby looking and my feet stink because I’ve been wearing heels all day, and I walk into a stranger’s home and they ask me to take my shoes off, it is all I can do not to turn and run in the opposite direction.  Also? Mike and I and our five animals have no business renting a condo from people who want us to take our perfectly clean shoes off before we walk into the condo we are trying to rent.

If I lived in that condo I would spend the next five years having a panic attack whenever Theo wiped his ass on the floor. In the Motel I don’t have to sweat it because the landlady didn’t even charge us a pet deposit. She actually used the words, “I do not care about the carpeting,” when we mentioned our animals. Not that we’re not going to take care of the carpet, because dear me, we are, we absolutely are. I cannot live with dog ass in my carpeting. I will scrub every unsightly stain, I just won’t feel guilty over it.

Does that make sense?

A Happy Mess

Two weeks ago I was so stressed, so engulfed in anxiety I could hardly breathe. The boxes upon boxes upon boxes, the filthy bathroom floors and grubby kitchen sink were making me feel like a crazy person.  I spent most of the week emailing back and forth with my friend Kim at Kim’s Kitchen Sink because of everyone in the world she is the only person who has been able to verbalize the way I feel when my home is messy: If my home is messy, my head is messy.

Kim has been coaching me on how to deal with the mess while working forty hours a week, and basically what it comes down to is learning how to live in the happy mess. Because it is a happy mess – it’s the mess of nesting and setting up a new home, a new future full of endless possibilities and opportunities. So that’s my project for the next however many weeks it takes us to get settled in this new apartment.  To learn how to live in the happy mess. Instead of looking around at the piles and breaking into a cold sweat, I’m trying to look around at the piles and see the potential. Here’s a peek at what our Happy Mess looked like last week:

kitchen mess

The kitchen mess

living room mess

The living room mess

what a mess

More living room mess – and a sad little dog (she hates messes too) (or maybe I’m anthropomorphizing.)

office mess

The office mess

putting it together

Then there’s this guy, working tirelessly to put it all right. I see that smile and the mess melts away so that everything feels happy.


Perfectly Perfect Perfect

When we moved from Hells Kitchen to Harlem I was working eleven hours a week and Mike was unemployed and on Spring break from school. We were able to spend the better part of every day cleaning, unpacking, decorating, nesting, and we were all settled in a matter of weeks. It was fantastic. But this time I’ve been at work every day and Mike’s had to do most of the heavy lifting without me.  Me, who likes to do everything myself because I want everything to be perfectly perfect perfect.

This has been the source of several very high energy moments in the past couple of weeks. Mike is very patient and very laid back, and I am the Tazmanian Devil. We signed our lease on a Monday but by Tuesday I’d spent four days decorating the apartment in my mind and making long lists of everything that needed to be cleaned.

One morning as Mike was driving me to the office, we had a huge fight.  Except it wasn’t really a fight. Calling it a fight implies yelling and screaming, and that’s not our style.  Anyway, immediately after lecturing Michael on how I won’t be able to live in the apartment until the bathrooms have been scrubbed inside and out, I started telling him that I thought it would be fabulous to decorate said bathrooms with all gold vintage decor.  He made a face at me and said he thought that was the most horrible idea I’d ever come up with ever.

Except not really. What he said was, “That will look really tacky,” but what I heard was, “That is the most horrible idea you’ve ever come up with ever. Also, you are fat and ugly.”

When he dropped me at work I was nearly in tears. I was also on my way to being late for work, so I couldn’t sit in the car and talk about how I was feeling. Instead I had to sit in my office and stew about it.  And stew I did, for a nice long while. Then I texted him:

“I love you. I want for this to be a fun and happy time for us.  I want to feel like you accept me and like my ideas. It’s crushing when you think my ideas are stupid. You’re my best friend and when you think my ideas are stupid it’s really painful. So far you’ve hated every idea I have and I’m starting to feel like this is your apartment, not ours.”

Don’t you love how dramatic I am? It’s so awful it’s funny, right? “So far you’ve hated every idea I have…” Straight out of Days of Our Lives, the generic suburban version.

He texted back:

“All I’m doing is cleaning. I understand how you feel. I’m sorry. I don’t want to feel the same – like you want to make this your apartment, and all I do is scrubbing and hauling. The good news is that we are not in a huge hurry. I want us to work together to make a home. I respect your ideas, and I know we can make this work.”

I took a deep breath. Why was I so angry? I mean, seriously. Sixties gold décor in the eighties-era bathroom with the clamshell sink. It wouldn’t have worked at all. So I called my mother and my girlfriends, some of the most brilliant and wonderful women I know. “What should I doooooo?????” I whined. They all three said the same thing. They pointed out that we both had valid points and we’d both expressed a desire to work through the situation.  They said we were ahead of the game. They offered help, advice, encouragement, and comfort.  They made me laugh. And Kim gave me complete instructions for how to wash out my filthy dishwasher, something I otherwise would not, for the life of me, have known how to do.

I wasn’t angry that Mike didn’t like my ideas. I was angry because he was doing it all without me. I felt like I was missing out on everything.  All the cleaning, all the moving, all the furniture-arranging.  He thought he was getting a big chore out of the way, but I felt like I was being cheated of an opportunity to nest – something I’d been aching to do since August. Meanwhile, here he is, spending his days scrubbing and hauling while I yammer on about curtains and throw pillows and give lectures on how to clean the toilet. No wonder he didn’t have the patience to talk about gold vintage décor.

When we finally got another chance to talk, we realized that we were both aiming for the same thing – a fabulous little home we’ll love for the next two to five years, depending on how long it takes us to save up for a house.  Once we figured that out, we were able to talk about all of the things that needed to get done, his priorities and mine, and I realized that moving comes before decorating and maybe my evenings were better spent scrubbing the filthy toilet instead of shopping online. Which, of course, was what I really wanted to be doing anyway.  After all, there is nothing in the world like a freshly scrubbed toilet.

Melly Klistmas and a Happy New Lease

This is probably the longest stretch of time I’ve ever gone without writing in my blog. It’s been almost a whole month, you guys. So what’s been taking up all of my time, you ask? All fifty-six and a half hours a week not spent sleeping, showering, eating, working, and commuting? First, there were the holidays.

snowy village

Christmas was lovely. I didn’t get the Sylvanian’s out of their Thanksgiving outfits until December 21st, but it was totally worth the wait.

sylvanian xmas

I didn’t bake my traditional gingerbread people this year, but I did make all my own gift-wrap.

recycled wrapping

We had a wonderful New Year. Mike had to work New Year’s Eve, but I got to spend the evening with my brother and his wife, just the three of us, and it was absolutely lovely. Since Mike and I weren’t going to spend New Year’s Eve-ning together, we spent the afternoon together instead. And what does a young starting-out for the third-time couple do on a sunny So Cal winter day? They apartment hunt.

I had been hoping for a two-bedroom apartment, some outdoor space, and hardwood or laminate floors, but two-bedrooms with all those amenities in the San Fernando Valley are more expensive than you’d think. We looked at a couple of cute places, all brand-new laminate floors, lots of sun, one-bedrooms totally within our budget.  We looked at a couple of awful places, one-bedrooms outside our budget that looked good on paper but turned out to be carpeted windowless dens of misery.

We were getting ready to wrap it up for the day when Mike convinced me to take a look at a little apartment off Saticoy he’d seen the day before. A two-bedroom with a dishwasher, a balcony, a fireplace, and carpeting, it was right within our budget. However, as far as I was concerned, the carpeting cancelled out the dishwasher, the fireplace, and the second bedroom. I was determined to hold out for hardwood floors. And by that I mean laminate flooring would have been equally awesome, but carpet was out of the question. If we had carpet I would spend the next five years scrubbing dog butt-smear out of it.

“But the landlord said she didn’t care that we have dogs, she doesn’t care what happens to the carpet, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
“Dog butt-smear in the carpet is disgusting. I’m not living with carpet.”
“I’ll buy a carpet cleaner and I’ll shampoo it once a week.”
“No.”
“There are two bathrooms.”
“Fine. But we’re only looking.”

He turned onto a street lined with 1920’s Craftsman bungalows and palm trees. “This is probably where we’ll walk the dogs in the mornings. There’s a coffee shop at the end of the block.” I rolled my eyes and coughed the words “butt smear”. He turned a corner and parked in front of a little six-unit building. There were two kids sitting on the lawn out front, playing with a puppy under the shade of a big beautiful tree.

The minute I walked into our Harlem apartment, I knew I was home. I loved that apartment from the first moment I saw it, like it was a part of Mike and me and who we are together. I loved it’s tall windows with the deep sills, the shining original hardwood floors. I loved our neighbors and our community, but mostly I loved how happy we were while we lived there.

When Michael opened the front door of this new apartment and I saw the fireplace nestled in the built-in bookcases, I knew we were home.  We signed the lease three days later and started moving in right away.  Life has been incredibly upside down ever since we left New York, but never as much as it has been in the last fifteen days. We’ve been overwhelmed and frustrated and of course there is always some butt-smear, but you know what? That’s life. And a little at a time the boxes are vanishing, our things are finding their place in cabinets and cupboards, and we’re making this apartment ours. Welcome to another new beginning. Welcome to the Valley.

welcome-to-the-valley

The sunset off our balcony

Not dead. Just buried.

It feels like it’s been a million years since I posted last. Which seems to have become a theme ever since I moved back to California. Which is funny – funny sad, not funny ha-ha – because I really thought that one of the things that would happen once I was in California was that I would write constantly. CONSTANTLY. I thought I’d move to California and become a mega-writing-machine. Instead I just work all the time. But I’m not complaining, I’m really not, because I enjoy my job and I like the people I work with and thank goodness I have a job, especially a job I like with people I like. Also, that’s really just an excuse, is what that is. I still make time to watch at least two hours of television every night, so I could be writing, I’m just not. Let’s say I’m on a bit of a hiatus. While I adjust. Still. Still adjusting after nearly four months in El Lay. I am. I take a long time to adjust.

Aaand moving on. Guess what? I got a bike! Mike gave me a bike for Christmas! He gave it to me early so I could start riding it now, and I love it, I really do. I am using the bike as my sole form of transportation and I must say, riding a bike is way more fun than driving. It’s true that my round-trip commute has stretched from thirty minutes to an hour-and-a-half, but what does that matter when I spend it with the wind in my (helmet-covered) hair? Also? Cycling nine miles a day is going to do wonders for my physique.

Speaking of Christmas presents, Christmas is in two weeks and I don’t have a single gift for anyone. Not a thing. There are twenty-five people in my immediate family for whom I need to shop and I have no idea what to get any of them. I’m beginning to get nervous. I hope that next year I have a little more foresight and start my shopping in September, instead of waiting until the last minute like I have done every other year for my entire adult life. Why do I wait until the last minute? Because I’m a procrastinator. I really am. It’s terrible. Yesterday my mom took me and my 14-year-old niece shopping so we could pick out our Christmas presents and you guys, I am getting some awesome stuff for Christmas. But what am I giving? I have no idea. I thought it would be fun to use bakers clay to make my traditional dismembered gingerbread people into Christmas ornaments for my loved ones to enjoy year after year, but when I mentioned the idea to my mom she looked at me like I had frogs jumping out of my mouth and said, “But …. why?”

Because, Mom. It’s AWESOME.

What are you giving your loved ones for Christmas? How early do you start your shopping? Do you have any ideas for me? Because I could really use some help here…

Worth Moving Cross-Country For

celebratory_breakfast

Yesterday my brother was sworn in to the California State Bar. We all met at Marston’s in Pasadena for breakfast at 8:30, then we went to the swearing in, and afterwards, we had a fantastic lunch at the famous Hollywood restaurant, The SmokeHouse. I ate more yesterday than I ate on Thanksgiving and I swear, if I don’t eat again until New Years, it will be too soon. But it was totally worth it.

Here’s a short video of my brother being sworn in. The back of my head makes a brief appearance, but the very best part is when the judge says, “Counsel, please be seated.” I got little chills all up and down my spine and both my parents started crying. Not because the judge told them to sit, but because he called them “Counsel.” You guys, my brother is a lawyer now. I am so happy for him I feel like my little shriveled heart grew three sizes that day.

Frosty’s Got Her Groove Back (I think.)

Chillin

V-Dog says, “Just chill, man. Just chill.”

Today marks three months since we arrived in Los Angeles and three months of living with my parents and all our animals. I wrote a one-month check-in, but I skipped the two-month because it was a much less pleasant month. First of all, it rained nearly every day. Also, the honeymoon of being home had worn off and I was reminded of all of The Valley’s flaws and did you know that sometimes it rains in Los Angeles? Because I was sure there was no rain here but it has rained at least forty-five of the ninety days we’ve been home.

This last month has seen it’s own trials, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’m starting to get into the swing of it. We’re beginning to get into a bit of a routine, which is great, I am a huge fan of routines. We’ve been spending a lot of time with family and we’re looking forward to the holidays. Also, I’ve gotten over the weather, mostly. I went to New York at the end of October and realized that sixty-degree weather is not cold. Sixty-degrees is lovely, thank you. I will never again complain about sweater weather in November.

As far as work goes, it’s starting to be fun again. For a minute things were really intense, but I’m settling in, learning how to work with the other members of my team, finding my voice. Michael hates his job, loathes and despises it, but as soon as he gets his California EMT card he’ll be moving on, so he’s not letting it get to him. Instead he’s looking forward to school in January. He finally got all his transcripts sorted out and he’s been given a date to register for Spring semester. The admissions office had given him such a hard time about his classes – as if Bio 1 in New York City is somehow sub par to Bio 1 in Los Angeles – it made me crazy. When I found out he’d gotten everything transferred over, it was all I could do not to jump up and down and squeal like a child. I am absolutely over the moon.

So things have been looking up. The second month home I felt like moving had been a mistake, something we rushed into, dear god, what did we do to our life? But this month feels good. Like we’re getting our groove back.

It occurred to me today that all of life is like this. That no matter what, there are good days and bad days, sometimes you’re in a groove and sometimes you’re in a ditch. Even when we aren’t making big life changes, things are always changing, and just because we find our way one day doesn’t mean we won’t get lost the next. I think that what I need to focus on is building a life that’s congruent with my goals. Even when things aren’t going the way I plan, if I’m at least moving towards something I want, I feel happy.

What are my goals, you ask? I’d be happy to tell you! In the next six months I’d like to spend more time with friends. I’d like to spend more time writing. I want to visit Florida with Michael so we can spend time with his mother. I want go on weekly dates with my wonderful husband. I want to be living in a little two-bedroom home that we love, that we could be happy in for at least five years. I want health insurance. And I want to be having fun and feeling successful in my career.

Those are pretty reasonable goals, right? Totally manageable. If things change between now and then, if my goals change, it doesn’t matter. After all, people make plans and God laughs at plans. And then people cry and get depressed. Then they make new plans and feel hopeful and there we have the circle of life.

Preparedness

babydoll

We found a house in our price-range. I took this photo inside of it.
What the picture doesn’t convey is the overwhelming scent of decay,
the mushrooms growing in the carpet, and the fallen-in roof
.

Had a super awkward moment at the checkout stand today. I’m buying four bottles of wine and a bottle of pre-natal vitamins. How weird is that? Right? What kind of person buys pre-natal vitamins and booze? I might as well be buying a bottle of Evian and case of laxatives.

“They’re not for me,” I volunteered when I got to the register.

“Pardon?”

“They’re not for me. The vitamins. Just the wine is for me.”

The check-out man stared at me, blinked.

“I’m not, like, a pregnant drunk or anything. Drinking and pregnant, bad idea. I’m not pregnant.”

A long silence passed. I chewed my lip. The lady behind me coughed. The checker looked at the bottle of vitamins in his hand and recognition lit his face. “Oh! Yeah. I guess I didn’t look at the vitamins. I thought, what’s this lady talking about?”

“Right, pre-natal vitamins, ha! My bad.”

Could I be more awkward? Like the checker even cares. Like anyone even reads what’s on the labels of someone else’s groceries. And why do I care? They’re not for me, or they are for me but I’m not pregnant, not even trying to get pregnant, just … hopeful.

(This is where I whine about the problems in my first world life.)

Before we left New York we decided that next year was going to be THE year to try for a baby. Everything was going our way. Mike was almost done with school, we had great jobs, we were putting money in the bank every day. Obviously it would be easy to move across the country and buy a house and get pregnant by next year. Then we moved across the country and it turns out we totally can’t afford a house next year and Mike’s new school is giving him all this drama about transferring his credits and I’m afraid we were a little ambitious when we decided next year was THE year. If we manage to climb out of this hole we dug ourselves into, it will be largely because of the support we’ve gotten from my parents these last few months.

But I was just so damn excited and now I’m so damn disappointed. The thought that this dream was maybe that close to my reach made me so indescribably happy. And then I think about the women who try and try and it doesn’t happen and I’m terrified that that will be me. That I’ll put it off and put it off and then when we finally try it just won’t happen. And then what will I do?

I’ll live, I guess. I’ll figure it out. I’ll have Mike and we’ll be fine, whatever happens happens, we move on, I know. It would be heartbreaking but we would survive. Besides, it could all work out perfectly, so it’s silly to be worrying about it now. So I’m trying to stay positive. We are healthy, we are loved, and we are getting through this slightly uncomfortable transitionary period. And I’m taking some stupid unfortunately-named vitamins. Just in case. Is that so bad?

In the mean time, I will enjoy a glass of wine every evening, thank you very much.

The World Keeps Spinning

Shadows

My heart has been so heavy the last couple of days. Mike started working nights again, which is awful. But it’s particularly awful because he’s working a job that brings him absolutely zero satisfaction, so he’s not even enjoying himself. At least if he were doing something he enjoyed, like EMT work, or a property management gig, or if he was gone all night because he was taking classes or something, at least I would know he was getting something out of it. But instead I know he’s on his feet all night, miserable, the hours dragging by like years, and so it’s hard to sit through my own personal loneliness with a brave face.

Then there’s the weather. You guys, seriously. The weather has been cold and gray for days and days. It has rained three times this week. Are you honestly telling me that we moved back from New York for this horrible, gray, dreary weather? Seriously? Because I could have stayed in New York for this. And then at least I’d be in New York.

I don’t mean that. I really do love the Valley. But this weather is seriously bumming me out.

Next is my job. It’s super frustrating right now. I’m having to learn a whole new set of skills, and what it feels like is that I’m learning a new language, and I’m not going to lie, it’s a little scary. I’m learning how to do things I never thought I’d have to learn and on the one hand, that’s the entire reason I took the job. Because I knew it would challenge me in ways I’ve never been challenged, and that was exactly what I wanted. And yet.

I think the problem here is that I don’t handle change very well. Or maybe I handle change just like everyone else does, and maybe everyone else feels super overwhelmed by change. I don’t know. Can you answer that for me? Because all of these little life changes are starting to pile up and feel a little crushing, now that the honeymoon has worn off, and I’m freaking the eff out.

Deep. Breath.

Another. Deep. Breath.

And yet. We chose this. We wanted this. Mike and I both. We stopped going out and eating at restaurants so we could save up enough money for this. We talked about it and planned it out and when we found out it was all real, we were so happy we cried.

And there have been days since we moved when all we can do is grin at each other and knock fists and bro-hug, we’re that pleased with ourselves. There have been happy reunions and little victories and days we both felt our lives were too good to be real. So I’m not trying to say that we made the wrong choice, or that I was starting to regret our decision, or anything like that. It’s just that it’s life, you know? It’s complicated and messy and boring and then it’s fantastic and perfect and full of tiny bursts of light like shooting stars that make all the rest of it worthwhile. I guess the thing to do is try and find the peace within it all. The zen. So that the crappy stuff doesn’t matter so much and the happy stuff is the thing you notice the most.