Downsizing

Image Source: Wallstreet Journal

Image Source: Wallstreet Journal

It’s been almost three months since I sat down to write creatively. I think about it daily, writing stories in my head but lately, as is my usual excuse for everything – life got in the way. Seriously, I don’t have kids. It’s the only excuse I have.

I started this blog after moving to the suburbs with Tom being the only person I knew and vice versa. While the space was amazing, the rest of it was mundane and boring. Writing filled the time as I stared out the window wondering why our neighbors never spent time outside. From the moment, I moved in with Tom, we talked about moving back to the city. After all, he was commuting everyday into the city, and I missed the hustle and bustle immediately. So after a year of talking about it, we finally made it happen. We put our (technically it’s his) house on the market and crossed our fingers. We accepted an offer in six days and closed six weeks later! We were tremendously lucky except that we had no idea where we were going to live next.

We had already started looking for places to buy in the city but we still hadn’t found “the place”. Being in a time crunch, we weighed our options, took a break from house hunting to pack up the suburban house and find a temporary place in the city. Together, we put together a list of must haves for the temporary place, which in retrospect was an absolutely ridiculous list. It’s amazing how a year in single family home with a yard changes the perspective on apartment living. Among the requirements on the list was a short term lease, a place that allowed a dog, cheap rent, in the neighborhood we wanted to buy, had parking, an in unit washer and dryer, dishwasher, no elevator and non-radiant heat – oh and central air. The only one of those things I had when I lived in my last apartment was no lease.

“So what do you think?” I asked Tom as he read over the list.

“It looks good. Are you taking this one on?”

“Sure! I’m good at apartment hunting.” He wrinkled his and looked at me skeptically.

“Seriously, Elyse? I hope you don’t call your last apartment good apartment hunting. That place was gross and questionable.”

“Well, I loved it. It was the first place I could ever call my own. I promise, I’ll find something that meets our criteria.”

In the past, I walked around neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs on the doors of buildings. I would run up the steps immediately calling the number of places that interested me. It’s how I had found every apartment but this time was different. Craigslist has single handedly ruined apartment hunting. Continue reading

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A New Year Means New [Lofty] Goals

GoalsI kicked off 2013 the same way I’ve kicked off every other year for the past decade – nursing a wicked hangover. I woke up in Evelyn’s bed blinded by the sun. She always complains it’s too bright in her apartment. While I always responded that it wasn’t so bad, yesterday, I realized she has been right all along. I tried everything to slow the drumbeat in my head – my arm splayed over my eyes, the pillow wrapped around my head and blankets pulled high. Yet, as usual, nothing worked except time. As Tom and I made the epic journey back to the suburbs pale faced and nauseous, he asked me what my mom always asks me, “Was it worth it?”

I was quiet.

For the first time in my life, I found myself not answering an enthusiastic “Yes!” Instead, I was rewinding the night. I was fortunate to ring in the new year with my best friends – Evelyn, Jack and Tom. Yet, I could have had just as much fun if I had only 3 glasses of champagne instead of the countless number I drank. But as with every new year, I celebrated with the freedom of ending one year and the hopefulness of another. It’s a fleeting feeling but one that fills me with joy to know there are new beginnings ahead.

As I drove into work today, relieved to feel like myself again, I thought about the year ahead and the things I want to do. I’ve never been one that’s good on follow through but last year I began to make a series of life changes. Work is going well, I’ve been working out regularly, being more money conscious, writing, etc. Surprisingly, those changes have added up, and somehow I’ve turned into a responsible adult. With this revelation, this year I’ve decided to make a few more hearty resolutions. When I texted them to Tom this morning, he said, “Wow, that’s a very comprehensive list.”

He’s right – it is. But I’m already on my way. This year is about taking the changes of last year and bringing them to a new level. Here are my resolutions, exactly as I sent them to Tom:

1. Enter a writing competition
2. Continue to work out each week to get into my goal pants (I bought the pants a year ago. They didn’t fit when I bought them so I’m not sure why I bought them. They taunt me every morning in my closet).
3. Reach new goals professionally – this one is vague but includes trying harder at work and/or a new job in the city
4. Maximizing the money I put into savings
5. Try to limit the processed foods eaten at home (this one is a bit aspirational). I want to continue exploring how to make things from scratch.
6. Be the best person I can be for Tom, Sam, friends, etc. This means always contributing at home, coming up with and initiating things to do on the weekends, being kind, etc.

So there you have it. I am welcoming 2013 and all it has to bring with open arms…and lofty goals.

What are your resolutions?

Wardrobe Decisions

Cowboy BootsI am always antsy the day before a trip. For one reason, I wait until the very last minute to pack every time. It’s a bad habit that will most likely never change.

There is a lot of thought that goes into packing for a trip home. When I was in college, the primary one was do I pack all dirty clothes to take advantage of easy access to a washing machine or do I pack half and half? I once brought home a 55 lb suitcase of dirty clothes. Luckily, it was before the days of being charged for luggage. In my twenties, I thought about how often I would be out with friends. And now in my thirties, I think about how many lounge outfits I need because let’s be realistic – when I am at my parent’s house all I do is sit around, eat, drink, watch tv, hang with the family, rinse and repeat. It’s awesome.

This year is a bit different. While lounge outfits are still what are being primarily packed, there is one other factor to consider. My mom is getting me a pair of cowboy boots for Christmas. I have been dying for a pair of boots and picked them out myself. I know they are already wrapped and under the tree, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. When I do, I will have four days left at home to wear the boots. That means, I have to plan four outfits that I can wear with my new boots. It also means, I have to actually get dressed in real clothes for the last half of my vacation.

I love skirts and dresses with cowboy boots, but I also have a newfound love of skinny jeans after working my butt off at the gym. I have a lot of decisions to make today – maybe a spreadsheet will help. What do you think? What should I wear with my new boots?

ECSTASY

License PlateLast night, I had the pleasure of being behind a car with a license plate that simply read ECSTACY.  The car was not a sports car or any cool car, it was a cross over vehicle, which is basically a minivan trying not to be a minivan. 

I have so many questions about the license plate, the main one being “Why?”  Most of the time when I see something that has me intrigued but I have no way of getting the answer, I just make up my own story.

I have not written a fiction short story on paper since I was probably nine; the stories usually are just kept in my head so this is a new one for me.  I hope you enjoy the story I have created about the origin of this license plate.

Life had become mundane and routine for Rob and Lily, who live a typical suburban life.  They have a single family home, three kids, a dog and overbearing in-laws (on both sides).  Every day, the family wakes to little Emma crying at 5:30 am.   Like robots, Rob and Lily roll out of bed in mismatched pajamas to start the day, exactly the same as the day before.  The days go by without thought.  No move is calculated.  They go through the motions purely to make it to the next day. 

Rob loves Lily more than he did the day he met her.  She gave him three beautiful children and a dog, who is his partner in crime.  And while the love remains, the monotony of the day has begun to wear on him.  No longer are there things to look forward to and dream about as they lay their heads to sleep, like starting the rest of their lives together.  Their life already started, and it’s the same thing day after day after day after day.

Lily is exhausted.  She stays home with three kids under 5 and a dog that refuses to be house trained.  Her day is spent cleaning up poop – human and pet – and trying to maintain some sort of order in their house.  She is living life in the moment.  She is too tired to think more than a minute in the future. 

Each night when Rob returns home from his day job as an accountant, he and Lily embrace to give each other a short peck on the lips.  It’s a brief moment that time stops for both of them.   Life is pushed to the side as they express their love for each other.  It’s a fleeting moment but an important one; because as soon as time starts again, the routine continues – dinner, bath time and bedtime stories. 

Lily and Rob usually don’t make it more than a half hour past their kids bedtimes before passing out, exhausted from the day’s events. 

“We should do something.”  Lily said smiling at Rob.  She was propped up on her elbow tracing his chest with her fingers.  He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. 

“What do you mean?” Rob rolled over on his elbow matching her position. 

“Oh, I don’t know…something exciting.  We do the same thing every day.  Let’s think of something to do to break the routine.” 

Rob pulled Lily toward him, kissing her neck but she begrudgingly pulled away.  His kisses had so much control over her.

“Not like that, Rob.  I mean something more adventurous during the day or going on a date – something without the kids.  I need to get away from life as a parent for a little bit and so do you.  I want to be your wife.  Will you let me be your wife?”  

She let herself back into his arms soaking up his warmth.  Despite the mundane days, she was still in love.

“I get what you’re saying and getting away would be nice.  Let me think of some ideas.” 

They were both struggling to stay awake.  Lily was wrapped in his arms; her breathing getting heavier and regular.  It was a familiar sound he always missed when she was away. 

“And Lily,” Rob yawned, “you will always be my wife.”

It was a typical Wednesday night when Rob came skipping in the door home from work.  Continue reading

A Year of Firsts

2012I always get nervous the world is going to end as the new year approaches. It’s a worry that happens every year. There are so many things I want to accomplish and experiencing the end of the world isn’t one of them.

This year introduced a lot of firsts in my life. Some of them have been life changing, while others have been fun – like owning my first car. So without further ado, here is my countdown of firsts that happened in 2012.

1. I moved to the suburbs.
If you asked me two years ago if I would live in the suburbs, I would have laughed in your face. But alas I fell in love, and believe it or not, January 1st will mark my one year anniversary in the suburbs. It has been an ,err, exciting time.

Seriously, I can’t wait to move back to the city. That’s on our list of things to do in 2013.

2. I bought a car.
Her name is Tiffany, and she is amazing. The whole process of buying a car was awful. Thank goodness, Tom, was there coaching me the entire way. If I were by myself, I would have run out crying after the first five minutes.

3. I became a manager at work.
There isn’t much to say about this one, except yeehaw!

4. I tried Quinoa and love it!
We recently had a gym built in our office so I’ve been on a real health kick. I grew a giant boyfriend belly the first year I dated Tom, and the latter half of the year I have been working my butt off to get rid of it. Quinoa was one of the foods I discovered that is a healthy alternative to rice. It’s too bad I’ve eaten more white rice in the last week than I have Quinoa in the past three months. Please note, my intentions are good, I swear!

5. I converted to Apple products
I haven’t put my iPad down since the day I bought it. It’s turned into an obsession. Then, I recently got an iPhone. I’m a convert, what else can I say?

6. I started a blog.
It’s my favorite hobby to date. While I struggle to keep at it consistently, just like the Quinoa, my intentions are good.

There is one other first that is going to happen this year. Tom is coming home to Alabama for the first time. He will meet the rest of the family, and I get to bring to life all of the childhood stories I have shared with him. I have never brought a boyfriend home to Alabama. This is a big first for me (and him). I hope the first of many.

Happy Holidays!

Thirty No More

Tomorrow I turn 31.  It’s the birthday I have dreaded.  It means I am officially in my thirties.  While I spent the last 364 days as a thirty year old, I could always say “Well, last year in my twenties…”  I don’t think I ever uttered that sentence, but it was in my back pocket if needed.  It was comforting to think that my twenties were still in the rearview mirror.   

Thirty being a milestone birthday deserved a big party.  I celebrated mine with a Pilgrims and Indian themed birthday party.   I remember looking around that night at my group of friends, who had no shame going to a bar with giant Indian head dresses and Pilgrim hats, thinking how lucky I was to be surrounded by so many wonderful friends.   People stared.  We laughed.  It was a great way to celebrate the next decade.  But what I didn’t know at the time, is it was the last hurrah for that group of friends.  All of our lives were changing.  Marriages happened, babies were born and I moved to the suburbs.  Our lives that were once so closely woven had loosened so that only a few pieces remain intact.  Those few pieces – my best friends Evelyn, Jack and Tom – were with me on Saturday to celebrate 31. 

I met Evelyn and Jack through my sister Lana.  It would take a few years for us to become best friends but when we needed each other most, our friendship evolved.  In 2009, each of us were having shitty years.  Within months, Jack broke up with his partner of 7 years, Evelyn’s father was diagnosed with cancer, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and to top it off, our common bond was leaving – Lana was moving to Canada.  In a few short months, it seemed our lives were falling apart.  But rather than let ourselves fall, Evelyn, Jack and I found comfort in each other.  We distracted ourselves with laughs over bottles of wine, late night dinners and companionship.  We did everything together.  It was rare to find one of us without the other. 

I met Tom at work.  We were both starting a new job and sat next to each other at orientation.  I introduced myself eager to make a work friend.  He was not as eager.  He and I crossed paths every day at work but it would be four years until our first date. 

It was Evelyn who pointed out the chemistry between Tom and me after a work happy hour.  She was right.  I couldn’t get him out of my head.  He was the type of man I had always dreamed of dating – smart, kind, interesting, funny and handsome.  He was perfect.  A few months later, he asked me out. 

The night before our first date Evelyn came over for a typical Friday night – Scrabble and a bottle of wine.  We were perched at my table gossiping when Jack texted.  A guy he was dating stood him up, and he was in the dumps.  Evelyn and I told him to come over and to bring more wine.  It was no different than it was during those infamous shitty months in 2009, the three of us would do anything for each other.  Jack was at my door in ten minutes.  We sat on the couch comforting each other and laughing within minutes.  We had an impromptu dance party in my living room that night, not a care in the world while we drank ourselves silly.   The next morning I woke up to see Evelyn and Jack passed out on the couch like the perfect friends they were.  And just like I didn’t know it on my 30th birthday, this night was a sort of last hurrah for Evelyn, Jack and myself.  You see, I was 29 and that night, Tom and I had our first date.  I fell in love with the man I will someday marry. 

As much as I never wanted the dynamic to change between Evelyn, Jack and me, it did.  I started spending more time with Tom.  I wasn’t in the city as much.  I was missing the nightly walks and random texts to meet for drinks.  And while we still emailed religiously every day, things were different.  Evelyn and Jack remained a constant in each other’s lives, while I floated in and out. 

I dreaded the night I told Evelyn I was moving out to the suburbs permanently.  Continue reading

The Intruder

When Tom and I were coming home from the grocery store on Saturday, we noticed an odd car parked in the street in front of our house. I instantly assumed we were getting robbed because I have an irrational fear of home invasions.  I have read too many crime stories and watched too many documentaries on murderers.  I will never forget watching the testimony of the BTK killer who said he waited in one of his victims closets until she was asleep to make his move.   It terrified me.  When I lived alone, I checked every closet and the shower every day.  If someone was in there, I wanted to get it over with.  And even now, I live with Tom, but the fear is still there.  I have tried to tell myself I’m overreacting but isn’t having an irrational fear what that’s all about – overreacting?

 “Do you think it’s robbers?” I asked Tom. 

 “Don’t be ridiculous, Elyse.”  Tom looked at me and smiled.  He has always embraced my neurosis.

 I stopped short of the garage as the door opened to let Tom out.  As soon as he had one leg out, he started yelling.  “Oh no!  Oh no!  Oh god!”

 “What?! What do you see?”  I was looking around frantically.  I couldn’t see anything.  Is this it?

“Stay in the car, Elise!”  Tom jumped out of the car and started running into the garage waving his arms frantically and yelling.  And that’s when I saw what he saw – an unnaturally large rodent with webbed feet, rabbit teeth and a rat tail.   It was slowly waddling into our garage. 

“What is that thing?”  I yelled out my window.  I had never seen anything like it. 

“I think it’s a woodchuck.”  Tom replied coming to the car to hand me a rake.  He had opted for a large broom.  We were both shaking.

This is what it looked like – we think it’s a beaver. I have only one picture and it’s on Tom’s phone so this is going to have to do.

“Hmm, that’s not what I imagined a woodchuck looking like…what are we going to do? I’m scared.”

“Elyse, we have to get it out of here but first we have to find it.”  The intruder had found its way into the junk pile of the garage.  While our house is spotless, the garage had become storage despite our large unfinished basement. 

We started poking around in the piles of stuff.  I was stomping and banging the rake on the floor to try to scare it.  Tom wasn’t amused at my antics. 

 “Elyse, get serious.  We have to get this thing out.” 

 “I am serious but I’m scared.  What if it has rabies?” Continue reading