Spilled Milk

I'm pretty sure I might be seven years old.  Who else X's their calendars?

I’m pretty sure I might be seven years old. Who else X’s their calendars?

Last night, I fell asleep as a typical thirty-one year old.  Pillow talk focused on our upcoming move.  We talked about how long we think closing on the condo will take, getting home owners insurance and crossing things off our mental to do list.  As we both settled in, I watched the ceiling fan, finding the whirring noise of the blades soothing.  But while my body was at rest, my mind wasn’t.  I couldn’t help but think about the days ahead.  There was still so much to do. 

The last four months have been anything but easy.  Everything from the apartment, to storage, to work has been throwing curve balls left and right.  As soon as I think we have gotten past the last bump in this latest journey of life, something else comes up. 

Our apartment experience has been a hot mess.  We didn’t have hot water for the first 39 days we lived there, and then, came the new roommates – mice. 

I don’t do well with mice.  While I could probably kill them with one stomp of my foot, I find myself yelping and running out of the room at the mere sight of one.  After a lot of nagging emails, our apartment company finally dropped off glue traps.  We placed them in the prime spots and waited. 

The next morning, I walked into the kitchen to see a mouse wiggling on a glue trap so violently that it was moving the trap.  My legs instantly turned to jelly, and I could feel the blood drain from my face.  A yelp escaped from my mouth as I ran out of the room.

Seconds later, I was hunched over, hands on my knees to calm myself, wondering if I woke Tom with the noise.  It was the final straw for me.  I. Could. Not. Wait. To. Move.

It took the seller a long time to agree on a close date.  When we finally agreed, the process was in speed mode.  We couldn’t wait any longer to schedule movers and to coordinate getting our stuff out of storage if we were going to be out of our apartment by June. 

When we sold the suburban house, we knew storage was a necessity.  I did a lot of research and decided that using PODS was the best.  While it was easy initially, it has been an utter nightmare since.  Their service is terrible, it’s a logistical nightmare and they grossly understated costs.  I was so angry that I wrote a scathing letter to the president of the company.  It got the attention I wanted, and they at least tried to make it right.

The long point I am trying to make is that moving is stressful.  So while last night I fell asleep a thirty-one year old dealing with adult things, this morning I woke up as a fourteen year old.  I straight up Benjamin Buttoned overnight.  That’s right.  I didn’t wake up to gray hair from the stresses of life.  Instead, I woke up with a ginormous, swollen, puffy red zit on my chin. 

I examined the zit on my chin, grimacing as I poked it with my fingers.  I couldn’t even remember the last time I had a zit.

Well shit.  What am I going to do with this thing?

I reacted just like a fourteen year old.  I huffed and puffed pointing it out Tom asking in a whiney voice if he could see it.  And just like I did when I was younger, I dug out concealer and created the best camouflage Almay can make.  It was barely visible when I was done but it didn’t matter.  I knew it was there.

As I sat in traffic this morning during my hour long commute, my mind reflected on life, writing mental stories.  Memories were being written in between the glances in the mirror to self-consciously check on Rudolph’s nose that had formed on my chin.  Yet, I found myself smiling despite this latest (literal) bump in life.  Maybe, I thought, just maybe things are finally starting to go my way – I would have been devastated if that zit was actually a gray hair. 

__

This post was a bit like spilled milk today so to refill the glass, I will share with you my three highs for the day. 

Three Highs

  1. The Lumineers Pandora station has been spot on all day creating the perfect soundtrack to life.
  2. I had one of my favorite things for lunch – soup!
  3. We move in exactly one week!
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This Too Will Pass

HopeA wise woman once told me to treasure every second of life. I had called home to complain about the minutia of my college life. I was an early twenty something navigating my way into full-blown adulthood. I needed my mom to not only listen but to point me in the right direction. She did that night, just as she always did when I was younger and just as she continues to do today. She told me that time will only go by faster as I get older, to be the best version of myself every day and that life always goes on no matter the circumstance.

Ten years have passed since that conversation with my mom, and yet, I still think about those words every day. Each year that goes by seems to be faster and more of a blur than the year prior. Time seems to be whirring by as I go about my days. Most of those days are filled with laughter, routine, joy and love but then, there are some days that are unexpected. Last Friday was one of those days.

Time seemed to stop as details came out about the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. There were so many precious and innocent lives taken too soon. My stomach lurched into my throat and a sadness came over me. It wasn’t the first time the holidays came with bad news. A few years ago, while I was home to celebrate Christmas, my mom learned she had breast cancer.

My mom was the first person I called when I left work on Friday. Her words were echoing through my head.

Always treasure every second of life…be the best version of myself everyday…life goes on no matter the circumstance…

The day I found out about my mom’s cancer is one that is etched into my memory. It was a few days before Christmas when the phone rang. My mom left the room to answer it. She had been holding the phone, as if expecting the call. I sensed something was wrong.

“Was that your call?” my dad asked.

“Yes.” They both disappeared into the kitchen.

My heart fluttered in my chest. My niece and nephew were crawling on top of me. We had been playing all afternoon. I don’t get to see them very often so every chance I get is a blessing. But I couldn’t stop my mind from shifting to my parent’s quiet whispers in the other room. I didn’t know what was happening but I knew it wasn’t good. We aren’t a family that keeps secrets.

The kids were oblivious to the change in the room as my parents emerged from the kitchen with forced smiles on their faces.

“Do you want a glass of wine?” my dad asked.

“Yes.” It was only three in the afternoon but we both needed it – although I didn’t know why. My mom came back to her recliner and gave me a smile.

“Is everything okay?”

“No, but I want to wait until your brother is here. I’d like to tell you together.”

I took a gulp of wine. My thoughts were running rampant. My sister, Lana, wasn’t getting into town for another day, and my other sister, Avery, wasn’t able to come home this year. We were each going to have to hear the news at different times.

Just as time stopped on Friday, time stopped on this day. My senses were heightened, and I was worried. The conversation felt forced as we talked over the elephant in the room. When my brother arrived, I was cautious and quiet. I didn’t want to start the conversation but I was anxious for it to begin…it never did. There was never a good time for my mom to tell us. My nephew was old enough to understand, and she wasn’t ready for him to know too.

The next day, my mom and I were running errands when her phone rang again. This time it was unexpected, and it was her doctor. When she was finished, silence hung in the air.

“Mom. Are you sick?” I knew the answer before I asked. Tears were welling in my eyes.

“Yes. They found a lump. I had a biopsy last week, and it’s cancer.” At a time when I should have been the strong one and be there for my mom, as she always had been for me, I wasn’t. I started crying. I was overwhelmed with emotion. The idea that my mom was immortal was no longer true. The reality hit me like a rock. I was numb.

“Elyse, please don’t cry. I’m going to be okay.”

This Christmas will mark the third year my mom has been in remission. While it’s hard not to think about that painful day every year as Christmas approaches, it has also become an important reminder. Life is precious, and we only get one chance at it. I am living the words my mom told me in passing a decade ago, and creating my own words too.

1. Do one thing every day that makes you happy
2. Give hugs to those you love frequently
3. Remind yourself, that this too will pass

Bread, Ketchup, Bologna, OH MY!

Work

While I’m sitting at my desk on a conference call, I can feel someone behind me.  I turn around and co-worker holds out a grocery bag.

“For you.”

And then he left!  I couldn’t even ask questions, and I have so many.

1. What the hell?
2. How did you know I love bologna?
3. I’m confused. (Okay, this one’s a statement). 4. Why me?
5. Can I take this bag of goodies home?

Seriously, this has made my day.  It’s so random and baffling, yet so great. 

Good Idea Gone Wrong

ExcitedI get very animated when I have a good idea, and when I think it’s a great idea, my heart flutters in excitement – a rush of euphoria flows through my veins, a smile spreads on my face and I can’t wait to tell someone.  Yesterday, I had a great idea at work.

I’ve been working on a project that includes planning activities for the company.  I had been struggling with one inparticular until a Google search ended with a “Eureka!” moment.  It was the perfect activity. 

My co-workers were going to love me.  I imagined the day I announced the activity, they would run over to my cube to give me high-fives.  When I entered conference rooms for meetings, they would all stand in spontaneous applause, cheering, whistling and chanting my name.  I was going to be a hero.

I sat at my desk with a goofy grin on my face frantically typing up the proposal and guidelines of the activity.  Midway through, I couldn’t contain myself.  I dialed Peter’s number. 

*ring* *ring* *ring*

Damn, he’s not there.  His calendar says he’s free.  Where is he?!

I stood up to look around, thanking God I am tall enough to see over the cube walls.  I immediately spotted him talking to a co-worker.  I hurriedly grabbed my document from the printer and headed over to him.

One of the most awkward things at work is when someone lurks.  Yet, I do it all the time.  I stand a few feet from a cube waiting for someone’s conversation to finish.  What I have to say is not important enough to interrupt but I want nothing more than to interrupt.  So I stand there, shuffling my feet around, occasionally staring hoping they’ll notice. 

They didn’t notice.

I sulked back to my cube to send Peter an email instead. Continue reading

Paranoia

I have an abnormal pain in my right arm.  It feels bruised on the inside of my elbow, but it doesn’t look bruised.  And when I straighten my arm, it feels like the tendons are stretching.   Today, my hand has started to get the tingles.   After a lot of thought, worry and internet searching, I have come to only one, logical conclusion: my arm is going to have to be amputated.

In college, I discovered a small, pea-sized lump on my neck.  I had never seen anything like it.  I called my Mom immediately in tears to get her diagnosis.  She told me it was most likely a swollen lymph node.  I had seen my swollen lymph nodes before when I had a sore throat, and they never looked like a pea.  They were much bigger.  My mom was wrong.  I needed expert advice so naturally I turned to Google.

SEARCH:  pea-sized lump on neck

A single tear rolled down my cheek as I inhaled sharply.  I knew it.  I have cancer, I told myself.  I stared at the computer mentally preparing for the next search.

SEARCH:  symptoms of lymphoma

Oh god.  Oh god.  I have every symptom.  I panicked.  I started pacing the room, turning in circles in confusion waiting for my roommate to get home so I could collapse in tears. Continue reading

Breaking Neighbor Barriers

“Hey!”  I shouted while trotting across the lawn with a beer in my hand.  I could hear my friends giggling and talking in the background.

He didn’t hear me.

“Hey!”  I shouted again.  I moved closer to his property line careful not to get too close to his dog’s run. 

I took a moment to take a deep breath while I waited for him to notice me.  It was the perfect summer night.  Behind me, my friends faces were dancing in the fire light.  I could hear Tom singing along to our favorite country music song.  And when I looked up, I gasped.  The sky was filled with thousands of twinkling stars.  A grin spread across my face as I saw the Big Dipper above me.  You don’t see stars like that in the city, if you see any at all.  I am really starting to settle into my suburban life.  It’s a quiet life but I’m in love and happy.   

I still aspire to have friends in the neighborhood.  Friends in general have been the most difficult part of the move.  My life, Tom’s life – our life is in the city but if we’re going to be out here for at least another year, we need to make the most of it.  My book club is in it’s third month and today, I have an interview to become a volunteer at the local library.  I’m making progress meeting new people but our neighborhood has been a tough nut to crack. 

We’d all had a few beers when our neighbors showed their faces in the backyard.  I immediately perked up in my seat.  I have been dying for any excuse to talk to them, and yet, I haven’t even managed to get a wave out of them yet.   Continue reading

The Apartment Tales: Introduction

The Tuxedo

This is the only picture I can find of the building. I came home one day to find this skeleton banner hanging in the doorway. It was Patrick’s attempt to decorate for Halloween. It made me laugh a lot.

This is a reoccurring post that will happen every Friday (until I run out of stories).  Enjoy!

The Apartment is an apartment building I lived in for three years.  It is in the heart of Boystown on a quiet street, nestled between old brownstones.  It is a striking white stone building with an elegant name.  When I first stumbled upon it, I couldn’t wait to see the apartments inside.  I imagined them being beautiful, big and vintage like the outside of the building. 

I called the number on the For Rent sign.  Patrick, the building manager, answered the phone. 

“Hi!  I’m looking for a one bedroom apartment and would like to schedule an appointment to view one.”

“You have few minutes now?”

“Ye…”  I was startled by the door slamming behind me.  I turned around to see Patrick, a little Indian man with a goofy smile. 

“Well, don’t just stand there,” he said.

The smell was the first thing that hit me as he opened the door.  It reminded me of my grandmother’s house mixed with cat urine, dead people and mold.  It was pungent and thick.  The carpet looked like it had never been vacuumed and the wallpaper was peeling off the walls.  It was very dark.  But the woodwork, it was beautiful. 

We walked slowly up the stairs to the fourth floor.  It was a long walk.  I was out of shape.  Sweat beads were forming on my young twenty something head.  I’m pathetic, I thought.  I could barely talk by the time we reached the top.  Thank goodness, Patrick is more of the silent type. 

He showed me a one bedroom apartment that was the size of a shoe box.  The bedroom was a nice size but the living space was tiny.  My loveseat would touch the fridge, which would later become one of my favorite things about the apartment.  I never had to stand up to get beer.  All it took was a simple lean. 

“Is there laundry in the building?”

“Yes.”

“Can I see it?”

“No.”

I didn’t ask again.  Despite his tiny frame, Patrick intimidated me.  I was going to take his word for it. 

The average person would have run far, far away from this building.  But me, I fell in love.  I could look past the smell (I just breathed through my mouth) and the disgusting carpet and the darkness.  It was in a great location and the bedroom had a door.  Plus, it was the only place I could afford in the neighborhood.  I was forced to have low standards.  And I was okay with that.

“I’ll take it!”

The Apartment became my home for the next three years.  It was a building of misfits.  In a neighborhood of mostly young, gay white men and young straight women, my building was an anomaly.  There were lots of old people – one who died in the building while I lived there.  After the first year, I realized they moved in during the eighties and never left.  Patrick never made the tenants sign leases after the first year or raised rent, which explained a lot.  I am convinced some of them were paying at most $300 a month to live there.

My neighbors became the best part about living at The Apartment.  They provided endless amounts of entertainment.  Oh, the stories I have to tell…

Come back next Friday for the next story in The Apartment Tales!