snapshot of us: five years & five stories

Sitting on the couch next to David this morning sipping my coffee while we both eat breakfast is normal. Five years ago though, David was a stranger to me.  It is amazing how quickly a perfect stranger can become the most important person in one’s life. I joke often that David is my second skin, a mirror of my soul, and a reflection of myself. Whether we are cuddling, arguing, playing, eating, resting, or apart, I know that we are secure as a couple. I have never felt this special connection with another human and perhaps that is why our marriage always feels fresh and comfortable. Five years ago, we awkwardly dated and played games.  Did he like me? Did I like him? Would he call me?  Would I text him?  We danced the common courtship dance that eventually led us to this moment, celebrating our five year anniversary of “knowing each other.” In honor of this momentous occasion, that I feel lucky and honored to be sharing with my mate, I would like to share 5 short stories about us to give you a sense of who we are and why we feel self-important in our relationship and often wish society would employ us to be full-time “models of love.” =)

  1. how we met: Summer 2007. I just moved with my college roommates into a luxurious apartment in Coolidge Corner that we sublet from some BU law students. Snagging a summer internship with my graduate school adviser, I headed to catch the BC shuttle bus from Cleveland Circle to campus for my first day of “work.” As I was standing at the bus stop, I spotted him.  David stood just off to my left with his nose in a book. He was reading, Le Petit Nicolas, the same book I was reading in English to the four little boys I was babysitting.  I couldn’t stop looking at him.  Something deep inside was immediately attracted to him and my eyes kept focusing in on him despite telling myself not to be that awkward girl caught drooling over some guy I didn’t even know. As the bus arrived, I made the intentional move of sitting across from him. Within moments, our eyes locked and we flashed each other that “comer hither” smile. The bus ride lasted no more than 10 minutes and throughout the trip we liberally took lingering glances at one another. Once on campus we headed our separate ways and I thought, “Well, he was cute. Too bad I won’t see him again.”  An hour later, at a 9:00AM meeting with the technology department to discuss our new History Department website, I find myself again sitting across from David. I, the student liaison from the History Department, he, the computer engineer commissioned to create the website, and we had the whole summer ahead of us to build the website…and our relationship.
  2. how we almost didn’t happen: It took a little while for us to move from co-workers to dating prospects. I may have stalked him on Facebook and waited day after day at the bus stop to insure that we rode in together every morning “coincidentally.” Yet, when we did go on dates, “nothing happened.” We ate dinners, watched movies, and took walks around Boston but David never made a move to hold my hand or to kiss me. After 14 days and countless dates, I was completely confused. Convinced that he just wanted to be friends, I did the thing every mature adult would have done. I e-mailed him that I was too busy to continue hanging out. And this was the end of our relationship. Three weeks after my very mature e-mail, David wrote me back asking if I was not too busy to meet for dinner. Of course, I was dying to see him again but still harboring a grudge over not being kissed and finding myself in David’s “friend zone.” But a free meal is a free meal and I was a poor graduate student so I agreed to meet him at the bus stop. As he approached me, I got the usual nervous butterflies and admonished myself for getting to invested. Within arms distance, I opened my mouth to say “hello” and before the words fully formed from my lips, David came in and kissed them. We mark this day as the true beginning of this thing we call us.
  3. how we fight: Our biggest and baddest fight occurred on May 29, 2010. We were living together and as you might already know about me, I am a little obsessive.  It manifests itself in many ways, but the most prominent is in my constant need to have a tidy home. David’ habit of not opening his mail was getting under my skin as the pile of unread documents grew and grew on the desk. Finally, I snapped. I grabbed the enormous pile of mail, walked into the living room and irrationally threw it on the floor demanding that he open the mail immediately. Surprised by this erratic behavior, David got up saying not a word and left the apartment. I spent the next hour and half crying my eyes out and vacuuming.  I remember vividly pushing the vacuum and sniveling about how unjust life was. Meanwhile, David walked towards Coolidge Corner and spying a directional sign for “JFK’s Birthplace” headed in that direction.  Upon coming to the house, he saw balloons and streamers celebrating the late President’s birthday.  The museum-house was free to the public and David took advantage to go through the exhibit. Once done he came back home to tell his nerdy history wife all about it. Once he came through the door, we rushed into each others’ arms. We both apologized profusely for taking each other for granted and for “not using our words.” And spent the afternoon sharing history tidbits about JFK.  Ironically, one year later on May 29, 2011 we were married bringing this whole story full circle.
  4. how we became parents: When visiting my parents in Ohio one Fall, David and I went to visit some puppies “just to see and play with them.”  How could anyone just go to visit puppies?  We knew what we were doing.  We knew what was about to happen. We came home with Buster. Our little puppy boy is our “simple” dog. He loves to snuggle, wrestle, and sleep. He spends his whole day doing one of these three practices. He is easy-going (despite his humping habit) and his tongue is too big for his mouth causing him to stick it out often giving him the most lovable face. One year later during Thanksgiving in Ohio, I fell in love with Bella and made Buster a brother. Bella is our “complex” dog.  Like me, she suffers from anxiety and a stress complex. Never sitting still, Bella is constantly chewing on a toy, pacing a window, or sitting on top of one of us on the couch. One shy dog and the other playful dog have rounded out our current family.  They provide us with a constant source of love, attention, and energy. And, we hopefully provide the same to them.  I just wish so often that they could talk to us.
  5. how we married: On March 13, 2010 David proposed to me while we vacationed in Rome.  With his one question, “Will you marry me?” David unleashed a whirlwind of questions, “When will you get married?” “What are your wedding colors?” “Who will be invited?” “Will you have a signature cocktail?” “What is your stationary theme?” “Where have you registered?” “Where did you buy your dress?” and the questions go on and on. Yet, despite all of the noise, David and I throughly enjoyed our engagement.  Our wedding day was truly the most loving and wonderful day of our lives (so far).  One of my favorite moments of the whole day was immediately following the ceremony. My dad was ordained for the day and announced enthusiastically, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”  We kissed and embraced and will gleeful grins we recessed down the aisle to a quiet spot under some palm trees.  There alone, we hugged so tightly and cried into each other’s arms with such delight.  We had done it!

sautéed choy sum

My co-worker is from Malayasia and every few weeks we go to his house for dinner. His curry dishes and sautéed vegetables are always so delicious.  Eating at his house is one of my favorite pastimes. Alongside his spicy curry dish is usually a simple vegetable.  I always want to ask him exactly what the sauce is made with but have felt awkward to do so. Finally, I asked last night.  He eagerly shared his recipe.  All day long at school, I was salivating over the prospect of making this veggie dish for myself. I bought a bunch of choy sum, oyster sauce, and fish sauce and headed home to make my simple and yet satisfying veggie side dish.

Take a bunch of choy sum (or baby bok choy) and separate the leaves from the base.  Rinse well and toss into a sauté pan with a dash of oil.  Heat over medium heat. Once the leaves have begun to wilt add 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce.  Toss the ingredients in the pan and continue to sauté until the base of the leaves are cooked through and fragrant.  From start to finish, I sautéed the veggies for 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Coffee

Busy. Fast. Anxious. Nervous. Impatient. Are all words that have been used to describe me in a tailspin. It might not be totally apparent in writing, but I wear the “type A” personality traits like Flavor Flav wears his ridiculously over-sized clocks. Too bad I cannot add some bling to the intangible yet in your face quirks that consume me. I have grown to love my Mr. Hyde. It could be worse.  I could be cruel or abusive, but (thankfully) my Mr. Hyde is not as dark as his fictional brother. Rather mine has manifested itself as severe organization, order, and circular thoughts around big decisions and changes. So why I am writing about this today?

This morning in class in the middle of talking about “Why China Matters,”  I felt intense heart palpitations. My immediate reaction was: Holy smokes I am having a heart attack!! I froze for a moment in the middle of my explanation of something relating to China’s economy (I cannot remember the details now as I was thinking in the moment I am having a heart attack and these students have no idea!!). I muscled through the explanation, set the students on an internet scavenger hunt for more evidence and walked quietly to the back of the class to keel over and die from my heart attack. Alas, the heart attack did not overtake me and relieved I started to frantically scan through my morning with my mind’s eye. What could possibly have contributed to this sensation. Keeping an eye on the clock and the class it hit me: My Coffee! I had made myself a double shot of espresso in a latte this morning before bounding to the car and class. I had overdosed on my caffeine and my heart was WIRED.

The irony of all of this is the coffee machine that made this almost lethal cup. Rewind two months and we find me standing in Crate&Barrel salivating over the Nespresso Machines. David was out with friends and I took the opportunity to “just go and see” these expensive and highly desirable home brewers. It was then that my anxiety went into a tailspin. As my eyes took in the stainless steel and plastic, I became desperate to have one of these machines knowing nonetheless how David disapproved of my coffee fix. I spent one hour in the store talking with a very knowledgeable sales associate. I chewed her ear off for a whole hour telling her about how much I wanted the machine, that I was newlywed, that my husband didn’t approve, that I really wanted it, that I needed to know the return policy, that I wanted to become a Nespresso member, that I had a coupon, that I was unsure what David would say, that is would be a huge investment, that the coffee it made tasted so good, etc. etc. etc. At the time, the salesperson seemed so understanding but now I question how much she wanted to shake me and scream buy it or not it doesn’t really matter this much!  After over an hour of hemming and hawing about it, I bought the machine.

I secreted the Nespresso into the trunk of my car just like all guilty wives and headed home. The Nespresso stayed in the trunk for two days. The guilt and anxiety over my fast and impatient decision weighed down on me.  Whenever David and I spoke, I could swear he knew my dirty secret that in the garage tucked in the trunk was the coffee machine. I sometimes laughed too loudly at his jokes as a result of being on edge or responded to him too quickly or jumped when he came in from an errand. I obsessively asked him what he thought about me buying a Nespresso machine to his absolute annoyance.  Why keep asking him, he would say, if I already knew the answer. I returned the Nespresso on the fourth day. But, three days later I confessed my wild adventure into neurosis and much to my surprise David was not totally opposed.  He did think I was being a little ridiculous with the whole stowing it away like drugs in the garage bit, but later that day we went back to a different Crate&Barrel (I couldn’t bear being seen by the same saleswoman) and purchased a cheaper model. My original machine had had all the bells and whistles which compounded my guilt.

Today, in the back of the room, while I was frantic about my heart attack and then relieved to know I had just overdone it on the coffee, I laughed out loud as I recalled how the coffee machine made it into my house and how I had yet again “over done it” on the dramatics!  Clearly, I need some help learning to slow down.  Perhaps the coffee machine was a poor investment after all…..nah!

Happy Monday?

I never like to give a quiz on a Monday.  It seems to set an odd tone for the rest of the week. I imagine that the students are frantically studying and cursing my name while they review, study, and memorize the events and people of the communist revolution in Russia. What were the bread riots? Who were the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks?  Who was Trotsky?  Why did Lenin go into exile during World War I? All weekend long the students practice, rehearse, and prepare for this Monday morning quiz.  In high school, I hated these particular quizzes. The weekend would be ruined by the fear and trepidation of the impending exam. Fast forward ten years, and I sit behind my “teacher desk” and oversee the current quiz.  With the start of the school year and the various long weekends for different holidays, teacher conferences, and orientation trips, I have convinced myself this could not have been avoided.  Yet, I still feel terrible being that teacher, that Monday quiz teacher, that “Happy Monday here is a quiz” teacher! Watching the students, writing , erasing, and brainstorming over their papers makes me so uncomfortable.  To them, I must be “out to get them” today, but to me….I am sitting hear anxiously hoping that each aces it!  Maybe that’s just the radical socialist in me?

Aside

The Big E

Have you ever eaten so much fried food in one day that you quietly listened at night to your heart hoping that your arteries wouldn’t slam shut?  That is life after attending the Big E.  Home of the biggest country fair in New England, the Big E is an amazing country fair held in West Springfield, MA. From the minute you walk through the entrance gate you are assaulted by laughter, cheering, and the delicious aroma of fried goodness.  The fair grounds is packed with the traditional carnival rides, games, and food. Add to this local agriculture showcases, farm animals, petting zoos and state specialties and delicacies housed in miniature replicas of the state houses and you have a truly spectacular Fall weekend!  It was our first time attending the fair and it definitely won’t be the last. David and I ate to our hearts content, shopped through the miles of craft and kitsch, and sped through our quarters like lightening as we tried to win carnival games!  How did it feel to be 12 again? Awesome!  However, for the rest of the week, we definitely need to only eat veggies!!

simple minestrone soup

There have been some shifts at work for David.  As a result, he has been coming home in the evenings a little more stressed than usual.  I usually pick him up from the T-stop and we drive home together catching each other up about our daily activities.  While I gush about the kids and sometimes laugh about some gaffe from the classroom, he typically shares a few stories about how much he is learning each day.  Lately, though he has been too tired for this banter.  Instead, we steer off the highway and into some fast food joint just to get a meal in before heading home for him to do more work or catch up on sleep.  Last night we broke from this convenient yet poor habit and I finally decided that what we both needed (but what he needed most) was a solid home cooked meal.  Something warm and comforting on this early Fall night was my goal for dinner.  The go to recipe for this occasion was my simple minestrone soup.

While this could be made as a vegan recipe with vegetable stock, my cupboard only contained chicken stock so we went with that.

In  a large stock pot drizzle some olive oil and chop between 4 and 5 cloves of garlic

Chop two medium white onions and add to the garlic and olive oil to sauté in the pot

While the onions and garlic are cooking, feel free to season the mixture as you like. I usually add some black pepper, salt, red pepper flakes, and basil.  I add a lot of red pepper because we really enjoy food with some heat to it.

When the onions and garlic are fragrant and soft, our in the chicken (or vegetable) stock and two large cans of diced tomatoes.  My favorite tomatoes are the of the San Marzano variety.

Bring the soup to a boil and toss in about  half a box of your favorite pasta.  David is obsessed with fusilli so this is literally the only type we eat!

Rinse off a can of white beans and toss them into the boiling mixture.  This adds a nice bit of protein to dinner.

Once the pasta has cooked inside of the soup, toss in handfuls of spinach.  I use the whole bag .

Dinner is served!

I knew it was a job well done when sitting crossed legged over our coffee table, David turned to me and said “That’s just what I  needed.” =)

Aside

Warby Parker Trial

This week I discovered the company Warby Parker and immediately fell in love and sought out their free trial option. If you have not discovered this site and wear prescription glasses (or just want to wear glasses as an accessory), Warby Parker brings the latest, hippest styles to you for quite a reasonable price. Deep down inside, I desperately want to be a Hipster. Unfortunately, I have been too shy to try that look. Therefore, the Warby Parker trial option was perfect for me. I requested five pairs of glasses that I felt captured the hipster vibe and without fear I was able to try them on, walk around in them, and pretend that just maybe the inner hipster in me would come out and shine! Having spent hundreds of dollars at bigger named stores, Warby Parker’s style, market, and approach is a breath of fresh air! I highly recommend giving their website more than just a quick glimpse. I had so much fun this evening and maybe I’ll order one of these…maybe. Thoughts on which I should buy?

The Delivery from UPS

Crosby Greystone

Sinclair Greystone

Preston Sandelwood

Tenley Midnight Blue

Finn Revolver Black

Obsessed

During the school day there is very little “me” time. This is quite understandable since the school day really isn’t about “me.”  Rather it is about how each student is accessing, processing, creating, and recreating information, skills, and social experiences.  I merely get to be a facilitator, observer, and designer (and sometimes on special days a life coach, friend, therapist, sounding board, or personal excitement coach) of all of this. But, on the rare occasion when I do get a little more than a moment to breathe and run to the bathroom, I find myself obsessed with mommy blogs (most recently of the Mormon variety). It all started a few months earlier when my friend, Skye, introduced me to Soule Mama. Author Amanda Blake-Soule is a mother, DIY crafter, farmhouse operator, and overall enthusiast for “stuff” that is real and genuine.  Her crafts, farm, and photos are captivating and I find myself envious of the simple (and yet not so simple at all) way of life she leads and orchestrates with her brood of five children and husband. One afternoon, while talking about my obsession with following this “perfect and wholesome” blog, another friend, Laura, mentioned excitedly that she too has become obsessed with the blogging depiction of the 50s housewife spun off as a hipster chic Mormon Mommy Blogger. I decided to dig a little deeper. Why are we secretly and fervently reading these mommy blogs?  As the women’s studies teacher at school, I feel as though this new habit of mine is particularly disturbing. Weren’t we reading the Feminist Mystique in class and unearthing the “problem that has no name” or the “cult of domesticity?” And, now I am staring that “problem that has no name” right in the face and refreshing my browser each day hoping for new  pictures, stories, and mommy updates! I feel incredibly torn.  Luckily, I stubbled upon this article that gives me a little piece of mind.  At least I know now that there are many of “me” out there: Why I Can’t Stop Reading Mormon Housewife Blogs. I was particularly receptive to this part of the article’s analysis of my latest obsessive behavior:

“There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about “the New Domesticity” — an increasing interest in old-fashioned, traditionally female tasks like sewing, crafts and jam making. Some pundits see this as a sign that young women yearn to return to some kind of 1950s Ozzie and Harriet existence, that feminism has “failed,” that women are realizing they can’t have it all, after all. That view is utterly nonsense, in my opinion, but I do think women of my generation are looking to the past in an effort to create fulfilling, happy domestic lives, since the modern world doesn’t offer much of a road map…..But the basic messages expressed in these blogs — family is wonderful, life is meant to be enjoyed, celebrate the small things — are still lovely. And if they help women like me envision a life in which marriage and motherhood could potentially be something other than a miserable, soul-destroying trap, I say, “Right on.” I won’t be inviting the missionaries inside for hot cocoa now or ever, but I don’t plan on stopping my blog habit any time soon.” –Emily Matchar

This escapist part of my day into the world of Mormon Mommy Blogging has coincidentally encouraged me to continue working on my blog.  To think about the message I am making and to possibly try to bring a little DIY into my own home, kitchen and life.  There is nothing wrong with bringing inspiration into one’s life and in seeking to perfect that art of balancing work and life.  Sometimes, it is important to take a minute longer on the “life” part from time to time and perhaps that is what I am gaining from these blogs.