Monday, July 28, 2008

Cuisinart gives +3 to Bliss.

One of the best things about getting married is the loot. Woot! It is overwhelming to see so many folks come together and support a couple as they start their life together. Initially, Mr. Husband was disappointed and confused by the fact that the items that a couple registers for during a wedding are kitchen, bath, and bedding items. He didn’t understand. He had a hard time trying to comprehend what he imagined was a great wall of china that I wanted to build. I tried to explain to him that these items were intended to help us set up house and begin our blissful adventure, but he didn’t buy it. He felt left out. Of course, dear Mr. Husband wanted to register for video games and complete his video game console collection. Fortunately, my twin brother, Harold, bought us a Wii for our wedding—our Wedding Wii.

Mr. Husband was a trooper—he crossed his arms and settled at the time for the SKU code zapper at Macy’s for his entertainment. Perhaps he imagined that each dish, each cup, each of the many, many, many wine glasses were little tiny criminals that he was rounding up. Perhaps I’m trying to spin something fun into an outing that was most likely pure torture for him. But he grinned and he zapped and zapped and zapped some more. We laughed as we traveled through the Macy’s home department: he with his zapper gun, and me riding shotgun with my china fun.

It is now almost nine months after the wedded day of bliss and we are beginning to understand. Aha! All of these items, these wonderful gifts, these glorious things, this loot, is to help us make the transition into being together all-the-time-every-day-all-day-24-hours-a-day easier. We actually came up with a theory during our leading-up-to-wedding time when we seriously mused on these many household items. Could it be that we were enacting an outdated ritual that is intended to appease the wife as she begins to realize that her life is nothing but cooking and cleaning for an ungrateful husband who would rather pretend that she doesn’t exist? He’s home from the office with his newspaper, beer, and TV while she’s singing unknowingly, ignorantly, and uncontrollably in the kitchen into her apron, her only friend? So she falls in love with her new frying pan and she imagines her perfect vacation with her new coffee maker? Could it be? No, not us. Not quite so bleak.

That thought creeps at the back of my mind like a thief who is trying to steal my new shiny plates and corrupt my All-Clad. And as we get ready for our new house—this sneaking suspicion is a reminder ever constant, for we are also getting ready for our wedding gifts. We must remember the gifts are for both of us. The tiny apartment where we make our current home with our two cats is not big enough to handle the wonderful new kitchen that we were presented with as encouragement for our new life of super marriage. Only a few choice items have made the cut to apartment living: new sheets, 3 All-Clad pans, 2 casserole dishes, a few pieces of cherished Arthur Court, one Cuisinart that slipped through the cracks, and, of course, the Wedding Wii.

Whenever we use one of our gifts, we remember who gave us the gift, and we remember the day. Nothing can take a couple back to that place in time quicker and with more elegance—that place on the altar when I almost fell over laughing after trying so hard not to cry, that place on the dance floor where I slipped on my train and fell and my new super Mr. Husband picked me up and swung me around, that place near the groom’s cake when Mr. Husband realized it was decorated with Transformers and he kissed me, that place on the Country Club steps where we ran from a crowd of friends blowing bubbles—that place where we began our great life adventure.

We had such a moment this past weekend as we opened up the hand-held Cuisinart for the first time. Mr. Husband and I were cooking appetizers for a housewarming on Saturday night. He gets the gadgets like the Dyson, the ice cream maker, and the Cuisinart, and I get a helper in the kitchen. I am not in the kitchen alone wondering if I left Mr. Husband back in 1954. He is there with me and we are both remembering the wedding and dreaming about the future. He is holding the hot pan of fudge as I scrape it into a Pyrex dish. He is chopping up vegetables and arranging for my next ingredients. And here we find that these wonderful gifts, the loot, is helping us to work together, remember our sacred vows (whether spoken through laughter or through tears), and reminding us that we’re a darn good team for life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Come hear Uncle John's Band.

New Hampster. I call it New Hampster because Dowling does. He lives up there in them parts, so I figure he knows better. Besides, it’s funny. It’s become one of those words that we can no longer pronounce properly. It strains me to try and say “New HampShire” – which is truly no fun at all. It’s become like the term Mr. Husband and I use to refer to our electronic magic map: Gpiss. Instead of pronouncing the letters G-P-S, we have always said Gpiss to one another. Again, slightly humorous and now a word that we can no longer say correctly in common speech. This becomes somewhat embarrassing when conversing with strangers or even those who know us well. Traveling to New Hampster with our Gpiss. That’s what me and Mr. Husband did.

Anyhow, since our friend Adam asked the color of our new hamster, we need to clarify that Mr. Husband and I did not begin hamster farming. We are not breeding hamsters in an effort to begin a hamster burger industry to compete with the booming Emu burger industry. No. Not yet.

We went to visit the great Sibley farm in Etna, New Hampshire (New Hampster!). We were gathering as part of the Butler Girls’ Family Reunion. All of us gathered as descendents or spouses of descendents of the four Butler girls from Indiana: Anne, Hibbie, Mary Gray, and Jean. Mr. Husband and I are part of the Anne Butler Stewart branch. Only two out of four Butler girls still survive, and we assembled on the homestead of the youngest Butler girl, Jean Butler Sibley. The farm in Etna is a magical place with an overgrown pond and wooden gazebo; with bright wildflowers that sing in colors more stunning than a rainbow; with vegetables and fruit sprouting from the ground and falling from the sky in a medley anew; and with the warm sun keeping us company at all times while letting the wind get in some family time, too. It is nature at her finest. It seems as if sadness knows not these parts and is never invited to visit. It was all warmth and kindness as new family members got to meet for the first time and see youngsters all grown. We first congregated among Jean and John’s wildflower and vegetable garden.
We smelled fresh mint: regular, lemon, and chocolate. We ate string beans straight from the stalk and snapped peas in half to get at their green goodness. We poked our heads into cabbage, onions, and garlic. We ran from the bees. We gazed on the flowers and felt the calm of vacation. We laughed—at all times, there was a cacophony of laughter. Stories were told of love, marriage, and break-ups. Life was shared.

The most interesting new relation that we met was Uncle John Sibley. Actually, Mr. Husband had met Uncle John before when Mr. Husband was a mere four-years-old. Everyone asked Mr. Husband time and again, “Do you remember being here when you were four?” He never admitted it. Never submit. It was like the first time all over again. Uncle John seemed to me to be a modern day Thoreau. While he was a renowned surgeon in his younger days, reconstructing the faces and bodies of leprosy victims in Korea as a missionary, these days he is unable to speak due to a form of Primary Progressive Aphasia. He cannot understand the spoken word. It gets all jumbled inside his head. But he does understand the written word. He’s sharp as a tack with the written word. He was always busy inspecting the land, feeding the birds, and nodding his head in agreement with the many stories that were shared. He is there. He is participating. He is ever smiling.

So that Uncle John was fully involved, white boards were kept busy with writing so that he was included in all conversation. The cousins took turns writing to him about the stories that rang out from the relatives around the table. Aunt Jean told about finding her own self, her own niche, in her marriage as she organized a knitting group for young Korean women. Annie told the story of Seth joining the army and then leaving the army as a conscientious objector. Don and Pricilla told stories about their two grandchildren. Taz and Micheala described the details of their forest wedding. Uncle Dick told stories about his many travels to foreign countries as an independent pilot. We told the story of our meeting at the company Christmas party in 2005. We shared stories and all was spoken and written—a flurry of communication activity. The Sibley children shared with the Stewart children and the Stewart children’s children the many tales of their lives in New Hampshire, Korea, Maine, and Chicago. Throughout the summer afternoon on the back porch with hummingbirds, yellow finches, and bluebirds floating about and twittering among the many bird feeders in the backyard, we began to know more about where we come from and who we are and what we can be.
The descendents and spouses of descendents of the four Butler girls from Indiana have done great things. They are a creative lot of artists, writers, political activists, pilots, professors, engineers, missionaries, doctors, lawyers, architects, and musicians. No one is resting on their laurels. But between achieving great things, we are gathered together in the meadow on a summer evening eating, laughing, sharing, and learning about what tomorrow will bring for the next line of descendants of the four Butler girls from Indiana.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Our house, in the middle of our street.

We got our green. They said it couldn’t be done. They said, “You don’t want your street to be known as the green street, do you?” We shrugged. So that’s bad? Living on the street with four green houses? Besides seeming contagious, is it really bad? Really? Will it give us hives or make our hair fall out? We were perplexed. Why not? Mr. Husband and I looked at each other when presented with this apparently really-really bad scenario, and we both said, “We think that’d be kind of cool.” The design center girl sighed, squirmed, and put her hand to her chin. “Maybe there’s a different color you’d like?” From there, we proceeded to point at every shade of green on the Sherwin Williams paint strip until we wore her down. We got our green. Oh, yes we did. And green it is.

Welcome to Green Street. Home of at least four proud green home owners.

The whole world is going green, why not the outside of our house? Maybe it’s truly a reflection of our souls. Maybe it’s a step in the right direction. The woman this evening at Target asked, “Are you some of those environmentalists?” when we presented her with our own shopping bags (green, of course). Again, it seems that we’ve done something that may result in plague-like repercussions. I believe she started to itch as she handed Mr. Husband the bread that she was certain he was going to pack beneath the milk. Sure the greenness of the outside of our house is really not what Al Gore has in mind when he tells us to mind the melting polar ice caps, but maybe the outside of our house being green will help us to make an effort to keep the inside of our house green. Not talking wall color, here, but we do have a lovely sage growing on the living room walls. Go green!

The second victory that we experienced in the last week is the victory of the holy column. While not truly green or actually holy, this column is one of the most important design changes we made to the inside of our new home. We wanted free-flow, open living space. We wanted to be able to see each other at all times. We don’t want to turn into my dad who panics if he cannot see my mother in the next room. Perhaps we’re planning for retirement, or maybe it’s simpler than that and we’re planning for living together rather than living apart. We’re planning for children that we’ll have to keep an eye on at all times. We’re planning for Thanksgiving when my dad will have to keep an eye on all of us to make sure we’re doing it right (whatever we’re doing).

When we did our frame review last week, we walked through the house with the sales associate, the builder, and the project planner. We looked at really lame stuff like electric sockets and light switch placement. We confirmed that all the extra stuff that kept adding up at the plan review was actually available in the frame review. Can we see a fireplace switch materialize? Give me flush lighting rather than flourescent lighting! Do you see where they’ve arranged for the jetted shower? Check, check, check … but where is my column? Open the plans. Go to the plans. Let’s review. The five of us poured over the giant paper plan review where our sales associate had circled the doorway in the sunroom and written “COLUMN.” To assist the builder, I went ahead and helpfully pointed to the word in all-caps, “There it is!” Give me my column! I need my column!

And a column they shall have. The change is dramatic. The change is open and inviting. The change makes me want to recycle more and re-use as much as I can. Maybe it doesn’t go that far, but it is like a wave of fresh air as you look up to see the openness and imagine the smiling faces that will be visible not behind the doorframe but around the column. My column. And my column will be green: Sage Green.

We are overjoyed and overwhelmed—the sales associates, the builder, and the project planner have been a complete dream to work with. They’ve carefully reviewed at various stages to let us confirm correctness. We’re all working together with clear communication and a clear objective in mind. Welcome to Green Street: where happiness comes with review and columns spring up over night.

The path to our front door has been poured. The path to our green house. The path to our future.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The tangled web we leave.

We have left deadly Spider Cabin at Loch Lyme Lodge in New Hampshire and are happy to be home where our dutiful cats ensure there is a running spider deficit (thankfully). Praise cats and their undying need to chase things that creep and crawl. We continue to pull spiders out of our luggage. A dead spider surprised me on our way home as he came flying to a tiled grave on the Dunkin’ Donuts floor after breathing his last spider breath in my wallet. Ew. Yuck. Hate spiders. My Mr. Husband became the great spider hero as he saved me night after night from certain spider death. Arachnids beware! We were not thrilled with our lodgings.

New Hampshire was beautiful. It was beyond so. The incredible time we experienced there for the Sibley-Stewart-Stevenson family gathering completely blanketed the stupid spiders at the lodge, which had clearly seen better days. Days without so many creatures bedding down with its guests. Seriously, get Mr. Husband a leather fedora and a leather whip—he was on continuous patrol as my protectorate. When not patrolling the futon that I called “Mr. Lumpy Bones” or chasing bugs out of the shower, we did enjoy our time on the dotted-lawn-chair-lawn and our time candoodling in the canoe on the loch.

While passed out on the plane, drooling on myself and gritting my teeth as I tried to sleep with one of those neck pillows that seem only to push one’s head forward instead of providing true slumbering comfort, I woke to find a package of peanuts in my lap. This tiny package of airplane peanuts reminded me in a very sweet and salty way of how kind, caring, and considerate Mr. Husband is while watching over me. He knows how I love that package of, like, twenty peanuts that help plane passengers forget for about seven seconds that they’re trapped way up high in the sky. I live for those peanuts and am disappointed when I find myself on a plane where they’ve removed that salty little comfort from the skies. This simple act of obtaining my twenty peanuts for me while I slept made me think of other little things Mr. Husband does to make my travels sweeter.

Mr. Husband always transports the luggage in and out of the car, in and out of the taxi, and in and out of the shuttle. I am an expert on wheels but terrible with heavy lifting. It is the great moment in my life when I stand back and let the heavy lifting magic happen. Mr. Husband always wears layers on the plane so that his perpetually cold wife can bundle up in his cast-offs. He lets me take up more space than necessary in the exit row seats that we get for his long legs. He holds me when there’s turbulence (I always think we’re about to die). He watches over me and keeps me in continuous care. It is a simple little thing that he can do for me that makes our travels go much smoother. It is a simple little thing that keeps me in constant song and high cheer that then affects him with song and high cheer. It all comes around.

Mr. Husband continued this high level of care as he procured a paper map for me in the airport as he mapped out our travel route from Manchester to Loch Lyme on his fancy electronic GPS map. I sang him songs about how my paper map changed my life while folding in the names of the surrounding cities that sprung up on our path to Spiderville. He continued his great level of care as he fought off the demon spiders that we encountered nightly. We imagined a world filled with wild flowers and leisure by the lake. Who can imagine that they’ll come home to find a giant mother spider with a sack of a zillion babies on her belly ready to burst and eat you alive in your lumpy-bones-futon? Who can imagine that? If you can imagine it, you’d better have a Mr. Husband who has studied in the ways of wifely care. No one likes waking up to creepy crawlies in the bed in the middle of the night.

From this point forward, if anything crawls on me in the middle of the night, it had better by My Mr. Husband. Only. Ever. No Spiders.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The thunder of happy hour and a nose.

Mr. Husband and I are off to New Hampster tomorrow morning for a family reunion for the Stewart-Sibley-Stevenson clan. All of the families come from Mr. Husband's grandmother Anne Butler's family (She married into the Stewarts). Siblings and such. A bunch of folks we've never met. A bunch of folks who sent us awesome wedding gifts despite our never having met them. Tomorrow, we get to shake their hands, share a canoe, and lounge with them on the lawn at Loch Lyme that is dotted with lawn chairs. I've been going nuts about the dotted lawn since reading the description earlier today. Mr. Husband completely supports my fervor, nutty as it is. We're going to respect the spots and add to the dots. We'll fill in space on the lawn on our New England getaway. Dot away!

Before climbing aboard the northern express, we hightailed it down to Florida to visit my family for the Fourth. Mr. Husband drove the whole way. We don't have one of those fancy smancy GPS devices with color pictures, human lady voices, or clear directions, but we have a hand-held that will tell us our Latitude and Longitude for our place on earth when we get lost in the woods. It does not have a bear monitoring device. Good thing, though, Mr. Husband is still wearing his beard. We didn't see one bear while in Florida. We can all silently thank the beard.

Here, you can see him in Florida on July Fourth as we tried to caravan down to the Sumter town square in the Villages. See how the bear-wrestling-beard brought on the storm? My Mr. Husband's ability to conjure lightning and thunder saved our rained out July Fourth by bringing on the natural display of God's anger ... that we all witnessed from the warmth of a glass of wine by staying dry at Arnold Palmer’s happy hour. It’s always happy hour in The Villages. Again, no bears in sight.

Later that evening, we took some spectacular photos with my dear twin brother, Harold. Many people do not know I have two brothers—I tend to speak about Harold a lot since from the womb he’s been my idol. He taught me to speak gibberish and how to build a space ship out of a tree in the backyard. Lloyd is our older brother. He complained the whole time about my taking photos and his having to see photos of himself on the blog. You’d think he would have been more careful. Here you can see how he closes his eyes so that no one can see him in this photo. Harold is in the background, trying not to sleep.

Harold definitely should have been more careful. Later in the evening of July Fourth, dear Harold, who is hypoglycemic and prone to sleeping like the dead when he sleeps, got a surprise in his nose as we joked around like little kids with the camera. Hey, at least we didn’t write with a Sharpie on his forehead, “My name is Poo.” He should be thanking us for these photos. They are harmless. We had a great time, too.

Harold sleeps.

Mom is egged on by Mrs. Wife to add a finger to his nose.

Mr. Husband is also egged on. (Lots of egging going on.)

Mrs. Wife gives it a solid two fingers. We have a winner!

For now, this week, Harold cannot see the internet. I am safe. And we are off on another family trip. This one, we hope, will have much less thunder and no strange fingers in noses. We will dott the lawn with our laughter. It's good to be young, in love, and on vacation.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Running between raindrops and wrangling cats.

My friend Rebekka is often the person to whom I go to sound out my husband concerns and my marriage issues. She’s a goodly Dutch trampoline who lets me bounce ideas off her. Sometimes, wooden shoes and tulips help when you need to jump high enough to see a different perspective. In addition to the Dutch stuff, she is filled with calming advice that typically helps me to step away from the edge and survey the verdant valley behind me that I clearly overlooked. She’s on year three of marriage. She’s, like, something of an expert by now on the early years of marriage. I’m still green at eight months. She and her husband have already gone through the house-buying fiasco. We are right in the thick of it. And it’s starting to show.

My wonderful-tall-wonderful-careful-wonderful-loving-wonderful-super smart-wonderful husband wanted to take his time with picking our mortgage broker. He took his time. He thought about it. Wonderful man, he was careful. He thought about it some more. He couldn’t pin down exactly what it was he was looking for as the final sign, but I imagine it had seven horsemen proportions and a lion that speaks. I would quiz him from time to time about the three horses running in the race, but, each time, all three thoroughbreds were running neck in neck. The finish line was in sight; although, we received mixed messages from different sources as to where or what the finish line actually is. Time was upon us. Anxiety was high. I need to plan. I need to know exactly where the next hoof will fall. Pick a horse!

And so he did. Finally. To the relief of all involved. The incredibly well-written letter went out to the dear winner (all Stewart men are superb professional writers), and we were in the game with end in sight. And then the rug got pulled out from under us. Something unexpected that we could have planned for given more time—just one more day. In fact, given just two more hours.

Getting ducks in a row is like wrangling cats. I imagine it’s kind of like one of my mother’s favorite magic tricks: she can run between raindrops. Seriously. When I was a kid and we’d unexpectedly get caught in the rain, she’d say with a grin on her face, “We’ll just run between the raindrops!” I still think her ability to smile in the face of adversity and possible hair failure is amazing. To look a bad hairday in the face and smile—magic. And for our very own mortgage crisis and what else unexpected is before us—we will have to run between the raindrops while we arrange our ducks and manage our cats.

This morning on the way to work, I loudly renounced all my dreams while being stuck behind a truck tiptoeing down Hwy 280 at 40 mph in the fast lane. Mr. Husband was wearing his Safety Inspector hat in the passenger seat and silently cursing the truck as he listened to my self-judgment and attempt to change our very life course. I was giving up. Mr. Husband put his hand on my back to console me as I vented about what I imagined to be our dashed hopes. He didn’t speak. Good man. Smart man. I simply needed to vomit my verbal discontent. And that truck needed to get out of my lane.

Later in the morning, I spread the news about how our close friends just had their first baby on Monday. Tuesday night, the friends gathered in the maternity ward and passed the new baby girl around and breathed in the beginning of life. There was this incredible closeness between the husband and wife. A closeness that I’ve never seen in my life. The husband and wife would look at each other with their new baby glow as they told us the story of the birth. I mentioned this closeness to Rebekka this morning as I continued to vent from the highway into the workday. She listened, she shared her own experiences, and shared her sage advice. She helped me to realize that while we are in the midst of a jungle of frustration, we have these great moments before us where everything changes. This is but a brief second. It is the moments we are living for. The moments where all of this—this right now—fades and seems so very far away. The moment when we move into our new house and turn to each other with relief. The moment when we say to each other that we are ready to add to our family (a human, not another cat). The moment when we turn to each other at the end of the week and know that we’re a great team. My wonderful Mr. Husband, while late getting off the bench sometimes, gives me these moments. I will always want to hold his hand.