Category Archives: Marriage

The Day I Became a Woman.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIt sat on the counter taunting me for days.

An auspicious looking manila envelope housed an offer for a free, two month trial membership at BJ’s—our local jumbo store. Now, I should tell you that in my mind, I am the sort of girl that shops at five different grocery stores in an effort to save 17 cents on mozzarella cheese and score a BOGO deal on the cardboard sugar cereal that Kellan insists on eating for breakfast. [This, despite my ominous weekly warnings that it will one day kill him dead.] Of course, in my MIND, I am the sort of girl that cheerfully rolls out of bed at five AM to run, but alas, the very best I can muster in the wee small hours of the morning is a sad sort of drunken stumble towards my beloved coffee pot.

I digress. The POINT, friends, is that I am decidedly not that girl. Call me lazy, but in spite of my very best intentions, I never make it to more than one grocery store. Mo stores, mo problems.

Since our fateful move to Albany, Kellan has made a habit of occasionally mentioning that maybe, we should purchase a BJ’s membership. Now, this feels precisely like the sort of adult thing that a twenty seven year old woman might do, right under flossing and mopping the floor. Delightfully, I have made it twenty seven years managing to avoid all three. Only the sweet baby Jesus knows where on earth my husband came up with this idea, because it certainly didn’t come from me–the very idea of PAYING to shop at an extra store makes me want to drop kick a golden retriever. I’d managed to successfully dissuade him for a year and a half…until the aforementioned envelope arrived.

Now. Even I couldn’t argue with a FREE TRIAL, though I was still rather baffled as to what two childless people might do with a five year supply of EVERYTHING. Alas, I am a sucker for anything that doesn’t cost me money, [most notably the toothpicked samples of kung pao chicken gratuitously handed out at the mall], and so on a Sunday afternoon I girded my loins and drove to our local BJ’s.

I walked into the cavernous, windowless warehouse and immediately started menopause. I was, conservatively, not a day less than 20 years everybody’s junior. The dimly-lit exit was guarded by a foreboding looking, blue-vested woman  that in a former life, might have served as the middle-aged athletic director at a small women’s college in Vermont. She looked like she was fresh out of prison—or possibly, just about to go back in. The pungent stench of cheap hot dogs hung thick in the stale air as an ever-growing mass of humanity milled about the aisles, carts precariously overflowing. A kindly Indian woman working at the customer service desk did her utmost to lock me into a fourteen month membership. I gulped weakly, and stubbornly held my ground– That’s very sweet of you, but if I make it out of here without getting shanked I am never coming back.

This was my shot, my piece de resistance, my trump card for the next seventy years should Kellan ever choose to bring up a BJ’s membership again. [I already did that. Wa-BAM!] I was determined to make the most of it. Thus, I decided to go big.

The strategy was simple: walk down every aisle, and follow my heart. Jumbo bag of chocolate chips? Come to Mama. Sixteen tubs of Lysol wipes? IN YOUR FACE SALMONELLA. Twenty pounds of flour? Let’s make like the Amish and bake our own bread! Ten pounds of walnuts? DON’T THINK YOU’LL FIGURE IT OUT LATER.

Y’all, I did work. That store didn’t know what hit it! I left significantly poorer, but with enough toilet paper to last us a month of Sundays. [And really, who can put a price on that kind of peace of mind?]

Am I alone, here? Do you stop at multiple stores? And hypothetically, what might one do with enough Crest mouthwash to fill a bathtub? Help a sister out, because after my Sunday-haul, Kellan thinks that this is the best idea ever.

…not that we’ll need to go again for a good five years or so.

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Filed under First World Problems, Marriage, Then I found $5.00

What Y2K and my Mother in Law Have in Common.

JCP_3574 bwNew Year’s Eve 1999 found me wide-eyed with unabashed glee at the prospect of the impending doom about to descend upon civilization as I knew it.  An uncertain world was curiously teetering on the brink of Y2K, and in a startling flight from rationality my parents had decided that we stood a better chance against the looters back in the Land of the Free than in our little apartment in the Soviet Block. Thus, my family had flown across the ocean from Kiev, Ukraine, to my Grandparent’s house in Suburbia, Michigan. Locks had been tested, toilet paper had been stock piled, and in a sadistic twist on Trick-or-treat gone terribly wrong, Grandpa had loaded the riot gun and was ready to greet any of the aforementioned looters. Mama had filled every bathtub in the house with cold water, and stacked ominously in the basement were enough flashlights, batteries and cans of low-fat New England clam chowder to launch our own rather unappetizing, well-lit cult.

Pondering that experience as an adult, I am now quite convinced that I would much prefer to die in some sort of apocalyptic event than be forced to eat room-temperature clam chowder glopped unceremoniously from a can.

The Petersons were nothing if not prepared, and my brothers and I were positively heartsick when Y2K held all of the excitement of a dirty Kleenex. The electricity didn’t so much as flicker, and Grandpa didn’t get to fire the riot gun even once. Thus, dreams and bathtub water swirled straight down the drain, flashlights were tucked away and I can only imagine that a local homeless shelter was the unlucky beneficiary of the aforementioned chowder. In summation: everyone suffered.

Fourteen years have passed since that underwhelming New Year’s Eve with the batteries and the bathtubs filled clear to the brim, and strangely, I find myself once again preparing for an event of apocalyptic proportions. Except, instead of Y2K, my MOTHER IN LAW is coming to visit this weekend.

Now, let’s you and I get one thing straight right off the bat: my Mother in Law is the sweetest, most selfless human being on the planet. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I will tell you that my OWN Mother has decided that she is the kindest person that we know. Gina Dickens began treating me like I was her daughter long before there was a ring on my finger, and I wholeheartedly adore her.

Unfortunately, perfection has its pitfalls, chief of which is raising offspring who thinks it’s normal. In her entire life, Gina hasn’t so much as pretended to be mediocre at something, effectively creating wildly unrealistic expectations for her son that can’t FOR THE LIFE of him figure out why I don’t carry around an plastic bag full of alphabetized coupons. [Um, HELLO, I lost our scissors in the move.] Kellan grew up in a perfectly immaculate house where organization was paramount [I’m pretty sure the folders had folders], and the kitchen was always startlingly sparkling. I’m quite serious about this. I’ve spent three consecutive Thanksgivings in Gina’s kitchen, and have yet to see so much as a flour splatter. [AT THANKSGIVING. THE COOKINGEST DAY OF THE YEAR. She’s like a kitchen unicorn.] My kitchen, however, consistently looks like a bomb went off and the Red Cross failed to respond. And that’s just after breakfast.

I married Gina’s first-born son under the unspoken expectation that I would do my utmost to keep him alive. It was one thing when she came to visit last fall and popped into our tiny little apartment just long enough for lunch before she and Russ whisked us away for a weekend at the cutest little B&B around. [I told you. BEST.] It’s another thing entirely now that she’s coming to STAY AT MY HOUSE for a whole weekend. MY HOUSE, in which a TV is currently precariously perched atop a tower consisting of two Tupperware containers and one old wine box, because CLASSY. I sheepishly confessed that to her a couple of months ago, and she looked at me like I was a starving paralytic in dire need of some sort of fundraiser.

I’ve decided that the whole thing is very much like getting ready for Y2K. I find myself desperate to prove that I am a responsible, prepared adult, instead of someone who still pays for her coffee in quarters and dimes. I vacillate wildly from feeling immeasurably mature as I stockpile spare light bulbs and stamps, to being utterly convinced that she will take one look at the guest bathroom and very quietly put a protective layer of toilet paper over the seat. Kellan began to notice that something was amiss when I walked up to him last night with crazy eyes and very calmly informed him that if he left his mildewed towel on the floor one more time, I WOULD STAB HIM.

I spend every spare minute coming up with contingency plans, quite certain that I will accidentally blow the electricity, the freezer will melt and we shall be forced to eat damp cheese sandwiches by candlelight for dinner. And because she is perfect, Gina will smile graciously and make some sort of charming remark about how lovely the light looks flickering off of the walls while I internally panic because SWEET FANCY MOSES I AM GOING TO MUDDY THE GENE POOL. I’ll grin weakly as I desperately attempt to look like the sort of girl that wears sensible shoes and reads instruction manuals, instead of a girl that doesn’t own a mop.

Clearly, this is dire. Say your rosaries, friends–because we are T-4 days. If you need me, I’ll be dusting my wine-box TV stand and stacking cans of clam chowder in the basement.

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Filed under Family, Marriage, My favorite people, Then I found $5.00

Keeping up with the Kims.

Once upon a time, a pair of starry-eyed newlyweds bought a yellow house with blue shutters.

Unhappily, just about every “once upon a time” that I’ve ever had the misfortune of stumbling across comes with it’s very own dramatic “dun dun duuuunnnnn”, which is precisely where our story finds us today.

You see, when Kellan and I moved into the heart of suburbia, USA, we hadn’t the foggiest idea what we were doing. And when I say “we”, I clearly mean “me”. I grew up in major European cities, where little league and white picket fences were merely the stuff of Hallmark movies. When my family moved  to North Carolina my senior year of high school, I was QUITE convinced that my very first day of public school would find me stuffed inside a locker dripping wet from a swirly, just like those kids on MTV. [Yes, Kellan spends startling amounts of his spare time worrying about how on earth we’re going to raise children in America when their Mama has NO earthly idea what’s going on. Thank you for asking.]

All of that to say, I’ve never had a white picket fence. There were no cul-de-sacs in my neighborhood, no local swimming pools, no cartoon-spackled ice cream trucks with tinkling songs merrily heralding their arrival. My family didn’t even own a CAR until I was in 8th grade, for heaven’s sake! Taxi cabs and bustling metro stations served as the soundtrack to a charmed childhood that took place against the breathtaking backdrop of historic European cathedrals and cobblestone streets. While my American compatriots were running barefoot across hot asphalt driveways to stop the ice cream man for drippy, popsicle-sticked ninja-turtle ice cream, my brothers and I were stopping at a local Ukrainian bakery on the way home from school for flakey cream puffs fresh out of the oven. [And at 28 cents a puff, our parents were in wholehearted support.]

Kellan and I moved into our yellow house on a snowy February night, and didn’t see so much as a glimpse of our alleged yard until some time in April. At the first, tentative sign of brown grass wearily peeking out from beneath the ice, my darling husband began to daydream out loud about his “plans for our yard.”

Which was vaguely concerning to me, given that I hadn’t the foggiest idea that one could have PLANS for a yard.

He began to make excessive use of words like mulch and aerate. I pretended to listen whilst dreaming about white chocolate baguettes, and before you judge me I’ll have you know that the man went on for HOURS. [Also, white chocolate baguettes are my WHOLE LIFE right now. More on that later.] Our yard became Kellan’s favorite topic of conversation, excited rants punctuated by a furrowed brow and serious reminders that HONEY, a man’s yard says a LOT about who he is!

Baguettebaguettebaguette.

About a month ago, things took a startling turn for the worse when Kellan burst through the front door with Nancy-Grace level rage and heatedly announced, WE ARE THE WHITE TRASH HOUSE IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD.

A brief walk outside confirmed his grave assessment: our brown, patchy yard [who knew you have to TURN ON your sprinkler system?!] was one port-a-potty short of a full-on Griswold family vacation. The unfortunate scene was only exacerbated by the fact that we live across the street from a sweet Asian couple named Mr. and Mrs. Kim. We are 98% positive that the Kims are running hard drugs so that they can devote their waking hours to planting tulips and lovingly fertilizing each individual blade of grass with the tender care normally afforded to endangered Alaskan wildlife. Meanwhile, the train wreck directly across the street masquerading as our yard looked like something one might see on a heart-wrenching commercial with Sarah McLaughlin singing “In the arms of an angel” dolefully in the background.

While the Kim’s immaculate yard is rather amusing to me, Kellan considers it a personal act of aggression.

I charmingly suggested that we simply embrace our new-found white trash identity, forgo our dental care and invest in some overalls, a couple of rocking chairs and a shot gun so we could spend our evenings shooting pigeons off the front porch. Infuriatingly, my ideas are enormously under appreciated in our household, and as Kellan determinedly marched back to our house he declared WAR on the yard across the street.

…I think we can all agree that I shouldn’t throw stones at the dramatic, but COME ON.

The man that I married quickly became one of those people that you’re deeply concerned about, but slightly afraid to speak to lest they become emotionally unhinged. He began to throw money around like we were the federal government, stock-piling mulch, grass seed and THREE DIFFERENT KINDS OF DIRT in our garage. [Don’t get me started. WE PAID CASH-MONEY FOR DIRT. WHICH IS FREE. ON THE GROUND. EVERYWHERE ON THE PLANET.] I muttered hateful things under my breath in the checkout aisle and briefly contemplated taking a hoe to the Kim’s rosebushes in the middle of the night and various other forms of suburban guerrilla warfare just to level the playing field. To add insult to injury, several days after arriving home with the dirt, Kellan had the audacity to march in our front door holding something called a GRASS TRIMMER, and I was all OHMYLANTA EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT OUR LAWN MOWER IS FOR.

If you’re waiting for a happy resolution to this story, I wouldn’t hold your breath because there isn’t one. Our sad little yard is looking slightly more hopeful, but the Kims are one good rainfall away from being prominently featured in Better Homes and Gardens. We will probably have to move. As we speak, Kellan is on his third Home Depot run of the week, and I am scouring the want ads in search of a second job so that I can pay for his newfound grass habit.

If you need me, I’ll be remortgaging the yellow house.

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Filed under First World Problems, Marriage, My ghetto-fab life, Then I found $5.00

A Tale of Two Easter Baskets.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThe first married holiday that Kellan and I celebrated together was Easter. We’d been married for all of ten minutes, and I had no sooner hung up his and her bathroom towels when quite suddenly, Easter was upon us.

In my family, every holiday is a rather grand affair. Growing up, Easter around the Peterson table often included our immediate family, and no less than thirty of our closest friends. [Really. Thirty. My Mother is the only woman that I know that has forty place settings of her dishes, and makes good use of them on the regular.]  My Mama would cook impossibly elaborate dinners while my brothers and I dusted the furniture and lit every Yankee candle in the house as strains of classical music lilted from our grand piano as my Daddy played.

Petersons know how to celebrate. Our holidays overflow with food and dear friends and the happiest, happiest noise. We ardently believe that it’s not a party without a crowd, to the point where one Thanksgiving after my family had recently moved, I forlornly looked at my Mother and in all seriousness, asked if we could drive around town looking for unsuspecting homeless people to invite to Thanksgiving dinner. [An idea that was heartily applauded by my siblings.] I was quite convinced that to celebrate with only our immediate family would have been absolute MISERY from which we might never recover.

I digress. Last year, Easter rolled in slowly, like a quiet morning fog, and took me by surprise. Though we had no friends to be invited, [save the deli-man, with whom I had been carefully cultivating my one and only New York friendship over quarter pounds of oven roasted honey glazed turkey,] I was determined to do the very bare minimum, and make an Easter dinner. I felt like the Whos on The Grinch who Stole Christmas, gathering hand in hand in the heart of Whoville to bravely sing da-who-dores even though their trimmings and trappings had been stolen by that wily old Grinch.

The day before Easter, I bravely plugged the fanciest grocery store in town into my trusty GPS, and ventured onto the highways and byways of upstate New York. After much angst and great inner turmoil at the meat counter, I threw caution and $18.94 to the wind and splurged on a perfect rack of lamb. Grocery list ready in my hot little hand, I had channeled my inner 1950’s housewife and Pinterested my heart out—luscious scalloped potatoes, buttery yeast rolls, a Greek salad and a decadent chocolate pie…we were friendless, but by George, I  was going to SAVE EASTER! As I stood in the check out line, a veritable mountain of Made in China Easter candy infused in franken-colors not to be found in nature caught my wandering eye.

For a heartbeat, I considered putting together an Easter basket for my newly-minted husband, but quickly thought better of it. After all, what man on earth would think to make an Easter basket for his wife? I didn’t want Kellan to feel badly, and so I opted to forgo the whole thing. His Mama had already given us baskets, I consoled myself. You are wife of the year—anticipating his every move! YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK ON HUSBANDS.

That very evening, after groceries had been safely tucked away and our little apartment had been dusted [old habits die hard, friends!], the handsome man that I’d called mine for mere weeks grinned at me from across our living room, and with twinkling eyes casually mentioned how excited he was to give me my Easter basket the next morning.

I immediately googled “signs of an aneurysm”, confident that I’d just had one. Come again? YOU made ME an Easter basket?

I was shattered, ready to write off my entire month of wifehood as a dismal failure. Twas the night before Easter and all through the house, there wasn’t so much as a tiny chocolate egg, because his wife was a louse. My fragile new-wife ego was hanging on by a gossamer thread, and gravely, I stared at Kellan as though he were the next of kin.

Honey, …I didn’t get you an Easter basket.

He looked almost startled. Quietly disappointed, he slowly assured me that it was okay.

Hi. Have we met?

IT. IS. NOT. OKAY.

I had crazy eyes. It was 11:00 PM, or as I like to call it, the stabbing hour. Frantic, I looked at Kellan and firmly announced that I NEEDED to go get him an Easter basket. No amount of cajoling and pleading and I-don’t-even-want-one-ing would dissuade me, and ten minutes later we were in the car. [Oh yes. To add insult to injury, the man had to drive me to Target so that I could get him an Easter basket.] I flew through the aisles, hastily tossing candy, trail mix and plastic green grass into my little red cart while my husband [who had, of course, been exiled from the store to maintain a sense of mystery about the whole miserable endeavor] waited for me outside.

The next morning, I handed Kellan a white Target bag filled with the previous night’s plunder [and, I’m sure, the receipt] because in my haste to give him an Easter basket, I’d forgotten the actual basket. He laughingly made a crack about his white trash Easter bag and I was all PARDON ME IF NOT ALL OF US CHOOSE TO JOIN YOU IN YOUR LIFE OF EXCESS.

You can bet every marshmallow Peep in town that I didn’t make the same mistake this year. PLEASE. This year, I tried not to look too eager for praise as Kellan awoke to a perfect wicker Easter basket full of enough candy to make his butt feel like a bean bag chair for the next decade. The whole thing was very Normal Rockwell.

Da-who-dores, indeed.

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Filed under Family, First World Problems, Holidays other than Christmas, Marriage

Make Them Eat Cake.

I am INSUFFERABLE about my birthday.

However, I adamantly maintain my innocence, because it’s really not my fault. As a little girl, my parents celebrated my birthday for the entire month of April, effectively making April THE MONTH OF ME. I was like a tiny fascist dictator, merrily barking orders about what I wanted for dinner and which Anne of Green Gables VHS tape the family would watch that evening. Thus, with a solid month of build-up and sweet anticipation, my parents inadvertently created a complete monster by teaching me that April 19th was a national holiday. The message was unmistakably clear: the world celebrated Jesus Christ in December, and Ashley Peterson in April.

Now, a necessary clarification: my love of birthdays has very little to do with gifts. I love a good present as much as the next girl, but for me, celebrating is more about the time and effort put in to planning fun things that we can all do together, and less about unwrapping. [This does, of course, become null and void if somebody wants me to unwrap round trip tickets to Paris.]

Kellan and I had never been in the same country for my birthday until last year. And y’all, I just KNEW that my first married birthday was going to be HEAVEN. I had big plans for a nine course breakfast in bed and a sweet surprise date and MAYHAP a brass band to follow me around, heralding my impending arrival everywhere I went.

Also balloons.

Unfortunately, in a wildly unexpected [read: TRAGIC] turn of events, several weeks before my birthday my darling husband informed me that he had a board meeting that was going to last  THE ENTIRE DAY. I laughed and waited for Ashton Kutcher to pop out from behind a nearby potted plant, because I was clearly being PUNKED.

Sadly, Ashton was nowhere to be found. Constraints of the English language make it utterly impossible for me to communicate the vast depths of my despair over this bombshell, but suffice it to say that I was certain that human civilization as I knew it, was crumbling to the ground.

April 19th dawned, and Kellan attempted to ply me with bacon by taking me out to an early breakfast. He then left to attend his meeting while I breathed into a paper bag because THIS WAS NOT MAGICAL. My Mama was all PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER ASHLEY. IT’S A BIRTHDAY, NOT VIETNAM, and I was all THIS BIRTHDAY IS GOING TO DRIVE ME TO HARD DRUGS.

I spent the day driving around the block soulfully belting “It Matters to Me” by Faith Hill with all of the pent-up angst of a menstrual seventh grader. I felt like Faith and I were united in our uncertainty of getting through tomorrow but commitment to bravely soldier on in the face of insurmountable tragedy.

My beloved returned right before I fell asleep. Clearly, there was nothing that he could have done to change his meeting and spend my birthday with me…but that didn’t stop me from staring at him like he’d just burned down an orphanage and crying like a small, emotionally disturbed child.

I told you. Insufferable.

They say that marriage is about clear communication and a steady supply of Merlot. In our house, one of those is always easy to come by, mostly because you can buy it for 6.29 and that’s cheaper than marriage counseling. But in the spirit of WORKING on our communication, in the aftermath of the Great Birthday Disaster of 2013 I sat Kellan down for a coming to Jesus moment.

Honey. LOOK. I know this one wasn’t your fault, but I don’t feel like you’ve really GRASPED the month of me. We need to have a little chat about birthdays.

The best relationship advice that I ever got was from my Mama way back in high school, when she looked me in the eyeballs and soberly informed me that men can’t read minds. That is just the HIGHLY unfortunate, sorry state of things. And so, I benevolently broke it down for Kellan. I told him all about breakfast in bed and balloons and the brass band. I informed him he didn’t need to buy me anything as long as we could just HANG OUT, and I gravely confessed if he ever had another board meeting on my birthday, there was a distinct possibility that I would go to prison for arson and spend the rest of my life in an orange jumpsuit watching bad daytime television and eating jello pudding with a plastic spoon.

My wise husband took me very seriously.

And so yesterday at the Dickens’ house was not April Fools Day. I woke up and my sweet husband beamed, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY MONTH, HONEY!”

Indeed it is

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Filed under Family, First World Problems, Holidays other than Christmas, Marriage, Then I found $5.00

Tales of a Failed Home Decorator.

It all started with a doormat.

I mentioned recently that Kellan and I made the move from our two bedroom apartment to a real adult house. A house that understandably looks rather barren, given the fact that our earthly possessions are comprised primarily of the treasures that independently, we both thought were valuable back in college. The whole scene is utterly idyllic if you need a set for a play that takes place in the Great Depression.

I’ll put it to you this way: the other day, my sweetly sentimental husband informed me that if I suddenly drop dead, there’s pretty much nothing that I brought into our marriage that he’ll want to keep.

What can I say? I married romance.

After we’d finished schlepping our boxes across town, the love of my life and I collapsed in utter exhaustion onto our couch and stared at the bare white walls that we could finally call 11.43% ours. Rubbing his aching temples, Kellan glanced my way and offhandedly mentioned that maybe, we ought to buy a doormat. We do, after all, live in New York, where it snows eleven and a half months out of the year and tell-tale snowy footprints follow friends through front doors.

I beamed. Of course. A doormat! An inconsequential purchase that wouldn’t break the bank, but would serve as a tiny step towards making our little house a home. A warm welcome into the gateway of our messy lives that would introduce us to the waiting world! Dreamy.

I took my doormat mission seriously. I wanted something cute, but not precious. [Is there anything worse than being precious?] Something different. Something that said, Hey, welcome to our home! We’re just tickled that you’re here. Especially if you’re holding a box of Girl Scout Cookies. Less so if you’re holding a Book of Mormon. Please come back when you have Thin Mints.

It wasn’t too much to ask.

I visited the usual cast of characters. Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Home Goods all left me hanging—everything was terribly underwhelming. So bland. So tacky. It was as if doormats on shelves everywhere had waved their dirty brown flag of surrender, heaved a collective, heavy sigh of relief and given up for the year. There was nothing worth the twenty dollars in my hot little hand.

Undaunted, I took to the interwebs. After all, we live in a world where you can order your toothpaste online—surely I could find a doormat that didn’t boast “I CAN SEE YOUR UNDERWEAR” in Times New Roman.

Days later, my bloodshot eyes were still scouring pages of doormats as I seriously contemplated the merits of hard drugs. Meanwhile, Kellan kept unhelpfully asking where our doormat was, blithely unaware that I was one more ugly chevron number away from burning our house down to the stakes and screaming Adele songs at our neighbor’s golden retriever.

In an act of utter desperation, I took to Pinterest. Tediously hand-painted, knitted doormats mocked me from my computer screen. Easy as Pie! they taunted, just so long as you’re comfortable breeding Alpacas in your backyard and hand-spinning yarn from the wool. Don’t forget to pick up the dye at your local Hungarian craft store!

Also, learn to knit.

Now, listen. I appreciate a good craft as much as the next woman, just so long as I don’t have to make it. I come from the “Buy it on Etsy and take credit for it” school of thought. I feel like the ability to craft is a part of our genetic makeup. It’s a gift, like being a size 0. And sure, there are things that we can do to help ourselves along, but at a certain point we’re at the mercy of the genes our Mama gave us and a steady supply of red wine. Also, the aforementioned Girl Scout Cookies.

Some women were born to spend their days hot-gluing eleventy-billion dirty acorns onto a Styrofoam ring and decoupaging their wallpaper , and other women are me. We do not own craft boxes. WE BARELY OWN IRONING BOARDS for heaven’s sake. You will not find us baking cakes with ART on the inside or constructing Mason jar chandeliers. You will find our grocery lists hastily scribbled on the backs of wadded up receipts discovered in the depths of dirty purses, not painstakingly lettered in calligraphy onto homemade kitchen chalkboards. There will be no murals of precious woodland creatures hand-painted on our children’s nursery room walls—in fact, if those walls are painted an actual color of the rainbow it’s an enormous victory meriting the pomp and circumstance normally afforded to chubby toddlers taking their first steps because THIS IS OUR BEST WORK.

Something inside my newly-minted homeowner’s mind snapped. Pinterest and the Alpaca doormats had broken my spirit. Defeated, I informed Kellan that if he wanted a decorated house, he was going to have to talk to one of the visiting Mormons about getting me a sister-wife.

[Preferably one that knows how to make Mason jar chandeliers.]

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Filed under First World Problems, Marriage, My ghetto-fab life, Then I found $5.00

The Intersection of Death and Marriage.

_DSC2702 bwOn March 2nd, 2013, Kellan promised forever to a woman that neither of us knew.

Three impossibly short days before I put on my white dress and walked down the aisle, I’d held my little brother’s swollen hand as he died. The girl that left her brother’s body alone in room 17 of the ICU that day was profoundly different than the one Kellan had been dating for two and a half years. Neither of us knew who she was.

We tightly held each other’s hands as we promised “I do”, then boarded a Jamaica-bound plane. One week later I found myself standing beside a casket. My Daddy could tell that I wanted to see my little brother one last time, and someone opened the lid for me. Quietly, I kissed my fingers and laid them on Ian’s cold chest as my little sister watched. She slowly did the same.

That evening I trembled in the white dress that in another life, I’d carefully chosen for my rehearsal dinner. As eight hundred wide-eyed people sat watching, I willed my legs to walk towards a stage, and spoke at Ian’s funeral. I’d spent a week staring at an ocean, mentally composing my little brother’s eulogy. I had everything and nothing to say.

Kellan and I were the first to arrive back home from the funeral. Night hung heavy, and sweet friends had left glowing candles lining the stairs leading up to my parent’s front door. I sat numbly on the yellow couch while Kellan rented a U-Haul to be picked up the next morning. And just like that, the very next day we found ourselves driving a truck to New York. A fresh mound of dirt reminded me that Ian was gone, and two rings on my finger reminded me that I was a wife.

I hear a lot of couples talk about how their wedding day was the happiest day of their lives. It’s a sweet sentiment, and I wish I could share it. My wedding day and every newlywed dream that I didn’t know I had shattered the moment that Ian stopped breathing. Our marriage began in the midst of crushing grief, the two so deeply intertwined that it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.

I am almost afraid to admit it out loud, but in the spirit of more authentic marriages in the world I want to tell you that more of my nights this yearJCP_3983 have ended in tears than laughter. Kellan and I recently mentioned to some friends that we were about to celebrate our one year anniversary, and they made a crack about the honeymoon phase almost being over. We looked at them as though they’d just sprouted horns and announced plans to summer on Pluto.

The honeymoon phase? Please explain. With visual aids and an outline, if possible.

Kellan and I promised each other for better or for worse in the midst of “for worse”. No girl makes wedding Pinterest boards devoted entirely to adorable seating charts thinking that will be her story, but it’s ours. I can no longer remember what I thought being a newlywed would be like before cancer. I simply know what it has been, and it’s been harder than I’d ever dreamed possible. We have slogged through the neck-deep mud of the death of my brother and the death of the people that we used to be before Kellan and I vowed to become something new together. Each painstaking new step has been painful, worthwhile work.

Over the past year, I have watched my husband honor his vow to love me no matter what on days when neither of us recognized who I was. With no one watching or applauding, Kellan has chosen to love me when the very bravest thing that I could do was get out of bed and stare blankly at our living room wall. He has chosen to love me when I dissolved over closet space [read: missing Ian] and when I couldn’t get off of the bathroom floor. He has chosen to love me on the days that I have been very, very angry about everything that I lost. And after one impossibly heart-wrenching year, I am quite certain of one thing: when Kellan Dickens looked me in the eyes on a Saturday in March and promised for better or for worse, he meant it. Even when it is exhausting and thankless and horribly unglamorous, the past year has taught me that my husband is going to wake up each new morning and make the choice to honor his vow.

Since the day that Ian died I have wrestled with both grief and marriage, and quite unexpectedly, they are teaching me the same simple thing: I need to do what my Mama always told me to and make good choices. In the midst of pain, I need to choose to believe that God is good. I must fight to cling to what my mind knows to be true when everything in my aching heart screams false. And in much the same way, I need to choose to love my husband on the days when it does not spring up naturally in me. Choosing truth is painfully simple and unromantic and often really, really hard—but there is no other way. My heart will not win every battle, but if I have consistently preached truth to myself my mind can win the war.

 

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Filed under God's faithfulness, Grief, Marriage, The love of my life.