Category Archives: The daily grind

Remember When?

photo (20)

So, I don’t want to brag, but I hit the in-law jackpot.

Exhibit A: several months ago, my sweet in-laws emailed me to take us up on our offer [read: plea] for them to come visit us. Casually, as though this sort of thing happens every day, they asked if Kellan and I might be interested in them taking us to a Bed and Breakfast for the weekend.

Well. Twist my arm.

I screeched, and hollered the good news across our little apartment to my unimpressed husband, who could not for the life of him understand why we would drive half an hour to sleep in a strange bed when we had a perfectly good mattress laying on our apartment floor.

Calmly, I looked him dead in the eyes, and informed that handsome man that if he needed me that weekend, he could find me at the Bed and Breakfast.

The whole plan was flawless, until I had a minor break with reality upon the startling realization that our upcoming staycation meant that my mother in law was going to see my house.


Y’all. I have spent TWO Thanksgivings at Gina Dickens’ house, and have never once seen even the teensiest mess in her kitchen. I can’t so much as pour a bowl of CEREAL without wreaking havoc in my kitchen, and when I get through with Thanksgiving it looks like some sort of natural disaster struck around the stove and the Red Cross failed to respond. Her house is immaculate, she is the sweetest human being that I have ever met AND shephoto (18) has a file for everything in life.

[Let’s just talk about the “conversation” that Kellan and I had when he asked me why I didn’t have a file for our house hunting adventures. OH NO YOU DIDN’T.]

Long story short? My mother in law is perfection personified, and I will never manage to be quite like her. As I pictured her walking through my front door, I broke into a cold sweat because DEAR HEAVENS WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME THAT I DUSTED?!


Horrified at the prospect of my husband’s mother finding her first-born son living in squalor and filth, I armed myself with a can of pledge and made every faux-wooden surface in my house SHINE.

Friday night found me in my kitchen covered from head to toe in powdered sugar as I made key lime pie, grinding my teeth to bloody stumps because KELLAN YOU CAN’T USE THAT BATHROOM. I may or may not have offered my saintly husband an extensive lecture on proper towel-folding etiquette, which I’m certain that he appreciated. Nevertheless, he scrubbed and folded and consoled like a champ, all the while knowing that his parents could care less whether or not our apartment is dusted.

But still. You marry a Mama’s little boy, and you kind of want her to know that you’re not going to kill him.

At least not on purpose.

photo (21)Of course, given that as we’ve already covered she is the SWEETEST HUMAN ON THE PLANET, Gina waltzed in on Saturday morning armed with a pumpkin candle and fall décor, and both she and Russ positively gushed over how very beautiful everything was.

Even our mattress on the floor.

And I love them forever for it.

After lunch [during which I served the aforementioned key lime pie garnished with just a SMIDGE of my grated thumb], the four of us took off for the most darling B&B of all time. We spent the weekend eating incredible food, wandering around an adorable historic town, and picking my real-estate savvy Father in law’s brain on what sort of house we should buy. Fall is out in splendid force in upstate New York, and the burned oranges and golden reds lacing the trees make it look like the world is on fire. We spent hours on the sweetest wraparound porch drinking wine and watching the sun set, and I found myself wishing that I could bottle it all up and store it forever. I just knew that one day, years from now, the four of us would find ourselves sitting around a kitchen table somewhere “remembering when”. You don’t always know when something is going to become a “remember when”, but somehow I knew this (17)

I’m so grateful for “remember when” moments, and for extravagantly generous parents-in-law that treat me just like another daughter.

Also, I am very confused as to why pancakes and eggs were not waiting for me when I got out of bed this morning…


Filed under Family, My favorite people, The daily grind


Enter July, stage right.

Clearly, I found Kellan’s car and made it back to Albany. I considered telling you how it was that I found myself wearing only one shoe, aimlessly wandering parking garages at LaGuardia at 11:30 at night. The journey back to my apartment took approximately the same amount of time it took the Ingalls family to forge their way across the Midwestern plains as they fought off Indians, rabid wolves and starvation. [I was forced to take my life into my hands and stop at a gas station for grossly overpriced trail mix somewhere around 2:15 AM.] I THOUGHT about telling you that story, but let’s be honest. It’s too soon.

Portland was fantastic, but I left the city with the lingering, gnawing suspicion that I am not enough of an individual. I think THEY had something to do with it:


When I was a little girl, my little brother Stephen desperately wanted to learn how to play the accordion. Given that he ALSO wanted to be a “Cuckoo bird when I grows up” and live in the top bunk of his bunk bed with his wife and three children, I generally thought the whole idea was imbecilic. OH HOW WRONG I WAS. Have you ever seen anything so cool in your life?! Never have I ever so desperately wanted dreadlocks and a tattoo. Alas, I was the girl in a cardigan and pearls, which turns out to be the Portland equivalent of parading yourself naked down Main Street. How. Embarrassing.

One of the highlights of my time in Oregon was not one, but TWO trips to a place called VooDoo Doughnuts.

photo(9)Oh. My. Stars. Y’all, I don’t even LIKE doughnuts. Or at least, I thought I didn’t. But cover one in oreos and give it a dirty name, and apparently I’m sold! I wouldn’t read the menu out loud to my Daddy, but given my propensity to enjoy anything that bleeds into inappropriate, I rather loved their creativity.

Sadly, the worst thing about a week in Portland was missing Kellan’s birthday.


We’ve been married for four months as of tomorrow, as thus far our only “family rule” has been this: Always have the ingredients for chocolate pie on hand. Laugh it up, but that pie is SO GOOD that if it asked me to run away with it, I wouldn’t even stop to grab my chapstick and I go NOWHERE without my chapstick. [Feel free to join me on my chocolate pie revolution. One decadent bite and you will come crawling back full of tears and wild promises to rename your firstborn after me.] Late last night, Kellan and I came up with family rule number two: Go big for birthdays. In the same place. This may or may not have had something to do with my delivery of a detailed dissertation about my ardent belief that the world should stop spinning for birthdays. Breakfast in bed, champagne [because without a mimosa, breakfast in bed is nothing more than a mess], oversized balloons, extravagant gifts, and possibly an elephant to cart you around until your evening surprise party. I’m talking the WORKS. Actually GOING to work? NOT WHEN YOU’RE TURNING 28! At least, not without a show choir to back me up as I belt”Wind Beneath my Wings” while you grab your briefcase and walk out the door.

He hasn’t quite wrapped his mind around it yet, but he’s learning.

Y’all have a good Monday!


Filed under My favorite people, The daily grind

Visits to the Edge.

DSC_0379I have BIG news!

No, I’m not pregnant. I think my least favorite part about marriage might be that every single time I call a friend with something earth shattering to announce, [and in my world, there are often earth shattering things to announce. I live in extremes and occasionally dabble in the art of exaggeration.], I’m met with an excited screech of, “YOU’RE PREGNANT!!!”

No, but thank you for that, because I’ve been meaning to visit the edge more often. Like most newlyweds, I live in fear of accidentally creating a new life and never sleeping ever again while my Mother laughs maniacally in the background because PAYBACK. The very idea makes me want to throw my coffee pot through a window, but then I remember coffee. And I’m not pregnant so I can drink myself into a caffeinated stupor whenever my heart desires! Cheers to that.

But back to my BIG NEWS! Y’all. Today is the day that our couch is being delivered!

Gone are the days of forced snuggling as we shared our one, black, hand-me-down recliner. [Okay, so those days have been kind of sweet.] We are about to be real adults with real furniture! [Our mattress is still on the floor, but hey, baby steps.]

Life at the Dickens’ just got fancy. Unfortunately, my better half won’t be here to enjoy it, because he left yesterday on a two week business trip.

TWO. WEEKS. He’s even going to be gone for his birthday, which my birthday loving self could just ugly-cry about. And maybe did, just a teensy bit.

The trip popped up rather suddenly, which sent us into a tailspin as we attempted to figure out what I ought to do. Should I brave it out and stay in New York? I could, but there was no guarantee that Kellan wouldn’t return home to find me buried under a pile of resumes, rocking back and forth and muttering to myself in the guest room. Should I click my heels three times and escape home to North Carolina? It was an alluring possibility, but there is a limit to how much you can pop up at home before people start wondering if you ever left at all, and I am rapidly approaching that threshold. In the midst of debating the pros and cons of our limited options, on a whim we decided to look up tickets to Portland.

Portland, where Christy lives. Those of you that have been following this blog since the beginning know that Christy is a BIG DEAL. We were roommates in college with approximately zero things in common, and somehow we hit it off so well that we decided to move to Africa together after we graduated. And if you think there is something that will bond you for life faster than guarding the squatty potty door while being stared down by a thousand curious Muslim men as the OTHER white girl hollers I THINK I JUST PEED MYSELF from inside, you’ve got another thing coming.

I adore her. And I think God knew that I needed some time to sprawl out with my best friend and eat copious amounts of chocolate while moaning about how very strange living with a boy is, because United Airlines was practically giving away tickets to Portland. They were even cheaper than getting to Raleigh, and after approximately four seconds of serious contemplation and debating how much Ramen we would have to eat and plasma we would have to sell, Kellan and I were sold. It’s a small miracle that I even had the presence of mind to call Christy and ask if I could come—not that she would have cared! [Hallelujah for friends like that.]

And so tomorrow morning, I will leave my new couch and journey out west for a week to earthy, crunchy-granola tree-hugging Portland, where I think we can all agree after yesterday that I will fit in just beautifully. In other news, if someone doesn’t get arrested, I will be both surprised and disappointed.


Filed under God's faithfulness, My favorite people, The daily grind, Then I found $5.00


JCP_9355Friday night found Kellan and I at an office happy hour.

His office, clearly. Not mine. My office currently consists of the “most called” list in my cell phone and the scrumptious little elderly Asian man that occasionally works out beside me at the gym. He doesn’t speak of lick of English, but he and the juxtaposition of his formidable pot belly with his tiny chicken legs are just darling. We don’t need words, my chicken-legged Asian buddy and I. We just do our treadmill thing with the occasional appreciative nod in the other’s direction that says, “Yeah, YOU. Get on with your bad self. You are OWNING that treadmill.” His steady, shuffling gait makes paint drying look thrilling by comparison, but the whole ordeal leaves me feeling very athletic indeed and for that I am forever grateful.

Back to the point. Kellan works in renewable energy, which means that I spend the vast majority of my time around his coworkers in a state of complete and utter PANIC, desperately trying to avoid calling wind turbines “wind mills” [trust me, not a faux pas you want to make in this crowd] and praying to the baby Jesus that I look like someone that recycles and composts and wears birkenstocks. In real life, the down and dirty truth is that every now and again I just don’t feel like separating my trash. And honestly, I find the idea of keeping a box of worms and dirt and rotting food on my back porch repulsive, and I believe that if shoes could speak, birkenstocks would scream I GIVE UP.

I do, however, feel very strongly about buying organic. As long as your definition of “organic” includes dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and nutella. So at least I had that.

I am what I am, and I am NOT the earthy, crunchy granola, tree hugging, save the aardvark, bring-your-own-bag-to-the-grocery-store engineer that I ought to be to truly fit in with Kellan’s crowd. It’s not that I have something against the environment, it’s just that my cute little reusable bags still have the tags on them. I have unbelievably wonderful intentions, [I even registered for cloth napkins when we got married! Sustainable AND they go with my color scheme.] …it’s just that my addled brain turns to non-organic swiss cheese come grocery store time. I’m too busy dreading the look of disdain I inevitably receive when YES I would like my milk in a bag, and come to think of it would you be a dear and double it up for just in case purposes?

Just, whatever. To all of my SUV driving, pesticide-eating, only sometimes recycling compatriots: I salute you. You are my people. And goodness, I wish you’d been there on Friday night.

Attempting not to humiliate myself at cocktail hour was vaguely reminiscent of the American lit class that I took my senior year of college. It was a graduate level course at UNC that I slipped into by sheer luck, and I was positively over the moon because CREDIT FOR STUDYING THE WRITTEN WORD. In a sea of pierced, thrifted, dreaded, I-know-those-glasses-aren’t-prescription grad students who seemed to feel every letter of every word with agonizing, painstaking effort, there I was on the front row. The cheerful, preppy brunette stuck out like a bottle of Budweiser next to a 1936 French merlot. [Which I was informed that semester, was a very good year.] I was Elle Woods stepping into her first class at Harvard, and I was simply too excited to waste precious moments being daunted.

Under the leadership of a masterful professor who loved his job more than life itself, we plunged wholeheartedly into the greats. Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Whitman, Hemmingway—my heart was joyfully swept up into every beautiful story. Fascinating class discussions were punctuated by regular enthusiastic arguments over obscure literary points of contention, and I quickly made friends as my frowning hipster classmates discovered that even though I bathed and shaved my legs with some regularity, I could pontificate about Thoreau with every ounce of passion as our androgynous plaid-wearing friend in the back left corner.

We were buddies, the hipsters and I. That is, until Melville.

Herman Melville. Forget Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, when I attempt to scare my children into behaving one day, Melville will surely be my villain of choice. My classmates and I were deep in the throes of analyzing Moby Dick.  Our hearts had set sail on the great ship Pequod with Ishmael, and we were captivated. Lively discussions of class and societal status,  Melville’s use of Shakespearean literary devices and Captain Ahab’s peculiar bent on revenge made fifty minute class periods fly by with heartbreaking speed. It was all going just swimmingly, until one tragic Wednesday afternoon.

I remember it like it happened yesterday. [And goodness knows, I’ve done my very best to forget.] We were in the throes of a debate, and I was espousing the virtues of American Romanticism as displayed in Melville’s writing with all of the confidence of someone that had invented the internet. Or fire. The tight-panted hipsters and their non-prescription glasses were nodding vehemently as animated gestures reinforced my supremely eloquent points, and I found myself half expecting an “amen” for the gift of wisdom that I was so graciously bestowing on my lucky classmates. I think I would have gotten one too, up until it happened.

In the throes of an excited point and practically standing on my chair with gusto that would have made Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” look like he was placing a tired order for a double cheeseburger, with every eye in the classroom on me I ended my impassioned soliloquy with a self-satisfied, “Which is WHY Melville wrote Free Willy in the FIRST place!”

Drop mic.

…I could tell in a heartbeat that something was terribly, terribly wrong. And all of the sudden, I realized.

Free. Willy. Free. Willy. FREE WILLY!

Never before, has silence been so deafening.

In one humiliating, blushing, crawl-under-my-chair-is-it-too-late-to-drop-this-class instant, I DIED A THOUSAND DEATHS. Free Willy. That was the wrong freaking whale. Like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, I was a beer bottle again. We all erupted into hyperventilating laughter, but you can take it from me that you just don’t come back from that one. Not even if you buy a pair of fake glasses and start wearing flannel. Oh no, the hipsters are not so forgiving. Not in that class.

You’ll be happy to know that on Friday night, I didn’t call Wind Turbines “Wind Mills” one single time.

Nor did I attempt to discuss Moby Dick.

Who will henceforth be known as the great-white-sperm-whale-who-must-not-be-named.

Goodbye forever.


Filed under The daily grind, Then I found $5.00

These Streets Will Make you Feel Brand New?

photo(6)Well, yesterday was not a winner.

It all started when Facebook decided to change my sidebar ads from cute little bridesmaids dresses and elegant flower arrangements to SPERM FERTILITY HOME TESTS. I kid you not. I hadn’t the foggiest idea there even WAS such a thing until my baffled eyes were bugging out of my head as I stared at my computer screen in disbelief. By the end of the day there were two uncomfortably pregnant bellies prominently displayed in advertisements for terrifying contraptions that I’ve never even heard of, and one ad touting the sustainable value of cloth diapering. Which was perfect, really, because if there’s one thing I’m excited about, it’s the prospect of shaking my hypothetical baby’s turds into my washing machine.

I’d like to thank Facebook for encouraging me to produce a human life. Clearly, I am very ready.

I had tea with a new friend that I met through this blog [can I just say how much I truly enjoy getting to talk to you? It’s one of the very best things about writing.], and the excuse to get out of my yoga pants was enough to make me want to burst into song. Alas, it was in a new part of town [granted, all of Albany is a “new part of town” to me], and as I got in my car to leave I hadn’t the foggiest idea where I was.

Given that I am going for wife of the year, [or, more realistically, let’s-still-be-married-by-our-one-year-anniversary], I decided to run to the grocery store to pick up orange juice for my sweet husband, who has been feeling a bit under the weather. I punched “Hannaford” [our local grocery chain] into Fancy [my GPS for those of you that are new around here], and my little blue bug and I sped off into the sunset.

…unfortunately, half an hour later, I was still driving aimlessly through the GHETTO, wondering what on earth I’d ever done to Fancy to make her quit on me. For an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris, I could not have told you where I was or how to get back to my apartment. In fact, for all I knew I was IN Paris. I felt exactly like the characters on Lost when the polar bears showed up on the island and everybody was all like WHAT?! Yes. That.

As I slowly, wonderingly attempted to find my way, every car that knew exactly where they were headed decided to let the confused little brunette in the bug know precisely what they thought of her and her North Carolina plates. DEATH TO THE OUTSIDER. An angry chorus of honking followed me down every suspicious looking street, and while plenty of hands were thrown out of car windows, I’m almost certain they weren’t trying to wave hello. If a semi truck full of enraged, bipolar piglets had suddenly toppled in median and released a thousand vengeful, squirming baby pigs into the road, I don’t think it would have been any more chaotic.

I felt like giving the whole stupid state a giant spanking, and then passing out copies of Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette and sending the sorry lot of them to Finishing School. Or Guantanamo. Nine lifetimes later, I finally stumbled onto a grocery store by happenstance and was so terribly rattled by the whole miserable ordeal that a two dollar and thirty-nine cent bag of trail mix became my emotional impulse purchase for the day. Given my unfortunate history of over-sharing with cashiers and customs agents, the poor bag boy got an earful when he asked me how I was doing while he attempted to bag my trail mix with the milk and hand soap. The barely contained, nuclear glare that I shot him was something akin to what I imagine the Chernobyl reactor looked like just before it exploded. GIVE. ME. THAT. TRAIL. MIX. RIGHT. NOW.

The bag boy escaped with a mild decapitation, and I found myself sitting alone in the parking lot munching on peanuts and raisins and off-brand M&M’s [HELP me, Rhonda!], growing more indignant with each passing car. New Yorkers are the devil. I hate this dumb state and now I’m going to die in this parking lot. These people are so mean they’ll probably just step over my body on their way to the cereal aisle. AND THIS TRAIL MIX SUCKS. 

Insult to injury, friends.

I truly don’t know how it happened, but after more of the aforementioned New York road charm, somehow Fancy and I made it home again. I think she was concerned about what would happen to my butt if I kept emotionally eating trail mix in the parking lot. I stumbled into the living room HOURS later than planned, and promptly collapsed spread eagle on the dark living room floor. Which is where Kellan found me when he got home from work half an hour later, curled up in the fetal position moaning “I caaaaaan’t.”

In retrospect, I believe this had something to do both with living in New York, and with making dinner. I told him in no uncertain terms that if he was hoping for scrambled eggs and cheap trail mix IT WAS HIS LUCKY DAY. As long as he scrambled the eggs.

He grinned, pulled me off the floor, and took me to Five Guys for a burger because everybody knows you can’t emotionally eat an egg. As my blood sugar rose back up, the world became a little brighter.

New York, I don’t hate you. And I’m a little bit sorry I called you the devil. But maybe we could work on our please and thank yous?


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

No Doughnut Left Behind.

I left for the airport last night with enough spare time to herd a pack of water buffalo across the great state of Montana and STILL make it back to the Albany International Airport in time for my flight. This, thanks to my neurotic compulsion to arrive a thousand years early to everything in life. I can’t even help it.

I breezed through security, whispered a rather forlorn not today  to the glazed doughnut holes desperately calling my name from the Dunkin doughnuts display case, and immediately headed to my favorite Albany Airport panini stand on account of my highly irrational but very real fear of being hungry. I was going to be on an airplane for fifty whole minutes, and woman cannot live on miniscule packages of peanuts alone! We’ve already discussed my tendency, when Kellan and I are about to travel, to simply let the food in our fridge dwindle down to nothing like some sort of sad little snowman under a dirty heat lamp. True to form, I had been existing on puddles of scrambled eggs and some wilted spinach for a solid 48 hours-an experiment that I have repeated so frequently and consistently that I ought to apply for government funding. Crazy eyes and all, when I cleared the body scanner and collected my purse it was TURKEY AVACADO CHIPOTLE PANINI YES PLEASE. Walking up to the panini stand, I was greeted by my favorite, slighty awkward blonde-haired panni-stand worker buddy.

It was in that moment that I experienced a slight internal crisis, because DEAR GOODNESS HOW MUCH AM I HERE IF I KNOW THE PANNINI STAND GUY? Is this one of those moments that’s going to spring to mind later when they ask Kellan if there were any signs?

It is what it is. I’m just living my truth.

Happily, after two hours [I know. I know.] of sitting in an eerily empty airport listening to elevator music and attempting to muddle through A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, I discovered that my Southwest flight had only sixteen passengers on a plane that could have held 147.

And everybody said amen. Of course, it did make the “A group boarding status” that I’d been so proud of slightly less noteworthy, but in the spirit of not sharing my armrest I got over it.

Let’s go back to my plane read. Can we talk about A Casual Vacancy for a hot second? I ordered it because my love for the Harry Potter series knows no bounds. If a wizard  appeared at my front door and offered me half a chance to slip through track 9 and ¾ and dash off to Hogwarts on the condition that I left immediately, Kellan wouldn’t find so much as a note on the kitchen counter when he got home from work that night. [Sorry, honey.] Every word of every book is compelling and enchanting and before you know what’s happened, the line between real and magic is impossibly blurred and Harry and the gang leap to life off of hastily turned pages. I may have cried into my dirty pillow in Africa when I finished the last book.

Of course, that may have had something to do with the suddenly unavoidable, brutal realization that I was living in Africa and not at Hogwarts, as I’d been blissfully pretending.

I understood that A Casual Vacancy wouldn’t be Harry Potter, but if J.K. Rowling had published a book of Essays on the Non Nutritionally Redeeming Nature of Pancakes, I would have paid cash money for it without batting an eye. She’s brilliant. Sadly, I wasn’t prepared for the…well, uncomfortably adult nature of her latest number. I find that reading it leaves me feeling as though I’d just raided the aforementioned Dunkin doughnuts case and left no doughnut hole behind. The language, [sweet Harry Potter never once said the F word!], the violent sex, the drug use, the abuse…I find myself grimacing and skipping pages at a time, hoping against hope that Gandalf will show up and redeem the whole, sorry mess. [Thus far it’s not looking promising.] Against human reason, I soldier on, miserably slogging through each forced, broken sentence because I need some semblance of closure with the whole unfortunate ordeal.

Also, it’s a hardback.

Have any of you read it? I could really use a support group right about now…

Happy Friday, friends!

–Editors note: YES, I am aware that Gandalf never made an appearance in Harry Potter. :) Though if he had, He-who-shall-not-be-named wouldn’t have even posed a threat…


Filed under The daily grind, Then I found $5.00

Nothing Cute About It.

I’d just love to tell you about the past couple of days. Kellan and I had our very first Albany visitors and it was bliss. We recently decided to rank our friends and family based on who has/has not come to visit us, so currently Jess and Colin are our hands-down favorite people in the whole-wide-world. You’ve all been put on notice!

Alas, a visit to our friendly neighborhood urgent care  center left me with an “acute bronchitis” diagnosis—and let me tell you, there is nothing cute about it. I have more drugs in me than a Rite Aid, and probably should not have been left alone with my laptop in the first place.

The stories can wait. As can showering and getting out of bed.

Have yourself a merry little Tuesday–I’ll see you tomorrow!

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Filed under The daily grind