The House Rules

I’ve been in Maine for a total of ten days and shoveled twice.  My back feels stronger already.

After the holidays and sending my husband back to DC, I drove up to my new home base in Portland.  Tom will be in the DC/central VA area for a few days before moving on to set up house in Honolulu, while I deal with the winter wonderland you see above.  For the moment, we are effectively homeless.  It’s kind of fun, living out of some duffel bags and a hiking backpack, but it would be more fun if he were here.  
That said, living with my cousin Mark is a hoot.  He’s a man of routine and structure, and while he has been incredibly generous about offering his space and a gracious host, he does have certain rules to follow.  Thus follows “The House Rules” according to Mark:
The House Rules
Subcategory 1: Preservation of Mark’s Morning Routine
Abstract: Mark wakes at 4am and works 12+ hour days.  Thus, his morning routine is sacred as it allows the rest of his day to flow smoothly.
Rule 1: The coffee maker is preprogrammed to his specifications.  I am not to touch it.  If I want coffee, he has an extra coffee maker in the basement.
Rule 2A: He eats 3 pieces of toast in the morning.  The type of bread he likes works out perfectly to three slices a day for a workweek.  Thus, I am to get my own bread if I want toast.  This brings us to… 
Rule 2B: The orange juice is also reserved for his breakfast, and if I want OJ I can buy my own.
Rule 3: Do not be in the shower between 4am and 5am, as that is when he wakes to get ready for the day.
Subcategory 2: Preservation of Energy
Abstract: Energy bills in Maine are HIGH, particularly because it is so f***ing cold.  Thus, keep bills down by conserving energy.  All of these are things I would have done anyway, but they were included in the breakdown.
Rule 1: Cold water is free; ergo, wash all laundry in cold water.
Rule 2: The thermostat is set at 65 degrees.  No higher.  No lower.  Cold?  Layer.  That’s why we have extra blankets.  (I’m glad I invested in extra long undies and thick socks.)
Rule 3: Lights are to be turned off immediately upon exiting a room.
Subcategory 3: Housekeeping
Abstract: He’s a VERY tidy dude.  I am really, really not.
Rule 1: Dishes go straight into the dishwasher.
Rule 2: The towel on the rod that is closest to the door is mine.  Towels that are put back on the rod are to be folded in thirds, or else face being accused of having been raised in a barn.
Rule 3: My closet is the coat closet next to the recliner; all things that need to be hung up are to be hung in there.
Rule 4: Get a suction-cup storage unit for the shower as to avoid having “loose bottles” in the tub area.
Rule 5: Shoes off at the door.  (See Rule 2, Barn Penalty for explanation.)
Rule 6: Do NOT block his truck in, and do not leave the front entryway into the duplex unlocked.
All of these are quite reasonable when you think about it; he’s allowed me into his home for a VERY long period of time, and he is a guy who needs alone time more than anyone I’ve ever met.  His world is orderly and structured to best fit his needs and as his house guest, it is on me to disrupt that routine as little as possible.
That said, I was kind of surprised that I would need my own coffee maker.

True Love

Discussing my sister’s pregnancy:

Tom: What’s the “For Dad” advice this week on What To Expect?
Me: Hmm…packing the bag for the hospital.  Oh, this is dumb: they suggest packing a deck of cards in case labor takes a long time.  If you whip out a deck of cards for me, I’m going to make you eat them.  
Tom: Oh, I wouldn’t do that.  I’d make sure you had your laptop.
Me: [pause] Ohhh…you know me so well.
Tom: I do.

Or, Why I Love Effexor

Dooce: Because I Couldn’t Say It On The Phone

I burst into tears reading this, because it’s so true, and written so much more eloquently than I could have managed.  A must-read for anyone who has been in therapy, ever considered therapy, or loves someone who needs therapy.
“I think many people are afraid that if they take medication or even agree to see a therapist that they are in some way admitting failure or defeat. Or they have been told by their boyfriend or their mother or their best friend that they should buck up and get over it, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Well then, let me be weak. Let me be a failure. Because being over here on this side, where I see and think clearly, where I’m happy to greet my child in the morning, where I can logically maneuver my way over tiny obstacles that would have previously been the end of the world, over here being a failure is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than the constant misery of suffering alone.”

Kite Song

I’ve been listening to this song on repeat for days, and I have no idea why…

Kite Song, Patty Griffin

“The Sunday after there was laughter in the air
Everybody had a kite
They were flying everywhere
And all the trouble went away
And it wasn’t just a dream
All the trouble went away
And it wasn’t just a dream

In the middle of the night
We try and try with all our mights
To light a little light down here
In the middle of the night
We dream of a million kites
Flying high above
The sadness and the fear

Little sister, just remember
As you wander through the blue
The little kite that you sent flying
On a sunny afternoon
Made of something light as nothing
Made of joy that matters too
How the little dreams we dream
Are all we can really do

In the middle of the night
The world turns with all of it’s might
A little diamond colored blue
In the middle of the night
We keep sending little kites
Until a little light gets through”

Love this verse…

Little sister, just remember
As you wander through the blue
The little kite that you sent flying
On a sunny afternoon
Made of something light as nothing
Made of joy that matters too
How the little dreams we dream
Are all we can really do


There is nothing quite so spiritually soothing as exorcising one’s possessions and packing them into cardboard boxes.  Moving, especially over a distance like Washington to Hawaii, is a wonderful excuse to cleanse the bookshelves and DVD towers and wardrobe.  It’s all well and good to toss a few books into a garbage bag for a cross-town move, but when the distance in question is 5000+ miles, do you want that MLA Standards Handbook from your husband’s freshman year of college following you to Honolulu like a bad smell?  No, you do not.  

On the other hand, packing is like a funky game of 3D Tetris.  You know you’re losing the game when you start yelling at your hardbound copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare for being fat and insolent.
Because Tom will be arriving in Hawaii well in advance of our household shipment and I will be spending two months in Maine, we actually get to live out the question “If you had five books to bring to a tropical island, what would you bring?”  Granted, we get to cheat a little because we won’t ever be more than a thirty-minute drive from a Borders, but it’s a fun exercise.  We also unearthed an old CD case or two and made a similar list of DVDs.  My winners for books:
The Alchemist
A Prayer for Owen Meany
The Stand
Job Hopper

The DVD list was longer and not as indicative of my tastes; Erika has a number of my favorites and I gave Tom custody of all three seasons of “Arrested Development.”  It did include Stranger Than Fiction, Pulp Fiction, Zoolander, and Animal House.

We are out of tape, so it’s time to give up for the night and open up some wine.  Tomorrow: photographs, framed photos, and the “cold weather” clothing.

Product Endorsement

For those times when you work an 8 hour day, go straight to the bar, miss the last Metro train home, decide to stay out, go to another bar, sleep on a friend’s couch, go to work the next day in yesterday’s outfit that smells of a bar in a state without a smoking ban, and then work another 8+ hours…Degree deodorant doesn’t need re-application.

Not that I endorse such behavior.  But, you know.  If you needed it to be there for you, it would be.  Just sayin’.  I tested it so you don’t have to.

I hate travel logistics.

Moving to Hawaii, some say, is moving to paradise. I shouldn’t complain, they say to me, since I’m going to be living in God’s own lagoon amongst the palm trees and hot surfers.

Those people have never had to plan an overseas move.

A Hawaiian move for civillians, for all intents and purposes, is all of the logistical challenge of a move overseas without the fun perks: no opportunity to shop at the exchange, no hope to trade up on the flailing dollar in a third-world economy, and all of the hassle of trying to get your car from Point A to Point B while getting ass-reamed by import/export sales tax. Milk costs something like $8 a gallon on Hawaii. Imagine paying that much for gas and you’ll appreciate the wonder of American agricultural subsidiaries.

Anyway, the car. Ohhh, the car. We have to arrange for it to be shipped from point A to point B, like I said. Point A, in this case, is Baltimore. Point B is Honolulu. Did I mention the office in charge of organizing said move, scheduled to happen before January 1, has NEVER HEARD OF US? That NO CARE WHATSOEVER has been taken with our move by the people in charge of coordinating the little details? You’ll excuse me while I take another drink.

It’s not that I am ungrateful to be moving to paradise, or for the opportunity to live in a world where few even get to visit. The real problem is that people whom I do not know, and who do not know me, are the ones in control of my car, my husband, and the rest of my life. Bureaucratic types are in charge of pulling the levers to get paperwork started; without said paperwork, we can’t even so much as FART in the direction of Hawaii, let alone ship a compact car. Forget about getting the oh-so-comfy couch that I’m currently splayed upon shipped; I’ll be relieved if Tom makes it there with a duffel full of basic clothing and toiletries. While I settle into my life in Portland, taking photography classes and tending to my brand-new nephew, I have no idea where my husband will live. If he’ll be happy. If he’ll have a car to get him to work. If he’ll have friends who can bring together a car pool to make his life easier. If he’ll get our shipment of furniture so he has a comfy chair to sit in when he writes to me. There are no answers to these “ifs.”

It fills me with awe and admiration that those in the Armed Services and the Foreign Service live EVERY DAY with this kind of uncertainty; they spend their days without even a hope of being able to answer the question “How is the government going to fuck up our plans today?” Because you know, I can’t answer that question. I have no idea what the next six months are going to bring to me and my little family of two.

All I know is where the final destination will take us: sometime in Spring 2008, we will be residents of the island of Oa’hu, Hawaii. Everything between then and now is anyone’s guess.


The community of Sharpsburg, MD commemorates the 20,000+ casualties of the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day on US soil, on the first weekend of December with candlelight. 

This is but ONE TINY SECTION of the whole field, which was immense and eerie and incredibly moving.  So much peaceful light in a place where so much blood soaked into the ground.  

Time marches on, and we are but tiny cogs in a greater machine.  It was nice to step back and see those who played a bigger role in the machine and gave their lives for what they believed to be the greater good.  Happy holiday season, all.