Monthly Archives: August 2009

On Holiday

I am in Europe this week and next, and am taking a two-week break from Words Become One.  I have written every Wednesday since WBO launched on May 15, so it’s time to travel and enjoy the fruits of my labor — specifically grapes, specifically Cabernet Sauvignon. 

I know we will miss each other, faithful readers, but I also know this trip will provide fabulously fresh, foreign material ready to debut on September 9.

Arrivederci!

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Arrivederci

Today I leave for Europe for two weeks, and this is significant not just because it’s insanely awesome, but also because it’s awesomely insane.  Let me tell you why.

Three years ago, in the summer of 2006, I had coffee with a friend the day before I left with my family to go on a cruise in the Mediterranean.  Now, in the summer of 2009, I am married to that friend, and he is joining my family on a cruise in the Mediterranean.

When I realize things like this, when I actually stop and process that this is my reality, I only have one thought:  God is good.

At small group last week, Annie reminded me that this is an “Oprah full-circle moment” for me and Mike.  I replied, “Isn’t that so typical of our God?  He does spectacular things and then puts it right on your plate so you can’t ignore the work He has done.”

I like to play a little freak-myself-out game called, “What If Someone Told Me?”  In this case, what if during coffee with Mike someone told us that a year and a half later we’d be married?  What if while exploring Rome someone told me that three years later my husband would be staring at the Trevi Fountain with me?  And that husband would be Mike Reph?

What if?  I’ll tell you what if.  It would have made me completely slack-jawed in disbelief followed by a crack-addict-like binge of yelling and running around the fountain, freaking out entirely.  In a good way.

It’s nice I didn’t know.  That would not have been good for American tourism abroad.

Actually, if I had known that the coffee with Mike would prove to be a catalyst for intense reflection on life/singlehood/marriage/relationships, I might have seen that this would naturally lead to us being together.  I might have just turned to him, in a knowing way, and said “Arrivederci,” which in Italian means “until we meet again.”

Let’s back up.  A couple of months before that coffee, Mike told me he had feelings for me.  I was dating someone else, so I turned him away.  When I was honest with myself, I knew that I adored Mike…but he wasn’t yet the man he could be.  And I didn’t want less than his best.

But at our coffee date he had just returned from traveling through Costa Rica and Nicaragua, where his sister and brother-in-law were missionaries.  It sounds crazy, but after that trip he was a different man.  He was settled in who he was, who he knew God to be, and what he wanted in life.  And this sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s completely true and inexplicable:  my hands shook and my heart raced for 45 straight minutes — but I didn’t know why.

The next day on my way to Rome I journaled and journaled about what could have made me physically react so strongly.  I knew something was up, something had shifted, and things weren’t going to be the same when I returned.

Throughout the trip I realized my reaction had less to do with Mike than it did my own commitment-phobia.  I was freaked out because I knew this was someone I could be serious about, and the prospect was threatening to my “strong and single” self.  As I processed this through, I started to see how much could be gained by stepping into this adventure; the wild journey of walking the mountainous roads of relationship with a man.

I didn’t return to the states ready for a ring; it wasn’t that dramatic.  There was no sudden need to be someone’s girlfriend.  The progress was that I was no longer afraid of it.  As minor as that sounds, if you knew me then, you would have thought I’d had a brain transplant while in the south of France.

Apparently, in my absence, God had been working the same magic on Mike, because after my return when we saw each other at a funeral, he claims that he saw me across the room and knew beyond any doubt that he would marry me.  It was as if the entire world stopped and he was bolted to the floor.  He was that certain.

In my life, what could be more awesomely insane?  Our story is unexpected and finely-woven and as loud as a bandstand, all at once.

Last week we were in Kirkland running some errands, and Mike took me to the same Starbucks where we had that fateful coffee date.  He wanted to acknowledge that surprisingly important piece of the puzzle.

It feels like that date was decades ago, and yet I can recall the expression on his face as we hugged goodbye and he told me to have a great trip.

Arrivederci.

Until we meet again.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

Single Engine

Next month marks the one-year anniversary of an experiment Mike and I like to call “What would life be like with only one car?”  About nine months into our marriage, we did an assessment of expenses and realized we could save so much cash by just eliminating one car:  gas, insurance, maintenance.  So we put his 2000 Volvo on Craigslist and it sold a day later.

Gulp.  We thought surely it would take several rounds of postings and negotiations to find someone to buy it, so we’d have plenty of time to get used to the idea of being stranded with my darling 2007 Mazda 3 (I call her Ella).  Instead we had two buyers in a bidding war just a day after the ad posted (don’t get me wrong, bidding wars are good when you’re the benefactor).

The buyer drove away after assuring us he would give it a good home, with big fields for it to run around in and lots of children to play with; and with that, we were a single car family.

We had that panicked sellers-remorse almost immediately — what will we DO when we have alternate plans? we shrieked.  How are we supposed to go out to lunch separately at work?  People are going to think we’re NUTS.

And they did.  When we told people (and still to this day) that we only have one car, they looked at us like we didn’t have access to running water or electricity.  But how do you DO it?  they wonder.  It’s simple.

We live in Eastlake, in downtown Seattle.  Mike works in Bellevue, so he drops himself off at work with me beside him, and tra-la-la I hop in the driver’s seat and take myself to work in Redmond.  I have the car all day (this comes with the thrilling bonus of having to run all our errands at lunch since “I have the car”), and then I pick him up on my way home and we speed across 520 in the carpool lane.  Genius!

Or is it?  You can see how this can’t be working perfectly all the time.  Yes, we negotiate on who gets the car and who bums a ride with a friend when we have conflicting plans.  But what about when it’s REALLY not working?

When it’s really not working is when you see Abby standing alone in the Redmond Town Center mall waiting for Mike to finish his golf game.  Yes, people, golf is a five-hour game.  Hmm, what are my life-lines, Regis?  I could phone a friend, see a movie, shop til I drop…yawn.

But that’s half the point.  This one-car situation involves sacrifice.  It’s not always pretty (Mike: “where ARE you, I’ve been standing outside for 15 minutes!”) and we don’t always do it joyfully (cut to the conversation where we sound like brother and sister fighting over the car in high school) — but we do it.  We do it every day.  And little by little as our year has passed we’ve learned a lot about what we can make work.

Being a part of the Millennial generation comes with its own sense of entitlement.   We are babies of an economic boom era; life hasn’t been rough.  So when you’re a DINK riding the urban wave, you think you deserve to have the perfect board.

But that doesn’t mean you should.  At least, not in our case.

Once we had the gaping hole of missing a car, we could see that we had set our quality of life on how convenient we could make the day-to-day.  It’s unthinkable for most people I know to miss an event because of transportation issues.  For us, it’s not frequent, but it is a reality.  We see now how our situation forces us to communicate, to coordinate, and to give where we normally get.

It’s funny; for all of the annoyances and frustrations a single-car life can bring, it’s also pleasantly simple.  It’s one less thing to worry about.  And, as hammy as it sounds, when we eventually buy another car, I’ll miss that extra hour a day with Mike in this one.

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A Real Slice

I am about to reveal what is easily one of the most mortifying moments of my adult life (we don’t have time to go into moments of my childhood.  That would take pages, books, endless inches of text).

I was living in my parents home during my sophomore year of college.  Scratch that.  I was living in my parents home precisely because I had just dropped out of my sophomore year of college (right now, in bewilderment, some of you are clicking on the “About Abby” tab to make sure you’re reading about the right Abby…but again, we don’t have the time for that adventure).  One of my best friends was visiting and we were prepping for a night on the town, and we were running late.  Impossibly late.  Get your shoes on your feet and MOVE kind of late.

Of course I hadn’t even showered yet, so I certainly wasn’t ready for shoes.  My friend sternly told me I had exactly two minutes to shower and get dressed or she would walk out the door without me.

“Not a problem,” I said breezily.  “I’m not one of those people who needs twenty minutes in the shower.”

I hopped into the shower while she paced outside the door, applying and reapplying her lip gloss.  I shampooed madly, scrubbed myself clean and was about to exit the shower and do the I-told-you-so dance to my friend when I realized what I would be wearing that night.  A skirt.  And a skirt only means one thing: the shaving of legs.  UGH.

This was going to take FOREVER and we were going to hit traffic and I just didn’t have time and I hate doing it.  But I had to; there is nothing good to say about female legs that haven’t seen a razor in several days.

It’s moments like these when I wonder how much time I would have saved by just doing it, rather than having a Hannity and Colmes-like debate with myself on the time it takes to shave versus the benefit of shaving.

So I grabbed the only razor in the shower, one that looks like the kind hotels provide for free:  orange and white, a single pathetic blade, no sign at all that it will grace my legs smoothly.  At least, being in the wrapper, it had never been used (thanks Mom!).

Naturally there wasn’t any shaving cream, just a bar of Dove and my hands to create the lather.  I started shaving as fast as possible, working that soap and blade like they were born for each other.  In order to keep my legs out of the stream of water from the shower head, I faced away from the faucet and put my leg on the side of the tub.  I slid the razor up my lathered leg, then held the razor behind my back to rinse it before the next swipe.  Things were going brilliantly — I was making good time.

All of a sudden, as I whipped my razor from my leg to behind my back, I felt a stab of stinging pain run up my backside.  “What in the world?” I thought.  Did something just BITE me?

I quickly stood up and strained to twist myself so I could see my back, and just as I turned my head I saw gushes of blood running down my leg.

I sliced my butt with the razor.

A huge, unbelievable four-inch gash was stamped across my butt cheek.  I was in shock, staring at the most grotesque example of poor skill ever exhibited in the shower.

I grabbed my cheek with one hand and tried to reach for a towel but I couldn’t go anywhere without blood dripping down my leg.  I couldn’t turn off the faucet, dry myself, and continually hold my butt cheek all at the same time.  They don’t teach this in Home Ec.

I had no choice.  What else could I do?  I had to call for backup.

In a state of sheer humiliation that I knew could only worsen, I yelled for my friend to get herself in the bathroom.  She opened the door and said, “What are you doing?  We need to GO.  Get dressed!”

And then she realized I was standing in front of her completely nude, one hand reaching for a towel and one hand holding my rear.

“I cut myself shaving my legs!” I cried.  “But I didn’t cut my leg…I cut my tuchis!”  Using Yiddish vocabulary always makes painful situations funnier, I apparently decided.  I could barely finish my sentence before shaking with laughter.

“What were you doing shaving your ass!?” she yelled.  Then I moved my hand and she saw the gash and screamed, and called for my mom.  This was going from bad to worse.

Now I had both of them standing next to stark naked me, laughing uncontrollably and trying to find a bandage big enough for this laceration.

“Oh my gosh,” my clever friend said.  “Aren’t you so em-BARE-ASSED?”   Cute, my friend, very cute.

Few times in your life do you ever imagine that you will have your friend holding your butt cheek while your mother applies a bandage.  Maybe when you’re four.  Maybe when you’re in a coma.  But most definitely not when you’re 20 years old.

At least it only left a scar in my mind, which I much prefer to a scar on my behind.

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