Category Archives: AwkWORD (Humor)

A Little Tangle with the Law

I got a speeding ticket a few weeks ago.

I was driving near our home on a Wednesday morning, heading to the grocery store with the babies.  We never, ever run errands in the morning because it messes with their first nap, but I had plans later in the day so I decided to be ultra-efficient.  I was also doing something we never do: I was headed to the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market.  I thought: I’m a stay-at-home-mom on a single income.  This is a smart-savvy-savings ninja move that moms everywhere have discovered before me.  Look at me go!

And then a cop stepped into the road and waved me over.

I was completely bewildered.  I was not speeding.  What the?

“Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No, officer, I genuinely don’t.”

He showed me the read on his radar gun: 35 miles per hour.

“Yes, but…this is a 35 zone,” I replied, still baffled.

“Yes it is,” he answered.  “But it’s 9:15 on a school day.”

A tiny brain bomb exploded.

“I…I had no idea.  I’m so sorry.  I didn’t know…” I stammered pathetically.  I glanced in my rearview mirror looking for the twins to back me up, or cry at least.  Isn’t this what babies are for in a pinch?

He walked away and promptly wrote me a ticket.  My giant Precious Moments eyes did nothing to garner a sympathetic let-off.  I should’ve worn more makeup.  Well, I should’ve worn makeup.

He handed me the ticket, I rolled up my window and promptly burst into tears.  I felt royally ripped off, also like a fool, and worse, I glanced down at the ticket to see a colossal $271 staring back at me and cried even harder.  The brutal irony was not lost on me of getting hit with a nearly $300 fine on my way to save nickels and dimes.

Naturally, I decided to check the little box for “mitigation hearing” so I could hopefully lower the fine.

Three weeks later I packed the kids in the car and drove across town for my hearing.  More than a few people said I was insane to bring them; I said I’d be insane not to.  They failed me in front of the cop but I was confident they’d do much better in front of a judge.  This was nothing if not parenting at its finest.

We rolled through the door in our locomotive of a stroller, causing the security guards to react with such glee I knew their jobs involved slower policing than Mayberry.  We made it through the metal detector and I got a full body wanding, just for good measure.  The security guards made all kinds of exclamations about how I got around with that thing, and how full my hands must be, and how it’s a wonder I’m out of the house at all.  I smiled and faked laughed as they tried to escort me down the hall to my courtroom.  I told them I was fine, and they just shook their heads and chided each other about this wild twin mom in their midst.

I sat in the back row of the courtroom and quietly talked to the babies and gave them the toys I had packed.  There were only five or six other people (defendants?) in the room, and it was so, so quiet.  Every squeak the twins made sounded like a holler through a bullhorn.

Suddenly the security guard walked in the door at the back of the room and started talking to the judicial assistant.  I paid no attention until I realized they were talking about me.

“Can you imagine?  Two at once?  Boy oh boy you’d never sleep!”

“I have two five years apart and it was so exhausting.”

“She said it’s a boy and a girl!”

“Well I’d be done. I wish that had been me I would’ve only had to be pregnant one time.”

They were speaking so loudly it became awkward for me not to respond.  Again I fake-laughed good-naturedly, and they started to openly include me in the conversation.  In front of the defendants.

“How old are they?  Is it hard?  Oh my gosh!”

I answered and then occupied myself with Henry who was starting to fuss.  Too soon, Hank!  I need you to cry when Her Honor is here!

Finally, ten minutes late (which is about thirty in twin time), the judge entered the room.  She made a quick announcement about our options for dealing with our tickets, stating that we could get them reduced if there were appropriate circumstances.  I felt so hopeful and then she added, “unless it’s a ticket that cannot be reduced by law, like speeding in a school zone, for instance.”

Womp womp.

My crime would be too obvious if I left immediately.  I was crossing my fingers that she’d call me last and I could plead in the privacy of my own patheticness.

Before she began the proceedings, she asked if anyone wanted to defer — to pay $150 to keep the ticket off record, and if you’re ticket-free for a year it never shows up on your record at all.  I got my hopes up again, but then started mentally calculating when my last ticket was…since you can only have a deferral every seven years, it would be close.

Henry was fussing, louder and louder.  I picked him up knowing that he would never go back in without crying.  Of course that’s when it was also time to decide to defer.

After several others took her up on her offer, I raised my hand.  She looked up my name to see if I qualified — bingo.

“Please step forward,” she told me.

I balanced Henry on my hip and pushed the stroller forward with one hand, careening around slightly and smiling sheepishly, because, remember, that’s why I brought them: sympathy points.

“Do you understand the terms of the deferral?” she asked me.

“Yes, your honor,” I replied, bouncing Henry.

“Alright, as long as you don’t get a ticket for the next year, this will be wiped from your record.  So don’t speed in any more school zones,” she added.

I was offended by this, mostly because she said it like I did it as a hobby.  Here I was toting two babies and she thought I was a reckless driver out to mow down the schoolchildren of America.

That comment aside, I considered this a victory.  A one hundred and twenty-one dollar victory, to be exact.  Provided I don’t break the law for the next twelve months.  In which case, it would be not a victory at all, but rather a $321 defeat, plus the cost of the new ticket.

Ergo, the next time you see a sloth-like vehicle with two carseats in the right lane of the freeway, just give me a wave and try not to judge.  At least I’m not snowplowing elementary school children.

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To Have and To Hold

This.

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This is just exactly Henry and Arden.

I was sitting in a nearby chair, pumping, as one does, when I noticed she had stockpiled all of the toys, leaving him with just two.  She also noticed she was missing one, and is crawling to secure it.  Henry is just at the brink of crying because everything he has picked up, she has taken.

This happens all the time and it is so funny.  They love to sit and play together, but Arden has started swiping whatever she can get her hands on and it makes us laugh out loud.  Henry usually doesn’t mind; he lets her have it, almost with a roll of the eyes, like whatever, sis, I’ll just find another one.  But this day she took it too far — and when Henry looks to me with that face (that face!) it crushes me.  He is as easy-going as babies come, so any degree of sadness or anger prompts me to rescue my little man (and I love it).

Arden never betrays a feeling of guilt.  She just looks up like, what?  Aren’t all the toys mine?

What’s sweetest about this right now is there’s no attitude yet.  They’re only seven months old, so it’s not like they’re taking toys from each other and throwing tantrums because of it.  They just kind of look at each other like, “I had it, now you have it.  Oooo something shiny…” and they’ve forgotten it already.  Henry also swipes her toys, and she thinks it’s a game and they go back and forth.

Their history actually makes this much funnier than at first glance, dating back to their days in utero.  Throughout most of my pregnancy, Arden measured bigger than Henry (never to an alarming degree, never approaching the twenty percent difference “concern” zone).  This prompted family and friends to call her the “snack hog” because she must have been stealing all the food I’d eaten to get so much bigger than him.  Of course this was impossible, as they each had their own placenta and amniotic sac, but it helped us give them little personalities early on, so the joke continued.

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By the end of the my pregnancy the doctor estimated they were about equal in size, though she couldn’t have been more wrong — Arden came out a full two pounds one ounce heavier.

She’s been the queen of snack stealing ever since, and now, as any good queen would, she has expanded her empire to toyland.

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As If I Needed Another Excuse to Play Dress Up

Fact: I don’t really like Halloween.

Fact:  I really like dressing up babies.

Result:  Babies dressed up not once, not twice, but thrice.

Costume #1:  The Great PumpkinsDSC_0010 (2)

Costume #2:  80’s Prom

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Costume #3:  Mickey and Minnie Mouse

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Now comes the gut-wrenching part — pick your favorite.

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Move that Bump

Exercising while pregnant is a little precarious.  The main recommended forms are walking, swimming and yoga.  This is perfectly reasonable, but I ignored it entirely my first and most of my second trimester.

I am a runner, so I ran until about week 12, when the thought of doing so made me feel like I was taking some sort of unnecessary risk, since all the books on multiples suggested not jostling your babies for the sake of exercise.  I also did barre until about six months in, because it was wonderfully strengthening and I could adjust my moves to accommodate my situation.  I eventually dropped this because my heart would race through moves that normally were easy for me, and because the instructor always spent the last twenty minutes of class having us do floor exercises on our bellies, while I passed the time doing free weights or stretching.

I went swimming once, but the stares were really more than I wanted to deal with.  Plus we had an alarming encounter with a precocious five-year-old that pretty much scared me out of the water forever.

Mike and I had just entered the pool and were swimming over to an uncrowded area when a little girl swam up and said, “HI!”  We greeted her nicely, and then she said, “Are you married?”  We said yes, and then she looked at me, looked at him, and as if she were asking about lunch, said “Then why aren’t you in bed?”

Blink.  Blink, blink.

We were so shocked we didn’t know what to say, so we just said, “Because it’s not nighttime — we’re swimming!”  She wasn’t buying it, so she looked for further evidence.  “Where are your rings?”  she asked again, with a giant grin on her face.  We dutifully showed her our left hands, like nervous travelers going through customs.

Then she dove for my belly.  She noticed the bump and before I knew it she was practically crawling me like a monkey up a tree.  She put her hands right on my belly and started asking about the baby, and we told her there were two and she just kept touching me all over.  Her father swam up by this time, but just sort of chuckled at his silly daughter.  I kept trying to subtly dodge her under the water, taking a step back and then swatting her away in a manner that could be mistaken for swirling the water around.  It didn’t really work, so I decided to be nice to her until Mike could break conversation with the dad to notice my rescue-me stares.

With swimming effectively ruled out, I tried prenatal yoga.  This was a nice experience, being with sixteen or so other pregnant women, but it was just…hard.  I’ve done yoga for several years and going through familiar moves was so taxing it didn’t seem enjoyable.  The weight gain, plus the bump, plus the change in mobility all added up to me wishing class would be over already.  There were some fantastic moves that stretched in just the right way, and some great moments of stillness where we could focus on our babies, but other than that I wanted to leave.  No namaste.

This left walking.  Ever since I stopped running, I took up walking, interspersed with the other exercises I’ve described.  I would walk about 2.5 miles several times a week, and this soon became my favorite thing.  Now that I’m 35 weeks along I can only do one mile, but it’s still the most wonderful twenty minutes (yes, it takes me twenty minutes).  Walking works all of my joints in the right way, makes my muscles feel great, and gets my heart pumping.  It’s also the best time to talk to God about all that I’m feeling about the babies and life, and it gets me outside.  Walking = winning.

When I first started I’d go down to the waterfront near our home, but this involved a 300-foot descent and ascent back up.  This was part of its appeal initially, but about four weeks ago I had to give it up because it was too much.  That and there are no sidewalks, and cars sometimes whiz around the corners with abandon.  I used to be able to move out of the way but my zigging and zagging abilities are no longer to be trusted.  My brain says “Car coming, move over!” and my body is like, “I’m going to need you to fill out several forms, have them notarized and then get back to you after two weeks of processing.”

The thing about walking is that it is done in public.  Normally this is not an issue, but when one is pregnant, it is.  For whatever reason, walking around pregnant invites all kinds of commentary from all kinds of people.

One day I was nearing the end of my walk and I was passing an intersection, which required walking past the row of cars waiting at the red light.  Without warning, a man rolled down the passenger-side window of his car, leaned over, and yelled “YOU’RE PREGNANT!”  right at me.  I was so alarmed I didn’t know what to do, besides jump back and keep walking, rather quickly, away from him.  Really?  You had to roll down your window and scream at me?  Really?

Another day when I was still doing the hill near my house, a car filled with teenage girls flew by me from behind and one girl leaned out her window and yelled “HEY PREGGERS!”  It scared me to death because they came up so fast, she was so loud, and it was so unexpected.  I think my expression surprised her as much as she surprised me, because she ducked back in the car when she saw my face.  I was absolutely astonished that a woman would do this — my only thought was a tiny prayer that she would one day be with child herself, walking on a road, and she would have a heart-stopping flashback to this moment and be filled with shame.  I didn’t wish her ill, because I knew she didn’t understand what an insensitive idiot she’d been, but I had the hope that one day she would.

A far more positive encounter was with a man who asked me  how far along I was, and then told me about an anti-bullying program he leads at local elementary schools involving infants.  It’s based on teaching children the concept of empathy toward babies, in the hope that they will translate that to other people.  Apparently it’s quite successful, but I wasn’t sure.  When I told him it was twins, he shouted and started bowing down to me, which was awkward, but funny.  He begged me to bring the twins to his classroom in the fall, and I took his card and told him I’d think about it.  It never occurred to me that me and the little twinnies could start our philanthropic endeavors so early.

My favorite encounter has to be with a neighbor from a few streets over.  He and his gaggle of family are that house in the neighborhood that always has music on outside, has nine cars strewn throughout the property, and is always tinkering on something in the front yard so they can watch the world go by.  It’s all very trashy, but they’ve won me over through the months.

This neighbor, let’s call him Ed, shall we?  The first time Ed saw me he was sitting on his front lawn in a chair doing nothing but staring at the road.  I didn’t even see him because I was power walking by, but he definitely saw me.

“That’s a pretty fast walk for a…” he started to say, but sort of stumbled over what to call me.

“Haha, yep!” I replied, not knowing how else to respond.

“Maybe if you’d walked that fast before you wouldn’t be in your condition!” he said, cackling with laughter.

I was so shocked that he had brought sex into our non-existent conversation that my brain temporarily shut off.  I smiled and kept walking.

“Well, it’s not like it’s twins or something,” he added, for no apparent reason.  I couldn’t believe he’d said that, just out of the blue, so I turned and said, “YES IT IS!” with a giant smile on my face.

“WHAT?!” he said.  “OH MY G-I was kidding!  Um, well, oh, uh, GOOD LUCK!” he exclaimed, and suddenly he was waving his arms in the air with genuine enthusiasm, but I barely saw because I was blazing by.

You may be wondering at this point why I continue to walk.  That’s a fair question that I don’t really have an answer to.

Over the next months, I continued to pass this house and every time he’d be outside, and every time Ed would have something to say.

“That’s a better pace!  Don’t go too fast!”  Apparently I have slowed considerably.

“Rain or shine, good for you!”  As I waddled past in a raincoat that no longer closed.

“There she goes!”  An obvious observation if ever there was one.

Most recently, we just wave at each other.  It’s kind of fun to think of the day I will walk past his house with a double stroller.

~~~~~~~

Here we are at 35 weeks.

Things to note:  1.  I have preggo face finally!  2.  LOOK at my ANKLES (if they can still be called that, I think we’re in cankle territory)  3.  My pregnancy tank top no longer covers the bottom of my bump.  4.  This was taken on the hottest day of the year so far, it was a high of 91 — ideal for any person carrying two other people, you can imagine.

35

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Missing the Bus (and not minding)

The first thing to adjust to once we announced the pregnancy was people asking how I was feeling.  This happened immediately and still does all. the. time.   I am not offended in the least when people ask me that, in fact I consider it a very genuine show of concern, but I worry that my answer is getting stale.

You see, I have not had a typical pregnancy.  At least not compared to the stories I hear from others.  My experience (so far) has been extremely easy and hassle-free.  I sort of expected this, because to hear my mother tell it, her three pregnancies were akin to being carried around on a pink cloud while being fed peeled grapes by adoring fans extolling her beauty.  She would be pregnant today if she could.  She describes it as her ultimate state of being.  She had not one minute of morning sickness.

And neither have I (all praise to our glorious Father of heavenly light and mercy and tenderness and wisdom, amen).

But I feel a little guilty admitting this out loud, because what woman who’s been through morning sickness wants to hear that someone else didn’t get it?  I think I would hate such a person.  Look at how women despise Gisele Bundchen, who famously gave birth to her son in her bathtub and then irritated women everywhere by saying the birth, “didn’t hurt in the slightest.”  Lady, people already resent your incredible body, modeling career, millions of dollars, dating Leo and marrying Tom Brady.  Don’t give them more ammo.

So I don’t drop that little nugget of non-nausea into every conversation, but I find I don’t have much to say beyond, “I feel great!”  This apparently has its own pitfalls, as my friend Michelle told me when she was about 36 weeks along.  “Here’s a tip from me to you,” she said to me at her baby shower. “Don’t announce too loudly that things are so easy.  You’re losing your one chance at total sympathy.  My husband figured out how easy my pregnancy was going and now he’s like ‘right, right,’ if I ever say I’m a little sore.   Play the card you’ve got!”

It’s not just puking and pain that have passed me by — other typical symptoms have been mysterious (mercifully?) absent.

1.  Intense sense of smell.  Not at all.

2.  Cravings.  Nope.  Not happening.  I like sugar more than I used to, but I think that’s just my radar for treats switching from red wine to something else I can have.

3.  Preggo acne.  Thank God!

4.  Swelling.  I imagine this will hit me like an incurable disease within a month, but for now, I’m puff-free.

5.  Back pain.  Again, this one is probably on its way, but for now only happens if I sit in one place for far too long.

6.  Unbearably tired.  I took approximately three naps my first trimester, but other than that never felt more tired than usual.  I kind of wanted to get this symptom, if only because I love the couch.  The great big laugh about this is that my unbearable exhaustion will come after I’m pregnant, while caring for two newborns — and I won’t be able to lay on the couch.  HA.

7.  Super emo.  I think I’ve cried five times in the last six months, one of which was the elementary school shooting.  Who didn’t cry that day?

8.  Heartburn.  I don’t have any idea what this feels like, which is why I’m sure I haven’t had it.

9.  Stretch marks.  Let’s not kid ourselves, though.  Twins?  It has to be inevitable.

10.  Increase in shoe size.  This one has freaked me out the most — my feet have actually shrunken…this is beyond the explanations of science.  I thought I was hallucinating that I was walking out of my flats and heels, and then I went to buy some shoes and had to buy down a half-size.  Deeply puzzling.

Of course all of this is tempered by the freight train that is barreling toward me.  Whenever someone says that I’ve been so lucky, I don’t disagree, but I do remind them that I’m going to have to keep two people alive at the end of this.  Two infants screaming at once.  Twice the diapers.  Twice the feedings.  Twice the nighttime demands.  All of it is my dream, but it’s not all going to be pleasant.

With that in mind, I’m savoring the last two-plus months of this incredible experience, wearing an enormous smile as I grow and eat and walk and rest and operate this body for the three of us.

Here we are at 27 weeks:

27 Weeks 4

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The Griswolds Drive Through Tuscany

On our second full day in Italy, we decided that we’d like to visit some ancient hilltop towns, the kind that idyllically appear in the distance over rolling hills of vineyards.  We pictured the cliché images of a Tuscan-themed Barnes and Nobel calendar coming to life before our eyes.  We imagined driving dreamily through the countryside as Bocelli sang in the background.

And then we actually started driving.

Our first mistake was to caravan.  There were twelve of us, split among three toy cars.  When not one of you knows where you’re going, it doesn’t help to caravan.  It also doesn’t help when an error is made and all three cars have to U-turn in the middle of a freeway.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We decided to visit two famous hilltop towns, San Gimignano and Volterra.  Allow me to illustrate.

You can see that there is not a major expressway one can use to glide thoughtlessly to either town.  That may be why our route ended up looking like the way taken by little boy Billy from the Family Circus.

We headed south from the villa around 10AM, with Dave and Nancy taking the lead.  They, along with my father, had done some brief map work earlier that morning and felt fairly confident.  After forty minutes of winding through single-lane roads that were being used as double-lane roads, we pulled over.  I ejected myself out of our car from nausea.

After a brief powwow, we got back on the road with cheerful outlooks that all would be well.  And then we reached the freeway.

“Freeway” is an interesting term here, because one doesn’t realize one has entered until it’s too late.  One minute we were driving country roads, then a whip-fast roundabout and a wrong turn later and suddenly we’re supposed to be going 120 KPH.

The funny thing about Italian roads is you need to make four decisions in a span of ten seconds, any of which could be horribly incorrect.  You leave the roundabout, hoping you took the right exit, only to be immediately presented with a fork in the road with twelve signs accompanying it.  After that harrowing close call, the road splits again, with both signs pointing to the same town.   Pretty soon your nerves are shot and you’ve lost your caravan.  Oh, and they hate you.

This is more or less what happened all the way to San Gimignano.  We were very lost, so our fearless leader, Dave, pulled to the side of the road in the middle of a highway.  Italians must expect this of us, because they have built little pull-over areas along the major freeways.  The problem with this is not the exit from the road, it’s the reentry.  There is absolutely no, and I mean not a smidgen, of on-ramp.  You must watch a thousand cars race past you at 130 KPH and try to jump into their flow from a stopped position.  And bonus!  You must do this with a stick-shift toy car.

The real talent comes in blocking out the terrified screams of your passengers, at which I must say, Mike excelled.

At this point in our journey, at least seven of us had vowed never to travel by caravan again.  The rest simply vowed never to travel again.

Only once did we completely lose each other, and it happened so fast none of us actually knew what happened.  We exited a roundabout as a group, then Dave got on one freeway and suddenly realized it was wrong.  Like I explained earlier, immediately after getting on the freeway there was another fork in the road ahead of him, and he had no idea which one to take (none of us did), so he pulled up to the fork and stopped.  In the middle of the freeway.

Several expletives escaped the mouths of those riding in my car, and Mike quickly realized there wasn’t enough room to pull over behind Dave so with one glance he pulled a U-turn across a freeway that shaved fifteen years off the lives of his passengers, not to mention his mother-in-law in the car behind him.

Despite the danger of this activity, my father quickly followed suit, and we met up in a safer area back by the roundabout.  After several phone calls, we realized Dave had continued on the main road, so we got back on the freeway (after three attempts) and found him.

When we at last arrived at San Gimignano, no one even wanted to be there.  We were so frazzled and fried from the journey that the destination only held our contempt for drawing us there in the first place.  Plus, there was no parking.

We exploded out of our cars, airing our grievances and shouting at the sky “I’m not mad AT anyone IN PARTICULAR, I’m JUST MAD!”  Things of that nature.

Finally my mom made the call: let’s skip this and go straight to Volterra.  Even though the idea of getting back in the car was suicide for most of us, we agreed that the sooner we got somewhere less insane, the better.

On we went, and things were fine — right up until a semi truck rolled up behind us.  Our caravan was moving along, minding the speed limit like good little Americans, and then the truck driver reminded us, by forceful use of his horn, that this is not how things are done in Italia.

“This truck is ON MY ASS!” Mike hollered, while the rest of us turned in horror to see a truck, literally inches from our bumper, that was so big we couldn’t see the driver.  The monstrosity of this truck made our car look like one of the car game pieces in The Game of Life.

He blared his horn and revved up behind us as we screamed.  Mike yelled for me to get on the phone to the lead car, and tell my dad to GO FASTER.  LIVES ARE AT STAKE.

My mom answered.  “We can’t go any faster.  We read somewhere that there are cameras on Italian roads that capture you breaking the speed limit, and then fine you,” she explained.

I told her if that were true, why were all the other cars speeding?  She said she didn’t know, but she did know “your father will not go any faster.”

I politely told her which songs to play at the funerals of Brian, Amy, Mike and Abby, and hung up.

Shortly after the truck turned off of our road, we were still venting our frustrations and railing against the difficulty of getting around a foreign country, when Brian said, “Guys.  Are you seeing this?”

We looked out our windows and gasped.  That cheesy Tuscan Barnes and Noble calendar?  It was live in front of us.  Bocelli?  He started to sing.   Our eyes took in miles and miles of vineyards, olive groves, undulating hills made golden by the sun.  And some astounding hilltop villas, just to send us over the top.

And we got it.

“Ugh,” we said sheepishly.  “We’re the worst, aren’t we?  I mean perspective, yes?”

“This is blowing my mind, honestly, LOOK AT THIS,” he added.

“Take a picture!  Where’s my camera?!” Amy chimed in.

“Mike – not you!  You keep your eyes on the road,” I instructed.

The same reaction must have been happening in the other two cars, because soon my dad was pulling over, and this time it wasn’t the side of the freeway, it was a winery.  Hallelujah.

We were the only people there (wine tasting at noon might have something to do with it) and we tasted their homemade olive oil and wine, purchasing several bottles to enjoy later that evening.  We were revived by the wine and by forgiving each other’s driving, we were climbing our way back to sanity, and soon enough, we arrived in Volterra.

We had a fabulous time exploring the medieval city, and the journey home was absolutely painless.  Later, over the bottles of wine we bought, we agreed that perhaps the morning was our crash course, and now we were weathered masters of the Italian roads.

It’s also possible that victorious sentiment was inspired less by actuality, and more by our second glass of hard-earned wine.

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“Do You Think I’ll Need This Hoodie?”

I find it deeply ironic that my favorite activity in the world is preceded by my least favorite activity in the world. 

They are traveling and packing, respectively.

Nothing makes me happier than having a trip to plan for, anticipate, fantasize about and eventually experience.  But nothing fills me with more panic-stricken dread than packing for such an adventure.

As a well-documented commitment-phobe, packing is really my ultimate test of will.  We’re not just talking about a few decisions that have minor consequences; we’re talking about dozens of decisions that have the potential for dire consequences.

How many outfits is realistic for a two-week trip?  What is the likelihood I’ll need high heels?  The weather calls for 80 degree days, but what if it’s unseasonably chilly and I don’t bring a jacket and an entire evening is ruined?   This is the type of self-inflicted battery I endure.

It’s not all fashion-related, either.  It’s equally hard for me to choose which pajamas to bring as it is actual clothes.  I would never pack impractical shoes for a trip that involves lots of walking.  I am just as concerned with comfort as I am style.  

For me, packing begins days, sometimes weeks in advance of departure.  I make a master checklist, see what items I need to purchase (perfect — more decisions!), and begin mentally cataloguing my wardrobe.  Three days before, I start laundry and restrict myself from wearing any of the clean items so I can save them for the trip.  Two days before, I lay everything out on the bed, staring, moving, replacing, rejecting each item until I feel somewhat assured that the earth is not going to fall off its axis.

Mike packs in ten minutes or less, if you didn’t assume that already.

While living with roommates during and after college, they knew to come running at pack time, armed with snacks and wine and light-hearted music to get me through.  They’d hold up items from my closet and say “yes or no?” and I only had a few seconds to answer or they’d make the choice for me.  This worked remarkably well, apart from the hives it caused.

Nothing comforts me like being able to explain my neurosis to a willing party, in the hope that that person will agree with my sound logic or tell me I’ve lost my mind while stuffing my oversized hat back into its hatbox.

“But what if we have dinner out?  And it’s cold?  And I’m in a dress so I’ll need something with length?”

“Abby, you are going to Pennsylvania.  In August.  You will not need your wool trench coat.”

As it turns out, I’m not the only one fit for a straight jacket when it comes to packing.  One of my best gal pals, Jamie, recently wrote a blog post on her twin sister, Jen’s, new blog.  It’s all about packing, and it’s fantastic.  Every word of it made me feel like less of an insane person.  Jamie and Jen were in town last weekend and we swapped sob stories of packing gone wrong.  We are all recovering overpackers.

I have to boast that my personal best occurred in May of 2011.  Mike and I traveled to Europe for twelve days and we carried on.  Yes, every piece of clothing and every shoe and accessory were combined with Mike’s items into four small bags fit for overhead bin and under-seat stowing.  This, you can imagine, was a colossal feat that had me sweating all the way to the airport, convinced I’d forgotten everything essential.

The real conversion moment happened upon our return home.   As I unpacked, I reached into the bottom of my bag and realized there were two dresses I forgot to wear.   I was struck dumb by the fact that my micro-packing not only worked, it worked so well that I didn’t even miss my extra clothes.  This, my friends, was life-altering progress.

However, for the trip to Italy we are taking in two days, I will be checking a bag (it’s free…hello).  There is only one layover, and it’s for five hours, so I’m counting on the airline’s ability to move my bag correctly in that amount of time.

So for the next 36 hours, the pressure is on.  My personal Olympic event is underway, and I’m limbering up.  I’ve got my snacks, wine, music and my decision-making game face on.  I’m not aspiring to medal, but I am hoping to finish in one piece (which reminds me: swimsuits…two piece or one? Both? Oh my word…).

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