Family Matters

Hooooo-boy. I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that I’m in a much better mood now than I was when I wrote that post yesterday. THAT was a doozy. (And in case you’re wondering, no, United Airlines still has not replied to my complaints. The ball’s in your court, United. Make it right.)

Anyway. Let’s talk about something fun, shall we?


The rest of our trip was actually very nice. Don’t believe me? Check it, Instagrid style.

1. Home, sweet home. Joey calls this Hotel Blanchard. And boy do they treat you right.

2. Pictures of the corn I took along my morning run. Yes, parts of Iowa do look exactly like what you think they look like.

3. Downtown Des Moines, where we had lunch with my parents at my favorite DSM restaurant, Centro. See? I TOLD you it’s a city.

4. Trip to visit my dad’s office.

5. My adorbs parents at the movies later that night.

6. Dairy Queen Blizzard. We have to get our fix while we can. (Now in the cute-as-pie mini size!)

7. Turning my husband into a corn-fed country boy one ear at a time. Not that he’s complaining.

8. Lunch at the Des Moines Art Center restaurant with my sister and her husband.

9. BBQ with friends and family Saturday night. Here’s me and my lovely momma.


11. First stop: days-old piglets.

12. Second stop: my favorite, the baby goat born that morning. If I ever own enough land, I’m totally getting a goat.

13. Prize winning crops, including a wall of corn.

14. The men and their turkey legs. 1,136 calories each. And worth every single one.

15. Butter cow! ‘Nuff said.

16. THE LONG-AWAITED CUP O’ COOKIES. I’m not even exaggerating when I say this is the best part of the fair. AND MY LIFE. (Okay, that’s a mild exaggeration.)

17. Deep fried Twinkie, anyone?

18. And we ended the night with a little Matt and Susan and a couple of Fat Tires at The Royal Mile. The perfect ending, if you ask me.

All in all, a pretty great trip. We saw a bunch of friends and family (even though hardly any of my friends live in Des Moines anymore!), ate great food, and got loads of sleep. Thanks to my parents for hosting and everyone else who helped make it such a great trip!

I am extremely fortunate in that I can say I love my mother-in-law.

No, really. I’m serious.

Both of my in-laws, in fact, are pretty darn great. (We often joke that my husband’s father might actually love me more than he loves him.) And while this doesn’t mean my mother-in-law hasn’t (or never will) do anything that I disagree with, there are a few specific things she does that keep us far away from “monster-in-law” territory.

1. She respects our space. My in-laws live all of 20 minutes from us. While to some brides this might seem like a prison sentence, I didn’t think twice about it and they have never abused the proximity. I actually found out from my father-in-law that they intentionally left us alone during our busy first year of our marriage because they didn’t want us to feel pestered to hang out with them all the time. (I know, right? I told you, they are ridiculously considerate.)

Why it’s a good rule for all in-laws: It’s a known fact that the less you feel forced to do something, the more you actually want to do it. When I invite my in-laws over (or vice versa), it’s out of a genuine desire to hang out—and we all know it.

2. She’s, you know, a nice person. My mother-in-law buys us random presents from time to time. She keeps tabs on us without being annoying about it. She reads my blog and supports all my freelance work. Before I had my own car, she would occasionally step in to pick me up from the train station when I came home from work and my husband couldn’t get me. She and my father-in-law have dropped us off and picked us up from the airport countless times. In short, she treats me like family, instead of like some girl who stole her son away.

Why it’s a good rule for all in-laws: You ever notice how much easier it is to be nice to people who are nice to you? Our relationship of mutual kindness and respect lays the groundwork for even more kindness and respect down the line.

3. She takes her issues to my husband. Whenever any tension arose during wedding planning (and since), my MIL firmly respects the rule that “if it’s his family, he is the one to address it.” She never criticizes me or underhandedly goes behind either of our backs to divide and conquer or stir us up in any way. If there is a problem, she takes it up with him and then lets us deal with it together.

Why it’s a good rule for all in-laws: A lot of daughters-in-law balk at the mere mention of a mother-in-law’s opinion. While I like to think I would be able to keep an open mind based on our prior relationship, sometimes it’s easier hearing a concern from your spouse’s mouth instead of his parents’. You can’t get in the middle of the marriage relationship, but your child can be your liaison. (Though this doesn’t necessarily give you free reign to air grievances with your kid. Which leads us to…)

4. And she knows when to keep her opinions to herself. Here’s a fun fact: My mother-in-law wants grandchildren. My husband is her only married child thus far, so a more accurate statement would be: My mother-in-law wants me and my husband to give her grandchildren. Preferably now. And even though I am aware of this, it isn’t because she’s constantly reminding or pressuring me. In fact, I can only think of one time she even mentioned that she would like grandchildren to me, and it was in a sort-of-joking-but-not-really email. I only know because she has mentioned it to people who have mentioned it to me. Because as much as my mother-in-law wants grandchildren, what she really wants is to be a good mother-in-law. (Even if that means waiting a couple of years until we’re ready.)

Why it’s a good rule for all in-laws: Every couple has to live by a schedule that works for them. It’s important to remember what is your business—and what isn’t—to keep the peace. Think about it this way: Would you have wanted your mother-in-law bugging you about it?

Before I even begin this post, I feel obligated to tell you one thing: I am NOT pregnant.

We all clear on that? No babies. My uterus is still quite empty. And I am happy about that fact. Now let’s carry on with our story.

As of Saturday night, my period was about five days late.

Oh wait. Is that not what you thought my next sentence would be? Well, sorry folks. This is a story that starts with a delayed period. My (albeit small) male readership has probably already blushed an moved on. For the rest of you, here are my thoughts at the time:

Holy. Hell.

I mean, it would be just my luck, right? I wait until I get married to have sex. I have sex for less than ONE year, and BOOM. Baby. BABY FOREVER.

Obviously, I have pretty specific feelings about becoming a parent at this point in my life. I love babies, but right now, you know what I really love? Not having one. There are too many things I still want to do — travel to Thailand and Australia and Scotland and a host of other places, figure out for sure where we want to live and what I want to do when I grow up, have a freaking drink at the host of wedding-related events I have on my calendar this year — that I know would be difficult to accomplish with a pregnant belly or an infant. Plus, as I always say, getting married doesn’t change your entire life, but having a baby? It changes your ENTIRE life.

We would have to find a new place to live. At least an apartment with two bedrooms. Which would mean paying more rent. Which would mean even less money. And you know what else is expensive? RAISING A CHILD.

Even the little things, like knowing I wouldn’t be able to have a drink at my best friend’s bachelorette party, suddenly seemed…I don’t know. Unfair?

I know, my reasons probably sound petty and selfish. But I had more noble reasons too.

I mean, I want to have a baby someday. Maybe even two. But I want the joy of it being something we want and plan for. I want the moment of looking at each other and being nothing but thrilled out of our minds. I mean, I want to have at least been taking a few prenatal vitamins or something. You know I’m a control freak — I just want to at least have had some say in this life-changing event.

So anyway. I didn’t mean to get so intense on you there. This is supposed to be the story of how I took my first pregnancy test. Ever.

When you spend your entire life not having sex, one of the benefits is that you never have to worry you might be pregnant. My period could have been a year late, and I wouldn’t have worried. (Well, I might have worried a little, but not that I was spontaneously growing another person in my belly.) We’re very careful, but the fact is, nothing is a sure thing. (And so ends my safe sex PSA.)

All of a sudden, I don’t have the luxury of never being concerned anymore. So when the ol’ monthly gift was a little less than punctual, I googled “early symptoms of pregnancy.” (A few are: feeling tired and peeing a lot. I’m training for a half marathon and I drink a gallon of water a day. Perfect.)

After five days, I found myself entering panic mode. I waited six days before decided to put myself out of my misery.

Joey was surprisingly calm. (We tend to have the dynamic that when one is freaking out, the other one is scarily put together.) In his words, “If you are pregnant, what is freaking out going to solve?”

Well played, sir. Glad to know our potential children will have at least one level-headed parent.

Finally, I forced myself to go to the drug store. I have been present for the purchase of two other pregnancy test in my lifetime, but I swear to God, I never remember them being this awkward.

I was weirdly self-conscious, like I didn’t want anyone else to know that I might be pregnant. As if keeping the possibility a secret might help keep if from being true. I kept fiddling with my wedding ring just in case anyone who figured it out would know that AT LEAST I WAS MARRIED OR SOMETHING. I made a big show of buying mini packs of tissues and a hair brush as if that might help the cashier completely overlook the hot pink box marked “PREGNANCY TEST.”

And let me just tell you, you are never quite so aware of every baby- and/or pregnancy-related thing in the media until you think you might be joining their ranks. As I waited in line at the grocery store, the following two items stared me down:

Subtle, universe. Very subtle.

When I got home, I nervously peed in a cup, which you KNOW I love, dipped the test stick, and sat down to wait for three minutes.

Ever feel like your life is moving too quickly? Give yourself three minutes to find out if you’re pregnant or not. Suddenly time is just crawling.

As I said in the beginning of my post, I’m not pregnant. The test (and back-up test) was negative.

I mean it! Fine, here’s the proof:

Doesn’t get much clearer than that.

The sense of relief I felt is indescribable (unless you’ve been in a similar position, in which I would imagine you get it). I still have to take a deep breath whenever I think back on how I felt mere seconds before that single pink line showed up.

One day, I’m sure I’ll be praying for the opposite result. But today is not that day.

Continuing on my unintentional thread of “quirky things about Long Island” posts (didja miss the first one?), I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention the nicknames.

I know you could make an argument that nicknames are not a geographically specific occurrence. Everywhere you go you’ll find Dannys, Mikes, and Jeffs. (Or maybe that’s just my family.)(*Rimshot*) BUT. In all the places I lived, it was never a thing so much as it is out here.

EVERY name gets a nickname on Long Island.  Even the ones you wouldn’t think lend themselves to shortening.

Take my name, for instance. Justine doesn’t really break down into anything you would want to be called in a professional setting. (My family’s favorite, “Justeenie-Weenie” isn’t exactly a title you parade in the public sphere.)(Oh…oops.)(Oh well. I am who I am.)

That being said, I have two Long Island friends who regularly call me “Jus.” (Rhymes with “fuss.”) I’m pretty sure I always react with a bit of surprise when they address me as such (I’ve never heard it until I moved here!), but it’s not like I mind. It’s just interesting.

Other names I’ve heard shortened that I wouldn’t expect:

Garrett –> Gah
Sara –> Sa
Cassandra –> also Sa

And pretty much everyone goes by the shortened version of their given name: Chris, Steve, Mel.

Or adds an “ee” sound to the end: Joey, Mikey, Jimmy.

None of those things are particularly revolutionary when you happen upon them one at a time, but when it’s virtually everyone you meet, you start to notice.

It becomes especially apparent whenever the hubs and I talk about names for our hypothetical children. (No, we’re not talking about it seriously yet. It’s more like a, “Hey, you know what’s kind of a neat name?” toss-it-out-there convo.)(I’M NOT PREGNANT.)

For example, my favorite names are Henry (or Henrik, as I’ve bargained Joey down to…because there is a goalie in the NHL named Henrik so it’s more acceptable…apparently) or Harrison for a boy and Clara or possibly Hannah for a girl.

Now, whenever I pitch a name, Joey (or honestly, any Long Island friend of mine with whom I would chat about baby names)(…they’re mostly female) will usually say something starting with, “And then we would call them [insert appropriate nickname here].”

For example, when I told my friend Megan about Henry/Henrik, she immediately replied, “And then you could call him Hank!”

Now, I actually kind of like the sound of that. But it was still a surprise to me that the first thing on her mind was that he would actually be called something else. It was similar when I mentioned Harrison to Joey. “People will probably call him Harry.”

Interestingly enough, I’m actually okay with that nickname too. (Maybe I’m subconsciously picking names that have nicknames that don’t drive me up the wall?) It’s more the principle of the idea.

Can’t we just call them by their names?

Of course, I’m sure if I push the issue enough, I can at least get friends and family to call them by whatever name we give them. (Once they hit middle school, though, they’re on their own.) Clara/Hannah would probably only have to suffer through cutesy family nicknames (Clare-Bear and Hannah-Banana seem to be popular options.), but who knows? They could be the Cla and Ha of their generation with how things go around here.

Am I totally off-base thinking this is just a Long Island thing? Or was I just not in a nickname kind of crowd growing up? Bigger question: Do YOU have a nickname, embarrassing/weird or otherwise?

So for the second time in the last couple of months, I missed my exit driving to work. (Ironically, the same exit that I claimed stresses me out so much. Does it stress you out, self? Does it?)

It might be time to start worrying that I’m not paying as much attention as I should be.

Anywho. It has been an interesting week. Last Friday, Joey got his first migraine ever. Those of you who suffer from them regularly know what a life suck they can be, but for us, there was the added panic of, “What if this is more than a migraine?”

It didn’t help that as it was coming on, Joey was texting me things like:

“I’m getting these weird spots in front of my eyes…and I can’t remember anyone’s name.”

“I feel really nauseous.”

“I just got a nose bleed.”

Is it just me, or is an unexplained nose bleed like, the SCARIEST symptom ever? Bleeding out of face orifices just makes my mind automatically jump to “The brain is bleeding.” Egads.

It didn’t help that when I googled his symptoms, Dr. Internets was like, “It’s either a migraine…OR A BRAIN TUMOR!!!!”

Thanks a lot, Dr. Internets.

Eventually he called me from the nurse’s office asking me to pick him up. (He works in a school…yes, it was kind of adorable to pick him up from the nurse’s office.)

When I picked him up, he was in bad shape. He couldn’t focus on anything and couldn’t stand or lay down without feeling nauseous. The nurse had given him a few physical test to make sure he wasn’t having a stroke. (SO reassuring…not.) He was also crazy pale. (Which is saying something considering he’s usually a steady shade of Irish.)

On the way home, I got him some Excedrin Migraine. He took one and went to sleep for a solid three hours. Like, solid. Like, I-had-to-keep-checking-to-make-sure-he-was-breathing-deep sleep.

He was pretty much out of commission for the rest of the weekend, though nothing was as bad as that first day.

Since then, he’s had a CT scan and gotten blood work done. The CT scan came out normal (no tumors or bleeding), and he gets the results of the blood work today. He has to have an MRI next week. (He had a really bad concussion when he was younger, and apparently he was supposed to get one a year after that. Guess what his doctors never told him?)

So the point is, he’s OK. He might be having some issues with scar tissue from the concussion, but we won’t know that until next week. But he’s OK.

All right, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, can I just tell you how completely terrifying the whole ordeal was? I mean, I know he was freaked out. There’s nothing worse than something being wrong with you and having no idea what it is or what to do to make yourself feel better. And top that with knowing it has something to do with your brain? T-E-R-R-I-F-Y-I-N-G.

As for me, I hadn’t really felt relaxed until he had the CT scan, and I’ll still a bit apprehensive until he gets an official diagnosis. What if something was seriously wrong? What if something happened to my best friend and love of my life?

I think the craziest thing about our life after marriage has been realizing that we really do fall more in love with each other every day. (Sorry, should have warned you this would get mushy.) But in all seriousness, our relationship is a thousand times stronger than it was the day we said “I do.” And I’m sure that in another eight months, it will be a thousand times stronger than it is today.

Throughout this whole ordeal, I had to actively keep myself from thinking about “the worst that could happen.” Because the worst that could happen is literally the worst thing I can imagine happening. I think what I’m trying to say is that having our immortality and the fact that something very well could be seriously wrong made me realize even more how much he means to me. And I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I was when he told me everything actually was fine.

Ugh, sorry, didn’t mean to get all heavy on you. (And on a Friday no less…) I’ve just been carrying this around in my head for a week and needed to get it out. Anyone have any similar experiences (or even just something heavy they want to let go of)? Feel free to leave a comment so we can all have a cathartic moment together.

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Eh heh…hey there. Have you lost weight? Haircut? Whatever you’re doing, you look fantastic. It’s so good to see you.

In other words…sorry for being a flake. Turns out that going on vacation and starting a new job that doesn’t require time on the train is bad for the blog. Guess we found the first positive thing about the LIRR.

Rather than get into the nitty gritty of how I spent my remaining time as a housewife, I’m just going to show you the final list:

1. Hang pictures in the dining room (yup, that was real)
2. Find places for the things that are currently living in the corners of the dining room<I started this…didn’t finish.
3. Organize “office” area of the living room
4. Clean off the top of the coffee table and the basket underneath
5. Clean entire living room
6. Shake out living room rug again (side note: We did this before my cousins’ visit, and it was actually kind of weird how much junk came fluffing out. To be fair, we didn’t shake it when we got it, so it was probably a lot of manufacturer’s dust.)
7. Go to Michael’s (actually went to A.C. Moore) and have this really cool little poster I bought online (more on that later) matted and framed. (It’s a weird rectangular shape, so this will probably have to be custom.)
8. Finish frame collage above the couch (including the aforementioned poster, another picture in a frame I got at Goodwill, and a Ray LaMontagne poster I actually have yet to select…)
9. Organize shelves in the bathroom
10. Go through ALL my clothes and get rid of everything that I don’t wear/doesn’t fit.
11. Do likewise with Joey’s clothes.
12. Clean off nightstands
13. Find a place for everything that’s in that room, even if it’s Goodwill
14. Organize the hall closets
15. Once everything in the house is organized, scrub everything down
16. Learn to sew
17. Create a runner for the dining room table
18. Sew a dress for the Mad Men Feast
19. Mail my sister’s really overdue shower gift that I’ve had for literally months
20. Buy a car. Love it forever.

So…obviously I didn’t do everything. But to be honest, the purpose of the list was more to make sure I did SOMETHING instead of sitting on my butt and watching Bravo all day. (Which I could have TOTALLY done.)

In other news, started the new job, and things seem to be going well so far. There have already been a lot of opportunities to be creative, and we’re updating a website that I will basically be in charge of, which will be pretty fun to maintain.

Plus, and I really don’t want to brag, but they’re giving me an iPhone. So… yeah.

I want to give you a better post about my sister’s wedding, but I don’t have pictures and stuff on me. I’ll work on it for later this week.

Anyways, sorry for the delay, and I promise to be back to normal soon.