Growing Up a Flipping Gypsy

For years, I assumed I had a normal upbringing. Truly American, I rode a Huffy bike, I had braces, I begrudgingly participated in what my mother termed "educational enrichment activities," I scaled closets hunting for Christmas presents. I'll concede the absence of television in my house likely made me a minority. And I'm sure the fact that I wore boy's elastic waist denim until I was 15 set me apart from my glittery bell-bottomed peers. But I never paid any mind to stark differences between my formative years and those of others.

Until I went to high school.

I was shocked to meet girls who had lived in the same house for the entirety of their lives, who didn’t understand the terms "easement" or "escrow," or who had never held a mallet before. During my childhood, my mother and brother and I moved more than a dozen times. I wasn't an army brat, and we weren't (as far as I know) a part of the Witness Protection Program. It was just something we did.

Long before HGTV and Pinterest and virtual room planners and before "flipping" was ever trendy, there was my mother, armed with paint chips and measuring tape, herding us from house to house. We bought, we planned, we worked, we sold, we drove, we packed, we painted, we unpacked, and more again (my mother achieving all of this whilst wearing high heels).

It wasn't an automated process, we spent more time living at certain places than others, and sometimes we had to trade the furniture and treasures from one house to the next (but never, ever throwing out the Christmas tree decorations!).

It was fun and brutally exhausting and obviously exponentially more whimsical than home buying will ever be for me as an adult. Without fail, we would always end up at the "new" old house soon after the closing, after dark – tired from school and pesky extracurriculars, watching her pace the unfinished floors in her stilettos, gesturing wildly and sticking Post-its with indecipherable handwriting on the walls. We lived and breathed by her imagination.

On Larch Road, we had a dining room ceiling that was covered entirely with glitter. On Payer Lane, my mother painted the door hot pink on her birthday (and never changed it back). On Elm Street, our driveway was made of crushed seashells (which sounds very lovely and romantic until you have to run out for milk in the middle of the night and can't find your shoes).

On Oceanside, we lived in a pillow fort for a week before the furniture arrived. On Green Street, we had a roof deck that my boyfriend insisted on sleeping on anytime he visited. On Old Oaken Bucket (yes, its real name) we threw an "Ugly House Party" before the renovations began. Everyone sat on the floor with pizza and drew on the walls, playing giant tic-tac-toe and tracing our deformed outlines against the rooster-themed wallpaper.

But it wasn’t all happily ever after. We had mold. We had mildew. We had mice. My mother spent an entire year on Chippawanoxet Road as an insomniac, delusional from the pitter-pattering of the raccoons in the attic. She threatened to buy a gun. We were constantly locking ourselves out, crossing wires and inhaling paint fumes.

I tired of it and began inviting myself to friends' houses to steep in jealousy over their stable histories, to see their growth charts engraved in door frames, their holiday pictures all taken on the brick steps of their 3-bed, 2.5-bath Colonials. I contemplated putting up a classified ad ("Clean & smart 10th grader seeks normal family for general rearing, room & board").

Luckily, I grew out of my teenage contempt (and my Doc Martens) and learned to embrace the crazy. I recovered from my disdain for those who didn't know the difference between coniferous and deciduous woods. I even fell for someone who had never used a stud-finder. 

And now, when I'm curious, I Google the houses we lived in - the ones we stripped down and built back up. I zoom in on the images to see if the subsequent owner's have re-painted and where they decided to put their dining room tables. And every 10 months (or less if I've fallen down a minimalist sub-reddit), I audit all of my belongings as if I were preparing for a move - dutifully sorting lesser-used kitchenwares and clothing into neat piles in my living room. 

"Where are we going?" my husband laughs. The drill is familiar and he waits patiently as I raid every corner and closet.

"Don't know. We should just be ready." 

This Much I Know Is True

I'm twenty six. Well, almost twenty-six and a half. Twenty six isn't that novel, besides being the age where you are smack dab between your college years (which you can now recount with appropriate nostalgia) and REAL LIVE ADULTHOOD - which is when you decide to buy your own Netflix subscription and stop eating peanut butter as a meal.

Twenty-six is like the half-baked version of the grand "who you are going to be". It's amorphous and raw - and not the good kind of raw that's edgy and attractive and wants to try new things. It's more like salmonella, in that it invokes a lot of nausea, exhaustion, and self-doubt that only abates with time.

My current version of adulthood isn't guided by any specific dogma (or Buzzfeed list, for that matter). It's mostly guided by tenets that I've stumbled upon or borrowed or ripped from larger philosophies that I have to adapt to fit into my life and my relationships, square pegs that I've whittled to fit into round holes. They are the truths that work for right now, for my twenty-six-and-almost-one-half self.

Wear shoes you can run in.

I haven't always been as smart as I am now. When I was younger, along with being naive and completely negligent in my financial obligations, I was also incredibly impractical. So, it would not surprise anyone to learn that in my past life, I constantly wore beautiful shoes, beautiful but painfully high shoes that made me walk either like a duck or a constipated toddler, depending on the heel height.

I wore these heels through the metal detectors and pat-downs to work, at a job that required me to visit clients in correctional facilities. I did this until one of my clients commented to me, upon seeing said beautiful shoes, "I would never wear shoes here that I couldn't run in." And that was the end of that.

You don't need that.

I'm a minimalist. An obsessive minimalist to some. This is mostly borne from a childhood of frequent relocation (as a leisure sport) and a very impatient mother. When you are forced to pack, unpack and account for all of your belongings every year, it makes you second-guess all of those Beanie Babies and pairs of Old Navy corduroys (don't judge me, I know you had them, too.)

This mentality was further reinforced when I studied abroad in Denmark, where I lived with a large family in a small house that could have been featured in an Ikea catalogue. Every piece of furniture, every bowl and clock and pair of shoes was nested perfectly inside - the direct result of a conversation: Is this necessary? What purpose will it serve in our home?

Thinking about affordability in terms of space (instead of financial cost) forces a regular purge of objects that clutter your home and workspace - old books, ill-fitting clothes, appliances and gadgets that sit in disrepair. A good rule that I try to (force everyone to) live by: if you haven't used it in six months, you don't need it.

Take deep breaths.

My grandmother taught fifteen of her grandchildren how to swim. She patiently walked each of us around the shallow end of the pool, our arms around her shoulders, telling us to kick, kick, kick, while she blew bubbles into the water - our own human kickboard. She also taught us how to breathe deep when we graduated to swimming solo, so that we could do our strokes underwater or float on the surface.

We sat in a row on the edge of the pool, slathered in SPF 50 and reluctant to give up our flotation devices as she made each of us place a hand over our bellies and name the Seven Seas to ourselves as we inhaled and exhaled. "In for seven, out for seven," we repeated, until our bodies relaxed and we could all forward crawl down the pool lanes.


And now, when I'm caught in emotionally overwhelming situations or am trying to comfort a friend, I mimic the deep breaths we learned at pool. Which is also why, on any stressful occasion, you might overhear me murmuring "Adriatic" or "Caspian" to myself. Super normal, right?

Curiosity killed the cat, but I do just fine.

I don't believe there is such a thing as asking too many questions. Why is the Golden Gate bridge painted that color? How do rainbows work? Why is beef jerky so damn expensive?

It would serve anyone well to be able to answer these questions, especially if you find yourself on Jeopardy or have to generate interesting conversation topics organically (read: first dates).

Understanding the motivations behind actions is ideas is generally more helpful in relating to other humans. It can also provoke a level of empathy that you might have been unwilling to give someone before you understood how they acted at an elementary level. Most times it's not feasible to ask someone point blank: "Why are you such an egomaniac?" "Why did you leave your last relationship?" "Why do you struggle with authority?" but you can tease out explanations behind those behaviors that will inform your future interactions. And worst case, if you ask too many of the wrong questions, you can make a quick getaway in those shoes.

(A version of this post originally appeared on Wistia's blog on 8.15.14)

How to be a Bridesloth (A Dummy's Guide to a Scrappy Wedding)

If you are like me, you grew up believing that your life was going to play out like some Garry Marshall romantic comedy where you end up happily ever after with Benny Rodriguez from The Sandlot

His proposal was going to involve some Parisian escapade (thank you, Sex and the City) and your engagement would be a wonderland of cake tastings and multi-city bridal showers with Franck Egglehoffer tending to your every whim. You imagine being whisked from store to store, showered in jewels and tulle and lavender spritz. "Yes" to this, "no" to that, "more sparkle, less pouf" are things you actually envision yourself saying to eager shopgirls. You spend nights overwhelmed by champagne toasts and mulling over which Egyptian cotton sheets to register for or which semi-private Indonesian island you will spend your honeymoon.

Um, yeah. So, it's not going to happen like that. Or maybe it will. In which case you can stop here. Pass "Go" and collect $200 because your life is fabulous.

I got married a few weeks ago. That's weird, right? Because, apparently, now that means I have a husband. I really don't like that word because it translates to "sad man wearing thickly-striped polo shirts being dragged to antique stores on Saturdays," or worse, "pudgy man shouting meatloaf orders from his La-Z-boy recliner on Sundays." Either way, I've got one. And it's weird.

What's even weirder is that we planned our wedding in a month. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy and I would recommend it to anyone who suffers from extended family drama, credit card debt, and general laziness. One can very simply become a bridesloth like me. Here's how:

Stop giving a shit.

Reality check: your wedding will probably be the best wedding YOU go to. It won’t be the best wedding anyone else goes to. Because theirs will be the best wedding they go to. Best case scenario it's a crazy fun and funny time that your guests will probably confuse with everyone else's wedding when recalling it years (or probably months) from now. So stop trying so hard to impress everyone.

Get the f*** off Pinterest.

Believe it or not, sometime in the not so distant past, people actually got married because they loved each other (or so I'm told. I actually have no idea. I'm just in it for the life insurance). Not because it was their lifelong dream to be featured on a bridal blog.

And you know what? No one remembers your wedding favors. They sucked. You know what's worse than all of those mini handmade picture frames? The fact that you spent so much time brandishing a hot glue gun in your air condition-less apartment and shopping for just the right color of glitter. Because you could've at least been watching Game of Thrones. Or judging a BBQ competition.

Be realistic. Yes, I'm looking at you.

You aren't going to SAYYESTOTHEDRESS. It's a dress. You are going to hate it in five years. Because you hate every dress you had five years ago. And guess what? Your daughter is going to hate it, too. Because her dress will be made by a 3-D printer.

Stop being such a cheapwad.

Your friends and family do not want to spend the next seven to ten months of their lives licking stamps and hand-painting table numbers for your pending nuptials. In fact, most of them are betting serious sums of money that your relationship won't see the expiration date on all of the disposable cameras you will have left over from the reception. Volunteering them to spend Saturdays DIY-ing your shitty fairytale is NOT going to save you money. It's only going to earn you a place next to the bride who makes her guests go on a vegan cleanse in Bridezilla Hall of Fame.


A wise woman once told me, "Weddings are stupid. They are just an excuse to get drunk in a big white dress." But she made a beautiful and crafty bride. And her wedding with ten thousand origami paper stars was just as fantastic as mine. So what's a betrothed to do? Do what feels right and nothing less. Also, dessert. 

(A version of this post originally appeared on Wistia's blog on 8.2.13)