Eleven Years

S on SnowdoniaWe take a quick break from our new house decoration posts to note that the Architect and I started dating ELEVEN years ago today. It’s insane to me how long that is. I’ve recently been going through old family photos, and it’s like I’m a child and then BAM! There he is with me.

He said we weren’t going to celebrate, since last year we went on vacation to Vermont and called it our “tenth anniversary goodbye vacation” since after that we were going to celebrate our wedding anniversary. But, he came home from work with some beautiful flowers for me. What a sweetheart.

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So I thought I would post some factoids about our eleven years together and some photos from throughout.

Together, we have lived in seven places–an apartment in his college town for one winter break, DC where we met the Artist, three different places in our last home city, and now two here.

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We traveled to three countries together on our honeymoon: England, France, and Wales. I’ve stayed at home while he’s gone to France, England, Switzerland, and Italy twice.

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We got married when we had already been together for nine years.

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We were in a long distance relationship for five years, during which we went to college. That was when I learned how to have friends and be in a relationship, and I’m very grateful for that time, even though it was difficult.

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When we first got together in high school, we agreed that we would break up if we were still together come graduation. That obviously didn’t pan out, which is wonderful.

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The Architect briefly dated K in 9th grade. It lasted about three weeks, which is 1/190th of the time the Architect and I have been together.

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However, he’s lived with her all but five months of the time he’s lived with me, which means he’s lived with her 93% of the time he’s lived with me.

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I’m sorta running out of number facts, so I’m just going to talk about how cool he is. He designs lots of buildings for lots of architecture firms, and when people come over to visit, I just walk them around and point out all the cool things he’s made.

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He has a really cute giggle and he’s an excellent listener. He always does whatever he can think of to make someone’s day a little better, like bringing me home those flowers even though we said we weren’t celebrating. And he really loves dogs.

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And….one time in high school for twin day he dressed up as me. Doesn’t he look way different now?

Our little family FAQ: Privacy

S on SnowdoniaIt’s been a while since I made a post about life with my little family of four. Back in October, I wrote a post about marriage and sisterhood, and why we all choose to live together. Today, I thought I would answer a frequently asked question that I get about our lifestyle.

We are two couples who live together, and when I tell people that I live with my husband, my twin sister, and her boyfriend, there are a few stock responses I get. (That happens so much in life. I get the same joke every time I tell someone my name, too. And I often get stripper jokes when I tell people I’m a dancer. But that’s beside the point.) One of the responses is “Oh, I’ve always wished I had a twin. That must be so nice.” Which is great. It is so nice. Another one is “I would never want to live with my sister. Don’t you need to have your own identity?” People ask us when we’re going to grow up and form our own households, or how that will never work once my husband and I “start a family.” Which is funny, I think, because the four of us together already HAVE started a family with each other.

Anyway, none of those are the questions which I intend to address today. The real question I get is only asked by people I know a little bit. It’s not asked by the dentist or the business contact, but by people who may someday turn into friends. And that is the question of privacy.

We somehow have this idea in our society that if you are a single twenty-something and have a roommate, privacy isn’t a real problem. If you are a couple living together, it’s not a problem. If you’re a couple with kids, the kids probably get in the way of privacy, but of course they do. But why on Earth would a couple want to live with other adults? It’s the same question that couples with another roommate get a lot, I think.

And I’ll be honest, privacy has been a problem for us sometimes. In our last apartment, which was a big factory-conversion loft where the Architect and I lived with K throughout our engagement and first year of marriage, the walls to our bedroom did not go all the way to the ceiling. We had many whispered conversations in those days, since our bedroom was in the living room, acoustically speaking. K’s bedroom walls did go all the way to the ceiling, so at least there was some ability to have walls block sounds in the apartment. Our current apartment is so small that there is nowhere good for the Artist to put his computer, so his desktop screens face the couch and we can all see what he’s doing all the time.

We can’t walk around the house in our underwear. We can’t assume we can’t be heard. But we’re all adults. When the Artist and I are home alone all day, I often pretend I can’t see what’s on his computer screen and purposefully keep my eyes away in the interest of maintaining some privacy. We do sometimes have to build privacy. The Architect sometimes watches sports and the Artist plays videogames while K and I have girl time with our friends who come over. We snuggle in separate parts of the house at the same time, each couple in their own world. We steal kisses around the corner in the kitchen.

But maintaining that privacy isn’t the real issue of privacy when living together in a group. The real issue is realizing that in the grand scheme of things, privacy isn’t that important. Historically speaking, Americans have an insane amount of privacy these days. A hundred years ago it was normal for a family with many children to share a one-room house, and even all share a bed. And it was fine. And we’re so much happier having this big family we see every day and share meals and difficulties with that it doesn’t even matter that we have to sacrifice a small amount of privacy. We still have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We can get away from each other if we need to. But I would much, much rather have less privacy around the Artist, the Architect, and K than to be lonely.

And then there’s the question of the larger privacy issues in the world these days. Google knows more about me than many of my friends do. And there’s nothing that can be done about that, really. So what does privacy even mean? Who knows. All I know is that having two other adults in my house with my husband doesn’t make me feel like I don’t have privacy in the grand scheme of things.

Ti Amo: Pictures of a Love Story

S on SnowdoniaIn honor of Valentine’s this Friday, I thought I would tell a little love story about a piece of art in our house.

The Architect and I were in a long distance relationship for a very long time. Five years to be precise. One semester, he went to Rome, and it was awful and we were both sad and lonely. But that sadness and loneliness gave us some art that has traveled to every place we’ve lived together. The Ti Amos.

When he was in Rome, the city’s romance made him feel very lonely and left out. (Or antsy to be with me? Maybe it was the Rome Ants?) It seemed that every where he went, the walls and streets were covered in the words “Ti Amo,” which is Italian for “I love you.” The sidewalks filled with couples in love. And in the midst of all that love, he was without me, his love. So he started a photograph project to document the city and its love-filled walls and streets. Here are a few of my favorites:

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And, as the culmination of that project, he made these two pieces to hang in our home:

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Here they are in our last apartment:

loft ti amosHe made them by putting masking tape down on the paper on the black one, coloring it in with pastels, and then peeling the tape off and rebuilding the drawing on the white one.  He used the same technique to make art as a souvenir for his brother and his parents. Here’s a closeup of the one for his parents that gives a hint about the technique:

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And finally, here are the full pieces he gave his parents and his brother. The one for his brother is a picture of Mario because that was his brother’s nickname in high school:

Final until broken 088And his parents is a picture of the Colosseum after dark.

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Anyway, have I mentioned I have a talented husband? The art he makes fills me with such joy, and the Ti Amos remind me of the very tough, lonely times we got through together. And then how wonderful it is now that we can be together every day as we had always dreamed.

A Goodbye Apartment Dance

S on SnowdoniaThe movers came yesterday, and took away all our furniture. Now our apartment is big and empty, and it’s making this move feel so real. Next time it’s my turn to post, I’ll be living in our new city. (Posts are every Tuesday evening and K and I take turns, for those of you who haven’t picked that up yet). And K and I will finally be reunited. Hooray!

This weekend was my last professional dance performance here. It went amazingly, and of course I cried. We rehearsed for that show in this apartment. We would just move the kitchen table out of the way, and we had so much space.

I’m very sad to be leaving this apartment. It’s more or less our dream apartment–a big, huge, beautiful factory loft conversion. It’s the apartment I came home to after my wedding, it’s the first apartment I’ve lived in that has felt like my home, the first apartment I lived in because I wanted to instead of because it was the cheapest thing I could find.

Our big empty apartment with the beautiful wood floors makes me want to dance some more. So, I improvised this ode to change.

This big beautiful apartment? Just a passing moment gone.

Pear Cinnamon Rolls

S on SnowdoniaOne of the awesome things about being married to the Architect is how handy he and all of his family are. Case in point: not only did he make most of the furniture and art in his house, his mother has stocked our pantry full of things she’s canned. We have enough jam to last us years, we have pears and peaches and catsup and all manner of yumminess.

This weekend, the Architect made us french toast for breakfast, and he opened a jar of cinnamon pears his mother canned.  They were delicious on the french toast, but we sadly could eat the entire can in one sitting. And, since we’re getting close to the big move, we’re trying our very hardest to use up all the food in the house so we don’t have to bring it with us. And so I hatched a plan. And that plan was pear cinnamon rolls.

The jar that started it all...

The jar that started it all…

So I’m going to show with pictures how I made them, and then put the full recipe at the bottom because I know it’s difficult to actually follow a recipe with all the scrolling past photos. And we’re off.

SAM_2312Step 1: Mix your dry goods. I mixed two cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl I’ve had since I took it from my mom’s kitchen for my first apartment.

SAM_2313Step 2: Add your liquids. In this case, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons softened butter, and 3/4 cups of milk.

SAM_2315Step 3: Check your recipe once more to make sure you didn’t forget anything

SAM_2317Step 4: Turn into a blur by dancing around the kitchen and having a grand old time.

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Step 5: Once your dough is all doughy, roll it out

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Step 6: Take some pears (a half cup-ish?) and cut them into small pieces. Also mix the cinnamon filling, which is made of 4 tablespoons of butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 3 teaspoons of cinnamon.

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Step 7: Spread the cinnamon filling over the dough, then sprinkle the pear pieces over it as well. Roll it up.

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Step 8: Cut the roll into slices

SAM_2338Step 9: I sprinkled them with a little more cinnamon because I wasn’t sure there was enough. There’s never enough cinnamon. (Don’t take me seriously on that. Once in college I was making an apple pie with a friend who had literally never cooked before and she asked how much cinnamon to put in and I said “However much you want, there’s no such thing as too much” and then she put in half the bottle and the pie was disgusting). Then bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees fahrenheit.

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Step 10: I made a delicious pear glaze for them when they came out of the oven. I put some pears (like a quarter cup?) into the food processor to make a puree, then I added powdered sugar until it tasted sweet but not too sweet. I’m guessing it was a little more than a quarter cup? I’m not sure, I just spooned it in a bit at a time until it tasted good.

SAM_2348Ooooh! Pretty! Fruity!

SAM_2353And they are Architect approved!!!!

 

 

S’s Pear Cinnamon Rolls:

Dough:

2 cups flour

2 tbsp sugar

4 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp butter

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

Filling

4 tbsp butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

3 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup canned pears, or to taste, cut in small pieces

Glaze

1/4 cup pureed canned pears (mine were cinnamon, but if yours are not, you may want to also add a dash of cinnamon)

1/4-1/3 cup powdered sugar, to taste

Mix together flour, sugar,  baking powder, and salt, then cut in softened butter. Add milk and 1 egg to form a soft dough. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/4″ thick. In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Spread this mixture over the rolled out dough. Sprinkle small pear pieces on top. Roll up the dough, and slice with a sharp knife. Place pieces on a cooking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes.

Puree 1/4 cup canned pears, and mix with powdered sugar in a small bowl until desired sweetness. Drizzle on cinnamon rolls, serve warm.

 

 

First wedding anniversary

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Just over a month ago, the Architect and I had our tenth anniversary of when we started dating in high school.  And now this weekend was our first wedding anniversary. It was a lovely day. We went mini golfing and rode a carousel and cooked a delicious dinner and ate our surprisingly not-that-freezer-burned year old cake. (I was expecting it to be horrible. It was actually pretty tasty.)

Anyway, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about what marriage means to me, especially as it relates to living with my sister and our expectations to live together forever. Plus, bonus wedding pictures mixed in!

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There is a story in Plato’s Symposium on the origins of soul mates. The story goes like this: Originally, people were these round blobs with four arms and four legs and two heads. Some had a boy part and a girl part, some had two girl parts, and some had two boy parts (because the Ancient Greeks loved them some homosexuality!). These people were very powerful, and Zeus was afraid, so he cleaved them in half to weaken them. After that, people went around looking for their other half in an attempt to once again be whole.

K is my soul mate.

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Many people worry that it is cruel of me to tell my husband that he is not my soul mate, and when we were children our mother warned us that any men we dated would be jealous of our bond. But it is not cruel and doesn’t mean I love my husband any less. It is simply the fact that K and I were originally a round blob that was cleaved in two by the forces of our mother’s womb which left us two people who need one another to be whole.

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The Architect and I spent five years of our time together in a long distance relationship, and K and I have been apart from one another for a total of about ten months of our lives. I can say with complete honesty that without both of them, I am lost, and I am incomplete.

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K and I have planned to live together for as long as I can remember. Now that we’re adults, I can see all kinds of logistical benefits to the situation like shared living costs, increased resilience for the entire family in case anyone loses their job, shared childcare, and companionship. But the truth is that those reasons are not why I intend to live with K in my house as long as I live. I remember telling the Architect early in our relationship – probably three years in, which was long enough to know we intended to marry one another–that if he married me, it would mean living with K. That she and I were going to live together with our husbands and our children because we are family and that is what family means to us. He was opposed to the idea until later that day when I got heat stroke and I lay crying and shaking on the floor of my parents’ living room. K walked in and put ice on my wrists and I shortly felt better. He saw then that I needed her and that I would be happy with her and, by extension, so would he. That day he agreed to our bargain.

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It is not uncommon for people to be completely shocked at this arrangement. When K recently told a coworker that she lived with her sister and brother-in-law, he said, “Yeah, you live with your sister until one of you gets married.” And she laughed and told him I already was married and there were no plans for us to maintain separate households. Even twins who live states away from their sisters sometimes tell us that we will have to cut the cord eventually. But why should we cut a cord that makes our lives richer and more joyous, that weaves the web of our family stronger and makes us into stronger people by virtue of providing a strong support system?

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When we were children, we used to talk about how we have matching genes, and so, genetically speaking, our children would be half-siblings. We have always intended to love each other’s children as our own. And besides that, we are a family. Not just K and I or the Architect and I or the Artist and K. The four of us together are a family. We are a family when we wake up on Saturday mornings, the Architect and I make breakfast while K and the Artist sleep. And then we wake them up and they laugh and snuggle and act silly and it injects such joy into our lives. K understands me on a level that no one else ever could because for literally every experience of my life, she has been there. She has heard my stories day in and day out for nearly twenty-seven years. I have held her as she sobbed with heartbreak and she has told me I can handle things I didn’t think I could. The Architect makes me feel loved and he holds me in my sleep and he laughs at me when I dance like an idiot in the living room and he is my home. I said that in my wedding vows.

But there is an extent to which it isn’t home right now, with K living several states away. Yes, I have my husband who is my home and whose home I am. But home is where the heart is and my home is equally with K. And so I am lost in having too many homes that aren’t together.

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On our wedding day, K was my maid of honor (of course). She was the one who asked the Architect if he took me to be his lawfully wedded wife because as my twin she is the one who will watch as he holds me in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. She will watch over our arguments and help translate them for us. On our wedding day, after I kissed the Architect and we walked out of the circle our ceremony was held in, I turned to look back at the circle of my family and friends, and K was sobbing. I immediately left the Architect’s side to rush to hug her. I needed her then, and I needed her to know that I would always love her. She is almost as much a part of my memories of my wedding day as the Architect is.

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But still, it was my wedding to him, not to her. So I will finish this post with a copy of the vows that I said to him. Vows that brought on the winds and a stamp of approval from the forest itself. The Architect nourishes me spiritually. I love him. I love her. I love my family.

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My wedding vows:

I will never forget the first time I told you I love you. Ever since the first day I met you, and you asked me for a smile, I had always known you were different from everyone else. But that day, I saw your home. I saw the way that you and your family treasure your belongings and your house that’s practically a museum and your fireside dinner conversations. You walked me around those forty acres, showed me the history there. You showed me the trees you used to climb and the branches where you did your homework. You tried to teach me to climb a tree, but a branch broke out from under me. You caught me.

That day, I learned to understand you. I knew why you are so different from everyone else, why you care so deeply for everyone you know even slightly, Why I want you to be in my life always. That day, the words “I love you” slipped out of my mouth the way I slipped off the broken branch: suddenly and by accident.

But the fact that I love you is no accident. I have loved you since even before I knew it, since 9th grade gym class when I told all my friends that I somehow wanted to take care of you, and how silly I felt about that because you were so much stronger than me. And you are strong, both physically and emotionally. But I will be there for you in your moments of weakness. I will tell you I love you on sad nights when you reveal to me your deepest insecurities, and when we deal with our lives’ greatest tragedies. I will hold your hand on life’s long journeys and when the branches beneath your feet fall suddenly away.

Then, when those same branches are strong, I will hold you as tightly as I can and smile. I will tell you all about the wonderful new things I am learning, and I will push you to learn the things you want to learn. I will dance and make silly faces to make you laugh in the living room, and I will laugh at the quiet asides you murmur to me during group dinners. We will make things together, and discover things together, and I will rediscover myself every two days, and you will discover things and annoy me by showing them to me every two minutes, and we will be home together.

I want to finish these vows with a poem that has always made me think of our long, fruitful and beautiful future together. As you hear these words, remember: as your wife, I will help you to harvest the comfort, joy, and passion that life can hold.

I was wrapped in black
fur and white fur and
you undid me and then
you placed me in gold light
and then you crowned me,
while snow fell outside
the door in diagonal darts.
While a ten-inch snow
came down like stars
in small calcium fragments,
we were in our bodies
(that room that will bury us)
and you were in my body
(that room that will outlive us)
and at first I rubbed your
feet dry with a towel
because I was your slave
and then you called me princess.
Princess!
Oh then
I stood up in my gold skin
and I beat down the psalms
and I beat down the clothes
and you undid the bridle
and you undid the reins
and I undid the buttons,
the bones, the confusions,
the New England postcards,
the January ten o’clock night,
and we rose up like wheat,
acre after acre of gold,
and we harvested,
we harvested.
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*Poem by Anne Sexton and Entitled Us. All photographs courtesy of Meghan Hayes of Meggi Leigh Photo