life: unabridged

life: unabridged

Stories of Life-Defining Moments by Christie Grotheim

After “After the Rose.” A Conversations between Juan Pablo and Nikki.


“Oh, Juan Pablo, I’m so glad you picked me!”

“Nikki, Nikki, Nikki. I’m so happy it is you. After Charlene left, I thought that you were the one. And when Claire started asking too many questions, I knew it had to be you.”

“I can’t wait to finally start our lives together.”

“Nikki. I like you a lot. But remember, we are not necessarily starting our lives together, because eet’s not, how you say, eh, official engagement, but I’m so glad we are continuing to be dating and that you are my girlfriend, and you are so pretty.”

“I want to know everything about you now. Your hopes, your dreams… what it is you do for a living.”

“Of course, but first, bessitos.”

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Elementary School was probably the last time I truly loved Valentine’s Day. Crafts, cards and candy. Who could want for more? I loved learning to cut perfect hearts out of construction paper by folding a piece in half before maneuvering my lefty scissors into a sweeping arc to make them beautifully bulbous, smooth and symmetrical. Each one larger than the last, I glued expanding heart shapes one upon the other, rotating between blood red, of course, and Pepto-Bismol pink, until the ripple effect looked like a bad acid trip, like a heart-shaped bomb about to explode. Moist in the middle from too much glue, it was bulging, practically bursting with love. The center heart would be cut out of a paper doily and added last. Almost as thin and delicate as a spider’s web, it had to be pulled apart from the others with the gentlest touch or it would tear.

Craft day fell a couple of days before the class party and decorating the room created a palpable sense of excitement. We made cards for our parents and oversized paper pouches in which the Valentines would be stuffed. While others rushed through and ran off to play, art was my favorite subject and I was meticulous down to every crayon choice, testing the color on scrap paper before committing. The night before the big day, I would eagerly spread out all of the store-bought Valentine’s cards around the dining table and carefully consider which was the best fit for each classmate.

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Until I took a writing class this past fall in which I had several papers marked up by my professor with certain semi-colon, colons, and other such symbols circled and connected by multiple arrows merging at the same point in the margin with “too much punctuation” or “use less punctuation” or finally “DON’T OVER-PUNCTUATE!!!” scribbled in red ink, I didn’t know the term existed, I certainly wasn’t aware that it could be seen as problematic, and I questioned whether it was actually possible to over-punctuate, considering many of my most-admired authors use the devices in abundance—while many of my least-favorite writers’ works, I would argue, are lacking in punctuation, a necessary and effective tool in communicating clearly, controlling flow, and conveying emotion—beyond the added aesthetic value that these curvaceous question marks, playful explanation points and commanding commas provide.  

Look at the first paragraph of Nabokov’s Lolita: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”

The word to punctuation ratio is 36 to 14.

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If you are or were a smoker who has already quit, is quitting, is trying to quit, or is thinking about trying to quit, you will know that overcoming the physical challenge is nothing compared to the mental mindfuck you will be faced with. Arguing with yourself all day long is exhausting. You will be blowing smoke up your own ass, so to speak—when you’d much rather suck it into the upper orifice, down your throat and deep into your lungs.

Mornings are nothing more than a series of self-affirmations, starting when you take your first breath of untainted air. You wake up telling yourself how wonderful you feel and how healthy you look. How smooth your skin looks. How energized you feel.

You remind yourself to start the day off on the right foot, that how you start your morning will affect your entire day, and that each day is the first day of the rest of your non-smoking life. You fill yourself with clichés instead of nicotine. The sun is shining and you smile and tell yourself that this will be the day you stop smoking for good.

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Only one or two days after you’ve shed your winter coat, you will enter a hot, humid, swampy apartment, and you will want to put the window unit into the window, and you will need to install it, and you will need to install it THAT DAY. 

Every year I wait and wait for buds to bloom on trees, my frozen bones aching for just one leaf. This year was especially grueling. Branches were bare well into May as temperatures stubbornly stuck in the forties and fifties. The month started out partly cloudy with a few warmish days thrown in offering false hope followed by mostly cloudy skies, cold rain and dipping temperatures, followed by dark depression. And then I woke one morning to find the streets full of fluffy green storybook trees that exploded overnight.

Though I try to get it through my head, my heart will never understand, even after living here twelve years, that March will be whorish, April will be a bitch, and May will be nothing but a tease. Around here spring is all but sprung, existing in name only. Summer simply overtakes it—gives it a heatstroke.

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list: (n) a series of names or other items written or printed together in a meaningful grouping or sequence so as to constitute a record

—Webster’s Dictionary

Making a List, and Checking it Thrice


Like Santa, I too make a list, but I most definitely check it more than twice, obsessing over it all day long until every little item is attended to—and then checked off. Beyond the tasks, the act of completing the checkmark itself is satisfying, the quick zig of the downstroke and then the exaggerated upstroke, swooshing wildly and then trailing off as I pull the pen away for a dramatic climax.

Years ago I started making lists to prioritize an overflowing workload while on staff at bustling agencies, writing “things to do” the night before in order to help me fight stress-induced insomnia. Ironically, now that I’m less busy—read sometimes under-employed—my lists still fight stress, this time in the form of restlessness and anxiety accompanied by occasional feelings of inadequacy. The list becomes part organizer, part companion coaxing me through the day, and part motivational speaker, thanks to generous use of exclamation points.

For example:

 —Healthy Breakfast!

—Call Accountant

—Call Mom

—Shower and Shave Legs

—Write eBook / Publish It!

—Zumba Class!

—Check Banking On-Line

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I had always been good with money. My parents thought so—and credited themselves for “the way they raised me.” My friends said so and wondered aloud how I was able to save regardless of my income. I traveled the world on a budget, staying in hostels until I was well into my thirties. I lived without an AC unit my first two summers in New York; I’m a survivor. I have cut open tubes of toothpaste to get the parts that can’t be squeezed out. When I finish a jar of pickles, I then drink the juice. Nothing wasted. No matter how much or little I have had in the past, I was able to live within my means.

That was before I moved to the West Village.

In this high-falutin, upscale, downtown, fashion-forward, historically-preserved, in-Vogue, on-trend neighborhood what does living within your means even mean? My husband and I are often out of our means, out of our element, and sometimes feel that we’re out of our league. Surrounded by blocks and blocks of beautiful brownstones sold at an average of 3 million a pop—when we sometimes have only three dollars in our pockets—let’s just say we might fall into a different tax bracket than some of our neighbors.

Stepping outside of our front door is like a navigating a minefield of exorbitant spending at explosive prices, our cash blown around town at various vendors, our wallets left wounded. Luckily we have back up forces: debt cards are utilized and as a last resort credit cards are authorized.

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WestView News | Search Results

As we await approval on our Harlem apartment, I’m sharing a link as a tribute to the West Village. These are five articles I contributed to the West View News. It was such a great experience to be involved in a neighborhood newspaper!

ACTUAL LISTING for this apartment:
Sunlit, 2-bedroom apartment for rent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This apartment features separate bedrooms, hardwood floors and it’s located near all shopping, restaurants and the Graham Avenue L train.
Sunlit? Really?