It's August!

August 01, 2014 1 Comment

Happy August! Have you ridden your elephant today?

Just remember, not all those who wander are lost. They may just be fulfilling their lifelong dream of traveling to Thailand and riding an elephant.

When I painted this fearless traveler I was in the throes of helping a friend plan her honeymoon to do this very thing.

Don't you like how I say that as if I played a bigger role in this than her now-husband? (I didn't)

But at the time I felt as though I was taking this trip right along with her, I was so emotionally invested in the excitement of planning this elephant-driven quest for the far east. 

It sounded so glamorous, like time travel. I was envisioning it all being very Love In The Time of Cholera, very English Patient. (Were either of these movies filmed in Thailand?)

Imagine my surprise when she returned several months later with her pictures. Turns out, one does not wear a crop-top with exaggerated bow and a hot pink maxi skirt when elephanting. One wears a pair of canvas scrubs in royal blue.

Very different vibe. 

It looked incredible, none the less. She also got to lie down on top of a napping tiger. All about the animals, that one. 

Anyway, cheers to a new month. A month for wanderlust and "going on holiday". The last month before life turns new again in September. 

Posted in Inslee Calendar, The Sketch Book

An Impossible Story, The End

July 24, 2014 5 Comments



In the end, the steroids in my spine took action, giving me a new lease on life and the spinal agility of a girl of 25 again.

Our move went off without a hitch. By the end of moving day, no one was bleeding or injured (further) and all our things had been tucked away into our new place. My favorite Le Labo candle was filling the living room with notes of pastis and summer in Marseille. Life was good.

My fiancé was deep asleep, precariously teetering between a chair and an ottoman since we still had no couch. I was pleased with myself for somehow concocting the ultimate test of a man’s patience as the final gauntlet before the alter. And even more pleased that he’d passed the test with such gentlemanly flying colors.

You see, on top of everything, I had just made him hang all of my new Roberta Roller Rabbit curtains in the new apartment. Without a ladder.

Not only did we not have a ladder, but the ceilings in the new place are about 12 feet high. Meaning that he had to balance on the top rung of a step stool which itself was balanced on top of a chair while using a power drill, a level and a multitude of very-easily-lost parts all in the name of Roberta’s laser cut lace. He had obliged with the greatest of valor, reminding me that I was marrying him partly for his spider-monkey-like climbing skills.

Seeing him passed out - possibly in a coma - in the fading light filtering through said laser-cut lace was a sight that warmed my heart and reminded me that the human condition, especially the condition of this particular human is resilient beyond belief. How lucky I was to get to spend the rest of my life with someone who would endure this ordeal with me with such grace.

The next day brought a confusing cocktail of emotions as I raced through the final to-do’s on my list before leaving New York, knowing I’d return a married woman. The day was also colored by an even more confusing (and mis-mixed) cocktail of pills prescribed for my back injury. Don’t ever take a muscle relaxer before brunch on a stomach full of only bridal butterflies and feelings of apartment-move displacement. At one point I was wondering through soho, in a daze wondering what would happen if I took a nap on the steps of the Barbour store. It was a strange day.

I headed off to Washington, ready to watch a year’s worth of planning unfold into my wedding and most certainly ready to NOT talk about bedbugs or epidural injections. Because there is little else more unbecoming than a bride discussing parasites.

And what did I do?

Yes, you guessed it. I stood up in front of our friends and family at the rehearsal dinner and went ahead and told everyone about it as my toast to my groom.

Whoops. I guess a different bride might have kept that to herself. She probably also wouldn't have blogged about this impossible story either.

I am impossible, what can I say.

The wedding was incredible. I could write ten thousand blog posts about every moment of the day. I suppose in that regard at least, I am like every other bride. My memories from that day are polished to a shine from replaying over and over.

We’re back in New York now, married, pest free, pain free (are we? how do you ever really know? bed bugs and spinal injuries are always waiting for you to let your guard down) and most importantly, we have a couch.

The Charlotte arrived last week. And even though we had to take the door off our apartment to get her in, she made it safe and sound. I'm not kidding. We literally removed our front door. Who knew doors came off?! We also had to temporarily remove Charlotte's lovely little legs too. Which horrified me, as a new sofa-mom, to see my sweet baby being dismembered moments after delivery.

I should mention that this act of dismemberment - both Charlotte and our apartment door were performed by a team of men called "the couch doctors" and for this service, they charged me a cool $350, which they required in cash. And which I stupidly agreed to pay without inquiring why the act of unscrewing sofa legs cost so dearly. Oh well. It was my final act of hemorrhaging money in connection with impossible situation. In retrospect, I could have probably dismembered my sofa myself without giving away hundred dollar bills for several minutes work... that actually took quite a while because said couch doctors had to refresh their instagram feeds regularly during the process. I suppose couch doctoring, much like being an illustrator, requires a well honed awareness of social media goings-on.

Since then, life has returned to a rhythm of normalcy. We’ve had several lengthy conversations about all the exciting ways a person - or two or three or FOUR people could sit together on a sofa. I knew I was excited for Charlotte’s arrival, but had no idea what a novelty sitting on a sofa would be after our ordeal.

And now I have an excuse to go on a highly-over-complicated search for the perfect pillows.

Scalamandre zebras? Brunchwig & Fils abstracted animal spots? Something graphic and modern like Kellly Wearstler? You simply cannot devote too much time to this decision when you’re a housewife with no weddings to plan, no infestations to wage war upon, no new apartments to move into, no plans to be impossible anymore.

It’s true, I think I’ve hung up my impossible hat if my biggest problem right now is how to decide on a pillow-scape for Charlotte.

And so, with this even-keeled outlook, I must bring my story to a close.

As I walked home the other night, headed from my studio to my new Nolitan apartment to greet my fiancé-turned-husband and to sit on our sofa, I was struck by how beautiful life was in this place. The air around me was magic. It was July and there is a still a hint of lavender cooless in the evening. Two gazelles in giant silver earrings and lace dresses floated across the bowery.

They were a vision of summer nymphs in high heels with untamed curls bouncing on the cool night air. They seemed to match, or almost match, making the scene that much more bewitching. Their long strides and high heels were so striking set against the graffiti covered derelict buildings and kitchen supply stores behind them.

I thought how much fun it would be to illustrate them and smiled to myself realizing the significance of this sighting. All the turmoil of the past few months fell away, all the details and hiccups along the way felt irrelevant finally. I felt so lucky to feel inspired by this place.

I knew finally that the impossible story was really over with that moment of inspiration. One of the tell-tale signs of impossible-ness is a feeling, a belief, that you are trapped at the center of your own melodrama, blinded by self-pitty. Being impossible makes it very hard to feel inspired and very easy to feel consumed with anger. Beauty slips past you unnoticed.

It is not until you’ve taken a step back, regained balance, and a sofa to call your own, that you can realize that the universe is actually not such a bad place. And certainly not a place in which you are at the epicenter of dramatic disaster.

It is a place where mysterious, beautiful people saunter in tandem across the Bowery, into the lavender coolness with stories all their own.

Posted in Inslee, Inslee By Design, the impossible story, The Sketch Book

An Impossible Story, Chapter 6

July 16, 2014 9 Comments

Before I go any farther, I must pause to say that I realize how very lucky I am to call this story an impossible one. I know that truly impossible situations exist all around us, far worse than mine. And so, with this in mind, I come to you to ask you to read another chapter. Come suspend your awareness of Real Struggle a bit longer, and indulge me by granting me your most heartfelt commiseration as I tell you what happened next.

I’ve been paralyzed about writing this chapter. The others poured out of me, but this one is harder to write. I suppose because it centers on an issue that I found less comical than the others. Granted, none of it seemed remotely funny at the time, but now in retrospect I see how bizarre and hilarious it all was. All but this chapter.

You see there’s been a silent character at work all throughout this story, and really throughout the last year of my life. A character I resent deeply. I hate that it is a part of this otherwise rip-roaringly good time we’ve been having here. But, to be true to the impossible story, I must tell it all. And so here we go...

Even as I began to put this down, lightning was cracking wickedly close to my window at the very moment that thunder was visibly rattling everything on my desktop. Black clouds were rolling in and wrapping themselves around the Empire State building, forging a premature nighttime on a summer afternoon. It’s like the weather was mad that I’d chosen to tell you about this dark part to the impossible story.

Starting about a year ago I began having intermittent lower back pain that roamed between my left hip and left sacroiliac joint.

What is this sacroiliac joint you ask? Well, until recently, I too knew very little about this joint of many consonants. I only knew this region affectionately as the “butt dimples”…

Yes, you know the region. These two little dimples, one on the left and one on the right of the base of one's spine. These dimples are a hot bed off issues. There is an infinite number of problems one could have with one’s sacroiliac joints. And this one was afflicted in the worst way.

Standing hurt, lying down hurt. Sitting golum-like in a chair pretending to relax while watching TV hurt. Really, any kind of stillness hurt. The only thing that didn't hurt was staying in motion. Mainly, doing yoga. But I had a sneaking suspicion that yoga also wasn't helping. This my friends, was a conundrum. I am addicted to yoga. I like it - Love it - more than almost anything else. To give it up in the midst of all this wedding planning/apartment moving/extermination turmoil would be a bigger sacrifice than I could handle.

The pain started as an annoyance but developed to searing, exhausting, distracting, happiness-sucking distress. It would disappear after a few weeks of torture only to come back again just when I thought all was well, creeping up on me and blinding me to all the joy around me.

I had ignored it for the better part of the last year, afraid to find out that anything might be wrong right before I took the most important step in my life. But, three weeks until wedding bells, two weeks until moving day, and well into the trenches of living the impossible story, the pain became too consuming to ignore. I had to admit defeat. There was simply no way that given the level of pain I was facing, I could walk down the aisle with a real smile on my face. Something had to be done.

And so May 1st came with a trip to NYU Medical get an MRI which revealed a torn disc between the L4 and 5 vertebrae. I was practically vibrating with questions. Oh I was a wreck. I mean, at least now I knew I wasn’t crazy - i.e. suffering from localized anxiety about the wedding only in my butt dimple. But this news came at a price. It turned out that the only way to fix it, and fast, was with a double epidural injection into the spine to subdue the inflammation. Did I mention I HATE needles? Especially giant needles. Giant needles that I was not prepared to face any more than any other aspect of child birth. I was feeling very sorry for myself. Shouldn't I get the pay off of an adorable newborn if I was going to face the giant needle? This was unjust!

As I continued to press with my exuberant list of questions, I discovered that much like the bedbug crisis, this issue is one fraught with mystery. Beyond the initial explanation - you have insects living in your furniture/you have a torn disc in your spine, the professionals couldn’t tell me much about how and why it had happened. Spinal problems, their onset and their trajectory, are as shrouded in the unknown as the habits and migratory patterns of the North American Bed Bug.

Typical impossible situation. Universe smiting me for no apparent reason.

One of my most vivid memories as I attempted to understand the diagnosis was the doctor telling me to imagine the problem disc between my vertebrae like a jelly donut —- Already a bad image, I hate nothing more than a jelly donut.

Honestly, is there anything worse?

And then to imagine, that due to a traumatic event or perhaps a series of traumatic events, or perhaps due to wear and tear and general life-living, the donut had torn or become squished.

I mean. Just imagine the irreversible and disgusting situation that is a squished jelly donut in conjunction with thinking about your own spinal health and try not to feel sick… Exactly.

So now that it has been squished, the vile, red viscous jelly was seeping out. And because the vile, viscous, red jelly is ripe with toxic chemicals, it was inflaming the surrounding nerve endings as it seeped into them, spreading evil red gooeyness where it did not belong. SHUDDER.

The doctor saw the terror mounting in my eyes and the color draining from my cheeks and asked if I would like to be “put under” for the procedure. “You know, we can use that stuff that Michael Jackson used to over dose” she offered.

So, like I said, you can’t make this stuff up. Impossibleness is real. One week before our wedding, I was in an Operating Room being given an IV of knock-you-out fluids so that I could have not one, but two giant shots into my spine.

I went under lying face down, only to wake up, mysteriously lying face up in a different room, clutching a bag of ritz crackers and overwhelmed with an inability to use my usually impressive vocabulary without slurring my words while trying to chat with the nurses. I was also very aware of a searing left butt pain. I would imagine it was what you might feel like after having your organs harvested after being sold into human trafficking in a Liam Neeson movie.

How can you be put to sleep with constant back pain to wake up 15 minutes later with no memory of what had transpired but with much worse, much more constant back pain and call that a solution? The doctor repeatedly told me it would start to feel better soon. I hobbled away skeptically, wondering who in Bolivia would be getting my kidney.

I was instructed to spend the next day resting. Not to lean forward, twist, or lift anything heavy. Instead, we spent the next day moving apartments.

Because well, what can I say, once you become an impossible person, you just can’t go back.


Posted in The Sketch Book

An Impossible Story, Chapter 5

July 09, 2014 5 Comments

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home... as long as home happens to be in Nolita.

So. When I left you, things were looking up. We were walking on the sunny side of the street. The bedbugs were gone. The wedding gown was fitted. The apartment was cleaner than the surface of the sun. All was calm on the western front. Or so it seemed.

Turns out, there was a problem. Can you guess?

Yes, it is couch related. Or lack-of-couch related to be more accurate. Yes, we’d thrown out the love seat. But you see, we’d won the battle, not the war. There was now the issue of where to sit.

I thought sitting on the love seat was bad. Not sitting at all is worse.

Luckily for me, I happen to work with my dear friend, Roxy of Society Social and I had no shortage of sofas to choose from. Unluckily for me, my doorframe and hallway was still 24 inches wide.

And because Roxy is a self-respecting furniture designer, unlike the evil overlords at IKEA, she does not design foldable love seats, designed to torment your lumbar spine. Meaning, to purchase one of Roxy’s sofas for our current apartment would surely mean it would undergo horrific surgery to fit through the door/hallway. And for what? so that it could be the bright spot in a place haunted by the memory of the Packtite unit? Roxy and I both wanted more for her sofa. It deserved better.

She designs beautiful made-in-america sofas, each with sweet, southern sorority girl names, a myriad of gorgeous fabrics stretched over their classically designed frames, and lush down inserts. To bring such a timeless piece into our hovel seemed wrong. A new couch deserves a new apartment. Right?!

So, much like the old tale of the covetous mouse and that ever so alluring cookie… once I had ordered Roxy’s adorable Charlotte… you guessed it, I needed MORE.

Our lease was due to run out at the end of June. An issue we could easily address upon returning from our honeymoon in late May. But…

What was the harm in just looking around on Street Easy? Perhaps just popping into a few open houses? Nothing serious, just getting a feel for the market now before the wedding…

You can guess how this story ends.

You see, I was beginning to develop a taste for pandemonium. Even though I knew with complete clarity that the apartment search could and should wait, my impossible last few weeks had me all jazzed up to keep looking for trouble.

So, even though, to this day I claim I was just “getting a feel for the market” two months early, somehow things escalated quickly. Very quickly. Couch-murder level of quickly.

After just one night of Street Easy-ing I landed on a charming little one bedroom on the corner of Spring and Mulberry Streets in Nolita.

Did you hear me? Spring. And. Mulberry. I mean… how cute is that? This was exactly where I wanted to move.

Everyone who has any tie to New York City has their favorite thing. Maybe it’s the bodegas selling hydrangeas and sunflowers seemingly on every corner, or maybe it’s Central Park in the snow.

My favorite thing is Nolita. In case you don’t know, Nolita is this tiny little pocket of wholesome, charming tree-lined streets dotted with instagram-able cafes and designer boutiques tucked improbably between the teaming over-population of Soho, the bizarreness of Chinatown and the bums sleeping all over the Bowery.

I can’t really explain why I love this little micro-neighborhood so much. Maybe because it’s the first sign of girl-friendly civilization as you head west from our first neighborhood in manhattan, the East Village - a place I never felt quite like I fit in without any tattoos.

So when Street Easy offered up an apartment within our budget and the confines of Nolita proper, I had to find out more.

Granted, there were a few important things that weren’t ideal, like the fact that it required us to move in a mere 15 days later meaning we'd need to break our current lease, and that it looked like there might not be a refrigerator. But, Street Easy starts to give you a nervous, panicky need to move forward and before I knew what I was doing, I’d contacted the broker for a 12 noon meeting the next day.

And wouldn’t you know it, the apartment was perfect. And yes, there actually was a refrigerator. Although, when I realized how close our potential new apartment would be to my art studio, I would have quite possibly signed the lease without a refrigerator OR a kitchen sink.

I got home that afternoon bursting with enthusiasm about the new place and urged my fiancé to visit it too. He is captain of reigning me in, of teaching me the art of patience, and yet, even he was not impervious to this apartment's charms. The two of us became equally addicted to needing to move into it ASAP.

I now relish the memory of us sharing a mutual fascination-bordering-on-obsession. This rarely happens. Like I said, he does not get easily consumed by needing things, which is usually the perfect foil to my need-it-now tendencies. It was so conspiratorial for once for us to be united by a common desire for this new apartment. We fueled each others’ paranoia. What if it was awarded to someone else!? How could we go on?

We could practically taste the new couch, sunning itself in the cheery light pouring in through those west facing windows with the deep marble sills. We were like twin golums, muttering ravenously as we projected everything we wanted post-marriage onto this future home, cowering in the dark of our pre-marriage apartment, perched on chairs for lack of a couch.

There is something so golum-like about perching on a chair when you're in your own home watching a movie. It just feels weird. Whenever I look back on this time, I think I'll see us as golum and golumette, perching gargoyles on our respective chairs, awaiting the mecca that lay on Mulberry Street. We had to have the precious!!!

By the end of the week we could barely eat we were so busy refreshing our email inboxes awaiting confirmation that we had or hadn’t been awarded the lease. The moment that email finally came in, telling us all our dreams had come true was electric with joy. We were moving to Nolita! We were getting OUT!

And so there we were, planning to move, marry and honeymoon all within a 3 week window. Crazy, but do-able, we justified to everyone who looked at us sideways when we told them our plans. Certainly other people did far more exhausting things in far smaller windows of time.

Our minds were made up, we would begin our life as man and wife on Mulberry Street.

With a couch.

Posted in impossible story, Inslee By Design, nolita, The Sketch Book

An Impossible Story, Chapter 4

July 01, 2014 12 Comments

Chapter 4 is brought to you by the month of July. Don't forget there's still time to get the 2014 calendar and enjoy it for half the year at half the price!

As you will recall, from Chapter 3, The Packtite was locked inside and I was locked outside of my apartment.

It was 2 pm, my fiancé wasn’t due home from his office in New Jersey for another five hours and even if he left right now, he wouldn't make it back in less than an hour. And even if I wanted to reach him, how could I? My phone was locked upstairs and even if I borrowed one, somehow in the interlude between 2008 and the present I still had not yet memorized his phone number.

It all came crashing down on me, the overwhelming realization of my complete and total responsibility for the current predicament. How could I tell my friends and family that I burnt down an entire city block because I left an enormous patent-pending oven running full of BOOKS made of PAPER unattended while galavanting around East 5th street in a sports bra and yoga pants on March the 8th? (ok, for the sake of honesty, I did put on a tshirt before going outside, but was still drastically underdressed for being locked out) The panic was hammering me with waves of nausea as I realized the epic stupidity of my actions.

My first thought was selfish: If I burn my apartment down, would they cancel my wedding?

But then I began to ponder the bigger picture, like how I was endangering others. And how terrible of a person I was. I started to wonder if my actions might actually lead to criminal charges. Was this arson???? Was this how it all ends????

At that exact moment our delightfully oafish building super came striding up to the stoop, apparently on an errand run, born on the wings of the Holy Ghost himself. He had moved out of the building earlier that year and rarely stopped by. Especially when we needed something fixed. The sheer karmic beauty of this moment will never leave me and I am acutely aware that I have used up one of my three wishes and/or nine lives, never to be reclaimed.

He unlocked our building front door and then the apartment door for me, swinging the door open to release a torrent of humid air in both of our faces as the full firing potential of the packtite had finally been realized, but thankfully had not reached the critical point at which things become actually explosive.

I dashed in to stop the oven from heating further and I gave him a tour of my mad scientist’s workshop, thanked him profusely as he backed out the door in terror. I vowed to wear my keys around my neck for the remainder of bug-gate.

The next few days settled into a disturbingly functional routine. During the day I would wear my keys around my neck on a long pink ribbon while scurrying between dry cleaner, laundromat and apartment where I ran the Packtite like nobody’s business. I drove that Packtite nonstop for over 72 hours with slavish devotion. I would wake up in the middle of the night to change loads, determined not to let the temperature dip below 140 for fear of another 8 hour heat-up fiasco.

*In the movie version of An Impossible Story, there will be an inspiring montage scene of me relentlessly driving the Packtite, set to the training montage score from Rocky.

Come monday morning, our entire life had been sterilized, washed, dried and folded away into neatly organized bins. We were ready for Dante to return for round two of extermination and even more importantly, we were ready for the arrival of my mother and her white glove inspection.

I should point out now that this was no casual visit. This was THE visit for THE gown fitting. It was also my birthday. And in two days time, I was scheduled to depart for San Francisco and Sonoma wine country for my bachelorette party. It was a big week…


My mother, who operates under the instagram handle of @TheNancyBennett, is a woman about which an entire separate story could, and should, and will someday be written. Such a richly layered character deserves more than a mere chapter in this story, but I have a lot of impossiblness to get through here, so let’s just leave it at this: my mother is a marvel, there is no one else quite like her.

Among her myriad of skills, Cleaning and Not Giving Up are two of her most immediately apparent strengths. Just the woman I needed given the circumstances.

Upon arrival she did what any normal parent would do, she stripped out of her sweater and pants and sealed them in a double-reinforced plastic bag and unearthed a huge box of Swiffer wet mops out of her purse. I wondered momentarily whether or not the family sized container of Swiffers and vacuum-sealable bag were in her bag regularly, or if she’d packed them for the occasion. If this helps explain who she is any better, there’s a fairly good chance those items were in there anyway.

While I was still pondering her weaponry she had already unleashed the swiffers and was on all fours on the floor. She had deftly placed a swifter under both hands and and both knees and began roaming the floor furiously - part mother, part roomba - cleaning our apartment like it had never been cleaned before.

She was moving with the speed and agility of a woman a third her age. When presented with a cleaning challenge she flashes her true athleticism unapologetically. I had no choice but to join in. In no time, we were both roomba-ing around in bras and underwear, with swiffers under every point of contact we had with the floor, heaving with exhaustion and exhilaration at seeing how much disgustingness was coming off the floors. The joy she finds in cleaning is truly inspiring. It’s no wonder I love throwing things out so much, she taught me the beauty of creating a pristine environment. And what is more beautiful than stripping away excess, one blackened swifter at a time?

Once the apartment was deemed worthy of re-population and ready for round two of extermination she suggested we rewash all of my bedding. It had been washed and baked twice already since the last extermination but when @TheNancyBennett is involved, nothing escapes a victory lap in the washing machine. So we suited up and dragged trash bags of already fiercely clean sheets, pillow inserts, duvet and duvet cover and mattress pad back to the laundry.

Nancy took to my Laundry Routine like a fish to water. In no time we had multiple loads going, taking turns racing between home and laundromat with fat rolls of quarters. At one point we decided to break for lunch at The Smile to remind ourselves we were still ladies. We may have just wiped 50 years worth of grime from behind our radiator but we could still order arugula salads!

I remember leaving Nancy mid-meal to RUN the six blocks back to change a load of laundry. In my eagerness to get it all done in time, I bribed the laundry proprietress with $30 to babysit my cleaned bags of clothes for an hour so I didn't have to drag them back upstairs. I had started at $10 but she, like the wiley Packtite saleswoman, sensed my a Achilles heel for poor decisions on money spending had upped it to $30 and I had agreed. I think the week of bug-gate I put that Laundromat owner into a whole new tax bracket.

I returned to The Smile to find Nancy pounding a wheat beer, gearing up for more laundry. The only thing missing from the scene was her trainer massaging her shoulders before getting back in the game.

And then, another impossible thing happened.

After lunch, as I walked the now well-beaten path between Apartment 17 and the Laundromat, clutching another 30 pound bag of laundry, I glanced up and coming towards me in the grey late-winter light was non other than my idol, Garance Dore and yep, of course, trotting right behind her was the sartorialist.

I’m not kidding. I am not even kidding.

You can’t make this kind of impossible stuff up. What they were doing wandering down the dodgy end of east 5th street mid morning on a bleak day in March at the exact moment I was scouring my belongings of the idea of any contact with parasitic insects will always haunt me. My guess is that it was purely the universe’s way of further tormenting me.

"Don’t forget you’ll never be French AND an illustrator” the universe whispered in my ear.

By this point, I was completely exhausted by the cleaning marathon and repeat bedding washing, but it was time to change direction completely and attend my first wedding gown fitting at Vera Wang. But first - the universe has one more thing up it's sleeve.

Nancy had headed back to her hotel to sanitize and prepare for the transition from laundry wench to Mother of The Bride and I was alone in my sparkling apartment. I glanced over at one of the bags of laundry and there, crawling discretely but with stoic determination up the canvas of the bag was....

A bug. A very small bug, but a bug none-the-less. A BUG.

It was all for nothing. My heart broke into a million pieces.

The hours of relentless Packtiting, the naked roomba session, the fifty seven loads of laundry and thousands of dollars spent on hotels and dry-cleaning and cleaning supplies all for nothing. We had a bed bug in plain sight.

Through eyes filled with hot angry tears I trapped the bug in a ziplock bag and put it in our freezer and raced off to find Nancy. She recalls that my face when she opened the door of her hotel room was unlike any expression she'd ever seen before. White as a sheet and robbed of my last shred of hope.

I felt like the guy at the end of The Grey who lies down to let the wolf eat him as he watches the sunset, like the captain of the Titanic as the violinist played knee deep in icy water. My sharply felt awareness of my failure saturated every fiber of my being. I was done.

But, alas, the show must go on. We sterilized one last time, put on some makeup and our bravest faces and headed out to Gown Fitting Number One.

I sincerely hope I am the first and last bride who ever had to, on her birthday, freeze a bedbug to death the same day as trying on her horsehair veiled ball gown to discover that the asymmetrical sweetheart neckline and open back revealed just a few remaining bite scars.

After saying goodbye to the most beautiful gown in the world, we raced back down town to meet Dante to re-spray our apartment. I presented Dante with my frozen petrified bug and we compared it at length to various google images of bedbugs at each state of it's life cycle. Which - I might add - was a terrible experience. Googling "bedbug images" opens up a horrific vein of research. Do not ever do this unless you absolutely have to.

Dante, an expert in the field, could not confirm that this was actually a bedbug. Which was slightly comforting but mainly confusing. Kind of like OJ being found not guilty. In the end all he could say was that it was too small to be a bedbug proper but that I'd done the right thing by freezing it and overzealously cleaning everything and scheduling a second spraying.

All I could think was that perhaps our apartment was so tiny that the bedbugs had adjusted down to size? This was the kind of stress-induced paranoia I was sinking into. In retrospect, it was most likely an ant that had very unfortunately chosen that day to crawl into our apartment only to wind up dead in a freezer.

The polarizing highs and lows of the day were beginning to crack my sanity. One minute the Vera Wang staff is asking if I’d like a cathedral length or chapel length veil and the next Dante is asking me if I had noticed any new welts on my body or blood in my sheets. (I had not)

I may have been wavering on the edge of a mental breakdown but @TheNancyBennett was just getting warmed up. As soon as Dante finished his duties she turned to me with a glint in her eye, a glint that can only mean one thing. We were going to Bergdorfs.

By the end of her visit we had purchased everything on our bridal shopping list, my apartment was as clean and organized and bug free as it was ever going to get and my bags were packed for a bachelorette weekend.

We’ve turned the corner! I thought to myself contentedly as I waved goodbye to the victorious Nancy. Now all I need to do is get married! What a piece of cake!


Posted in impossible story, Inslee By Design, The Sketch Book

An Impossible Story, Chapter 3

June 24, 2014 11 Comments


I realize I owe you a story about my mother. But first, it is important that I introduce another character in this impossible story.

The PackTite Unit...

Morning came, and with it an exterminator named Dante who was toting something called the PackTite Unit.

You see, in the midst of the FULL DUMP MODE hysteria the night before, I’d spoken briefly (screamed briefly) with the pest control company to schedule the next morning’s extermination appointment. The coordinator I’d talked to sensed my vulnerability toward making bad decisions and seized an opportunity to make a few bucks. (or 700)

“And have you ordered your Packtite Unit?” she asked condescendingly

I did not know what a packtite unit was.

She scoffed at my ignorance, as if this lack of ownership of a Packtite was the reason for my infestation. She explained that it is a large collapsable oven that would safely heat up fabric, paper, leather and electronics to 140 degrees, which is the lethal temperature for bedbugs and their eggs*

*Please just re-read that last sentence and marvel at how far down the rabbit hole I was at this point. A woman was selling me a collapsable oven to cook my personal effects over the phone.

She went on to say that upstanding citizens who own Packtite Units use these magical contraptions to cook their belongings regularly to insure that they do not bring bugs into their homes and that without it, I’d spend weeks, months maybe, disinfecting each of my belongings by hand with rubbing alcohol.

I asked how much it cost, already feeling like I would buy it no matter what she said. She told me it cost $700, and even though that is highway robbery, in my state of misery it seemed reasonable and I could barely spit out my credit card number fast enough.

Well… flash forward again to the arrival of Dante. He handed me the five foot tall box containing PackTite, eyeing the giant PATENT PENDING sticker on the top dubiously. He told me most people do not invest in this thing after all.

“What was it like $500 right? Do you know if it works?” he quipped. I was starting to feel like I’d just ordered a fake Birkin Bag off ebay.

“it was seven hundred” I said under my breath as I opened the box and discovered inside the motor of an antique lawn mower and a giant, human-sized suitcase. Both of which should have a combined MSRP of about $50. It also appeared that they would require about three hours of assembly before becoming functional.

Dante made quick work of spraying chemicals on all of our floor boards and remaining furniture, deftly stepping over the mountain of black trash bags that lined our hall. When he had finished poisoning our home I set to work on the Packtite assembly. Getting more and more excited with every moment about how it was going to be such a great, effective way to manage this catastrophe, in complete denial, blissfully putting Dante’s skepticism out of my mind.

Fast forward several painstakingly misused hours.

I am crying again. The @#$%*&%$# seven hundred dollar collapsable oven is a nightmare. I am not naturally gifted at reading directions or assembling things. Especially highly flammable patent-pending clothing ovens with very vague instruction manuals that send you to youtube instructional videos that play warning notices before they begin about how this product was RECALLED in 2011.

It took the anticipated 3 hours to assemble, and then some.

And then, turns out, that blowing warm air into an only partially airtight suitcase does not create a 140 degree environment in the blink of an eye. Try 6-8 hours under ideal conditions.

As soon as I’d finished the grueling assembly process, I had filled the unit with a load of our bedding, cranked her up, and sat back to watch the temperature dial with rapt attention wondering how many minutes it would take to reach 140….

71 degrees and holding strong after 45 minutes…

72 degrees after an hour and a half and the entire apartment had taken on the dizzying smell of burning plastic.

After two and a half hours I was loosing my mind. The temperature had only risen three degrees and I was pretty sure I was dying of asphyxiation. Keep in mind that this evil contraption is now full of our bedding and it is approaching 9 pm. At the rate of temperature increase we were working with, our bedding would be sterilized and ready to be put back on our bed in four days.

Most sane people would have packed up the damned Packtite and called the company and demanded a refund. But, being the stubborn, competitive person I am I put my head down and pressed forward determined that my 700 dollars had not been spent in vain.

I decided I would abort tonight’s cooking mission and any hope of sleeping in our sterilized bedding and check into a hotel again and revisit the cooking conundrum in the morning.

I wish you could have seen the performance I gave at the check-in desk upon arrival back at the hotel that night. Determined to throw her off the scent of a bedbug emergency, I told the poor receptionist an elaborate lie about how crazy it was that our bathroom renovation was still taking forever forcing us out of our beautiful imaginary three bedroom, loft apartment yet another night. Can you believe it takes three days to install a rain shower?! I think she bought it…

The next morning, I returned to our real apartment with a plan. I would wash every single bag of clothing. Anything that couldn’t be washed would be dry-cleaned or put into the packtite. I would man that God forsaken oven like a hawk and as soon as I could get it up to 140 degrees, I’d start cranking out loads of sterilized personal belongings like hot cakes. Good plan, right?

After several hours of trips up and down our four flights of stairs every 15 minutes to a neighboring laundromat to wash what felt like 100 lb bags of our clothing, I felt like I was really hitting my stride. Meanwhile, the packtite was humming along filled with books and frames, finally inching up past 90 degrees to 100 and then 110 - both inside and outside of the packtite unit - meaning that our entire apartment was quickly becoming much like a bikram studio.

I was on a roll. I do my best work in hot yoga scenarios. I had stripped down to a bra and workout pants and was zipping around the apartment, organizing and repacking up our belongings in labeled bags this time, possessed with a fiendish sense of purpose. I had it down to a system, I was making marked progress on the behemoth pile of trash bags, feeling empowered by finally fixing this disaster…

And that is when, on my 11th run to the laundromat, as I was heading back to my apartment feeling refreshed by the shock of 30 degree outdoor temperature compared with my tropical fourth floor battle zone, I bounded up to our apartment building door only to discover I had left my keys inside the apartment.

Inside the apartment whose door cleverly locks behind you every time you leave automatically...

Inside the apartment with the running, patent-pending, recalled in 2011 Packtite...

The very Packtite that had now just finally reached about 134 degrees and climbing when I had last checked…

{to be continued}

Posted in an impossible story, Inslee By Design, The Sketch Book

An Impossible Story, Chapter 2

June 17, 2014 5 Comments

hell hath no fury like a woman with bedbugs…

When my fiancé returned that evening, the scene he entered into was one of sheer annihilation. I was the focal point of this scene.

He had just unsuspectingly walked into a frenzied eighth circle of hell, bursting with unlabeled, bulging black trash bags filled with everything in no apparent order and I was at the center of this tornado, sweating, clutching a wad of more black trash bags lunging at piles of unregulated mess ferociously. The majority of our books, our picture frames, our winter parkas, his tuxedo, my hunter boots, pretty much everything was already haphazardly stuffed together into approximately 30 XXL bags, lining the already claustrophobically narrow entry hall, forcing him to inch, foot over foot with his back pressed to the wall to even enter the space.

Our couch frame stood naked, it’s fate sealed. I had already crammed all the seat cushions into trash bags and dragged them down four flights of stairs and flung them in the general direction of the trash cans behind our building without pausing to consider if they could be salvaged with insecticide and dry-cleaning.

You see, at this point I was in full-dump mode. I should admit, I am always hovering on the edge of full-dump mode, I get great joy from throwing things out. I once threw out a coworker’s entire supply of gift-with-attendance tote bags the company had produced for an event, because I just had to clean up… the night before the event. So imagine how intensely, and how short-sightedly, I was purging our space given the news at hand.

Anyway, my fiancé, looking white-faced and positively stricken, asked me what I thought I was doing. I should mention that he has never once gotten mad at me in the six years I’ve known him, but on this night, in this room, his face said it all. He wasn’t mad exactly, but I think it would be safe to say he was questioning my sanity without taking any liberties here.


Apparently this did not clear up what was going on so he asked again why I was wrecking our home. In broken english and asthmatically heaving sentences i managed to express the crisis at hand. He tried the logical route of asking a few key questions like “coudlnt we do this over the weekend?” or “let’s slow down and make a plan” but clearly we were well past that stage as I rebutted his every calm suggestion with grunts of anguish riddled with language usually reserved for underground dogfighting rings.

So there we were - I remember it as being like something out of a scene from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - where the frames slow to a standstill, like we’re floating in midair, karate fighters having just narrowly missed each other with tornado kicks. We are just floating there, eyes locked in a stand off. Would we stop and make a plan or would I win and would we keep ransacking our home?

And then the movie sped back up to real time, he took a deep breath, dropped his work bag and said, “Let’s kill the couch.”

Don’t you just love him? This is why our marriage is going to work.

We turned towards the Evil Loveseat in unison and stared at it momentarily, drinking in it’s negative energy. “come and get me” it seemed to whisper coyly. Knowing full well that we’d never figure out it’s complicated Ikea design and get it to fold back down into it’s original form in order to drag it out our very narrow, trash bag filled hallway.

After a few minutes of trying to disassemble it while yelling at it and at each other, we realized there is really only one way to kill a couch. The World’s Greatest Future Husband, who happens to conveniently be a Parkour expert, backed up a few paces and with a running start threw his entire body weight, feet first, at the couch.

Things, once again, turned very Hidden Dragon

He was airborne for a moment and then CRACK his foot hit the back board and the entire thing snapped in half.

Take that, Evil Loveseat! Can you believe it?! We were really doing it! We were finally exacting revenge on the loveseat!

Once it was pronounced legally dead, we gingerly picked up the carcass and together we carried it down the stairs to the street where we left the body to rot. I will never again walk within ten feet of any furniture left out on the NYC sidewalks. I had previously believed people were just lazy about selling old furniture and put it outside for the trash collectors instead of craigs-listing it… au contraire mon frere… that furniture is almost 100% positively brimming with bed bugs. proceed with caution.

Later that night, after fluctuating between anger and despair, body wracked with spasms of sobbing, we decided to cheat on bedbug master’s instructions to remain in the vipers nest for another second and checked into a hotel. As I lay in the strange room, with only the clothes on my back, worry coursing through me, a bright spot appeared on the horizon of my misery.

My mother. She arrives next week for my first wedding gown fitting.

Nancy to the rescue. Bedbugs may be ancient, intensely secretive and mysterious creatures intent upon only consuming the blood of sleeping humans and raping each other after feeding, determined to become pregnant with more blood guzzling rapists but they are no match for my mother, the queen of the wallpapered garage. She will know what to do. She will reign supreme.

My last thought as I drifted into troubled sleep was wondering which of the 30 XXL trash bags contained my wedding shoes for the fitting. And of my mother dressed like an ancient Chinese Warrior poised in midair with a sword pointed at a giant bug...


Posted in impossible story, Inslee By Design, The Sketch Book

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