Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Long Haul

For this blog, I would just like you to picture me flailing around.

Actually, no.  Don't.  Because I'm getting pretty bored with blogging about my stress levels and the many and various things I have to be stressed about.  Which should seem contradictory, but really?  It's getting dull quickly.

Instead, can we talk about the fact that I'm now officially a "commuter"?  I haven't had to actually commute in nearly ten years, and even that was only for a few short months before I moved to St. Louis with my ex.  After that, I had a 15 minute drive on bad days.  Then it became a 10 minute drive.  Then it became a 6 minute drive, and I thought I had officially won at life.

Now?  It's a half hour each way if the rush hour traffic isn't too bad, if I cut into the bridge traffic as late as possible, if the weather is good, and if no one got in an accident.

Honestly?  As much as I don't want to move back to my old apartment, I do very much miss my six minute drive.

The question is: why do you people do this every day?  How do you do this every day?  I'm barely a month into my new commuting life and I'm kindof tired of it.  Or at least tired of how much gas it takes up.  And how late I get home.  And brake lights.

On the other hand, I'm burning through audiobooks at a much higher speed (an hour a workday, minimum), so I'm looking forward to seeing the boost that gives to my yearly book count.  So it's not all bad.

Really, it's actually not the worst thing ever.  People tend to act like Illinois is a foreign country when it comes to commuting.  Without rush hour traffic, I can make it from St Louis to home in twenty minutes.  I couldn't get to the airport in that time.  Honestly, people, I'm driving over the river, not canoeing.  My commute could be much worse.  It could be an hour each way.  It could involve a canoe.

But instead, I get to listen to books.  Or to music.  Or to nothing.  I get at least a half hour of downtime where I literally can't do anything but drive (or sit in traffic, as the case may be).

The worst part, as in much of life, is the other people.  The other drivers, to be accurate.

It's possible I'm biased from years of torture experience, but St. Louis and Illinois drivers are honestly some of the worst in existence.  Whether it's the inability to understand the simple concept of a turn signal, or that fact that merging is nothing more than a glorified game of chicken, or that traffic will be quite literally backed up for miles merely because someone got pulled over for speeding, or the fact that stop signs often seem to be all but invisible to most people... driving in the St Louis metro area can be challenging at best, and a sometimes-full-contact sport at worst.

But, it's home.  I'd rather live here than anywhere else, and if having our own house means I have to live on the Illinois side of the river and drive a little farther to go to work, then so be it.  Overall, it's worth the tradeoff.  (Or, at least, it will be once the place is actually ours.)

If nothing else, this experience has at least more adequately prepared me for an inevitable Mad-Max-style post-apocalyptic existence.  Lord knows I'd never make it if I stuck with my six-minutes-through-side-roads commute that I had for the past seven years.

Until then, I will ride eternal, shiny and chrome.  (Or, perhaps, shiny and ginger.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

With Friends Like These

I talked only last week about how awesome my friends are.

Well, this past weekend, they one-upped themselves.

The bitches.

This past weekend was my bachelorette party.  Unlike my previous bachelorette party, this one did not take place the night before I got married, and thank God for that!  Admittedly, I drank a lot less at this party, but I'm also ten years older and now get hangovers after a few glasses of champagne, so the recovery time was greatly appreciated.

I'm pretty sure that some of my friends have been planning my bachelorette party since before I was actually engaged.  I know the planning began in earnest as Mark actually asked me, and once we picked a date, so did they.

It was not your typical bachelorette party.  I didn't wear a tiara or a necklace covered in tiny penises.  I didn't wear a blinking "Bride-to-Be" pin or go bar-hopping til the wee hours of the morning.  Instead, I had a lovely day of adventures and new experiences, specifically catered to what they knew I would enjoy.

And I personally had no idea what to expect.  The entire day was a surprise, with the exception of knowing that the final stop would be a co-ed party with a literary theme (everyone was supposed to dress like a book character).  All I was told was to dress like I normally do for the daytime events and to show up at my chauffeur's house at 10:15 am.  Outside of that, I had absolutely no clue what was going to happen!

Our first stop was afternoon tea at the London Tea Room, where the six of us spent quite a while drinking as many different teas as possible and trying (unsuccessfully) to eat all the amazing sandwiches, scones, and tea cakes.

Then they gave me the clue to the next stop.

I read it, read it again, looked up, and asked, "Are we going to Cabaret?!"

And we were.

They had gotten us amazing seats (apparently bought practically as soon as tickets went on sale), and it was an incredible show with an excellent Emcee.

After the show, I was allowed some "introvert time" before the night-time party, which was just as great as the rest of the day!  And I dressed like Pippi Longstocking.

Everyone was wearing literary costumes, there was champagne and a nacho bar, and my favorite Jack Sparrow impersonator (who turned out to be nerdy as hell) had been hired!

I was maybe a little excited about that.  Maybe.  And I possibly stole his hat for a little bit.  

All in all, I have some really nerdy friends, guys.  And I'm entirely alright with that.

Photos by Carrie Meyer of Insomniac Studios! You can see all the photos that Carrie took here.

Once again, I find myself telling you how incredible my friends are (like you don't already believe me).  I'm not sure how I ever came to deserve a group of girls who takes it upon themselves to give me a perfect day of low-key adventures, but I'm endlessly glad that they consider me to be worth the effort.

In spite of my introvert anxiety over not knowing what to expect or how much I would need to socialize (and in spite of all the rest of the wedding/house stress I'm dealing with), they made it easy for me to have a good time, eat more than enough, forget about some of my stress, and enjoy myself.  I even stayed at the party til 12:30, which is an incredibly rare event indeed.

As much as I enjoyed myself, I don't intend to do this whole bachelorette party thing a third time.  (Mark is stuck with me, for better and for worse.)  But if I had to do it twice, this was definitely the way to go.

Even the hangover the next day was pretty worth it, if only because I got to lay in bed for a few hours instead of go get married.  I guess you figure these things out a little better the second time around.

Still not going to aim for number three, though.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Squad Goals

So.  It's under a month until we get married.

The countdown is on.  The stress is mounting.  Invitations still haven't gone out.  I have literally no idea where the rings are right now.

What else could possibly go wrong?

Don't ask.

(Also don't ask me how unpacking is going.  Unless you want either a 10-minute rant or spontaneous tears with no guarantees of which it will be.)

Basically, Mark is stuck with me because I am never ever ever going to get married again.

My last wedding was almost exactly 10 years ago (though in August instead of April).  I don't know if I was better at wedding planning back then or what, but this has been hell.  I mean, it doesn't help that we're both working full-time, buying a house, and living mostly out of boxes while digging through other boxes for what we need in the new house.  It also doesn't help that the moving timeline was suddenly thrust upon us two months before the wedding, effectively postponing all wedding planning until what is essentially the last minute.

None of this helps.

What does help is my support system.  Obviously, there is Mark (literally the only person I would go through this for).  He keeps me sane.  He doesn't judge me when I cry or meltdown (that I know of).  He designed our invitations.  Most of all, he's always there for me.

And there are my friends, who have been ever-present with suggestions, ideas, and offers of help.  You've heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child"?  Well, this is going to be the village that planned a wedding.

The importance of International Women's Day is not lost on me at all, particularly this month.  I'm well aware that I wouldn't be the person I am today without all the incredible women in my life, and I love that there is an opportunity to celebrate them more specifically than I already try to do.

I wouldn't be as strong or as self-confident without these friends, and I wouldn't have all the amazing role models that are available to me in the various and overlapping forms of mothers and partners and businesswomen and just general badass ladies.  These are women who know who they are, what they want, and are always striving for their goals (and succeeding, or failing, or both).  They step up to the plate and they admit defeat, they rock bad hair days and they look effortlessly glamorous.  Most importantly, they own their lives.  (Most often they are owning their lives while also being mothers and partners and businesswomen and general badass ladies.)

I like to think that they have influenced me in becoming more and more myself and less of the person I thought I needed to be.  I like to think that I'm a little more badass than I might have been had I never gone to that first burlesque show, or never gotten the nerve to go to my first pole dance class.  I know for a fact that I wouldn't have had so many offers of love and support when I got divorced.  I wouldn't have gone to Mexico, or to House on the Rock.  I wouldn't have had a tornado of women come and pack up my entire kitchen when I moved.  I wouldn't have an entire day of surprise bachelorette party antics coming up this weekend.

Basically, I wouldn't have nearly as many friends to help me out when I so desperately need it.

I deeply love and am eternally grateful for the many wonderful women in my life, both today and every single other day.  You help make my life worthwhile and, without you, I'm not sure that I would be marrying the love of my life in under a month.

So thank you, my loves, for everything.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

There's No Place Like Home

Yesterday, I left the apartment I've lived in since 2009.

I moved there with my ex-husband after he was asked to leave the seminary when they decided that he wasn't fit to be a pastor (and when he apparently hadn't been paying any of our bills).  It was a refuge, an "us-against-the-world" kindof place.  It was the happiest I'd been in the two years since I'd gotten married.

Obviously, that didn't last long.  Us-against-the-world situations rarely do.

I thought I had fallen back in love in that apartment, but it was just an illusion.  Eventually, I fell completely out of love and lost track of who I was in the process.  I lived, or I existed, in a mostly alcohol-induced numbness, surrounded by books and foster dogs, until I fell in love with my soulmate.

That apartment has seen a lot.  It's seen pole parties with my half-naked friends.  It's seen dinner parties.  It's seen me coming home drunk on multiple occasions (or just getting drunk in the living room by myself).  It's seen a divorce-aversary party.  It's seen fights and tears and many rather unmentionable things.  It's been the home to 13 dogs.  I've snuck out of the house (and snuck into it).

I have memories in every single room.  There were love notes on my bathroom mirror and there was dog hair in every nook and cranny.  My ex grabbed me by my hair and pinned me to the wall in the dining room and there was a hole in the bedroom where he punched it.  I spent afternoons reading in my office.  I wrote stories and heart-broken poems there.  Mark and I danced in the kitchen.  We spent hours entwined together talking on the couch.  We kissed at the front door for ages rather than say goodnight.

I grew up there, in a way.  I stopped being an immature and naive little girl who was hiding from the world and became a woman, a divorcee, and, ultimately more honestly myself.

It was my first real apartment, and hopefully my last.  It was home, even during those long months of my separation when I tried to avoid it as best I could.  It held my entire life (and after packing everything up, or throwing it away, I can tell you that that is no small statement).

And yesterday, it was empty and practically sparkling from about two weeks of deep cleaning and painting, with the amazing help of so many of our friends.  I've cleaned things I never cleaned before (and never want to clean again).   I never want to look at mini-blinds again.

Was I sad to leave it?

I'm not sure I have time or energy to be sad about moving.  There's too much else to do.  We're getting married in literally one month and we've barely done anything towards that because we were so focused on the move.

It's the end of an era, that's for sure.  But it's mostly an era I'm glad to be done with.  I'm thrilled that we're going to be living in a place where my ex has never set foot, a place that can be exclusively ours.  And as much as I hate and am stressed out by change, it's well past time to move on.

I'm fairly confident that I will be worth it.

Also?  I'd better get my damn deposit back.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

All About the Dog Who Came to Stay

A year and a half ago, I wrote a blog about fostering dogs, ending, of course, with Thunder, who had at that point been around for a tumultuous six months.  In the subsequent year and a half, he resolutely refused to be adopted by anyone.  And I refused to adopt him.  We seemed to mutually agree that we belonged to each other, but nothing was official.

As we've been moving over the past couple weeks, we've talked about how to transition Thunder to a new home (with a bigger yard and less stairs!), and how to change our lives so that we could still take care of his needs with a longer work commute for us both.  He had been slowing down lately, had arthritis, and couldn't do the stairs to the basement anymore.  But with the painkillers he was now on, he was seeming to become sweeter and more tolerant (well, for him).  He still loved going on walks, wanted to be nearby, and wanted lots and lots of petting.  I hadn't given up on him in the over two years he'd been around (in spite of his innate ability to be a jerk when he wanted), and I wasn't going to start now.

In my blog, I talked about how I liked fostering because I didn't have to deal with the death of a pet.

Well, that's no longer true.

My temperamental, lovable, fuzzy jerk passed away early Saturday morning, after a late night trip to the emergency vet clinic Friday night.

We'd gone for our usual walk that morning, but when Mark got home around 3:30 Thunder didn't get up.  He still didn't get up when I got home at 5:30, except briefly.  We thought he just wasn't feeling good, so left to take another load over to the new house.  When I came home later, he seemed even worse and was barely responding to anything I did, so I called the emergency clinic and took him in (with some help, since I had taken NyQuill and couldn't carry a 70 pound dog down the stairs anyway).

The vet there told me that he was severely anemic, had fluid in his stomach from bleeding internally, and that his blood pressure had been too low to register.  He thought he saw a mass in his stomach, which was probably a tumor.  I got to say goodnight to him, then left him there for monitoring.

In the morning, I got a call from Stray Rescue telling me that he had stopped breathing at 3:30 that morning while the vets were trying to give him a transfusion.  He'd had cancer that no one knew about.

I spent the next three hours crying non-stop while trying to pack.

He wasn't officially my dog, but he'd all but chosen me nearly two and a half years ago when Stray Rescue first decided to have me meet a dog "who didn't really like anyone."  Thirty seconds after they brought him in the room, he was rolling in my lap.  We've pretty much been together ever since, through heartworm treatment and failed trial adoptions and him eating an entire hambone and being the laziest dog known to man.  We've snuggled, been pissed at each other, and eventually figured each other out.

I loved the jerk.  He was my jerk.  He was my snuggle buddy, my shadow, and my big cowardly baby.

I miss him.  I miss his goofy face, and the way his butt would sway when you scratched it.  I miss his droopy sad ears when he watched us eat dinner.  I miss him curling up on my yoga mat while I was using it.  I miss his 70 pounds of snuggle crushing my sternum when he'd lay on top of me.

I'm glad he didn't really suffer.  I'm glad I got to say goodnight to him.  And I'm glad he got to go on one last walk that morning.

Most of all, I'm glad I brought home the big jerk when I'm sure few other people would have been willing to do the same.  I'm glad I took a gamble on him, and gave him the home he probably never had before, even if it was only for a short time, and even if he ultimately broke my heart in the process.

I wouldn't change a thing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Situation Normal...

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Wait, that's been done already?  Alright, let's try again...

These are the times that try men's souls.

That's already taken too?


How about plain old "this sucks"?  Does that work?

Obviously I'd like to simply fill today's blog with cliched, overused, and occasionally fatalistic quotes so that I don't actually have to add on to my current To Do list (which is daunting at best, impossible at worst) and actually write a blog.

Did I mention we're still moving?  Did I mention that we're moving into a house that's still mostly full?  Did I mention we need to be completely out of our current place (with it cleaned and fixed for inspection) by the 28th?

Did I mention we have yet to send out wedding invitations?

Did I mention I'm in almost constant freak-out mode and that the sight of a calendar sends me into a panic?

I did?


And yes, I know we'll get through it.  I know the end result will be worth the stress and the tears and the work and frustration.  I know that.  I do.  That doesn't change the fact that right now?  It sucks.  It sucks and it's hard and I want it to be over so I can get to the good part, the part where it's all worth it, the part where my life isn't crammed into boxes and shoved into a room, the part where we're not eating fast food nearly ever day in between transferring boxes from place to place.

If you don't see either of us until April, this is why.  We don't have time.  We don't have energy.  We have a house to buy, a wedding to arrange, an apartment to clean, and an ex to frame for any damage.

We're swamped.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Pretty Stressed Girl

As I begin to type this, there are approximately 16 tabs open on my browser.  To be fair, some of those have to do with books I want to read and cakes I want to eat.  And one of them is this blog. But a lot of the rest have to do with things that are seriously stressing me out right now.

And do I even begin to describe how many tabs it feels like I have open in my brain?  Because it's way more than 16.

The ironic thing is that never before in my life have I been so invested in self-care, in methods of relaxation and mindfulness.  I've been doing yoga almost daily since the middle of January.  I've been taking a relaxing bath (complete with wine) every Friday for about a month.  I've been taking care of my skin, drinking a lot of water, and we've even started throwing in some lavender aromatherapy melts into our nightly shower.  I should be blissfully relaxed, floating around on a pleasant-smelling cloud of divine and glowing happiness.

Instead?  My shoulders have ached for days.  I've developed frequent headaches.  My appetite is rapidly deserting me.  Mark's blood pressure is way up.

Why, you ask?  Why on earth are two such usually-happy and fairly content lovebirds so rapidly descending into a state similar to a dangerously frayed wire?

That's an easy one.

A.  We're buying a house.

B.  We're moving.

C.  We're getting married.

Did I mention this is all happening in under 60 days (for the most part in under 30)?

Excuse me while I hyperventilate, laugh a little too loudly and a little too nervously, and then go hide under the covers until people stop asking me questions.


I'm breathing.  Really.


Totally breathing.

Shockingly, not everything has been going according to plan.  Mainly that while buying a house from a family member certainly has its many perks, it also has a very significant number of downfalls.   A very, very significant number.

Right now, the apartment is in a state of disrepair.  My books (over 20 boxes) are packed and gone, we have a list of furniture we're (hopefully) moving over tomorrow, and I have a LOT to go through, get rid of, organize, and pack.

I am ridiculously looking forward to this all being done, to finally being in a home of our own, married, and living our life together full time.  I'm excited about hanging up pictures, about a new oven and fridge, about having a garage, and about getting to set up a home together in a new and fresh place.  I'm thrilled to no longer have to deal with a rental company and to get to come home to my love every single night.

I'm also panicking about getting it all done in time, worrying if something else is going to go wrong, trying to pick a caterer for the wedding, needing to finish up invitations, and and and...

Right.  Breathing.

Ultimately, I do believe everything is going to work out.  I do.  It's going to be stressful as hell in the meantime, but I believe we'll get there.  We've made it so far, right?  We've made it through almost a a decade and a half of friendship, through my divorce, through losing my job, through my learning how to be a stepmother-in-training, and through over two years of mostly living together.  What's two more months of last-minute major life changes?

(Not coincidentally, everyone has decided that if we can make it through the next two months, we can definitely survive marriage.  Nothing like trial by fire, am I right?)

Mark asked me the other day how we got to this point.  I told him that 13 years ago I showed up at a community theatre audition, that's how.

Okay, it might not have been quite what he was asking, but it's true nonetheless.

I never could have dreamed that we would be at this point.  I never imagined that my completely insane love-at-first-sight reaction at age 18 would lead to a second marriage, a move back to Illinois, to buying a house together.  The most I hoped for at the time was that he thought I was cute and that he wouldn't notice that I was the most awkward girl on the planet.  I'm ridiculously lucky in that I've gotten all that and more.  (Okay, he's probably realized I'm the most awkward girl on the planet by now, but at least he doesn't seem to mind too much.)

Am I more stressed than I've been since my divorce?  Yes.  Have I cried?  Yes.  Am I going to cry more?  Probably.

But is it all going to be worth it?

To quote one of my all-time favorite lines of dialogue, "Abso-fucking-lutely."