Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Tale of 12 Puppies

Timehop informed me this past weekend that I have officially been a dog foster mom for Stray Rescue for four years.  It has been one of the most challenging, heart-breaking, and rewarding experiences of my life.  I never regret deciding to start fostering, in spite of the variety of incidents and getting overly attached and all the times I've spent chasing dogs down streets and back alleys.

I love dogs.  I've always loved dogs.  I don't remember a time where I wasn't asking my parents to have a dog.  I think I basically wanted to be a dog.

Note: I didn't just wear this at Halloween.
Finally, finally, when my parents bought their first house when I was 8, I got what I'd been wanting: my own puppy.  Barney the beagle.  Pretty much the best dog we could have asked for.  He was smart, sweet, and lazy.  He slept in like we did.  He didn't care if we went on walks or not.  He'd do anything, absolutely anything, for a treat.  He was dressed up for every holiday without complaint.  He went through two knee surgeries and had a tumor removed before we had to put him down when he was twelve.  It broke my heart, and my mom's heart.  Probably my dad's heart too, but he generally shows even less emotion than I do.

Where it all began...
While my mom is fairly determined not to go through such a loss again, I'm clearly a glutton for punishment, because I've set myself up to continually be saying goodbye to the dogs that I bring into my house.  Granted, it's not quite the same.  The dogs I foster are going off to forever homes with people who want them.  But I usually get attached anyway, so saying goodbye is generally still hard.  Especially when you can't explain to a dog (who is just as attached to you as you are to them) why you're leaving them at a strange house.

But I still go back for another dog.  And another.  And sometimes two more.  I really and truly love giving these dogs a home where they can learn (or at least re-learn) what it's like to be a normal dog in a house.  That's the part I love: seeing them change and relax and be happy.  Sometimes there's not much change.  They might not have been at Stray Rescue for very long.  Or they handle change better than some.  

In four years, I've had twelve dogs.  They've all been so very uniquely different.  Some I've adored.  Some I've tolerated.  Some have presented more interesting challenges than others.  Apologies in advance that some of these photos suck, as they were uploaded through old, not-so-smart phones.

First was Madrid, nicknamed Maddie.  I picked her because she was beautiful.  She was a sweet, happy girl.  And very special.  Stand over you and stare at you from inches away special.  Escape through every opening her head could fit through special.

Then Toffee, an emaciated "lab mix" who quickly stole my heart.  I cried when I left her at her new home.

Quill was... cute.  And annoying.  So it was a good thing she was cute.

Gaia (left) was a shy, scared girl who found the perfect family who was willing to let her take her time to get to know them.

Wendell (middle) was a giant, furry dope that stayed a grand total of a few days.

Browning was my own personal rescue.  I picked her up on the street near my apartment. She wasn't micro-chipped and no one ever seemed to be looking for her, so she became my foster.  She almost became mine.  She was perfection, and I carried her around and slept with her like a warm teddy bear.

Cocoa, full name Cocoa Puff Cereal, was a... special dog.  She'd been shot, had her dewclaws removed, and had a tongue that refused to fit in her mouth.  And she looked like a beagle that had recently had a pitbull shoved inside her.

Couer D'Alene (Cordi) was the most beautiful, sweet girl.  We had many, many couch naps together.

Morticia wasn't around very long, but she did have a habit of stealing my clothes.

My sweet, sweet Girlie girl.  She was with me for quite awhile, and I didn't mind at all.

Houston was a giant sweet, dopey puppy who had no idea how big he was.  He was adopted in no time.

And now there's Thunder.  He's been the most challenging foster I've had, due to his difficult heartworm treatments and his very serious fear of people (and sometimes parked motorcycles and stone lions).  But once he realizes people aren't going to hurt him like he's apparently been hurt in the past, his love and desire to snuggle is all-consuming.  He thrives on routine, loves walks, and adores his stuffed toys.  He's become so much more of a normal dog in the months I've had him, and I know he'll continue to improve with the right family to love him.

I adore being a foster mom, and I look forward to many, many more dogs that I'll have the opportunity to help and love.  It can be really hard to say goodbye to all the ones that steal my heart, but I wouldn't change anything.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sleepless in St. Louis

Several things have happened this week.

  • More workplace antics with Jake, Tommy, and Natalie.  Ben's been working on example pictures for green screen photography, and we, of course, were only too happy to help out.

  • Went to the Muny to see The Buddy Holly Story with both my boyfriend and my parents, because I'm a very brave person indeed.  Enjoyed the first half.  Second half was loud and long.  And it was hot (of course), which didn't help.  And I was tired (see next point), which also didn't help.  On the other hand, it's the second time this summer that we've made it to the Muny, which beats out the past few years for me. 

  • I've somehow developed some strange form of insomnia that has ensured that I've barely slept this week.  
I'm not even certain when the last time I slept well was.  Last week, I think.  Definitely not Saturday night, as I didn't even get home till midnight from work and was at work again 10 hours later.  Sunday night I didn't sleep well.  Same for Monday and Tuesday.  Wednesday, after the Muny, I entered that dreaded half-sleeping, half-waking fog where you don't even know if you were ever actually asleep but you're leaning towards probably not.  Last night, I couldn't fall asleep in bed, so I went to go read on Oscar the Couch (the world's ugliest and most comfortable couch), in hopes that I would, as usual, fall asleep on him.  Instead, I finished the remaining two-thirds of the book I was reading.  And still struggled to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Insomnia is not usually a problem with me.  I'm really into sleeping.  I'm good at it.  And usually, once I'm asleep, I stay asleep.  I've slept through storms.  I've slept through tornado sirens.  I've gold medaled in sleeping.

But this week?  I can't sleep.  I can't sleep at night.  I can't sleep in the morning.  I can't nap in the afternoon.  And I don't quite know why.  And lack of sleep makes me grumpy and negative and I start thinking about all the things I have to be negative about.  Which usually orient around the bad decisions of the past, or the uncertain future or all the things I should be doing with my life.  Or things my grumpy, sleep-deprived brain makes up for me to be negative and depressed about.  You know.  Perfect bedtime thoughts.

Not really.

I know that the negative thoughts aren't normal.  I know that I will sleep again.  (Hopefully.)  I know that my usual rested self is happy and at least working on being well-adjusted.  I know that that everything is not pointless.  I know that I'm just tired.

So basically, I'm Tom Hanks with longer hair and only slightly less awkwardness.  Except there's no Meg Ryan wanting to meet me at the top of the Empire State Building, which is good because I can't afford to go to New York and I'm really not into pixie-ish blonde women.

I'll settle for some actual sleep.  Or at least another cup of coffee.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Jobless to Best Job Ever

As many of you are aware, I lost my job last year.  I had been a shipping and inventory manager for a little over seven years.  I didn't exactly love it, but it paid the bills and I generally liked hanging out with the guys (and a few girls) that worked for me.  We listened to audiobooks, to Disney songs, to 80s love ballads, and to stand-up comedy.  We shot rubber bands at targets.  We played choose-your-own-adventure zombie games.  We shrink-wrapped each others' stuff.  We went bowling about once a year.  We actually did do a lot of work.

But, things change.  I stopped having any minions to work for me.  I started having more work than I could reasonably handle.  I stopped having much to look forward to at work.  And soon,  I stopped having a job.

Really, I probably should have seen it coming.  The signs were there.  But, I'm apparently not always very good at seeing warning flags, particularly when I'm being told to just ignore those big flapping red things.

But, in a convenient plot twist, the day before I was told I was losing my job in a month and a half, my friend Jake texted me to see if I was interested in working weekends taking pictures for this company called Fish Eye Fun.

I'd heard of it.  Kindof.  I mean, I saw Jake posting on Facebook about it.  I didn't really know what it was all about.  But, the next day, after I left work and went home and cried for about an hour, I texted Jake and told him I was really, really interested in working for this place.

It's things like this that reinforce my belief that things will always work out for the best.  It's just the way it usually works for me.  For example, my ex moved out the week before I went on an amazing road trip with three of my good friends.

At House on the Rock.  I already want to go back.
An accurate re-enactment.
My job ended the day before I left for a week-long cruise with my parents.

Mahogany Bay in Roatan.  I touched monkeys and birds and fake pirate stuff.  It was great.
And Fish Eye Fun showed up in my life right when I needed it, and even a day early.

That weekend, I went along with Jake to St. Charles Illumination, and, in spite of getting soaked and freezing, I was hooked.

Watch and learn, young Grasshopper.
From then, it's gotten a little out of hand.  The combination of photography, dressing up, and me?  What did anyone expect?


Shockingly, I don't just take pictures of myself.

For those of you who don't know, Fish Eye Fun is an amazing "photo booth" created by Benjamin Brammeier.  As our motto says, "it's way better than a photo booth," thanks to the fact that it isn't a booth at all, and has a wide-angle lens and a great filtered fish-eye look.  We're incredibly popular at weddings (particularly after a few drinks), and also do birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, corporate events, and other awesome things like Comic Con and PrideFest.

Confession: bride and bridesmaid photos are my favorite.  So are hair flips.

In April, after about five months of unemployment (outside of working weddings on the weekends), I started working as the office manager for Fish Eye Fun.  I do all the scheduling and prep work for events and all the other little detail work that I strangely enjoy.

This has been, as Jake always says, the "best job ever."  I get paid to go to parties, to eat wedding food, to take pictures of people being ridiculous, and to see how much fun they have being ridiculous.  It's also exhausting, takes up most of my weekends, and I sometimes have to deal with loud DJs and obnoxious drunks, but I wouldn't trade it.  Tell me the last time you were at a Wonder Woman-themed birthday party at a sushi restaurant.  For me, that's just another Saturday night.

The worst part of my job is that I now like pop music and know all the words to "Shake It Off."

The best part?  I get to eat a lot of cake.

Lots and lots of cake.
(And no, the irony that I joined the wedding industry after getting divorced is never lost on me.)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pretty Vintage Girl? Me?

I’m starting a blog.  Again.

This time, it’s not just about food and books.  (I mean, it’s going to be about that, too, obviously.) It’s about my life.  I just celebrated the one-year anniversary of my ex-husband moving out.  It’s caused some reflection on the past year, and on the years before that.  So very, very much has happened this year, and almost all of it wonderful. Even the bad times ended up working out for the best.  I changed the locks, and changed my life, and can’t imagine how and why I didn’t do both sooner. 

In that year, I’ve learned a lot more about who I am, what I want in life (though still not at all what I want to be when I grow up), who the truly important people in my life are, and what it’s like to be really ridiculously happy.

Who am I?  I go by surprisingly many names.  My real name is Ashley.  My stage name is Bonnie.  Some people call me Cupcake, due to my predilection for baking cupcakes.  And others call me the Pretty Vintage Girl, or PVG, when they can’t remember any other name or because they apparently think it’s an apt descriptor.

And I suppose it is.

I started dressing “retro” about five or six years ago, when I found myself bored with my previous eclectic style.  It took me a little bit to get the hang of it, and to find all the best vintage stores in the area.

And I briefly decided to be a platinum blonde.

List under: Things to Never Do Again.
Since then, it’s gotten a bit out of control.  My apartment has become a refuge for mid-century furniture and paraphernalia, and my closet?  Well.  Let’s not go there.  It’s only gotten far, far worse in the past year.

So.  This blog is for my adventures, my antique mall discoveries, my pictures of dogs, inevitable selfies, and for my realizations about life as a 30-year-old divorcee living in South St. Louis.  If this past year was so great, I can only image this upcoming one will be even better.

Bonus points for a selfie with a dog and a vintage dress.