Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Adulting Through the Holidays

I didn't blog last week, mainly because I was covered in flour and immersed in baking for about 6 hours in advance of Thanksgiving.  I took off from work early, went to the store, then went home and made two pumpkin pies, a German chocolate and coconut cream pie, and a Twinkie bundt cake.

Mark and I delighted in our freedom to stay up late, then promptly realized we're old and exhausted and went to bed around 10.

On Thanksgiving itself, we loaded up the various desserts in my car and then went our separate ways. I went to my parents' and Mark went to go pick up his daughter from her grandparents'.

This year, just to mix it up, I had invited my friend/co-worker/sisterwife Casey and her family to join my family's annual Thanksgiving gathering.  (And, in spite of my warnings, they actually showed up!)  It's already not exactly an exclusively family event.  If it were, there would usually only be about 4-5 of us total.  Instead, there are usually around 10-12, since Jake and his family have apparently become extended family over the past few years.  So, the more the merrier, right?

This addition was notable for being the first time that small children have been in my parents' new house since they moved in over five years ago.  Ever.  We kept the kids mostly contained in my mom's sunroom and entertained them with games and balloons and prop hats (see above).

After dinner, Mark and Kaylee showed up, and then the madness truly began.  My parents haven't even seen me interact with children in I don't know how long (we somehow haven't ever managed to coordinate our lives and schedules well enough to hang out with them and Kaylee together before), and suddenly I'm playing with three children aged 5 and under.  I'm surprised one of them didn't fall over in a faint.

After Casey took her crew home, Kaylee decided that she and I were going to play (of course), and that evolved into playing hide-and-seek all over my parents's house until I proved my hide-and-seek expertise and hid in the bathtub behind the shower curtain until she gave up and recruited Mark to help find me.

All in all, it was probably the most eventful Thanksgiving ever, and definitely the loudest, and my first holiday actively being a stepmom-in-training.  But?  I enjoyed it.

Thanksgiving, as we've all been told, is supposed to be that special time of year where you think about all that you're thankful for.  This year, I didn't really have to think about it, because I was literally surrounded by it.

While I may be entirely too grumpy sometimes about my overly-full schedule and my lack of sleep and free time, I'm still honestly still happier than I've been in a long time.

I might complain and bitch more than I should, but it's all sound and fury, signifying nothing.  I have wonderful friends who want to spend time with me no matter how many times I don't go to their parties, an eternally supportive family (in spite of how crazy they drive me sometimes), and the best fiance´ (and future stepdaughter) I could ask for.  I'm never ever at a lack for food or clothes (or pins), I have my own divided plate for holidays, and I've learned that I'm actually not terrible with children and am pretty much an expert at taking selfies.

I'm not the person I used to be, I don't have the life I used to have, and all of that is more than fine.  To quote a book I just read this past month, life is so good.

And for that? I'm very, very thankful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pin Game Strong

So, if you know me at all, you know that I most definitely have a new obsession: pins.

It's only a minor problem.


I definitely don't have to limit myself to buying a few pins every other week.  Nope.

I certainly don't have friends come up to me and ask to see what pin I'm wearing that day.  Nor do I plan my outfit around what pin I haven't worn yet.  I definitely don't take selfies everyday to show off said outfits.  I don't have a wish list of pins that could easily run me over $400.  I didn't ask my mom to dig up all the Disney trading pins that she has.


Okay.  None of that is true.  I admit it.

But I can't help it.  I'm completely and totally obsessed.  I don't know when I've been quite so in love with accessories since I first started dressing vintage.  But honestly, I adore this new and adorable way of further expressing myself and my style.  It's like a little finishing touch on top of all my other costume jewelry accessories.

Obviously, it's upped my style game a bit too, prompting me to get my other accessories a bit more organized so I can put together outfits without burrowing through various piles looking for a pair of earrings.

It's definitely a motivation I need now that winter is coming.  Winter in all its dreariness can lead to me wearing leggings, T-shirts, and cardigans every day instead of the bother of somehow combining warm and stylish.  My wardrobe is primarily made up of summer dresses, skirts, rompers, and sleeveless tops, after all.  I'm not a sweater girl, I admit.  I'm not one for big bulky knits, I hate most turtlenecks, and I generally dislike long sleeves that I can't immediately push up over my elbows.

This makes dressing for winter in the Midwest a bit problematic.  I've made an effort the past year to try to bulk up my winter wardrobe a bit to help out, but it doesn't change the fact that I am primarily a girl who dresses for spring and summer.

I'm hoping the fact that my pin game is strong (and getting stronger) will help in this respect.  If all else fails, then at least my accessories will be cute.

A girl's gotta have priorities, right?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Pretty Vintage (Engagement) Photo Shoot

Obviously, I'm a day late in blogging.  But yesterday was a day for recovering from the election results, and both Ben and I took a day off work.  I did some retail therapy at Goodwill and then got to have lunch with my friend Katie (who I haven't properly hung out with in ages).  So there was no blogging.  Sorry not sorry.

Today?  Today I'm not going to talk about politics.  Enough people are doing enough of that.  I don't need to join in.  Today I'm going to talk about something much better: engagement pictures.

Instead of waking up to discover the new president, like yesterday, I woke up this morning to a text from Casey (my co-worker, friend, and photographer) with a link (and, more importantly, the password) to the rest of our engagement photos that she took a little over a week ago!

It was the first Sunday where I wasn't working, the weather was finally vaguely fall-like, and we were all amazingly free.  We met up at Lafayette Square Park (along with several other groups and their attending photographers), and dived right in.

Obviously, this was not my first time for the whole engagement picture thing.  The last time was, oh... 10 years ago?  I'll admit I tried to find some lingering proof of those pictures to serve as some bizarre time capsule (I had bangs, my natural hair color, and was dressing boho-chic at the time), but I'm pretty sure I very thoroughly destroyed nearly all evidence that I was ever married before.  And that's more than fine with me.

So while it felt vaguely familiar when Casey started posing us, it wasn't exactly as if I'm an old pro at it.  Plus, I still get incredibly self-conscious whenever someone points a camera at me.  (I know, I know.  I'm the queen of selfies and I take pictures of myself, selfies and otherwise, all the time at work.  But that's different.)

It helped that Casey is a good friend and that I feel comfortable with her (and, more importantly, with Mark).  I will admit that there was a brief moment in the bookstore where I flailed around and exclaimed that I "didn't know what to do with my arms!" but otherwise, my posing game has gotten a little bit better over the years.

We may have been a little too comfortable with Casey.  I don't know how many times we cracked up when we were supposed to be looking at each other "lovingly."  Moreover, we had to hold chaste little kisses so repeatedly that the whole concept of kissing just became... odd.  So very odd.

But, I think she got some good photos.  Maybe.

After walking all over Lafayette Square Park, we drug Casey over to one of our favorite bookstores, The Book House, and continued the madness there.  And I bought a few books, of course.  Well... Mark bought them for me, since I had accidentally (Mark: "Sure, accidentally.") left my wallet and keys in my other purse.

Obviously, we had a pretty good time taking pictures.  That in itself is not surprising, seeing as we generally have a good time no matter what.  But it was great having Casey along for the ride to make us look all presentable and photogenic and tell us where to stand (and what to do with my arms), instead of looking like the hot mess we usually are.  Plus, it's nice to not have the only pictures of us be a) selfies or b) Fish Eye Fun photos.

So.  We still have absolutely no plans as far as what we're actually doing for our wedding (besides "as little as possible"), BUT.  We have engagement pictures accomplished!  So, I think that's something.

It's better than nothing, anyway.


Of course right.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Challenge Accepted... Kindof

So, back at the end of September, Mark found out about Drawlloween, a 31-day Halloween-themed drawing challenge that takes place during October.

Since I happen to think he's a good artist who just happens to be terribly out-of-practice (sounds like someone else I know), I encouraged him to go for it and said that I would do the same challenge, but with writing.

(Please keep in mind that the last time I did writing challenge was 6 years ago when I was still at least slightly in the habit of writing, and Mark hasn't done any regular art in probably as long or longer.)

So.  What could go wrong?

Well, I think it went exactly like you might expect.

We started out with good intentions.  Then the weekend would come and throw everything off completely (Mark would be with his daughter, I would be working).  Then we'd attempt to catch back up during the next week.  Rinse and repeat.  Several times.

Spoiler alert: we both ended up behind, one of us more than the other (hint: me).

But along the way, I actually really enjoyed it, regardless of how much I complained that I didn't know what I was going to write.  I liked sitting around with the love of my life, making art.  I liked the challenge of it, of being forced to be creative again, and I liked watching him be creative.  The other night, when we were making our last desperate attempt to finish, I told him that I liked watching him draw.

Mark: I'd say the same for you, but... it's really just not the same.  With you, it's lots of unintelligible scribbling... furious crossing out... writing really small off to the side, then pausing while you chew on your pen and stare off into the distance.

Me: ... That's an incredibly accurate description of me writing.

So no.  Writing isn't exactly a glamorous thing.  But I admit, it felt good to be writing regularly again.  And creatively.  To try to come up with a story or a poem in response to an often-very-visual prompt.  I did research to try to spark ideas.  Mostly, I tried to be unconventional.  I made an effort for whatever I was writing to not be quite what you would expect, or for there to be a "reveal" towards the end.  For the most part, I think I was successful.  Obviously, some days were less so.  But the important thing was I was writing.

I definitely fell off the bandwagon towards the end.  Between getting ready for Halloween, a busy work schedule, and other obligations, I got very behind.  I actually only completed up to Day 27.  But that's twenty-seven pieces of writing I didn't have before October.  That's twenty-seven works of effort and struggle and editing.  There are a few I really love, a few I hate, and most that I was fairly satisfied with.  Some I worked on all day, some came together in almost one shot, and others I threw together during my idle hour at work.  Which is, I suppose, what art and writing is all about.  Doing what you can, when you can, with what you have.

I'm pretty sure Mark is even harder on himself than I am.  Which is impressive.  But honestly, I loved seeing him create his art.  They were very rarely just a drawing that correlated to the prompt.  They were usually detailed enough to actually tell a story.  He had returning characters, mainly the Steampunk Ghostbusters, and I got to watch him experiment with different mediums and materials.

He might not be thrilled with his work, but the fact that he did most of them in just an hour or two is amazing to me, and I usually loved what he did.  And I really loved walking by the corner that houses his drawing table and seeing all his art taped up.  I'm lucky to be able to draw a proper stick figure, much less armed and dangerous blind mice.

If you're so inclined, you can find my writing (in reverse order) over at my A.C. Jones Facebook page (that's my pen name), and Mark's drawings are here!

I love that he is creating art again.  And I love that I proved to myself that I can do the same.  Just maybe not for 31 days in a row.

It's good to know one's limits.  As well as one's potential.

I tend to forget the latter all too frequently.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Introvert Level: Expert (Halloween Edition)

Exciting things have been happening.

Namely that I actually got to go to a party.  On a Saturday night.

And, even more exciting, that I actually went to the party, instead of sitting at home in a onesie and dog slippers.

But I was really, really excited about my Halloween costume.

I don't think it's any surprise that I like dressing up, or that I welcome any excuse to wear a costume.  If there's one cheesy thing I really love, it's a theme.  And for this party, there was the added challenge of keeping the costume under $20 to qualify for the costume contest.

With that in mind, Mark and I descended on area Goodwills and craft stores.

I wanted to be Ariel, from The Little Mermaid.  But not the mermaid version, or the blue-bowed speechless girl being squired about by the clueless Prince Eric.  I wanted to be Ariel fresh out of the sea and clothed only in a sail and some rope.

That was easy enough.  The first Goodwill we went to had rope for 99 cents and a white sheet for 2 dollars.  So far, so good.  I also wanted to have a starfish clip for my hair, so with money to spare we hit up Michaels and got a starfish ($4 with a 40% off coupon) and hair clips, and I made my own clip.

And so some curls, makeup, and creative sheet-draping later, and I was ready to be part of your world.

You want thing-a-ma-bobs? I've got twenty.
I suppose we could have stopped there.  But I wanted a definite cue that I was Ariel and not some Greek goddess carrying around a dinglehopper fork for some strange reason.  I wanted a stuffed Sebastian.

The problem was I couldn't find one.  There was a little plastic toy at Toys R Us, but I wasn't sold.

Then Mark suggested that we make one.

So we did.

One pillowcase, a printed picture of Sebastian (looking properly horrified), some paint, and a borrowed sewing machine later, I had a Sebastian pillow.  I seriously love it so much.  Plus, it's the first thing I've ever sewed.  So that's pretty great.

And I made these oyster cookies.  (And brought Barefoot wine, because well, did I mention I love a theme?)

But honestly? The best part of my costume was that I stayed "in character" and didn't talk the whole night (in spite of my friend Sandi being determined to get me drunk enough to just start talking).  I still hung out and participated in conversation.  There was lots of gesturing, pointing, nodding, and meaningful glances (and my designated translator, Sam).  But no talking.  I got to spend time with my friends but avoid small talk.  I didn't have to contribute verbally to a conversation.  I could just hang out, drift from group to group, drink, and be comfortably myself.  It was entirely awesome.

And I actually think it helped me not feel so wiped out by socializing.  Even I stayed out til almost 2 am, which is extremely rare, I didn't feel crashed out and emotionally drained the next day.

There's another party this Saturday (two weekend parties in a row, who even am I?), and I'm definitely dressing up as Ariel again.  I'm fairly certain it's my favorite costume ever since I dressed up as a Dalmatian when I was a kid.

Not surprisingly, another costume where I wouldn't have to talk.

Not to say I haven't had a lot to choose from...

But as a redheaded introvert who grew up on Disney movies, I'm not sure I can beat this year's Halloween costume.

You might point out the irony that Ariel sings about how she wants to be "where the people are," and say that that's a bit out-of-character for me.  But not always.  I do want to be around my friends and the people I love.  It's just sometimes easier to stay home with my dog and my books.

But every now and then, when the stars align and the timing is right, you might just be able to find me where the people are, walking around on those... what's that word again?

Oh yeah.  Feet.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Procrastination Game: A Step-By-Step Guide

What do you do when you don't want to blog (or preferred activity of avoidance)?

Step 1: Complain about it.  Be sure to mention the fact that you can't even write about all the things you would potentially write about (if you wanted to), such as your super-secret Halloween costume projecting/thrifting adventures.

Step 2: Check Facebook, in case someone posted a cool meme.

Step 3: List the reasons you probably shouldn't even bother.  Example: I'm really busy.  I don't feel good.  No one reads this blog anymore anyway.

Step 4: Recruit others to support your decision.  Be sure to point out all the aforementioned reasons to them so that they can clearly agree with your obviously rational thought process and reasoning.  Try to get this in writing if at all possible.  You'll need the supporting documentation to make your case properly.

Step 5: Revel in your moral high ground.  Feels good.

Step 6: Ignore the nagging guilt.  Check Facebook again.  Maybe try a few Snapchat filters.

My current favorite.
Step 7: Reassure yourself that you're doing the right thing.  Remind yourself that you are very busy and important, not to mention the fact that you've already been writing every day in October.  One missed blog is no big deal.

Step 8: Remember those excuses!

Step 9: Fuck it.  Write the damn blog (or do the damn thing).

Real talk: I don't feel good today.  I didn't get enough sleep last night and my stomach has been bothering me for a few days.  So yeah.  I don't want to write this.  I still have to write for my daily challenge today, I'm getting my hair done, and I'm working on my Halloween costume for Saturday.  Not to mention all the other projects I'm in the middle of, keeping up on life, working, and maintaining various relationships with friends and family.

But my excuses really aren't that great, regardless of how readily Mark agreed with me.  He's tired and not feeling well either, so our judgement isn't exactly the best.

Mainly, I need to remind myself that I'm not writing this blog for the popularity (or lack thereof).  I'm not writing it because it's fun and exciting and easy.  I'm writing it to be writing, to process what goes on in my life, and for the off chance that I have something to say that means something to someone who happens to read it.  I'm writing for the same reason that I'm (trying) to write every day for an October writing challenge: because I'm a writer, and because it's what I should be doing, even on the days when it's the last thing I want to do.

Especially on those days.

Oh, and I almost forgot.

Step 10: Post the blog.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Tis The Season, Sort-of

I'm not going to lie, I've been super boring this week.

It's been, oh, what's the word?

That's right.  Awesome.

It's been awesome.

The main excitement (besides driving to DuQuoin for work and discovering where all the Trump signs are being posted) was going to the St Louis Renaissance Faire (I refuse to call it a festival) for the third time this year.

To be fair, it was only the second time this season.  The first trip was during preview weekend last spring.

This past weekend, though, we did Ren Faire big.  We got parasols, corndogs, and a Hanging Sky Chair.

And now I know what I'm doing for the rest of fall/winter.

No, really.  I'm set for fall.  I have new dog slippers (complete with bows and tails).  I have more books than I know what to do with (and the ever-present desire for more).  I have knitting/cross-stitch projects galore.  I have daily writing to do, at least through the end of October.  And I have a new-found love of my bread machine, so there will be no shortage of carbs to fatten myself up with while I lounge around in my hanging chair.

Oh, and I have a shark onesie.

I'm not sure I've ever been more ready for fall.  Other girls might have their Uggs and their PSLs, but I have other loves that rear their cozy heads around this time of year.  I have leggings and crock pot recipes and soup and the smell of bread baking.  I have scarves that I knit, a snuggly dog, and a fiancé who lets me leech off his body warmth without much complaining.

I know, I know, the temperamental St. Louis weather has been bouncing around between the 50s to the 80s, but never you mind.  Fall is coming.  The leaves are starting to turn, Halloween decorations abound, and there's a nip in the air that has me beginning to shy away from my beloved summer dresses.

Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm so into the thought of fall this year.  It's a bit out of character for me.  While I always enjoy the cooler temperatures, fall is in actuality merely the herald to the oncoming and disgusting slog of winter.  My wardrobe is mainly fixated around a world that is perpetually 80 degrees, so declining temperatures leave me scrambling for cute outfits to wear, and most of my shoes are non-functional for getting around in the snow.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm waist-deep in the busy season at work with no end in sight.  The introvert in me (okay, the introvert that I am almost completely comprised of) longs to go into full-hibernation mode, to set up camp in that sky chair with coffee and books and only move to get another piece of bread or snuggle my loves.

That's obviously not possible, but it doesn't change the fact that it's what I want right now.  I want to be home, cooking and reading and eating and wondering why we ever go out to eat.  I want to knit and snuggle and work on my writing while Mark works on his art.  I want to ignore the craziness of the world around me and focus on what makes me happy.

So if I'm a little too excited about fall, please excuse me. It's just the introvert in me, looking for any and all excuses to stay inside.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Morning Coffee in Stars Hollow

I grew up with Rory Gilmore.

Not literally, of course.  She is, obviously, a fictional character and all I could do was watch Gilmore Girls on television, not live it.  But, in a way, I felt like she was a possible classmate and might have been a friend if I was very lucky indeed.  We were just about the same age and went through high school and college together, as far as timelines were concerned.  She may have lived in quirky and idyllic Stars Hallow while I lived in less-than-exciting Collinsville, IL, but she was still, as they say, my spirit animal.  We were both studious, mostly-unpopular bookworms who always brought along a back-up book and who were completely devastated by a bad grade.  I modeled my own 16th birthday party on hers, complete with pink boas.

Of course, she had far better hair than I ever have managed to have, her boyfriends were all remarkably attractive (if all generally rather terrible ideas... like many of mine), and she seemed to subsist on a diet entirely comprised of coffee and junk food, all while maintaining a perfect figure and flawless skin.

Some people blame their unrealistic life expectations on Disney princesses.  I rather think I can chalk mine up to Rory Gilmore.

I watched the show religiously all through its seven seasons, have re-watched it twice since, and am ridiculously excited about the mini-series coming up later this year! (Though, if Luke and Lorelei don't get married, it might be over.)

All this is just leading up to explaining why exactly I spent an hour and a half this morning standing in line for a free cup of coffee.

The short answer?  Because it had a Luke's Diner sleeve around it, that's why.

The long answer? Let's back up a moment.

Today is the 16th anniversary of the show's premiere (ohmyGodI'msoold), and so Netflix sponsored around 200 coffee shops around the country to turn into pop-up Luke's Diners for the day.  Clearly, I had to go.

And clearly, I had to be a complete nerd about it.

Guys, I cosplayed Rory Gilmore.

I dug out my old "Reading is Sexy" shirt, which she wore in a college episode, and my Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, which she is also seen reading in an episode, and I headed out the door to meet Jake (appropriately dressed in flannel and a backwards hat, a la Luke).

I also was unknowingly headed out to meet half of St. Louis.  That's a slight exaggeration, but only slight.  The line to get in to Luke's Diner/Shameless Grounds was half a block long.

I had expected a bit of a crowd.  Gilmore Girls had a large following, after all, particularly among my age group.  But the announcement of the pop-ups had only gone out yesterday, and surely most people would have jobs to go to on a Wednesday morning, wouldn't they?

Apparently not.

But, I had company, I had a book, and I was surrounded by other apparently just-as-rabid fans who were equally as willing to waste over an hour of their lives to get a few photo ops and a free coffee.

At last, we reached the counter and achieved our goal.  I appropriately geeked out, took selfies, got my coffee, and headed in to work.

Was it worth the wait?  Hard to say.  It's not like I couldn't get basically free coffee at home.  Or at work, for that matter (and in much less time).

But it was the experience.  That's the part that I couldn't get at home, or at work.  Like Mark told me, it was like standing in line to buy Harry Potter at midnight, or camping out for a midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie (all things that I've done).  It was all about the experience, about being there, not necessarily about the end result.  It's about being surrounded by like-minded weirdos who get excited about the same nerdy things you do.  It's about reliving the days when I'd sit down with my mom, or my roommate, to watch a new episode of Gilmore Girls.  It's about taking time to do something just because, and to indulge in the silly and pointless side of life that says, "why not?" instead of "why?"

It's about getting the chance to be in Stars Hollow, even if just for a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Current Status: Overly Dramatic Will Ferrell

Today was not a good day.

Lack of sleep doesn't help.  It makes me more anxious, more certain that I've done something wrong, that I'm not good enough, that there is something inherently wrong with me.  It makes me reconsider every possible dark scenario, reinterpret every conversation, relive every mistake.  It at times makes me want to lash out, cry, or scream until I can somehow flush out the dark pit of emotions that's turning over and over on itself in my stomach, making pointless knots out of other pointless knots.  Or it makes me want to curl up in bed and cry myself to sleep.

It could go either way.  But given my current state of exhaustion, the latter might be the best option.

Honestly, I don't often feel this way anymore, so I haven't built up many coping mechanisms to deal with it when I do.  And when I used to feel this way, I would drink.  Or write confessional poetry.  And that wasn't exactly the best idea ever (the drinking or the poetry, for that matter).  So instead, I now feel a strange mix of adrift and sad and frustrated and am not sure what to do with any of it.

I guess that my new coping mechanism is writing about it in a distinctly non-confessional-poetry way.  But I don't particularly feel like dwelling anymore on how I feel.  I'm too tired, too entrenched in the sadness right now, whether it's even remotely justified or not.  On the other hand, it's all that's on my mind right now.

So.  I appear to be at an impasse. Gandalf is standing in the middle of the road, authoritatively slamming down his staff.  Can't go that way.  Can't go back.

Quite frankly, I miss last week, when I blogged about how on top of things I felt.  (Hell, I miss yesterday, when I only felt slightly neurotic and restless.)  Today is pretty much the opposite.  And I know that's life, and I know that's just the natural ebb and flow of days and emotions and various stupid bullshit.  I know that.  It doesn't make it suck any less.

I definitely think blogging makes me a little more aware of my mental and emotional states than previously, even if it makes me feel a little manic sometimes when comparing one week to the next.  It at least gives me a weekly check-in on what's been going on in my life, for good or ill. The last time I had similar anxiety compounded with sleep-deprivation was a little over a year ago, so that's not too terrible.

Moreover, it makes me at least attempt to confront my overwrought emotions and figure out what the hell is going on and what I can or can't do about it.  Because if I just say that today was shitty, that's not a very interesting blog.

So. Today isn't a good day.  So what?  The world hasn't stopped because I feel bad, or because I barely slept, or because I might start crying if you look at me the wrong way.  It just continues on, like every other day.

What can I do about it?  Besides getting over myself?  Not much.  Get some sleep.  Communicate better.  Post this stupid blog about my stupid feelings, even though I'd rather not admit how emotional I can be.  Ask people to send me pictures of cute dogs.  Look at pictures of cute dogs.  Knit.  Read.  The usual things that settle my mind and emotions.

Oh yeah, and try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

If the Shoe Fits

I feel remarkably on top of things this week.  This is possibly because my shoes match my travel tumbler today and it's giving me an unjustifiably inflated sense of having my shit together.  Nothing quite makes me feel so organized as a completely matched outfit, and that probably says something about my priorities.

It's not just that my outfit is completely on point.  I've also been fairly successful at meal planning (and, more importantly, meal making) the past few weeks, I've finished several long-overdue projects, I bought a daily planner, and Mark and I are coming so very close to making the perfect pizza.  I've had some much-needed days with nothing to do (which makes a world of difference) and Mark and I have had a few nights where we actually work on our own creative projects (which never ever happens).

The sense that I have it together is probably nothing more than a beautiful illusion created by the soft baby blue shade of my shoes (and tumbler), but hey, I'll take it.  It's nice to feel calm, albeit briefly, in the midst of busy season, the need to plan a wedding, and all the daily responsibilities of life.  If I can achieve that with a little outfit coordination and attempting to make sense of my life with an organizer, then so be it.  Judge me if you will.

To be fair, this is a far cry from how I felt last week, when I finally succumbed to the meltdown that I had been fighting for a few weeks.  But, I suppose that's just balance.  One week I'm a hot mess sobbing in bed for no reason and the next I'm content just to be color-coordinated.

More than that, I'm content to be in my relationship, in my job, and in my life.  Is it perfect?  No.  None of it is.  After all, I'm not perfect either.  But I'm happy.

I see so much negativity on Facebook and in the world at large that I'm starting to think that being actually happy is a rarity.  I'm not talking about being constantly, obnoxiously bubbly.  I'm not that either.  (Remember the sobbing for no reason that I mentioned earlier?  Remember my entirely dark blog posts about my abusive ex-husband?)  And besides, it would be insane.  So as much as I really, really hate crying and melting down for stupid reasons, it's necessary to balance me out so that I can also be really ridiculously happy for equally stupid reasons.

I just finished reading (well, listening to) Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson, and she talks a lot about this.  She suffers from a lot of mental illnesses, including debilitating depression, but she still manages to do her best to enjoy the hell out of her life.  She's hilarious and sad and honest and truly ridiculous, and I loved listening to her narrate her own book.  She knows the value of celebrating the little victories in life, like leaving the house when you'd rather just stay home, and also of staying home in bed when that's really the best possible decision to make.

I like celebrating the little things that make me happy.  And I like not judging other people for the little things that make them happy.  We're all just trying to get through this life, why make it harder?

And so I am unashamed of the things I like, no matter how silly you might thing they are.  I'm not ashamed that I love the city of St. Louis.  I'm not ashamed that I'm ridiculously in love with my fiancé.  I'm not ashamed that I often stay home with my dog and my cross stitching rather than going out.

And today?  I'm not ashamed of how pleased I am to be so color coordinated.  

Not one bit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Best Friend's Wedding

I have a confession.  Maybe more of a disclaimer.

I've never actually seen My Best Friend's Wedding.

I started to watch it ages ago.  I was at some sleepover, possibly for Girl Scouts, and I can just vaguely remember the opening sequence.  But that's it.  I don't remember who gets the guy or who gets married or doesn't get married or anything.  My strongest memory from the night is dancing around with the other girls there and being told that I "spin too much" when I dance.  (Well, years later, my nickname in pole dance class was The Spin Queen, so take that, bitches.)

Obviously, this post is not going to be about that movie.  Or about spinning.

It is, however, kindof about pole dancing.

Or at least it's about one of my best friends, who I would never have known if it weren't for pole dancing.

I've known Jessica for around seven years now.  I've been friends with her and Sandi since I impulsively decided to take a pole dancing class after seeing Michelle Mynx perform at a burlesque show (which I also went to rather impulsively).  You can read more about pole dancing in this previous post.

We've traveled together, partied together, performed together, and supported each other like friends are supposed to do.

And, last Friday, Jessica got married.

I'm not going to lie, it was the best wedding I've ever been to.

This is not to say that all the other weddings I've been to have sucked.  They haven't.  But this one managed to surpass them all, in spite of the two reception venue changes and all the regularly scheduled wedding stress.

What made it so great?  Well, it wasn't just because I got to hear one of my poems actually read aloud to an actual audience (even though that was truly incredible and I didn't once tackle the officiant to read it myself).  And it wasn't just because I got to go on a tour of The Fox Theatre and be a complete theatre geek and fangirl about being allowed both onstage and backstage. 

And it wasn't just because the bride wore black and a lesbian burlesque performer married them in the lobby of The Fox (though that probably helped some).

Gorgeous photo courtesy of Carrie Meyer at Insomniac Studios.
It wasn't even because she had two photobooths at her reception (or that I ran one).

Instead, it might be because I've rarely seen two people so well-suited to each other.

And it might be because I'm finally coming more fully around again to the idea of love and marriage, particularly of love and marriage between two best friends.  And that's exactly what Chris and Jessica are.  They are best friends as well as lovers.  They cosplay together.  They're crazy cat people together.  They enjoy each other's company, while fully realizing that neither one of them is perfect.  They are geeks and nerds of the highest and most excellent level.  And they have the creepiest bathroom I've ever been in.

(And they let me come over and watch Game of Thrones.)

I may be cynical and judgmental about many things, but I can't be about Chris and Jessica.  They are one of the most genuine couples I know, and I'm so very glad that I got to be a part of their amazing day.

And that I got to be able to make a zombie wedding cross-stitch.  You know, priorities.


To be honest, it's been a long time since I've been able to actually enjoy other people's weddings.  Back when I was unhappily married, I always felt a strange sense of loss when my friends would get married.  I think I subconsciously knew that they were about to experience something I never had, and I was jealous of how happy they looked.  I didn't know how to be a part of that, even though, in theory, we were all part of the same "club."

But Friday?  Friday was different.  I'm not the cynical, unhappy person I once was.  Or, at the very least, not as cynical.  I'm not jealous anymore, not looking for anything missing.  It's a nice feeling, really, to be more fully part of someone else's happiness instead of envious of it.

Mark and I have decided that there's little point in anyone else ever getting married after Chris and Jessica.  There's no real way to top it, in my opinion.  Mark has declared that he's not even bothering to wear a suit for our wedding, just a T-shirt with a tux printed on the front.  (I think we all know that's not actually happening, but I can understand his sentiments.)

So, our wedding won't be like Chris and Jessica's.  And that's fine.  Because it's not a contest for me anymore.  And for that I'm so incredibly grateful.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

When Pizza Isn't Enough: Making a Love that Lasts

I love pizza.  (Okay, most food.  Practically all food.  Whatever.)  But pizza is up there.  I like it in nearly all its many and various forms.  I'll even tolerate Imo's if I'm in the right mood for really shitty pizza.  And yes, I know those are fighting words for some people.  I make no apologies.

Mark and I have practically made a study in local pizzas over the past few years, both together and separately.  We haven't hit every pizza joint in town, but we've done some damage.  We've bounced around here and there, been obsessed with some places, and been disappointed one too many times by others.  We've tried to find good bad pizza.  We've eaten pizza out of desperation.  We've compromised on toppings.  We've both made our own pizzas, experimenting with crust and sauces and toppings.  I've deemed him the resident pizza expert, due to his past work experience at Pizza Hut.

I've even eaten pizza while drinking champagne with my divorce-maids after wrecking my wedding dress.

Last week, Mark made what is (for now) my new favorite pizza: sausage and cashew.  It's certainly not a combination I would have come up with on my own, but as soon as he told me about it I was intrigued.

And now it's love.

Like most love, it was unexpected.  I can't guarantee it will last, but it definitely seems to be something to build on.

Now obviously, pizza isn't love.  If you love me, you might make me pizza or bring me pizza, but pizza can't be the entire basis for a relationship.

... or can it?

Probably not.

So if pizza isn't enough, what is?

What makes for a strong relationship?  What sets apart that one pizza, er, person from all the others?

And what right do I have to talk about relationships, anyway?  There are plenty of jokes to be made about the divorced woman or man sitting around and giving marital advice.  After all, I'm divorced, which automatically means I failed at being married.  Right?  What would I know about a good relationship?

Well, I don't profess to be an expert, but I at least know what a good relationship isn't.  I know the warning signs.  I know the regret.  I know the unhappiness that comes from staying in something that is, at its very core, so incredibly wrong.  I know that I should have listened to the little voice inside me that kept whispering that I should cut my losses and run before it cost me ten thousand dollars and seven years of of my life.  I know what it's like to struggle almost daily to have a good relationship, to do everything in my power to not fail at being married.

But what about what it takes to have a good relationship is?  How do you build a love that will last longer than my first marriage, or at least longer than a good pizza?

There's so much that goes into it, and much of it subject to personal taste.  For me, a good relationship is being with a man who cares enough about me to consider my needs and to try to make our lives better, who believes in me, and who I believe in.  It's knowing that he has a good heart (in spite of what he sometimes thinks about himself).  It's the fact that everything in my life is better with him than without him.  It's the fact that I want to build a life and a home with him instead of trying to find my fulfillment outside of the relationship.

Mainly, I think it comes down to trust.  No, not crust.  Trust.  You have to trust that person.  And not just trust that they won't cheat or lie or steal (though those are all very important as well), but trust them with your whole self, with your secrets and desires and hopes.  You have to let someone else know you like no one else ever has.  The past three years have been a whole new experience in what intimacy really means.  It's not just sex.  It's emotional, it's mental, it's the whole vulnerable package.

It's a terrifying risk, the ultimate trust fall.  Because if they drop you, what then?

That's simple enough.  You pick yourself up and try again.  Or don't.  Be your own perfect relationship.  Order a delivery pizza and eat it all by yourself.

If there's one thing being divorced does make me an authority on, it's the fact that the end of a relationship is not the end of the world.

We all deserve good relationships, good sex, and good pizza.  While it doesn't hurt to have some bad every now and then, it shouldn't ever be something we settle for because we're hoping it will get better with time.  The good is out there.

Go out and try a little of everything until you find just the right one.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Rather Risqué Requiem

So, I'm getting pretty tired of blogging about my own drama lately.  (Who knew that was even possible?)  And so, this week?  I'll blog about someone else's drama.

Besides, it's officially the end of an era.  This past weekend, The Randy Dandies had their last show.  Ever.  And if that's not more important than my personal life, then I'm not sure what is.

If you don't know who The Randy Dandies are, you're unfortunately not going to be able to find out now.  But let me explain.

In short, they were my favorite burlesque troupe ever.

In slightly less short, they were a comedy burlesque group that focused on sketch comedy, rabid pop culture references, and returning characters.  In seven years, they ran the nerd gamut from comic books to science fiction, unemployment, summer camp, museums, Game of Thrones, Into the Woods, heist movies, and so much more.  Hell, they even had a Prairie Home Companion parody show.

I've had the honor of being at many of their shows, and (more lately) at helping out.  I've sold merchandise, I've been a prop, and I've always loved dressing up for the theme of the show.  When I've gotten burned out on burlesque, I never quite got burned out on them.

From last year's camp show.
Photo by Insomniac Studios.
They were made up of... well, a bunch of nerds, really.  If you didn't guess that by the above description of themes, I can't help you any further.

They were made up of nerds, of people who wouldn't quite fit into the stereotypical profile of "classic burlesque performers," of actors who never once took their clothes off, and of my friends.  They had the after parties that legends are made from.  They made obscure nerd references that half the audience never got.  They told terrible jokes, and laughed at them too.  They sang dirty songs while playing ukelele.  They had a cello-playing Chewbacca as a guest performer.  They were a wonderful hot mess whose mics often didn't work, but they kept going anyway, because that's what you do in live theatre.

Above all, I think their greatest gift was the ability to not take themselves too seriously, to roll with the punches, and, finally, to know when it was time to call it quits.  Seven years is a hell of a good run, and I'm very glad I was there for the not-so-bitter end.  The final curtain call may have been bittersweet, but I know that it's not truly the end for any of these performers.  Even if they never take off their clothing on stage again, I'm more than confident that they all have something up their sleeves (or lack thereof).

And I can't wait to see what that is.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Defining Myself

What defines us?

That's been a pretty big topic of conversation recently, at least around St. Louis, following a truly terrible St Louis Business Journal article/photo shoot supposedly celebrating local successful businesswomen by asking them what pair of shoes "best described them."

Overlooking the obvious sexist overtones of asking a group of highly successful women to describe themselves with a pair of shoes, I'm actually more offended by the fact that anyone could be asked to describe themselves with something so superficial as an item of clothing.  "Please sum up your success, interests, beliefs, and personality by showing us something you wear sometimes so we can adequately judge you."

Now, to be fair, I love shoes.  I have a lot of them.  I have flats, kitten heels, stilettos, platforms, and sneakers in all colors and styles.  They currently are spilling out of the closest I (unsuccessfully) try to keep them organized in.  But I would never say I'm defined by or described by my shoes.  Or by my equally overflowing wardrobe.

I realize this may sound a bit hypocritical, as I do call myself The Pretty Vintage Girl.  If that's not describing myself by my look, then I'm not sure what is.  But my look isn't what defines me, or even what "best describes" me.  It's a description, sure, but not, I hope, the be all and end all of my personality.  I would like to think that my clothes and my shoes only just scratch the surface of who I am.

My look is actually very much a uniform.  It's what I wear to feel confident, comfortable, and yes, most like myself.  I have an affinity towards modern looks across the board, after all, not just in clothing.  I'm drawn to the music, the furniture, the art, and of course, the fashion.

My clothes and my shoes might very well be an expression of who I am.  But that's not what describes me.  And it's certainly not what defines me.

So what does?

People are constantly defined by countless things, most of which are as superficial as a pair of shoes: our past, our jobs, our friends, our lovers.  We're defined by where we grew up, what high school we went to, or what socio-economic group we are a part of.  We're defined by our illnesses, by our accomplishments, and by our failures and regrets.  We're defined by our roles as parents, as children, as married or as single.  We're defined by our expectations for ourselves, or by someone else's expectations of us.  We're defined by how much we weigh, or what music we like, who we're attracted to, or what we believe in.

We let ourselves be defined by so much that it's hard to know what it is that actually defines us.  Who are we, beneath all the layers of judgement constantly heaped upon us?  Are we what others say we are?  Are we the names we have been called?  Do we fit in the cookie-cutter shapes (or shoes) that society tries to shoves us into?

Are we even allowed to define ourselves?

I say yes.

And I have to believe it's true.  I have to believe that I am the only one who can truly define who I am.

After all, haven't I been blogging for a year now about who I am?  I've been slowly reclaiming my voice and my self over the past two years.  I've been fighting back against what I thought defined me, and against those who tried to define me.  There's no pair of shoes on earth that can describe that process.

On Monday I took part in a photo shoot as part of a response to the St. Louis Business Journal shoot.  The project is called Undefined, it involved over 30 local women, and it had nothing at all to do with shoes.  We were welcome to bring a tool of our trade (or to remain undefined by either shoes or tools).  I brought a laptop as a nod to this little blog.  Because if there is a way I define myself, it's through my words.  I've always expressed myself best through writing, and never more so than since I started this blog.

The photo shoot wrapped up yesterday, and I can't wait to see the results.  But I love a group of women took the initiative and opportunity to show other women defining themselves by whatever means they chose.  I love that there are people out there who get it, who get that we aren't defined by our clothes or by our circumstances.

We define ourselves, in the end.  We have to, because there are countless people out there who will be only too glad to do it for us.

And that shoe definitely won't fit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

It's My Life... I Thought

I've been operating under the impression that I am an adult.

There is even actual evidence to support this.

For example, I've paid all my own bills for the past two years.  I've held a job for seven years, and am on the second year of my current job.  I work during the week and on weekends.  I go to work even when I don't feel like it.  I'm a stepmom-in-training, and am generally trusted to be left on my own without supervision (except possibly in a bookstore.)

Plus, I've only killed two houseplants in the last year.

So I'm having a hard time understanding why some people feel the need to so often question my decisions.

Granted, I have in the past made some rather epically terrible decisions.  I fully admit this, and have done so often.  But, to recap: I'm a thirty-one-year-old who is regularly entrusted with thousands of dollars of photography equipment, not to mention my fiance's car.  My marriage was nine years ago, and I've been divorced for two of those years.  I haven't even had a perm in over ten years.  You can't say that my track record hasn't been slowly improving, and I honestly like to think that I generally know what's best for me.

Really, if I don't know what's best for me by now, I'm not sure who does.

And yet.

And yet I still find it difficult to make a decision without dissension from the peanut gallery, or without someone questioning why I'm doing something that I enjoy or believe in.

Will I ever just be happy with one dog and stop fostering?  What do I do with Thunder when I work such long hours?  Why do I want to live there?  Or there?  Why can't I drop everything and do this or that or the other thing?  Why?


Maybe, just maybe, I'm a little... overly sensitive to this topic.  Maybe I no longer exactly tolerate the subtle judgements and nudging attempts to get me to go along with what someone else wants me to do.  Maybe this is because I decided that, after seven years of that treatment, I was done with it.  And maybe, I've gotten fond of making my own life choices.

To his great credit, Mark does not at all tell me what to do.  (Or, if he does, he's so good at it that I don't even notice, to which I would actually be impressed.)  He knows by now that I'm going to do what I want to do, and it's best just to trust me if he wants to stay in a relationship with me.

And it's not that I'm not willing to have a conversation about my choices.  I'd love to tell you about why I foster dogs instead of adopting one.  I'd love to tell you that I do all I can to make sure Thunder is as happy and well-adjusted as possible.  Genuine curiosity and conversation is more than welcome.  And if you don't agree, that's fine.  You don't have to.  It's not your life.  But telling me what I should be doing is really not the best idea and generally doesn't garner the best results.

I could also be a little more sensitive lately because I'm more than socialized out.  My calendar is far too full for my tastes, so the additional stress of feeling judged and pressured pushes me a bit into the bitchy realm.

In the end, I just want to live and want everyone else to let me live.  I like to think I show everyone else this same courtesy.

By all means, if I'm making another catastrophic mistake along the lines of my first marriage (or dyeing my hair platinum blonde), please do speak up.  But as for the little things that don't affect anyone besides me and my little family... please don't.  We'll all get along much better that way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I'm No Expert, But...

Back in college, I once wrote an entire 20-page final paper on Jane Austen in three nights.  This was, not uncoincidentally, also the first time I ever drank coffee.

I was supposed to be working on the paper throughout the entire semester, turning in a section at a time for critique.  Well.  I turned in my first two sections, got miserable feedback, and promptly stopped turning in sections.  I continued reading the books, making notes, and doing research, but as for actual writing?  I didn't do it.

Suddenly, the deadline was looming and panic (naturally) set in.  So I and three other girls in my class spent three nights sitting at Starbucks till two and three in the morning, drinking coffee and writing our hearts out.

I finished the paper (just in time), turned it in, and waited with none-too-high hopes.

The professor, the regrettably late Dr. Lila Kurth, was always a hard grader.  She gave me my only C and often wrote "trite" in the margins of my papers.  But, when I went to go pick up my Jane Austen paper, she handed it to me and then told me she needed to give me a hug, because my paper was "beautiful."

I'll never forget that moment.

It was also the start of my realization that I truly do function best under a deadline.

This has not changed.  Most of my blog entries are finished just under the wire.  And months ago, my friend Jessica asked me to write something for her upcoming wedding.

Why she did this is mostly beyond me.  It seems unusual to ask the (more-than-slightly cynical) divorcee to write something about love for a wedding.  I didn't write anything for my own wedding, much less love poetry about my ex-husband.

And, to be honest, I didn't exactly write much for her wedding until very recently.

(Please, Jessica, don't think I didn't work on this over the intervening months since you asked me.  I did, honestly I did.  I have scraps of poems and ideas all over the place, from notebooks to my phone to the bathroom mirror.  But nothing solid and certainly nothing finished.)

But, thankfully, deadline panic strikes once again (with the help of my now long-time friend, coffee), and I have a not-quite-love poem ready for a not-quite-conventional wedding.

I do wonder if I could have written a love poem while I was still married.  My last marriage was where my writing went to die, after all.  When I did write, it was dark and lonesome words which I still uncover from time to time and which always remind me of how secretly miserable I was.

Divorce, as brutal as it was, gave me something I hadn't had in a long time: the freedom to have my own voice.  I know I talk about this a lot, but as a writer, it's still important to me.  Without my voice, what am I?  Certainly not a great writer.

Not that I'm that confident in what I am at the moment anyway.

The other week, Mark intercepted a text from Jessica asking me if I were a published author so she could put it in the wedding program.  If it were up to me, I would have hemmed and hawed about the answer.  I honestly don't feel that simply being published in my college magazine a few times and once in a local literary magazine really count as my being a "published author," but Mark disagreed and told her so.

And so the decision was made: I'm a published author.

Maybe they're right.  I might not feel that I'm a properly published author, or that I'm the best choice to turn to for a wedding poem, but I've always been my own worst critic.

So while I'm certainly no expert, I'm also no longer mute.

Give me a deadline, some coffee, and a blank page, and eventually?

I'll come up with something to say.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Biggest Mistake

Nine years ago, I was about to make the biggest mistake of my life.

I knew it was wrong.  I knew it wouldn't last.  I knew I wasn't really in love.  And I knew the wrong person was going to be waiting for me at the front of the church.

I knew all of this.

What I didn't know was one little thing: how to get out of it.

I was too proud, or too ashamed, or too stubborn to tell my parents I no longer wanted to get married.  Everyone was in town.  Everything had been paid for.  I wasn't Julia Roberts.  I wasn't a runaway bride.  I didn't feel like I could ask for help.

And so I went out the night before the wedding (nine years ago this very day) with some of my best girl friends and got drunk.  I outlasted my three bridesmaids, drank til I threw up, drank some more, and got back to the hotel room at 4 in the morning, 12 hours before the actual wedding.  I had been sick for a few days before, but that night cemented the almost complete loss of my voice.

And so I got married: hungover, sick, terrified, and barely able to talk.

Looking back, it wasn't just the literal loss of my voice.  That day was when I started losing my figurative voice as well.  I lost the ability to be honest and became an increasingly secretive person.  From the moment the wedding was over, my life also felt like it was over.  My new husband was depressed, suicidal, and violently angry by turns, increasingly demanding, and went through money like water.  He hid our debt and secretly ate his way through the money in our account.  He couldn't take care of himself or hold a job, and yet was jealous of my paycheck and authority at work.  We fought in the car, we fought at work (fights which I never won), and yet I was shocked when my boss told me my husband was abusive.

One of the first steps to being to being abused is to believe that the person abusing you isn't capable of doing so.

And now?

I suppose it's valid to say that I can be a little outspoken about my life.  There is the matter of this blog, after all, and the fact that I'm more than willing to tell you what you want to know (and often more than you wanted to know).  It's my story, my voice, and my wonderfully imperfect life.  I've slowly been getting it all back, and I don't want to lose it again.

So now here I am.  Nine years out from my first marriage, a year after wrecking my wedding dress, and engaged again.

The more things change, as they say...

Sometimes I think I must crazy to get married again.

Other times (most times), I think I'm so unbelievably lucky to get married again.  I get a do-over, a second chance, a whatever you want to call it.  I get a man who knows me and all my flaws better than any one else ever has and still wants to marry me.  I get someone who feels more like home than anyone or anything else.  I get the relationship I never believed in.

I get a fiancé who comes home, lifts me up into the world's biggest hug, and then says, "We need to talk."

And then, a few seconds later, he allows my heart to start beating again by finishing, "... we really should narrow down a wedding date."

But that, I believe, is a story for another blog.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In the Beginning

First impressions are funny things.  They're tied up into our memories and emotions and personal preferences and can be very fickle indeed.  While I usually pride myself on being a good judge of first impressions (my first impression of my ex-husband, for example, was a negative one and I obviously should have listened more to myself on that one), I have been known to admit when I'm wrong.  Some of the people who ended up being my closest friends are people I originally didn't like.

Why didn't I like them?  The reasons are usually varied and dependent on my mood, the situation, or both.  They were annoying.  They were kindof a jerk.  We seemingly didn't have enough in common.  They talked too much (see: annoying). Or I was jealous of them.

To be fair, I know people have had negative first impressions of me as well.  My friend Julia originally thought I was a bitch because I didn't talk to her, "always looked perfect," and was always surrounded by my group of friends.  Eventually, she realized that I was just shy and she become a very dear friend and confidante.

While I generally remember my first impressions of people, first memories are an entirely different thing.  First memories usually don't stick around for very long.  I don't remember the first time I saw my ex-husband.  I don't remember the first time I saw most of my friends, or my past crushes.  First memories, for me, need to be something more vivid and important or inspiring in order to last.  For example, I still remember the first time I saw Michelle Mynx perform and knew that I wanted to learn how to pole dance.

Last night, I told Mark my very first memory of him.

Please, don't expect some sort of adorable "meet-cute."  This is not a Hollywood movie.  Also, it in no way qualifies as vivid, important, or inspiring, really.  But it is something I've never forgotten (even if he did).

It was thirteen years ago, when I was that awkward young eighteen-year-old joining the community theatre cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  (I've referenced this in a prior ridiculously sappy blog, for those just joining us.)

I was standing upstairs at the Miner's Theatre for the very first time with my friend Anna, who had drug me along to this thing in the first place, and the director was explaining that we (these two young girls) were going to be playing some of Joseph's brothers since there was a general shortage of male actors.

In the corner of the room were a bunch of large balls that were painted to look like planets.  Upon hearing the announcement that the production had gained some "Undercover Brothers" (as we came to be known), Mark turned around, picked up two of these planets and, holding them in front of him at waist level, announced, "Here, these should help!" before bursting into the uncontrollable laugh that I've come to know so well over the years.

And that was how I met the love of my life.  With a joke about balls.

My first impression, therefore, probably should have been abject horror, or at least embarrassed amusement.  It should definitely not have been the real-life equivalent of the emoji with hearts for eyes.

I don't know if it was the unselfconscious laughter, the terrible humor, or the big... er, planets, but I was instantly smitten.

Mark frequently tells me I'm crazy for being in love with him.  To be honest, after reviewing the above evidence, he may have a point.

But this time?  I'm sticking with my first impression.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

We're Having a Heat Wave

It's hot.

It's really, really hot.

St. Louis is in the middle of a heat advisory, and I've used that as a excuse to not feel so bad when I don't take Thunder on a walk in the mornings.

It's not just the heat.  Being St. Louis, it's the humidity.  It makes for a disgusting, oppressive stew that sucks the will to live from you in the time it takes to walk from the parking lot into a building.  My hair doesn't stand a chance unless I wear it up, which I have been for probably a week straight, in a variety of experimental updos.  

In spite of the heat, I haven't stayed home nearly as much as I imagined I would.  Usually, my summers are spent daydreaming about lounging in front of a fan with the air conditioning turned up.  But this summer?  This summer I've barely been home long enough to do much lounging at all.

Obviously, I have to leave the house for work.  During the week, this means a short drive to and from the office and day spent in blissful air conditioning.  But when I work on the weekends, manual labor and sweating outside is involved, at least to load and unload a vehicle. 

But I've also ventured out in the heat to sweat on my own free will and for, allegedly, enjoyment.

On Saturday, I was up and suggesting brunch to Alexis by 9:30.  That night, Mark and I went to the Muny to see Young Frankenstein from the free seats with his daughter and niece.

On Monday (my day off), I invited myself along to the Science Center to hang out with Casey and her two kids (after Audrey, my biggest fan, expressed her disappointment that I wouldn't see her pigtails), and still managed to go grocery shopping and make dinner.

Tonight we're going out to eat with Mark's sister.

And, somehow, we still might go to the Muny this upcoming weekend, if the heat breaks enough.  And are having dinner at my parents' on Monday.

I feel like ever since I started getting divorced, my life went into overdrive.  Before, time seemed to drag out into the all-too-certain future.  I knew what to expect from each day, each week.  And now, when I have no idea what will happen next?  Time flies.  I'm still trying to figure out what to make for dinner three Mondays ago and, for all I know, tomorrow is Christmas.  

I don't know how it got to be July.  I don't even know how it's already 5:00 on a Wednesday again. 

All I know is that time spent with Mark goes far too quickly.  We never seem to have enough time together, even when we spend three solid weeks in each other's company.  We've been together for three years now, and yet it can't possibly have been that long.  Or that short.  Something strange happens to time with us, something as hazy as heat coming off asphalt.  

And something strange has happened to me, in that I've become something resembling "good with kids."  For being the girl who never wanted kids and was never comfortable around them, I spend an awful lot of time hanging around them lately, and all of it by choice.

As I mentioned, it's been a very kid-centric weekend, and it doesn't feel uncomfortable or strange to be the one waiting for a five year old to go to the bathroom so I can help her wash her hands, or to put her shoes on, or to carry a toddler to the car when she's sad about leaving the Science Center.  What's strange is that it all feels... normal.  

It could be the heat wave, but I don't really mind being a stepmom-in-training, or spending my days off with little kids.  In fact, I usually end up enjoying it.

Definitely the heat wave.