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.