Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jeepers Creepers, or How to Compliment a Woman in 5 Easy Steps

In my not-so-meteoric rise to Instagram "fame," I've started getting more and more direct messages from complete strangers (emphasis on the strange), which are, quite possibly, the bane of my Instagram existence.  If it weren't for my desire to be a public part of the vintage/pin community on Instagram, I'd probably shut my account down to a very, very private setting (like my Facebook is).

Because, come on.  Just because I post a lot of selfies does not mean that I'm looking for attention.

Shocking, I know.
It also does not mean I'm interested in sexting.  Or hooking up.

And yet.  A guy literally sent me a picture of two people having sex.

Another guy trolled through months and months of my photos, then sent me several messages in a row until I responded thusly:

Note: these are NOT men that I know in any way, shape, or form.

I also continue to get... vaguely inappropriate attention from the lower end of the male population.  Men who, I'm sure, think that they're being incredibly complimentary and yet have absolutely no idea how to compliment a woman (at least not in a way that doesn't make her skin crawl).  Men who don't know when to stop talking.  Men who don't know how to make eye contact.

Does this behavior sound familiar?  If so, I'm here for you.

It is, surprisingly, not that hard to compliment a woman.  Women manage to do it all the time.  We gush over hair and necklaces and dresses (particularly dresses with pockets).  We praise eyelashes and eyeliner.  We high five over hilarious jokes and accomplishments.  We rave about each other's talents.

All those things?  Hugely complimentary.

And I get it.  It's way easier for women to compliment other women.  There's some weird non-existent boundary that possibly comes from having tons of sleepovers and sharing clothes and makeup and secrets.  So we can tell another woman that she's sexy af without it being weird.

Sarah's Scribbles only speaks the truth, obviously.
And I get that it's not fair for you men.  But that's just the way it is.

That doesn't mean you should never compliment a woman.  But, by the unfair nature of the game, there are many, many things you should not do (and a few things you should).

(Please note: this is not a guide to how to get a girl to go out with you.  I just Googled "how to compliment a girl" for the hell of it and the results were... really, really horrifying.  So, I'm going to state this again: if you are reading this to find out how to get into a woman's pants?  You've come to the wrong place.  Or the right one, actually.  This is a guide on how not to be a creeper, after all, and you sound like you might just fit the qualifications.)

How To Compliment A Woman (in 5 Easy Steps)

1.  Don't. Tell. Her. To. Smile.  End of story.  Don't do it.  No exceptions.  No excuses.  (Okay, there's a few exceptions, like if you're doing her makeup or taking professional photos.  But that's it.  Really.)  Women do not need to smile for you.  Resting Bitch Face is real.

2.  If you don't have something nice to say, don't say nothing at all.  Let's face it, men.  Usually, you don't need to say anything.  You don't need to catcall, or whistle, or anything.  Because that woman walking by?  She's busy.  She's leading her own life.  She's grocery shopping, or spending time with her family, or listening to a Star Wars audiobook.  She's not looking for your phone number, or for casual sex in the parking lot of a Walmart.  She's not waiting for the love of her life to wolf whistle her from a passing car.  I hate to break this to you, but it's the truth.

3.  Learn to take a hint.  If she doesn't seem interested, she's probably not interested.  And that's okay.  Let her read her book in the bar.  Don't pester a random stranger on Instagram for a response.  Is she walking away quickly?  Don't follow.  Did she refuse your offer of a drink?  Stop offering.  Did she not dance with you at a wedding because she's actually working at said wedding?  Try asking someone else to dance.  I'm sure there's someone else out there somewhere who is actually interested.

4.  Be genuine.  Basically, don't try so hard, guys.  Don't think you need to go for the gold in the Compliment Olympics.  You don't.  Sure, that perfectly crafted, clever-yet-not-cheesy pickup line can get a girl's attention, maybe garner a laugh, maybe even lead to a long and happy marriage, but the best compliments I've ever received from friends and strangers alike are the ones that are genuine and in-the-moment.  Sincerity wins the day, folks.  Sincerity also generally will keep you from lame lines like, "have you ever fallen in love with someone just by looking at their pictures?"  Sincerity might also (hopefully) keep you from telling a woman how how great her tits look in the dress she's wearing.  (Pro tip: just compliment the dress.  We'll know what you mean.)  Do you like the way she snorts when she laughs really hard?  Tell her.  Do you admire her excellent taste in whiskey?  Tell her.  Do you think it's awesome that she's reading a book by your favorite author?  Tell her.  Because you know what? Compliments are not restricted to sex appeal.  And you can compliment someone without an ulterior motive.  Because compliments (genuine, uncreepy, appropriate compliments) are awesome.

5.  Finally, guys, be a gentleman.  Basically, this is an excellent rule for any encounter with a stranger.  If you wouldn't want your mom knowing what you said/did/sent to someone you don't even know, then maybe, just maybe, reconsider it.  Dick pics?  Do I need to say it?  As a rule of thumb, we probably don't want those springing up (pun so totally intended) on our phones if we're not actively in a relationship with you.  I'm glad you're so proud of it, but a picture of your genitals is not exactly the way to my heart (or any other part of my body you might be interested in).  Dick pics do not equal a compliment.  I'm sorry.  You don't always have to be a gentleman, but it's a very good place to start.

In conclusion, I leave you with adult Wednesday Addams' video about catcallers, because, really, she says it all.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Build Me Up Buttercup

Hey, you.

Yes, you.

I need to tell you something, and I need you to listen.  More than that, I need you to believe me.

We might be close.  We might not be.  But it doesn't change what I have to say, which is this: You are worthwhile.  You are amazing.  You are awesome.  You deserve the world and everything in it.  You deserve happiness and love and support and true friendships and true partnerships.  Not for anything you've said or done, but because you're you.  You're a person.  You have your own incredible, unique thoughts and emotions and feelings and desires and talents.  You're unlike anyone else on this earth, and you can't even begin to appreciate how remarkable that is.

What you don't deserve is someone, anyone, who makes you feel less than that.

This is a subject close to my heart, as I wasted years of my life with a man (and I use that term loosely) who made me feel less than.  Less than what, you ask?  Less that good enough.  Less than respected.  Less than attractive.  Less than loved.  Less than amazing.  Just... less.  There were terms and limits on when I deserved to be treated well (usually reserved to when he wanted something from me), and usually I didn't measure up.  My needs and desires were less than his, and always would be.

But, every now and then he would throw me a bone to keep me trailing along behind him.  He would take me out for a nice dinner.  He would buy me something.  He would allow me to perform at a pole show.  It wasn't much, but it was enough at the time.  It shouldn't have been, but it was.

Why? Because I didn't think there was better out there.  Because I had barely dated anyone else.  Because I didn't think it was that bad.  Because I felt guilty for wanting to leave.

I didn't know what I deserved.  I didn't have the self-esteem to know what I deserved.  I didn't have people telling me what I deserved, because they didn't know I what needed to hear until it was almost too late.

If this is the case for you, then I have one thing to say to you: fuck that shit.  You deserve so much more.  You deserve more than you think you do.

You deserve rainbows and unicorns and pizza and the fluffiest puppy/kitten of your preference.  You deserve someone who thinks they're lucky as hell to have you in their life, and tells you so.  It doesn't matter if that person is a friend, a family member, or a romantic partner.  And it doesn't matter if sometimes you fight over stupid shit, or get on each other's nerves, or disagree about politics or religion or what the hell to have for dinner.  What matters is that they are there for you, and want to be there for you.  What matters is how they treat you, because actions 100% always speak louder than words.

We live in an era of burgeoning girl power.  We have Wonder Woman.  We have Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  We have strong, capable women literally all around us.  We are strong, capable women.  And yet, we find ourselves in situations where we continually compromise our awesomeness for someone who sees no problem with that compromise being made.  We stay with men (or women) who are small, selfish people, who pull us down so that they feel better about themselves, who keep us safe and controlled behind the walls of what we can or can't do.  And we have not grown up with the self-esteem required to know when enough is enough.  Or we've somehow lost that self-esteem along the way.

I was lucky.  I found my self-esteem through the world of pole dancing and through the friends that I made through the pole and burlesque world.  I found a relationship with a man who didn't treat me like a second-class citizen, like a servant, like less than.  But even if I hadn't have found that man, I would still be better off alone than with someone like my ex.

That's the important part.  You are awesome all on your own.  All by yourself.  You don't need someone else to make you awesome.  You don't need to be thinner to be awesome.  You don't need to be richer to be awesome.  You're awesome just by showing up in your own awesome, imperfect skin.  Bam.  Awesome.

Now, read that last paragraph again.  It's important.

We forget that.  I know I do.  It's easy to, even without someone else constantly dragging us down.  There's that little voice inside that whispers our mistakes, our doubts, our fears.  That voice tells us that it's all true: we are less than.  We aren't talented.  We aren't successful.  We aren't worth it.  We aren't awesome.

That voice is wrong.  Dead wrong.  But it can be loud.  And it is persistent as hell if we don't constantly work to keep it gagged, to drown it out with our own amazingness, with our own self-confidence, and with a chorus of friends who are there to shut that bastard down when we lose the ability to do so ourselves.

I promise this: if you come to me, for whatever reason, I will always tell you how awesome you are.  I will tell that voice inside you to shut the hell up, and I will tell you exactly what you deserve.  Because I've been there.  I've been lost and convinced I was less than. I don't want anyone else to get stuck in that same space.

I'm pretty awesome (even on the days I don't feel like it).

And so are you.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Care and Feeding of an Introvert

I had a fairly epic meltdown yesterday.

Not only was it epic, but it was entirely unexpected.  I mean, the usual triggers were all there: too much socializing, too little sleep, too many commitments.  I'd been on the go on Friday non-stop from 6am til after 11pm.  It was a long weekend with Kaylee, who likes waking up around 6 am. We stayed out late Monday at a movie.  I battled Walmart on the day before a holiday and baked 4 desserts in the span from Monday evening til Tuesday morning.

But I didn't feel stressed out.  I didn't feel like crying.  I just felt, well, exhausted.  And the exhaustion covered almost every other sign that I was on the verge of losing my Vulcan-like cool.

So, when Mark asked me what I wanted for dinner (how dare he, am I right?), I may have exploded.

Okay.  I did.  I exploded.  I lost my cool.  I completely melted down and sobbed for about five minutes.  It was embarrassing and frustrating and I hated every damn second of it.

And now all I can do is think about the many and various ways that scenario could have easily been avoided.

You see, in my exhaustion and determination to Do All the Things and Bake All the Things, I forgot something very important.

I'm an introvert.

Quite simply, I can't do all the things.  Not all the time.  (I can still try to bake all the things, though.  Try and stop me.)

I know I talk about being an introvert a lot.  I admit it.  But it's important to me and how I function.

Being an introvert isn't just an reason to stay home or leave early.  It's not a convenient or handy excuse.   In fact, most of the time it makes me feel guilty.  I don't always want to stay home.  I don't always want to relax.  Sometimes I do want to do all the things and go to all the places and see all my friends.

But I can't.

Being an introvert is who I am.  And, if I ignore who I am for too long, if I keep pretending to be someone else (someone who can be blithely be a social butterfly), and if I don't remember the proper care and feeding of an introvert, there are consequences.

What is the proper care and feeing of an introvert?

Well.  I'm glad you asked, since I clearly need my own reminder.

Before we begin, please remember this: being an introvert does not make me anti-social.  I love my friends and my family and enjoy spending time with them.  To an extent.  And then I need a break.

What To Do With Your Introvert: A Manual

1. Give her space.  Introverts, more than extroverts, have a precious personal bubble that only certain people are allowed inside. (Note: Most pets are welcome inside the bubble at all times.)  Space is not just physical.  Space is needed in conversations, in emotions, and in new experiences.  All these things take careful consideration for an introvert, and answers to serious (or not-so-serious) questions often need to be worded just right in an introvert's head before being spoken aloud.  New situations need easing into.  Don't rush an introvert if at all possible.

2. Give her alone time.  If you see your introvert curled up with a book, or eating by herself, don't worry.  She's not bored.  She's not upset.  She's recharging.  This is very important for an introvert, especially after a long period of socializing.  (Most introverts bring a book along with them to help maintain proper battery strength throughout the day.)  She'd probably like some coffee, if you do feel the need to contribute.

3. Give her a book.  Suggest a movie.  Start a Netflix marathon.  Basically, give her an escape and a mental break.  A lot goes on inside an introvert's head.  All the time.  Constantly.  The average introvert is almost always playing and replaying past situations, present dilemmas, and future scenarios.  She is remembering song lyrics and movie quotes.  She's making up stories.  She's agonizing over a mistake she made ten years ago.  She's analyzing the next day's schedule.  She's worried someone's mad at her.  Books are a refuge, a focusing point.  They shut out the excess noise.  So do movies and TV shows.  If you're lucky, your introvert will snuggle on the couch with you, or at least share her popcorn.  (Bonus points if you suggest she goes to a bookstore, takes a bath, or both.)

4. Make her food.  Bring her a snack.  Order a pizza.  Pour her a glass of wine, or beer, or drink of choice.  Or just let her loose in the kitchen, since cooking is one of the best therapeutic activities there is. (Maybe offer to help clean up, if the coast seems clear).  Really, just do this for anyone.  Everyone likes food.  Food is awesome.

5. Don't issue last-minute invites.  While this is not a hard and fast rule (see #6), as even introverts can behave spontaneously, it is a very handy guideline.  You are more likely to lure your introvert from the safety of her den if you plan ahead and give her time to mentally prepare for leaving said den.  Introverts, in general, like to know what to expect from day to day.  Last-minute invites tend to trigger the warning bells.  Note: planning ahead doesn't guarantee the presence of your introvert.  Sometimes, it's best to stay home in spite of the best-laid plans.  It happens.

6. Don't stop inviting her to things (even if it is last-minute).  Introverts want to know that they're welcome to join in an activity, even if they decide not to.  Introverts know that they live in an extroverted world and often feel guilty for not attending parties/group events, or for leaving said events early.  Continued invites keep introverts from feeling unwanted and encourage your introvert to step outside her bubble (just a bit), but don't be discouraged if she stays home instead.  Remember: your introvert still loves you, even if she didn't go to a concert with you, of if she only stayed for an hour at your party.

7. Text her.  Introverts have an innate dislike for phone calls (and are often known for not answering).  Most introverts prefer texting for day-to-day casual conversation, as it allows for fully-formulated thoughts at convenient intervals.  Through reading what an introvert has to say (be it text, e-mails, Facebook comments, or blogs), you may come to realize that introverts are actually as funny, sarcastic, and ridiculous as any extrovert.  They simply need the correct medium and comfort level to communicate effectively.

8. Accept her.  Note: more important than any other step.  Introverts need to be accepted.  They have grown up in an extroverted world and have often tried to "pass" for extroverts in order to succeed at school, in business, or in relationships.  There is no greater relief for an introvert than to be loved (like Bridget Jones) just as she is.  Putting up a false front is far more exhausting than any crowded party or loud concert, and most introverts are willing to risk a little emotional exhaustion for those people who truly accept who she is.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where Do We Go From Here

I'm struggling a lot lately with what I want this blog to be.  When I began it, almost two (two?!) years ago, its purpose was mainly to make sure I was writing weekly and to help me work through a whole world of issues and anger and frustration following my terrible first marriage and subsequent divorce.  It was a place for me to be open and honest about what had happened, to talk about the many and various changes in my life, and to talk about the things that still infuriated me.  I wanted to help others by sharing my story, but I also wanted to help myself.

I don't have those problems anymore.

I mean, I do still get angry.  But it's not like before.  I've moved on as much as I think I'm able to.  I'll probably always be a little bit pissed off over what happened, but I think that's the way it should be.

But I got married again (almost three months ago).  We bought a house.  I'm a stepmother.  I'm (still) ridiculously in love with this man that I've known for fourteen years. I have great friends who (I hope) still love me even though I'm not around very much these days.  I have a wonderful job and am, generally, having a fantastic time.  I'm busy and tired and very much in need of introverting most of the time, but I can't think of very much I'd change.

So that leaves me at a bit of a loss as to what to blog about weekly, now that wedding stress has ended.  General happiness and/or being an introvert isn't that exciting, really.  I don't have a current life goal to keep tabs on (though I probably should).  I have Instagram and Facebook for my daily selfies (and general photo-and-meme sharing).  I don't travel (much).

So what do I do?

I read.

I collect vintage and novelty clothing/accessories (and take selfies).

I knit or crochet or cross-stitch.

I bake and cook (when I can).

I step-parent.

I'm a wannabe 60s housewife.

I'm super nerdy, introverted, and not shy about any of it.

And I know there are blogs about (literally) all of these things.  But it seems impossible to narrow this random little blog into one defined category.  It also seems impractical to blog about everything I enjoy or do.

So I'm at a bit of an impasse.  I don't want to stop blogging, even though each week finds me less and less inspired as to what to write about.  Two years might be the longest amount of time I've managed to actively maintain a blog, after all.  I don't want to break my streak now!  But something needs to change.  I just don't know what.

What would you like to see more of from me?  Less of?  What are you interested in reading about?  What topics and formats do you find most appealing?  I'm clearly at a loss here, so I'm very open to ideas and feedback as to how to keep this blog going and at least fairly interesting.

P.S. Please don't say less selfies.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Powerful Places

I feel like I've been on the go constantly.  So much so that I was literally in the middle of blogging about being busy last week when I had to leave to go somewhere, and never even finished the blog!

We just got back on Sunday from our "honeymoon," which was really just a whirlwind weekend away to Wisconsin Dells and House on the Rock.  A "mini-moon," if you will.  (Which also either sounds like something entirely inappropriate, or a slightly momentous lunar event.)

I've wanted to take Mark there ever since I went with Jessica, Sandi, and Kim several years ago.  I thought it was the most magical place I'd ever been to, and still generally speak of it in a wistful, awed tone of voice.

Plus, we're watching American Gods (omg it's so good) right now, so it only seemed fitting to go (even if they didn't actually get to House on the Rock this season).  We also wanted to go somewhere we haven't been together, and somewhere we didn't know anyone.  Wisconsin fit the bill pretty well.

The thing about us is that was really suck at vacations.

We do.  We actually kindof dread going.  We're overbooked introverts, after all.  We pounce on things like "free time" and "staying home."  So the idea of taking that precious free time, getting in a car, and paying to stay somewhere that's not home?  It's not the most appealing, to be honest.

But, we pry ourselves away from our couch and our comfort zone anyway.  Because, well, adventure is out there, right?

In American Gods, Thursday explains to Shadow that tourist traps are "places of power."  They draw people in, without reason or explanation.  And that's exactly what House on the Rock is.  It's unexplainable, indefinable. My mom has asked me for years what House on the Rock is, and I still don't have a good answer for her. 

It's somewhere between a waking dream and a nightmare.  It's a hallucination.  It's a curated obsession.  It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. 

And, best of all, it doesn't try to.  There's nothing else in the world like it.  And that's why people go.  That's why we went.  It's why I've been twice, and why I would go again.

It was, in spite of our general trepidation about vacations, a very good trip.  We stayed in a kitschy motel in the Wisconsin Dells complete with a hot tub (and a shower that was probably from the 70s).  We ate at touristy places and did touristy things like take pictures and buy cheese and souvenirs and take an "old-timey" photo.

We spent the whole weekend alone together (which was a huge step up from my first honeymoon that we basically spent with friends) and did exactly as we pleased.

And we returned exhausted and with plans to go back in the future, Kaylee in tow.

Maybe vacations aren't so bad, particularly if you're with the right person.

Just don't expect us to go on another one anytime soon.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Angry Vintage Girl (Again)

I've gotten spoiled.  I really have.

Because I know that terrible male behavior exists.

I've experienced it, after all.

But I haven't experienced it much lately.

I blame my amazing group of friends (which includes countless awesome and feminist men).

I blame my introverted nature (which has led me into more and more fully being a homebody).

I blame my husband (who I actually love enough to want to spend my time with, therefore not being out on my own as much).

I blame my job and being a stepmom and our new life as homeowners (which means that we always have something to do and I don't go out as much).

Because it's all combined to make me a little oblivious to the world outside the pleasant and safe bubble I so often live in.

And I admit it, I can be a little oblivious all on my own.  Mark usually has to tell me that I've just been checked out, because I'm so often lost in my own little world.

So you know the situation has to be pretty drastic when I notice male attention directed towards me.

It can be the drunk guy at a wedding who told me I "didn't have to break his heart" when I turned him down for a dance (because, well, I was working the damn wedding, not to mention that I wouldn't want to dance with him anyway).

It can be the slightly too aggressive "compliment" from a stranger.

Or it can be walking through Walmart last Saturday night.

You guys.  It was bad.  I could actually feel the looks.  My skin crawled with them.  I could literally see the male gaze blatantly following me as I walked by.  And I did my best to ignore the guys who kept trying to catch my eye and talk to me when all I wanted to do was to be left alone to do my god damn shopping and get the hell back home.

It was more than annoying.  It was infuriating, so much so that I practically exploded when I got home and Mark asked me what was wrong.  (Kaylee told me I should have gone to Aldi, and the kid probably isn't wrong.)

I love dressing the way I do.  I love wearing vintage clothes.  I love wearing heels.  I love having bright red hair and looking different than most people.

But God, if I don't sometimes wish that I wanted to blend in.

No.  That's not true.

I don't want to blend in.

What I want, what I wish, is that all men could be like my friends, or like my husband.  I wish that all men could pay a compliment without a complementary leer.  I wish I didn't feel like I needed a male escort just to walk through a store without being harassed.  I wish that I didn't feel the need to carry around a TigerLady defense tool just in case I get followed to my car one day, or worse.  I wish that I didn't feel like the way I dress invites the wrong kind of attention.

Because the way I dress is nobody's business but my own.  If I want to wear heels through Walmart, that shouldn't mean that I should expect and accept the intruding stares.  If I want to wear a dress most days, then so what?

I don't know what the solution is, besides playing the long game of hoping that future generations of men will be better, will want to be better.

Because guys.  This is pathetic.

I know it's possible.  I've seen whole communities filled with men who can both enjoy and respect women.  I know that better is possible.

But I also know that worse is out there.

I'm holding out hope for better.  It's the only thing I know how to do.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

No Way Out

It's our two-month anniversary today, or, as Mark says, "Day 61 of the hostage situation."

People have asked me how married life is, and, really?


It's great.

I mean, come on.  I've got a mostly-willing hostage!  What could be wrong with that?

But, in all honesty, I love being married to my best friend.  I love it even on the days where everything feels off, or we have fights, or I cry, or everything goes wrong.  Married life is still, overall, really really great.  But our relationship and our life together was already great before we were married, so that helps.

Little known, shocking fact: marriage doesn't fix a relationship.  I should know.  It didn't fix my first relationship.

And, another shocking fact?  Marriage is work.  Really fucking hard work.  It's not all breakfasts in bed and making out in the kitchen and dinner on the table when you get home from work.

And it's even not the same as dating, even if you were already mostly living together.

Marriage requires daily maintenance.  It requires talking (which I'm not always very good at), and trust, and more vulnerability than you knew was possible.  It means someone is almost always there, for the bad days when you hate the world and everything in it, along with the good days.  You have to consider them, and you want to consider them (even when they tell you not to).

Marriage means you're going to get your feelings hurt, and you're going to find out that you unknowingly hurt theirs.

It means there is someone to willingly do the dishes for you, and someone you willingly rotate laundry for.

For me, it means waking up to coffee.  It means a partner-in-crime.  It means playing just one more game of Minion Trouble (or Chutes and Ladders, or Sorry) with Kaylee so that he can have a few minutes of down time.  It means he gives Kaylee a bath so that I can have a few minutes of down time.  It means someone who knows me better than anyone else possibly could.

It means planning a last-minute birthday party for Kaylee, joint-cleaning the whole house, and cooking dinner for 9 people.

It means eating Fazoli's and Imos on a fairly regular basis, even though I hate both.

It means we go see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, because I have an endless love for Johnny Depp.


Two months into our marriage. (Plus fourteen years total of knowing each other.)  At this point of my first marriage, I'm pretty sure I already knew it was not going to be a good one.  He'd already "stopped trying" (key words for failure if there ever were any).  We were both depressed.  I couldn't see a way out, even though I desperately wanted to find one.

I don't want a way out this time.  I want a way to make it last forever.

And I'm doing my best to make sure that it does.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Uniquely Portable Magic

I know I said I was officially an Illinois resident two weeks ago... but now it's really, really official.

I unpacked my books.

(As Mark's dad said, "I guess that means she's staying, huh?"  And, well, yes.  It does.)

It was about time, right?  We moved my books over with the first load of boxes (okay, my 20+ boxes of books were the first load of boxes) back in February.

I've been without my books since February, guys.  I don't know how I did it.

Actually, that's a lie.  I know exactly how I did it.  I bought more books, obviously.

And I got a library card.  That helped.  If, by helped, you mean that I brought home a gigantic pile of books that I can't possiby read in three weeks.

But, over this past week, I methodically unpacked my books, put them back in order (alphabetical by author's last name, as God intended) and loaded up my bookshelves.

There are truly few things I find as purely and thoroughly satisfying as organizing my books.  I know, I'm a freak.  

I don't care.

Mark called it a "ceremony," and I suppose it is, a finely honed process that I've practiced throughout the years, with every move, with every life change (and with every major book purchase).  Book by book, shelf by shelf, until everything is just right.

Books are, quite possibly, my one true love.  They've been around longer than any of my other friends, certainly longer than any of my romantic relationships.  They've been a source of comfort, of escape, and of familiarity.  I bring books with me everywhere.  I carted them back and forth to college (well, not all of them, but more than I could possibly need).  I moved them to our campus apartment at seminary.  I moved them to the old apartment in South City (and then moved them within that apartment after my ex left).

I bring them along on vacation.  I always have at least one in my purse.  I've cried with them, laughed with them, and fallen asleep with them.  I horde them and loan them out and always, always want more of them.  I pick up books like abandoned pennies on the sidewalk, tucking them away for a rainy day.

There's a great Stephen King quote that says "books are a uniquely portable magic," and I very much believe it.  They have great power, as I said, to comfort and relax me.  When I had my back surgery at age ten, I constantly asked my parents to read to me, to take me away from the hospital bed and the IVs and the sterile cacophony of the hospital itself.  Together, we worked our way through the Chronicles of Narnia, and I drifted in and out of that make-believe world on a trippy ride of morphine-fueled imagination.

Not much has changed, minus the morphine.  I still rely on books, only now I don't need them to escape.

Now? My books feel like... well, like home.  

And, even better, they make our house feel that much more like home for me.  We're still struggling to move into a place that has still not been entirely moved out of (and, honestly, it's starting to stress me out), so every little bit helps.  Seeing my books, in my bookshelves, lined up along the wall?

That helps quite a bit.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wicked Stepmothers Day

Is there such a thing as Wicked Stepmother's Day?  Because I think there should be.

I know, in theory, that Mother's Day is supposed to encompass mothers of all kinds: birth, step, adoptive, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, aunts, godmothers, etc.  And so, according to that theory, this past Sunday was my first Mother's Day (outside of the one year when one of my foster dogs "gave" me a hand mixer).

I even got a free meal and free cheesecake at Pasta House out of the deal.

But, honestly?  I felt like some kind of imposter.

I'm not a mom.  Not really.  I happened to marry the love of my life, who happened to have a kid.  That doesn't make me a mom.

I joined this kid's life like some people join the army midway through the war.  I haven't been down in the trenches since the beginning, slogging through the muck and dirty diapers.  No, I joined up once the tides had turned and potty training battles had already been won.  I got here just in time for games and adventures and crafts.  (And the occasional meltdown.)

I'm not the first line of defense.  I'm not even the second.  I'm back there in the reserves, just in case backup is needed.

But, you say, you're there, Ashley.  You took on a role that no one forced you to take.  You Google mom questions like, "how do you a get a kid to stop sucking their thumb?"  You stand in the middle of the living room while drinking a glass of wine with a kid wrapped around your leg.  You wake up to tiny feet against your back.  You eat Fazoli's even though you loathe it.  You play Chutes and Ladders ten times in a row.

And that's true.

It is.

All of it.

But, I don't know.  I still don't know if I feel like a "stepmom."  Maybe it's that I've already been around for a few years, just as "Ashley" and nothing more.  The transition into living in the same house on the weekends even happened before I was officially her stepmom.  So there's been very little major shifting of roles or expectations.  I'm still Ashley.  I just also happen to now be legally bound to her dad.

I want her to be happy.  I want her to enjoy our time together, and to like me, and to make good choices.  I want her to be as well-adjusted as humanly possible.  I want to figure out the best way to make all that happen (hence the Googling).

I also love that she writes notes for "Daddy Ashley," and draws us pictures, and wants to hang out with me and play games and read books.  I love that she loves when we match.  I love that she picks out what pin I'm wearing on the weekends.

I guess that's the important part.  It's not the name that matters, it's the intention and the actions.  I would tell anyone else that, except when it comes to myself.

So, I guess I am a stepmom.  If you insist.

And maybe, just maybe, I'm not that wicked of one.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Come On and Feel the Illinoise

It's completely official: I'm once again an Illinoisian.  An Illinioisan?  An Illinosan?

(Fun fact: all of those terms are technically correct, though I think my preference is Illinoisian, for the sheer fact that there are a ridiculous number of I's involved.)

To be fair, my citizenship transfer was mostly official a few weeks ago, when I got my new driver's license.  But now it's really really official, since my car is now an Illinoisian as well.

All this after a very unfortunate incident on Tuesday involving my getting pulled over in East St Louis, discovering my Missouri plates were actually expired, getting a ticket, and the police officer then driving off while still in possession of my drivers license and insurance card.

Yeah.  It was a great day.

... Not really.

So.  Yesterday I left early, went to the DMV, and got new Illinois license plates (for the low low cost of $200 plus that pesky expired plates ticket).  I even put them on my car myself.

I admit, it was a weird feeling.  After all, it's been ten years since I had Illinois plates.  The drivers license was one thing, but the license plates seem somehow more official.  I don't know if it's because I had to physically remove the very old and very battered plates and replace them with ones so new they practically sparkle.  The whole car looks different and unfamiliar with them on.

For years, I called myself an Illinois ex-pat.  Even though I was born in Germany, Illinois had always been my home.  I grew up in Collinsville (notable only for the World's Largest Catsup Bottle and a remarkable absence of anything interesting to do besides hang out at Denny's).  I went to college in Chicago.

I didn't grow up with dreams of leaving home for the great unknown.  I'm a solidly Midwestern girl.  I like the slower pace.  I like the smaller towns.  I like that traffic isn't a complete nightmare (at least... not all the time?).

Even though I've been all over the country, I've never once wanted to move outside of the Midwest.  I don't even want to move outside the St Louis area, which is, thus far, as far as I've wandered from home.

A lot of people seem to have a lot of disdain for St. Louis.  I've never understood that.  It's a great town, not too big and not too small, filled with tons of things to do.  It's not quite bustling, but certainly not pokey.  There are a multitude of different neighborhoods, ethnic food galore, and we even have an IKEA now (like anything else matters?).  There's a free zoo, free museums, festivals, great parks, an awesome baseball team, and highways that are continually under construction (and often all at the same time!).

Okay, maybe that last one isn't exactly a plus, but it is strangely endearing all the same.

It's all so very Midwestern-y, isn't it?  There's gooey butter cake and toasted ravioli (which I actually despise).  There's the World's Largest Catsup Bottle.  There's farmland and county fairs and random French names that no one pronounces correctly.  You can have every single season all in the same week.

It is, in a word, home.  For all it's quirks and annoyances (Why are there no left turns on Gravois?  Why are Illinois drivers so terrible?  When will Kingshighway reopen?), I've never wanted to be anywhere else for very long.

They say home is where the heart is, and if I'm being honest, mine has always been here.  It is most definitely here now, as the main reason why I moved back across the river to join the other Illinoisians in our ridiculously corrupt and broke state.

And so the ex-pat has come home.  It wasn't a long way to travel, even though it took me 10 years to get here.

Not surprised?  Neither am I.

After all, there's no place like home.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Pretty Vintage Nerd

I've been a nerd for most of my life.

I'm not sure if I could have helped it if I tried.  I grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars with my dad (an equal-opportunity nerd, like myself).  We watched X-Files.  I read the Star Wars books that my dad owned and dragged home countless more from the library.  I had a Star Wars birthday party when Episode I came out.  I also wore a Padawan braid for part of that same year as well.  (I know, I know, it's positively shocking that I was single for so long.)  I wrote fanfiction.

Honestly, I think I was part of the last generation of kids where being a nerd wasn't cool.  And really, even if it had been cool, I probably still wouldn't have qualified.  Because... well, you read that last paragraph, right?

Along with being an introvert, being a fairly obsessive and fangirlish nerd is part of my very being.  It's practically in my blood.  When I like something, I really, really like it.  I write about it.  I watch it repeatedly.  I collect items from it.  I learn trivia about it.  

And I really like Star Wars.  I love everything about it, with the notable exceptions of Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christiansen, Jar Jar Binks, and most of George Lucas' poor decisions.  I love the lore of it.  I love the improbability of it.  I love the music and the characters (see above exceptions).  I love the books.  I love the (up-to-now) strictly maintained canon.  I love the pure nerdiness of it, and of all my fellow Star Wars nerds.  I love that rare fellowship when you recognize a fellow (probably equally awkward) nerd out in the wild.

I do appreciate that that being a nerd is "cool" now.  I'm not jealous of all the young nerds out there who essentially get a free pass to skip the uncool label.  I love that it's perfectly acceptable for us all to come out, blinking, into the sun (for short, well-sunscreened, periods of time) and to shyly complement each other's badges of nerd-dom.  It doesn't actually make me cool, by any means, but it's nice to have the nerdy company.

And lately, I've been more in touch with my nerdy roots.  I read a Star Wars book for the first time since high school.  And I haven't been content with merely buying geeky T-shirts for my equally geeky husband.  Instead, I've been incorporating my nerdiness into my vintage style.

As it turns out, "nerd" and "vintage" are not mutually exclusive.  And why should they be?  After all, many sub- and counter-cultures tend to find each other and band together for warmth.  As I've learned, dressing vintage is a way of expressing myself.  Expressing what I love with what what I wear is really just the next step.

My pin/jewelry obsession is to blame thank, really.  It's such a subtle, stylish way to declare to the world that yes, I am a huge geek because yes, that is an AT-AT necklace.  Thanks for noticing.

I also have a few nerdy T-shirts of my own when I really can't resist.

It's not just Star Wars, of course.  It's Harry Potter and Firefly and Doctor Who and Game of Thrones and Pirate of the Caribbean, and... I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The point is: it's a whole new world for nerds now.  We're popular.  We're cool.  We're stylish.  We're even (gasp!) attractive.  We're fetishized and idolized.

There are burlesque shows specifically catered to geeks. There are dresses covered in the TARDIS, or in Daleks.   There are conventions all over the country, for every imaginable fandom.

Yes, we geeks and nerds are still awkward as hell and can bore you in no time with obscure facts and fan theories, but gosh darn it, we can look good while we do it.

It's safe to say that I've grown up quite a bit from being the teenage girl skulking through the hallways with a Padawan braid.  I'm the slightly-self-proclaimed Pretty Vintage Girl, after all, and hopefully will be for the foreseeable future.

But fandoms were my first love, and you never forget your first love.

And because of that love I know I will always be a nerd, be it pretty, vintage, or otherwise.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Morning Owl

I've never liked mornings.

In fact, my parents continue, to this day, to tell me (and everyone else) that they had to wake me up on Christmas morning to open my presents.  When we went to Disneyworld, I was entirely unimpressed with the fact that Mickey was calling me to wake up in the morning and just wanted to go back to sleep.  I am basically a lifelong expert at hitting the snooze button and of knowing exactly how long it takes to get ready so I can fly out the door at the last minute.  Up until a few years ago, I could easily sleep for 12 solid hours, then take a nap later.

That's changed recently.

Well, not all of it.  I still love sleeping, but I've also grown accustomed to the face of pre-dawn.

This is all the fault of my husband.  Or, at least, of his job.  Mark wakes up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 every weekday, since he has to be at work by the equally ungodly hour of 6.  For the past few years we've been together, I had a pretty solid routine going.  His alarm would go off, we'd snuggle for a minute or two, and then I'd roll over and go back to sleep until my own alarm went off 2 hours later.  Then I would groggily drag myself out of bed (after hitting snooze a few times, naturally) and get ready for work.  I was the quintessential permanently exhausted pigeon.

Shortly before we moved, however, I made a decision.  I was tired all the time, and tired of being tired all the time.  And I had finally figured out that, by going back to sleep for two hours after Mark left, I was waking up directly in the middle of my sleep cycle and effectively making myself miserably exhausted.

So... I started waking up when Mark did.  And actually stayed up, in spite of the fact that the sun itself wasn't even up yet.  Mark now brings me coffee before he leaves for work (unless I have the day off and he thinks I should sleep in), and then I get up and get ready for the day.

It's nice, really.  I usually have about 3 and a half hours before I need to leave for work, including quality time spent lying in bed looking at Facebook.

So I get to take my time.  I get to be alone, and quiet.  The sun comes up.  The birds chirp outside the window (now that I have birds to listen to instead of traffic).  I drink my coffee, and reheat it, and drink some more.  Sometimes I make dinner for that night, or I bake.  I cross-stitch, or knit, or crochet, or read.  I do laundry.  I've even taken a nap.

It's not exactly ideal, obviously, but it strangely works.  I'm (usually) less exhausted than I used to be.  I fall asleep faster at night and sleep better.  Plus, I have that precious time to myself in the morning to introvert and to do whatever I want.  And I actually do enjoy it.

This hearkens back to last week's blog about my actively working on being happier.  After all, I've been reading for years about the benefits of waking up early.  Successful people wake up earlier.  Happy people wake up earlier.  Morning people are the unacknowledged gods among us mere mortal night owls. Blah blah blah.

And I tried to get up earlier.  I did.  I tried the suggested and oh-so-sneaky method of setting your alarm five minutes earlier every day.  This didn't work at all, because I already knew full well exactly how long I could sleep in without being late.  My body wasn't about to be fooled that easily, and so I only succeeded in hitting the snooze button more.

As it turns out, the cold-turkey method works best for me.   And I honestly don't know why I'm surprised by that.  I've never been a girl to do something gradually.  I'm either all-in or all-out.

So now?  I wake up really fucking early four or five days out of the week.

And, believe it or not (and for God's sake, don't tell my parents), I think it does make me happier.

While I may be a natural-born night owl, I have to admit that the stupid early bird might actually be onto something.

Or maybe he just drinks a hell of a lot of coffee.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Happy and You Know It

I like to think that I'm a happy person these days.

Why shouldn't I be?  I have a good job, a wonderful husband, a sweet stepkid, a house of my own, still-married parents, and an amazing circle of friends.  I have money in the bank and all my basic needs are met.  Sure, I go through my sometimes-monthly moodiness and have moments of melancholy (and always adore alliteration), not to mention recent wedding-and-house-buying stress, but for the most part I would say that I'm definitely happy.  At the very least I'm content, and I think that's pretty awesome as well.

It's not that I expect to be happy all the time.  That would actually be boring, not to mention unrealistic.  And obviously, even though I have every reason to be thrilled with life, I'm not always.  It happens.

But I do very much enjoy my happiness.

And, quite frankly, I think I could improve on it.

Mainly, I struggle with the fact that I often let myself get overly upset by the little things.  More specifically, I let myself get overly upset by the little things that I can't control: by the guy who doesn't have his turn signal on but turns anyway, by the client who misses a question that I asked, or by someone not acting exactly how I think they should act.

Coincidentally (or not), I recently read The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, a stunt book (do something slightly crazy for a year and then write about it in a very clever manner) in which Gretchen spends a year trying every means possible to be happier and more invested in her own (already very pleasant) life.

I recognize that this kind of book is not for everyone.  But I find that I'm actually a sucker for the stunt genre.  I adored The Year of Living Biblically, The Know-It-All, and (of course) Julie and Julia, the book/movie that forever changed my attitude about cooking.  I'm unashamed of my love for the year-long-commitment genre of books.  Maybe it's because I do my own yearly commitment to reading at least 50 books.  Maybe it's because I've always subscribed to the mantra of "you can do anything for a year."  Maybe I just like the fact that I'm not the only person who writes excessively about their daily life, and the fact that some people actually become famous by doing so.

Whatever the case, I completely loved The Happiness Project.  Gretchen dealt with a lot of the same issues I have (or have had).  She's a bit of a control freak.  She's messy.  She's a slight hoarder.  She judges herself for the things she enjoys, and struggles with an innate sense of "I can totally make do without this necessary item."

In her book, Gretchen works her way through 12 months of happiness improvement, focusing each month on a different aspect of her life (kids, friends, husband, work, creativity, money, etc).

While I certainly don't intend to undertake a similar project right now, I do feel like I can improve my own happiness in baby steps, mostly by chilling the fuck out and recognizing that I do not have to (and, quite frankly, should not be allowed to) run the whole world.

So far, it's (kindof) working.

I'm trying very hard not to immediately rant when someone doesn't answer my entire e-mail.  I'm trying not to swan dive into automatic road rage (curse words and middle fingers blazing) when other drivers fail to follow common sense road rules.  I'm trying not to think that I know best about what other people should be doing.  Just because I'm multi-tasking doesn't mean everyone else needs to be.

I'm trying, ultimately, to cut other people some slack.

Is venting fun?  Is feeling superior to the idiotic drivers on the road enjoyable?  Hell yes.  Why else would we do it?  But what I'm wondering is if it is actually worthwhile.  I'm starting to think that, instead of innocently blowing off steam, I'm more likely blowing things out of proportion and giving myself a reason to be upset.  Negativity breeds more negativity, at least for me.  Once I start looking for the bad, I can always find more.  And more.

I'd rather focus on the good.  I'd rather focus on and remember Kaylee's joy of waking up and looking for Easter eggs and of opening her Easter basket rather than fixating on her stubbornness the night before.

Life isn't always going to be good.  There are going to be times when I'm going to be sad, or anxious, or sick, or heart-broken, or any number of negative emotions.  I'm going to be criticized, or be frustrated, or furious.  But while I'm happy, and while I can be happy, I don't see the point in blatantly spoiling it for myself for no good reason.

Definitely a happy day.

I can't tell you I'm going to stop being snarky and sarcastic.  Because I'm not.  And if you consider that to be a character flaw or negative trait, then so be it.  But I consider it to be an inherent part of my personality, and I actually do find happiness in a perfectly-crafted snarky comment, particularly when it makes other people laugh.  My favorite relationships (both fictional and my own) are based on the snarky, witty repartee of two people generally giving each other a hard time.

So, I'm not going to turn into Little Miss Sunshine, but I am going to try to stop bitching quite so much about things that don't really matter in the grand scheme.

And I don't care what Yoda says, because "try" is truly the operative word here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What's in a Name?

The great debate has been raging: whatever will Ashley do about her last name?

People have asked.  People have told me that they changed my last name in their phones without asking.  People even made out wedding checks to Mark and Ashley Wood, which added an extra step when we deposited them in the bank.  My mom thought I forgot to write "Wood" when I signed the church register this past weekend.  Even my e-mails from Michaels have, over the past few months, gone from "Ashley Jones" to "Ashley Wood" to "Mark Wood" to "Mark Jones" out of either sheer flailing and confused desperation or some strange way of letting me temporarily try out all my available options.

The fact is that I haven't changed it yet.  I couldn't even do so until after we closed on the house (which happened Monday morning, making us officially, terrifyingly, homeowners).

And honestly?  I'm torn.

I changed my name without question the last time around (I don't think my ex would have allowed me to keep my maiden name anyway), and very much regretted it when we eventually divorced and I had to go through the entire process of changing it back to my maiden name (with his "permission," because apparently we still all live in the dark ages of chauvinism where even an ex-husband can continue to dictate a woman's choices).  I changed my driver's license, I changed the name on the car title, I changed my passport, and I changed nearly every single damn thing that had my name on it.  Bank account, apartment lease, e-mails, Facebook account, etc, etc, etc.

It's definitely not that I forsee having to change it back a second time, but the fact remains that I essentially fought to get my maiden name back two years ago when it would have just been easier to keep my married name (as much as I hated it).  Changing it to my new married name feels, strangely, like a betrayal of all that work.  Plus, I like being a Jones.  It took me years to appreciate my incredibly common name, and now I find I'm rather attached to it (and not just literally).

On the other hand, I very much want the acknowledgement that I married the love of my life.  I want to share that extra bit of life that comes from sharing a name.  I want to be a Wood.  It would make most things much easier to simply change my name.  I wouldn't have to be annoyed with the people who assumed I changed my name and address things to "Ashley Wood."  We wouldn't have to explain that yes, we are married even though my last name is different.  Signing cards, etc, would be that much quicker.

But... I still don't want to get rid of Jones.

This would probably be easier if I didn't hate the concept of hyphenated names (for me personally; I don't care what other people choose to do with their names).  Then I could have my name and change it too.

I also wish it didn't matter.  I wish that I didn't feel like keeping my name or changing my name were both somehow a political and/or social statement, in spite of the decision being neither of those things for me.  I wish neither were the "expected" option.  I don't know if that would make my current decision easier, but I might feel less guilty about whatever choice I make.

This also might be the very definition of a first-world problem.

In slightly related news, being referred to as Mark's "wife" remains an incredibly jarring experience.  As does calling him my husband.  It was hard enough getting used to "boyfriend/girlfriend," then "fiance'," but "wife"?  So weird.  It makes me feel instantly old (says the girl who spends most of her free time knitting and crocheting and goes to bed around 9) and very formal.

Names are so strange.  They are deeply personal.  They define, they separate, and they group together.  We attach so much meaning to titles and names and change both according to life changes, how we want to be perceived, and, sometimes, at whim.  I don't know why "wife" sounds so strange to me now, almost ten years after I became a wife for the first time, but it does.  Honestly, it's probably related to the feeling that changing my maiden name again would be a weird betrayal of the work I did to stop being a wife.

In spite of these strange hangups, I love being married.  I love looking at pictures from our wedding day.  I love seeing a ring on Mark's finger, and looking at my own ring.

It's just the words, and the names, that I have a problem with.

It's not even a problem in a bad way.  It's more a problem in that I have to figure out what the words, what the name, means.

What's in a name?  Everything, and nothing, all at once.  In the grand scheme of things, does it matter if I change my name or keep it?  No.  But right now it seems like a bigger decision than buying a house.  In a way, I worked harder for my name and "title" than I did for a house.

What does your name mean to you?  What about your title?

Is the hangup just with me?  This is entirely possible.  But as someone who worked hard to become who I am and to define myself (as well as someone who continually turns over the meaning and intent of words), the threat of any change gives me pause.

The reality is that changing my name, or being a wife, do not change who I essentially am as a person.  They don't change my past.  They don't change my personality.  They don't make me any less of an introvert, or any more of a morning person.  If anything, they add to who I am, never subtracting.  I'm a wife.  I'm a stepmother.  I'm a homeowner.  I'm a project manager.  I'm The Pretty Vintage Girl.  I'm either Jones or Wood or whatever I choose to be.

I'm still me.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Pretty Vintage Wedding

Well, it happened.

We got married!

It was not an elaborate April Fool's prank.  It was not a joke.  It was 100% real and 110% stressful and even, just maybe, 100% worth it.

It's been a long time coming and a very short time planned for.  Even though we got engaged back in July, we really didn't plan any of the actual wedding until the last three months.  While moving.  And buying a house.

No sweat, right?

But it came off beautifully.

The weather (which I had stressed about for weeks) was perfect.  The decorations were set.  The cupcakes (and slightly crooked cake) were made.  My bouquet (which I crocheted myself, because why not?) was finally finished and arranged rearranged to my perfectionist likings.  I had delegated away all the tasks I couldn't handle myself and scheduled my friends to arrive early to keep me calm.

I lost track of how many times I'd said or wished that we'd just eloped.

And yet, at just about 11:00 on Saturday morning, I stood (in full hair, makeup, and wedding dress) holding hands with Mark, and we walked down the "aisle" in my parents' front yard to "Have You Met Miss Jones?".

Now, I can't quite say that the ceremony went off without a hitch.  Because as soon as we got up to the podium and Terry started the ceremony, I had a terrible realization.

... I had forgotten the rings inside.

But, after a brief pause where Mark ran off to fetch the rings and everyone enjoyed a good laugh, we got back underway and the rest proceeded exactly as planned, up to and including us walking out to the Imperial March.

Really, in a wedding where I had put in the extra effort to be sure it was personalized just for us (the crochet bouquet, my custom "Happily Ever After" book pin, the music, and the readings (Pablo Neruda, Neil Gaiman, and a quote from "Serenity"), the fact that I forgot something so important was actually entirely fitting.  I am horrendously forgetful (usually at all the worst times), so I'm far from shocked that in such a carefully planned-out event I forgot something as important as wedding rings.

And now we're married.

And I'm so very happy.

It's not that anything is different.  Our lives haven't suddenly changed.  We're not different (even though we both find it very strange to use the words "husband" and "wife."  We're still the same people, just a bit more legally bound than before.

But I finally had a wedding that I enjoyed, a wedding that I truly wanted to a man who I truly love and who truly loves me.

And that is very nice indeed.  It even makes all the stress and worry and work worth it.

Because I never, ever have to do this again.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Final Countdown

There's only two more full days until I get married.

Two days.

I don't even know how that happened or how it's possible that time has gone this quickly.  I swear we just got engaged the other week.

Two days.

One of my friends asked me the other day how many meltdowns I've had.

And honestly?  Not as many as I might have expected, none at all since almost two weeks ago when Mark and I both admitted to each other that we were freaked out that the other person didn't want to get married.

Quite frankly, we don't want to get married.  We don't.  But we do want to be married.  Those of you who have gone through weddings can surely relate, at least in part, and know that there is most definitely a difference between the two.  Getting married is, simply, a pain in the ass, even when you do truly want to be with your future spouse for the rest of your life and all that nonsense.

But the problem is the process.  The problem is that weddings have gotten out of control.  The problem is  that everything costs way too much money for one little portion of one little day.  The problem is that everyone has an opinion about what you should or should do and who should or shouldn't be invited.

(The problem may also be that I'm a ridiculous perfectionist and therefore made my own bouquet and cupcakes, but that's totally besides the point.)

The problem is not with me or Mark, and that is the one thing keeping me going.  Right now I would give almost anything for it to be 11:00 on Saturday and for it all to be almost over, to be on the very brink of being married to the love of my life.

Part of me wondered, during my momentary crisis a couple weeks ago, if I was sure about all this.

I've been down this road before, after all.  It wasn't great.  It was, actually, one of the worst experiences of my life.  And here I was, ten years later, about to do it all over again?  Was I sure, was I really sure, that this was a good idea?  What if I was making the same mistake again?

But I thought about it.  And wasn't scared of being married.  I know, as much as I can know anything, that I want to be with this guy for all of the foreseeable future.  There's never really been anyone else, in spite of all efforts to the contrary.

No, what I was scared of was that Mark didn't want to be with me, that he would change his mind, realize he'd made a huge mistake.  Because, really, I wouldn't blame him.  I'm damaged goods.  I've been divorced.  I still have significant emotional damage and a tendency to stress-meltdowns.  The fact that I don't drink as much means that I cry a lot more instead.  I post selfies every day and have a ridiculous amount of clothes.  And pins.  And books.  And shoes.

Really, I wouldn't blame him if he decided I wasn't the best idea ever.

But that would be awful.

So do I wish we didn't have to go through this whole wedding thing?  Yes.  Do I wish we would have eloped back on Halloween?  Yes.

And do I want to marry him and risk everything all over again, ten years later?

Oh, yes.  Hell yes.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Long Haul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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