Saturday, January 02, 2016

A Year In Review - 2015 Self Reflection

Every year I try to write a self reflection, and some years are certainly easier than others. This one is going to be really hard. 2015 represents the rock bottom low point of my life. I don't want to revisit it. I don't want to reflect on it. I want to have an Office Space moment with it where I beat the living daylights out of it with a few close friends and a baseball bat (accompanied by gangster rap). But someday I'm going to look back on these last 365 days with wisdom, hindsight, and hopefully humor, so for what it's worth, here you go... 2015...


1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

I finally gave up the ghost, grew a pair, and admitted that my marriage was irretrievably and hopelessly broken and bravely walked away (which meant giving up every single thing of any meaning to me and everything I'd worked for 13 years to have for myself) -- giving both me and Tom the opportunity to find happiness elsewhere. Apparently, I'm the bad guy in all of this, because how dare I admit that the emperor was naked all along, but it just didn't seem fair to anybody to continue living so miserably together. It was a good decision, but it wasn't easy, it wasn't taken lightly, and it hasn't been fun. But it was the best decision I've made in a long time.


 2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

I went from being a full time stay at home mom to a part time working mom for the first time in 10 years. I love my job but I feel like an entirely different person now. Someone I don't know. Someone I'm still trying to hang out with and get to know. It's disorienting and I still cry about it every day. I really miss my boys. I miss being primarily involved in their lives, watching them get off the school bus every day, seeing them and talking to them every day. I don't think this shared-custody thing is ever going to feel good. Although admittedly, I do like kid-free time to myself to go and explore and do all the things I haven't been able to for the last almost-10 years. It's just sometimes I have no idea what to do with myself or how to spend all that free time...


 3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?

Going an entire day, week, and month without being criticized for something... After 13 years, being able to live in my space and just breathe, secure in the knowledge that me and my stuff weren't pissing anybody off.


 4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

The decisions other people made that ended up affecting my personal trajectory. Like the landlord who hadn't paid a power bill since 2012 which is how I ended up living miserably is Ballston Spa.


 5. Pick three words to describe 2015.

Lonely. Eye-opening. Angst-filled.


6. What were the best books you read this year?

I don't know that I read anything. Maybe not even a single book.


7. With whom were your most valuable relationships?

I really found out who my true friends were. They weren't necessarily the ones I expected, or the ones I hung out most in my married days either. My friends Jen, Tahsia, Amy and Kira have been my rocks for months. And even though it didn't work out between us, I felt loved for the short time I was in a relationship this summer, and it was nice to feel that after so long without it. I think that relationship gave me a clear(er) idea of what I'm looking for in my next relationship and for that I am very grateful.

8. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

How didn't I grow emotionally? Since I moved out, my entire life has been about stretching myself, facing challenges, dealing with the inevitable crap that comes up on my own. Healing myself. Soothing my heart. Rediscovering who I am and what I want out of life. I am finding that I can take care of myself. That the stories I was told about who I was and what I was capable of were fiction. I get shit done. I am quite resourceful and intelligent and the world is my oyster now. I'm trying to feel ok being alone. It's a process, and not one I'm very happy to be in the middle of, even though it's for the best. Hopefully this time next year I will have a different answer to this question.

9. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

I believe more in fate and destiny than I ever did before. Some things fell apart so that something better could take its place - my apartment debacle resulted in me living in a much newer/energy efficient place, the dog adoption debacle ended in finding Archie, who was exactly what I needed and wanted, and my new job pretty much appeared out of thin air as soon as I decided to make a change. All in all, it's been a very humbling experience to see how the universe gives and takes away in equal measure, usually for the better,

10. In what way(s) did you grow physically?

I went on a cleanse in the spring, lost a fair bit of weight, and have managed to keep most of it off. I wouldn't say I'm taking great care of myself. I don't eat breakfast and don't bother making myself dinner most nights, and I know that's unhealthy and I really should try to nurture myself more. I just don't feel hungry anymore. I'm very much at home in my physical and emotional emptiness right now. That said, I have recently taken up hiking, and if it wasn't freezing outside, I would be biking, kayaking, and camping too. I love being outdoors in the woods. I've missed it and it's a great way to make my body and my mind stronger.

11. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

I think in light of my introversion and distance over the past couple of years, I've become a better, and more present friend. Although, I've also become a much needier friend, a probably-maddening friend, and a very different friend than I've been in the past. Tom and I are learning how to navigate our new relationship, which is neither easy nor fun. There's a lot of hurt there on both sides, a lot of misunderstanding each other, and a lot of love still. I'm hopeful that as time marches on and the wounds aren't so fresh, we can go back to the amazing friendship that drew us to each other in the first place, but if that doesn't happen, I'm ok with just being civil and kind to one another in respect to the kids.


12. What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?

Not having to manage my home.


13. What was your most challenging area of home management?

Not being in my home to manage.


14. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

I haven't had a lot of downtime lately to waste. But I worry a lot about the future--in all areas of my life--and it's probably pointless. Things are going to play out as they're going to play out...


 15. What was the best way you used your time this past year?

It was pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but the best time I had this year were the days I spent walking in the woods, my hand held, loved by someone who just liked my company. It was such an unexpected pleasure to be wanted again. Had I not had that experience, I don't think I would be as mentally fortified as I am now, as I try my hand at online dating and finding someone new to spend time with.

16. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?

I have learned so many things this year, but I think the biggest thing I learned was that I have the most amazing friends on the planet and I don't need a husband, a boyfriend, or family nearby to have a support system. They have my back in a million different ways. Jen lets me come crash on her couch and feeds me when I can't stand coming home to an empty apartment. Amy encourages me to get out and go with her to any number of fun places you once would never catch me. Tahsia mothers me and finds craft projects for me to try to keep me busy. And Kira is just my rock. Who knew 5 years ago when we met in side by side hotel rooms that she would become like a sister to me? The family I picked for myself? My go-to person who I know I can count on in any emergency. She's the one who comes to my apartment and packs for me because she knows I don't have the time to do it myself, who asks no questions, just hands over money at 7:30am when I show up on her doorstep purseless and gasless on the way to work. She's the one who brings me lunch on my Christmas Eve birthday when I'm alone in the office and crumbling from loneliness. She's the one who listens to my newly-single stories and tells me when I'm going off the rails and need to get my shit back together, which I need to hear, knowing she is the only one I'd even listen to. They are my adopted family and I seriously couldn't function without these four women in my life.

17. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2015 for you.

F.U.B.A.R

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Beginning

Last night I found out the the judge finally signed off on my divorce.

I'm officially an ex-wife. I told a few friends, and invariably they all asked how I was feeling about it. I have mixed feelings, definitely. On the one hand, I feel like a little storm cloud has been hovering over my head since June, as I waited for things to finalize. That feeling of limbo is disorienting and frustrating and sad. You want to call him your ex and your life your ex-life, but it isn't ex yet really. I, at least, felt a little trapped between two worlds. Now I feel like I can finally walk through the door and shut it behind me. I want to celebrate that. Then I want to have a long, hard cry for everything I gave up just to walk through the door. And then I want to go dancing. Because in spite of everything, my life now is so much better.

The timing couldn't be better either. Yesterday, ironically, I started my new position at an insurance company in Albany. As much as I enjoyed what I did and who I did it with at my previous workplace, I couldn't live on my salary and knew I was completely expendable. There wasn't much growth in the position, and it quickly became obvious there was no future there for me long-term. I started looking for something else, and this administrative assistant position came along through a staffing agency I'd been working with. When it goes permanent, the benefits will knock my socks off (being an insurance agency, I will be well taken care of), the salary is significantly better, and I feel like this is a place with some growth opportunities.

So yesterday was a day full of new beginnings, and all of them positive for once.

 I'm going to try to remember how to chill and try to detox from the most stressful summer and fall of my life. I'm going to embroider, and watch comedies, and go out with my friends, and laugh, and play with my dog,  hang out with Matthew, do fun stuff with the boys, and enjoy the holidays without stressing out. Because I can honestly say that right now, there's nothing in my life to stress about. That feels really good.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Attachment

I've been thinking a lot lately, and that's always dangerous. I will readily admit I spend way too much time in my head thinking about the past, imagining the future, and generally torturing myself with what ifs and why didn't Is. I like to plan because I hate surprises. I'm not good at all in living in the moment. And when I am living in the moment, my head is a mess.

I've always known that I had some issues... but it wasn't until recently, when all the shit went down with my apartment, and my carefully constructed facade of having it all together crumbled, that it was pointed out to me to that I was a mess and needed to work through my issues and get emotionally healthy. It was said with love and compassion, but it sent me into a death spiral of fear and angst. Did I mention that I don't handle criticism well either? We're talking a Chicken Little-on-the-brink-of-nuclear-holocaust-type reaction.

But upon further reflection, I decided I'd better buck up.  This was an opportunity to cleanse myself emotionally and start this new phase of my life stronger and in a better place. So I am trying to figure it all out...

I wish I could blame my divorce for all my troubles. Divorce is traumatic, soul shocking, and is deeply, profoundly painful on every level. Even though I initiated the divorce, I did so only after years of despair and unhappiness. But if I'm being honest with myself, it is not the wellspring of my trauma, soul shock, or emotional pain. The marriage and subsequent divorce just roto-tilled what I'd kept buried for the last 13 years right up to the surface again.

My early years weren't for the faint of heart. My mother tells stories about how my dad, when I'd cry as an infant, would throw me like a football into my crib. If he came home from work and wanted my mom's undivided attention, when I was two, and basically a baby, he'd make me stand in the corner of the room with my nose in the crack between the two walls. Even now, I can distinctly feel the cold of the plaster against my nose.

I tell these stories dispassionately. They happened in the past. So long ago they shouldn't even matter anymore.

But inside my otherwise intelligent, rational, mature, not-crazy-at-all mind, lurks that two year old self, whose father was both the love of her life, and the world's most inexplicable monster. The one who she woke up to snuggle every morning, who would lift her high in the air and let her touch the ceiling, who would be her personal horsey and trot her around the living room, but also the cold-hearted father whose love for her stopped without explanation, who'd hurl her away, cast her aside, or force her to deny her own needs on a whim. I still feel afraid when I think about those days--all those emotions still live in my heart. The fear, the confusion, the guilt and the not knowing what I did to make him not want me around.

I wish I could say that those days didn't effect me in the long run. But, unfortunately, they did. Add to that my only-childhood and a world of adults who frequently told me to go play and leave them alone, and a parade of men through my life that came and went with alarming regularity, and the message I received throughout my formative years was Nothing is permanent and no one wants to be around you for long.

So I turned into a chronically charming people pleaser, who would rather walk across hot coals and glass shards than create the slightest amount of conflict. I was probably a naturally easy-going, sweet, and sensitive person, but the fear of everyone I cared about rejecting me turned me into a neurotically needy monster. If you're saying to yourself "That doesn't sound like the Brittany I know" it's because I hid it well. I knew it wasn't healthy to be that way, so I went for the opposite extreme and just shut down. Especially throughout my tumultuously emotional teenage years, it was safer to be aloof, disinterested, and introverted. 

But if I love you, I can't not care. And if I give an inch the emotion takes a mile. I warn you about myself, and I try to explain, in words, the constant low grade pain my heart feels. How, for me, being in love creates anxiety. Every single second of the day  I torture myself worrying that any change in my love's behavior is a sign his feelings for me have changed, that a break up is imminent, that I've done or said something wrong, that somehow I'm not good enough. They he thought he loved me, but realized he was wrong. I crave constant reassurance. Reassurance only makes me crazier. The more often I'm reassured, the more often I need to hear it. I also expect my love to want time away from me and I expect to be alone a lot, and when I am alone (because rational me knows time apart is healthy) it feels like rejection. Without the constant feed of affirmation, I freak out and worry why I'm no longer hearing it. It's a horrible spiral of ridiculousness that rational me tries desperately to shake off. She's usually only partially successful. I know it's not rational, so I stuff it down and ignore it, keep myself busy, submit to my partner's needs because my needs don't make any sense. I know that the constant, wide, gnawing un-fillable emptiness in my heart is always going to be there. There is absolutely nothing any one person can do, or say, that will ever make it go away, especially when my fears and insecurities grow out of my own warped apocalyptic imagination

I understand quite clearly now that if I want to have a happy second life, I need to find some way to silence these fears. Rational me knows that people come and go. Feelings ebb and flow. It's not only ok. It's part of life. My head is completely up to speed on these points. It's my heart that isn't so swift on the uptake. Central to Buddhism is the idea that 'attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.’ Attachment issues are clearly the root of my suffering. And the obvious solution is to stop trying to feed the beast. Stop trying to acquire love, and just exist within in. Be grateful for each loving touch, each loving word, each moment together, as it is happening, without trying to make sense of it, quantify it, categorize it, and continually search for an unending supply of it. The constant pursuit of love is exhausting. By cutting off the supply to my emotional angst, I can starve it to death. 






Monday, November 09, 2015

Changing Course

Welcome to the world of Brittany 3.0. *sigh*

I put in my notice at work today. It wasn't because I didn't like my job. I did. And I loved my co-workers. I even loved the insanity and absurdity of the travel industry. What I did not love was waking up in a cold sweat every night wondering how I was going to afford my life. And wondering what the heck I was going to do with no benefits for a year... including no vacation... and me a mom with kids. The whole situation sucked. So when I was offered a job with higher pay *and* immediate benefits, I jumped at the chance. It's a temp to perm placement through a staffing agency, but this is not my first rodeo. I've gone temp to perm before, and can't imagine why I won't now.

If you're keeping count, I'm now living in my third home since July and am on my third job. I started this whole journey bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and even if I don't look it (but honestly I do), I feel old, tired, and haggard, and about as bright and shiny as a pile of cow dung. My hair has been falling out for over a month now... strands and strands come out in the shower, when I brush it, when I run my fingers through it. I've probably lost 70-80% of what I started with. I've tried iron... I'm taking bovine thyroid supplements... I'm trying to go out and have fun and relax and engage in relaxing hobbies... but the bags under my eyes, the clumps of hair in the trash can, and my desire to crawl in the bed and stay there, hoping fervently that not.another.fucking.thing of any noteworthiness happens to me for a looooong loooong time are testaments to the fact that I don't do well at all with this much upheaval in my life.

At the same time, I don't really have anything to complain about. Things are finally going my way, my general life situation has been steadily improving, and things have calmed down considerably. Since it's November and everyone is blowing up Facebook with their thankfulness, I'll join the party too.

1. I'm very thankful for Archie, my new dog. Now I understand why none of the other adoptions worked out. He truly is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Funny, spunky, snuggly, able to adjust to apartment life. Great with the boys. Good with other dogs. Able to be a couch potato 5 days a week and then go for a hike on the weekends. He's great company, already loves me fiercely, and makes me laugh every day.

2. The boys. I think when I was a stay at home mom, we took each other for granted. If there is an upside to divorce and gut-wrenching custody schedules, it has to be that you get a chance to miss each other, and you try to make every moment count when you see each other. The boys and I have a great time together now (aside from the last half hour getting ready to leave in the morning) and now that my life has calmed down somewhat, we can start having more of the fun kind of adventures and less of the stressful ones.

3. My friends are the best friends in the world. I am truly one of the luckiest people I know because my friends have been there for me in ways I can't even wrap my head around. And when I say there, I mean THERE. I couldn't ask for better friends. All of you. I appreciate the facebook chats, the texts, the phone calls, the help, the moral support, the company, the readiness to go out on the town. Whatever I need, whenever I've needed it, I've been able to count on so, so many people.

Things are finally looking up. Hopefully the third time is the charm.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

How I Am

One of the hardest things for me to put into words lately has been a satisfactory answer to that little question.

"How are you?"

Some people follow that up with "You seem great!" or "But you're happy, right? or even "You look so happy!"

At no point was I ever in the fetal position weeping in despair, but very few things in my life make me happy right now. At the moment, it's a very short list.

1. My boys
2. My friends
3. My new dog, Archie

The list of things I'm unhappy about is a much longer list, and I'm not going to start it because it isn't healthy to focus on so much negativity and loss. I gave up 95% of my previous life. I am literally starting from scratch here, and while that might sound fun, it isn't. Everything is my life is new--from my day to day life, to the furniture, to the things (even the knife block and spatulas are new), to the people I interact with, to the dog on my bed, and to the man at my side.

Newness isn't bad... but it's new. And with newness comes a disorienting sense of impermanence. At least in my marriage, I knew that next Tuesday, and next November, and 2016 were all going to be an endless stretch of sameness. For someone who longs for stability, I just did a spectacular job of removing every shred of stability from my life. I spend my days reconstructing it, re-building it, much as a bird might build their nest, with shreds and scraps and unexpected bits and pieces that I find along the way. But I can't quite re-create the life I had, and so it's my life, but a very different one from the one I had before, and it's so new,  I don't really recognize myself in it yet.

I was talking to my friend, Tambra, the other day and she said something to the effect of, "It's really amazing all that you have accomplished in just 4 months." And then she started cataloging my major achievements... Getting a job after almost 10 years out of the workforce, keeping my Thirty-One business from imploding, moving twice, unpacking and re-settling twice, finding the time and energy to pick some old hobbies back up, and being a generally less-depressed, more motherly mother to my boys.

I have another friend, Jen, who's a year ahead in her post-divorce life, and she's been instrumental in helping me focus, remain positive, and in touch with my Xena Warrior Princess side. From the beginning of this whole journey, when my head would swim with doubts and overwhelm, she'd just say "You've got this!" Somehow that was all I needed to hear.

As pathetic as it sounds, I need to meet this stronger, fiercer, more successful Brittany that my friends know.  I don't think of my successes that way. For me, success is defined more simply. I made it through the day without crying, the bills all got paid, the dishes got washed, the boys are happy... I'm still having a hard time emotionally with all of this. Even if I look like I'm having the time of my life, my subconscious knows otherwise.

Most nights I
1) wake up in cold sweats about my future and the state of my finances -or-
2) dream that I am unable to scream or cry -or-
3) dream that I am punching, hitting, kicking, and generally trying to tear Tom from limb to limb


There's so much to work through, and it's going to be a process...

I'm working on being present and living in the moment more. Nothing about my life is going to be resolved any time soon. It's best to recognize that fact and embrace it.

For now I'll just try to enjoy the notion that for the first time in a long time, life is going to surprise me.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hello and Goodbye

It hasn't been the best couple of weeks. I don't do well with change and life upheaval, and after throwing a grenade on my life (cue some dramatic movie music and spectacular cinematography highlighting my slow motion walk away from a blurry inferno in the background), I thought that was the hard part. I was all settled into my apartment, living what I thought was going to be my new life, and then the Fates, who have a truly sick sense of humor by the way, said something to the effect of "Hey, not so fast, Brittany. There's another fireball scene for Act 2."

So I'm in my new apartment, which theoretically was going to be all rainbows and kittens and happiness, and I hate it. I hadn't realized how much I truly adored living in Scotia, with all my friends (and my kids) mere blocks away, and the amazing little community to buoy and support me. I love the new village I've moved to in theory, and yes, I'm only 20 minutes up the road from Scotia, but my heart is breaking for home. I feel like I might as well be on the moon for how cut off I feel from where I want to be.

And to think in the early days of my divorce, I considered moving cross county to start over. Laughable.

Anyway, it's been a rough transition. It's been a couple of weeks of deep (useless) introspection and generally feeling sorry for myself, with lots and lots of tears. And anger. And more tears. And more anger.

I like to think I'm an even-keeled, fairly unemotional person. These intense, wildly swinging emotions freak me out. I have no idea what to do with them, being so unused to feeling much of anything. (We can save that for someday when I can afford a therapist. Moving on...) I could barely stand to be with me lately, and I knew I wasn't fit for human consumption, so I did a google search for ways to get through post-divorce grief. (Strangely enough, there wasn't advice on how to get through post-divorce, post-eviction, post-moving grief...) One of the more interesting pieces of advice I encountered was to write a goodbye letter to your former life, and all the things you will (and won't) miss about it. And then write a hello letter to your new life.

Since I can't seem to write anything anymore without turning it into a blog... without further ado...

Goodbye to my perfect suburban life, the dream house that was so me, the village I loved, and my life of stay-at-home mom ease. Yes I had all the financial security in the world, but it was a lonely life, and frustrating, and unfulfilling too. In that house, I boxed myself up and packed myself away, waiting for some time in the future when my hidden treasures might be appreciated, but that day never came. My hidden treasures are messy and unpredictable and not always pretty or useful. Goodbye to waiting for the day that someone noticed I was away and asked me where I'd been. Goodbye to not being authentically me. Goodbye to letting someone dictate who I could be. Goodbye to sitting down and shutting up and not making a mess. Goodbye to tans and blues and no pictures on the walls and wide open spaces filled with nothing, I like color, and pictures, and chaos. I can be free to express myself now, so goodbye to feeling hemmed in. Goodbye to home improvement and driveways to shovel and the stupid plow in winter. Goodbye to chestnuts falling on my car. Goodbye to corner lot sidewalks and trees that fall down after every major storm. Goodbye to seeing the boys every day. To knowing how their day was every day. To watching them get off the bus. To lazy afternoon snuggles after school. To being intimately involved in every aspect of their life. To being the one who is there with them. Goodbye to their blissful childhood where nothing bad ever happened. To their belief that I could do nothing to hurt them or make them sad. To seeing my pets. That is really the biggest goodbye of all because their is no shared custody of pets. Goodbye to them being mine at all. Goodbye to laughing at their antics, and half day snuggles together while I read fan fiction on my latop. Goodbye to useless days filled with nothing but errands and sadness. Goodbye to thirteen years of marriage. To having someone to rely on. Someone to warm the bed. To tell about my day. To words like forever and always and when we... and why don't we... and we should... and when we're old we'll... Goodbye to seeking a connection that wasn't there. To seeking his approval and never finding it. To the endless loop of criticisms--you're a slob, you're overweight, why didnt yous, you nevers, you alwayses... Goodbye to the pain of being alone together. Of forgetting what happy felt like. Of trying so hard to make something work. Goodbye to imagining what it might be like to just die and for everything to come to an end and not having to live so unhappily ever after.

Hello to my messy new life. Hello to making my own rules and deciding who and what I've got space for. Hello to words like divorce and separation and splitting. Hello to not needing to listen to anyone's crap because I am free to walk away. I walked away from the most important relationship of my life. If I'm not happy, I can and will walk away again. And I will be ok. And ok and ok and ok and ok. No matter how many times I walk away and start over. I'm ok now. I will be ok in the future. Hello to knowing that. Hello to being strong, and independent, and self-reliant. To cranking I Will Survive and Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves and dancing like a fool because I'm alone and I don't care. Hello to knowing I have experienced some shit and if this is the worst thing that ever happens to me, I'm still alive and vibrant and have amazing friends and people who love me. Hello to free time. Hello to making the times I'm with the boys count. To not getting bored with each other. To not taking time together for granted. Hello to new love and the excitement of finding someone new. Hello to growing comfortable with each other and finding a groove together. Hello to having a choice between Is and wes.  Hello to my future, whatever it might look like. Hello to possibilities. Hello to a new Brittany. Hello to a new pet (eventually). But not needing a pet for my emotional state because I've got this. Hello to doing what works for me. Or not doing what doesn't work for me. Hello to calling the shots from now on and hello to putting myself and my needs first again. Hello to leases, and freedom, and not being locked into anything. Hello to no driveway or sidewalks to shovel. To not being responsible for repairs. For paying off debt and being an adult and doing what needs to be done and not having it done for me anymore. Hello to knowing what the insurance policies are, and having bills and credit cards in my own name. Hello to using my maiden name again soon. To putting painful memories behind me. To remembering who I was before marriage. To reintroducing myself to that girl and spending time with her. Hello to my hobbies, ones I've discovered and and the ones that will be new, and spending my time doing exactly what I want to be doing. Hello to writing and inspiration and finally finishing my novel. Hello to doing work I enjoy and spending my days getting paid for what I do. Hello to deciding how I spend my money. For being responsible for everything again. For having control again. For having some self respect again. Hello to deciding what my happily ever after is going to look like.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Hard Things

I haven't written a blog in months, and I apologize. My life went off the rails a bit there. It went something like this:

1. Decided to get a divorce.
2. Got a full time job.
3.Moved out of my house. Gave up primary custody of my children, left my pets (and constant companions), and watched my life do a complete 180 in a matter of days.
4. Moved into an apartment.
5. Had to put my dog to sleep before I could even unpack.
6. Tried to adopt a new dog and on the day of the home visit...
7. Got notice that the power to my apartment would be shut off due to unpaid electric bills since 2012 on the landlord's part.
8. Found a new apartment, packed up, and moved in a week.
9. Went on a two week vacation that included a free trip to Mexico and then my 20 year high school reunion.
10. Tried to re-adopt the previous dog and was told by the rescue group that they wouldn't proceed because I worked a full time job.
11. Came home to an unpacked apartment and no dog
12. Had a nervous breakdown

I am a stoic person. Even keeled. Generally not prone to weeping.

I had to buy a cucumber yesterday. For my eyes. The redness and puffiness appears to be permanent.

I have clearly hit my limit.

I'm not one to wallow in it. I spent yesterday whipping the new apartment into shape, and I will be getting myself a dog somehow, some way, in the very near future. I have plans firming up that will hopefully give me the financial stability that I crave (desperately) and improve my career prospects. I am moving forward, and in many respects, this is the happiest I've been in a long time.

It's just been a process putting all the hard things behind me.





Friday, June 12, 2015

Point of Entry

     I wrote this about a month ago:

     I haven't written anything for my novel in months. I'm stuck on a chapter and just can't see my way through it. My characters keep me awake at night with snippets of dialogue and bits of exposition that flit through my head as formless shapes and shadows. Ivy has approached John's door nineteen different ways. Said nothing. Sympathized with him. Befriended him. Cussed him out. Admired his surgeon's hands. Seduced him. Performed surgery with him. Sat down and watched him. Done nothing. None of it feels right. My inner John and Ivy are still brainstorming the scene and haven't worked it out for themselves yet. I hate it when I know exactly what will happen in a chapter, but my characters won't show me the point of entry. Ivy and John are slowly reaching out to each other, and now it's time for Ivy to make a grand gesture. I'm not sure how she's going to go about it, and neither is she. We've been going back and forth about this scene for as long as my mind conceived of it--so months now. At the risk of sounding schizophrenic, the voices in my head aren't making a whole lot of sense at the moment. And I'm at their mercy.
     It's really frustrating, when it comes down to it,because I already know that whatever I end up writing, that's taken me months to work out in my head, will most likely be no more than 2 or 3 paragraphs on the page. It's times like this I'm glad this is all fiction and months can't elapse between sentences of dialogue, because in real life, John would have already tired of Ivy's reticence, run off into the sunset with someone else, possibly already gotten a quickie divorce in Vegas, and Ivy would still be sitting at home alone grinding peppermint leaves and talking to her dog.
     They say write what you know. But in Ivy's case, maybe I'm writing what I don't know. In real life, I often feel like my brain isn't connected to my mouth. I think plenty of things, but never know what to say when I need to say it. It's why I write. Why I've always written. It's always been that way. Through my characters, I can indulge in all the what ifs. 
     What if instead of brooding alone, I had reached out. Had made the grand gesture. Had opened myself up a little. What would have happened then? Would everything be different? Or, I wonder fatalistically, would it really have mattered at all? Am I really so important that I alone control my destiny? In life, as in physics, does one action result in an equal and opposite reaction? Or do things, as I've always suspected, happen because of some mysterious cosmic destiny?
     While I lay in the dark stewing, and sit in the daylight stewing, and wonder how to write this next chapter, my mind continually races ahead, then races back, trying to piece together Ivy and John's story, while I wonder to myself whose story I'm telling anyway? Ivy's or mine?
      My character Ivy is in a dark place, a place I've inhabited, and as I write her story, I find myself turning (involuntarily) inward and dredging up long buried memories. It's why I hate writing sometimes. Why I view it as a compulsion and not a gift. I hate the constant naval gazing, introspection, and emotion that I'm forced to feel. When I'm not writing, I stay pretty emotionally even-keeled. That's probably why I can't seem to write anything when I'm happy, when I can't access or tap into any angst. That includes my blog. I've been working on this one post for over four months now. I'll get to a certain point (right about the point I'm at now, actually) when I think to myself, "And what exactly is the point to this blog anyway?" And then I quit writing it. Then I come back to it. Delete half of it. Write a little more. Question the point again. Rinse and repeat.
     This is what happens without a point of entry...

     I wrote this today:

     I've found with most things writing-related that if I just sit back and wait, my life will happen of its own accord. And as things coalesce, and things start to gel for me, the point of entry will invariably make itself known.
     That was what happened to me yesterday. I was going about my business, simultaneously stewing on my novel and an unrelated issue, when my brain made that record scratch sound, and said, "Hey hold up! You know that stuff you're trying to process right now? That sounds a lot like a metaphor for what happens in that scene you're struggling with! And doesn't all the drama going on remind you of John and Ivy's relationship? You CAN write this scene! You're currently living it!" And with that the clouds parted, and the point of entry revealed itself.
     Finally, I feel like I can proceed. Expect updates soon.

      
   

Friday, June 05, 2015

Trip to NYC

     In an earlier blog, I wrote that we were planning to take the boys on a New York City adventure. Besides our hotel room, we had no plan whatsoever, and I predicted that it might go about as well as our first trip to the city did, two years ago, when we vowed never to take the children to another major city again ever. EVER ever!
     And yet, here we were, masochistically trying it again. Why? Because I'm an optimist with a really bad memory.
     I knew going into it that it was a bad idea to attempt a trip without an itinerary.  Sam, John, and Tom like to know exactly where to be and why and what to expect when they get there. Then, depending on the wheres. whys, and whats, Sam and John complain to me incessantly about doing something different. Therefore, I find planning trips to the nth degree frustrating and limiting, and masochistically like to torture my family by "winging it" because if they don't know what the plans are at any given moment, they can't complain about them!
     Going in, all I knew was the three gentlemen in my life were going to pay for forcing me to visit Fort William Henry for Mother's Day. I am ordinarily a take-one-for-the-team kind of girl, but at least on Mother's Day (and maybe my birthday), I should be spared the testosterone. But that's thing about being a mom of just boys. I am totally outnumbered. After threatening to take everyone out for tea, followed by a ballet and pedicures for Father's Day (which would be an awesome Mother's Day--just sayin'...), I told them I'd put up with quite enough manly nonsense from them and we were going to do NYC on my terms!
     It wasn't like I had a full weekend of shopping planned or anything. I had a short wish list. Eat at Ellen's Stardust Diner, see a show, maybe take a city tour in an open top sightseeing bus, maybe explore a part of the city I'd never seen before. They were things I'd find enjoyable, but wouldn't be too torturous for the boys.
    When I'm in a new place, I like five minutes peace to get my bearings, get my head in the game, and acclimate to my surroundings. Walking out of the Metro North terminal at Grand Central is only a little bit disconcerting compared to stepping from Grand Central onto the 42nd street sidewalk. Since I was the one with gps on my phone, I was the one responsible for us finding our hotel. It would've been nice to do that in some relative peace and quiet, but apparently, in order for the boys to acclimate to a new place, it was necessary for them to follow me, asking me a non-stop barrage of questions, that not only drove me completely bat shit, but (as if it wasn't already obvious) announced to the entire free world that we were tourists.
     Mom, do you know where we are? Are we going the right direction? I'm thirsty. Can we get a drink? Ice cream truck! Can we get ice cream? Can we get ice cream and a drink? Is that guy homeless? Can I get a hotdog? Mom, I said I want a drink! Why do homeless people have dogs? Another ice cream truck! I want ice cream! Where's our hotel? We're never getting ice cream are we, Mom? I'm thirsty! Why are we going this way? Does this road go to the hotel? Why did those people stop daddy for money? I'M THIRSTY! I want to take a bus tour! Ice cream truck! Can we get ice cream NOW?
   By the time we actually got to the hotel, I was ready for the trip to be over already. This is not like how I like to travel. When I lived in Europe, I prided myself on my ability to camouflage myself among the locals, and go about my business without drawing any interest (or pick pockets, etc). With the boys in tow, we were about as subtle as a circus parade.
    Knowing that my night of quiet itenerary-planning was shot, we wandered over to Ellen's Stardust Diner, and after a short wait, got inside to see the show. It's a really fun place. At home (and definitely without an audience), I'm apt to suddenly break into song, or dance, or song and dance. If my life could be a musical, and I could sing my conversations to people, punctuating words with some high kicks and jazz hands, I would die a thousand happy deaths. Imagine how awesome it was at Ellen's, where the waiter who'd just taken our drink order 5 minutes ago, was suddenly shimmying on top of the bench seating belting out Greased Lightning. It was high energy and super entertaining, and the boys declared it the best restaurant in the world.
     I wish I could say that the excitement of the evening ended there, but our third floor room just blocks from Time Square made it possible to feel one with the action outside. I would just start to fall asleep, and then the silence would be broken my car alarms, police sirens, screaming people at street level, the heavy rumble of delivery and garbage trucks. Having kids turned me into a light sleeper, and there was no way to sleep through the constant auditory barrage.
     So the next morning, when we made our way to the TKTS kiosk in Time Square to get show tickets, I felt a little like death warmed over. Only three shows on the board were age appropriate and could hold the boys' attention. Finding Neverland, Matilda, and Stomp. Since he'd heard we might see a show in NYC, Sam had been begging to see Stomp. He'd seen it in music class and loved it. John thought Finding Neverland looked good. Since Matilda and a show similar to Stomp are coming to our local theater in Schenectady this winter, we decided out first choice was Finding Neverland. That is, until we found out we'd be getting tickets in the last row, with a partially obstructed view for $379. Forget that! For less than half the price of the Finding Neverland tickets, we got four third row seats to see Stomp, and after poking around Times Square some more and deciding it was just too busy to enjoy much, we eventually made our way to the East Village.
     I like NYC in theory, but Times Square makes me a little crazy. The place is always "on", and when you're there, you're expected to be "on" right along with it. Even first thing in the morning, there was no slow build up to the day. By this point, I was exhausted, hadn't had even five minutes downtime, and was ready to be done with the constant assault on my senses. It was a space totally incompatible with how I wanted to spend my time.
     I'd never been to the East Village, where the Orpheum Theater is, but I hadn't expected it to be a  neighborhood, with empty streets, and trees, and a fun casual low key vibe. It was the sort of place you could poke around without getting steam-rolled or jostled. The stores were open and airy, and not stuffed with tourists elbow deep. We ate lunch in a fun organic burger joint, with feet of space between the other diners, then walked around exploring the area until the Stomp afternoon matinee. Just being there chilled me out, and it was a welcome respite from crazy before the awesomeness that was Stomp.
     Stomp was amazing. The boys loved it. Tom and I loved it. It was funny, thought provoking, awe inspiring, fun. The perfect show for two little boys.
     When it was over, we headed back to the train station, the boys finally got their ice cream from the ice cream truck, and we headed home.
      It was fun day and a half in the city, and I'd do again.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Getting In Touch With My Inner Rebel

     I am a Capricorn. If you're into astrology, that will mean something to you. If not, well, we're an interesting bunch. Think American Gothic, or Whistler's Mother. Are you getting the idea? Our symbol (or mascot, if you will) is the goat. That's how exciting we are. Because, as you know, when you think of the wildest and craziest creatures in the animal kingdom, the goat comes immediately to mind.
     I'm a delightful human being, with many lovely qualities, if you take the time to get to know me, but I was born cautious, and stodgy, and god help you if you suggest I lose control in any way. I did not have any form of teenage rebellion whatsoever. I didn't even learn to drive until I was 20, because it wasn't like I wanted to go anywhere anyway. We are talking grade A, first class snooze fest. But there's a funny thing about Capricorns, that's been fairly well documented. We're born old and stodgy, and are the biggest fuddy duddy killjoys you can imagine as children, and then, the older we get, the more crazy and uninhibited we become.
    My entire life, I've been well aware of how entirely unexciting I am, but haven't particularly cared. There's a fine line between frisky behavior, and giving myself apoplexy, and up until recently, I had no desire whatsoever to cross it. You either liked me or you didn't, and if it was the latter, I was perfectly okay being by myself.
     Inside me (deep, deep, deep) inside, there was an inner bad girl, who occasionally shocked people when she made brief appearances. But those appearances were few and far between. I had my eye on the prize, as it were. A college degree/ husband/children/suburban life (in that order), plus a gold star for not screwing anything up along the way. And I did it all. I jumped through all my little hoops. I did what I was supposed to do. I trudged stodgily through my twenties and most of my thirties without so much as an unbridled frolic. And then one day, with no provocation whatsoever, I woke up and thought to myself, "Well, I'm done with that nonsense. I'm too old for anyone to care what I do anymore. I'm going to embarrass my children anyway! It's time to party!"
    And then I did something really out of character. I started drinking. Like, multiple drinks with the goal of getting buzzed, drinking.  (I know... I know... Who knew this blog was so salacious?) This year, I bought myself my own personal margarita machine. I'm by no means an alcoholic, but I like what I like. Tequila makes me happy, so why should I deprive myself? And if my neighbors happen to see a tequila-soaked Brittany doing the Mexican Hat Dance on her front lawn--do I care??? (That was rhetorical, but no, I really don't.)
     Then, because I started feeling relaxed and happy, I started messing around with my hair color. I've stuck to safe colors so far--reds and chestnuts, honeys, and strawberry blonds (there was a brief period of time I experimented with papaya--not good!). And it's fun, but colors found in nature bore me a little. I'm starting to get some grey hair at my crown (boo hiss!), and I've decided that when that day comes that I have to start coloring a full head of grey hair, I'm not going to go silently into that good night with Miss Clairol. I'll be screaming into old age rocking purple, pink, and turquoise Manic Panic.
     And did I mention I'll be tattooed too? One of the first things that surprised me about New York was the sheer number of people with tattoos here. In 5 years, I have come to love them. I just emailed an artist in Albany who's Art Nouveau/Nature portfolio I'm totally salivating over. I thought I'd get my first tattoo for my 40th birthday, but the crazy kicked in a year early, and now I'm impatient and want it asap.
     One of my first favorite books was The Secret Garden. I've always related to Mary's loneliness, as well as her love for animals. I've read a lot of books (a LOT of books!) but I've always come back to this one, and even as an adult, read it over and over again. Then I saw this image and flipped my lid. The Robin is such a beautiful character, not to mention a wonderful metaphor for hope, perseverance, faith, and trust. And I like the idea of it holding the key--saying basically that all those things are necessary to open the locked parts of ourselves. Sure, I bare my soul on here, and you might think I hold nothing back, but of course I do.
 Hence my love for this quote from The Princess Bride.
 I want it somehow written in the doorknob.
 Maybe nothing this fancy, but in a script that appears to be purely decorative, until you look closely. I really like the idea of words being the literal and metaphoric means of letting people  in, or keeping them out, of my secret spaces.
 I like this robin, and I think I want it (and the lock) perched on my shoulder.
     This is just the first. At some point before I hit the nursing home, I also want to get a full sleeve pin-up of a naughty writer perched at a typewriter. But I'm not quite there yet. I think I need another 10 years before I stop taking myself (and the thought of  a visible tattoo) so seriously.
     In the meantime, I'm gassing up and starting the engine. It's going to be a wild ride.
    
   

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Coming and Going


Sunday night I got a text from my friend Kira that said, "Hey, what are you doing tomorrow? Want to go on an adventure with me?" For all I knew she meant running to Price Chopper for salad dressing, but since she worded it that way, I was all in. I'm always up for an adventure. I live for adventure. Unfortunately, a stay at home mom in Upstate NY doesn't get that many opportunities. And any adventures I do have must occur between 8:15 and 3...
     As it turns out, we ended up going to Binghamton for the day, which is infinitely better than grocery shopping, even though Binghamton isn't exactly the most hopping city on the eastern seaboard. It was still a memorable trip and I haven't truly laughed so hard in a long time. Kira was my first friend when I moved to NY (our husbands started at KAPL the same week, our hotel rooms were next door to each other, and we both had two boys the same age--so it was kismet). We had many adventures together our first year in NY, but once the boys started school and we got busy with work and life, they've sort of petered out over time. She and I make a great team, and frequently find ourselves in the most funnily absurd situations together. They just seem to find us. We'll no doubt be the two old biddies cracking each other up in the nursing home, because we've got stories
     So as exciting as yesterday was, today was just chock filled with blah. I ran errands all morning, grocery shopped, and cleaned the kitchen. When life is that exciting, the only thing that saves my sanity is thinking about my super awesome future plans.
      Starting this weekend. My cousin (who is really like a second mother to me) is coming to NYC this weekend with her husband, and I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out a way to get to the city to see her. When I was down in Asheville, I saw her briefly, and we talked about spending the weekend together in the city, but she told me the wrong dates, and I made hotel reservations (on hotwire--so no changes) for the weekend of the 30th. We haven't taken the boys to the city in a couple of years,and thought maybe we would attempt it again this year. They're old enough now to handle a kid-friendly Broadway matinee,  I think I can safely do a little shopping without a full on tantrum erupting, and since I spent Mother's Day at a fort watching muskets and cannons fire, they totally owe me. I threatened Tom with death if he even uttered the words Intrepid Air and Space Museum in their presence.
     Sadly, we have lived here 5 years in June, and have only been to the city once, and that was just to go to the Natural History Museum during the one month the boys actually cared about dinosaurs (that phase passed really quickly). I love my children and my husband, but dear god, if I have to go to one more mechanical, sciencey, testosteroney museum or location of historic significance, I am going to commit hari kari. I want to see a musical, eat at Ellen's Stardust Diner, go to the MOMA, ride around in a hokey sightseeing bus, and shop.
      Barring that, I would like to go to the city, and hang out with my cousin I never get to see, spend the day with her southern accent, and have a nice dinner. So even though we got our wires crossed,  I'm going to the city for the day to see her. It is only because she is one of my favorite people on planet Earth, that I am trekking down to NYC two weekends in a row.
     When people hear I live in NY state, they immediately think I must be bopping down to NYC every chance I get, but the truth is, I could probably get to Alaska more easily. Obviously, you don't drive into the city unless you have a death wish and a desire to pay more than your mortgage for parking. There is a bus from Albany to NYC, but the last bus returning to Albany from the city is at 5pm, so that's not ideal if you're going down for the day and want to see anything. Plus, last week when I looked up fares they were $18 each way, and now they've jumped to $78, so it's not like you can be spontaneous. I could take Amtrak, but it's more than $80 round trip. To take advantage of the cheaper fares on Metro North (approximately $20 round trip, off peak), I could drive all the way to Poughkeepsie (an hour and a half south), the northernmost stop on the line. Then it takes you to Grand Central, which is awesome if that's the area you want to be in, but sucktastic if it's not, because then you have to figure out where you want to be in the city and take the subway (which is frankly, inexplicable, unless you live in the city and someone has clued you in).
     Our last foray into the city, we took the boys to the Natural History Museum. We decided to take the subway back after hiking 20-some blocks through Central Park (it's really bigger than it looks on a map), to be confronted with a subway platform with just two signs with two options Uptown/Downtown. In Schenectady, those words are used pretty much interchangeably to describe State Street, where everything is. But not in NYC. And do you think they could say, throw us tourists a bone, and have a handy map of the subway system with a cute You Are Here graphic. Nah. That would be too helpful. We must have been there on an off day to, because in a city of a billion people, there was not a soul around to ask for help. I've taken public transportation all over the world, and navigated railroad and subway stations with signs written in languages I couldn't understand, and it was still easier to get around than the afternoon I spent on the NYC subway.
     So there's a fear, too, of spending all that money trying to get into the city to go to, say, the Bronx Zoo and winding up in Hoboken. And if you do manage to find your way around the city, and have an awesome time and decide to stay late, you still have to take the train back to Poughkeepsie and then drive, exhausted, the hour and a half it takes to get home. Not ideal. I'm tired just thinking about it.
     Today we finally nailed down some plans, and happily, Grand Central is only 4 blocks from my cousin's hotel, so this will mercifully work out in all our favors. Now I'm (masochistically) debating whether to bring one of the boys with me. A lot depends on their level of enthusiasm when I float the idea their way.
     When we told Sam about our trip, he immediately wanted to climb to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, to which Tom and I both said No, No, No, and NO! I climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower in April in 80 degree weather, and there was at least a breeze and open staircases (I was still completely drenched in sweat by the time I got up there, and then still had to climb all the way down). There is no way in hell we're climbing inside a metal tube in 80 degree weather. You absolutely can't pay me to do it. We'll attempt it in one day in the fall, when the temperature is 30 degrees cooler.  I'm not sure Sam or John will be too revved about my NYC plans, but sometimes they surprise me. And either way, we'll be back next weekend anyway, when they won't have a choice.
    Next weekend we're taking Metro North in, and we're going to wing an overnight in the city with the boys. And did I mention we have no actual plans? With our children? The two who tried to push each other into oncoming Park Avenue traffic for fun? This ought to make for an interesting retrospective blog post. I'm sure you're already breathless with anticipation...
  

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Gift

 
  The week before Sam started 4 year old pre-school, all the kids and parents were invited in for a get-to-know-each-other play date. I had just moved to New York and was still feeling a bit like a fish out of water, desperately wanting to make friends, but not knowing where to start. One of the moms--Sarah-- was really cool. She barreled into the room, all wild blond hair and flowing scarves, with her big infectious laugh,  her irreverent attitude, and sunny screw-you-if-you-don't-like-me personality, and I fell in love a little bit. I mean, this girl was cool. I wanted to be her friend. Bad.
     But the truth is, people like me are not friends with people like her. She was my inner Id come to life. Everything I wanted to be, but just wasn't. I'd love to walk into a room and own it, and it would be awesome to have this blinding shiny aura that draws everyone to me, and I would love to be all badass and not give a damn what anyone thinks of me. But it goes completely against my naturally gentle, sensitive, introverted nature.
     We were not going to be friends. And yet, I longed to be her friend with every fiber of my being.
      So we're sitting in the little classroom, all watching our children play happily with each other.  And then, because the universe hates me, my child, the child of the Southerner, the Outsider, the Newcomer, the One-Nobody-Knows, suddenly turned to another classmate and screamed "SHUT UP!" passionately, at the top of his lungs.
     The mom that I so wanted to befriend, snickered from behind me. "Glad that's not my kid."
     I turned, cringing, and waved my hand in the air. "He's mine."
     She laughed. I died of mortification. And so began our friendship.
      I still have no idea why she wants to hang out with me, because, if we were say, amusement park rides, she would be the height-defying wooden roller coaster and I would be the stationary boat ride in the kiddie section. I'm not the shuttle from the parking lot but any means, but I'm not what you'd call a thrill ride. I'm stable, and supportive, and won't give you whiplash, and those are great friends to have in your life. But you're not going to spend an afternoon hanging out with me, and end up wobbly, exhilarated, and screaming "Whoohoo! What a ride!" But that is Sarah to a T.
     I've never been so challenged by a friendship. Every day I alternate between that whole Sally Fields she likes me! She really likes me! internal squee, to jealousy at her literal zillions of other friends, and her ability to be what I'm not wired to be, to exhilarated, exhausted, inspired, frustrated, awe-struck, grateful, and wallowing in despair. We are so dissimilar that next to her, all my short-comings become glaringly obvious. I'm not normally so insecure, but she is so much more than I am in every way. I have tried to be more than I am, and that failed miserably. No matter how much more I became, I never was as much more as her.
     The stationary boat ride doesn't change course easily and sometimes I know I haven't been the friend she needed, or risen to the occasion as it were. It's not that I didn't want to. I just didn't know how to. I hate conflict. I just don't have an ability to deal with it. So, metaphorically, when my ride doesn't live up to expectations, I just shut it down. Sarah takes my closed sign,  tears it into confetti, throws it on the ground, and then spits on it. I hate her for it. I love her for it.
     To her mind, my reticence and ability to remove myself permanently from a challenging emotional climate are not endearing personality traits. She has challenged me and my avoident tendencies, and I'm sure I'm a better person for it. I can't say too many people have altered me to the degree that she has.  
     So today is her 40th birthday. I realize that I should have ample words at my disposal with which to sing her praises, but with her, they fail me. We exist on two different planes, and just like the ancient Egyptians had 50 words for sand, but only one for snow, my sad little terrestrial world does not have enough words to describe the celestial brilliance that is Sarah.
     Somehow, a big "thank you" and a "You're the awesomest friend ever!" just don't quite seem to cut it. So instead of words, I embroidered for her. To my mind, making something for someone is akin to giving pieces of yourself away. I know that as the needle pricks my fingers, tiny droplets of my blood imbed in the thread. My hair and cells gets woven into the fabric beneath the threads. The placement of each needle rise and fall is a representation of my breathing, my vision, my inner thoughts, and my attention at that moment and the next moment and the next. I literally spent hours and days focused on Sarah as I sewed for her. All this is a bit metaphysical and woowoo--and I'm not really trying to sound as wacko as Vincent Van Gogh and his gift of his severed ear, but you get the point.
     Sarah and I both love kitschy, vintagey, whimsical stuff, and since we both earned the Thirty-One leadership trip to Mexico and her birthday party is a Fabulous 40 Fiesta, when I saw the pattern for Aunt Martha's Hot Iron Transfer called "Down Mexico Way" I knew I needed to make something for her.
         I'd never tried hot iron transfers before, and that was a bit of a learning experience, but I eventually worked it out. I also experimented with different embroidery stitches until I figured out the combination that would look best on this type of design. Then I blinged them out with pompom trim because, seriously, the world just needs more pompom trim--on everything. They turned out really cute.







I alluded to sewing them in the blog I wrote after I came home from my spring break trip to Asheville. I don't think Sarah regularly reads my blog (she works two jobs, has two kids, and is the living embodiment of "If you need something done, ask a busy person") but I wanted to keep it a surprise. It was nice to focus on something different for a while, and it gave me a chance to reflect on her, how awesome she is, and how grateful I am that she's in my life. I'm putting this all out there on the internet as a permanent testament to her awesomeness.
     It may be her birthday, but she is the gift.

    
    

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