The Light

All images courtesy of Lavender Leigh Photography

Many moons ago, I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that someday I’d tell you about mine and J’s wedding day.
Since the primary focus of this blog is mental health, it took me awhile to figure out how to fit a wedding into that theme. But in a random conversation today with a coworker, I realized that back in 2013, when much of my life was in turmoil (my job(s), where we’d live, our finances, my self care), our wedding was one of the only things that I remained excited about. Now, looking back eight years later, September 28, 2013 stands out as a bright light in an otherwise very chaotic time.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a very fancy girl. I didn’t want a ballgown with a corset, I didn’t want sky-high heels, and I wasn’t going to force my bridesmaids to spend $400 on accessories or wear a god awful dress. J pretty much felt the same, so we decided that our wedding day would truly be about celebrating the two of us with 300 of our closest friends and family, and we set to work creating a day that we’d love.

Despite trends, despite naysayers, and despite “proper etiquette,” we spent nearly two years building the wedding we wanted. Our ceremony took place in an old theater, I wore sparkly sandals under my dress, J & the groomsmen had boutonnieres featuring Nintendo characters, and our reception was at a fire hall. While I wasn’t initially a fan of “theme” weddings, we did add some Penguin hockey touches, considering our friends set us up on a blind date back in 2008 because we both loved Pittsburgh’s NHL team.

Even though the months and weeks leading up to the wedding had been a roller coaster ride of emotions, I somehow managed to sleep beautifully the night before. Getting my hair and makeup done went smoothly, as did arriving at the theater to get dressed with my bridesmaids and mom. The photographers showed up on time, my dress fit perfectly, and I wasn’t even nervous while I was waiting to walk down the aisle.
Then, right before my dad and I made our entrance, a fire alarm went off in the lobby. I burst out laughing as an employee raced to silence it, and by some miracle our guests didn’t hear a thing over the music. The quick ceremony went off without a hitch, and we drove to a nearby park to have our photos taken.

There, one of my bridesmaids was really upset that she’d left her bouquet back at the theater. She was nearly in tears, apologizing for “ruining” my pictures. I shrugged it off and we carried on without flowers. No big deal at all.
We had a lot of fun with our photographers, posing formally and funnily, and I have a ton of images to remind me of that day.
Afterwards we headed to the reception hall where we entered to thunderous cheers and applause, and immediately shared our first dance. As Peter Gabriel’s Book of Love flowed from the speakers, tears of happiness leaked from my eyes. I simply could not believe that we were finally married!

The rest of the evening sped by –J’s best man gave a tear-jerker of a speech, I danced with my dad, J & I (lightly) smashed cake in each other’s faces, my sister & maid of honor caught my bouquet. We participated in the dreaded “bridal dance,” an (apparently controversial) tradition very near and dear to my Slavish roots. My dad swung my mom around the dance floor to Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, & nearly everyone was bumping and grinding to Macklemore. Our guests signed our custom Penguins jersey/guest book and munched on cookies from the famous Pittsburgh cookie table tradition. I remember that there were multiple points during the night where I was so overwhelmed at the amount of people who had traveled from out of state that I burst into tears just seeing their faces. I was so touched that family and friends had traveled so far just for J & I that I couldn’t contain my emotions.

Far too soon, the last song of the night was playing. Our last remaining guests joined us one final time on the dance floor as we cherished the final few minutes of our wedding day.

Afterwards, J & I piled into his Chevy Equinox with our gifts and cards and headed to a nearby Hampton Inn. We were exhausted and sweaty and our feet were killing us, but we were so completely happy. Our wedding was truly one of the best days of both of our lives, and I am so thankful we have such happy memories of that day.

Eight years later, if I had to give any advice to an anxious bride (or groom!) I would say this — stay true to yourselves. Your wedding day is truly the only day that is 100% about the two of you, so take advantage of it! If you like an off the wall idea, use it! If you loathe a particular tradition, scrap it!
If you can’t afford something, get creative with alternatives.
Don’t ask for too many other peoples’ opinions — you’ll get confused and overwhelmed.
Don’t worry about stuff you can’t control. I promise it is NOT the end of the world if your bridesmaids’ shoes don’t match or if someone wears camo pants to the reception.
Go with the flow. Things are going to go “wrong.” But take a breath. Re-center. Go with it. Enjoy yourself!
Pause multiple times throughout the day. It really does go soooooo fast. Take a moment as often as you can to imprint memories in your mind.
Bring (non-messy) snacks! It’s usually several hours between breakfast and dinner.
Make it a priority to eat dinner at your own reception!
Wear comfortable shoes (or bring a back up pair).
HAVE FUN!!

Hope you enjoyed hearing about our wedding day, and hope the pictures made you smile. If you or someone you know is planning a wedding, tell them to check out my other earlier posts with more wedding advice —

Five Details of Your Wedding Day You Don’t Need to Stress Over

6 More Things Not to Worry About on Your Wedding Day



On Bad Advice

“I want to be a writer,” I’d say — to my friends, my family, guidance counselors, coworkers. Between the ages of eleven and twenty or so, this is what I’d tell people when they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, what my favorite classes were in high school, and what I wanted to go to college for.

And after the muddled confusion and disappointment cleared from their face, they would give me a small smile and reply, “Oh. So you’re probably going to be an Englisher teacher? Or maybe a reporter?”

“No,” I insisted. “A writer.”

At eighteen, I was absolutely terrified over the prospect of graduating high school and facing the intimidating monster that was college. To make matters worse, no one seemed to be able to tell me what to do with my desire to pursue writing. Somehow, even though I’d wanted to be a writer since sixth grade, even though I excelled at English, Literature, and Writing classes, even though people told me, adamantly, admiringly, you should be a writer, no one could tell me how to make this happen.

And the summer that I graduated was such a time of emotional trauma that I didn’t have the drive or confidence to find out for myself.

Fast forward nearly twenty (GASP) years, and part of me wishes that I could tell that eighteen-year-old girl to pursue creative writing. Grant writing. Professional writing. Literature. Communication. I wish I would have told her that the choice of a major didn’t mean she’d be destined for one particular path, but rather that investigating any of these subjects would have opened the doors to several paths — editing, copy writing, technical writing, business writing, journalism. And that yes, even these more “logical” paths might have even helped her craft novels.

You see, up until the last several years, I thought that if you weren’t making money with your writing, or if you didn’t do it eight hours a day, that you weren’t a writer.

When I decided to get back into writing back in 2015/2016, I still called myself an “aspiring” writer instead of just a writer. And it took some time before I felt confident enough to acknowledge that I was truly a writer, despite the fact that it wasn’t my profession and I hadn’t made a single dime spinning these tales.

While this is probably the single most important realization I’ve had over the years, and I’ve inevitably stumbled upon heaps and heaps of advice about writing, the next most important thing I’ve learned is to find what works for you.

If you’re a new writer, or getting back into writing after a hiatus (like me), one of the first things you’ll realize when you start perusing writer websites, newsletters, and Facebook groups is that everyone is full of advice. From Stephen King to Internet trolls whose only purpose is to bash others for having different opinions or priorities, everyone seems to think they know what’s best for everyone else.

And though I’m about to dish out my own amateur, naïve advice, I’d like to think that mine has some merit, if only for the fact that I believe in finding out what works for you.

Naturally, and to the horror of diehard academics, pompous literary geniuses, old-fashioned professors, and ubiquitous Internet demons who lurk on message boards, what works for some people does not work for others.

This is true when it comes to exercise, learning a new skill, dating, paying bills, traveling, raising kids. A routine or method that someone else swears by may not work for their neighbor or best friend or sister. So why would it work for writing?

There are writers who insist that in order to be a “real” writer, one must write every day. Ideally, that would be great, especially if you’re already getting paid for your craft and your livelihood depends on your production.
But what about the young man working two jobs in attempt to pay off his school loans? What about the new mom struggling to put 200 words a day together while catering to a newborn? What about the middle-aged hopeful taking care of their dad with Alzheimer’s? What about the twenty-something coping with PTSD?
Even if you aren’t a writer whose life is currently effected by extreme circumstances, no one’s life or schedule is cookie-cutter perfect.
Even when my mental health is pretty well in check, I still have days that do not allow me to write — when I go to the pool right after work and want to spend a few precious hours with my husband before bed. When family is in from out of town and they want to have dinner. When a friend is having a crisis and they just need to spend a few hours with me venting and eating ice cream. When I bring my dog home from a day-long procedure at the vet and I cuddle up around her in bed, holding her as she trembles through the pain of heartworm treatment.
As far as I’m concerned, attending to other parts of my life does not make me any less of a writer or a “bad” writer by any means.

I am far more disciplined that I was several years ago. I’ve learned to recognize when I need a break from writing, when an emergency or special event takes precedence, and when I’m just being lazy and really need to buckle down and sit at the keyboard.
I still have things to learn and goals I want to pursue. I’m still working on landing that first paid writing job and hopefully an agent or full manuscript request. I’d love to take a class on effective blogging, marketing, and social media presence. I can’t wait until in person conferences are permissible again.
But at the same time I am damn proud of each and every one of my published works. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve managed to write two entire novels in as many years.
Yes, I get frustrated, and yes I wish I hadn’t wasted all those years putting my writing on the back burner. But I no longer beat myself up for having a life outside of writing — and I definitely don’t put too much stock in not adhering to advice that simply doesn’t work for me.

Any time I peruse Facebook or Twitter, I see plenty of people, young, old, and middle aged, begging others for help with their writing. Most of them have full-time jobs outside of the craft or personal obligations like kids or aging parents that make it difficult to stick to a routine or to “WRITE EVERYDAY.” Because of this, they feel like failures — and there is no shortage of people who comment insisting that if these people don’t do things exactly the way that they do them that they are destined to fail.

Well, I vehemently disagree. As I mentioned earlier, just because yoga works to keep your best friend in shape doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Just because some people I went to high school with had kids at twenty-one and twenty-four doesn’t mean I should have. Just because my husband and I own a house doesn’t mean that someone living in an apartment is wrong, or irresponsible or poor.

If writing every day works for you — great. If you can’t start your day without writing 2000 words at the ass crack of dawn — great. If instead you string together 10,000 words every Sunday and don’t write any other day of the week — great. If you stay awake til 1am every Friday evening crafting the perfect opening chapter — great. If you hole yourself up inside the library or local coffee shop, ignoring your cell phone and hunching over a laptop for hours on end — great.

If you, like me, write by the advice of one of my favorite groups, 10 Minute Novelists, and write as much as you can whenever you get a chance — great.

Everyone is fundamentally different — in how they think, how they feel, how they write, how they work. To assume that someone’s lack of success is because they aren’t doing things exactly how you do it is, at the very least, pure ignorance.

As someone who spent an entire decade thinking I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t pursue a specific major, hold a certain job, or have endless hours of writing time everyday, I would never, ever want anyone else to feel like I did — that I wasn’t worthy of this craft.

Because I am. And so are you.

What Dogs Can Teach Us About Resilience

As you may know, J & I are proud fur parents of Miss Kitty & Ghost, as well as the dearly departed Comet.

All of our dogs have been rescues, and while I’m no stranger to the love and comfort they offer, or the lessons they can teach, I continue to be amazed at how these four-legged creatures have repeatedly, unknowingly, offered me insights on life.

The other day, I took Ghost to a vet appointment for some redness that suddenly appeared around his left eye. When it didn’t go away with Benadryl, I took him to get checked out. I also asked if the vet could take a look at his other eye because J & I had noticed that something about his vision wasn’t quite right. During obedience classes, when using hand signals, we had to move rather close to his right eye before he’d react. And sometimes when the light caught the eye in a certain way, we’d see an unusual fogginess.

The vet prescribed us some ointment for the redness around his left eye, and then addressed our concerns with the right one. He wasn’t blind, and all of his neurological functions were intact, but he did have a scar on both his cornea and his lens. These were almost certainly caused by some type of penetrating injury from when he was quite young. By the time we adopted him, the injury was healed, but he does still have limited vision in that eye. Still, the vet isn’t concerned. He doesn’t squint or compensate for the lack of vision, and it certainly doesn’t slow him down. Ghost has learned to live with his injury in his young life, and although I feel horribly about whatever must have happened to our “little due,” I now look at him with a new perspective.

When Ghost first came to us, he was only nervous for a couple of minutes. He seemed to instantly make himself at home and wasted no time in harassing his older sister. His behavior has been frustratingly challenging at times, and we still have a lot of work to do, but I have a new respect for what he must have gone through with this eye injury. Since he was only about 8-10 months old when we adopted him, and anything but shy, we figured he’d had a pretty cushy start in life. But the new information about his eye tells us that he’s overcome his own struggles and pain, whether the injury was from an accident or abusive human.

Suddenly Ghost’s resilient and sometimes defiant behavior makes a little more sense. He’s had to adapt to his eye injury in order to keep thriving, and perhaps he tends to be defiant because someone didn’t treat him properly when he was a puppy. Maybe that person was cruel when trying to train him, and instead of cowering like most dogs with trauma, Ghost copes with it by running away and not obeying orders.

So while his personality is nearly the polar opposite of Miss Kitty’s, my eyes have recently been opened to how dogs deal with trauma differently — just like people. While Kitty was (and still is) wary and cautious, she’s learning to trust more and more each day. Ghost’s outgoing personality is bringing her out of her shell, and we hope that Kitty’s relatively good behavior will eventually rub off on Ghost.

But the most important thing I learned that night at the vet’s office was that we all have our traumas, our scars, our struggles. We all deal with them in different ways. And sometimes we don’t want to share those stories with others, or like animals, we can’t do it in a verbal way. Still, if we’re lucky, we find people (or pets) who are patient and kind and help us work through and overcome these obstacles that tried to hurt us or hold us back. And while ideally everyone would like to crush each hurdle easily like taking a hammer to an egg, sometimes we simply have to live with the scars life has given us.

Even if we never fully recover from a negative experience, injury, or trauma, there’s hope that we can adapt to it and work through it as best we know how. We may never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we’re unlovable or incapable of living our lives and pursuing our dreams. Sometimes the reality of things is completely different from how you imagined it or how you wanted it. But that’s okay too.

My fur babies — Ghost is the little one and Miss Kitty is the bigger one with the black ear

5 Good Things That Happened in 2020

By the time this post goes live, Christmas will be over and we’ll all be muddling through that weird final week of the year where we’re not sure what day it is, we’ve eaten too much rich food, and we’re waiting to ring in 2021.

Like most everybody else, I am sending 2020 into oblivion with hopes that the next twelve months look brighter and happier for everyone. While I know that the change of the calendar isn’t a magic wand that will make everything shitty suddenly go away, I’m trying to stay hopeful that we can put the ugliness of this year behind us and move forward to a more positive, inclusive, and healthier way of life.

That being said, I do want to take a moment to reflect on the fact that there were a few good things that managed to happen in 2020. These are the things that kept me going over the last twelve months, and I invite all readers and bloggers to reply or re-blog with the little things that kept them going in these unprecedented times.

  • I finished my manuscript!
    January of 2020 started with a slap in the face for me, and this was way before the word ‘Coronavirus’ was a thing. I wrote here about losing my (completed) 90,000+ word manuscript that I’d been slaving over for YEARS thanks to a USB crash. Also on that flash drive was the first draft of another novel in progress, as well as countless other short stories and nonfiction articles. I was devastated. I cried for two days and sulked for another week. But then I opened up a blank Word document and started all over again. Admittedly this was infinitely easier thanks to a very early draft that my friend (and lifesaver 10X over) had saved in her email, and I used that to rebuild the entire thing over the next couple of months. Being quarantined for spring and summer definitely helped the progress along, and I spent the second half of the year getting feedback from beta readers and editing. I plan on 2021 being the year of the query and already have my first five perspective agents picked out! Wish me luck!

  • We rescued 2 doggos!
    As if 2020 hadn’t started off crappily enough, and as if the beginning of the ‘rona pandemic weren’t scary enough, J & I lost our fur baby Comet in April. Saying goodbye to our fuzz bug was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and having a house devoid of any paws or barks or clumps of fur was beyond depressing — especially in the middle of quarantine.
    The silver lining to having a fur baby cross the rainbow bridge is, of course, welcoming a new one into your home. J and I happily welcomed Miss Kitty into our home in May, and Ghost joined us in October. It’s been a crazy ride with quite a few struggles, but overall I’m so happy that we have two crazy mutts sharing our home. Kitty is the epitome of a rescue dog — she was found lactating and emaciated on a four lane highway near San Antonio, TX, and clearly had a history of abuse and abandonment. Seven months in, she has made SO MUCH progress and is quite simply the sweetest girl ever. Ghost still has a lot to learn (we have puppy classes scheduled for January!) but he too has made lots of progress, including learning how to ‘give paw.’ Watching these two play and snuggle together absolutely warms my heart and I cannot say enough about how good it feels knowing you saved a life (or two) by adopting rescue dogs.
    If you’re searching for your own companion, may I suggest God’s Dogs in Texas? https://godsdogsrescue.org/
    Both Kitty and Ghost were adopting through this nonprofit and they were awesome every step of the way. If you prefer to meet your 4-legged friend before adopting, I highly encourage you to visit your local shelter or rescue. There are so many animals out there who need homes!

  • I had 2 poems published!
    While I am most certainly a writer, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a poet. I dabble from time to time, and a few years ago wrote a couple of pieces about the Outer Banks. This summer, Capsule Stories published those two poems in their print journal, and I was super excited to be able to share my love of the barrier islands with strangers and other writers.
    Capsule Stories is a refreshing, accessible literary journal that actually publishes in print, so check them out if you’re looking for something new to read: https://capsulestories.com/
  • Joe Biden & Kamala Harris won the election!
    I still get emotional when I think about that day that my husband texted me the news — I was standing in line at the deli at the grocery store when I learned that love, peace, and integrity had triumphed once again and that Joe Biden & Kamala Harris would be the next pair to occupy the White House. While Biden wasn’t my ideal candidate and I know that his presidency won’t solve all the issues in our country, I am beyond relieved that we won’t have to suffer another four years of hate and lies. It is also incredibly refreshing and encouraging to see how much diversity Biden will have in his cabinet, and I look forward to seeing his efforts on bridging the massive divide that currently separates this country.
    Love trumps hate. Love trumped hate. Love is love.
  • We went on vacation!
    When our friends moved to Holland last year, I was hopeful that J & I would get to visit them sometime in 2020. Of course those plans derailed like a train running on moonshine, and god only knows when we’ll ever get to go overseas again.
    However we did manage to make it to the Outer Banks for the first time since 2017, and though this vacation looked different than any other, it was nice to get out of our zip code and feel the sand and sea on our skin, especially when we were so desperate for some type of peace and relaxation.
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that travel won’t be out of the question for the rest of my life, and in the meantime am having fun living vicariously through books and movies and Facebook posts.

So did anything good happen to you in this mess of a year? Please share, even if it’s something as simple as buying a favorite shirt or learning to cook a delicious batch of cookies. Stay safe, stay healthy, and here’s to a better 2021 — whatever that means!

We Have a Ghost

No, not that kind of Ghost.

Remember a few posts ago I mentioned that Kitty was getting a little brother?

Well, he’s here, and after much debate, J (and I) named him Ghost.

Ghost is about 10 months old and came from the same rescue in Texas as Kitty. We don’t know much about his story, but believe he was saved from a kill shelter. He’s part Jack Russell and possibly part Schnauzer, and only weighs about 25 lbs. And every pound of him is pure energy.

The first and only time I had a puppy was when my family adopted my first ever dog, Maggie, back when I was eleven, and I have to admit that I forgot just how energetic puppies are. Ghost is in instant play mode as soon as he opens his eyes in the morning. He’s always running, jumping, grabbing toys, and prodding at poor Miss Kitty 24/7. The two have learned to get along pretty well for the most part, but I’d be lying if I said the first few weeks weren’t tough — there was even an incident caused by a piece of rogue chicken that resulted in lots of yelping and Kitty ripping some of Ghost’s fur out — something that sent my anxiety into overdrive and had me practically hysterical. But after many conversations with doggy foster moms, friends, and our vet, I eventually realized that this wasn’t quite the horrible sign I thought.

We only had Ghost for 2 weeks before going on vacation, and that was a challenge in and of itself (more about that next time). Even though we’ve been home for nearly a month now, he still has a lot to learn. Though his potty accidents are now few and far between (knock on wood), he is most definitely getting enrolled in puppy classes as soon as one comes around that works with our schedule.

Ghost has learned to sit and give paw (adorable!) and we’re working on “come,” but he’s completely oblivious to “down” and “stay.” We also can’t seem to get him to stop jumping (and nipping) when we come home, and he is SO destructive with his toys — even ones that look indestructible for bigger dogs. J and I have tried everything we can think of — and everything fellow dog owners and the Internet recommends — but he does not respond to yelling, clapping, “AH! AH” or even bops on the nose. We’re trying to be patient and know that he’s still in his transition period, but we definitely want to correct these behaviors soon before he begins to think it’s okay to jump (and walk) all over people and completely ignore the rules.

Like most dogs (and people), Ghost is a work in progress, and the fact that he learned “give paw” in only a matter of a week or so gives us hope. Besides, he’s pretty damn cute and a big cuddle bug. The fact that he wants to cuddle up beside us all the time creates some competition and jealousy between him and Kitty, so J and I are also working to make sure that the two of them know that they are both loved equally and that no one is being ousted. In fact, we bought a king sized bed so that all 4 of us can sleep together more comfortably (hey we needed a new bed anyway). And even though he can be quite a pest towards his sister, I’m glad they have each other, especially during the day while we’re at work.

Drama aside, I’m falling more in love with this little turd every day, and it melts my heart when him and Kitty play together, run in the yard, and curl up next to each other to sleep. I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted on their progress in the coming months.

And without further ado, a barrage of pictures —

Updates Available

Hello, all. I just wanted to pop in and share some updates with the blogosphere. My last post focused mostly on all the writing projects I’ve been working on recently, and I’m really proud of myself for getting so much accomplished in this dismal summer/year as far as my craft goes. I realize that my blogging hasn’t been as consistent as it once was, but of course the entire world is a dumpster fire right now so what IS ‘normal’ in 2020?

Certainly not the last few weeks of my life.

After giving the rundown of my writing projects in my last post, I felt really motivated and was looking forward to getting back on track at blogging weekly or bi-weekly. And then the universe laughed.

My mom had a mild heart attack on September 22nd. The doctors said that this kind of heart attack is very common in kidney transplant patients, and she was only in the hospital for a few days for observation and to have a stent put in before she was back home recuperating. Aside from a nasty reaction to one of her new medications, she’s doing pretty well. With her medical history, this mostly just seemed like a bump in the road, albeit a scary one, but it definitely knocked me for a loop.

J and I have also spent the last month or so becoming more annoyed and frustrated with our disrespectful neighbors and our neighborhood — so much so that we met with a family member who is a real estate agent and discussed the first few steps of selling and buying a house. While we’re more optimistic about our options, we have A LOT to do before these plans can be put into motion, so we have to bide our time for at least another 6 months. Unless we hit the lottery of course.

The BS at work exploded with MAJOR changes two weeks ago, and it’s wreaked havoc on my mental health and confidence. I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that I still have a job, although nearly every single thing about the position looks differently than it had for the past six and a half years. Some days I feel really optimistic about where I’m headed at my 9-5, and other days I feel like my brain is going to leak out of my ear. I have no idea where this is going.

Our dog, Kitty, is going to be a big sister.
I temporarily lost my mind a few weeks ago and agreed to get a second dog. J and I had talked about it after Comet passed, and before we adopted Kitty, but I kept saying I wasn’t ready. But then one day J sent me a picture of an adorable pup from the same rescue organization that Kitty came from, and I started crying as soon as I saw his face. So. We’re getting a second dog. I’m excited for Kitty to have a companion, but I’ve never lived with 2 dogs before and it’s definitely going to be a big adjustment for all of us. Plus, he’s coming 2 weeks before we go on vacation . . . so we’ll have 2 dogs in the car with us on a 10+ hour drive to the beach. I’m sure there will be plenty of blog posts about this to come.

So, yeah, in the midst of all of this, I’m trying to get ready for vacation . . . without really getting ready. This trip was initially planned for May, but COVID ruined that, so we postponed until now. With the way 2020 has been going, I’ve done pretty much NOTHING to prepare for the trip, which goes against everything my type A personality believes in. Normally I’m making color-coded lists and tossing items into suitcases a month beforehand, but this time I’m trying to fly by the seat of my pants. Because again, who knows what is or isn’t going to happen at this point.
Except, you know, there’s 2 dogs going with us.

Any positive/happy vibes you could send would be appreciated.


Get to Know Me in 20 Random Questions

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these questionnaire type blogs, and considering the weight of my last three posts (and the constant boredom brought on by COVID), I thought it might be fun to do one now. Feel free to join in!

1. What’s the first thing you notice about people?
I’m never quite sure how to answer this one because to be honest, it depends on the person. I think it’s mostly how you present yourself — not just appearance but your demeanor. Are you patient, kind, and inviting? Or are you annoyed, demanding, and short-tempered?

2. What is your eye color?
Brown. Boring old brown. Maybe cause I’m full of shit?

face-with-tears-of-joy

3. Do you have any siblings?
Yes, a sister who is 2 years younger. She’s an artist too! Check out her fabulous paintings:
EllaMessArt

4. When was the last time you cried?
A few days ago watching the series finale of Fuller House. No shame.

5. What was your favorite and worst subject a school?
Favorite was usually a writing class or history class. I was always good at English class but grammar was boring to me, mostly because it came so easily.
Any kind of math was the WORST. And then there was the torture of gym. Shudder.

dodgeball

6. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
I always struggled with this question too BUT a few weeks ago I learned a new word — ambivert.
So now I have a new way to describe myself and a word to add to my arsenal.

7. What was your favorite TV show as a child, and what is it now?
When I was really little, I remember watching Winnie the Pooh with my dad on Saturday mornings.
Now this is a bit of a tougher question as I only allow myself to watch maybe an hour of TV a night, so I really only watch 1 show at a time. Recent faves include Friends, Seinfeld, GoT, Fuller House, & Sex Education

8. What is your biggest fear?
Still not ready to say it out loud — to myself or anyone else.

9. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
Oh, man, that’s a tough one. Probably sit down with writers, editors, and agents who could best help me become the writer I want to be. And then go to the beach.

10. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
Only every 10 minutes or so, especially at the 9-5 job.

11. If you were another person, would you be friends with yourself?
You know, I don’t think so. That’s not meant to sound self-depreciating or anything, but I realize that I can be really emotionally intense and sometimes needy.

12. What are your favorite smells?
The beach. Old books. New Books. My Gram’s house.

13. Would you rather win the lottery, or work at the perfect job and why?
Probably work the perfect job, which would of course be writing. The ‘why’ would be to prove to everyone who doubted me that I could make a damn good living as a writer. And to actively live my passion of course.

14. Morning or evening person?
It really depends on the situation or event. Do I like getting up early to go to work? No. But do I like getting up early to go on vacation? Yes.
Do I like staying up late finishing a project or chore? No. But do I like staying up talking with good friends or watching a hockey game? Yes.

15. Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
Lip balm. It’s an addiction.

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16. What’s your favorite music genre & artist?
Impossible for me to answer. I love so many different types of music — Mozart, show tunes, Green Day, Christina Aguilera, Queen, Ed Sheeran . . .

17. What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Check the time, then go to the bathroom for teeth brushing and other bathroom-related necessities.

18. If you could eliminate one weakness or limitation in your life, what would it be?
Anxiety.

19. You’re wearing a fragrance, what is it?
Avocado Co-Wash from Lush. Sooooooooo refreshing!

20. If you could eat lunch with 4 celebrities, who would they be?
OMG I really don’t know how to answer this. I’ll just leave it at that.

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A Dog Named Kitty

Bloggers I have big news — back on May 29th, after weeks of emails and waiting, J and I finally met our new fur baby!

Introducing . . .

Our 2 year old bulldog/lab mix — Miss Kitty from Texas!

Kitty 1

Now I know what you’re thinking — who would name a DOG KITTY?!?!?!

J and I thought the same thing at first. But then we discovered that this fur baby was found emaciated and lactating on Kitty Hawk Road near San Antonio, Texas. The name felt more suitable after we heard her story, and we decided to take it as a sign that this pup was meant to be ours since we’ve frequently vacationed in Kitty Hawk, NC.

I’ll spare you the heartbreaking photos of what Kitty looked like the day her foster mom found her darting in and out of traffic. But every bone of her spine was clearly visible and several of her boobies were the size of water balloons. While Kitty was safe after her foster mom scooped her up, her puppies or an owner were never found (although an owner who would dump a pregnant/nursing dog doesn’t deserve to have her back).

Fast forward several months when J and I decided to start the search for a new fur baby after Comet’s passing. Since neither one of us had adopted a pet in over thirteen years, we didn’t realize that searching even local pet shelters cross-referenced you with the massive online database across the entire country. Thanks to some error in search parameters, Miss Kitty kept popping up on our screen, and neither one of us could resist her adorable face or her story that tugged at our heartstrings.

Kitty 4

When we realized she was over 1500 miles away, my anxiety definitely perked up. How would she get to us? What if we didn’t “click?” Would she be traumatized after a journey that far? What if something happened to her on the way to Pittsburgh?

The first time we talked to Kitty’s foster mom calmed most of my fears. I learned that transporting adoptable dogs is a fairly common practice these days, and that the rescue organization that Kitty was being adopted through transported pets all over the country on a regular basis. Once Kitty’s foster mom gave us the thumbs up for adoption, we signed some electronic forms, paid her adoption fee, and the wait began!

The process took several weeks, which was delayed for two additional weeks thanks to the travel restrictions due to COVID. When the day finally came, I was experiencing all sorts of emotions — I was still worried about something happening to her convoy as they sped towards Pittsburgh; I was afraid she’d be scared of us or hate us; I worried they’d bring us the wrong dog or not show up at all. At one point I became convinced that the entire thing was a scam and that we were going to get kidnapped and sold as sex slaves.
And as dumb as it sounds, when we piled into our SUV to go pick her up, the realization that Comet was really, truly gone forever crashed down around me.

When the transporters with God’s Dogs Rescue finally arrived, Kitty had to be carried out of the van. She was trembling uncontrollably and absolutely terrified. J and I immediately gathered her in our arms, whispering calming words of love, and I promptly burst into tears. I was so happy she was finally ours but I was heartbroken that she was so terrified.

Kitty 3

As soon as we got her home, though, Kitty was immediately affectionate and incredibly gentle. She even found the courage to play and had a healthy appetite right off the bat. Her separation anxiety was apparent from the get go, as she trembled anytime someone left a room for the first 24-48 hours. She was also scared of our steep staircase and our dishwasher, but all things considered, our first weekend together went pretty well.

While J had taken a couple of days off of work to help get Kitty acclimated, I had to go back to work the following Monday, and I was a bundle of nerves. Those nerves became raging anxiety when J returned to work, and I was absolutely beside myself those days that she was completely alone for hours at a time. Since I work 15 minutes from home, I came back for lunch,  but my mind was constantly going a million miles a minute. Even though we had puppy-proofed our home, I was afraid she’d find something to eat or destroy. I kept picturing puddles of pee and piles of poop scattered throughout the house. My worst fear was that she was going to be so traumatized from the separation that it was going to negatively effect her health.

At the end of her first week, we had a rough couple of days. Kitty accidentally head-butted me in my cheek when I bent over to grab her ball, causing me to stumble backwards and hurting me badly enough that I was sore for a couple of days. I can’t believe she didn’t leave a bruise. She had three accidents three days in a row — all while we were home with her! And then on Friday, my neighbor texted me around 11am telling me that Kitty had been barking nonstop for hours.

I think the rescue people call this the “testing the boundaries” phase.

Now I’m well-aware that most of these things are to be expected when adopting a new dog and they’re learning your routine and adjusting to a new place. I expected the accidents, some chewing, and even the anxiety. But I hadn’t dealt with these things in decades, and certainly never in the middle of a global pandemic, when my anxiety was the highest it’s been in ages. Add job-related BS and drama to the mix and you have yourself the perfect recipe for an all-out meltdown panic attack.

When I got the text from my neighbor, I had the worst panic attack I’d experienced in months. I started shaking uncontrollably, my thoughts were spiraling at a million miles a minute, and I couldn’t concentrate on the simplest task. I started crying and hyperventilating and had to lock myself in the bathroom. All I could think was that I was a horrible dog mom and didn’t deserve this sweet pup. I kept thinking of all the possible mistakes I’d made and to make matters worse, I conjured up dozens of worst-case scenarios, from Kitty getting hurt to our neighbors forcing us to get rid of her.

Thankfully, that weekend was much, much better. Kitty continued showing an overflowing amount of affection, took several walks, and even confronted the vacuum cleaner and the lawn mower. And even though I’m still ridiculously nervous whenever we leave for work, we’ve laid out a few plans to help her deal with her anxieties (and mine!) and potential problems, and I’m hopeful that with time, the three of us will develop a plan that works.

Kitty 5

Part of me still can’t quite believe she’s here and that she’s all ours. It’s almost like I’m dog sitting. There’s this little stranger in our house and I’m not quite sure what her next surprise is going to be — good or bad.
I feel even more pressure to care for her now, in the beginning, than I did once Comet became a staple in our lives. I want her foster mom to know that she made the right choice in letting us adopt her. I want Kitty to know that she’s safe and that she can trust us and that she won’t ever be abandoned again. I want her to know that we’ll always come home to her.

Most of all, I hope the three of us have many happy years together, just like we did with our sweet Comet.

Kitty 2

 

Five Things

One thing I’m kinda bad at when it comes to blogging, social media, and self-promotion is the whole “trending” thing. And while I typically don’t like to do these kinds of posts, I’ve been off my blogging game a bit with the whole stupid virus going on and the death of my fur baby Comet.

But I saw a post by Millennial Life Crisis that apparently “FIVE THINGS” is trending in all the important places right now so I figured it’d be cool to play along. And maybe it would get me back in the groove of writing regular posts.

So without further ado ….

FIVE THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN GETTING ME THROUGH QUARANTINE:

  1. Reading – I’m a bibliophile even when I’m busy as all hell, and having these extra hours to curl up with a good book has been pretty nice.
  2. Taking walks — Even though I lost my walking buddy when Comet crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I’ve been getting out as much as I can when the weather cooperates. J and I even took his mom’s dog for a couple of laps at the local park a few times.
  3. Writing — Remember that manuscript I lost in January thanks to a USB crash? Well, I rewrote it in about 112 days. Working on the first round of edits as we speak.
  4. Family & friends — Obviously I haven’t seen them much, but we’ve been chatting frequently via phone and text, and plenty of people are checking in on me and supporting me while I experience the ups and downs of having anxiety and depressive episodes in the middle of a pandemic. J has also been super supportive, keeping me motivated and laughing and comforting me when I have a particularly rough day or end up bawling over Comet.
  5. Adult coloring books – I am basically the least artistic person on the planet, but I busted out some of the “stress relief” coloring books that were popular a few years ago and found it relaxing and refreshing to concentrate on creating a pretty picture.

FIVE BLOGS THAT ARE WORTH CHECKING OUT:

  1. Millennial Life Crisis  
  2. Love Travelling
  3. Our Crossings
  4. Rust Belt Girl
  5. Streaming Thru America

FIVE YOUTUBE CHANNELS THAT I ENJOY WATCHING (I don’t watch much TV or YouTube so I only have two of these):

  1. Good Mythical Morning
    Rhett and Link are absolutely hilarious. Just two real-life best friends talking about everything and anything and making us laugh — usually by accident.
  2. The Dodo
    An uplifting channel dedicated to adorable, sweet, and inspirational animal stories.

FIVE FOODS THAT I LOVE:

  1. Pop-Tarts
  2. Cereal
  3. Chocolate
  4. Macaroni & Cheese
  5. Pasta

 

FIVE TV SHOWS THAT I WATCH (this is going to be tough too because I don’t really watch TV. Some stuff on this list I enjoyed before quarantine):

  1. Teen Mom
  2. Sex Education
  3. Glee
  4. Ink Master
  5. Friends

FIVE SONGS I COULD LISTEN TO ON REPEAT
FIVE PANDORA STATIONS I LOVE:

  1. Mozart
  2. Elton John
  3. Jason Mraz
  4. Alanis Morisette
  5. Happiest Tunes on Earth

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FIVE PLACES I’M DREAMING OF GOING WHEN IT’S SAFE TO TRAVEL AGAIN:

  1. Holland
  2. The Outer Banks
  3. Ireland
  4. Maine
  5. Oregon

There are a couple of other “FIVE” lists you can do, like 5 people you’d love to meet, 5 things you struggle with, 5 things you wish for, etc, but I’m going to wrap up my list here.

Feel free to play if you have the time! (and who doesn’t right now???)

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post-quarantine list

waiting
I’ve been thinking a lot about all the things I want to do once the quarantine is lifted, and I’ve actually been keeping a list on my phone whenever something pops into my head. Figured I’d share it —
* Have a party/bonfire with lots of good food and good people and good beer
* Go out to dinner with my parents and sister
* Grab my two best friends and go on an eating/drinking binge that includes Mexican food, margaritas, ice cream, and overpriced coffee
* Donate the 3 garbage bags (and counting) of clothes, shoes, and purses I’ve cleaned out of my closet
* Go back to my local library & head into the city to take a tour of the main branch of the Carnegie library
* Go “cheap shopping” and see what I can find at TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and the like
SUPPORT SOME SMALL BUSINESSES:
* Get a massage
* Get my eyebrows waxed
* Take my coat & sun dress to the local seamstress for some minor repairs
* Get a memorial tattoo for my 2 puppers (and get my Pittsburgh skyline tattoo fixed/covered up)
* Visit a local bookstore and cafe that I’ve always been “too busy” to investigate
* Go buy plants & succulents and spruce up my house & backyard
* Go to a local high-end shoe store and buy a good pair of walking shoes & sandals
What about you? What are you most looking forward to doing once the lock down is over?
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