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  • One month in

    Tomorrow (or today, depending on how fast I write this!) marks a month since I moved to Virginia. A month, already. While a month sounds way too long, it also feels like so much has happened in that time.

    I'm sitting here on a couch, surrounded by a lot of furniture that I didn't have a month ago, that's for sure. It's been a slow unpacking process, because the basement apartment I'm living in isn't 100% finished, and because finding, building, and buying new furniture is a tedious process. (Especially in a small space, where space matters, so each piece really needs to be thought through.)

    With each bit of furniture that gets assembled, every box that gets unpacked, life changes shape just a little. I would say that things feel a little more normal, but I think it's more accurate to say that I'm finding a new normal. Even things as simple as feeding the animals involve new rituals for us. Aeris used to get her dinner - a bit of canned wet food - when Matt got home from work. Without that trigger, Aeris went for a few weeks without asking for it, and not touching it when offered. Only this past week has she come to accept that it's okay to accept her wet food from me, in the evening. Mikenna understands that when I pull the trash bag out of the can, that she's going to get to go for a little walk. She runs circles around me, woofing in excitement. She mostly barks to play or to communicate with me - not at random noises, not at neighbors, and not at the mailman.

    I've been learning how to do things on my own. I still haven't figured out a good time for grocery shopping. It used to be Friday morning. I guess the problem is that I'm still living day to day in some regards.

    I know in the morning, I'm going to get up, take Koo out, and we'll have breakfast. I know that I tend to do my cleaning in the evening, after my dad goes to work. I know that Mikenna will go to bed without me, because she can see me, and that Aeris wants to be in the same room, but not sleeping on the bed with us. But I don't know what's for supper this week, and I don't know what's going on this weekend.

    I don't know where life is going, but I'm excited to find out. Slow and steady. One month down.

  • Love

    We don't realize, when we're young, how terrifying and precarious love really is. We don't understand how love is not just a fluttery, amazing thing that happens, but it's a choice, work, sacrifice. And we certainly don't know that love is not a guarantee. Love does not guarantee our happiness, it does not guarantee reciprocity, and love makes no lifetime guarantee.

    Maybe if you marry a little older, if you've been in relationships and seen more of the world, you come to understand this before I did. I married the first boy I dated, and while he was not the only boy I'd ever liked, crushes aren't love. Crushes are to love what artificial blueberries are to picking blueberries fresh from the farm. It gives you an idea, and maybe it tastes realistic, but it's often disappointing and once you've had the real thing, you know.

    We lose things we love to death, to misunderstandings, to apathy, and who knows how many other ways. It hurts to lose what we love, when it's taken from us without our permission. I've lost animals, family members, and friends. Every loss feels a little different, but no less painful. When you love, that's a part of your life that is, to some degree, beyond your control.

    I love this little dog who is snoring on the couch next to me. I give her a kiss on the head and tell her that every morning. I take her outside and stand with her in the cold so she can go to the bathroom, and I make sure she's got food that she can eat, and I toss her favorite toys around so she can play. I do all of this, understanding that I love her more than she loves me. I believe she loves me in her own capacity, that I'm as much a companion to her as she is to me and I'm more than just the proverbial hand that feeds her. When the day comes and I eventually lose her, I will be devastated...but I know this, and still I'm compelled to love her.

    But more often than not, we love humans, and we hope that they will love us back. But we can't make them love us, and chances are, our love for each other is always unequal. Love can drive us crazy. Being as socializing has never been my strong suit, I'm always afraid of smothering people when I think they're awesome - so I do the complete opposite and hardly talk to them. Then I'm saddened when either no real friendship forms, or it's a very distant friendship. People probably think I don't care, when the truth is, I'm afraid of being rejected. Our own flaws can make love difficult.

    I'm not a jealous person in my marriage to Matt. For him to hang out with some of our friends who are women, or collaborate on a music project with a woman, doesn't bother me, because as I might say with a shrug, "We're married." Marrying Matt was a security blanket for me, it was my guarantee that he would love me unconditionally. But when a couple of friends broke up, and I didn't see it coming, it made me realize that just because I think he'll love me forever, doesn't mean that he will. This idea had never really occurred to me. I realize that just because I love him, I can't control whether he loves me back. That's a really strange thing when I've just assumed that it's Matty n Me forever. Oddly enough, it hasn't made me super paranoid or anything. Instead, it's made me appreciate things a little more. He doesn't -have- to love me, so if he does, wow, that's really something.

    Love is not nearly as simple as we think of when we're younger. In every form, whether it be our friends, family, children, pets, spouses - anyone we love - our humanity makes it complicated. It makes it painful. Hopefully, most of the time, love is worth that cost.

  • This thing I do

    I think I've mentioned that I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year after taking a couple of years off. After being the municipal liason in the last region I was in, it's really nice just to kick back and write as a participant. I'm not responsible for anything other than my novel. (Well, as far as NaNo is concerned, anyway)

    I'm having fun with it. I have other ideas that I would like to work on, but I chose to go with one that I had a pretty good grasp on, but could benefit from just pouring out on the page and understanding that there would be a lot of revision later.

    I'm not going to tell you about the writing process, the characters, making things up on the fly, planning, or anything like that. All I want to share right now is how 'contained' NaNo is for me this year.

    In past years, NaNo has been this thing that has encompassed the entire month. It's what my social calendar revolved around. It was what I thought of when I woke up, and when I went to sleep. I ate, slept, and drank noveling. And there was nothing particularly wrong with that, but even if I stuck to the 1,700 prescribed word count per day, I was so sick of writing by the time December rolled around.

    This year, it's been different. I don't know why. I actually have much less to do than in past years, so if novel writing wanted to take up all day, if it wanted to keep me up writing into the wee hours of the night, it could! Instead, I sit down either in the morning or at night, for up to a couple of hours, and write.

    I don't fix up a writing playlist, I don't try to make the perfect writing spot. I just sit down and I write. Granted, yes, I had a very good outline going into the month. It would take me a lot longer to write if I didn't. But when I finish a scene, I think back to my outline and think, 'okay, now what needs to happen to get to this?' and I go from there.

    You know what? It's nice. This feels sustainable, when I'm not trying to make writing the only thing I do in a day. I have a good feeling that come December first, I'm not going to throw up my hands and walk away from this novel for six months.

    Maybe writing doesn't have to be this extra special 'event', maybe treating it like it's not much different (but just as important) and cleaning out the litter box is the key. It's writing. It's this thing I do.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a character that I need to disillusion. Sorry, Abigail.

  • Self Care When You're By Yourself

    I've noticed that self care is really important when you don't have anyone else to pick up the slack for you. Even more so when there are other living things depending on you.

    I'm not always very good at remembering to feed myself, and some days, food just sounds icky. So, it's not entirely uncommon for Matt to come home from work to find out that the total of my food consumption for the day was a piece of toast and two mini peanut butter cups or something ridiculous. In these scenarios, he's pretty quick to pick up the slack for me. Was it just that I was busy? Is there no food in the house? Did nothing sound good? He diagnoses the problem and then remedies it with some sort of food.

    Well, lo and behold, when you live by yourself, the magical food fairy doesn't exist to help you. So I'm forced to deal with food issues myself - or even better, prevent them in the first place.

    I function a lot better when things are clean and (somewhat) organized. While Matt's not around to leave his guitars in the middle of the living room floor, he's also not cleaning the toilet or litter box. If I want something done, I really truly have to do it myself.

    Maybe that all sounds funny, because the truth is, I've always done most of the animal care and housework stuff anyway. I'm not really doing much more than I've ever done, but there's a weird mental shift when you realize that there's no one to tag if you need a little help.

    Last night, I wanted to stay up and write, to hit my word count for the day. But I was tired, and knew that it would take me quite a while to write in that state. I also knew that Aeris has been fond of a 5:30 wake up call lately. There's no Matt right now to go deal with Aeris for me. So I have to make sure I'm awake enough to deal with her, which means going to bed when I'm tired.

    The girls are going to want to be fed, loved, and clean whether I'm any of those things. But it's so much easier to take care of them, when I'm sure that I'm taking care of me, too. When there's no one else around, making that mental shift to take care of yourself first is even more important. Right now, without me, nothing will get done.

  • Solo Animal Parenting

    I do not like being the only caretaker/person of affection for our animals. You wouldn't think that two little animals would be much of a problem, and truthfully, they aren't. It's just that I'm so used to having someone else around.

    When I come home in the evening, assuming I didn't have Mikenna with me, Aeris comes running out and dances at my feet because she's out of food or water. Mikenna, meanwhile, is desperate to give me kisses and needs to be taken outside. When I finish that round of attention, then Mikenna will start barking because her food bowl isn't full enough, and I know that Aeris needs her litter box cleaned.

    I used to be able to divide and conquer. I'd have Matt go feed Aeris while I dealt with Mikenna - or the other way around. Trying to explain patience to these two isn't really working.

    Today, Mikenna had the misfortune of stepping in poop outside. So, I had to drop her in the bathtub with the faucet running and try to fetch a spare towel, while trying to make sure that she didn't take off running with a poopy paw. In hindsight, I should have just shut her in the bathroom while I looked for the towel - but I didn't think of that. Let's just say, I ended up sprinting back and forth between dog and linen closet, and the bathroom floor ended up pretty wet.

    I really missed Matt, then. When one of these mini-crises pop up, he's the one who runs and grabs the towel for me.

    I've taken to putting Mikenna in doggy diapers because I can't guarantee that I'll be able to wake up for her in the middle of the night. It actually works out better than I'd planned, because she refuses to use the diapers, and either holds her bladder all night, or fusses at me until I wake up to take her out.

    There are some benefits to being their only caretaker right now. When there are two affectionate animals who want to be loved up, I get twice the love. It's not uncommon for me to have Mikenna curled up at my feet and Aeris snuggled up on my chest or shoulder for a little while each day.

    Yes, I know that there are people who have more animals than I do, and have cared for them alone for years. But I'm realizing how much free help I've taken for granted. Sometimes, that extra person to grab a towel is the difference between a contained westie and one who escapes to thrash around on your bed.

    For those of you who take care of your own animals every day, and even more so those who have to take care of human beings on your own - major kudos from me. I'm just relieved that I'm not responsible for making productive members of society, because I'm kinda afraid these two would just end up with a lot of therapy bills from living alone with me.

  • I'm Dreaming of a Baptist High School

    For the second time this week, I had a dream about being back in high school.

    What qualifies as a 'recurring' dream? Is it just the theme, or does it have to be literally having the same dream over and over again? I have the 'back in high school' dreams fairly often - not usually twice in a week, but often enough. They're always a little bit different, but there are elements that pop up often in them:

    - Worrying that I don't have my gym uniform. There was nothing worse than opening up your locker or backpack and realizing that you'd left your gym clothes at home because you'd needed to wash them. You couldn't participate, and thus, your grade would get docked. So in my dreams, I'm often worrying about the status of my gym clothes.

    - Realizing I don't have the right clothes on. This goes hand in hand with the gym uniform. Often, in these dreams, my brain realizes that I'm going back to school after some extended period of time. So I don't always have the required 3 button polo shirt and denim or kahki skirt. In the dream I had earlier this week, I was wearing a pair of jeans, so I solved the problem by walking with my knees together to simulate wearing a skirt. Dream logic.

    - What class am I in? I never know what my class schedule is supposed to be, so it seems like I spend a lot of dream time wandering halls. Sometimes, I arbitrarily pick a class, like the dream where I decided to go to art. Other times, I find that I've been assigned to something, such as an advanced math class that I had no business being in. At least my brain usually feels pretty confident that I'll remember the material.

    - I'm sure the school will let me graduate a third time. I guess my brain needs to rationalize still being in high school at 28. So for whatever reason, the story seems to be that the school didn't mind me coming back for classes over and over again, and since I've graduated once, that's why it's okay that I woke up this morning and realized I hadn't been to school in a very long time. But hey, since I usually see other classmates in my dreams, it must not be so weird.

    So, this most recent dream I had, I was wandering the halls, trying to figure out what class I was supposed to be in. I came to my old civics classroom, and I realized that was where I needed to be, but I overheard the teacher say that there was a test that day - and I knew that, due to my poor attendance, I would know nothing. But I decided to do the right thing and take the test anyway. In the end, what I remember from the dream is less about the test, and more about breaking down crying in the middle of the test because I knew I was going to miss that teacher.

    I wouldn't say my experience with high school was overly traumatic. I was a girl that was generally well liked, but not popular. People seemed willing to chat with me at school, but never remembered me when it was time to make plans on the weekends. But I loved learning, so that's what I focused on. I loved a lot of my teachers. I used to go up to my Spanish teacher's room occasionally and have lunch with her. There were some teachers that I felt like I got along with better than the students, and other teachers that I just liked or admired.

    It's just, much like today, I realize that just because I think very fondly of someone doesn't mean that I'm very good at expressing it. I feel like it would be weird, after ten years, to contact some of my old teachers and tell them just how much I loved them and their classes, but the thought has crossed my mind. Oddly enough, I don't lament not keeping in contact with many of my classmates - but the teachers! - man, I'd happily go to a reunion just to talk to them.

    Yes, I was totally the kid who reminded the teacher that we'd had homework due. Sorry.

  • Inevitably

    Inevitably

    I used to be good at writing openly, honestly...perhaps a little too good. I needed to develop a censor. But somewhere along the way, in the last few years, my filter got thicker and thicker, until I didn't know what to share, because nothing felt right.

    At the end of the day, I like talking about things, and I like being honest. I have this thought that maybe, someone will come across my ramblings and it'll be what they needed to hear that day, to know that they're not alone. But in order to do that, you have to be okay with sharing the muck and the imperfections, and I've gotten much worse at being able to share anything about myself.

    Lately, I've been thinking about change. It makes sense, as I'm in the middle of changes right now, fixing up a new place, in a new state, away from Matt. 

    But there's the changes we seek out, such as getting a new haircut. Unless someone cuts your hair in the middle of the night, that's probably not a change that's going to just happen to you. 

    There are also the changes that happen to us, that we weren't looking for, probably don't want, and we just have to cope wtih. 

    Of course, throughout the course of a week both kinds of change happen. I might choose to go to Panera for lunch, but when a huge traffic backup happens, wind up at McDonalds instead. But because I did that, I'm not going to feel like working out later, which means that my body won't change.

    We change, our priorities change, our expectations change. Change, change, change.

    Then, of course, there are the things you assume will be constants.

    I assumed that we would make our transition down to Virginia, and we'd go back to visit, and like a good little time warp, nothing would have changed in Michigan. Then, right before I moved, that all got dropped on it's head when some of our friends split up. Now I realize that it's not very likely that I'll see one of these friends again, and that thought never occurred to me the last time I saw hir.

    In a weird way, it puts into focus the fragility of life and just how silly our assumptions are. You just never know when life will make a hard right turn and your life will change dramatically. We make plans, and sometimes, they turn out, and other times, the picture looks nothing like the reality.

    A year ago, we were waiting on our twice delayed apartment, closer to Matt's work, close to shopping, closer to friends. Now, here I am in another state entirely, I don't know what to expect with Matt's job, and sometimes it feels like I'm starting over. It's good, it's scary, and it would be really easy to wrap myself up and forget about the world ... I'm trying not to. Because heaven knows, just because I assume you'll be there tomorrow, doesn't mean you will be. I don't want to take that for granted.

    ...Also, my unfinished countertop is looking really rad, and less unfinished. Change can be good.

  • The Quiet Life

    The Quiet Life

    Right now, the girls and I are living a pretty quiet life down here in Virginia.

    I've been battling a cold for almost a week, which definitely causes life to slow down a bunch. The last few days, I've been pretty pleased when everyone is fed and has access to proper bathroom facilities.

    Right now, Aeris seems content to snuggle under the blanket comforter when she's not near me. Knowing her, it's not so much a fear reaction as that she just really likes snuggling under blankets. (Even more so without the inconvenience of a human that might kick her by accident) I don't know how much that will change once we have more rooms furnished and set up. Right now, the living room is the best off, and the room where we spend the most time.

    Mikenna, meanwhile, is making the most out of sniffing around her yard. She hasn't found any exciting wildlife to stare at, but that's okay with me, because with a cold, I'd really rather that she did her business and let us go back inside. But I've noticed how much quieter she is here. Back in our Michigan apartment, there were a lot more things for her to bark at, whether it be a noisy neighbor, dogs outside, or her daily rant at the mailman. She's never been what I'd consider a 'yappy' dog, but she's so much more peaceful here. She barks for a minute if I leave the house, because she's upset at being crated. She barks when she wants to play, or lets out a protest bark if I leave the room and she doesn't feel like following. But that's it.

    I can't really speak for her, but my best guess is that she doesn't miss all the things she was barking at before. She's calm, playful, and oh-so-snuggly with me.

    It's a quiet life right now. I spread out my errands such that I'm not gone for too long of a stretch. We go visit my parents, and we take afternoon naps while I'm waiting to feel better. I like it, and I think the girls do, too.

  • On My Own

    I've never really been 'on my own' like this before. You would think, being someone who has stayed home our entire marriage, that this wouldn't be a shock to me. But it is, and I'm surprised.
    Whereas before, I could put things off 'until Matt got home' to help me, I just have to do it myself. If I'm in the middle of doing the dishes and Mikenna decides that she needs her food right then, I can't ask Matt to hop up and placate her for me. I've taken up litterbox duties, which I've never done before (and it sets off my gag reflex a little more each day), and spiders in the shower? My problem.

    But it's not just about delegating the things I don't want to do. There's no one to laugh with me at Aeris when she does something goofy. It's ... a more quiet existence, not living with another person.

    Without someone for my routine to revolve around, I'm forced to find my own. I can't say much about that so far, as I don't think we've really found a routine yet. Mikenna isn't whining at me at night, despite being unmedicated, which is good. I started struggling with some seasonal allergies shortly after getting here, and now I think I've caught a cold, so I've been tired, stuffy, and a little bit unpleasant.

    It's not easy, starting over, figuring everything out all over again. I don't particularly like it. I wish Matt were here, and that we were sorting through these messy boxes together.

    But I'll admit, there are some perks. I can sleep anywhere on the bed I want - assuming the animals let me. I can sit in bed and work on my novel, without being concerned that I'm keeping Matt awake. I can buy any food I want, without worrying about Matt's preferences. I ate beets tonight...that was kinda nice.

  • I'm Alive

    I'm alive and writing from the beautiful state of Virginia.

    The girls and I are settling in - slowly, but surely. Aeris is spending most of her time out in the open, except for when she's feeling like an introvert (and that I understand), and no longer cowering in corners. Mikenna is taking all of this like a fish in water, but she seems happy and content. There's a bed and a couch that she can sleep on at-will, so I'm pretty sure she has everything her heart desires.

    As for me - well, I'm living in various boxes and bags. I'm choosing to unpack slowly and mindfully, so that I don't scare Aeris by making too many changes in one day, and so that I'm not just shoving things in places where they really shouldn't be. In order to truly take care of things, I need a couple of things to be done around here and to pick up a desk. Then, I think things will really start falling into place.

    In the meantime though, I'm content. I've got two happy, snuggly animals, and a surplus of blankets. I understand that Michigan got some snow the other night, so I feel that I got out of there just in time.

    I don't know what the future holds, but I know everything is going to be fine.

    In the meantime, I started plunking away at a new NaNoWriMo project today. It's really nice to knock some of the rust off of my gears and start moving again. Things are falling into place, slowly, but surely.