Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Because we need a little Christmas.

We had to leave Covington so fast that we lost a few things in the move. One item that was especially difficult to accept was the baby mobile of glass ducks that hung over my crib (and later my bed) as a child. I'd kept it 30 years through college, first apartments, many moves, and hung it in a corner of my studio in Covington. When everything was unpacked in RI and it was nowhere to be found, we came to believe we'd accidentally left it hanging there the morning we moved out. I even debated contacting the new owners, but ultimately decided against it. What would I say? "Hope you're enjoying our old home, did you happen to notice a tiny of flock of ducks downstairs? I'm 33 years old and I'd really like them back. You can keep our house, I just really need my ducks." No... So, I just felt a bit heartsick and left it at that. We'd lost a lot anyway, what's a few ducks I told myself.
Last night we left out Luke's letter for Santa, our guess at what he might like, adorned in his scribbles. The whole night was sort of a disaster. Our oven broke in the middle of making dinner, scorching our food and destroying a banana bread. Luke has been sick with a fever all week, and last night a rash broke out signaling to us that he has Roseola. A quick call to his pediatrician eased our fears. The rash thankfully means the worst has past and Luke is recovering. We worried since I'm pregnant, but our doctor assured us it was fine as I'm in my 2nd trimester. Still, a scary moment for first time parents. The night nearly felt like a bust, but as midnight neared we rallied and got ready to "help" Santa's magic a little. Milk was drank. Cookies were eaten. An alibi was provided to the jolly old elf; evidence would prove he had been in our kitchen.
Hurrying to complete his visit to our home, I looked for a bit of red ribbon to spruce up the toy chicken that was being left behind (as Luke is crazy about birds). I dragged out a big container of embroidery supplies and dug through sewing kits and hoops and extra bits of fabric. Opened up my ribbon box in the name of Santa...
...And there was my baby mobile, a pile of trusty glass ducks looking back up at me.
Santa's where we look for him. And sometimes even when we're not looking, he finds us anyway. As I pulled out a humble gathering of old childhood friends, I couldn't help but feel some of that Christmas magic, and be awfully grateful Santa needed a ribbon last night.

I know it doesn't look like much, but I think often times our own personal
treasuries don't look like much to the rest of the world. That's what makes them just for us.

Luke's letter and Santa's response.

Luke tending to his chicken, despite still feeling a little poorly.

Elvis and Puck getting in a nap. I don't know that it would count as
a post if I didn't include a cuddle picture of Puck and Elvis sleeping....

Lupin making himself right at home, leaning his fuzzy little elbows on
the windowsill to watch the birds.

We heard a commotion in the living room and Ryan went to investigate. He returned a moment later,
holding a photo of him on our wedding day and said, "Elvis took this down off the wall."
(Elvis still sometimes has trouble accepting the Man).

Luke checking out the tree the first morning he woke up to discover it in the living room.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Long overdue photos of the apartment, with a bit of an explanation.

I've been promising I would share photos of our new apartment, for our friends back west to see and anyone else who might be curious. I've finally completed the arduous task of slipping that little square thingy that comes out of the camera into the computer, and I'm happy to report they all survived. (And are in this very post!)

But first, would you like to see photos of our Halloween costumes 21 days into November? I thought you might! Here they are:

Our Halloween costumes! Mrs. Peacock, Colonel Mustard, and Professor Plum
from the board game 'Clue.'

My sister and best friend joined us as Miss Scarlet and Mr. Green!

Daddy and Luke! (Not to brag, but seriously, how handsome is my husband?
'People' magazine, take notice for 2015!)

Mommy and Luke! (And the new baby, I'm about 4 months pregnant here).

I love this photo of my sister so much.

Preston and Grace!

It's been very cold the past week. If there was any doubt that we are back home in New England, it has been frozen out of us. Is it sick that I'm a little happy to be donning mittens? The air is crisp, the sunsets are sharp, and my camel colored winter jacket combined with my pregnant belly have me feeling a bit like Donald Duck in an overcoat. You know the one.

Luke is less amused by the cold, and has decided that hats are some kind of cruel punishment we're trying to inflict on him. Mittens face an all out boycott, which we hope to overcome before winter truly sets in.

The cats have taken to curling up on and under the many fuzzy blankets we own. Including the faux fur stole I hot glued for my Mrs. Peacock costume in the photos above. For $4 worth of fabric, Puck took it over November 1st and we've kept it on the back of the couch for him since. The apartment is cozy in the cold, thank goodness. We wake up to warm beds (usually filled with cats) and frosty window panes.

My Mom and I are planning our first Thanksgiving home in five years, complete with tuning into the annual Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathon! We go shopping for the turkey and fixings tonight, and I'm very excited.

Still, with all the happiness I'm experiencing settling back into the seasons and looking forward to the  holidays with family, I've recently begun to realize that selling our home in Washington was a lot harder on me than I admitted to myself at the time. When it happened, there was so much to sort and donate and pack and move that I don't think I really had time to feel what was going on. Even as we prepared to leave, we had to show the house to potential buyers almost daily. Every time I had a moment to myself suddenly we had to get everyone out of the house and into the car to leave while the realtors gave tours.

As I wrapped the precious belongings we were able to keep and slipped them into boxes, I would think, "It'll be alright. We'll all be together. That's what really matters." As I cut tape with my teeth and secured all we had left, I thought, "It's just a house. These are just things." Sliding boxes into piles, watching the piles grow while our once carefully decorated and arranged rooms emptied, I reminded myself, "It could be worse." Then all of a sudden the house was sold (thankfully, in the nick of time, really) and we were gone. And that was that.

We came back to RI and have been re-adjusting to small town life. I've liked it. I see dear friends and loved ones almost daily. My son has aunts and uncles and cousins to play with. "Okay," I told myself. "We did it. It's over. The last two years are over, and now we have a fresh start."

Only about two months ago I realized I've been avoiding photographs from the whole time we lived in Covington. Even happy photographs. Even photographs of my son (easily the happiest photographs I've ever taken).

If you know me at all, you know photographs are one of my favorite things. I probably take between 3-10 photographs a day, 30-200 when I'm on a roll. My Instagram is embarassing. I was relieved when Facebook stopped including a photo count. 70% of this blog is just photos of my cats. Now all of the sudden, whenever I would have a moment to sort through Luke's first birthday pictures or his first Christmas, (or share photos of our new apartment, ahem...) and I found myself making excuses. It was late, I didn't want to fire up the computer, I didn't want to start a new photo album on Snapfish and not finish it.

There's this great trick Phyllis' character on 'The Office' (yup) teaches Michael Scott in a season three episode when he needs to make a decision. She tells him, "Don't think, just answer: What do you want to do...?" However you feel about taking advice from a tv show, it's a great moment and I've found it works in real life too. I used a variation of it and said to myself, "Don't think, just answer: Why don't you want to look at those photos?"

"I don't want to see the house," was my unexpected answer to myself. All out loud at the grocery store, I'm sure, but stick with me, this was a break through.

Once I admitted that, I had to face why I didn't want to see the house. That felt a little murkier. We had been so happy to buy the home, but then Ryan's company laid everyone off weeks later and it got scary. I told myself that's why I didn't want to see the house. It represented a time filled with so much uncertainty and fear of the future. I was glad that was over; glad we didn't have to struggle like we did then. Of course I don't want to see it, I told myself. Why would I?

However... We had a lot of good times in that house too. My baby shower. House parties with friends. Movie nights, podcasts, pizza, jokes, and games. We shared two Christmases and a lot of gratitude for simple victories like one more mortgage payment made. We brought Luke home to that house; a 7 pound 9 ounce bundle of blue and green blankets swaddling a sleepy little face. The real answer hit me fully days later when I was at a store and saw some sparkly on-the-shelves-way-too-early Christmas branches, and thought, "Those will look great over our fireplace!"

The fireplace 3,000 miles away. That isn't ours anymore.

Another emotional break through at a store, this time in the holiday section of 'Michaels', where all the plastic elves watched me finally hang my head. That was my moment of total realization: I miss our home. It hurts that we had to sell it. It hurts like hell. We planned to live there for 5-10 years and we can't. I was seized with a wish to drive into the garage, open the door, see the faded carpet we meant to replace, the sliding glass window looking out into the backyard we meant to landscape, the washer and dryer we're still paying off, and just finally go home.

It felt foolish that it had taken six months to get to a point where I could acknowledge that selling the house was a bigger loss than I wanted to admit to myself. The human spirit is capable of spectacular feats of denial, though. I had a husband to cheer up, a son to protect, cats who needed reassuring, and a new home to put together. We needed dinner on the table, moving boxes broken down, towels folded in the closet, and bookcases neatly filled. We needed trips to the grocery store and a pantry full of food, because we could afford that again. We didn't need break downs, we needed normalcy.

There's always time for break downs.

When my grandfather passed away, my Aunt Lizzie told Mom, "It might not hit you today. It might not hit you next week. It's going to catch up with you months from now. You'll be standing in line at a check out, and you'll see a magazine cover and for reasons you don't even understand, it will remind you, and you'll drive home crying. Grief is like that. It sneaks up on you one day."

Not that losing a home is the same as losing a person. Not at all. In fact, that was pretty much the mantra I clung to all year. "These are just things. We are safe. We have each other. We have our health. It could be worse." In retrospect, I think I felt guilty to mourn a bunch of bricks and wood when we had so much to be thankful for.

Nevertheless, here I was, half a year later, getting teary over glittery artificial pine and seeing a montage of all the memories we were never going to have in that house.

MAN, THIS POST IS TURNING INTO A BUMMER. I'm sorry for that, but thanks if you're still here. There's good news: admitting all of this to myself has felt good. Not "erase all the bad stuff that happened the past two years" good, or "get our house back" good, or "golly gee I'm fine now" good. Just... Good. Better. A start. When I opened up about this a little, a good friend wrote to me, "It's okay to feel sad about sad things that have happened." And since she said that to me, (thank you, Amanda) it's become a sort of new mantra. Much better than my previous "It's okay. I'm okay," one. That was getting me nowhere. No one should be teary eyed at a craft store. CRAFT STORES SHOULD ONLY BE A PLACES OF GREAT JOY.

Freeing some of the feelings I had bottled up left me with a more room to appreciate our new apartment. Not that I didn't before. Honestly, complicatedly, I love this apartment. I could not have asked for a better place to start over from selling our home. It's small, yet it has three bedrooms, which is pretty great for an apartment. It is sunny and clean, with high ceilings and lovely, heavy windows. Everyone in the building is great, we love our neighbors. It's the third floor of a Victorian so beautiful I wish I could share pictures of the building itself, but it is very recognizable in our town AND THIS IS THE INTERNET, AMIRITE? HAHAHA NO BUT SERIOUSLY.

While I admit I'm still not ready to start pouring over the old photos I've been avoiding, I find myself wanting to begin giving this little apartment some of the eye candy credit it deserves. It's adorable. It's warm. It's safe. And it has all of my favorite people and cats inside it; often even including my Mom, sister, friends, and family. You've been patient enough to read me pour my heart out, or you've just scrolled down until there were more pictures, either way, finally, here are some photos of the new apartment!

The kitchen.

I plan to convince Luke one of his great-great-great grandmothers
was a witch who turned animals to stone, and now we have to
care for all of them until they can be turned back....

More of the kitchen (and more stone animals.

Elvis arrives to inspect the floor.

Puck and Elvis guarding the couch.
(Our big red couch was too big and had to go into storage--We still have it though!
My father-in-law gave us this couch in the meantime, thankfully).

If anyone comes up the stairs to steal this couch,
the boys are ready.

Our armchair... Really, it's Elvis' armchair.
He lives on the back of it, I can't believe he's not in this photo.

More of the living room.

Puzzle time with Luke and Elvis!

Lupin guarding the crib.

He takes his job very seriously.

Lupin spots the camera....

"What is that thing?"

Luke and his oh-so-familiar looking tiger friend....

Luke's nursery, before we added some storage boxes
(ie. diaper boxes covered in fabric).

There they are.

His crib fits right into a little alcove in his room. It's perfect!

More of the nursery.

Luke's window and changing table.

...It does not stay tidy for very long. 

We have a lot of good news in the works, but I can't share some of it right now. (I'm sorry, I hate when people are vague online, but I also don't want to leave you with an image of me feeling sorry for myself surrounded by fake pointsettas at the craft store.... Also, I promise the good news is real and not just a ruse to cheer you up after reading the sadder parts of this post. It's great news! It's actual, real, great news. I promise. And when I can share it, I will).

What I can say is that writing 'Breaking Cat News' has been a tremendous comfort to me the past few months. What started off as one silly strip for friends has become a syndicated comic, and I love that it is featured on GoComics! The people at GoComics have been so helpful and great to work with, I love dealing with them. Readers both old and new have been so supportive and encouraging. I cannot believe what a kind, awesome group of people the comic has drawn in! ON THE INTERNET OF ALL PLACES! HOW??? Good people on the Internet--they're out there!

Having a project to focus on during the evenings, especially such a positive, fun project, has meant so much to me. Posting new strips and connecting with other cat folks, hearing it's made their day or reminded them of their own feline friends has been an unexpected bonus I look forward to every week. I hope it has been entertaining, and I'm working hard to keep it funny, new, and different.

I can also say that we just found out the new baby is a girl!!! We're so excited! We would have been happy to have another boy too, of course, but I'd be lying if I pretended I wasn't thrilled to discover we're about to have a daughter. Ryan and I are delighted. We can't wait to meet her! We try to tell to Luke he's about to become a big brother. I think he sort of gets it, but then sometimes he also points to his tummy when we ask where the baby is, so.... It's a tough thing to explain to an 18 month old. He is a sweet, gentle, thoughtful child though, and I am looking forward to helping him adjust to the new baby.

What an nonstop eventful year this has been! To think that since January we've sold our home, moved 3,000 miles back to our hometown, Ryan's changed jobs, (and possibly even more on that before the year ends) I created a new comic, we found out we're having another child, the new comic has been syndicated online, and then it turns out we're going to have our son Luke and a daughter too!

And that's just Ryan and I! All around us friends and loved ones are facing huge changes, good and bad. However, the way everything has worked out, we all seem to be facing them together, and that's kind of eerie and great and humbling. It makes me glad we moved back east when we did, even if the circumstances are still causing a bit of emotional fall out. Is 2014 under a crazy Moon circle or in Aries or autumn spice or something?*

I hope that when I write again it is soon and that it is filled with photos of what is happening right now, in the present. Thank you for reading this. It's a longer post and kind of a bummer at times, but it's honest. It's life. It's my life, and while it could be worse, it's okay to be sad about sad things that have happened. I love the good things that are happening right now. I want to hold onto them and appreciate them and document it all for when I'm ready to look back and make sense of 2014.

*Writer might not understand astrology or how it works.

Monday, October 20, 2014

'Breaking Cat News' is on GoComics!

Remember a few months ago when I mentioned I had begun a new webcomic, almost as an after thought? Well,... The past few months have been a little happily crazy and it has been gaining new readers every post, along with thousands of shares, over a million views since it began in March, and today you can find it on GoComics

"Georgia... You don't think maybe you could have told us this before now?"

I know, I know! I'm sorry. The past few months since the move have been crazy for a lot of reasons, good and bad. We've been transitioning to a huge change, settling the new apartment into a comfortable living space for Luke, the cats, and ourselves, and trying to adjust to life in our hometown several years after leaving our hometown. It's more different than we expected! Not bad different, actually it's often good different.

In the meantime life got really hectic all at once, in both very delightful and truly heartbreaking ways. 'Breaking Cat News' began to do well, Ryan started an independent project with friends/colleagues, a close family friend passed away, we found out we're having another baby (!) , Ryan got a job offer from Seattle only to have it put on pause in a way that is really hard to plan for much with certainty, Luke began walking, GoComics wanted to have 'Breaking Cat News' on their site,... And trying to find a moment to blog during all of that felt a little overwhelming. Really, most of it is fantastic, the only heartbreaking bit was our family friend passing away--but that was terrible and very sad and cast a deep shadow. 

Man, now that I've summed up the emotional roller coaster that was our summer into a short paragraph, I feel like I probably could have mentioned any of this sooner....

Here are a few strips of 'Breaking Cat News' to catch you up on what the heck it is that I've been working on!

Here are a few pictures of us, too!

Luke getting ready to walk (on the day he finally did walk!)

Ryan and Luke at the local cider mill.

Luke's current favorite toy is a Halloween decorative skull.
You can't make parenthood up.
...We call him "Morty."

Oh, and Ryan cut his hair for 'Locks of Love'!

Elvis exploring a box.

Puck and Lupin catching a nap.

A whole lot of napping happens here.

We decorated for Halloween and ELVIS HATED IT.

Luke leaning down for a hug, while we took a photo to announce
a new baby is on the way!

Baby Faillace is due in April just like Luke was, so they both had
October announcements full of Halloween decorations, ha!

I've got some photos of how we set the new apartment up that I will post next time! And hopefully some autumn/Halloween photos. You all know how much we love Halloween! Last year we won the children's division of George Takei's costume contest, we love it so much!

It'll be hard to top our 'Little Shop of Horrors' costumes from last year!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Life back east....

I have wanted to write a blog post about our move back east for sometime. A sweeping, long narrative detailing all of the changes and unexpected surprises--but it's still a lot to take in.

And it's not a lot of bad to take in, far from it. It's a lot of good. A lot of time with family and dear friends. Going to the grocery store and casually running into some of my best friends in the aisles is something I never realized I had missed until it began happening again.

Small, spectacular things I'd overlooked. Complicated, strange intersections between state lines (I'm not using a metaphor here, I'm talking about an intersection in Pawcatuck, CT or Westerly, RI, depending on who you're arguing with) where everyone slows down to navigate it through taking turns and simple waves.

(They also slam into a dead stop on exits rather than merging safely though, so it's not all Mayberry and maple syrup).

We've been spending our time connecting with friends and family, and trying to find a new routine for ourselves. Everything was turned upside down; daily rituals, nightly habits, favorite restaurants suddenly 3,000 miles away. Our home sold halfway through May. It was a bittersweet triumph, freeing us from the financial struggles we'd faced for the last year and a half by basically tearing everything we had to the ground to start over again. Some days we feel the relief. Some days we feel the loss. Some days we don't really think about it at all, we just move forward. There's not a lot of time to sit around feeling sorry for yourself when there's unpacking to do.

Plus, this guy keeps us busy.

Luke and I flew out to Rhode Island on May 6th. Ryan left the same day, in our car with the cats. For two people who love each other dearly, we sure do end up on opposite sides of the country a lot. Waiting for Ryan was hard, I worried the whole time that something could go wrong. When we made the trip together four years ago, it was an exciting adventure. We had the great unknown ahead of us, two crazy people in love, ready to take on anything, nothing to lose.

This time we had lost a job, a plan, and a house. (Not that we lost the house, we sold the house, but it still was not what we wanted). We have a son who depends on us, we depend on each other. From going off to work to caring for our son to taking out the trash to doing the dishes to kisses goodnight, we make it all happen together. Driving out of our garage for the last time together, knowing we would never enter our first house again, going to the airport to say goodbye to each other was rough. Luke and I to the plane, Ryan and the boys to the car. Being apart at such a hard time would have been difficult anyway, but the thousands of miles between our little family created a very real ache. Those few days in May I would put Luke down for the night, chat with relatives, go up to bed, and just type the towns Ryan had reached into my phone's navigation app for a couple of hours. Mapping the two dots we'd become, one racing, one waiting. I waited for texts with the anxiety of a sailor's wife pacing the widows deck. Of course--Ryan was never in any danger. However, that did not stop my mind from randomly picturing the car falling off the side of a mountain and bursting into flames about 300 times a day.

With that sound Goofy makes while skiing or tripping down stairs.

You know the sound.

Thankfully, Ryan made the trip in about 70 hours, knocking on the door Friday afternoon hours ahead of when I expected him. I may never have been happier to see someone.

Luke may never have been happier to see someone too....

A few someones....

It took us about a month to find an apartment, during which time we stayed with Ryan's Aunt Joanie. When we finally found a place, it was unexpectedly delightful. Neither of us had hoped for much in a new apartment, beyond "clean and safe." What we found was the top floor of a painted Victorian that used to be the servant's quarters. (I'm pretty sure... I'm very sure. There is a narrow set of stairs and a beautiful, sunny little kitchen, and so naturally I'm ready to stream the entire series of 'Upstairs, Downstairs.') We moved in the second week of June and have been unpacking ever since.

Moving is very much like Tetris. You arrange all of the boxes until you can eliminate another row and clear some space.

Ryan and Luke checking out the new apartment.

Just as we were moving into the new place, two of my best friends--Preston and Tim--came into town for a visit. This was great timing, because not only were they able to help us move....

Poor basset hounds.
(We're all trying to swear less around Luke).

But they were also able to sort of bridge the gap between "Was Seattle just a weird fever dream I had?" and "I've missed driving these Rhode Island roads so long, is this real life?"

"Tell us about it, Janet."

In fact, as fate would have it, Preston found himself needing to move back to RI too. And so almost two months to the day from when my husband drove across the country, my best friend drove across the country, and I'll be taking August off from compulsively imagining loved ones driving off mountains, thanks.

That about brings us to now. Many of our boxes are unpacked and the rooms in the apartment are becoming more like "rooms" and less like "cardboard forts" every day. The living room, bathroom, kitchen, and Luke's room are all finished. Our bedroom and our shared office space are all that are left to organize.

The boys settling in.

Luke and Ryan on a sunny weekend morning.

Father's Day.

Lupin trying out the new area rug's "napacity." 

In the meantime the comic I began back in March... March? April? Somewhere around there... BREAKING CAT NEWS, has begun to get its own following! I'm delighted to have some regular readers, and there have even been a few write ups about the comic. Like this one, and this one.

When I first drew a couple of these strips for friends, I kept joking that it was not going to become another webcomic. Swan Eaters is already on a hiatus because I've been so strapped for time since becoming a Mom. (A hiatus on a cliffhanger, nonetheless). The last thing I thought I wanted was to start a brand new webcomic. However, like so many unplanned happenings in life, it turned out to be just what I needed. During the day I take care of Luke, and in the evenings I write and paint the comic. Everyone's kind words and support have carried me through this crazy transition during our big move. It feels so good to write something that is making people happy. We're all sort of in on the jokes together, and it feels really nice. It has been a welcome distraction to try and challenge myself to writing two punchlines a week. I hope that it's as much fun to read as it is to write. Thank you to everyone who has been tuning in!

Lupin thanks you too!

A couple of weekends ago I had a chance to sell my prints at an outdoor art gathering in Providence, RI. It was a great day. Friends and family came together to lend a hand, packaging prints, setting up displays manning the table,... It was a good feeling. Luke came with us, and Gracie and I paused to remember when we would accompany Dad to his outdoor art festivals. I hope to do more of them.

Story of an art fair in 9 photos. 1. Auntie Gray and angry Luke celebrate America. 2. Preston and Ryan get cozy. 3. The local toughs. 4. Luke and I man the table. 5. More local toughs! 6. My Two Dads 7. Daddy puts sunblock on Luke. 8. Auntie Gray and Luke man the table. 9. All tuckered out....

Luke and I manning the table.

Everything is still kind of uncertain right now. Ryan has started a new job, working as a technical writer. We're feathering our new nest and enjoying a reprieve from stress and worrying about finances. Luke is learning new things every day and benefiting tremendously from quality time with our family. The boys have adjusted marvelously, and are appreciating 360 degree views of birds and trees and sunsets from the new apartment's high windows. Ryan and I are both working on projects in the evening, after Luke has been fed and bathed and is sleeping soundly. Comics and paintings for me, game design and art for Ryan. Where this will lead us, whether back to the gaming industry or elsewhere, is still up in the air. For the time being though, we're feeling good about where were are. And much more: who we are surrounded by. When life gets challenging, it's tough to beat the support that comes from family. They love you like no one else can.