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.