Friday, August 24, 2012

the whirlwind

when you last left your hectic heroine, i had just moved from the loft and acquired a new love interest, was dabbling in music and trying to reorganize my life. in the past few months, i've taken a weeklong jaunt back to both st. maarten and new york, beefed up my photography bookings, started (and finished, as of today) working primarily from home, and finally managed to hang all of my clothes on hangers. it's time for that ever-elusive update!

i made my new home on the top floor of a triplex, converted from an old house, in a historic neighborhood. somehow, my brain didn't process that top floor means all the heat from the floors below would rise up to mine in the summer. between plaster walls and a really decent air conditioning system, though, i've been relatively cool this entire summer. that may or may not have something to do with how many time the refrigerator door has fallen off of its hinges. it's jury-rigged, currently, because i really don't want to empty out all of the food long enough to turn it on its back and replace the bolt it needs. i am just now getting around to hanging art on some of the walls, which probably means it's time to move again. only joking! i'm not going anywhere, because a certain someone refuses to lift one more piece of furniture this calendar year. actually, i'm reasonably happy here. i've realized that, no matter where i live, there will always be a few things about my accommodations i don't love, and that there is usually a work-around if i get creative enough. call it a challenge. what makes it a home is that i live here.

as for the love? we are almost seven months into a blooming relationship. it's weathered him helping me move, several road trips, working together (we photographed a wedding together a few weeks ago, and have one more a few weeks from now), meeting one another's families, my extreme indecisiveness when it comes to choosing dinner, and a schedule so busy we seem to always be passing one another by. this mercurial girl, who loves her quality time, has somehow managed to find a great balance amidst the insanity. we see each other almost every day. we complement one another in ways i never thought possible. we make each other better. we're also normal. we're imperfect. we disagree. we get mad at one another, but we survive. he plans thoughtful little surprises that tend to turn into adventures (like getting attacked by an emu), and i subject him to watching whedon's works one after another (which he tolerates and sometimes even enjoys). 

music kept us ridiculously busy for a few months. we wrote four songs together in the early months, and played a handful of small shows throughout the area. we won the final of our song competition in may, against some really awesome local writers. in june, we attended the East Coast Songwriter's Conference together. after getting some really good feedback on our songs from professionals, we decided to take a month or so off from playing out so much and give ourselves time to recharge and rediscover our creativity. it seemed a little counter-intuitive, but it worked wonders for us. we're now two songs stronger in our originals, and preparing to play our next show together in early october.

with our schedules staying so hectic, paring down my possessions and getting organized got pushed to the back burner. did i say back burner? i meant it unceremoniously was dumped into the fridge and got a little moldy. my apartment has three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a spacious back sunroom. my employer asked me to work from home for a while, due to some remodeling on their homefront, which means i had two rowdy boys (now 3.75 and 2.25 years old) running around my place all day. the sunroom got designated as a play space (though there is a hammock for my enjoyment, among all of the toys). the guest room was taken over at nap time (one cribbed toddler and a preschooler on a full-sized bed). the living room actually got lived in, and was recently the stage for the first at-home photo session i've done in months. the last bedroom (which i'd planned to turn into a neat, functional office) became a dumping ground for everything that couldn't fit in all the others and, suffice to say, it was a LOT of stuff. the chaos finally stopped long enough for me to organize a little this week, and i can proudly say that all of the clothes i own have a proper place. and they're in it!! i took two full bags to donate yesterday, and have plans for a lot more to go with them. there's still more work to be done, but i've made tons of progress just in the past few days.

i hope that the general tone of this update conveys that i've been busy, but happy. i learned how to play texas hold'em poker, and got even better at scrabble. i improved some of my photography equipment (new lenses, new lighting techniques) and skills. i spent most of my mornings in a hammock on a sun-soaked back porch, surrounded by laughing children and having pretend food prepared for me. i spent most of my evenings with my love, making bad puns and trying in vain to decide on a dinner option that would satisfy us both. next week, work returns to normal (nanny kid back in morning preschool, afternoons spent at his house instead of mine). fall is creeping up, with cooler nights. there are people to be photographed, and friends' babies to be born, and day trips to take. life is moving. as long as it doesn't require a moving truck, for the time being, i'm thrilled.

Monday, February 27, 2012

scars on the wall

I'm on my 15th straight day of 12+ hour days, most of them on 5-7 hours of sleep. I passed exhausted on day 8, and rounded the corner of delirious last night around 11pm as I finished cleaning the loft. The process of moving from the loft to my apartment is done, though, and I can't remember feeling more relief about anything in the past (measurable unit of time that I can't determine on this little sleep). However, as great as it feels to be done, I came very close to openly weeping when I had to get up for work this morning, body exhausted, mind possibly more so.

Before this stretch of days, there was a week spent in preparation for my family coming to visit in the middle of a move, and their actual visit (the 12th), which included a photo session with my 4 month old cousin. Before that, prepping for a songwriting competition (on the 7th, which we won, with a co-written duet), Valentine's Day in a new relationship (amazingly sweet and thoughtful), and starting full-time work again (keeping my best friend's child from 7:30am until 5:30pm, which also began on the 7th). In the midst of all of this, I spent spare moments (few though they were) packing and planning the move, as well as navigating the numerous potholes and, sometimes, sinkholes in my road to this moment.

As I laid drowsily in my new bedroom for the first time (mattress on the floor, possessions stacked around, fresh gray paint on the walls per my request), I wondered what life must have looked like for the previous tenant, on her first night in her new apartment in Brooklyn. She is Ana, a Russian-American artist. I don't know anything about her life beyond that, except for the scars she left on the walls of what would become my bedroom. For her, it was a studio. There were paint drips on the old wooden floor, spots worn through to plaster on the wall where she hung her canvases, with two spotlights on the ceiling to illuminate her way. It's fitting, that I should follow her in living here. An artist, who moves to New York. As I am an artist, who moved from one block to another in a southern city of little consequence. It wasn't the move I planned or dreamed. These are the thoughts I think when I'm sinking into sleep after leaving the place I've called home for two years.

When all the furniture was removed, and nothing remained inside the loft but my cleaning products and an empty echo, I was able to see the big white box for what it truly is -- a place. Yes, there are memories and attachments to it, but I am the person who made it what it had become for me, and I will do the very same thing in the next place. Like Ana's scraped walls, the loft shows scars, signs of my life there. They aren't as telling or vibrant as her paint splatters, but they'll be cleaned and repaired just as hers were, in order for the next tenant to take possession. Fortunately, we're not simply the raising of our scars. We're the bodies that hold them, the minds that remember the memories of creating them. If we were just the scars, we would never grow or change. If we were just the things we left behind, we'd have no way to carry on.

For now, I'm done thinking about moving. I just want to be still for a while, to stay in this place, to pare down my ridiculous amount of possessions into something livable. No excess. No baggage. Just me, and what is constantly in use. I'm glad to leave the scars behind, and create new ones in this new place, in time. Right now, I just want sleep.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

why rental ads are a lot like dating sites

i've been searching, nearly non-stop, for a new apartment since january 6th. for a while, my search has felt completely in vain. there have been so many mishaps, setbacks, and let-downs. i thought i might move into the very first place i looked at (in early january). it seemed close to perfect. a little high-priced, but the location and features were amazing (closets. fireplace.) however, when it came time to sign the lease, the landlord backed out on me. i've never had that happen before, and it was frightening. it made me doubt myself and all that i've worked hard to accomplish over the past few years. looking back at that first apartment, there were definitely some flaws. the entire place was painted light green. no variation. neutral enough, but no warmth whatsoever. it was on a busy street, where the traffic might keep me awake at night. it was a walk uphill to anything of real value in the neighborhood. it's not that the walk wasn't worth it, or even necessary to a body like mine, but it's a lot of effort just to get to a pizza place and a handful of bars. i'm glad i wasn't allowed to settle for something like that. a little distance does wonders for my perspective.

then, another great place almost fell right into my lap. right timeline, right neighborhood. a little more work than i wanted to put into a house (yard maintenance), but for the price, it was a steal. after spending time there, and accepting the weird window in the shower and the water leak in the dining room ceiling, the broker informed me that they would need to increase the rent by $300 and make it my responsibility to find a renter for a separate unit downstairs. it was a clause i couldn't possibly fulfill, and i left, head hanging down, friends trailing behind me. they'd had ideas, too, that it would be the place for me. all my hope flew out the window.

thousands of rental ads. hours of driving around, taking down numbers and calling landlords, brokerage companies. nothing was working. i was starting to get very nervous, and it was difficult to remember i still had another month to find a new home for myself and my myriad belongings.

you see, i knew i'd find a place eventually. it's the timeline that was so troublesome for me, being forced to fit a mold that someone else had constructed for me. usually i have several months to look, exhaustively, and find something that fits at just the right time. quite frankly, i like to be in control. now, i am emotionally raw. it's out of my hands, and i have to leave. it won't be easy to leave this loft -- it's been home. it's what i know. i'm not used to making any sacrifices to live here. sometimes life doesn't give you a choice, about moving on. sometimes it throws the new in your face so you have no choice but to deal with it. it's a lot like emotional pain -- sometimes you are just unable to move past it until something else comes along.

hardwood floors. natural light. easy care. i wasn't sure if it was out there, for me, in my price range. in my time restraint. finding a temporary place that allowed me to extend that time restraint was proving to be difficult as well, because every landlord is ultimately looking out for themselves, not for the sad-faced girl begging for a shorter lease because she's indecisive and scared to commit to something and find out it's less than she needs. so many rental ads. so many appointments. do you know how i finally found the place? by not looking. i was just driving around, distractedly listening to music, when i stumbled into the neighborhood that would one day be my own.

finding a place to live is so similar to finding love. it's a fruitless search, at times. in that moment where you let yourself go and forget to try so hard, you might stumble upon the right thing at the right time, just by being open to possibility. or you might not. disappointments and delays happen, too. i've always been jealous of how easy other people seem to find things that fit them (significant others, jobs, homes), while everything is so difficult for me. my idealism gets the best of me, and time and time again, people tell me that you can't have everything you've ever wanted, and i've believed it far too easily. yes, it's difficult to find… but it's entirely possible you can find MORE than you ever wanted, at just the right time.

the truth is this: the house itself doesn't matter. it's the feeling you get when you walk in the door. it's knowing you'll be comfortable there, that it won't stand in the way of you being yourself. it's the same thing i've been searching for in a person, as well. i got lucky enough to find both, in the span of 25 days. yes, that journey, too, began on january 6th.

so, here i am, keys in hand. a new place. a new start. it's the next step, and i'm so excited to take it now that i know where i'm going. it's a perfect fit, for me. truthfully, i don't know what the next year of my life will bring, or if new york (or some other major city) is in my future at all. for now, i'm happy, right where i'm at, with hardwood floors and a hand in mine.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

the first day of many

i just returned yesterday from eleven wonderful days in new york. my trip was an excellent break from the monotonous routine of home and holidays, from the stresses of the past few months (and there have been many). i spent new years eve and the following week in the company of one of my most long-time friends. during this trip, i once again found myself browsing apartments for rent in my friend's new neighborhood, jackson heights, queens. when the time came to board the plane, i was actually ready to head back to north carolina -- i felt inspired, ready to write more music and move forward with the life i have built here.

this morning, my landlord unexpectedly knocked on my door. he chose today to tell me that he can no longer rent to me, that he needs the apartment for a sick family member who is moving to town for medical care. since i pay on a month-to-month basis with no formal contract, even though i have asked repeatedly to resign my rental contract (this is a lapse on both our parts), there is nothing i can do. i must move. he's giving me until march to find a new place. i am absolutely devastated. this loft has been my home for almost two years. it is my "new york in north carolina". i had intended to stay here for as long as possible, and now those dreams are dashed.

what a way to start a saturday morning. what a forced march towards something new. i suppose i could look at it as an adventure, but right now i can't see past the shock and pain. it is one thing to choose to leave when physically and emotionally ready, but it is quite another to be shoved out unexpectedly with no prospects in sight. the next two months will probably be rather rocky, and it comes at a time when i had just regained some semblance of footing from a rougher-than-usual autumn. all of this, with the smell of new york still lingering in my hair.

"our homes are our sanctuaries. they're our inviolate caves, the place we feel most safe and secure, where nothing outside can touch us."-PLR

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the first poem i've written in many years (go easy on me)

sweet like rotting fruit

i remember you slicing harry & david pears
in your kitchen and feeding me
one heavenly slice at a time. 
the swish of the knife as you pressed 
through the skin and your thumb
in my mouth as you pushed each piece past my lips.
i remember the shiver down my back
when you kissed me, your own
lips fresh and sweet with pear juice
and craving a pear later that night
when your lips had left mine and
travelled elsewhere.

today i cut into a harry & david pear
and sliced my thumb with the knife.
instinctively i brought it to my lips and sucked,
the taste of warm copper and cold juice
mixing together into a new memory.
sometimes we need to overwrite. sometimes
we need to reminisce. there is no romance
in the taste of blood, but i'll take it
if it means that the next time i bite
into a pear, i won't remember you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

loft updates

in case you didn't get the memo, i'm back with a vengeance to my home in nc. after a week of back-to-normal, my employers decided to give me a much-needed week-long break from work. it's been amazing thus far. i'm on weekday two, and shockingly, not spending all of my time sleeping. i've got a lot to do, and have gotten a lot done already. the biggest item on my list was trying to resolve the disdain i've developed for the chaos in my loft. i've always known my space could be amazing, but after living here a year and a half (minus the two months in st. maarten), i realize it wasn't reaching it's potential in the least. after being inspired by the minimalist studio i'd come to call home on the island, coming home to that chaos made me sick to my stomach. i knew a big upheaval was in order... but where to begin?

lucky for me, my answer came quickly. i drove past a new furniture consignment store within my first few days back in town. i walked in to look at their wares, and to ask about their process for choosing consignors. the owner made an appointment to come see several of the large pieces i've been desperate to move: the 7' tall entertainment center that matches my floors way too closely (the color of both is too honey-gold for my cold color style), and the red microsuede loveseat that was killing my color vibe (going for a good balance of cool, via grays, and warm, via taupe... bright red was swinging it from warm to hot, and not in a good way). he agreed to purchase the pieces for an agreeable rate, and is coming to pick them up today from the garage, where they are patiently waiting. these two pieces are the last  "i cannot possibly fit this into a minivan if i decide to move" items on my list, and being rid of them is a huge step in my progress.

even more than a thousand miles away, i thought about my loft often while i was gone, and could not seem to solve the conundrum of furniture placement. since i'm on a month-to-month lease at the moment, i even entertained the thought of moving again, to a different space in the same city. i couldn't bring myself to commit to such a drastic step, especially because there are so many things i absolutely love about this space. after removing the last two eyesores, the space instantly felt lighter and more easy to handle. the relocation was inspiring enough that we (the best friend and i) worked out a really awesome rearrangement. i am excited to try it out, but less excited that i'll have to wait almost a week to do so. in the meantime, i've got a lot of small and not-so-small things to keep me occupied, like organizing my busting-at-the-seams closet.

all of this progress is hot on the heels of a week of clothing thrifting, craigslist shopping, and my semi-annual pilgrimage to ikea. after not being able to really shop for seven weeks, but being constantly inspired by the likes of pintrest and blogs i regularly peruse, i feel like i really went overboard in the time since i've been back in winston. from craigslist, i picked up two bar-height director's chairs. i'd been on the hunt for a while for these taller models, to go with my sometimes-standing desk, and they have proven to be a very smart and comfortable choice that has warranted daily use. their previous owner had a great wire rack that i also snatched up, because it matched my other wire racks, but in smaller scale. it fits perfectly in the open space leading to the kitchen, creating a visual barrier i've desperately needed without completely shutting off the space.

to cope with my clothing obsession, i bought 40 more wooden hangers at ikea, and they are already full (bringing my total to something like 100 hangers for nice, non-foldable clothing and outerwear). i still have piles of tees, some of which i hope to make into tanks (via this cute tutorial). i still have stacks of jeans, and some items which have no hanger or space to stack (i still want a large dresser). i also have a huge box of yard-sale-able items that i threw together on my very last night in town before the trip. a friend of mine had a yard sale while i was gone, and graciously picked up my bins to throw in beside hers. i only sold one item, but i'm grateful i already have things organized and should be able to yard-sell again soon, provided i can procure a yard.

also at ikea, i found a 4-cube expedit unit in the as-is section for only $33 dollars, already assembled. when i picked it up, i thought about donating it to my nanny kid's playroom (which desperately needs organization options), but have since decided to keep it, since it fits perfectly under my desk. i'll use it to store my oft-used photography items, in fabric bins i already own. i also picked up two 16' tension wire mounts. my original plan was to use them to add curtains on the front of the 8'x8' sleeping loft (which will be a guest room and reading nook, once we add some railings for safety). now that we're rearranging the main room, at least one of them will span 14.5' of air to cordon off the 7' deep space in front of my two windows with floor to ceiling fabric room dividers, finally forming a sunlit bedroom that doesn't intrude on the rest of the space. it will also create a windowless living room, and (drum roll please) a dedicated photography shooting space with indirect natural light from the windows to the open-air porch.

so, yes, lots to do this week. lots to dream of and lots to work towards, but lots of progress made, and more to come.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

ten years later

ten years ago, i was sitting in american history class at my high school. outside of that classroom, american history was being made. as part of the newspaper staff, i was pulled from class shortly after the first tower was hit to view live coverage of the event. i watched the towers fall, wanting the whole time to cringe and turn away but refraining. a few years later, i visited new york and stood in what once was their shadow, and choked back tears, trying desperately to comprehend the loss of life we'd experienced as a nation. knowing thousands of people had died within blocks of exactly where i was standing. it was a feeling i'd never known, fear and bravery, fight and flight.

that day, i became more than a north carolina native, more than a united states citizen. i became, in my mind, a citizen of the world, with a new awareness that these things can and do happen. i didn't lose anyone personally. i didn't even know my new york friends, at that time. it was the first time in my life that the gravity of national events had ever affected me in such a manner. it pulled me down, held me in place, and hit me over and over until my ungrateful heart became grateful -- for life, for this kind of life, for those who provide it and sustain it... and for just how lucky i am to be born into it. this consciousness, for me, will always be tied to new york, and tied to this date. it will always jerk tears from my body, because i so often forget these things in the course of my privileged daily life.

ten years ago. that makes me feel old. at least i was able to grow older. at least that searing pain of loss, for me, is not a physical one. for so many, though, it is. they have sense memory of that day -- the sounds and smells, the adrenaline pounding them from the inside out, the rushed calls to relatives and the long walk home. words will never do it justice, especially not my words. it lives beneath the skin of the survivors, still subconsciously covered in fallen building dust. miles away, still waiting for a call that never came from a loved one who would never come home. the eyes on the other side of the television screen, knowing that they'd soon be called up to fight.

from we who viewed from afar. for everyone who will never forget. in honor of consciousness. don't forget to live.