MARRIAGE!

Hey, y’all, I have news…

This weekend, at my favorite place in the world, Brian popped the question. AHHHHH!

IMG_1275.jpg

I never understood why, on Facebook, people would post about their engagements with such trivial things things like, “Words can’t describe…” and, “So excited for this next chapter…” But I sorta get it now. Words really can’t describe what it feels like when he gets down on one knee. And engagement certainly is a new chapter—just two days in, things already feel different. But in the best way.

So send me your advice (and your wedding tips)! This girl’s on a budget and will be reading A LOT of blogs about how to have an affordable, but fun, wedding. Cheers!

Advertisements

Girl, Funemployed: Part II

About a month ago, suddenly and surprisingly, the firm I was working for was not able to renew my permalance contract for reasons unknown. Consider my tongue held.

Last month, I wrote about it. A few weeks ago, I took a trip to the beach. And this past week, I got to work a trade show in Las Vegas. It’s been an adventure.

But what’s next? Why has this question been so hard to work out? Am I rushing to try to figure it all out too quickly?

comfort-mood-relax-75468
Cred

Things I think about:

  • Budget. How much money will I need as a freelancer to pay my bills and maintain my lifestyle? (Zoey!)
  • Health insurance. Since my health insurance ended on the last day of my contract, I’ve got to be a big girl and buy it on my own. Right?
  • Travel. I’m going to take some time to think this summer (while still freelancing, ’cause a girl’s gotta eat). But how long can I afford to do this? Can I swallow that West Coast plane ticket cost to see my favorite Brit who I begrudgingly forgive for choosing the other side of the country for a long-overdue visit to the States?
  • Family. Especially during hard times, family is the most important. Visiting family now is more important than ever.

It’s strange—I have no PTO to keep track of, no full-time employer to report to. So why am I sitting here wishing I had PTO to keep track of, and a full-time employer to report to?

It’s hard to separate truly living from how to pay for it. And here we are again talking about plane tickets and budgets and my bank account.

I’m calling month two of funemployment “the makeup.” Because month two, for me, is getting up and putting on a little makeup. It’s brushing myself off and making up with myself for all the mistakes and fear. It’s moving on and figuring shit out. And it feels pretty good so far!

Carolina Beach

The Carolinas have always been home. But home means different things to different people. Is home a place? The family you surround yourself with? Is it more of a feeling than a physical structure?

For me, home wasn’t just the house I grew up in. It was one- or two-week vacations at Sunset Beach. It was Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Betsy’s in Montgomery, Alabama. This past weekend, it was a one-night stay at the Microtel in Carolina Beach, a short weekend adventure in the greater adventure of life and, if you read my last post, semi-unemployment.

IMG_9745.JPG

Carolina Beach has a calm, lovely, welcoming charm to it. The main strip is lined with bold and colorful homes, just as you’d expect from a standard Southern beach town. The boardwalk is a short stretch of Fudgeries and kitschy beach shops, with a sprinkle of local flair nooked among the Hampton Inns, a McDonald’s, and a one-block-wide county fair.

I will admit, I’ve been spoiled when it comes to beaches—my family’s beach locale, Sunset, is a true hidden gem. Or at least I pretend that it’s hidden. People don’t know about it in the way they do Myrtle or the Outer Banks or Martha’s Vineyard.

I was at Carolina Beach—well, technically, Kure Beach—for a wedding, though I’d never before heard of or met the bride and groom. I was a plus-one and, yes, it was a little strange. But upon meeting a mutual friend or two and even the mother/father of the bride/groom, it felt as welcoming as any other wedding I’d been directly invited to.

The venue: Fort Fisher Aquarium. I hadn’t been there since the fourth grade; when I think of that field trip, what comes to mind is faint but real—the school bus taxiing us from our elementary school to the doors of some extension of the aquarium where we could collect fish and look at them under microscopes. Those big rubbery rain boots we wore to collect the specimens. Nathan Ogborn getting his pants wet and the teachers getting really mad. The premade bag lunches (because I wasn’t at all upset about the totally-average turkey and cheese with a side of Lay’s and a Capri Sun, which I of course turned into a cell phone when I was finished, the orange straw serving as the antenna).

The wedding was beautiful, unlike any I’d been to before, and before I knew it a night of champagne, overindulging in sweets and food (note the order in which I wrote those), and making friends with people you’d never see again was over. It was 7:00 a.m., the morning after the charade. Hungover as hell and unable to go back to sleep, I pulled a “screw it” and decided a walk on the beach would beat half-sleeping in a beach-themed Microtel for the next three hours. My friend (the one who was actually invited to the wedding) was a good sleeper, so I wanted to be courteous and slip out unheard. I unlocked and opened the unnecessarily loud door and heard a little toss and turn. But I knew that I was ultimately in the clear; I escaped unheard, and let my friend catch up on her beauty sleep while I walked off my hangover.

That morning, the beach was everything I needed. It provided an overdue moment of clarity—one I hadn’t had in a really long time—as I reflected on where I was in my life. Something about the soft air, the unbraced smiles from humans and children and dogs and even beach critters makes you free. I find it hard recreating that feeling anywhere in the city or suburbs. There’s just something so special about looking out into that big body of water, knowing that, if you really try, you can find your way.

After the walk, a cute-from-the-outside corner coffee/wine shop struck my fancy. I walked in, ready to expect a cheesy beach coffee shop with hand-painted “What happens at the beach stays at the beach” decor. But I was pleasantly surprised at the dark hardwood and soft, orange lighting behind the small coffee bar. It was almost as if this place was soundproofed three times over; you couldn’t hear a grain of sugar drop among the barista, two young male cops laughing about the previous night’s happenings, and me. I became privy to the young cops’ animated story of the two high-school kids they busted the night before, just eight hours ago at this point in the morning. The cops didn’t mind. They told me to “cover my ears.” I didn’t, and instead cracked a smile at the ridiculousness of their tale. Beach culture is weird.

To my delight, the flat white I ordered was as authentic as any I’d had, mind you I’ve never actually been to Australia. An actual double shot of espresso with microfoam later, I made my way back to the Microtel. I thought about home. Now, as I sit here with my home-brewed coffee and tap water, drinking from one of my favorite plastic Mardi Gras–themed cups, I think about home. What home once was may not be what it is today. And that’s okay. But it does make me think.

Now, home is a visit to my parents’ house in North Carolina. It’s a weekend stay at Brian’s dad’s house in the suburbs of Chicago. And for the 22 hours I was there, it was Carolina Beach—a stretch of sea and sand that kept me safe under moonsoon-like rains and a sorta-bad hangover. A town of friendly-ish beach locals, in- and out-of-state tourists, beach puns, coffee shops, and a gorgeous beach. A place that provided me more peace than I ever expected to find over a short weekend trip in my home state of North Carolina.

Girl, Funemployed: Part I

Unemployment can be a totally foreign concept—until it happens to you.

For me, it was two weeks ago today that I got my notice (a short-term contract that was supposed to go permanent), and it’s taken me these two long weeks to write about it.

2016-24-August-men in the shadows
Cred

This isn’t the first time it’s happened, actually. Back in 2015, an ad agency I was working for faced the same “financial constraints” (i.e., loss of client), much to my frustration, as I’d just left a stellar job only a few months prior to go work for these chumps.

But what you do after a setback says a lot about your character, and I knew this time around I wasn’t going to let myself curl up in a ball and simply wish it all away. Because it happened. And when shit happens, we need to move on.

It’s a big pill to swallow, but I’m holding myself accountable. I’m taking control and mapping out next steps—day by day, week by week. While many of these thoughts will remain private, I’m writing down (and posting) a collection of things I’ve done since that day. So if anything like this ever happens to you, reach out to me. I can help you get through it.

Day One

Today, I let myself just…relax. I took a bath. I cleaned the apartment. I listened to some new records. While home alone, I watched some TV that I wouldn’t subject poor Brian to on an average weeknight while we’re both at home. I took the day to take my sweet pup on two hour-long walks. It was wonderful.

Day Two

On day two, I reached out to my network. Thankfully, being in my home state of North Carolina, I have people here that are willing to go to bat for me. I am absolutely thrilled to say one of these catch-ups led to a freelance opportunity in June. Hallelujah.

Day Three

The third big thing I did this week, something I’d never done before, is apply for unemployment. Though it could work out where I won’t need unemployment support by the time my application processes (I could have another job in the next few months, if things go well), I learned that it doesn’t hurt to apply.

Other things I did this week that made me happy:

  1. Took a walk with Zoey every day.
  2. Had lunch with my mom twice.
  3. Went to a DAR ceremony with my ma. (She presented a medal to a cadet who had just entered the army as Second Lieutenant.)
  4. Clipped coupons. I’m a store-brand girl anyways, and I’ve never had any shame in using coups, but this week I became more conscious of my grocery bill.
  5. Went to a soccer game. I can’t even tell you the last time I’d been to a soccer game.

I’m calling month one of funemployment “the breakup.” Because a breakup goes both ways—while my last job left me, I realize, mentally, I’d already left it too. My first experience with unemployment was . . . let’s just say . . . rough. But I don’t think this one will take me long to get over. Here’s to a healthier, brighter future.

Puppies & Snuggles (Sometimes)

About a month ago, Brian and I finally did what we’d been talking about for years. We got a dog (!!!)

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 9.52.17 AM.png

This girl’s name is Zoey, (zōē), which is Greek for “life.” And full of life she certainly is. Look at that face!

A few things about Zoey: She’s sweet (sometimes), energetic (sometimes), and reserved (sometimes). That’s the thing I’ve learned about dogs—you can never predict exactly how they’re going to be on any given day.

My dad, a retired vet, seems to think she’s about 7 months old. She’s definitely a German mix, but we’re not sure what else. So maybe we’ll look into one of those DNA tests or something.

Some things I’ve learned in the first month of dog ownership:

  • If you’ve never had a dog, you won’t know what you’re doing 50% (or more) of the time. Find yourself a friend who has some experience raising a dog. Buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for all the knowledge you can get out of them. Repeat with as many dog owners as you know.
  • It’s expensive. Take the adoption fees, apartment deposit, food, crate, pet bed, toys, and treats—not to mention all the vet bills, of which Brian and I hit the jackpot because my dad cares for our dog mostly for free—and you’re already looking at (one or more) full paycheck(s). And that’s just in the upfront. Do your research and ensure you’re financially ready before bringing home your own dog.
  • It’s very hard to work full-time and own a dog. Leaving her at the apartment during the day is the hardest thing Brian and I find about it all. Crate training is hard. DOG TRAINING is hard. I just keep telling myself, “Patience, Leah. Patience.” Then I pour myself a big ol’ glass of wine.
  • No dog is perfect. Except for Zoey. But owning a dog is 100% worth it. It takes calmness, a financial commitment, and a big, big lifestyle change, but the companionship that comes with it cannot be explained until you’ve got your own furry companion to curl up and snuggle with on the floor because she doesn’t really like the couch or the bed but maybe that’s because we haven’t let her up on the couch or bed yet. It’s hard to say.

I’d like to use this opportunity to say goodbye (and RIP) to two sweet dogs I knew in my lifetime that have moved on from this earth and into puppy heaven. Beau, you were such a kind and loving and sweet dachshund. You will be missed so much, little pup. Rosaline (Roz, for short), you were the most energetic, wholesome French Bulldog I’ve ever met. My memories with you span 10 years, and that’s no small lifetime for a dog as well-loved as you.

Housewarming

I love having visitors in my home. It truly does make the house feel more warm, doesn’t it?

house-1946371_960_720
Source

Last weekend, it was my boyfriend’s dad, who I hope will, one day, be my father-in-law. (Shh.) Mr. Smith brought with him a car full of goodies and a heart full of joy to see his son. While he was here, Brian and I took him to a German brewery and a Cuban restaurant, and we walked him around both downtown Raleigh and Durham. The time passed all too quickly.

This weekend, it’s my sister (one of three, actually). Katie and I have a special bond over music, singing, old things, Zelda Fitzgerald and thrift stores. This morning, I look forward to taking her to the flea market, where we can hopefully find one of all those things. All bets are off if the girl scouts are selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts again this weekend.