Setting of the Sun

Last weekend, I was driving back to St. Pete from Orlando after spending a lovely time with Timmy. Our situation is still working quite nicely, and after a break from living together (which was SUPER needed), we are now missing each other enough to want to live together again. Which is such a great feeling. Absence and heart and fondness…that saying is so true.

As I was making the almost two-hour trek home, I realized that I had enough time to make it to the Gulf Coast to see the sun set. I don’t always get that chance since the beach is about 20-30 minutes away, which is of course totally doable normally. But I’m usually too tired to get out of the house again once I’m through that front door. And with work being as completely crazy as it has been right before school starts, I haven’t the energy to think about plans beyond my normal work hours.

As I sat on Indian Rocks beach, I fell a little bit more in love with this town I’m calling home. This place seriously rocks my socks off.

Warning: super overload of sunset pictures to commence, thanks to Timmy’s amazing gift that keep on giving–my super duper camera.

i was able to catch a little playing of strangers in the water

i was able to catch a little playing of strangers in the water

an accidental shot which I love

an accidental shot which I love

♥, VB

Frustrated Ramblings

I’ve been a little stressed lately. Not because of my life or work or family or friends or Timmy. None of that has been weighing me down, which I can delight in since that’s really the first time I can say that in a long, long time.

No, the things that have been stressing me out have been beyond my control, in the outside world, in the heads and words of the people that share the surface of the earth with me. People I’d really rather just go somewhere else. Away. Because they just suck.

I’ve always been a rather compassionate person, and the older I get, the more I feel. Feel for others like me, but also completely unlike me, and I think that’s a pretty snazzy quality to have. To be able to feel sympathy and empathy, to understand that I’m so small, that I’m just one of millions and billions, that my emotions are what make me different and special and help me to feel connected.

Maybe it’s because I battled depression for many years, and after trying an antidepressant that left me completely numb and absent and disconnected from life, it’s like those emotional abilities have been doubled or quadrupled in the last few years. It’s overwhelming sometimes to 100% understand the sufferings of others, to know that there are injustices in this world that I can do very little about. Yet I’m glad that I can feel these things, that I’m compassionate enough and dedicated enough to the work that I do so I can make any little type of difference I can.

It’s frustrating to see some injustices finally get attention now, things that common sense tells you have been going on forever, but that people have been content to ignore because it’s easier that way sometimes. Things like gender inequality, sexual assault, sexism, racism, bias, etc. blah, blah, blah. Things that mattered a lot to all of us when we were kids. Things that fired us up when we were still innocent enough to see injustice crystal clear.

What happened to people? When did people enjoy ignorance more than knowledge? When did people forget that suffering is awful? When did people become okay with not helping each other out, even when they would absolutely want someone to help them in their time of need? When did people forget what common sense meant?

How did people forget to feel?

At 31 and with chronic back pain that is totally not getting any better, I think about my future as a mother a lot. Clearly time is ticking away, à la My Cousin Vinny style. Pregnancy will be a harsh thing to put my back through in order to feel a love that’s pretty much indescribable. And Lord knows that Timmy would be an awesome dad.

But do I want to have children? Do I want to prepare a child to live in a world where people don’t care if they are hurting? Where people will dismiss their common sense in order to ignore emotions? A world that will allow anyone to be hurt, sexually, emotionally, physically, and then blame that same person for the pain they received?

The more I read the news, the more nauseated I become. Parents being arrested for allowing their children to become independent beings. Because kids who learn to fear the world and learn no common sense, real-world skills totally grow up to be well-functioning adults who don’t make the world more difficult for the rest of us, right?

People up in arms about sick patients being transferred to their city, patients who are citizens of this country, patients who deserve the best care they can get. Even though these outraged people were taught many, many years ago the basics of biology and disease transmission. People who couldn’t have cared less when the same disease was killing Africans because who cares about black people on another continent, right?

People of all races, genders, ethnicities, and education levels being abused, raped, assaulted, and no one truly getting that the fault lies with their attackers, not the attacked. Because who cares about people being violated as long as it’s not you, right?

I am but am still not used to the fact that the work I do, trying to help people get healthy, to lead healthy lives, mentally, physically, sexually, is so fought against by the very people I’m trying to help. The idea of learning how to prevent bad things is common sense, yet people focus on the tiny details that aren’t based in reality. These same people who forgot science as it was taught to us when we were 10 years old. The same people who hate that life is hard yet continue to make decisions and create environments where the default choices are the bad, unhealthy ones.

I understand that I chose a challenging field. Sex education is not something that everyone accepts as a normal part of understanding life. But it is, and if people listened to that common sense voice SCREAMING in their heads, they’d get that what I’m trying to do is help people NOT sleep with people they don’t like because they think that’s what self-esteem is.

I’m helping people NOT get pregnant when they don’t want to be or can’t afford it or don’t have the necessary skills to help a child grow up responsibly. I’m helping people NOT get sick by transmitting or being infected with dangerous, life-altering diseases that can rob them of a future child or even their life. I’m helping people build intimacy within relationships, I’m helping people gain control of their sexuality and have pride in their sexual decisions. I’m helping people understand that love is NOT violence or violation or harm. I’m helping people. Period.

I have found my calling, I know I am fulfilling my life’s purpose, and that makes me very fortunate. I’m so thankful to be on the path I’m on, and only wish that everyone could feel this way. I also recognize those people in my life who have found their niche and are truly rocking their shit out. My friends who are actors, musicians, activists, writers, motivators, educators, healers — you all inspire me. If you are on your path, I support you. I’m proud of you.

I understand that many people haven’t found their calling in life, their true passion, and are therefore miserable little trolls who want to make life harder for everyone else. It’s true, people who are sad and angry want to make others sad and angry in order to feel less alone. But is it really that hard to want to lift people up? It takes less energy to be a beacon of hope than a Debbie Downer.

For those that aren’t on your path, the energy you expend judging others, hindering progress and education, preventing solutions, we all get that you’ve forgotten what human decency looks and feels like. The world would be better served if you searched for your happy. You would clearly be better served if you found your happy.

Happy people don’t lash out, they don’t wish hurt and harm on others, they don’t idly stand by while others suffer. When you forget basic life lessons, how to treat others, how to practice self-control when you feel negative, how not to judge, you make life harder for yourself. You create the exact type of world that you criticize and insult.

And you frustrate me to no end. Because I can’t fix you. I can’t make you learn. I can’t make you listen nor can I make you open your eyes and your heart. I can’t make you want to care.

Which means that I have to do double the good work in order to balance out your negativity. Which creates resentment within me that I’d rather not have in my life. Which makes me pity you because you aren’t experiencing the full, glorious human range of emotions.

So I beg of my rock star friends: Keep doing you. Because when you do you, you increase the happy on earth. You make me proud and you keep my hopes up that there are other good people in the world.

And so ends my frustrated ramblings. Don’t worry, I’ll be back with more fun times and weekend shenanigans.

I am, after all, dating Timmy. :)

♥, VB

 

Freedom on the Lake

Obviously, the 4th of July was a few weekends back, but the further along we move into summer, the faster the time is slipping away from me. Honestly, what the hell is going on??

Bare with me while I catch you up on a super fun weekend spent laughing with friends, family, and my love at Lake Martin in Alabama. It was pretty much a perfect weekend. We flew into Atlanta Friday night and spent a few wonderful hours catching up with my parents. We then drove 2 hours to the lake the next morning, and parked our asses there until it was time to head back home. The wonderful Crosswy family welcomed us to their amazing lake house, and treated us to some boat time, amazing food, and the most relaxing time.

They are also the family that won the BOTE stand up paddleboard grand prize at our birthday party, so they also invited us to take that beauty out on the lake for a spin. That did not suck and only made my craving to have my own paddleboard increase exponentially.

We spent an amazing day with family, including Timmy’s mom and stepdad, whom we hadn’t seen in MONTHS, so that was a biiiig treat! Abigail’s stepdad made the most incredible potato salad that I kept sneaking bites of through the weekend and I don’t feel shame about that at all. When a potato salad is good, it’s the freaking best.

Let’s not forget our group’s attempt at a redneck-themed Fourth of July weekend. It’s quite clear that Timmy won the game there, but I feel like I got the best shopping experience when I was complimented by a Floridian woman who clearly didn’t realize that my purchases were a joke. Go FL.

Finally, after 100 attempts to take that lovely family photo above as the sun set and not being able to get the flash working, I decided to try a bunch of different settings in the game room on our last night. They aren’t fantastic, but god damn I love this camera!

I love little weekends like that, a quick getaway, filled with love, laughter, and delicious food. Thank you to the Crosswy family again for the hospitality, we adore y’all. And in case you were wondering, I’m keeping all my America gear. As Timmy’s life partner, I’ll probably need it again in the near future thanks to his hijinks.

♥, VB

Concrete Jungle

Three weekends ago, Timmy and I took a weekend trip up to NYC to visit my bestie, Denise, and her husband Vinnie before they bring forth their love child around August. They are amazing friends and came to visit us last year and we took them to Universal Studios for their wedding present. It was as good of a time as one can have in Lakeland. The original plan for this year was to have them visit us again, but in a way better town than Lakeland, eating way better food, and generally just being a better time than last year. But alas Denise was too preggers and her doctor wouldn’t allow any more flights until baby comes.

Not that going to NYC is such a bad thing. Obviously I love it there, it was my home for 4 years during college. But now that I live in St. Pete, my life here is just so amazing. I feel like I’m on vacation a large portion of the time, and I’m always super relaxed. NYC is just SOOOOOOOOO much, sometimes too much, so trips there generally leave me more exhausted than when I left. Last time we went, we packed so much in that weekend because Timmy had never been, jeez, it was nuts. So although I knew we were going to be more chill than our last time to the city, it’s still a lot to psych yourself up for.

It was an under-the-radar kind of trip because our main objective was to hang with Denise and Vinnie before baby comes. I didn’t get in contact with a lot of people because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see them. It is so stressful to try to make plans to see so many lovely faces in such a short amount of time, and I was NOT trying to stress out this weekend in particular.

Luckily, we hit the weather jackpot AGAIN (we went in August 2012, and the weather didn’t get above 80, which is UNHEARD of during city summers), and had an amazing time. They live now in Hastings-on-Hudson, which Timmy excitedly pointed out is where they’ve shot a few scenes of HBO’s The Leftovers (he clearly has never accidentally (or on purpose) walked on set on the way to class many many many times, as nearly all NYU students can attest to). Their town is freaking ADORABLE. We couldn’t get over how quaint it was, and just a 45 minute train ride from the city. It’s amazing how you forget all that’s close to the city yet so completely different.

Hastings-on-Hudson, complete with hash marks

loved this little theatre

We arrived Friday morning, which was key to getting all we could out of this trip. We spent Friday afternoon wandering around the city after grabbing lunch with Alex, one of my dearest friends from college. Man I love that guy. We stayed with him in his AMAZING condo in Tribeca last time we visited, and I only get prouder and prouder of all that he’s accomplished since we graduated. Once you own your own condo where the elevator opens up into your place, you know you’ve arrived like a BOSS.

He chose a super tiny Mediterranean place in the West Village (man, my friends know me so well. Both him and Denise know how obsessed I am with Med food, and both planned equally delicious meals for me to come home to) called Moustache Pitza and it was legit. The two things I miss most about NY are the transit and the food. You always hit it out of the park with food there, and it’s always the smallest, most unfamous places.

Later, we wandered around the West Side Highway up to The High Line, east to the Chelsea Market, which remains one of my favorite places on earth where Timmy’s head almost exploded, and then back north to Denise and Vinnie’s. What an amazingly chill and super fun day.

The next day, we went back into the city while Denise and Vinnie took a parenting class and OF COURSE WE WENT TO THE MUSEUM OF SEX. I hadn’t been there since 2005, but knew we HAD to go as soon as I saw what their new exhibit contained: a boobie bounce house. SHUT YOUR FACE. The entire exhibit was set up like a sex carnival, with a “Find the G Spot” mirror maze that gave me immediate motion sickness and I had to sit it out, a galloping dick skeeball race (which I intelligently re-named SKEETball, to which the museum employee laughed and thought was the most amazing thing ever), the bounce house, and Grope Mountain — an orifice climbing wall. Needless to say, we had a freaking amazing time.

Later that night, we took Vinnie and Denise out to Harvest on Hudson, which was where they actually had their rehearsal dinner. It’s absolutely one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to, and since it was summer, we could actually see outside and watch the sun go down over the river (we couldn’t in March, it was dark at like 5 PM). Leah and Mike joined us (which is incredible to see college friends so many times in one year. That hasn’t happened since actual college!), and we laughed our asses off while Mike and Timmy inappropriately discussed prolapses and other medical conditions.

Sunday arrived WAY too quickly, and we went to have a late brunch in Astoria with our other close friend Nikki, yoga goddess extraordinaire, and her close friend from CA. We ate at Locale where I continued to stuff myself with homemade pasta and love on my friends until our flight. We watched the Netherlands vs. Mexico World Cup game and it was all good.

This trip was crazy fun. Denise and Vinnie are going to be such amazing parents, and for us to see their new place, their new town, it was so amazing. I’m so proud of them and I can’t wait to meet the newest addition to our crazy little circle. Until next time NYC.

♥, VB

Making It Yourself: Maps on Canvas

I’m not a DIY-er. I’m impatient, not creative, nor do I want to look up 15,000 steps to create something I can easily buy on sale at TJ Maxx. Some people have the craft bug in them; I’m not one of those people.

But every so often (and by often I mean maaaaayyyyybe once every 12 years), I’ll find something that I know I can accomplish with few ingredients and steps. I’ll think to myself, “Now this is a craft someone like myself can do and not f*^k up too badly.” Bonus points for crafts that look like you were trying to slightly f*^k it up anyway.

I can paint the hell out of things, and I like to think I’m pretty handy around the house. Like my desk-turned-into-tv-stand-and-storage, I can definitely do things that don’t require much other than paint, brush, and stapler (I mean desk stapler, not a fancy schmancy one). So why not try to do a craft that involves a painting-like approach?

I bought this map probably 6 years ago with the intention to get it framed so that it looked like an antique. Little did I know at the time that having to custom order a frame for 50″ x 32″ was somewhere in the million dollar range (I exaggerate, but yes, that’s what it feels like when you’re a grad student). And so it just sat. And sat. And sat some more.

world map

We almost threw it out a bunch of times, but I held onto the idea that something could be done with it. Pinterest definitely served as an inspiration because I know I would’ve NEVER heard of Mod Podge anywhere else. So while I had the idea in my head of what I could do with it, I never quite had the motivation until a few weeks ago.

I decided to just say screw it, and let’s make this project a reality. The plan was to split the map into three sections, Mod Podge them onto the canvases, and make interesting yet super easy art. So off I went to Michael’s, armed with a 20% digital coupon, and bought 3 15″x 30″ canvases. Since I’m lazy as hell, I eyeballed the sections and cut, hoping for the best. Don’t do this if you really want perfection.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took one section at a time because, duh, and Mod Podged the canvases first.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m sure there’s a WAY more precise method of doing this, but I’ve already established that this isn’t the perfect way to DIY a canvas map. I used foam brushes to distribute the glue all over the canvas and down the sides since the map was overhanging (which is what I wanted).

I laid the map down on the canvas and did my best to get out the air. You can see that I sucked at this step. In my defense, this map had been rolled in its container for YEARS, so getting it to lie flat at all was a huge success.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI repeated this process for the other two canvases, sucking equally at getting the air out of each. You can also see that I accidentally tore the Hawaiian Islands, but hey, they’re islands. At least I didn’t tear an entire country in half.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once all 3 canvases were done, I waited the required time as directed on the Mod Podge bottle (I think it was 2 hours). Then I Mod Podged the top of each canvas with two coats, waiting 20 minutes in between each coat. I took down the entire bottle of Mod Podge with this project (and I’ve used the words Mod Podge more times in this post than I’ve ever said in my whole life).

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI let them cure for two days on my dining room table. Warning: be ready with a wet paper towel in case anything drips on the surface of whatever you’re using. Since I’m also not super precise, I kept brushing Mod Podge onto my table when trying to brush the canvas sides, and luckily was able to wipe it up immediately.

After curing, I hung them and was surprisingly impressed at my ability to not destroy the map. They kinda look vintage, look kinda artsy, and definitely look better than just framing the original map. I also eyeballed hanging them with spaces in between each canvas because I can’t be bothered with a ruler and level.

With the coupon, I spent around $65 on 3 canvases, the brushes, and the Mod Podge. Not bad for a non-DIY-er. Not bad.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

♥, VB