The Next Beginning

Alright, let’s face it, I haven’t been the most prolific blogger.

BUT, I do see blogging in my future, just not under the TWATSarah name, though what a good name it is.

I’ve decided to really dedicate some free time to creating a life blog- a blog that is mostly focused on crafting/creating, cooking, drinking, thrifting/antiquing, and roadtripping through America’s South. I share snippets of these loves of mine through Facebook, Instagram, and to a lesser extent, Twitter…but I’m ready to chronicle them to the next degree.

Will anyone care? That remains to be seen. Craft blogs are a dime a dozen, tucked into the Lifestyle Blogging folds that permeate the entire internet. I want to write and I want to create and I want to share, both my successes and mistakes and everything in between.

I’ve purchased my domain name and will be developing the site in the next few weeks. I’m excited and anxious, but I hope you’ll humor me occasionally by checking it out. And yes, Cottonball will make appearances on the new blog, though it won’t be completely centered on him.

Thank you to those of you who have seen my few and far between posts here on TWATSarah. I appreciated your comments and thoughts throughout this process and look forward to seeing at the next stop on the information superhighway…

Blog on-

Sarah

Hey Mr. Postman…

When I was a child, our mailbox was a magical, wonderous thing. No really, it was magical- Connected directly to the house, the exterior of it was this shiny black wrought iron door flap, heavy and clanking when opened and closed. It revealed a miniature chute, large enough for envelopes and small (trade paperback-sized) parcels to reside in until retrieved. Inside the house, though, it was accessed by a miniature door- a true to scale door, with little hinges and a wee knob, tall enough for a Barbie or lithe stuffed animal to stand in its threshold. And if you remember, mail as a child had nothing to do with bills or notices…it was birthday cards containing five-dollar bills, glossy Christmas catalogues from Sears and Penney’s, and letters from pen pals on the other side of the globe. Mail, during childhood, only existed for wonder and glee…well, it did during my childhood.

As I grew up into a teenager, the magical mailbox became an extension of my hallway locker. Friends would drop in notes on sick days, carefully folded like envelopes or triangular footballs, angst-ridden origami of the 14- to 18-year-old set. One of my fondest memories of the mailbox during those years, though, was how it provided the ultimate clue the year my house was TP’d one chilly Halloween night. Several days after that two-ply incident, a set of keys was deposited in the mailbox- discovered by a landscaping crew who had visited one final time that year to rake leaves. I can recall finding the keys in the mailbox, not understanding at first why they were there- until I noticed the key chain. A key chain I had purchased for a boy I was no longer dating. A boy who played soccer and had received this soccer ball hologram key chain from me. And then I knew who had TP’d the house…he who had dropped his keys in my yard during the melee…leaving a clue like an after school special…assisted by the unsuspecting yard crew that acted out of kindness…leaving his keys in my possession.

 

And oh how triumphant I felt the next Spring when I sold that damn keychain at our garage sale.

 

But I digress…

Mail at this stage in my life no longer is filled with such wonder and glee…more bills than letters, more junk than prizes, more recycling than treasured keepsakes. BUT then there is December. Oh beautiful December, with Christmas cards and delivered boxes of gifts from Floridian family. And for moi, the rare and elusive birthday card by mail…more often sent by local restaurants offering free desserts- not that I’m complaining. I still get excited every time a hand-written envelope arrives in December, and I hope that feeling never fades.

I only receive a small handful every year, but I treasure them. And I save them each season in bins of Christmas décor; reading them again one year later is a favorite tradition. I’ve saved a handful for many years, the ones sent by grandparents the last year of their life, or the ones with funny stories written inside, or even pretty ones that just deserve to live on like a picture window of holidays past.

I hope you receive plenty of friendly, delightful mail this December…and consider sending cards next year- trust me, your recipients will love you for it.

Crafting Away the Holiday

Anyone who is a friend of mine on Facebook or follows me on Instagram knows that I am not afraid of crafting. While by no means an artist, I am definitely a creator- of simple things, of course. Bracelets and worry dolls from embroidery floss, bird feeders of pine cones slathered in Skippy, or shapeless Barbie clothes from swatches of fabric, I’ve worked my way through many a craft throughout my life. Pinterest has, obviously, taken crafting to a new level- there are more ideas than time, more possibilities than pragmatism, and more ways to “upcycle” than I can even dream of (or frown upon, depending on how bastardized the original item becomes). We even purchased a home that had space I designated as a craft room; essentially a walk-in junk drawer that houses the bits, the partials, the thrifted, and the picked. So instead of getting my addiction under control, we sequestered a space where I could spread out my addiction but keep it tucked away, like the lady that I am.

For the past three years, my closest girlfriends and I have gathered in the fall or early winter to do Christmas Crafts. And each of those years, we ask ourselves “why we didn’t start these in August?” Or “why not Christmas Craft (as a verb) all year long?” But regardless, we usually end up with some finished pieces, either as gifts or keepers. And unlike those damn BYOB painting classes, I usually like what I’ve created- so I’d like to chronicle the past few years and ask you to help me come up with ideas for 2014 Christmas Crafts.

2011- The year of the Waterless Snowglobe

Thanks to overpriced versions at Anthro, the girls and I decided to create our own waterless snowglobes in 2011. We collected jars, bottlebrush trees, creepy faux snow (creepy because I think it causes mesothelioma if inhaled), beads, pine cones, and all sorts of wonderful wintery bits. I, of course, had to find unusual jars from antique stores (which I still buy to this day…and secretly stash in my Craft Room), BUT I really did end up with some great snowglobes! I gifted them to my mom (who LOVED them) and my MIL (who probably gave them to Goodwill) and kept a few for myself. 313642_10150459280304314_674800035_n 391146_10150459280569314_77638212_n

I’ve made a few more since these, with even more unusual jars and great mid-century Christmas miniatures…but these pics will have to suffice for now. I don’t want to overwhelm you, of course, and cause some sort of yuletide sensory overload.

2012: The year of Felt ‘n Glitter

Normally, I shy away from glitter- don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff…but I do NOT like that crap all over my house. It ends up on my face, my socks, my husband’s underthings, and my cats’ poop. So when we discovered these magical “Glitter on the Inside” ornaments, I got a little out of control. I did NOT gift these to my MIL, since I figured they would shatter during shipping…BUT I gifted them to my writing classmates…and gifted them to myself of course.

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And yes, cocktails were involved…and Pledge Floor Care…but not as part of the cocktail. That’s the secret to holding the glitter on the inside!

2012 also involved felt ornaments. Again, I gifted some to my mother (she LOVED them or did a good job pretending to) and to my MIL, who I suspect mis-took them as dog toys, so they were likely destroyed within nanoseconds. But I had seen felt ornaments up and down West Elm’s holiday page, so I had to try a few out myself. They were, at best, “meh”. But awfully dainty and pretty for dog toys…

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2013- The Year We Bought a House and I only made One Craft

Despite having a relatively well-organized Craft Room now, I was only able to create one thing this year. But I was inspired by our new home’s red door and wanted a Christmas wreath to pop and play against it. Again, felt was the star witness in this Case of Crafting.

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So this begs the question- What shall I do in 2014? I have finally figured out that I need to start thinking about this NOW, instead of in July. All suggestions welcome! If it involves a sewing maching, kiln, or other “fancy” piece of Arts & Crafts equipment, though, it’s a no-go from the start. So I would say “intermediate basic” is a good level to aim for…

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays ya’ll!

The Power of “Should”

Everything I’m about to write should come with the caveat that this is just an opinion of mine, albeit one I feel strongly about. I won’t pretend to be some sort of half-witted life coach, nor do I even know if I give advice that is considered to be good! I’m an only child, so I didn’t have any practice giving sage advice to a younger sibling. In fact, I’ve always considered myself a loner that happens to have a brilliantly spun web of friends, near and far, distant and close. A dichotomy for sure, but strangely enough describes me to a “T”. But I will say that I fancy myself a good-hearted, kind, balanced person and have been told as such but many. And as a nearing-middle aged woman working in a male-dominated field, I’ve been asked that oh-so-dreadful question, “For young women coming up in your field, what is the one piece of advice you would give them?” numerous times. I loathe that question- everyone expects some Tony Robbins-esque, “Be all that you can be!” answer, and I’m sorry, I prefer something useful…something pragmatic…something that may not light a fire immediately, but can sustain a glow for the rest of one’s days.

So here’s my advice- for career, for relationships, for home, for life- Never underestimate the power of “Should”.

Initially, perhaps it sounds strange, or silly, or pointless…but I feel that if everyone employed the power of “Should”, they’d be happier…healthier…calmer…any number of possibilities. It’s an ordinary exercise that may have extraordinary effects. When you “Can/Could”, all you do is determine ability. Can you do this? Can you have that? But “Should” has so many other parameters- be it ethics, manners, appropriateness, or other, which thus leads to intelligent decision-making, something so many of us fail at time and time again.

One of my proudest achievements is my financial health. Notice I said “health” and not “wealth”, a critical distinction to make. I’m a biologist…”wealth” is really not an achievable goal for me. But in a country anchored in credit card debt, mortgage and banking crises, and overall poor financial decision-making, my financial health is not something I’m shy about. And part of the credit (pun intended) goes to the power of “Should”. Picking out a new handbag, shoes, even a car, I would always ask myself:

 

 “Can I afford this? Yes.

Should I afford this? No”.

 

I am, admittedly, less disciplined when it comes to things like donuts.

 

Maybe it’s not universal advice…and sometimes, the answer is “YES, YES YOU SHOULD <fill in the blank>”, especially if it pertains to something in your date’s teeth, or going to the gym. I simply feel that if more of us used this to develop decisions, we’d just make smarter ones overall. I will probably ALWAYS struggle with the donut example, but I’m working on it!

Sentimental Sarah

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I wanted to do was watch video from one of yesterday’s late night shows. It’s not every day that you get to watch your best friend from college bantering with famous talk show hosts, promoting his new scientifically tawdry book. If that was, in fact, my every day, it would probably be a little strange.

Watching him discuss and promote his latest book was both exciting and bittersweet. And the bittersweet part is purely selfish- dwelling on our complicated friendship always strikes a melancholy chord within.

My existence in the mid-1990’s cannot be explained without reference to him; those inexplicably strange years where you straddle child- and adulthood, trying to carve out your own path without relying heavily on hand-me-down tools. And there was J- my inseparable partner in crime creating a murky friendship that could never quite be defined.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, assumed we were a couple. His mom would cook us romantic dinners on her back balcony…my parents felt they should meet him…his employers introduced me as his girlfriend…the list continues on and on. It would thrill me when people assumed our couplehood- J and I didn’t discuss it, and it was probably one of very few things we didn’t talk about. He never called me his girlfriend, but he didn’t deny it when an outsider assumed. Despite it completely consuming me, I never broached it, either- I was so terrified that pinning him down (metaphorically) would cause our closeness to completely fall apart. I loved our closeness so dearly that never asking for a definition became our own partnered lynchpin.

Nothing about J screamed “gay” to me- and I wasn’t just blinded by my affection. Even girl friends that would ask me about our status never tossed it out as a possibility. Had they sensed it, maybe I would have taken pause. But alas, there were no outward signs…other than this man that adored me wouldn’t kiss me, hold my hand, or come on to me in the way that I wanted. We should share a room or a bed and there would be no contact whatsoever. It never, ever dawned on me that he was gay.

We wrote each other letters for years, particularly in the summer months when we would go our separate ways. The internet was becoming more ubiquitous by then, but letter writing was our “thing”. Weekly, sometimes daily letters would be exchanged, discussing the philosophical things that 19-21 year-olds discuss at length. Plans for the future were hatched, and concerns about loneliness were more than just subtext. We made plans to follow each other everywhere we went, and when he begged me to promise to care for him when his diabetes would became crippling, I obliged without a second thought. Surely if he wanted me to care for him when we were old, that must mean we would eventually be a true couple, right? Even if it took him 50 years to admit it, I was blindly willing to wait.

Things became too heavy for us in mid-1996, though. I don’t recall exact details…and I’d probably be mortified at them, in all honesty.  J sent me a letter in June, 1996 that contained his sexuality admission. I was completely shattered- though I now recognize that when your reality is based in denial, it’s a fragile reality that is easily rocked to the core.

After watching him on TV, I retrieved the letter which I keep pressed between pages of a journal that chronicles our relationship. The notebook paper has yellowed ever so slightly, but the handwriting is as memorable as it was all those years ago. And I still tear up when I read the first paragraph- he was already a brilliant writer at that age, and his anguish is palpable, even within one-dimensional words. His apology to me breaks my heart over and over again, but it inevitably re-heals old wounds. He aptly predicted an exciting life, and asked me to not only watch him go in this world, but to also go with him.

Our relationship today is like many old friendships, sewn together loosely by the wispy strands of Facebook. I don’t have his phone number, nor does he mine…and email/messages are few and far between. We’ve both found “Johns” (his a Juan, mine a Jon) to spend our lives with, and I know that he’s just a keystroke away should I ever need him. I don’t entirely know how he remembers our friendship, but I hope it’s with fondness and tender memories that mirror my own.

Write, written, but not quite wrote

God’s honest truth and without provocation by me, people have been telling me for as long as I can remember to write a book. I don’t exactly know where their sentiments come from- perhaps they think I’m witty? Or perhaps they find my weird, perverse observations of the world entertaining? I’m just not entirely sure. But either way, I’ve let the idea marinate for a long time…and over the years, I’ve developed “ideas” for stories that I’ve kept hidden in the attic of my mind. And by ideas, I truly mean that- tendrils and wisps of things, characters…scenes…and dialogue that have neither continuity nor foundation. I would mention it to my husband from time to time, and finally he just flat out challenged me to “do something” with them. To “figure out” if writing is something I not only like to do, but can do.

I like a challenge. I don’t like to pass up a challenge. And I certainly don’t like to fail.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve actually BEEN a writer for most of my adult life; but the writing is technical, scientific, and by no means poetic. My job, the same job I’ve had for more than 10 years, is to write technically sound, legally defensible, scientific analyses for a variety of clients, predominantly federal agencies. If I needed to, I could probably develop a lengthy resumé for myself as a writer- and I’ve been published, again and again…albeit in the Federal Register, various small-town newspapers, pamphlets handed out at public meetings, and on websites hosted by my firm. Not exactly recognizable sources in the world of fiction writing, but true nonetheless. So I suppose if I’ve been published, then I am indeed an actual author, just not in the way my husband challenged me to be.

So, that’s what I’m going to tinker with…what I’ve BEEN tinkering with for some time now. I took a small workshop, have purchased books on creative writing, and am assembling resources that I need in order to research subjects that will play large roles in my stories (and I shall consider them stories until they morph into books, which may or may not happen).

In case you were wondering, I will not be sharing many details of my stories…I worry that they will lose their punch…and I’ll lose my excitement for them if I release too much of their zest. I may provide teasers, though…since teasing may or may not play a role in the story I’m currently…fleshing out…as we speak.

Wink, wink.