A little bit of routine…

Routines are a thing. They are a must, but deep, deep down, we hate them. Why else would vacations exist? We crave the few days of the year when we can sit back and forget what we’re supposed to be doing. We dream about no schedule. We live for the moments when we don’t have to answer to anyone. In any normal week, we wake up, shower, drive to work, work, drive home, eat dinner, watch TV and then hope to fall asleep. The American dream, right?

How many of you are cringing right now? Maybe it’s late and you can’t sleep. Maybe you are at work (Tsk! Tsk!). Maybe you are reading this on the way to work dreading a meeting with a boss you despise. Whatever the reason, trust me, I get it.

The problem is…fuck…I hate to even say it. We need it.

I left the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2014 with the hopes of something better. I spent 10 years there. I spent 10 years of my life with those amazing people. I am only 35, so keep it down you 35+ people.

I grew up with that company. My life changed with that company. I married my husband with that company. I made some of my best friends with that company. I became a part of the Pittsburgh community. I had an identity in this city. I was Melissa, the girl who worked at the Business Times.

It’s been awhile now and I have taken on new responsibilities here and there, but I can’t seem to find that same feeling. Trust me, I love working from home. I love working in social media. I love creating crafts with the hopes they will make someone smile. I love working part time for a liquor company which allows me to sprinkle cheer all over Pittsburgh. And I love, love, love having freedom.

But my gosh do I miss structure.

Maybe my personality isn’t strong enough to manage myself. Maybe it’s because I’ve gone through X number of changes since I left the job I considered my safe place for so long. There are people who do it though. There are people who work from home and manage, not only themselves, but a family. And I tip my adorable, tiny hat to them.

I own a corgi. Her name is Ivy. She is the craziest sweetheart I’ve ever known. Corgis, by nature, are herders. They are protective, outgoing, playful and, to some, loud as shit. When she first came into my life, I wanted to understand every little thing about her. This is how I approach most aspects of my life. Do you know what I learned? Corgis, like people, are happiest with a purpose.

Ivy can sit, lay down and shake. She can roll over, spin in circles and play dead. She can chase a ball until her little legs no longer work. She loves long hikes, playing in water and has been known to climb mountains. Her legs are three-inches long, so you can imagine it’s not always easy for her.

That little dog, who is so full of spirit, never leaves my side. I’ve seen her deal with my anxiety and depression. When I couldn’t leave bed for days, she was right beside me. And at that moment, she knew her purpose.

I have seen that dog after a six-mile hike. The smile on her face is unbreakable. We have all experienced hardships in life. We have seen the darkness and yearned for the light. Whenever I bounce back, Ivy is right there with me. She doesn’t skip a beat. I want that passion, that drive and ultimately that purpose. 

Routines are a thing. They increase security in humans and animals alike. Imagine not only a day, but a year, without it. What was once a walk in the forest becomes a struggle to find the path. Embrace the dullness and remember, it could be worse, you could be that little corgi with the three-inch legs trying to jump on a bed just to cuddle up to the one who means the most.

A little bit of home…

New Year, New Me. That’s how the saying goes, right? Well, I don’t like it. And I also despise New Year’s resolutions. You are welcome to disagree with me, but I see them as an unwanted responsibility. Think about it, how many have you actually accomplished? In my 35 years on this planet, I can honestly say my answer is zero.

One year my resolution was to be able to complete one pull-up by the end of the year. I was super into the gym the previous fall and thought, why not? First of all, I can barely do a push-up. Secondly, I’m pretty sure I’ve never won an arm wrestling match (I have freakishly strong friends). And last, but not least, why was this my main concern???

So, here we are in 2017 and my life is no different. If anything, I’ve backtracked. This week is the week I am to move all of my stuff out of my house, my old house. My home. The only home I’ve known in Pittsburgh. The only home I’ve known since I left my mom’s house in 1999.

Think back to when you left for college or when you moved out of your parents’ house for the first time. It was exciting, right? New horizons. New beginnings. New people and places. What did you pack? I wish I could remember.

I have walked through this house, my home for eight years, and I have no idea where to start. These items, these memories, these things that I gathered to turn this house into a home mean nothing now. But yet, something has to be done with them. The clothing that I have lived nearly five months without. The pictures I can barely stand to look at. The decorations I made with my hands and my heart. The antiques I collected on a Sunday afternoon. And the kitchen gadgets I miss so much because that is how I learned to cook. There are pillows and blankets and so many things that provided comfort to me when my world was slowly falling apart. I have the opportunity to box them up and make them mine again.

And it fucking sucks.

Let me ask you now to think of your home. What comes to mind? I am sure to many of you it is where you live presently or where you grew up or, if you’re smart, where the people you love reside. That is where I aim to be.

Like I said, I hate resolutions. I believe in change. I believe in trying to be better. I believe in becoming a better person. And I hate myself for thinking for a second that a new calendar would bring a happier me. Because I hate to break it to you, that’s not how it works.

A home is a place where you feel safe. And don’t get me wrong, I have that now. I have two people who have taken such good care of me since the life I knew disappeared. Funny they both go by the name of Alex, which ironically means defender of men. I have never known a meaning more true. They would both go to war for me. And for that, I am lucky.

If you look up the meaning of home in the dictionary, it is described as the place where one lives permanently. I can list places, names and definitions, but I know where I permanently dwell and, as scary as it sounds, my home is me.

This is my goal. I want to feel safe within myself in 2017. Next week I am headed back to where it all began. Not permanently. But right now, I need to recharge. I have found a yoga class and a gym. I have a pile of books I plan on reading and a laptop where I can write. I need to research jobs in Pittsburgh. Ones that will truly fill this void inside of me. And I hope to come back here with the smile and the optimism I’m sure some of you remember.

A little bit of honesty…

I fucked up. Big time. I didn’t know how I was going to address this. But I feel like with most things in my life, honesty is truly the best policy. I am not looking for sympathy or pity or anything. I just need to get this off my chest.

This blog was supposed to be about my life and my hobbies and me finding me. So, it’s been really hard to write knowing that everything would be sugarcoated unless I was honest.

Dave and I are separated right now and we will be divorced by this time next year. And it is my fault. Well, mainly. I mean, show of hands, how many of you are in a relationship that you aren’t truly happy in? And it could be for any reason. Maybe he doesn’t listen like you want. Maybe she is constantly nagging. Maybe he doesn’t love you like you need to be loved. Or maybe, after all these years, you find out you didn’t really know her at all.

Now, show of hands, how many of you are completely freaked out by the concept of marriage? I guarantee there are equal amounts of single people and married people raising their hands subconsciously. I am not here to choose sides because different things work for different people with different people at different times in a million different situations.

But really, I fucked up. And I am sorry that I hurt the person who made my life his responsibility. I am sorry I asked so much out of this person and didn’t give it back. I am sorry that the man who helped heal my mind didn’t get to experience the “better” me for the rest of his life. I am sorry that I broke his heart, his life and ultimately a big promise that I made a long time ago.

And I will say it again, I am not here for sympathy. It’s just that if I continue to ignore things, I will end up back in this position in a short period of time. Hating myself, hating my life and hating the lies I told everyone.

Forgiveness has always come easily to me. Hell, I’ve talked to shitty guys way longer than I should. And, in the past, I was a pro at being a pushover. Forgiveness, on my end, was a weakness. It was a weakness because I never believed I deserved better. Dave was my better. He was the better that came along after years of complete assholes. And I never believed I deserved him. Today I know for sure that I didn’t. Not because I am the worst person in the world (although I know some of you think I am), but because he deserves someone who makes him truly happy. And, sadly, that wasn’t me.

So, here we are, in a situation that makes everyone uncomfortable. A situation where nobody knows what to say. A situation that is truly fucking shitty and one, that ultimately, I caused.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not asking for anything by writing this. This is a part of my life and, unfortunately, some of yours. I appreciate the ones who are still here and still continue to love, not only me, but him. And I appreciate the ones who are able to overlook my weaknesses, my mistakes and a terrible situation.

A little bit of craft shows…

I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like summer is flying by. Just this past weekend, I noticed it starting to get dark earlier. I mean I had to leave the pool before 9 p.m. THE HORROR.

Summer is always such a busy time of year. It seems every time I turn around there is something else going on and I really have a hard time saying no. This leaves very little time for myself and, as you might have noticed, my blog.

A few weeks back, I was part of a craft show in Meadville. Why Meadville? Eh, it’s kinda close to my hometown and they reached out to me (remember the saying no thing?). Everything about the weekend was hot. Well, most everything. Unfortunately my sales at Pink Days in Bloom were not.

Last year was my first craft show and, let me tell you, it was a lot of work. I spent the entire summer painting, sanding, glueing, etc. I was terrified I wouldn’t have enough merchandise to fill an entire booth. I completely underestimated myself. I filled the booth and then some. Applefest took place in my hometown of Franklin. It is a three-day event that brings in more than 30,000 people each year.

Pink Days in Bloom was a bit different. The venue was smaller, so Dave and I decided to cram everything into two cars. When the alarm went off at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, neither of us were too pumped. We made the nearly two-hour trek up north and arrived at different times. Not knowing where to go, I just started driving through the crowd until someone pointed me in the right direction and told me to unpack immediately. Around the same time Dave called me to tell me he was lost in a field of horses. WHAT.

After 17 angry text messages from me, we managed to pull ourselves together and set up a somewhat respectable booth (considering this was only our second craft show and we didn’t bring half of our supplies). The day, which was full of music, food and entertainment, raised money for the Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Center and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

It was for a good cause and I got to spend the day laughing with my mom, but I left a little defeated. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. But after putting so much effort into something, it’s hard walking away with very little sales. With the limited time I’ve had this summer, I started looking into picking the “perfect” craft show. Because, who knows? Maybe 2017 will be my year.

Here is what I found:

  • Start visiting craft shows now.
    Unfortunately, this is where time comes into play, but the best way to discover if your products will be a good fit is to visit the craft show before you apply. You’ll be able to see for yourself the attendance, type of customer, type of vendors, table setups, etc. And the best part about vendors is we are all in it together. Talk to them. Everyone has a story to tell and usually some tips.
  • Consider the audience of the craft show.
    This has been a big problem of mine. A lot of my products are geared toward a younger audience who have better things to do than browse a craft show on a Saturday. So, ask yourself, does the demographic of the craft show attendees fit well with your product? Are the other vendors selling outdated crafts or would your product fit in nicely with the selection offered?  Also consider the neighborhood in which the craft show is located.
  • Cost. Cost. Cost.
    Many of you might not know this, but craft fairs can be expensive. Some typically have a fee involved and then there is the cost of the booth, supplies, travel, etc. It can be a bit overwhelming. It may help you to think in terms of what you will need to sell to break even.  If a show costs $100 per table, and your product costs $10 each, you will need to sell 10 items to break even.
  • Handmade or vendor?
    I learned this at my recent show. All of my products are handmade, so it was disconcerting to be surrounded with vendors. If you’re not sure of the difference, vendors sell things like body wraps, Shakeology, Origami Owl, etc. And that’s great, but if your products are like mine, you will have the most success at a show that only features handcrafted items.
  • Is it online?
    Clearly I am a big supporter of using social media, blogs, etc. to promote your crafts. Where is the first place you go to research an event you want to attend? If your answer isn’t the Internet, please share your secret way of life. Again, you must consider your audience when thinking about online presence. For my products, I think a craft show with an online presence would be important. (As I type this, my Etsy shop is down for some reason. It will be back up soon! You can check out some of Bows and Branches products on Facebook and Instagram.)

I think that’s a good start. My next craft show is in October and I would love it if you stopped by and bought a lot of stuff. If you don’t plan on buying anything, bring me some snacks or something.

A little bit of beauty in the dark…

Today I woke up with the realization that even if I try to avoid it, the world is going to shit. When I logged onto the cyber world, I saw things that caused so much pain. And in all actuality, I thought people were talking/posting about events that took place two or three days ago. No, it happened again.

If you know anything about me, you know I don’t watch the news. You might actually know that it terrifies me. When I feel pain, I feel it deep. Today I cried. A lot.

I have no right to say I know anything about what is going on. But it scares me. I don’t know how it feels to be anything but a white girl who grew up in a small town less than a couple hours outside of Pittsburgh.

Tonight I went to a brewery to watch a friend play music. It was a simple night full of folky tunes, a one man band and people that have supported each other since high school. The thing I love about music is it brings people together. I, along with people I adore, sat at a picnic table with a family we had never met.

You know when you feel kind of off? You’re like, ok, maybe I’m tired from the day, maybe I came to do what I needed to do, maybe I am just here to support whoever at the moment. That was me tonight. I was tired and actually just wanted an early evening.

But there was a family there and they talked to us. A small conversation about a T-shirt led to so much more. This man and woman were out with their 21-year-old son. He is a student at Penn State. A student who, and I quote, they were okay with being a garbage man because he struggled so much academically. A student who was enrolled in private school. This guy, who sat across the table from me and taught me about Pokemon Go, who is going to be an engineer, got in trouble at his private school because at a young age he was reading books that talked about magic. These books are what helped him learn to read. And although this was frowned upon, his parents stood by him. They ended up removing him from the school because it was what was best for him.

They also stood by their other son. He’s gay. I sat next to his dad, who told us when his son told him he responded with please just go be happy. Live your life. And for the who knows how many times today, I cried. These people probably thought I was insane.

I also sat there and talked to the mother. The mother of these amazing kids. The younger son who made me feel old because, my gosh, when was Pokemon even a thing? And the other, who came out to his grandparents after the shootings in Orlando. And I got to hear her story. And let me just say it wasn’t a good one. But she let me in. I’m not sure why she felt comfortable telling me this story she had never told anyone else, but she did. And I know I helped her. What she didn’t know is how much she helped me.

Tonight I listed to music and talked to amazing people. I cried with them over the ugly parts of this world. Tonight I remembered there is still good in this world. And I left feeling a little bit lighter.

A little bit of strawberries…

Today marks the beginning of summer. I’ve never been a summer person. I’m sure that doesn’t make sense to most of you. I get too hot. I hate being hot. I’ve always been partial to spring (probably because of my birthday) and fall (good beer, football, what else do you need?). But this year feels different. Maybe it’s because I have been spending so much time poolside or because my tan is already amazing, but I am so looking forward to sunshine and music and just enjoying the people I love.

This year’s solstice coincides with a Full Strawberry Moon. This hasn’t happened in nearly 70 years. The Full Strawberry Moon gets its name from Native American Algonquin tribes, which knew it as the signal to collect ripe fruit.  Pretty cool, right?

The whole strawberry thing reminded me that the Farmer’s Market started this month and it’s actually going on today. I decided to basically spend my afternoon as a grandmother would. I started the afternoon off with a quick jaunt to the dollar store, just to pick up a few things. From there I went to the liquor store (ok, maybe I’m a hip granny). I don’t know if you guys and girls are into cheap wine, but the Bota Box is STILL ON SALE. After that I figured I’d make my way to the Farmer’s Market. Only it was nowhere to be found. Bummed out, I headed to Hallmark to get my mother’s birthday card (I am a little late as it is tomorrow. Eek!), where the nice ladies informed me that the Farmer’s Market had moved behind the plaza we were in. Perfect. I picked up my peaches, cauliflower and strawberries and was on my merry way.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 6.57.03 PMI don’t bake at all. Mainly because I am not a sweet eater. I like my sweets in the form of gummy candies or fruit (preferably mixed with wine). However, last year Dave brought home like four baskets of strawberries from my mother-in-law’s house. This was right around the time I started cooking, so I thought I would give baking a try. I had enough strawberries to make a pie and muffins. I think it was probably the first time in 10 years I have had pie, and if I do say so myself, it wasn’t too bad.

Today I decided to celebrate the start of summer and the Full Strawberry Moon by not only eating strawberries, but by painting them. The set of wine glasses seen at the top of the page are now available Etsy shop. Cheers to an amazing solstice and a beautiful summer!

A little bit of baby talk…

I need to get something off my chest. I have been married for eight years, together for 12. I am a 35-year-old woman with a husband, a dog, a cat and a tortoise. No children. This is nobody’s business.

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Since the day Dave and I stepped off the plane returning from our honeymoon, I have been asked about kids. That was in 2008. That is eight years of the same question regarding my uterus.

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I don’t know why people think it is an ok question to ask repeatedly. I have friends who can’t have children. I have friends who have lost children. What if this was the case with me? Do you want me to say that to you when you ask this question? Honestly, I want to know. I want to know if you want to feel as uncomfortable as you are making me.

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Luckily, for me, this not the case. I am 35 and honestly just got to know myself. I feel as though I just learned how to take care of myself. So maybe right now, I don’t feel 100 percent ready to take care of a child. 

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People who know me know I love kids, so this is not a shot at people with kids or kids in general. I have nothing but respect for parents. I watch some of my best friends work full time and raise children. It blows my mind.

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Yes, Dave will be an amazing dad. Yes, I will be a great mom. This will all happen when we and my body are ready. Until then, we will continue to focus on our marriage, our friends, our family and our adorable animals. And I hope you will do the same. 

A little bit of shine…

There are fireflies out tonight and it reminds me of home. I remember my mom taking me to catch them and being afraid. There are fireflies out tonight and it reminds me all things beautiful could have a dark side. There are fireflies out tonight and I can’t think of a better use for my mason jars…

When I was in eleventh grade I submitted a story to Glamour magazine. Us girls, we started reading those magazines when we were so young. First Teen Bop, then Seventeen, even Delia’s messed with us. The glamorization of life so early on can really mess with a girl. Not that it isn’t 100 times worse now, but man do I remember.

The article I submitted to Glamour was for a contest. A life changing story, they said. Something that affected you on a personal level. I remember reading the winning story and thinking, wow, everything isn’t so bad. But it was.

I think that on some level we can all relate to the feeling of self hate, loneliness, rejection. I mean we are all human, right? When I submitted the story, I was sure I would “win”. I was sure my story was different enough. Maybe one person wanted to hear it. Because at the time, it was all I needed. At the time, I just wanted someone to relate to me.

The story was about my anorexia and bulimia. I struggled severely for a couple years in high school and “moderately” for the rest of my life. It was not something my family or friends understood or could deal with. It was just (and has been) this thing that lives in my head.

When I submitted the story, I wanted to be heard. Not by the world, but by one person. If one person could relate and tell me it would be ok, maybe I would be ok.

But the truth is. And this is something I have learned in the last however many years since I was starving myself daily, only I can do that. Since then I have struggled with a lot mental things. A lot of issues with my body and and my mind. And in the end, it all comes back to me.

I have been a size 0 and a size 12 and the only thing I have found to make me happy is …well … me.

I have been told on numerous occasions that I, not unlike the fireflies, have a glow. I have been told I have a contagious energy and eyes that can draw someone in. Awesome, right? But until I see that (and until you see that in you), it will all stand still.

If you look around, you can see a firefly in the daytime, but after the dark is when they really shine. Did you know they can synchronize with others and glow together

I remember writing the story and thinking if I get this out, I will feel better and someone else will feel better. And I couldn’t help but think of it tonight when I saw the fireflies. I kinda love that they only come out when it’s warm (I mean who can blame them?). And I kinda like to picture them at a luau, wearing colorful skirts and dancing.

Regardless, they shine. In a world of dark, they shine … because they can. And, I guess what I’m trying to say is … so can you.

A little bit of my mind…

I have been staring at my computer screen for awhile now. I can talk. A lot. But putting into words what I feel after this weekend’s tragedy isn’t going too well. Like all of you, my heart is sad and scared for the world we live in. This weekend was a bit of a whirlwind, so I spent the other morning cramming in a lot of information. The outpouring of love and support is amazing. The stories of the heroes are incredible.  

It’s been a struggle coming up with something to write about this week. My mind is kind of all over the place today and I feel like I need to type something, so here you go.

Welcome to my mind…

I sold some wine glasses last week. I haven’t been pushing my crafts too much recently, so when a sale comes my way, I am pretty happy. I did a redo of the ones I made for PERSAD CENTER’s Art for Change event. Can I just say that most of the time I feel like I am a complete shit show? So, when I finally finish making something and it is safely tucked away in its packaging and on its way to a customer, I feel pretty freaking amazing.

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This time was a different story. I hand delivered the glasses because I was headed to a friend’s pool that day, which is right down the road. Upon delivery, I get out of my car and start up their walkway. My swimsuit bottoms fall down. I am covered with a sundress, but at this moment, I panic. I can’t tie them without exposing my lady bits, so I pull them completely off and tuck them in my pocket. I am in a residential neighborhood, and I see the neighbor staring at me. Like what kind of goods is this girl delivering? I am friends with the daughter of the woman who purchased the glasses, and her adorable husband decided to show me some of their artwork. It’s like he knew (Sorry, Marsha! hahaha). Anyway, they loved the glasses and I will be shopping for a new swimsuit.

In other big news, I switched from an iPhone to an Android. This was a BIG deal for me. I do all my work on a Mac. Have for years. I use my iPad daily and still remember getting my first iPhone. The short and sweet of it? I am a closet nerd. I spent an entire morning researching this switch and walked into the Verizon store with sweaty palms. I explained myself to the guy who said, with such sincerity, I get it. Somehow I walked out of there with a Galaxy S7 Edge, an Ellipsis 8 tablet and a new found love for Aaron the Verizon guy.

I also spent a lot of last weekend in a swimming pool. Jealous? The weather was gorgeous. There was plenty of booze. But the weird part? I can’t swim. Go ahead, get the look of shock over with and erase the thought of “fixing” me from your mind. I can move around just fine in water, but I can’t go under. And can I just say? None of you (Well besides you, Alex.) are doing laps in the pool during a party. I believe you were all standing right next to me drinking your beers. Regardless of that, I took lessons two years ago. I made it through three of the four and gave up. First of all, I hate deep water. Second of all, swimming is a lot of work. You learned when you were five and had all the energy. I was 33 and it was not easy. And third of all, it was me and a bunch of little kids. No thank you.

And just one more thing before I shut up. F*ck yeah, Pens! Also, main image is available for purchase here.

A little bit of friendship…

Yesterday was National Best Friends Day. How do I know? My best friend sent me a snapchat from Denver. She lives 20 hours away from me. How do I remember? Because during the drive across country, I said if we ever had a really bad day, we could technically meet halfway in 10 hours. That’s something, right?

I am 35 and the amount of people I keep close to me can fill a room. I am lucky, I know. When I moved to Pittsburgh 15 years ago (oh my goodness!), I knew maybe five people. It was actually terrifying.

Girlfriends are the best, right? Mine are some gems. I love when you know a girl so well that you can read her mind before she speaks. And you can judge her before she judges you. It becomes this vicious cycle of being a complete bitch, but knowing they are just the same and knowing that it doesn’t matter. That connection will not fade.

And don’t get me wrong, I love my guys too. Those nights when girlfriend A and girlfriend B are fighting and girlfriend C is fighting with her boyfriend because he doesn’t want to spend time with girlfriend D and her husband. OH MY GOSH. These are the nights you want dudes around. Just sit me at a table with a beer in my hand and let them drone on about baseball or video games or whatever manly TV show they’re into at the moment.

Anyway, back to my best friend. She has been gone for three months now (insert eye roll) and it certainly doesn’t get any easier. But the thing about best friends is they don’t just leave. And it’s not like we didn’t text every detail of every day to each other before, but now it just feels so special. It’s like you’re over there and I am here and we are still ok.

You know those nights when you’ve had way too much wine and you just sit and talk and talk and talk and talk. It’s like the world stops and you just get to have the warm and fuzzies for a few hours. Those are my kind of nights and my kind of girls. I am super lucky to have some extremely amazing and talented women in my life. And I am extra lucky that they put up with me.

I found a family here, and for that, well, there are no words.

Pictured item is now available (and customizable) at Bows and Branches.