Labor Day Weekend

Adventures, Being An Artist, JournalKait MauroComment

Things are looking up, but it might just be because it's Labor Day weekend and I get Edward home for three days straight! We'll see how I'm feeling on Tuesday when it's back to real life. Here are a few more photographs from the safari park Mackenzie & I visited a few weekends back.

Yesterday my mother-in-law visited and we were ALL so happy to see her! Sam & Lena when nuts when she showed up! Also she & Beatrice were instant friends - I started jokingly calling her the cat whisperer because Beatrice took to her so quickly. We went to the Montgomery Art Museum & ate a lot of vegetarian sushi & went to the dog park so she could see what it was like to run around with Sam & 20 other friendly pups. It was a wonderful day. I was sad when she left to go back to Birmingham, I hope she comes back soon. I got to show her Edward & my wedding photos, which was a really wonderful moment become when we first kind of "eloped" she was not thrilled about it. But we've been married for almost 2 years now & I think she has grown to love me.

Finding My Tribe

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For a long time now, I'm been wanting a tribe of woman friends - and I feel like I am beginning to have one. They don't all live in the same city as me - but we all have something in common. Mackenzie & I met on an app while I was living in Birmingham looking for models while going through a fashion photography phase. I was anxious about losing her when we moved to Montgomery in May but she's come to visit me pretty regularly. Last time she visited we went to Alabama Safari Park. Last time Edward & I went to a Safari park in Georgia (my first time at one) the petting zoo part made me cry because all of the animals seemed so trapped & miserable, but this one was different. There was also a massive aviary with lots of parakeets in in that you could feed. Mackenzie has such a soft spot for animals. She's a bit wary of cats, even Beatrice, but she loves Sam to pieces. She likes his nickname, Moose, because that was her animal name at summer camp once as a child. Also, how could anyone not love Sam?

Another woman friend I have in my tribe is Jessica. She was the first friend I made in Birmingham. I haven't seen her since I moved to Montgomery but we still text sometimes and she always has the best things to tell me. Jessica is my spiritual friend. She recently texted me a book recommendation & we talked about starting a little two person, over the phone book club. She's a blogger too, which is how we met (at the one & only blogging meet-up either of us ever attended) and spent a ridiculously kind amount of time trying to help me figure out what my blog's problem was when it was at artistashuman.com and glitching out. She's wicked smart and also loves animals & plants & has the most beautiful, easy-going style I have ever seen.

I meet them in unexpected places. I met a woman named Jessie at the dog park on Sunday and we hit it off so she & her dog, Pig, came over to our house for like 5 hours yesterday and we just talked & talked & talked while Sam & Pig played. It was amazing! I've been so isolated since I moved to Montgomery - I've literally said to Edward, "How can I find another woman friend who doesn't work during the day to spend time with me and is understanding of my anxiety struggles? How do I even begin to look for such a person?" Then appears Jessie. I feel like I almost willed her into being lmao. Her man is in law school (read: busy like Edward), she LOVES dogs & is super intuitive about them, she doesn't work right now because her anxiety is also through the roof & SHE NEEDS SOMEONE TO HANG OUT WITH DURING THE DAY OR ELSE SHE'S KINDA TRAPPED AT HOME - sound familiar? 

We all have mental health struggles in common, all of the women in my little spread out tribe. And a love of animals. There's something about us that just finds & understands each other because of it I think. There's some kind of magnetism between those of us who have brains that don't function quite along the rules they are "supposed to." Maybe it's because when the rest of the world is telling you to just "not be" depressed or manic or anxious or "too much" or whatever it is, and you meet someone who knows those feelings & can relate to them instead of trying to just tell you to basically "pull yourself out of it," you feel seen. We recognize each other. We find each other.

A Universe For Us / A Ritual Completed

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We did the recommitment-style ritual in the little "universe" I created for us on Saturday. We repeated our vows from our wedding, we read each other things we'd written for each other about our love, each other, the struggles & surprises our marriage has survived so far - it was all very sweet & full of love & made me so giddy. I wish it had lasted longer.

At the very end Edward put an opal ring on my finger. I still love my original engagement ring but it's rather delicate & I wanted something sturdier I could wear around without worrying about losing something emotionally irreplaceable if a stone fell out. Here's what Edward had to say about my idea to use opal as the stone for this new ring:

A Universe For Us / Process: Part 3

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Yesterday was a victory-frustration-victory-frustration day of creating a universe. I started out by hanging the lights, creating the stars, behind the center of the universe. It took me much trial and error to get that part to look how I wanted. It actually didn't end up being how I envisioned - creative endeavors almost never do - but it turned out better than my original idea would have turned out. It's the part of the universe I am most proud of so far: the constellations.

A Universe For Us / Process: Part 1

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I had the idea that, since we’d been going through a rough patch, Edward & I should do some kind of re-commitment or vow renewal ceremony. Edward was open & responsive to the idea - though he’s virtually always exhausted from being overworked at the hospital these days, so most of the planning & ideas were going to be coming from me. The first day I spent time thinking about what we should do, how we should celebrate our love in a ritual once more & celebrate it’s endurance through the rough times, I felt overwhelmed by my own lack of creative ideas. I knew it was a stupid thing to beat myself up over, but I used it as another weapon against myself. I thought, “If I were more like this person I admire, I’d be coming up with something wonderful...” I thought, “If I were a real artist, a truly creative person, I would have more ideas about this.”

We're in our new home!

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I'm too exhausted to write about it tonight but here are some photographs. Almost all of yesterday was spent moving and today was spent unpacking. There is still more unpacking & nesting to do. I haven't even started on my garden or artist studio yet. I love it here though. I feel "at home" already.

10 lbs to 150 lbs: Samson (Sam)

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Here's a photograph I took of Sam shortly after we adopted him in July 2016 and one of him taken a few months ago (he had to have a little surgery to have a tumor growth removed but he's all healed up now) on the same bed. We are moving to a new house/city on Sunday and I think it is going to blow his sweet little doggy mind because he's never moved to a new home before (not since he was 8 weeks old and we adopted him, which I'm betting he doesn't remember) and odds are he doesn't remember living anywhere but in this apartment and the idea that anywhere else could be home has never occurred to him. I wish I could make him understand English for just a few minutes to explain to him what's going to happen and that everything is going to be fine, I'm anxious that he'll be really scared/unnerved by the change (giant dogs: see "big babies", see "afraid of kittens"). He did go on the Southwestern USA road trip with us last summer and stayed a lot of different places with us during the trip, so that's giving me hope that he's a bit more resilient than I'm giving him credit for.


Cycles: Connecting & Disconnecting

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We run away to the beach for a weekend after Edward finishes an exam. Everything is great - we are an easy walk from the ocean waves, we can see them from our AirBNB's balconies during the day. We eat delicious food. I learn I love calzones. We watch documentaries curled up on the sofa at night. I buy a large mason jar with a little garden in it - an aloe plant, a baby cactus shaped like a pincushion, an air plant, a chunk of crystal quartz - at a quirky beachside pottery shop. We walk along the beach. Lena loves the beach - she runs in circles in the soft white sand, kicking it up behind her, avoiding the waves. I worry about her getting older sometimes, how she's gotten a bit less nimble, and it's great to see her running full tilt here and truly enjoying herself. We feel like us again for the first time in a while. We're on the same page. Then on the last day while we're walking on the beach Edward starts telling me how hard the next few months will probably be, how stressed and busy he is going to be because his Step 1 exam is coming up in April and he needs to study study study for that on top of his usual brutal schedule of medical school quizzes & exams. I start to crumble thinking about the months ahead too. Right now I hate that he's in medical school. I hate how it dictates our schedules, how much or how little time we get to spend together, where we have to live for the next 6.5 years. I want an entirely different life - still with him as my husband but not this. But we don't see another path, another way. ☽

We had booked the AirBNB for an extra night but end up heading back to Birmingham anyway. A deer jumps out in front our our car in the rain but we are lucky and no one (including the deer) is hurt. The drive home is long, we barely talk for the last two hours of the trek because we both just want to be safely home & in bed.

First Anniversary & Recent Shenanigans

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Edward & I had a great first anniversary. We started our day separately - I went shopping with a friend to buy a few things I'd been needing. Then when I got home he surprised me with flowers, a love letter & take-out from one of my favorite restaurants. Together we started writing something we've been referring to as our "Story of Us." It's fun to remember things from our history together. We went and had a couples massage after it got dark and ended the night in a giant jetted bathtub with some champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. It really was a wonderful day - we are going to have a hard time topping it in years to come.☽

Yesterday we tried acroyoga together for the first time. I love it - the combination of trust, teamwork, exercise, novelty & playfulness. We only did a little because Edward has been working out at the gym lately and his legs were a little weak from all the exercises he's been doing, but it was great fun.


Southwest: Part 3 of 3

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I lost my wedding ring in the coral pink sand dunes somehow and Edward & I had to do a little ceremony with the replacement one I got once we got back to Birmingham to make it "official" again. It was sweet. Sam and Lena were quite popular at the sand dunes. We went to Zion National Park, which was stunning, and Edward fell absolutely in love with the Petrified Forest National Park - so much in love that he bought a t-shirt there and now wears it quite often. We drove along the US-Mexico border. We went to Marfa TX because one of my favorite shows, I Love Dick, takes place there but it was pretty disappointing for a number of reasons. We started to panic about how much this trip was adding up to on my credit cards after Marfa. It was an exhaustingly long drive home from Marfa to Birmingham and Edward was a champ. We stopped in Houston to say hi to my old friend, Charles, and he got to meet Sam for the first time (Charles & Lena are old buddies). All four of us needed days to recover before we felt normal again after spending so much time on the road and so many days in the car. Our bodies were stiff and exhausted. It was a beautiful trip though and I am grateful to have taken so many photographs to remember it by. We've been home for about 3 weeks now (I think) and I've picked 10 of my favorite photographs from this Southwestern adventure, made prints of them and hung them in the kitchen.

Southwest: Part 2 of 3

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We rest for a day in Moab, UT - realizing we have, once again, planned a road trip that's a bit "too ambitious" with not enough rest time (our vacations actually tend to be more exhausting than rejuvenating). We get Thai food + I buy a few souvenirs (a maroon dreamcatcher, some agate wolf figurines in desert colors...). I find a book called Sister Moon Lodge all about menstruation in a free bin at a health foods store. We shower in the motel for the first time in a few days, having not had running water the past two nights, and it is glorious. We just lay around in the comfy bed for a long time. I DJ music on my phone for us. The next day we hit Canyonlands National Park + Arches National Park. I take a lot of photographs and we stand on the edges of canyons with the pups and meet a cool, older biker couple. We drive SW for the rest of the day mostly listening to the new Fleet Foxes' album. Sam starts to get a bit car sick and we pull over quickly onto the side of the highway. We finally get to a hotel near Zion National Park where a lot of movie stars used to stay when they'd come to the area to film cowboy movies. Several hours later we are at the hotel and Edward realizes he can't find his phone. We learn from technology (magic) that it is on the side of the highway where we stopped for Sam, about an hour away from our hotel in the direction we came from. We are both grumpy because we are exhausted and I had a low blood sugar freak out while waiting for dinner. We had to leave the restaurant because they were super packed, hadn't even taken our drink orders yet and I needed food ASAP or I was going to pass out. We ended up running to a grocery store and whipping something together quickly in our hotel room to eat. Edward and I were both upset because we both really wanted to eat at the restaurant - they had amazing vegetarian options and good vegetarian food is hard to come by on the road.

We drive an hour in the dark, it's late by now, to go retrieve Edward's phone then an hour back to the hotel. We drink a bit because things feel weird and we aren't sure how to get back into adventure mode. There are no photographs from this grumpy part of the trip.

Southwest: Part 1 of 3

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Edward drives us over 4,500 miles on this trip. We are gone for 8 days. Lena's favorite place while we drive is sleeping across Edward's lap, facing me. We stop often to give the dogs water. It storms a lot while we are driving at various points - sometimes our visibility is almost zero from the rain hitting the windshield. The first night we stay at a hotel in Forth Worth, Texas. The second night we stay in a yurt in Madrid, New Mexico. Madrid is a weird little town I hadn't heard of until this trip - it seems to be populated by hippie artists and largely LGBT, or at least very LGBT-friendly. There are "watch for dogs" signs along Main St instead of the usual "watch for children" or "children at play" signs you typically see. The sunset and sunrise from the yurt are amazing - we see both. We drive up a very rocky and unpaved road to get there - it's a bit anxiety-provoking for everyone. Edward and I yell "BIMP!" frequently because someone put signs next to some of the bigger bumps in the road to warn people like us who do not have the right car for this situation and we are amusing ourselves and mildly spastic already from all of the time in the car. The next day I fall in love with Santa Fe. I feel more at home in this landscape of mountains, canyons, plateaus, desert and very determined plants than I have anywhere else I've ever been - which is a little strange given that I am from Pennsylvania. It scares me and thrills me and makes me feel at peace all at once. I feel safe here for some reason. It inspires me - as cheesy as that is - and I feel like I could live here and make art about this landscape, this little portion of the country, for the rest of my life. I decide Edward and I might need to move here when he does his residency after medical school. Sam "learns" the cactus lesson three times but doesn't really learn it any of those times. He runs around the yurt like crazy and gets cacti needles in his skin but is like a tank, he doesn't even seem to notice. He gets a clump of them on top of his head and it is a little funny watching poor Edward try to remove them because Sam thinks it's the best game in the world to not let Edward pull them out. He's not at all bothered or hurt, he just thinks everything in the world is a game. He's 13 or 14 months old but is still very much a puppy sometimes.

We walk Sam and Lena around the main square of Santa Fe where the Native American artists lay out their goods to sell on blankets in the shade and walking with Sam feels like being with a celebrity. Everyone wants to say hello or ask about him or comment on his size or call him a horse or pet him or let their child pet him or take his photo. I am amused by the attention but Edward feels uncomfortable with being a bit of a spectacle. We leave Santa Fe and head towards Utah. The first of my false eyelashes, which will all come off during this trip, does. We drive for a long time and come to Monument Valley. The roads are unpaved and I'm afraid if I put the window down to take pictures the whole car will be filled with dust, so I just do the best I can shooting through the dirty windows. Lena is used to road trips and is super chill about the entire process. Sam, on the other hand, is new to this "road trip" idea. He went with us to Saint Louis when he was much younger but probably doesn't remember. He's only used to short car rides to Paty's house or the dog park. We were going to leave him at a dog kennel but the day before we left he broke my bleeding little liberal heart, so we brought him along. Edward and I were sitting on the couch working on our laptops and Sam was whining up a storm. We couldn't figure out why he was being so extra because he'd been out and had food and water. We tried to shut him up by offering him different bones and other things he usually likes. This did not work. Eventually we made room for him on the couch and he immediately calmed down, curled up into the smallest ball of dog a Sam can and fell asleep. I kept thinking "All he wants in this entire world is to be where we, his people, are. That's literally his deepest fucking desire." So there was obviously no way I could leave him with strangers for 8 days after that, even though I knew they would take good care of him. He'd miss us too much and, admittedly, I would miss him too much too.  He was A LOT the first day of the road trip in particular. We had to stuff blankets, sheets and a bag of large breed dog food between our seats and sides of the car to keep him from (good lord can he make himself fit through a space when he wants to) climbing over the sides of our seats and onto our laps. At 140 or so pounds he still thinks he's a lap dog sometimes - typical.

The third night of the trip we stay in a little converted post office in Cisco, Utah. Edward is absolutely exhausted from a super long day of driving and we arrive much later than we planned. Once there we perk up a little - Edward has a few beers and I try astrophotography in real darkness for the first time. I become giddy from photographing the stars. It is in a ghost town that is being rebuilt by a super cool woman who dropped out of SAIC (she did drawing and painting) to move to a ghost town in the desert with a population of one: her. She is renovating the town with found materials and learning the construction skills as she goes. We hang out with her and her friend the next morning and it is fun to be out of the car and socializing with interesting and new people. She says I can come back and stay for free whenever I want as long as I bring Lena with me. Her and Lena really hit it off. She dreams of hosting artists-in-residence in her little ghost town someday. I find her absolutely fascinating.

We drive by an abandoned school house as we leave Cisco - supposedly it is quite haunted. One day later I will firmly believe that it is.

Southwest Roadtrip Polaroids

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1, 2 + 3: Outside the yurt in Madrid, NM / super cool lesbian AirBNB hosts

5. Lena, Sam + Edward in Santa Fe / my new favorite city / I want to live in Santa Fe someday

6. Gas station / bathroom break / so much sky in the wilderness

7 + 8: Driving in Utah / haunted state / sage EVERYTHING / juniper seed ghost bracelet

10 + 11: Everyone crashes when we get home / vacation can be exhausting

Alabama: Year One

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It's been such a year and I'd venture to say it has been the best one I've had so far. I am going to be in Alabama for another three years - one more year in Birmingham, then two years in Montgomery. I'm in a really positive place and am genuinely excited about the future, instead of mostly afraid of it, which is a really nice change of pace. Things between Edward and I are going great. I don't know if I've ever been crazier about or more in love with him than I am lately. We got married in December and didn't really expect it to change our relationship much, but it did. We thought we would still just be us, Kait & Edward, and in some ways we still are but something about the ritual of a wedding and the new labels of "married," "husband" & "wife" changed things. It's been a very positive change and we are very pleasantly surprised by it.

Edward & I are married!

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The actual ceremony, which was so perfect and so much more moving than even I expected it to be, it was more than I ever dreamed of. All of the promises Edward and I made to each other just filled my heart to near bursting, I almost cried a little from happiness but managed to restrain myself so as not to ruin my make-up...

Edward got really excited during the vows and tried to lean down and kiss me right then but I told him we had to wait until the end - it was adorable.

We spent the rest of Monday after the wedding making a quick trip to the courthouse to turn in our marriage license and get our marriage certificate so we were totally legal(!), eating take out Chinese food because we had both been too nervous before the wedding to have anything but a bit of coffee, watching Moonrise Kingdom together, opening the cards and presents my family had sent and drinking champagne. It was a beautiful, glorious, amazing, wonderful and tiring day so we went to bed pretty early. We were both giddy about being married, and also a little bit in shock. It still doesn't feel entirely real. But it is!

Great Smokey Mountain National Park

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Edward and I went to Cosby TN on Friday night and stayed in a little vintage camper we'd rented for the night on AirBNB for $70. It was fun and there had been a cold snap before we arrived so there were NO MOSQUITOS - which I was incredibly grateful for because they really tend to like my smell/blood and because of my skin type the bites and scratches (I can't control myself from scratching the itches) take forever to heal and usually result in scars. Edward had a great time on Saturday morning cooking the two fresh eggs (from our hosts' hens) we'd been left on the propane stove and making some earl gray tea and coffee with the little french press that was in the camper (the coffee, not the tea). We did A LOT of driving on Saturday because we got a little lost leaving Camp GRITS where we'd stayed the night and ended up taking a forest service road (one lane, unpaved) all around the edge of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park we were trying to get to the entrance of. It took about 2 hours to get off the service road and there was no way to turn around and no where to get off - so the only way out was through. It was beautiful though, forest and cliffs on either side at any given time. I would have enjoyed it more if I were not in a hurry to find a gas station (of which there obviously were not any on the forest service road) to get something to drink.We eventually got into the park and it was more crowded this year than it was when we visited right around the same time last year because the weather was better (it was raining for most of our trip last year) but it was still really fun to be in the mountains. Originally we had planned on going to the Gulf coast for a night but we had trouble finding an affordable place to stay near the shore so we decided to go to the mountains instead.

As we drove up to the tallest point of the park that you can get to by car, we had serious deja vu from our trip last year. We talked about how much in our life/lives and our relationship had changed since then. We reminisced. It was lovely. After the park we had to drive through Gatlinburg because that's where the park exit leaves you and I HATED IT. I can't imagine why anyone would go to Gatlinburg for vacation. It was crowded, the traffic was terrible, every store had bigger, brighter, more neon, more obnoxious signs than the next and the town was just filled with the tackiest stores and "attractions." It was like Las Vegas but without the big money, just a town in TN that wanted to be Las Vegas in its own little way. It made me really anxious because I hate crowds and tacky, loud cities.

Moving to Alabama: The First Month

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We made it just past Nashville that first day. I am not the best driver to begin with and driving in the rain/dark after so many hours in the car by myself was making my driving extra scary for poor Edward who was following my car with his, watching me swerve around from behind, so we stopped at an cheap motel for the night with Lena. I had so many boxes and plants stuffed in my car that the only place for poor Lena to sit was on my lap. I listened to Harry Potter audiobooks while I drove. I used to be able to do 12 hour days driving by myself no problem when I would go back to my hometown during college or when I moved to Washington state briefly and drove alone for days (but I was hypomanic then so the driving without much sleep was a breeze) but now I am used to having Edward for company in the car so driving alone is a lot less fun and more tiring than it used to be.

We drank champagne in the motel room and ordered a big cheesy pizza at midnight because we both got hungry. Neither of us got good sleep and I got a little bit sick in the morning before we started driving again. Finally arriving in Birmingham felt rather magical. I loved seeing the cityscape in the afternoon sun, and it was all prettier than I remembered. I'd only ever visited in the winter before. We got to Edward's mother's house, where we'd be staying until we got an apartment officially lined up. We'd been trying to find a place since shortly after getting back from Iceland a few weeks before but had no luck. We kept finding places we liked but by the time we'd get the paperwork in someone else would have gotten the place. It was a really hard cycle for me - hope, disappointment, hope, disappointment, hope, disappointment again. Because Edward was still working 9-5 I had been appointed to do most of the long distance apartment hunting legwork.