WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

Clearing Closet Space June 28, 2021

This post has been sitting idly in my drafts folder since March 14. I wrote it as a gift to myself, intending to publish it the following day, my 38th birthday. I passed it along to a small handful of beta readers who each offered feedback. I reread it. I slept on it. And the next morning, the day I had intended to post it, I balked. Since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking (and a little editing). And I feel proud with the end result. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to rewind time about three and a half months…


It’s that time of year. Connecticut is on the cusp of spring. The days are getting warmer, sunsets are getting later. Now is when those of us with small closets and temperate climates pack away the sweaters and long sleeves to clear closet space for the tank tops and sun dresses that have been lying in wait in under-bed storage since fall. And that’s got me doing some thinking about all the things we wear and what they say about us, the image that we project out into the world.

The Ides of March, 1983. That’s the beginning of my story. I imagine that my first ever item of clothing was one of those hospital-issued pink and blue striped hats. I can picture a nurse tying a pink ribbon around its top. Girl. I can picture my parents dressing me to leave the hospital and go home. Maybe a onesie. Maybe pajamas. Booties, for sure. Probably white and trimmed in itchy lace. The left foot, daughter, and the right, sister. I can picture, too, all the outfits that streamed in and out of our house throughout childhood. The hand-me-downs, cousin. The gifts, niece. The frilly dresses bought special for holidays or events, granddaughter. Each article, a new piece of the image that was me.

On the first day of Kindergarten, I wore a dark blue dress with a tiny floral pattern on it. Its front was graced with a wide, white collar and an oversized bow, the likes of which would stir envy in JoJo Siwa herself. Mary Janes. Bobby socks. Backpack. Student. Then came the leotards and tights. Dancer. The headbands that would hold my hair back as I curved over my spiralbound notebook and penned all the stories dancing in my childlike imagination. Writer. The sparkly, plastic, adjustable chain friendship bracelets that were all the rage amongst grade-schoolers in the 80s; mine was purple. Friend. Gosh, we’d trade and collect and gift those plastic clip-on charms like crazy.

Most of our clothes are chosen for us when we’re kids. But as we age into the pre-teen and teen years, we start to have a bit more say, don’t we? And that’s when our personalities, rather than our parents’ preferences, start to poke through. Bathing suits. Confident. Flip-flops. Low maintenance. Comfy t-shirts. Shy. Leggings. Nerd. I was about eleven years old when I tried on that belt that became a conversation starter for years after. Vegetarian. The apron that was part of my uniform for my very first job. Employee. Those platform velvet heels; wow, did I love those uncomfortable monstrosities. Stubborn. And let’s not forget the make-up; eyeliner and eyeshadow and mascara, oh my. Girlfriend. Baggy jeans. Anxious. Prom dresses. Mature. Khakis. Sensible. The overpriced “class ring” that we’re all duped into buying in high school only to lose somehow within a year–either lost on the bottom of a jewelry box or gifted to the one we thought we’d be with forever but haven’t seen since Thanksgiving Eve the fall after graduation. People-pleaser.

As we age into adulthood, our wardrobe is entirely in our control. We box up the items we don’t wear anymore, the pieces that no longer hang on us right. And in their place, new pieces. Maybe something in a fresh new color or trendier style. Maybe something a little bigger or a tad more form-fitting. Maybe something just different, new, fresh. Hoodies, pea coats, and scarves. Intern. Thigh highs and crew socks. Graduate. Bras, undies, and camisoles. Fiancee. Lingerie and bathrobes. Wife. Sweaters, spaghetti straps, and skirts. Mother. A rainbow of colors. A myriad of styles. All chosen by us for comfort, function, and image.

Thanks to the ongoing pandemic, I wear a lot more pajamas and yoga pants than ever before; with nowhere to go, why not be comfy, right? And with nothing to do, I’ve had lots of time to think. At the forefront of my mind? Jewelry. Shiny little baubles, uniquely my own style, to pull my look together. I’ve scoured my jewelry box, trying on all sorts of accessories, and have finally settled on some statement pieces that feel really great to me. The earrings that I think feel best on me may not be your style but they’re mine. The left, sapiosexual, and the right, demisexual, are equally sparkly. And they look pretty amazing with the necklace that feels best, too. Pansexual. All of which goes nicely, by the way, with my wedding ring. Blessed beyond words. Wearing these, I look in the mirror and feel complete. And let me be clear. I’ve done arguably more than my fair share of online shopping during this pandemic. But these jewels are ones I’ve always owned. Nothing new. Just something I’ve never worn out of the house until now.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

To those who may not want to follow the links provided, or who maybe DID but are still confused, let me tell you what those earrings and that necklace mean to me. I like brains. Not in the zombie kinda way but in the “talk nerdy to me” kinda way. And I like emotional connections. And these two proclivities trump anything else about a person, including gender. So together, I hope my jewelry is projecting a “hearts not parts” image.

Photo by Shamia Casiano on Pexels.com

If I had to name the adult equivalent to the clunky, purple plastic bracelet of my youth, it would be my Pandora bracelet. So let’s pretend for a moment that there’s a charm on it for every single bond I’ve made in life. Family, friends, acquaintances, members of the community around me, you. Everyone. Each bead, each dangly, adding up to the sum total of respect, love, support, and acceptance surrounding me. Each bauble making my life all that much more beautiful. The weight of that charm bracelet on my wrist brings comfort and I think it’s perfect as it is. That said, anyone and everyone is entitled to take their charm back. I’ll give it freely. With a heavy heart, sure, but still freely. Because I’ve let too much time pass not allowing these gems to glimmer in the sunshine and the only people I have room for in my circle are the ones who accept that I love the jewelry I’ve chosen for me.

Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

Welcome back to the now. June 2021. Pride month. I didn’t want to let it pass without pulling out this post. Dusting it off. Giving it a final pass of editing. And finally sharing it. Anyone who knows me knows that I tout acceptance for all. And this post is really nothing more than me extending that same grace, that same acceptance to myself.

I’m prepared for some people to not care; “Why is she telling us this? What does it matter?” But it does matter, to me. It’s a part of me that I’ve only acknowledged to a handful of people, ever. Having never assigned myself a label and having entered into a heteronormative marriage has made it easy for me to blend in. To not be seen as “other.” But by not saying it, it feels like I’m hiding it. And I think that sends a message that I believe that being “other” is something to be ashamed of, that queerness is best swept under the rug and ignored. And THAT couldn’t be further from what I believe.

I’m prepared for some people to care a lot. Maybe even to walk away. I’d like to think there aren’t many people in my life who would do that. But maybe a few. Perhaps even some who’ll surprise me. I realize that probably not everyone is going to be an ally. Still, I’m prepared.

Mostly, though, I’m prepared for people to care just the right amount. To realize that I’m the same me I was before I wrote this, the same me I’ve always been. To maybe offer a hug or covid-approved fist-bump and say something like, “Hey, thanks for sharing a piece of you.”

 

New love, forever love August 30, 2020

Day 19: Discuss “first love.”

“I’m having a midlife crisis.” The handful of people I’m closest with have had the distinct privilege of hearing me utter these words, usually amid heavy sobs or in a manic frenzy or while brooding about life in general. But am I really? Maybe, maybe not. There are so many days when I can do nothing but look around me and feel thankful for and proud of the life I’m fortunate enough to call mine. The life that I helped orchestrate through a series of careful choices and maybe a couple of reckless chances. And I’m in no way trying to detract from all the love and light and goodness around me. It’s there. I see it all. But despite all that, there are some days when I’ve got an acute awareness that many of life’s biggest decisions have already been made for/by me. Roots put down. Life cemented in place. More doors closed behind me than open in front of me.

This post has been about two years in the making. I’ve given it a lot of thought. Kicked the idea around in my head at all hours of the day and night. Searched for the right words that don’t make me sound ungrateful. Tried to formulate a coherent string of sentences that may help identify myself to others feeling the way I am. Unfortunately, this is as close as I’ve come. So here goes: On those really tough days, “midlife crisis” feels like the only descriptor adequate enough to define the profound feelings of…loss? Loss of youth. Loss of choices. Loss of opportunities to experience life’s big moments (and all of the feelings that are wrapped up in those experiences) just one more time.

One of those big life experiences is falling in love. And before I go on, it’s important to me to interject here and say a few things, beginning with that I am happily married. There is no doubt in my mind that I married my match and will live the rest of my life loving him. But this post isn’t about him. (If you want to read about him, you can do so here, where I gushed about him for our tenth wedding anniversary in 2018.) This post is about trying to find words to describe the differences between the love we have now versus “new love.” Because they are undeniably different.

The most succinct way I’ve ever seen the differences summed up came in a novel I read last fall, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. After reading, I jotted a quote, my biggest takeaway from the story. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me even more as time goes on. Here’s the quote:

“She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship…was the ultimate, the feeling they’d always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best–well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
excerpt from What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

There’s something to be said for new love, absolutely. For me, it starts with a spark of attraction that spreads like wildfire until a kaleidoscope of butterflies is flapping wildly in my gut. There are first dates and first kisses, tentative reaching and finding a comfortable rhythm. There’s giving and taking, yinning and yanging. There’s talking and listening and figuring each other out. An all-encompassing, breathless wanting. An I-can’t-get-enough need. My…sparkling mineral water certainly does quench a thirst, doesn’t it?

But no matter how exciting new love feels, those bubbles, that fizziness, it all eventually dissipates. Tattered, broken, unshiny parts are revealed. True colors poke through as if the harsh house lights have just flicked on after last call. And if you’re lucky, as I’ve been, you find the right tempo and the waltz truly begins. One two three, one two three. Count by count, all that feels good and right is boxed in. Fiercely protected. You lead each other through to the other side where love morphs into something more. A higher form. The French champagne.

And just as there’s much to be said about new love, so, too, is there about the kind of love we’ve got now, over twenty years after our first date. The forever kind. Love with the depth and breadth to encompass two lifetimes in one swooping arch. That kind of love is reliable, safe, comfortable, even easy after as long as he and I have been together. But when I use these terms to describe it, he turns up his nose at me, somewhat regretful that he’s no longer responsible for the butterflies and fizz. But it’s important to note that you can’t get to here, where we are, without having lived through the newness and beyond. Our love has gone through breakups and fights and more hard conversations than I can count. We’ve celebrated greatness, endured losses, faced hardships. We’ve created life and navigated parenting. We’ve supported each other in decisions that felt impossible to make, some with consequences that felt impossible to live with. And through it all, we’re still each others’ number one. And there’s no world in which I’d ever dare to replace or dispose of that. Ever.

Instead, I’ll close this with the valediction that he and I end every email, card, or letter to each other with. A phrase ripped from love letters between my paternal grandparents and inscribed on our wedding bands.

Always and all ways.

Me

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

A Map to My Heart April 13, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:13 pm
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What’s the way to my heart? Hmmm. I haven’t really had any reason to give this topic much thought in a long, long, looooong time because my heart already belongs to the hubs. But how did HE win it? And how has he managed to keep it all these years? THAT I can answer.

1) Be able to hold a conversation.

I like humor. I like logic. I like organizing and listing. I like daydreaming. Some of my favorite times are after our girl’s in bed and we’re up talking about our days or future plans.

2) Try to understand my anxiety.

It doesn’t always make sense, even to me. I often can’t tell you why I feel it or what will make it dissapate. But he always listens and tries his best to reason with me without judging.

3) Kick ass at parenting.

There’s no rule book or instruction manual. We’re all just winging it, doing our best to raise kids who are well-adjusted members of society. I’m so thankful that for the most part, he and I are on the same page when it comes to how best to raise our girl. And when we’re not, we’re always able to find a happy medium. Every day, no matter what, I’m a thousand percent certain that our girl has the type of father who will show her by example how a man should treat the people he loves.

4) Do the “boy jobs.”

Look. I was raised by two loving parents who didn’t really put much emphasis on gender roles. My sister and I were taught to be independent, to never rely on a man. So it took me a long time to feel good about giving up control of anything, even in my relationship. But once I did, it was like a weight was lifted off me. I’m still self sufficient in most things but see no harm in splitting responsibilities, either. Equal partners. Except for when it comes to killing spiders or cleaning up dog vomit. Those are boy jobs, for sure.

5) Never give up or walk away.

I’m often hard to handle. I can be irritable, grumpy, hard to live with. I sometimes try to isolate myself. But he’s held onto my heart all these years because he doesn’t give up on me. He’s patient, he pushes me to open up when all I want to do is disappear inside my own head, he often knows what I need even when I don’t.

 

To My Husband on our 10th Wedding Anniversary… November 1, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 3:32 pm
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Highschool sweet hearts

We met a lifetime ago. We were kids, sixteen years old and clueless about all that would come. A first date, the culmination of your persistent asking. A first kiss in a parking lot on a cold January night as the snow fell around us. Prom nights. Graduations. College years spent 150 miles apart, and all the weekend road trips and all-night phone calls to stay connected. The night you proposed, and the night my car died to save our future. Every moment of our past has led us to now, almost 19 years later, celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. And I want to thank you.

 

02Thank you for supporting me emotionally through some of the roughest points of my past. Moving out of my parents’ house at 17, my mom’s brief illness followed by her passing and the emotional fallout that came after, navigating some tumultuous family relationships. When I can’t catch my breath and feel like there’s no way out of the hole, you’re the one I turn to. You bring me logic when my mind spirals out of control. You calm me down when I need it most.

 

04Thank you for being a constant source of encouragement. The little things you do and say have the biggest impact on me. Helping me see the bright side of a particularly rough week at work, boosting my confidence in my parenting, reminding me of my strengths when I’ve forgotten myself. You have helped me find my backbone countless times when I otherwise feel like a pile of mush. (And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll actually write the book you’ve been telling me to write for years now.)

 

Thank you for helping me celebrate all that’s good in our lives. And there’s been so.05 much. good. It’s easy to glide through life and lose sight of the positives. And sometimes I have to consciously stop and take it all in. Without our partnership in life, I don’t think any of it would have been possible. From the big stuff like our home and our family to the smaller stuff like family date days…I say it all the time but it’s completely sincere every time I do: “I love our life.”

 

06Thank you for being Rylin’s other (often better) parent. I’ll never forget how happy we were to have conceived our girl. The birthing class, setting up the nursery, and pacing the halls of Johnson Memorial Hospital with me during labor, awaiting the arrival of our future. That feeling of panic when they “let” us take her home from the hospital, unsupervised. We’re not always on the same page when it comes to parenting but I wouldn’t want to share the responsibility with anyone else. I am almost constantly in awe of you as a father and so thankful that she has you to teach her by example how a man should treat her.

 

Thank you for doing your best to help me be my best self. I’ve told you for 18+ years 07that “it’s not your job to try to fix me.” But for 18+ years, you’ve done just that. And for that, I am more appreciative than you know. Whether it’s shouldering more than your fair share of household responsibilities or taking me away for a weekend getaway, you always know what my soul needs to smile brighter. And you do your best to deliver just that.

 

We are each wildly different people than we were when we met. And I’m absolutely proud of who we’ve become, both as individuals and as a couple. Our marriage isn’t perfect but I’m proud that we’re both willing to acknowledge its faults and find ways to bolster it. And each other. Every day, I’m proud to call you my husband and so thankful to be your wife.

I love you always and all ways and look forward to celebrating a lifetime more anniversaries with you.

03

Perhaps the first ever “funfetti” wedding cake (11/01/2008)

 

Dear Rylin April 23, 2013

My husband makes me smile. A lot. Today it was because of an email he sent to me. Which was intended for our daughter. Who is currently receiving mail in my uterus. It made me teary. Admittedly that’s probably just due to the wonky pregnancy hormones coupled with the “is it over yet?!” third trimester crankiness. Even so, I feel the need to share….

DSCN3033

 

Dear Rylin,
This is your father.  I would like to tell you that I’ve spent the last nine months plus thinking about you.  I have dreamt and imagined what it will be like to hold you, talk to you, and snuggle you.  I have thought about watching you play in the yard with your mom, Bob, Gracie and me.  I think about who you will be when you get older and hope that I can guide you to the best life possible.  I want to teach you to be a good person.  Your mother and I are so excited to finally meet you and complete this family.  No matter where your life takes you we will always be there to support you through it.  The big key to all of this is we need you to arrive to begin this journey together.  So if you will kindly get things moving and come see us that would be great.  I love you with all of my heart and soul and can’t wait to take our first jaunt together with your carrier.
Love,
Daddy
P.S. Tell mommy you like MaryBeth for your middle name and I’ll make sure you get some extra candy on your 1st birthday.
P.P.S. Funfetti is the best cake. I’ll make sure that’s what you get.
 

Thank You August 31, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 5:21 pm
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It’s been what I’d call a rough week. Chris and I have been at the center of some lively debate and it’s been mentally and emotionally exhausting. I won’t go into detail but I will tell you that it all began with a comment about how “marriage is like a jail sentence” and the fact that the person who made the comment “doesn’t want to be handcuffed to someone for life.” I’ll also tell you that it’s weeks like this that make me appreciate (more than usual) the man I married.

We will celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary this November. But we’ve been together—for the most part—for just under 13 years. I say “for the most part” because our relationship began when we were 16 and we’ve had our share of little teenage spats. Two of which (once during high school and once more during freshman year of college) resulted in us “taking a break.” You know how it goes. You have a fight so major that there’s just no getting past it. So you break up. And three weeks later you realize that you’ve done nothing but miss them, wonder what they’re up to, and ask yourself, “What was that fight about again?” Been there, done that. And yet here we are. Almost thirteen years later. More mature. More understanding of each others’ quirks and needs. And more in love than ever.

But how? We live in culture that is quick to give up on marriage, with 40+% of all marriages in the country ending in divorce. Then there’s domestic violence and infidelity and all those other couples who just seem to coexist without actually being happy to be together. What makes our relationship different than those? How have we gotten to where we are today? Sure, all the usual stuff….all the stuff psychologists and marriage experts will tell you are vital to building a strong marriage. We communicate—well and frequently. We show each other respect. We have similar ideals with respect to the “big deal” topics like finances and family. We share responsibilities. We have the perfect balance between “us” time and alone time—so neither of us are defined 100% by our relationship. We know how to fight fairly. But probably most importantly, we never miss an opportunity to make each other feel special.

Every day before he leaves for work, he finds me—usually I’m still in bed, so it’s not hard—and kisses my forehead. Some days he sends me a mid-day text message that just says, “Hi, beautiful.” Once in a while, it’s him giving me a foot massage while we curl up to watch a movie on the couch. (And, yes, I’ll admit it. He’s a better movie picker than I am. Just don’t tell him I said that.) He has a way of making me get that “melty” feeling inside. Even after almost thirteen years.

So today, just for fun, I stopped by the commuter lot where he parks his car to catch the bus into Hartford for work. I found his car, jotted a note on the first piece of paper I found in my car (a bank envelope), and  left it on his dashboard. It just took a few minutes, but I knew he’d smile when he got off the bus and found it waiting for him. And he did.

Yeah, I call my husband “Buddy.” Don’t judge me!

Now, I realize that marriage isn’t for everyone—and you’re certainly in that group if you view it as a jail sentence! And I also realize that you don’t have to be married to be happy in a relationship—my parents were together for over 30 years before they got married. But I can say with certainty that marrying Chris was the best decision I’ve ever made because he’s my best friend and I wouldn’t want to experience this crazy thing we call life without him. So thank you, Chris, for being my “cell mate for life.”