feeling for you

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Being back in Alabama has given me a sense of purpose I so longed for in New York. But with great purpose comes the heavy weight of responsibility. I spent so long working out the kinks in my brain, I didn’t have much room to dedicate to work. And now, with a seemingly better-functioning psyche, I’ve run head-first into my work as a local journalist. I feel immensely lucky to have been able to tell stories for a living for going on five years now, something I know is not a common occurrence for many in the media world. But I have to keep reminding myself that it’s more than luck. I did this on purpose. I chose this career and worked my ass off to get where I am.

I’ve known I feel more than most ever since I could remember. My brain is hyper aware of the world around me, the people who inhabit it and my own place in it all. My feelings have gotten me into trouble countless times, so quick to fall in love and so lost without it. They’ve cost me lots of money in therapy and pushed friends away. Once when I was feeling stuck and couldn’t convince my brain to feel much of anything, I got an impromptu tattoo to jump start the process. But they’ve also and inspired me, forced rather, to create. When I was on stage in high school I could pretend to be someone else entirely, feeling through someone else’s brain. I painted and wrote in college to make something tangible out of my feelings. I created a blog to tell the whole world about every minute feeling I’ve had since I was 19. So I guess it’s no surprise I made a career out of it.

I write other people’s stories, mostly women. And it’s made me feel so acutely, I’ve had a hard time coming up with a place to put these emotions. For the past couple of months I’ve listened to women tell stories of sexual assault in hopes of encouraging others to feel. I’ve documented their strides in politics and highlighted laws threatening to take away rights the’ve so passionately fought for. And I’m feeling it all. I can feel the fight in my bones. I can feel their tears on my cheeks. And it hurts.

It’s weird to think about the many, maybe even majority, of people who aren’t emotionally attached to their job. I asked for this, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I could step back if I tried. I think my soul now runs on the stories of others. My own feelings just give me the drive to propel them out of my fingers and onto a page.

These photos were taken by Allie Hulcher on November 7, 2018. Voting day. I was hopeful, as I always am on voting days. Last Friday I wrote a story that made me lose it. I’d been fighting to tell the stories of young women in Alabama for about six months, but it was piece of possible legislation that made me question why. Why am I encouraging women to speak up and speak out, bare their deepest traumas for the world to see if in the end it doesn’t matter? All I know is that I can’t stop.

settling in

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I think this may be the longest I've gone without posting. Five months. I've kept my brain busy in other ways, particularly my new job. So maybe that's why. I just haven't had tons of brain energy left for creative endeavors. But I'm getting settled in to my new home, my new city, my new job, and I think I'm ready now. 

I don't really know where to start. But I miss this! I miss YOU! It's weird I really don't know who reads this thing, other than the ones that comment on my Instagram posts. But it's so amazing to me that there are people out there reading my thoughts. So even when I feel alone, I'm really not. I hope you find some of my words encouraging and they make you feel less alone too. I guess that's the point of social media, isn't it. It's too bad I don't make such efforts in real life though. That's something I'm working on. Intentional interaction. I'm to make meaningful conversation wherever I go. I've never liked small talk anyway. So far that looks like unintentionally making strangers cry in bars. Like I said, working on it.

But I digress. I've been super anxious about posting again. Not because I'm nervous for people to read, but nervous I don't have anything left to say. So I told myself I would just let my fingers run. So here I am! I'm hoping this becomes some sort of routine, even if it's just to post links I'm loving or a quick photo of my new apartment (which I'm obsessed with. But that's a whole other post).

So here's what you missed.

I really like my job. Right now I'm covering women/gender issues and higher education. I got to rehash the sorority segregation story that basically started my career. I told the story of a young mom working her way through nursing school, broke my first national new story, and took a look at why women in the South feel left out of the #metoo movement.

I love being so close to my big fat fun family. So far I've been to two weddings, one Labor Day game watch party, two beach trips, countless sister slumber parties, and some just because dinners. My brain is so relaxed (most of the time) knowing I can go see my sisters or mom whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed.

I relearned that I am most happy by a body of water. I don't remember loving Summer as much as I have this year. Maybe it's all the trips to the ocean or the fact that my parents have a pool, but I have been soaking up all the Vitamin D baby.

I've made a couple of really great friends and grown closer to some that I've missed dearly while away for four years.

I truly miss my NYC family, and my apartment, and my coffee shop, and my restaurants, and my weekend activities, but for now I'm feeling pretty settled in with the slower, simplified lifestyle.

Here's some photos my cousin took of me in a new summery outfit, but couldn't think of anything to talk about until September. I felt cute and girly and messy, like a book character who was running away from something. I sometimes dress like made up characters to put on a front when I'm feeling off or. It makes me walk different and talk different. This day I really wanted to stomp around and talk like I had a cigarette hanging out of my mouth. She's defiant, but easy to talk to. She always has something to say.

birmingham bound

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I moved to Birmingham, Alabama!

I wish i had been able to share more Winter 2018 here on the blog, but I just wasn't feeling inspired. I was stuck in a rotation of pilled sweaters and limited social interaction, thus limiting inspiring #content. But I'm in a brand new location and the inspiration is flowing. I'm excited to get back on the blogging bandwagon. I hope to include lots of southern food spots, antique and vintage shopping and an entire post dedicated to my mule collection. 

But for now... I'm back in the South. New York has changed me. I'm a better person, a stronger woman, a fiercer ally because of it. I was so sad to leave, but I am so excited to start fresh, at home.

I got a new job covering women's issues for al.com. I can't wait to see the stories that come from it. I want to elevate southern women's voices and empower those in my new community. 

I have so much to write about. My fingers are aching with anticipation, waiting with baited breath for the opportunity to let flow all the things that have been sitting patiently at the tip of my tongue: all the reasons I love and will miss New York, the reasons we left, my new sense of place and home, my new city, what it feels like to be in Alabama again. I'm feeling renewed with this move. It really is crazy what a change of locale will do to a creative brain. I don't think this post is for waxing poetic about my personal sense of place in the world. But I just wanted to tell you that I'm back and I'm feeling renewed and revived. Winter is over and my fingers are ready to spend some time tapping out the stories I've kept cooped up in my brain for a few months.

You guys seem to appreciate the gossipy dirty details of my day to day. I too am one to salivate over the intimacies expressed via internet. But is there anything else you'd like me to highlight over this blogging journey? I'm no interior decorator, but my new apartment is pretty cute. Would you be interested in an apartment tour? What about day in the life style vlogging? I know what I like to see on blogs/Instagram. But I'd love to know what kinds of content you can't get enough of. 

[shirt-uo, pants-uniqlo (similar), purse-madewell, shoes-anthropologie (similar)]

Wedding Day

On October 28, 2017 I married the man whose dreams were bigger than mine. I married the man I advised my friends against, the kind that follows you to New York to win you over after knowing you for eight weeks. The man that loves his mother, his sister, his women friends with a fierce respect. The man that fights for my joy. The man I let explore the darkest corners of my mind, and guide me to light.

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We knew we wanted  a future together less than a year of knowing each other. We went through lots of ups and downs living in a city that doesn’t care about you. We grew up together. We learned about life together. It’s been hard, but so worth it.

We imagined our wedding representing equal parts of each of us. For him, the natural quiet of the outdoors, the bourbon, and the humongous wedding party. And for me the hours of girl-time prep, the intimate ceremony, and the epic dance party.

My friends indulged in my moody music taste while I was getting ready, switching abruptly between Christmas carols and Cardi B. We gulped down mimosas and coffee and watched all of the “Father of the Bride” movies while the boys got their beards trimmed and sipped bourbon at the farm house.

The weather was cold and dreary, bringing out a flock of hawks before the ceremony. Who needs to release doves when your heart is made of murder mysteries and mayhem? Nature knew what mood to set. My bridesmaids refused the leather jackets I suggested to walk down the aisle and kept warm standing as close to each other as possible. You guys were right though, the pictures were worth it. My family took care of the guests running blankets out to the older folks, but no one complained. I walked down the aisle to my favorite hymn and I squeezed my dad’s arm to ward away his tears. I said “I do” with a carefree confidence I don’t think I’d ever had before. We practically ran down the aisle and danced our way to our bridal party for photos. The group shots were easy to capture, we just couldn’t keep our hands off our friends and family.

We gathered in the warm tent for food and dancing. Drinks flowed freely and the dancing was loose. I’m easily one of the most cynical people I know, but as I’m describing my wedding, the usual snark that flows freely through my fingertips feels stagnant. My worries that day were futile. Everything fell into place and I was forced to appreciate the gorgeous group of family and friends, chosen and by blood, that we came from. So thank you.

Thanks Mom and Dad for the beautiful celebration, for planning and funding, but also for saving the day multiple times.

Thanks Lily and Anna for being the best cheerleaders a sister could ask for. Your overflowing emotions throughout the day grounded my own feelings.

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Thanks Sarah, Emmie, Mallory, Abby, Mazie, Criston, MK. You will never know the impact you have on my life. I literally could not have made it down that aisle without you.

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Daniel, thank you for bringing me and Colby together. You actually are the man.

Sarah H thank you for loving us so hard it hurts sometimes. We are lucky to know you and be supported by your humongous heart.

To my family and his. We are so lucky to have you in our lives. I am who I am because of my huge, wacky group of aunts, uncles, cousins, and outlaws. Cheers. And to Colby’s family, I never knew I could love another group as much as my own.

And to the incredibly fun, supportive, change-making group of friends we call ours; you made my wild dance party dreams come true. Thanks for finishing off all the bourbon and indulging me in my after after party dreams at a slimy Huntsville bar.

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Reliving this day was magical. Thank you David McCaw for the lovely video and W&E Photographie for the photos

Q&A

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I asked the good folks of Instagram to send me some questions and they certainly delivered. There were the straight forward questions...

Are you a feminist?
lol. yeah.

What makeup will you not leave the house without?
Mascara (L'Oreal Voluminous) and lipstick (Smashbox "Out Loud" for fall/winter or M.A.C. "So Chaud for spring/summer)

What is your drugstore ride or die product?
I can't live without Garnier miceller water and Burts Bees makeup remover wipes.

What is your favorite snack?
Siggis yogurt or if I'm out in my neighborhood a chocolate croissant* from Hungry Ghost.

Where do you go to for inspiration?
Instagram and blogs. I've looked to ManRepeller since college for when I'm feeling funky, but as far as practical dressing goes, Refinery29 is where it's at. As for Instagram, I've found so many great women styling bodies of all sizes. Fashion ain't limited to sample sizes. Here's a few Instagram gals I've been looking to for style inspiration. 
@aishahatter
@double3xposure
@latonyayvette
@oliviamuenter

Can you weigh in on the "dressing for your body" concept?
I think this is total BS. Yes it is very frustrating when your favorite brands don't make proportionate sizing options when you're bigger than a 6. But that doesn't mean you can't make trends work for you. I've made it a point to follow more Instagram "influencers" with my similar proportions. If they can rock mensware without being a size 2 so can I. Plus size clothing tends to emphasize the drapey tunics and skinny jeans, but you'll never know what looks go on you until you try it. Also, screw flattering. If I want to wear something it's usually because it's aesthetically pleasing to me, not because it makes me look skinny. Don't let the ultimate goal of your final ensemble be to disguise your rolls. Stop hiding, and dress how you want. I thought I couldn't do the wide leg pant thing, but I saw a couple of Insta-girls rocking it, and I look damn cool in my pics, right?

You've said you've struggled with body image, yet you keep posting photos of yourself. How do you do body confidence?
I ignore it. This may not be the best way to handle it. But I just try not to dwell on my body. That and I don't have a full length mirror to stare at my naked body until speckles and lumps become literal demons. I have countless passing thoughts of feeling unworthy and disappointed in the way I look. I had moments where I cringed over wedding photos because I thought I looked different in the mirror. But what can you do? I just refuse to let these private moments of disgust effect my day to day life. Because I was having a great time in those photos and everyone loved me for me. Everyone knows what I look like in person! I'm not fooling anyone with a flattering outfit. 

What is the worst thing Colby has accidentally said about you when he meant to compliment you?
He once told me I had softball thighs. Like it looks like I used to play softball. I stopped him before he could elaborate.

What's the worst date you've ever been on?
I feel like I have a few qualifying answers for this one, but I'm going to pick the one that made me laugh, not cry. (that can be a post for another time) The guy picked me up and drove us to a bar, but before we got out of the car he made us listen to some Grateful Dead song in its entirety. He let his eyes roll back in dude extasy upon some connection he made with the band's "soulful spirit." We got drinks in the bar. He ordered us shots. lol ok. But I was in walking distance from my house, so I wasn't worried if I needed to exit hastily. He told me he liked me because I didn't think his jokes were funny. He told me I was "like a lion." Ew. The night ended abruptly about three drinks in when he told me his dreams of outfitting a van so he could make/produce adult films with co-eds. He asked if I could be the girls' babysitter, because you know, I didn't really look the part to actually be in the film? Lol bye. Looking back he could have been a serial killer. 

My mom just said she wanted to know more about my life... so here's a quick day-in-the-life-of-Abbey (the good, bad, and ugly)
I wake up around 8:30 (I know, the joys of NYC-living, nothing is open until 10). Scroll through my phone in the hopes that someone important followed me on Instagram or am alerted of something awful Trump said while I was asleep, so I am prepared for what Fox News has to say about it on the TV's in the elevator to my office. Feed my cats. Wash my face. Spray lots of dry shampoo in my hair and slap on a bit of makeup. Run out the door by 9:20. Grab an iced coffee and maybe a chocolate croissant* from Hungry Ghost. Listen to "My Favorite Murder" or "Fresh Air" for my 45 minute commute and pray someone doesn't sneeze on me/practice mindful breathing to avoid panic attacks. Arrive at work and respond to angry reader voicemails. Write. Edit. Eat sad desk lunch with some combination yogurt, PB&J, banana, sweet potato, leftovers. Print important things. Leave at 6 for commute home. (This is the part where I sometimes go to therapy or meet a friend for a drink.) Rearrange my "getting ready" accouterments so Colby doesn't remark on my slobbish tendencies. Eat some variation of chicken, veggie, starch. Watch the only channel Colby and I can agree on, Food Network. Scroll through YouTube videos in bed. Fall asleep around midnight. 

As for my outfit: blazer is asos, pants are h&m, shoes are vans, earrings are madewell, purse is madewell

lookin' cute, feelin' sad

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In my Spring clean last March I threw out much of my holiday decor. It took up too much space and was too kitschy, not the sophisticated minimal look I wanted for my space. I did the same for my mind, burying all of the messy winter emotions that lingered into the new season. I added a new medication to my daily routine and threw out the things that reminded me of the sad me. The messy decorations, the clothes that didn’t fit, the rug that I never could get clean. But I was left with about 10 ornaments for my Christmas tree, a strand of white lights, and a snowglobe. My Christmas tree is leaning and is dying already. The few ornaments make it sad and unkempt and I have pine needles all over my floor.

All of this has nothing to do with why my brain is sick, but it does somehow personify my feelings. I can’t help but think my sad tree is a metaphor for where I’m at right now. Trying really hard, but slowly falling apart.

There’s nothing wrong with me. At least there shouldn’t be

I just got married to my best friend and love of my life. We spent seven whole days wrapped in each others happiness, eating until our hearts content, drinking until our words became songs, and planning our futures together. It’s my favorite time of year. I just got in my Black Friday orders in for God’s sake. But I’m stuck inside my head and some days it’s impossible to get out.

Christmastime has long been my favorite holiday. I decorate like crazy and I’ve been listening to holiday music every morning as I get ready. But these days Christmas time also comes with a heavy blanket of deep sadness. It’s those damn short days. I swear I only see the sun for about 30 minutes. It’s long periods of time spent in my small (large my NY standards!) apartment. But it’s mostly just my brain. I keep having to remind myself. I could be anywhere and my brain would still sometimes get sick.

Yesterday was bad. I let my brain spiral into a messy black hole, shielding myself from rational thought, and refusing to shower off tears and snot from the night before. I shut out everyone in my life who attempted to reach out, even my own husband. I shut out and shut down and was convinced I would be like that forever. I thought about how I wasn’t good enough for my job, how I wasn’t a good friend, I wasn’t pretty, I wasn’t loved. I know none of that is either true or really important, but it was dark and scary and at the time the only tunnel of thought that existed inside me.

Last night my partner reminded me to be brave and vulnerable and let people in. So here I am trying to be brave. Who knew six years ago my fashion diary would turn into a healing space of sorts. I hope this reminds someone that they are not alone and that it does and will get better.

I don’t really have a solution to all this. I took my emergency meds and Colby convinced me to go see I movie I have been looking forward to. It took my mind out of the hole, but I’m constantly terrified it will happen again. So today I woke up early enough to make coffee before work and dressed in my favorite outfit (pictured below). I don’t have any profound words of encouragement other than.. Hi I’m here and sometimes having a sick brain is really hard. I’m being brave and having the entire internet hold me accountable. (lol so going to regret this) So take your meds folks, go outside, and wear your favorite outfit. It won’t last forever.

[jeans-levis, blazer-zara, turtleneck- madewell, hat- target, boots - uo]