Wednesday, June 22, 2016

So There's This Guy...

When a close friend nudged me to get on OK Cupid last November, I told him I couldn’t be any less interested in dating. After the crap I’d just been through, all I wanted to do was break hearts and burn the world. I was still hurting from the end of such a long, draining relationship and the thought of giving my heart to someone else just seemed like a cruel punishment. I didn’t want to be that vulnerable ever again.

But he persisted and to get him to shut the hell up, I fixed up my account, answered some match questions, posted new photos, and then proceeded to ignore every single message I received. The messages started to become another form of entertainment, to be honest, with most of them being crazy missives from either weirdos who clearly never bothered to read my profile or dudes who were looking for a quick hookup. In the span of two months, there was no one who piqued my interest enough for me to write back. Until Alex sent me a message.

It was a nice, thoughtful, well-written note from a guy who had a great command of the English language and seemed like he had a lot of interesting things going on. I immediately wanted to know more…so, naturally, I freaked the f out.

“What should I do?!” I asked my friends. “What if we chat and he doesn’t like me? Or worse, what if he does like me??”

I was so anxious about finding myself in another relationship just when I was starting to crawl my way out of the last one and feeling happy again. I didn’t want to mess up my process by getting wrapped up in somebody else.

But I just couldn’t resist messaging him anyway.

We spent the next four days sending each other the longest messages on Earth (even my online-dating obsessed friend had his mind blown by the length of our messages). We told each other everything: past relationships, current situations, about our families, goals, creative pursuits, love of travel, his childhood in Holland, and our shared wish to leave New York City someday. I found myself eagerly awaiting his witty messages every day and learning more about this stranger.

But then he wanted to meet and it was back to freaking out. It was easy to open up when there was a screen and distance protecting me from him. Maybe I was only good on paper and photos. Maybe he’d find me totally lame and too silly. I kept looking at his pictures, which weren’t exactly the clearest, and wondering if he’d turn out to be cute or not. My friends kept saying yes, but I just wasn’t so sure. There was only one way to find out and, as he said, after all we’d shared with one another, it’d be better if we met sooner rather than later. I swallowed my nerves and said yes to his invitation.

We met at a coffee shop during the craziest blizzard of the year on January 23. I ran into the warm shop, dwarfed by my furry coat and giant scarf completely covered in snow, shook the flurries off my face and looked around. He was sitting right by the entrance, laughing at the sight I must have been.

First thoughts: “Holy crap he is cute!” and “Thank God I wasn’t catfished.”

People, we ended up having a nine-hour-long date that day. Putting aside the alarms that probably should have gone off before inviting this guy back to my place after the coffee shop closed shortly after our meeting due to the storm, it was an amazing time. We spent the day chatting about our lives and watching animal videos on YouTube. When I offered him little marshmallows for a snack, he joked that we could make teeny roasted marshmallows. Why stop there though? Soon we were putting little marshmallows on toothpicks, roasting them over tea lights on my coffee table, and cracking bits of graham crackers and chocolate coins for tiny s’mores. Tiny s’mores! Needless to say, I was smitten. We had our first kiss at my front door before he left for the night.

The first weeks were a mix of *whoosh* “This feels so nice!” and “Oh no! But maybe it’s too good too soon?” He’d jumped in with both feet and deactivated his online profile as soon as he met me. Meanwhile, I was navigating my anxieties over realizing that I still had the ability to fall for someone again.

I’ve always loved doing romantic gestures and I’m slowly learning that it’s not stupid or selfish to want the same in return. When he emailed me a love poem that was so on point with our budding relationship, I thanked him and thought wow, that’s incredibly sweet of him to wake me up with this. Then he told me he wrote the poem and I think my mind went *poof* I just didn’t know how to respond.

For Valentine’s Day, he searched and searched until he found a bouquet of roses in the same dark purple shade he referenced in that poem, along with chocolates, a handwritten card, and a tiny bear. Neither one of us takes Valentine's Day super seriously, but it was nice to have someone who wanted to buy into the cheesiness anyway. One night, around midnight, he said he wanted to go for a walk around his neighborhood after a long day of work. “Bring your headphones,” he told me. When we reached this garden/park I never even knew existed alongside the East River, he plugged a headphone splitter into his phone so we could each listen to a playlist he’d created just for us while we strolled through the park. I kept squeezing his hand the whole time. I thought this stuff only happened in movies.

As a sensitive guy himself, he doesn’t make me feel dumb or self-conscious if I get emotional. He validates my feelings and helps me reinforce whatever I’m learning in therapy. I so appreciate him being interested and invested in this part of my life since right now it’s a huge focus of mine. He’s a freelance programmer and we’re both impressed with each other’s ability to successfully work from home all the while pursuing other creative ambitions. When he’s not honing his carpentry skills by building a floor-to-ceiling tall workstation or a new bed, he’s teaching himself how to tailor and make his own clothes from scratch. If he’s not zipping around the city on his bicycle, he’s hopping on his motorcycle to go spend quality time with his family every week.

I've always been skeptical of online dating sites because I felt like it took the magic out of finding someone special. I thought it'd be more romantic to stumble into someone on the street or look up from your laptop at a coffee shop, lock eyes, and have the stars align or something. Turns out you can turn anything into a sweet story if you try.

One thing that apparently didn't come across in my kick ass profile is how cuddly and silly I can be. Thankfully, it's not only been well-received, but also totally matched.

Monday, June 20, 2016

National Stationery Show 2016 Recap

The National Stationery Show was back in New York City last month and I decided to suck up whatever residual shame I felt over pulling out of last year’s show and go say hi to my paper peeps. The future of Porcupine Hugs is still a question mark at the moment especially now that my freelance writing has kicked into high gear, but I still do enjoy being around so much creativity, talent, and pretty paper. Below, a few of the goodies that caught my eye this year.

1. My Etsy NY teamies had a booth at NSS this year! Doo Daa Studio, Angie Colombo Jewelry, Bugged Out, Soluna Soluna, Black Lamb were doing their thing in this year's debut booth. | 2. Free lemonade (and a look through their felt party decor) courtesy of Maypole. | 3. I know friends who'd be perfect for each of these Sapling Press mugs. | 4. More snarky magnets from Sapling Press. | 5. Katie of Idlewild Co. turned her painted patterns into this beautiful wallpaper for her booth. | 6. This Cherry Blossom Calendar by Brooklyn-based Quick Brown Fox Letterpress show the passage of time via these sweet letterpressed illustrations. | 7. I hosted Lark + Raven at my place last year when she was preparing to debut at her first NSS. Now look at her, killing it in year two! | 8. Pretty wrapping paper from Paula & Waffle, another sweet friend I made while preparing for last year's show. | 9. Letterpress + rose gold foil = satisfied bridezillas thanks to Kiss and Punch.

10. Congrats to the totally awesome Wild Ink Press on their Louie Award. This veteran has been exhibiting at NSS since 2011...right when I first started walking the show. | 11. Another second-year exhibitor, Canadian Sea + Lake Paper Co. showcased her style by painting them right onto her booth wall. | 12. New pencils by Offensive + Delightful for those who really just don't give a fuck. | 13. More colorful words from Offensive + Delightful. | 14. This year, Paper Lovely transformed into Ramona & Ruth, but Kim's style is still as sweet and delicate as ever. | 15. Each month of Made in Brockton Village's 2017 calendar features a gouache-painted cityscape and words from a literary writer describing that place. | 16. So many cute love and friendship cards from personal fave Fugu Fugu Press. That hug card in the middle is giving me the feels. | 17. Albertine Press press caught my eye with her chalkboard wall with a map of the U.S. showcasing their collection of city postcards. | 18. Mr. Boddington's Studio also pulled me in with their new city art prints.

19. Gold foil, color, and stars from LaLa Grace. | 20. This year's gold foil obsession continues... Gorgeous hand painted notebook covers paired with a bit of shine from Our Heiday. | 21. Mixed media cards made from cotton linters left over from the textile industry from fellow Oh My! Handmade Goodness creative Colleen Attara. | 22. Precious watercolored critters from Chic + Nawdie. | 23. Stuffed softies from fellow Etsy NY teammate Jumping Birds. | 24. Congrats to Paper Bandit Press on their Louie Awards (they're basically the Oscars of the greeting card industry)! "I love you more than Madonna loves pretending to be British." | 25. Fun new gift bags from Emily McDowell. Who else gets around the problem on that first bag by buying yourself a little sumthin' sumthin' when you go shopping for others? One for me, one for you... | 26. Sloth (!) art print from Pickle Punch. There were so many wonderful animals on her booth walls it was difficult to choose just one. | 27. I need these empowerment cards and art prints from Dayna Lee Collection wallpapered around my desk. "Push through the negative things you've been telling yourself for far too long. You are amazing and deserving of all you desire. Believe in yourself because you're believed in."

28. Foreignspell hand carves each stamp and then uses them to create her greetings, textiles, and wooden art prints. | 29. For the new P+C Poolside collection, Foreignspell teamed up with Chill Pins to add a little swag to these cards. | 30. Those cheeky Crassholes know how to get a party started with their pro foul balloons. | 31. Receiving this card by Everyday Valentine might be grounds for a breakup. #freelancelife | 32. I think Violet Clair should've included breakfast sandwiches as her giveaway because I could have totally gone for a bacon and egg sandwich after walking the show all day. | 33. That's a wrap on this year's National Stationery Show recap! It was so nice seeing my paper peeps while they were in town and can't wait to see them again next year. (Sign by Printable Wisdom)