Dear Diary, I Get Around

Last week I had a conversation with a co-worker about why some people seem to have no self-awareness. We questioned why some people don’t pick up on social cues; why they can’t tell when they’ve intruded on a conversation; why they don’t read the faces of those who are negatively receiving the words they’re delivering. We puzzled over some people’s inability to read the unfavorable reactions of others.

But also not funny.

But also not funny.

We both confessed to hoping our self-awareness was on point and felt like—as a rule—it was. We ended the conversation feeling pretty darn good about our ability to read social cues and self-regulate.

My self-awareness confidence took a mighty blow later that night when—for reasons I can’t remember—I peeked into the first journal I ever owned and saw something wholly mortifying.

Unbeknownst to me, I was a first-rate floozy.

Let’s unpack these shameful years.

diary

This was my first diary, and it was given to me by my sister. Many months ago, we discussed a few of the entries in this journal, related to the rigorous crush I had on one of my middle school teachers, Coach McCahon.

That was but the tip of the iceberg.

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You’ll see that this is the first of many professions of love. Apparently, I had a lot of it to give as a kid. Also, please note—I am nine. This will be an important detail as we move along.

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I wonder what good things happened to me? Was it the fact that we had company? That my autograph was coming along? Time will tell.

I’m not sure what’s more shocking—that I felt Groundhog Day was worth two mentions or that I love a boy “very much” when I’m still drinking milk with my supper.

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Here we are. And because this simply cannot be said enough—I’M NINE. Okay, I kind of understand how I could think I love him; but it’s shocking to me that I’m eager to kiss him. It’s more shocking that I want it to be “for a long time.” It’s jaw-dropping that I’m going to take the bull by the horns, when I don’t even have enough years under my belt to spell lips correctly.

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Great. I’m ready for marriage. I’m simple-minded enough to think a definition of spring is warranted, yet I’m contemplating the rightness of nuptials and monogamy.

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Still hoping he pops the question. I wonder where I thought it would happen? I have vivid memories of playing inside the big tractor tires on our elementary playground with him—I bet that’s where I hoped he’d drop to one scabbed knee. Oh, and if the suspension is killing you, I did get Mrs. DeShields—so my appalling punctuation was her gift that year.

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WHAT?! What the hell is, “well, you know?!” No, I don’t know! WHERE ARE MY PARENTS?! So again, I think it’s worth pointing out—I’m ready to get serious, but I only manage to get the first and last letters right.

Side Note: I actually remember writing this. I was listening to the Top 9 at 9 on KQTY. I hate to tell you this, but it was when, back-to-back, they played Endless Love by Lionel Richie and Feels So Right by Alabama. This is not cute, y’all—it’s capital T Troubling.

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Still love Billy. Still can’t spell for shit.

Side Note: This kind of enduring love shouldn’t be plausible when I’m young enough to still enjoy puppet shows.

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Hmm, wonder when this happened—a new dude. You will see that this is the beginning of my downward spiral into tramp-ville. I’m 10 now—apparently approaching womanhood—and want some skating rink lip-locking.

Side Note: I remember this entry too, and he was there. We couple-skated to Hard To Say I’m Sorry by Chicago, and the song was especially meaningful to me because, while Brandon was a “hunk and a half,” I felt like I owed him an apology for coveting his speed skates.

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More love in the air. I love God and I love a new boy, Kevin. I found my watch a week later in a pair of shoes—so I’m sure I double-loved God that day, but just didn’t get it documented.

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Still love Kevin.

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I’m going with Daxton, but I’m not sensing much love. Maybe it’s because I’m in love with a man 18 years my senior. No big deal. Oh, and I’m still struggling with basic spelling.

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I guess Coach McCahon was a gateway drug to Paul McCartney. Let’s see, I was 11 and he was, what, 70? Seems natural that I would love him and write about him in my diary, along with my grades, my Christmas gifts and an unforgivable spelling of the complicated word, “for.”

Side Note: The super clever initials are, Anna Christie BFFs … I love Paul McCartney (because one mention wasn’t enough) … I love Daxton Patterson (guess I did love him after all) … I love Scott McCahon (so, two men whose combined age was approximately 100) … I love my family … and Heaven only knows what BMOA stands for. I shutter to think.

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And we’re back. Yes, these entries are in order.

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In case anyone forgot.

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Whoa. Daxton is out of the rotation.

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Enter: Donny Griffin. Sure doesn’t seem like I’m very judicious with my love. If I spent half as much time on learning to spell as I did on acknowledging my love for anyone with a Y chromosome, we’d be in good shape.

diary18

There’s a lot going on here. Apparently I enjoyed learning about Anne Frank. I also worried a lot about our income tax return. I thought my TV debut—for something related to basketball and a telethon—would catapult me to stardom. I still loved Coach McCahon, and his body—despite his snotty behavior—but it wasn’t reciprocal. Spelling is still out of my wheelhouse.

diary19

Spoiler alert: I still love Coach McCahon, and Christi and I did not remain best friends for all of eternity, as I predicted—but hey, my grades were on point and I spelled some words right.

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So much love to be had here. I’m still in love with a fully grown man, and Donnie (a new Donnie) is romantic. HOW? How is a 12-year old romantic? I have to know. Can someone remind me what pre-teens do to be romantic? Seems as if all that romance is fleeting, since I’m still with Donny G, but would also be down for some Donnie W, or Scott or Mike lovin’ on the side. Well, at least I also love my family and God—so some morsel of me remains honorable.

diary21

Sheesh, what’s with this income tax return? And why was I on TV again? I didn’t profess any love in this entry, but I can tell you that I wholeheartedly loved DQ. And it’s almost worrisome that I was so attached to my diary that I thought it could join me in prayer.

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A new player: Mike Hammonds. I see no mention of love, so I must be taking things slow this time around.

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Aww, poor Mike—I still don’t love him. I guess I’m just passing time until Coach McCahon and his “good body” get with the program.

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I loved IZODS. I wonder if that’s why I was so obsessed with our income tax return?

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I love God. I also love Coach McCahon, Mike Hammonds (although I question my sincerity on this one), God again, my family—and as a bonus, the w/w/w (whole wide world). That’s you—you’re welcome.

diary26

No love here, but I include it to tell you that my friends and I tried out for the talent show by dancing a choreographed number to MJ’s Billie Jean. On the opening beat, our backs were to the judges—as we stood with our feet shoulder-width apart—and one by one, we spun around and pointed out across the auditorium dramatically. We wore white tennis shorts, IZODs and Gilligan hats. I can’t make this up—nor would I want to.

Side Note: We didn’t make it.

diary29

I was single? How did I survive? Oh I know—on the “total” love I had for Scott Frederic.

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Really diggin’ this Scott fellow. Let’s not allow the misspelling of his name to negate the obvious depths of my love.

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But for now, Layne Moffitt will do.

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I’m now going with Steven Moore, but love Ricky Schroder. Where’d Layne go? That was fast. I can say with confidence that I was more devoted to The Ricker than Steven, as I had approximately 104 pictures of him wallpapering my bedroom.

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My love for Brad (yes, this is a new guy) is making me question my feelings for Steven.

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Annnd I’m back with Daxton. Enough time has passed that we’re now making out at dances. The first time around, we probably just played in the sandbox.

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Oh hey, Travis. When did you get here? Have you met, Ricky?

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I think kids who call people and chomp ice as their prank are totally mature enough to juggle a dozen loves in a few years.

I hope my diary was a way for me to work out all this angst and longing in a safe place—and that away from this time of reflection each night, I was out having fun and not drooling nonstop over these dudes. I have exponentially more memories of friends and laughter, than yearning and solitude, so I guess it was just an outlet I enjoyed. I must have, because I have stacks of journals from most of my life.

You should look back at your old stuff. Hopefully you’ll get some good news about your past ways, and not be confronted by the surprise news that the journal of your youth was actually a little black book housing enough names to field a pee wee football team.

The bad news? I only shared a fraction of the journal—and professions of love. The good news? Spelling is no longer my undoing.

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Say What?

I make every attempt possible to never say never. I even outlined my reasoning behind this ongoing personal goal here.

But this is different. Even though I don’t say things like, “I’ll never get a bad tattoo” or “I’ll never leave the oven on” (for fear of eating my words), I’m relatively certain you’ll never hear me say any of the following.

“No, thanks—I’m not really in the mood to hold your baby.”

At one time, I wanted to be a Rockin’ Mama so bad, I was calling around to all the hospitals, trying to get information on the process. It’s a program where hospital baby wards put you in rotation to hold babies who don’t have anyone—so the newborns can get love, warmth and human contact.

I just have an endless capacity to hold babies, and I get geeked when friends tell me they’re pregnant. I’m less geeked when they tell me we can’t actually share the baby. That’s pretty selfish; but I’ll take what I can get. Sometimes they’re all, “Oh, let’s lay him down so he doesn’t get used to being held while he sleeps” and I’m all, “Shut your dumb mouth.” The feeling of that warm little nugget on my chest is an unmatched delight for which my longing never ends.

“I’d really like to see him in a jock.”

I don’t care if you’re Roger Federer or Magic Mike, I don’t want to see you in a jock. No day is made better by seeing a man in a jock.

“No, thank you—I’m full.”

You might hear me say no to food, but it won’t be because I’m full. If it’s food I love (and not dessert), I’ve got the restraint of a pack of raccoons who’ve just found campfire leftovers. On special occasions (i.e. weekends and vacation), I like to eat until I’m full up to my collarbones. Some days—especially when traveling—my lone goal is to get hungry again after a meal. And I’m not ashamed to admit that when I’m greeted by that first hunger pang, it feels like such sweet victory—like precious hope in a dark, dark world.

“I don’t really care who wins the game.”

I have to root for someone. Even if I’m not following the teams or the series or the sport—if it’s on—I have to root for someone. I can’t be ambivalent. If nothing else, I just need a good human interest story on one of the players, and I’m set.

Me: Who are you for?
Jocelyn: Oh, no one really—I don’t really care about this one.
Me: No, come on—help. If it’s gonna be on, I need to root for someone.

The following are the types of things I’m looking for at this point—to tip me to one team or the other:

Jocelyn: Their coach is that one who made it to his 14th conference championship, but still got fired.
Jocelyn: A Utes win would help the Zags.
Jocelyn: Their running back got arrested for domestic violence.
Jocelyn: #4 has the little sister who can’t walk and he carries her everywhere.
Jocelyn: Their shooting guard wasn’t expected to ever play again after his compound fracture.

“There’s no hope for that situation.”

I believe there is hope for everything. Hope is what gives life color. Prayer—and a basic understanding that we don’t know a fraction of what we think we do—tells me that there is always hope.

“Here, take a picture of me drinking out of this straw!”

“And make sure to snap it when my eyebrows are raised mid-drink!” I just hate those posed drinking-out-of-the-straw pics. I can’t explain it. And the recent “Slurpie Day” was just an excuse for everyone to post one and dampen my day.

“Just sayin’.”

Unless you were raised by a honey badger (an animal who truly does.not.give.a.$%#@), then I challenge you to start taking steps to break this fall-back phrase habit. I understand how tempting it is to say what you want—no matter how hurtful or bossy or judgmental—and then smooth it over with a shrugging “jus’sayin’; but please stop.

It’s now so prevalent that people are ending posts and comments with “JS.”

“Well he sure is dumber than a box of hair. JS.”
“The sound of her voice alone makes me wish she’d burst into flames. Just sayin’.”
“My day would improve if she’d go play in traffic—jussayin.”

“Just sayin'” and “Bless her heart” are not get-out-of-being-a-jerk passes.

“I’m not reading anything at the moment.”

Lord-willing, you’ll never hear me say this. I read a lot and can’t imagine my life without books, stories, characters—and the joy they bring.

“Oh here, let me just throw this bloody Band-Aid down for the next person to see.”

I hope this is self-explanatory. Pretty much any awesome day can be wrecked by one sullied Band-Aid sighting.

“Nah, Mexican food just doesn’t sound that good today.”

This nonsensical statement is akin to, “I’m actually pretty ambivalent about oxygen today” or “I’ve never really bought into the wisdom of needing all 10 fingers.”

There is not a day on earth when I couldn’t get down with some tacos. Or burritos. Or chips and salsa. Or all of the above.

“Traveling is a hassle. I think I’ll just stay home.”

Nope. Hassles always arise when traveling—always. But the trade-off isn’t even in the same ballpark for me. A little airport or luggage nuisance in exchange for exploring the world and seeing new things? I’ll “endure” that any day, any time, anywhere. Almost anywhere.

“You relax—I’ll tie those balloons for you.”

I don’t want to blow them up either. I go too fast and too hard and end up hallucinating that Rue McClanahan has come back to cross stitch with me.

“I don’t care what kind of grocery carts they have.”

FALSE. Target’s new, chunkier carts have ruined me for all other carts. I’m obsessed. It feels like I’m pushing around a weightless hover craft. They make me want to sing and skip and do good deeds.

Additionally, there are no words for the sheer and utter joy those smaller half-carts bring me. They’re like little speedy athletes with the agility of a gymnast, the focus of a goalie and the eagerness of a Wimbledon ball boy.

If anyone ever combined the two carts, I’m not sure I’d make it out alive.

“You’ll never hear me refer to the universe as a living thing.”

“The universe has a way of …”, “The universe lets us know we should …”, “This is what the universe has told us …”, “This is what the universe asks of us …”

Never. Like, ever.

“Hmm, I haven’t heard from Whatsherface in a while; I think I’ll poke her on Facebook.”

“Why aren’t you breastfeeding?” or “Why are you breastfeeding?”

Why won’t you ever hear me ask this? Because it’s none of my business, and I assume a mother has a very good reason for her choices. Oh, and I’m not the breastfeeding police. Oh, and that’s right—it’s none of my business. Or did I already say that?

“I’m not a crier.”

I’ve been able to say that truthfully most of my life. But I’ve now come to accept that I can’t see a soldier’s reunion with a loved one or a marriage proposal, and not cry. I’m not a weepy, soppy mess—and I don’t cry over much else—but these two things start the waterworks. I also cry sometimes when I hear the song, O Holy Night. Not so much the David Archuleta version, as the Celine Dion one. And sometimes I cry when the food is over.

“Tush”, “Tushy” or “Bum.”

It’s butt, bottom, ass—or nothing. I remember once, a long time ago, I read a quote from Freddie Prinze, Jr., and he said someone was looking at his “tushy.” No. No, no, no. FPJ was instantly dead to me. He was a grown damn man calling his own butt a tushy. Maybe, maaaaybe if he’d been talking about his baby’s bottom, I could have let it go. But he wasn’t. And I no longer had a place for him in my life.

Do you have things you’ll never say?

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Why I Have Trust Issues

Overall, I’m not a distrusting person. I actually trust people wholeheartedly—trust that they’ll annoy, dismay and fascinate me. I rely, with confidence, on my instincts, and feel I’m a good judge of character. But I can’t deny the fact that I do I have some trust issues—and I have a pretty good idea why.

1. Shazam.

I’ve never once gotten Shazam to think I’m the artist. No matter how perfectly in key I am, how meticulously my timing is or how precisely I rap 16 bars, the app has never once popped up with the original artist and title after hearing me sing. I just find that so sketchy. How is it absolutely certain it’s not hearing an acapella version of the song?

trust issues

2. Two-faced.

Sometimes I think a person looks like an entirely different person—with different temperaments and different insecurities—if I just look directly at their left eye or right eye. Yeah, I know everyone’s eyes are slightly different, but some people have a totally different look in each of their eyes—so different that I think one eye could have committed a crime while the other was writing a sonnet. When I have the chance (if the person hasn’t busted me staring), I’ll study their two personalities until I decide which one I like best, which one I’d trust to have my back in a street fight, and which one would make the prettiest babies.

3. DVRs are spiteful.

DVRs wreck my trust, because 99 times out of 100, when I hit pause, it freezes the absolute worst look any actor or athlete could ever have. I simply cannot take that call or run to the restroom while someone’s face is frozen like a drunk monster. I just feel so bummed for them. I’ll un-pause and re-pause a dozen times if needed, to find a suitable face we can both feel good about.

4. Makeup contouring.

Every single thing about this trend has my body in a cauldron of distrustful emotions. See the image below or simply Google “face contouring makeup” if you want a full dose of this madness—or watch here if you want to unite in head-shaking shock with me.

trust issues

Unless you’re a model or actress, why on earth would you want to look so vastly different from your natural self? I’d never want to set people up to be so sorely disappointed—not with contouring, not with lip injections, not with colored contacts.

Side Note: I think the only cosmetic surgery I’d sign up for is a thus-far-undiscovered procedure to replace my least important finger with Cherry Chapstick.

5. Discontinued.

How is it that certain flavors, candy and scents have remained for decades, but all my favorite things cease to exist at fairly normal intervals? So, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are still hanging in there, but my favorite spicy dish at Pei Wei was written off about a year ago? How do spicy veggies and noodles go out of style? My favorite Sephora lotion went bye-bye recently, yet original Noxzema is still in the game. My favorite Bath & Body bath scent was discontinued last year—forcing me to re-order it from eBay while it lasts—but they still keep pumping out Juniper Breeze (or as I refer to it: instant stomach ache.) All of it makes me distrusting of my life and my disposable choices. If normal, good things can come to an end, then what else can come to an end? Sunshine during the day? MY MOTHER’S LOVE?!

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6. Good sportsmanship.

I get choked up by good sportsmanship. Players helping up opponents—even in the heat of battle—ends me. Athletes checking on their competition when they look hurt—has me reaching for Kleenex. When both teams circle around an injured player like they’re all one tribe—I can barely deal. So why does this topic feed my trust issues? Because sometimes, those jackasses won’t accept the opposition’s offered hand when they need help getting up. And when that happens, I feel the rejection all the way in my own living room.

Then there is this … which is awful … ly funny.

trust issues

trust issues

7. Comic strips:

I’ll just come right out at say it, then shield my face from your swinging fists. I don’t like comic strips. I don’t care if they’re funny or smart or even borderline genius; my brain shuts off when I see them. Even if they’re just out-of-this-world awesome, I’d never know, because I simply can’t make myself read them. I have no idea why this is so, or why they look no more appealing than a sheet of algebra to me, but I’ve finally just resigned myself to the fact that they’re not my thing. Decades of consistently adverse reactions to them have forced me to accept their non-existent place in my life.

The trust issues surface when people, who I hoped were like-minded, walk up to me and hand me one, awaiting my certain laughter. I trusted you not to put me in the awkward position of pretending to read it/get it/like it. You’ve burst our trust bubble with your thoughtless assumptions and forced me into a scene of false camaraderie. Oh, you thought I’d get a kick out of it? Well I thought you’d pick up on my disdain for tedious stories told in squares with weird illustrations—so great, now neither one of us trusts the other.

8. Google’s attitude.

Have you ever googled something like, “womens dresses”—wait, me neither—how about, “womens jackets” and Google returns a list, but the top line says, “Did you mean women’s jackets?” When did Google get so high and mighty? What’s with the punctuation police? It’s such a passive-aggressive, condescending question—did you mean WOMEN’S JACKETS, Moron? The Google I thought I knew would return endless results with the header, “Got it! Including options for womens jacket, women’s jackets and anything in the female jacket ballpark!” I always thought of Google as this cool, accepting type who didn’t judge. I mean, it does fine with disasters like this:

trust issues

… but it’s gonna get all in my face about an apostrophe? #TrustIssues

9. Pizza gone rogue.

I love good pizza. I could eat it everyday. I’m pretty picky about crust, but not all that hung up on ingredients. I try to be a good pizza eater and not insist on only my favorite toppings; so, I feel completely bamboozled when I open up a nice, hot, fresh pizza box and the pizza is cut into squares. WHAT AM I LOOKING AT HERE, PEOPLE.?! Why would any reputable pizza place opt to cut pizza into … pieces … rather than slices? If a place cuts a rectangular pizza into squares, I’ll be upset and never go there again, but if place cuts a perfectly normal, round pizza into squares, I won’t even associate with anyone who speaks of this establishment.

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Side Note: I feel the same way about waffle fries. Get out of here with that child’s play. I can just hear some of you right now, “What?! Waffle fries rule! Hello—Chick fil-A?!” Yep, I know. And those weirdo potato waffles are a big barrier between me and their supposedly good chicken.

10. My own irrational thoughts:

When I spot someone existing in oblivion—in public—I feel capable and ready to take the hit. If they’re walking around unaware of the humans around them, and I can tell they might actually run into me, my adrenaline kicks in and I relish the idea of absorbing a good blow. I’ll sometimes even change my path slightly so they run into me. I know this isn’t normal behavior, but I feel like I need to teach them a lesson—and I don’t see any of you people stepping up to the plate.

Side Note: I have especially serious trust issues (with myself) because I’ve been known to consider taking a hit on the highway. Obviously not when trucking along at high speeds; but when I’m getting tailed too closely by some douche kabob … or see a ditzy teen on her phone, swerving around, I’m not above at least letting the altruistic collision play out in my mind.

Since misery loves company, I’ll wrap up with this image. You’re welcome.

trust issues

Trust issues at an all-time high … Taylor and Bruno.

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Old School Parenting Prowess

My parents were extraordinary. They still are.

They were ahead of their time in so many ways.

Sure, we sat—or stood—anywhere in the car we wanted, but whatever, they got so many things right. They got them right without the luxury or convenience of the internet and a million how-tos at their fingertips.

1. My mom didn’t need an army of mommy bloggers to figure it out.

My mom stayed at home with all three of us—before going back to get her college degree and embark on a 25-year teaching career—without blogging about it or reading blogs about it. GASP! How did she make it through the school drop-off line or traverse the competitive world of child-rearing without the virtual company of 8 trillion mommy bloggers by her side? How did any of our milestones mean anything when they couldn’t be shared on Instagram or posted on Facebook? We’ll never know. But she did it like a B.O.S.S.

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2. They believed in lessons.

We got dropped off at the skating rink on weekend nights and picked up at midnight. One time when I was around 10 or 11, I had my brand new Nike kicks stolen from my locker. They were gone, period. End of story. Yes, my mom felt bad for me, but again they were gone. It sucked, but to my parents, the theft didn’t equate to a replacement pair, it equated to me learning to be more vigilant about prized possessions. You better believe I started double-checking the padlock after that.

Yes, my Nikes are gone, people.

Yes, Emma—MY NIKES ARE GONE.

3. My mom ROCKED nightly home-cooked meals—for well over a decade.

We also ate dinner at home every night. Yes, up until high school, the five of us ate my mom’s home-cooked meals, around the kitchen table, every night. I can’t imagine how she pulled it off—that many meals, that many years—but she did. I’m sure one thing that made it possible was that she (logically) cooked one meal, and we ate it. Up until my freshman year, I have only a few memories of dinner anywhere but our kitchen table. I also have next-to-no memories of bumming out over the meal put in front of me.

It was also really, REALLY good.

It was also really, REALLY good.

Well, there was that one night when my dad was exceptionally cranky and put down the edict that he was “the father of this family” and he’d “by-damn get the piece of fried chicken” he wanted. I believe it was a thigh, which now makes me wonder what the fuss was about. Who was putting up a fight over a thigh? It was super fine by me. We also always had a loaf of Mrs. Baird’s bread on the table—a far stretch from the artisan breads of today, but I loved it. My favorite thing (after watching my dad do this) was capping off supper with a scoop of mashed potatoes in a single folded up slice of bread—a mashed potato sandwich dessert if you will. Heaven!

Now, at restaurants, when the waiter says, “Did you save room for dessert? Maybe some flan or a sopapilla or cheesecake?” I’m just thinking, “Please say mashed potato sandwich, please say mashed potato sandwich.” I’m still waiting on that offering.

Side Note: My dad and I used to love to eat gross things, too. Pickled pigs feet, sardines in the can—we relished every moment of grossing out those around us. We still do.

Another Side Note That Deserves Its Own Post: My mom is the world’s best cook. This is not up for discussion. I’d pick one of her home-cooked meals over any food, any where. I got my love of cooking from her, and I consider it one of the greatest gifts.

And with food. Lots of food.

And with food. Lots of food.

4. They took responsibility for teaching us about God.

We didn’t really grow up in church, we sorta just had church at home. As kids of praying, steadfast believing parents, we learned all the important things that we still hold dear today.

But one awful night (I don’t remember what led to this), my parents told me—what I considered at the time—a huge lie. They said I should always put God before them, and … wait for the shocking news … love God more than I loved them. I felt like someone slapped me across my precious face. I’d never been so upset with them.

This emoji best depicts my emotion on that dark day.

This emoji best depicts my emotion on that dark day.

As a little kid whose life still revolved around her parents, this made ZERO sense to me, and I wanted NO PART of it—not because I didn’t love God (I so did), but because my parents were my world. I devised a plan to disobey them, because it was simply something I could. not. would. not. do. I knew in my heart they’d gotten it all wrong. I almost felt bad for their misinterpretation of God’s will.

ALMOST—I was too disappointed in their careless mandate to empathize with them.

I knew that the God I trusted would never want to me to love Him more than my parents, so I decided I’d go along with them outwardly, nodding like it made perfect sense, but continue loving them #1 in my heart.

Fortunately, nothing bad came from my disobedience, and no one ever tested me. In my head, my defiance looked like this: choosing teams for dodge ball and picking my mom and dad over God—and then immediately getting struck in the head with lightning and my gravestone reading, “You picked the wrong rule to break.”

Side Note: I, of course, understand all of this now—but as a very little kid, I was appalled by my blasphemous, lying parents. I even remember where we were standing when they told me the lies. I also remember throwing myself face down on my pillow to cry it out—vowing in my heart I’d never love anyone more than my parents. This was, of course, before I laid eyes on Ricky Schroder.

I’d now like to lighten the mood by telling you that on our summer vacations, they’d make us virgin Tom Collins.

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5. We had wonderful traditions.

Speaking of vacations (and life in general), my mom was, and still is, the best of the best at creating traditions for our family. Her fingerprint is on everything that is real and wonderful about my family.

One of my favorite traditions growing up was our summer vacation down to Corpus Christi. The five of us would road trip (although when I was little, that didn’t have a name—it was just how you traveled) to Corpus. We’d leave in the wee hours of the morning and the kiddos would sleep in the car—all over the car. Floorboard, back window, across our parents laps. They probably would’ve let us sleep in the trunk if we’d asked. I doubt it, but I have nothing to base that doubt on.

Here was where the swoon came in. We’d start stirring in the late morning and wake up so happy when we saw we were well on our way—and then the realization that we were hungry would kick in, and we’d all start looking for a river bank or cool area for our lunch spot. My mom would break out the cooler of cold fried chicken, cheese, bread, pickles and bottled Coke. Nothing has EVER tasted so good in my life.

Then we’d crawl back into the car and play with our handheld games.

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Side Note: I’m not gonna get on a soapbox about everything today’s kids “need” to “survive” a road trip—or the monsters we’re creating—I’m just going to say that I’m thankful beyond thankful that I grew up when I did, and learned how to entertain myself and just be happily alone in my thoughts.

We’d drive and drive, listening to The Beatles. We had a stack of 8-tracks in heavy rotation and it was pure bliss. No, I never did understand some of their lyrics (why is he a walrus? why is Lucy in the sky? Why’d Joe Joe think he was a woman?) but I never once tired of the music we grew up with.

Everything about our summer vacations to Corpus has stayed with me. The music, the stops for beef jerky and pickles, feeding the seagulls, looking for “butterfly” seashells to present to my mom as my promise of everlasting love.

I love you, Moma <3

I love you, Moma <3

6. My dad guided us early and swiftly.

Me: Bye!
Daddy: Bye.
Me: See ya later, alligator!
Daddy: See ya later, alligator.
Me: After a while, crocodile!
Daddy: After a while crocodile.
Me: Soon, raccoon!
Daddy: No, Ma’am. I don’t want you saying that.
Me: Why?!
Daddy: Because it could be construed as racist slang and I won’t have you saying it. Alligators and crocodiles are plenty enough.

And that was that. I didn’t fully understand until he explained it further; but I knew not to ever say it again and knew why.

7. Their worth wasn’t tied to my athletic performance.

From the moment I set my eyes on the game of basketball, I was hooked. And one second after that realization, my parents found a way for it to be part of my life. They got me an outdoor hoop and they made arrangements for us to go play at a nearby community college gym.

I played all the time—every day and night, I shot baskets and played. That was all wonderful, but when they were truly ahead of their time was when I was on real teams. Never once, EVER, in a zillion games, did they ever show anger or disappointment in me. They were not those parents. This wasn’t as surprising coming from my mom—I think moms are naturally nurturing—but it was definitely more uncommon for dads to show nothing but support. And my dad was not a sugar-coating kind of guy. He was a “call it what it is” man. Yet, there he was, game after game with his arm around me—and a proud look on his face.

I have memory after memory of nothing but love and comfort after games, while nearby, I could hear snippets from disgusted, disappointed, furious parents railing on their kid. Don’t get me wrong, mine didn’t celebrate poor performances by any stretch—they just opted (way ahead of their time) to not take that route with me. Maybe it was because they knew I was extremely hard on myself and needed ZERO assistance in that department—I don’t know—but not ONCE? Not one chewing out session? Pretty impressive. I do know their worth wasn’t tied to my performance or success like seems to be the case so often these days … and that right there also puts them well ahead of their time.

No one but me can really know what their support did for me, or how it molded me—but it was a true and lasting gift. I can only imagine the damaging effect the opposite type of behavior has on kids. I’m glad I don’t know this firsthand.

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8. They couldn’t care less about attachment parenting.

My parents gave us the perfect amount of “attachment parenting” vs. “cry-it-out.” In fact, one time I got my whole foot stuck in my bike spokes and my dad not only did NOT comfort me, but he was actually pretty mad about whatever carelessness led to my ankle being wrapped up in my wheel.

We consistently took off on our bikes, never to return until dusk—riding on hills and through terrain not cleared for children on Huffy bikes.

I have memories of taking off on foot or on the back of a bike of neighborhood friends and not seeing my parents for hours on end. Maybe whole days would pass—who knows?! I’m sure that’s wrong, but maybe my dad was OK with some suspect overnights if it meant peacefully getting the piece of chicken he wanted after a hard day at work?

9. They accepted life and its (occasional) unfair outcomes with grace.

In my preteen years, I used to compete in these “Hoop Shoot” contests. We’d basically shoot 25 free throws, within age brackets, and the winner would move on to sectionals, regionals and state. I won a lot of them and collected lots of cool trophies. People made a big deal about it because I was quite a little nugget and shot a men’s basketball (not the women’s size they have today) … and I was one of very few who actually shot it correctly, and not a granny shot.

Side Note: I was wholly unamused by the kids shooting granny shots. I cringed for them and wanted to point out how utterly embarrassing it was to be a nine-year old, still acting like a toddler. Come on—shoot the dang ball or go home and play with Barbie and Ken.

Anyway, one year I won the round that would take me to the big regional shootout—but found out a short while later, that I’d been placed in the wrong age bracket. I was disqualified. Nothing could be done. There were no do-overs or shuffling of winners.

While my parents and I were incredulous as we discussed the situation—and as it sunk in that it was just over for the year—no one threw a fit. I felt extremely disappointed, but nothing beyond that crossed my mind. My parents didn’t come unglued or “demand” anything of the sponsor. We all just kind of accepted the suckage of the situation.

They didn’t take me to Disneyland, in place of State, to soothe my disappointment. I might have gotten a Slurpee, but that was about it. What did happen was I kept practicing and I made it to State the following year. They even flew my whole family to the shootout in Austin.

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10. They were the parents.

When we were growing up, directives like, “clean up your room,” “be home by dusk,” “put on your shoes” weren’t suggestions. They were orders that we obeyed, and when we didn’t, there were consequences. When we refused to do as we were told, there wasn’t some absurd discussion about it, like, “Why didn’t you mind me? Annnnnnna, didn’t I tell you to get dressed? Why didn’t you get dressed? Why are you disobeying me? Sigh, okay, go play.”

Oh. Hell. No. We didn’t engage in the bargaining and negotiating that’s so prevalent today. There was a very distinct line between the parents and kids—not the excruciatingly blurred lines of today. THANK GOODNESS.

And yes, we were spanked. With a hand, with a belt, with a ping-pong paddle and quite embarrassingly, with a flip-flop outside of Dairy Queen … for my “smart alec mouth.” So here’s the thing, we weren’t perfect kids. We absolutely disobeyed—but there were consequences for it.

If I got a lick at school, I got a lick at home. I didn’t get my mom rushing up to the school to question why I got in trouble for what I did—I just got in double trouble at home. This was a known and understood rule among pretty much all the kids we were in school with. And the truth is, I only got one lick during my school years, and it was for something quite benign … I ran from the back of the classroom to my seat in the front. But guess what? I got a lick and then got spanked at home.

And I didn’t run in class again.

True story—with each passing day, I’m more and more blown away by the job my parents did raising us. I read so many articles and blog posts about parenting and I just marvel at the fact that they did it without much help at all. I love that fact that they were ahead of their time in so many ways—and I hope, hope, hope we were fun kids to raise. I know I was pretty easy, because, as the third child, I put myself down for naps and changed my own diapers—but that’s a story for another day.

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Sometimes I Want Funyuns

My eating habits aren’t too bad. They’d need to be better if I cared more about six-pack abs than general happiness, but I do not—so for what I value most, I do pretty well. For me, the quickest way to make life less lovely, is to wake up day after day with food restrictions.

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I opt for a more doable solution, which is simply … moderation. I eat really well more meals of the week than I don’t. If there are 21 meals in a week, I go wheels off for probably 6-7 of them. That’s really all there is to it.

When it comes to the other 14-15 food decisions, I’m usually pretty good.

Although.

Sometimes I eat good and stay mindful of what I’m putting in my body—doing quick calculations of my veggie and protein intake, ensuring I have a well-balanced eating day in the works … but sometimes, I just want Funyuns.

Sometimes I want to take a short plunge into clean eating—really go all-out whole foods from the earth—and truly experience feeling light and good and full of energy. I want to blog about whole food recipes that I’ve tweaked for full flavor; I want to post on Facebook about a new spaghetti squash recipe that hit the spot … but sometimes I just want two dozen donut holes and a quart of chocolate milk from the “spudnut shop” where I grew up.

Sometimes I count calories and do my best to stay away from empty ones (or ones that are a total waste simply because they’re not shared with someone who’s fun to eat with) … but sometimes I count how many Takis I can eat in a single sitting without a drink of water.

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Sometimes I want to go home after work and make baked Dijon chicken, cauliflower mashed “potatoes”, grilled asparagus from the garden and a spinach and edamame salad with Meyer-lemon balsamic vinaigrette … but sometimes I just want to whip up some Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese. From the box. And not share.

It’s really not much different in other aspects of my life. My intentions are usually good and I typically end the day feeling pretty happy with my decisions and follow-through.

Except.

Sometimes while driving, I’m deep in thought, pondering the gift of life and love, the importance of forgiveness, the beauty of hope and the depth of my gratitude for having all of them … but sometimes I’m just thinking about all the ways Stephen Curry lights up an often dark world.

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Sometimes I’m listening to books and learning more about things like Aspergers or organic gardening or slavery, through the magnificent characters in the stories I choose … but sometimes I’m listening to my iTunes library on shuffle, which means—for reasons I can no longer recall—I’m listening to Barry Manilow singing Even Now, live at Madison Square Garden.

Sometimes I wonder what it will be like to be in God’s presence. I think about the depth of His grace and mercy and play out all the ways I imagine Heaven to be—full of everything good and happy, from love and peace to music and feasts … but sometimes I just wonder what it would feel like to drive a riding lawnmower.

Sometimes I want to extend grace to the driver who rushed past everyone on the shoulder, and now demands entrance in front of me … but sometimes I want to get out of the car, assume an athletic stance—with my knees shoulder width apart—and fully extend my arms in front of me to flip them a double bird. For a full 5 Mississippi count.

Sometimes I want to dive into the gazillion pictures I have on multiple hard drives, and take time to go through them and delete near-duplicates and ones I’ll never need again … but sometimes I end up watching YouTube videos of animals who became unlikely friends.

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Sometimes I want to stop wishing for it, and talking about it, and wanting it, and just get online and register for Rosetta Stone and learn Spanish … but sometimes I end up on curious.com trying to learn how to start a fire in the wild.

Sometimes I want to be really patient with people who aren’t keeping up, (like when I’m deep into a great story, and building to the ending, and then I reach the crescendo and someone says, “Now who was this about?” voiding out the entire narrative.) I want to be kind and understanding and give them the benefit of the doubt that I wasn’t clear who the main character was (even though I know I’m not that inept) … but sometimes I actually just want to forbid them from being in my presence until they’ve taken some classes on keeping up.

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Sometimes I sit down to hand-write a couple of notes or letters … but sometimes I end up just practicing my autograph instead.

Sometimes I want to be more limber and get my muscles stretched out. I’ll read about an ideal stretching routine and all its benefits … but sometimes I just squat like a catcher for 6-7 seconds, then pour myself a cold beer and take pictures of the garden.

Sometimes I become resolute in my intentions to kick my Chapstick habit addiction … but sometimes I tell myself to calm down and remember that there are worse compulsions— then I reward my enlightenment by replenishing my stash in every spot I might spend more than 10 minutes.

Sometimes I’m good at dealing with difficult people at work and at Costco. I employ tactics like imagining them as a 6-yr old child, or telling myself everyone is fighting some kind of battle … but sometimes I watch them being their stupid, controlling, infuriating self and I want them to burst into flames.

Sometimes I want to finally go through old boxes and throw away some things I’ve hung on to, and no longer care about … but sometimes I end up reading my middle school report cards and college basketball stat sheets—and posting them on Instagram. #baller #3pointsforme #notalwaysanAstudent #basketballb4boys

Sometimes I have the patience of Job and enjoy the journey … but sometimes I have the patience of an itch and just want all of the guacamole in my belly.

Sometimes I want us to keep saving as much money as we do now—even more—so we can spend our retirement very comfortably and happily, traveling the world and decorating a second home bungalow … but sometimes I think surely all these blood moons mean something, and the end is near, and maybe we should just head out now.

Sometimes I get really antsy wanting to go back to Italy and spend two weeks looking at the Mediterranean, enjoying the Tuscan countryside, eating fresh pasta, eating fresh bread, drinking local wine, getting away from work, getting away from traffic and construction, getting away from a schedule … but sometimes I … no wait, I always want that. Those intentions are solidly in place.

Where do your good intentions take a sharp left turn?

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Pinterest Lies Sometimes

Between Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, we have no shortage of life nuggets, quotes and sentiments crossing our paths everyday. Some are good; some are funny. Some of them make us feel understood and validated. But a lot of them are just … lies.

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Pinterest is a well-oiled, fine-tuned, lie-spreading machine.

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Thank you Dwight. Did Kate Moss start this lie? The only way this quote is true is if you replace the word “nothing” with hot wings, guacamole or ravioli. Being fit feels good—there’s no doubt about that—but you know what else feels good? Seeing the waiter walking up with your enchiladas.

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This is terrible advice. Just really bad. At least 19 times out of 20 it is. I can think of several things that feel right when I’m mad, but a pair of lips on mine isn’t one of them.

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Wrong. Coffee is pretty plentiful in these parts. So is Tex-Mex. What about growing herbs like rosemary? That’s pretty easy. The all-or-nothing language in so many quotes makes me combative.

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First of all, I don’t care for your tone. You sound like a bully—and you don’t know me. Secondly, I actually am hungry. I’ve been drinking water all day, and I don’t get bored, so stop trying to be the boss of me, and go get me a corn dog.

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I wish someone other than C. S. Lewis had said this, because I feel bad saying he’s wrong. But, of all the reasons I read, this isn’t one of them. Sometimes I just wish quoters would preface their quote with, “I believe that” so I’m not enticed to poke holes in their genius.

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Did Oscar really say this? I do like his quote, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go,” but I’m not down with the one above. I read a LOT, and have done so most of my life, but I’m just not into re-reading books—even ones that changed my life. So for this quote to be true, Oscar the Grouch just thinks I shouldn’t read at all? I reject this!

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This quote is in the, “Love is hard” and “Relationships are hard” camp and they all make me want to scream. Not all relationships go through hell. Some do; a lot don’t.

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Oh boy. I triple love the bottom half of this. It’s the first line that gives me pause.

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What about a Bugatti? How about the BMW i8 I see at work everyday?

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Are we absolutely sure about this? I mean, I love the sentiment SO MUCH, but are we positive? How are we coming by our facts here? I’m pretty sure there’s a healthy competition within some bushes and bouquets.

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How about if it just fits? Like, let’s just buy one that fits.

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There’s no way that large pizza is my best teacher.

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My love for Tina Fey knows no bounds, but I can only hope this isn’t fully true. I actually pulled an ab muscle laughing at the food poisoning scene in Bridesmaids. I didn’t have a stitch in my side—I pulled a muscle. So if Tina is right, this does not bode well for my intellect.

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I have no problem with these ethics (well, except for the first one—many people believe AFTER they pray.) But two hyphens are ill-spaced and there are around 5 inconsistencies in capitalization. And then there is the lone period at the end, like maybe the whole thing was a sentence. These things trouble me.

ethicsfixed

There; that’s better.

fabulous

I’m not sure this is sound advice. Helping friends move doesn’t feel all that fabulous. Buying a new water heater doesn’t feel great either—and neither does keeping a black outfit for funerals, but we should still probably do all three.

Now we need to get into some house-related pins. Y’all know I love Pinterest, but I do believe it encourages and lifts up bad behavior.

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What?! Someone took time to design this! I think people who aren’t tidy believe that tidy people spend all their time cleaning—and doing so instead of having fun and living. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When you pick up after yourself, you save yourself exponentially more time later. The math of that should be pretty easy to figure out; but honestly, it’s so much more than that for me. Tidiness brings me peace and clarity. I have a clean house and a very much not wasted life.

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I actually love this pin.

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Here is another one I come across a LOT. Every time I see it, I just want to hide my face in my clean pillows and pretend most moms don’t actually believe these two things go hand-in-hand. I hope they don’t chalk up an unhappy kid to sanitized counters and vacuumed floors. Has a child ever yelled, “Why can’t we have spoiled food and filthy floors like Eric’s house?!?!!” before storming away and slamming his door? (no.)

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Gross. I mean fine, of course let’s make a huge mess with the kiddos. Who cares about messes while making memories—get dirty and envelop yourselves in chaos. I think it’s wonderful! But please clean up afterwards. The memories have been made, so we’re solid there and should just go ahead and clean up now.

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Let’s talk about how Pinterest makes people extra cocky.

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Offending people isn’t a lofty, worthwhile goal. Neither in our head, nor on social media should our ability to offend be celebrated.

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What are you doing in your life to upset everyone? This is a question worth pondering after you boldly pin this to your “Imma Do Me” board.

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No. Nope. This isn’t actually the meaning. Being a bitch (or bitty as my mom calls it) doesn’t have much to do with this pin—proven by this conversation that has never taken place in the history of the world:

Tina: I have this friend who stands up for her beliefs and her loved ones.
Danette: What a bitch.

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When you pin this, it makes you look like you don’t understand life or basic vocabulary. Every “real” person I know gives a shit. A more accurate pin would be, “Fake people have an image to maintain. Arrogant people don’t give a shit.”

Great, now this is a profanity-laden post—and that’s gonna put me on my mom’s shit list. I believe there’s a pin for that.

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See what I did there?

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Coziness Of The Soul

I crave small, cozy places and amber-lit spaces. I swoon over the soul-fulfilling ambience of food and drinks, laughter and joy—shared with mindfully-present people I love.

But I had no idea this deep-rooted affinity for authentic conversation—and coziness of the soul—had a name.

Hygge. (pronounced hue-gah)

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It’s Danish, and it’s the concept of being present … of creating a warm, comfortable atmosphere that makes us feel rooted and connected. It’s about our behavior towards one another, and the coziness and shelter found through reciprocal giving and receiving. It’s the art of creating intimacy, camaraderie and contentment all in one—and it often occurs around a candlelit table, while sharing good food, good drinks and good conversation.

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Hygge nourishes the soul, and is presumably the #1 reason Danes are considered the happiest people in the world. You heard me—the happiest people in the WORLD.

Before you turn into a 2nd grader and start making faces behind the Danes’ backs and whine-chanting, “Woo-hoo, I’m Danish and I’m the happiest person who ever freakin’ lived,” you need a few facts. Scandinavians experience some of the darkest winters in the world. They are accustomed to long, cold months, where the sun emerges for a few lonesome hours a day. Just reading that will lead half of the U.S. population to a Seasonal Affective Disorder diagnosis.

Yet, people have settled in Scandinavia for thousands of years—essentially choosing to “suffer” through darkness and cold. Why?

Hygge.

“Hygge is, at its essence, the feeling of warding off the dark and cold through the light and love of those around you,” says Philip Trampe.

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From hot tea, cocoa and wine … to candles, crackling fires and conversation, it’s the art of creating a place where people can lay the hustle aside, while adding another log to the fire, allowing the candle wax to run and absorbing tranquility—without distractions or the noise of the outside world.

And while no other language has a direct translation, words like coziness, security, comfort, fellowship, simpleness and living well are often used to describe the idea of hygge.

Side Note: Of the many attributes of hygge, there is one common—dominant, prominent—thread. Candles. Always candles. In windows, on tables, on stairs, with every meal (even breakfast). Danes feel that lit candles dispel the gloom and defy the long dark hours of winter. They believe there is no distinction between time worthy of candlelight or not. The warm, signature glow is at the core of hygge.

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In outlining the components of hygge, have you noticed the exclusion of smart phones, TV, drama, heated debates and hurried schedules? Yeah, Danish people don’t partake in the glorification of busy. #blessthem

Hygge is all about celebrating reality, being present and mindfully enjoying the moment with good people, in a warm setting.

But let’s not gloss over “celebrating reality.”

No, none of these.

No, no, no. NOT THESE.

I’ll tell you what that means to me—someone who is not Danish, not living in Denmark and not in the middle of a very dark winter.

It means being in a cozy space with people I love and people who love me; people who want the best from and see the best in each other; people who are too busy being happy for and proud of each other to feel competitive or threatened. It’s us celebrating life’s victories—getting raises, getting the baby to sleep all night, getting better at life—because through those wins, and our shared affection, we all feel lifted. It means being with people free of motives and full of a desire to share in daily joy, good news, successes and answered prayers; people who enjoy talking about pop culture, but also like talking about gratitude, the absolute hilarity of life, acting better, living longer and loving stronger.

It means laughing; because we know that a good, hearty, lose-your-mind-laugh-fest—that builds and spreads and ends in a blinding, breathless pounding on the table—adds a full 365 days to our lives. A mind lost in laughter finds stress healed, anxiety deadened and worry abated. Shared laughter pumps hope into our cells and creates wellness, memories and love.

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Federer and Nadal actually laughed like this for about 14 minutes straight.

My idea of hygge also means … a second helping and another round, as the candles burn down a little more. It’s not about focusing on rotten people, destructive conspiracy theories, unspeakable tragedies or overly partisan politics; it’s ensuring that after the deluge of negative news and Debbie Downers all week, we’ll take an evening and let the good stuff in. We’ll allow the intrigue of life to nourish our minds and hearts—not pretending everything is good and right, but making sure all the things that are good and right take center stage: a child’s good week at school, a nephew’s home run, a friend’s kid finally asking his crush out (and her saying yes), a project at work that turned out better than you hoped, a loved one’s answered prayer, a parent’s successful transition into retirement (and a fun conversation on why they deserve it), your friends who worked out the problems in their marriage and are stronger than ever, your friends who couldn’t work it out but have successfully put their children first. I want to talk about Heaven and grace and books and why babies are really just tiny drunk people.

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If you’re thinking this sounds great, but isn’t realistic, I have a theory. Your circle is too wide. If you’re having trouble imagining being surrounded by people you can do this with, your circle is too wide. The unworthy people you’ve let in are making it impossible for you to envision hygge. Your “friend” who instigates, your “friend” who sees the negative in everything (and if unable to find it, creates it), your “friend” who only wants the best for you as long as it’s not better than hers, your “friend” who may or may not take up for you when given a chance.

I learned a long time ago that I’m happy with quality over quantity—in all facets of life—but especially with my inner circle. I’m meticulous and unwavering in choosing the people I truly let in. That leaves me with a small, loyal, trustworthy and wonderfully fulfilling inner circle to whom I’m extremely devoted and who faithfully love me back.

We’re talking about inner circles here, not regular everyday friends and acquaintances; it’s not rocket science, so don’t panic. I’d just encourage you to be very judicious with whom you surround yourself, and get comfortable with the fact that you are not obligated to include anyone in your inner circle who doesn’t feel right to you.

Side Note: I have far too much to say on the topic of inner circles and eliminating toxic people from your life for a side note, so perhaps we’ll revisit this. But I will say that toxicity isn’t usually anything overtly evil; it’s typically very personal and subjective—meaning, a lot of times, it’s just you “knowing” someone isn’t healthy for you. If you’re confused and wondering if you have a toxic friend, then just know this much … if you have a friend who competes with you (in life, not in Trivia Crack) … that’s not a good sign. A competitive dynamic overrides a supportive friendship—and you’re never going to alter the actuality of that. So once you identify this issue, you need to know that it’s absolutely and unequivocally OK for you to shift gears and change lanes. I implore you to not give toxic people—or people on the periphery of your inner circle—access to your life. Again, we’re not talking about being cruel or never conversing—we’re talking about access to the inner workings and private, personal parts of your life. Those areas are for people who truly love and protect you.

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Imagining the comfort and security of hygge forces you to think about who, in your life, would fit into that environment. Knowing it’s a warm atmosphere and a time to enjoy the good things in life, with good people—who do you want with you? I hope you can name a few. My family and friends are at my table. All are eating, some are drinking, a few are talking and a few are listening, and most—thank goodness—are laughing.

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What Would Louie Think?

Complaining was a lot more fun before I read the book Unbroken.

If you’re not familiar with the book or movie, just know that Louis “Louie” Zamperini (a real person), had his Olympic track dreams cut short when, in 1941, he was drafted into the air corps to serve as a bombardier. Louis then proceeded to:
1. survive an airplane crash in the Pacific Ocean (after being trapped in its wires deep in the sea)
2. survive being stranded at sea for 47 days
3. survive a series of POW camps (despite being targeted by a sadistic guard named Mutsuhiro “the Bird” Watanabe)
4. survive multiple brutal beatings and canings (one time, the Bird ordered more than 200 other POWs to punch Louie in the face, one after the other)
5. survive losing 68 lbs at sea and arriving at the first POW camp weighing 87lbs (and then getting severe dysentery, while enduring extreme starvation)

Side Note: You need to know that the 47 days at sea, also included 47 NIGHTS at sea. I’m gonna give you a few moments to really go there in your mind. I don’t particularly want to be in my own home in the dark—and neither do you.

Before we get into why this story really cramped my style, you need a few more facts. Louie and the other survivor, Phil, had to deal with sharks circling their raft daily. The sharks made their presence felt by rubbing their backs along the bottom of the raft, and as they became more aggressive and intentional, Louie would have to punch them repeatedly in the snout. Again, I’ll give you a moment.

Also worth noting, the emergency raft contained ration-D bars—a bitter chocolate designed to replace their daily caloric intake. Louie woke up in the morning to find all the chocolate gone … one of the initial other survivors had woken up and eaten them all. This meant they had NO FOOD left whatsoever. Imagine how you feel when someone eats your chocolate—and you have a store just down the road. But wait! Louie and Phil did get a little something to eat … the raw liver of a shark and the raw meat of an albatross. Sit for a minute with this disturbing information. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll move on.

Dinner.

Dinner.

The story, while magnificent, is a real fun ruiner. I read it a year ago, but it still monopolizes my thoughts at every turn.

I think: I’ll never make it to the end of the day if *insert co-worker’s name* doesn’t get her loud ass off that personal phone call.
I hear Louie:
So, now what is the problem? I’m confused. I’m really asking here, because regular canings didn’t stop me from making it to the end of my day, where I slept with rats.

I think: I really want to try on some new pants during lunch but, grrrrr, ugh, I don’t want to have to take my boots off.
I hear Louie: I wore the same clothes for over two years.

I think: I really want to go to LYFE Kitchen for lunch, but I never get totally full there.
I hear Louie: I ate raw bird parts while lost at sea.

I think: Ugh, I wish I had some lemon for this water.
I hear Louie: I was surrounded by nothing but salt water for 47 days and had to wait on rare rainfall to open up the hatch and grab a few drops.

I think: It’s FREEZING out here; this sucks.
I hear Louie: Oh, are you referring to the 3-minute walk from your heated car—that’s in covered parking—to your heated building? Yeah, your life is nearly impossible.

I think: I wonder if the mattress needs to be flipped? It seems to maaaaybe feel slightly more caved in right here by my torso.
I hear Louie: Your super plush mattress MIGHT need to be flipped? There MIGHT be a miniscule dip by your torso? Mine didn’t have that issues BECAUSE IT WAS A SLAB OF CONCRETE.

I think: Ugh, my sister won’t text me back—I texted her nearly 15 minutes ago.
I hear Louie: I had no contact with loved ones while imprisoned, and never knew anything. Never knew when someone got married, got sick, died, had a FUNERAL … and all you need to know is if your sister got the same weird friend request on Facebook?

I think: Sigh, I wish I didn’t have commitments this weekend.
I hear Louie: Yeah, it’s rough having plans with people you care about.

I think: You’ve got to be kidding me. Another meeting? For TWO HOURS????!
I hear Louie: You poor thing. Two hours in a temperature-regulated room, where they provide you with drinks and snacks—and pay you for your time—sounds downright dreadful.

I think: Ugh, I dread going to the store; we need so many things.
I hear Louie: Yeah, it’s hard having plenty of money to buy all the food you love most.

I think: I’m freezing!
I hear Louie: You’re in a home you love, that’s fully secure from drafts, with access to a thermostat, fireplace, a cord of wood, hot shower, hot bath and an endless amount of clothes, hot chocolate, hot tea and coffee. Shut your shameless noise hole.

I think: Groan, these thicker socks make my foot fall into the wrong grooves in my UGGs.
I hear Louie: I will strangle you with sheepskin.

If you want to be less ass’y and ridiculous, always consider what Louie Zamperini and the rest of the Greatest Generation would think.

Side Note: When I was younger, I’d tell people that the way I stayed out of trouble, was to imagine what my parents and coaches would say or think. It’s simple, but highly effective if you have a shred of pride. I obviously still did some really stupid stuff—but very few terrible things. Of course, as I grew up and got through grad school, I cared a little less about what some of those peripheral people thought, because I was a coach and teacher myself; but I still kept (and keep) the basic premise in tact.

I believe firmly that we can live less embarrassing, regretful lives if we simply consider the reactions of various people.

What Would Martha Stewart Think?
When you’re about to wad up a fitted sheet, stop for just two seconds and imagine Martha standing in the doorway, watching your every lazy move. I hope you’re imagining her arms crossed and the disgusted look she perfected way before she spent time in the clink.

What Would Your Future Child Think?
When you’re considering posting a pic that’s 75% cleavage and 25% duckface, tap the brake and imagine the look of confusion on your toddler’s face.

What Would Great Grandmother Esther Think?
When you’re about to purchase this:

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Take a minute to imagine what your Great Grandmother would have to say. Hopefully you’re realistic in your mental inquisition, because Great Grandmother Esther is not going to be pleased.

What Would Your Guardian Angel Think?
When you have the opportunity to do some dirt, grab a little time from planning that mess, and figure out if it’s something that’s going to make your Guardian Angel look away. If it is—like if it’s something that’s gonna embarrass him among his Angel friends—back that truck up. *beep-beep-beep* This includes, but is not limited to, ALL THINGS SHADY.

What Would Oprah Think?
When you’re about to make a suspect life decision, ask yourself if it would jive with Oprah. Even if you’re one of those people who boldly claim to hate her, I bet you’d get your sorry act together if you met her.

Yeah, I know these things are just mental games—sort of like setting your alarm 14 minutes fast to trick yourself into getting up. Deep down, you know the score and know you have 14 free minutes; but shockingly, it still works the majority of the time.

It’s the same with this; because, of course there are times when you’ll just say, “Well guess what, the Greatest Generation ISN’T with me,” and you’ll go ahead and complain about your Keurig making piping hot coffee in less than a minute, but it being too hot to drink for another 10 minutes.” There will also be times when you say, “Eh, my Guardian Angels have seen it all,” and you’ll go ahead and throw your gum out on the sidewalk or create a fake account so you can do some cyber stalking.

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What we’re shooting for here is not perfection. We’re just trying to live a life with less complaining and better decision-making—things that contribute to a harmonious world.

So let’s wrap up with some best practices.

First, run every complaint through the Louie Zamperini Filter—and imagine he’s in the room with you. Do this and you won’t be so quick to announce you’re freezing or famished or exhausted–when you know dang good and well you have access to all the things made to combat those issues. It might also keep you from claiming an inability to be civil before coffee or nice when you’re hungry.

As for the rest of your day, only you know who influences and motivates you. Only you know who makes you want to be better. Think of them. Consider their reaction. And if that person’s name rhymes with Dill Dosby, Dama Dune or Day Dice, then you’ve totally missed the point and upset me greatly. Run, don’t walk, to get a copy of Unbroken and consider doing a quick re-boot on the hard drive that is your life.

Shoot. I just imagined Joyce Meyers reading that last line, and felt her disappointment. Man, this stuff really works.

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World Class Empathy

I’m not bragging, but I have a rather large capacity for empathy. Is it greater than yours? Maybe. Do you empathize with waiters of demanding people? Homeless folks in winter? NFL kickers who blow a win? Me, too; that’s child’s play.

Do you empathize with a candle’s life who was cut short because of your faulty wicking abilities? Do you feel bad when—because of your mistakes—a recipe goes awry and has no future with your family? Do you feel sorry for the rarely used Kelvin filter on Instagram? Does your heart ache for the remote control batteries who’ve performed flawlessly for six months, and who are now being thrown (with force) into the trash, while being called hurtful names? Nah, didn’t think so.

Most of you know I Talk To Fruit (and a good many of you do, too), so none of this should be too shocking. Let’s rip off that bandage.

I feel bad for my clothes and shoes that never get to go on vacations. I worry that the chosen ones act haughty in the closet or drawers when I’m not around, “Hey, Old Tee, have fun working in the yard today? *snicker* Hey, Old Jeans, how was that quick run to Kroger for the forgotten tortillas? *snort* Hey Too-Big College Sweatshirt, have fun painting? *high-fives vacation tee buddy* What—you don’t want to ask me if we had fun in Italy? Nope, you’re good?”

I hope this doesn’t happen, but I worry that it does. If I think too much about any of the lucky pieces acting superior when I’m not around, then I start fixating on ways to keep them separate—maybe some zoning in the closet to cut down on intermingling? I know the ones left behind don’t think life is fair. I know they wonder why they have to clean the pool filter and go up in the attic. Most of them have had their time in the sun, and been able to get out-and-about at some point in their lives, but I still worry about their self esteem.

Side Note: Now I’m wondering if my work clothes exude an air of importance, too. If I hear as much as a whisper about it, I’ll march them straight out to the garden and dig up an old potato. Don’t test me, Dress Clothes—don’t.test.me.

BBQ. Even though it’s loved by millions, I wonder if it fixates on the few of us who don’t care for it? Does my ambivalence towards ribs and barbecue sauce and potato salad bring it down and make it question its very existence? I feel like I need to show it some love occasionally, so its insecurities or possible feelings of unworthiness aren’t on my conscience. I want BBQ to enjoy its massive fan base, but I feel like maybe it can’t fully immerse itself in congratulatory gaiety because it knows I’m out there … never even considering it an option.

Harry feels the way I do.

Harry feels the way I do.

When I see a lady’s bra strap twisted on her back, I want to fix it. When I see a belt loop that’s been missed on a guy’s pants, I want to tell him. When I see the clasp on someone’s necklace butted up against the charm, I want to point it out. Why? Because all these things want to be pretty and do their job—and by no fault of their own, they instead, spend the day off their game. It’s especially unbearable if they see me see them in disarray, and watch me walk away. I worry about the message that sends them in regards to their importance in this life.

Side Note: I have a confession that doesn’t align with the previous confession. I’m very reluctant to I don’t tell people when they have something in their teeth or in their nose. I know, I know—lower your voice. I’ll answer your questions calmly. 1. No, I don’t want you spending the day like that. 2. Yes, I’d want to know. 3. No, I don’t think it’s OK to say nothing, but that’s what I’m going to do.

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Oh hey Kristin, you have … there’s … you have … such kind eyes.

I feel bad for things that do such a good job—such a solid, thankless job—and because they’re not flashy, they go unnoticed … until, that is, they don’t do their job.

Think of the anger directed at such priceless items like water heaters, washers, dryers, refrigerators and car batteries. It’s shameful the names they’re called once they meet their Maker. A sorry S.O.B. and a stupid P.O.S. Where was the praise for their solid performance hour after hour, day after day? Did you offer even one ‘attaboy along the way, when it functioned a thousand times without incident?

How about your body? You love your pretty eyes and strong forearms, but have you admired your kidneys lately? No. Revered your thyroid? Doubtful.

Imagine a few hard-working bodies meeting up for a beer after their owners are asleep. Every part is sitting around, exhausted from putting in their thankless time for the 7000 day? 18,000th day?

Head: So how was everyone’s day?
Chorus: Eh, pretty good.
Brain: I’m wiped out. Tina worked 18 hours today while taking calls from Jake’s school, because he put bugs in Sadie’s pencil box—so she was all over the place mentally, and is barely asleep now, so keep it down.
Butt: Laney talked shit about me all day—no pun intended. She tried to squeeze into some jeans from last year, and then talked bad about me to every friend who would listen. It really bummed me out.
Eyes: Waa-waa, Michael’s been talking smack on me since he turned 40 in April.
Retina: (interrupting) Shut up beautiful Caramel Eyes, he’s not talking bad about YOU, he’s talking bad about ME. You get complimented almost daily. It’s me he’s treating like crap, because he needs reading glasses.
Lips: I guess I should count myself among the lucky, Bette seems to like me. She keeps me hydrated and lets me in on all the gossip. And best of all, she ditched her boyfriend with the constant stubble—I hated that lumberjack.
Hands: Pretty good day. I was cold a lot—couldn’t seem to shake the chill, but all in all I had a good day.
Liver: Hey guys, I can only stay a minute; I’ll be working overtime tonight. Maddie went to happy hour and got into some tequila, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.
Sphincter: Dani just doesn’t get it. She was taking a Buzzfeed quiz today and it asked what body part was her favorite and she said her lips. Guys! She said her lips! She never gave me a second thought—I wasn’t even in the running! That’s a girl who just doesn’t understand basic biology. You wait, one day, when I’m in a bad mood, I’m gonna show her once and for all why answering anything other than sphincter is a bad, bad move.
Heart, Lungs, Large Intestine: Chill out Sphinc, we’re way ahead of ya. You are truly important, but we’re vital and Chris has never once talked about us like he talks about his pecks and calves. You just have to get over it.

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Fanny packs. The one and only thing wrong with fanny packs is their name. It saddens me that these poor, handy bags had their life cut short because of a detrimental naming mistake. I feel just as badly for me as I do for them. Imagine if that convenient delight had a cool name like “hip sling.” They’d still be enjoying the limelight, and we’d still be enjoying a life with both arms and hands.

I don’t know a single girl who doesn’t wish it was acceptable and cool at certain times to wear a hip sling—Disney, the zoo, a movie, etc. I want to find the person who said, “fanny pack!” and explain what they’ve done to us. I simply must know how the word “fanny” ever even came up in the first place. Even “waist wallet” is better than fanny pack, and waist wallet is super bad. Crossbodies and messenger bags are terrific, because they keep you hands-free—it’s as good as we can hope for thanks to the fanny debacle—but they start making one side of your body hurt after a while, because they’re not balanced. Poor hip sling. Poor me. Curse you fanny pack namer!

As worked up as I am, I need to move on. I’ve got appliances to brag on and a tumbler of water that needs ice to feel sassy.

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Not All Who Wander Are Lost

I have a passion for traveling—deep, abiding wanderlust and a consuming love for adventure.

I’ve been fortunate to visit 42 of the 50 states, and various places like Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, Mexico and Canada. Two years ago, though, I was finally able to take two full weeks off and travel overseas. Thankfully, I got to do the same thing about a month ago. During those combined four weeks, we visited Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Greece—with 75% of that time spent in Italy. Heavenly, dreamy, unmatched Italy.

Before my first true international trip, I was under the assumption the biggest challenge would be communicating with locals. I thought it might be frustrating trying to read signs and order pasta and wine. I believed we’d encounter many residents who really didn’t want us in their village, town or country. I had a lot of preconceived notions about what traveling abroad would entail. Boy, was I wrong. None of these concerns came to fruition—not one.

But there were real surprises for which I had not accounted.

1. Trusting strangers becomes normal and natural.

I don’t know why, but I found myself trusting people and situations I’d have never even considered back home. In fact, there were times I didn’t want to text anyone in my family about something, because I knew it would sound the alarm.

Case in point.

Jocelyn and I headed to the train station in Salzburg, Austria to board a train going to Venice, Italy. Because of a stretch of railway under construction, we were going to have to take a train part of the way, then transfer to a bus, then back to a train. The first train leg was amazing in every way—watching the Austrian countryside become the Italian countryside was a dream come true. We disembarked and made our way to the bus to ask about tickets. It was leaving soon, and although we try to never split up when traveling—and succeed at this about 98% of the time—time was of the essence, and I needed to wait with our bags while Jocelyn ran in to buy tickets.

Suddenly, after a few minutes of me frantically looking back and forth at the driver (who was clearly getting ready to hit the road), and the door (where I hoped she’d shoot out of, with tickets in hand), he waved at me in a way that said, “We’re leaving and you’re not going with us.”

I was a bit crestfallen because we had a room reserved in Venice and the next train wasn’t leaving for hours. I wheeled our bags into the ticket area, where I found Jocelyn … beaming.

Me: They left.
She: (all bright-eyed and awash in jubilation): There’s a lady who can take us to the train station in Latisano!
Me: (hard, slow blink … stare … trying to make sense of the words coming out of her mouth and reconcile them with the merriment in her eyes): I’m sorry; what’s that?
She: I met a lady. She’s like a mix between my mom and yours, totally normal and nice, and she heard me trying to get tickets and tapped me on the shoulder. She said she just dropped her college-aged daughter off and was driving back to Latisano and would be happy to give us a ride!
Me: You want to ride in a car … on the highway … with a stranger? Is this what you’re telling me?
She: She’s not a stranger! She’s Katherine! And she’s a mom! Oh, here she comes—what do you think?

I’ll cut to the chase. Katherine was indeed a mix of Katy and Meralyn—in both maternal demeanor and warm disposition. She had a nice mini-van and the three of us had quite the little adventure.

While en route, I sent a text to my mom and dad: “So, I can’t send a lot of texts, but I figured this would qualify as important. We’re speeding along the Autobahn at 90mph with a mom named Katherine who helped us out of a jam. Don’t worry! More details through email later!”

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It gets better. We had some time to kill before going to the train station and she asked if we’d like to visit the local winery and get some vino to take with us. Oh, why not.

We got there and ended up meeting some neat people and seeing part of the real-deal wine-making process. It was as Italian as it gets, and we were in hog Heaven. We just kept sneaking looks at each other like, “This is crazy. We’re crazy.”

Umberto Baccichetto Winery ... and Katherine translating.

Baccichetto Winery … and Katherine translating.

We bought red and white wine, and she asked if we’d like to see the villa she and her husband were building. Go to a remote location with a stranger in another country? What’s not solid about this plan?

But, it was beyond cool. Very “International House Hunters.”

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After the tour, she took us to the train station, and we felt like we were saying goodbye to a beloved aunt. We took our seats, and the train started moving. We just looked at each other, shook our heads and laughed.

I’m thankful we trusted our instincts and intuition, and said yes. It’s an experience we still talk and smile about today.

A similar’ish thing happened on our most recent trip to Italy. We were leaving a two-day Farm Stay at a working organic farm between Rome and Naples. Our cab driver picked us up at 6am, to take us to the bus station. From there, the bus was going to take us to the train station in Rome, for our ride to the Amalfi Coast.

He picked us up in supremely rural Italy, in the pre-dawn darkness, and took us to his full-time job—the restaurant he owned that overlooked incoming and outgoing buses. We got there a little early and he said, “Come in’a, come in’a, I make a’cappuccino!” We followed him as he raised up a garage door-like front. He turned the lights on, got the coffee machine going and we talked about his family. He presented us with a perfect espresso, and as we finished it, our bus arrived and he sent us off.

Sweet Maro and his Bar & Pizzeria.

Sweet Maro and his Bar & Pizzeria.

There wasn’t one thing truly scary about any of it, except the idea that we should be wary—but we just weren’t. It was another lovely experience.

2. Bathrooms.

Bathrooms are surprising, for so many reasons and in so many ways. Even if you aren’t one who discriminates between public restrooms and the ones in your home—a lot of the bathrooms overseas will test your resolve.

My first experience with this was at the winery Autobahn Katherine took us to. I was about to bust and asked the owner for a restroom (well, Katherine did; he didn’t speak a lick of English). I hustled back, only to come face to face with this:

The heck?

The heck?

I just stared—truly unsure of what I was seeing or what I was supposed to do with it. I buttoned back up and poked my head out and did a quick, “Psst!” in Jocelyn’s direction. I tossed my head like, “Come here! Trouble is afoot!” and she rushed over. I said, “What is this madness?” She laughed so hard. Even after her explanation, I kind of wanted to die— but I had to go too bad to waver much longer. That was my first, but not last, foray into in-ground toilets. Here is another one in Desenzano, Italy. Again, I’d waited far too long to discriminate; it was this or an even worse alternative.

So we meet again.

So we meet again.

Side Note: If/when you travel overseas for the first time, make a point to use a WC when you see one. They’re not as plentiful as they are in the states, and as a best practice, you should take advantage of the free ones when they appear. (Yes, exactly when you are at your most desperate, they’ll cost €1 to use.) Oh, WC stands for “water closet” … bathroom.

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Greece upped the ante with many, many WC’s displaying signs reminding users to not flush toilet paper. I’ll say it again … you’re not supposed to flush used toilet paper in the toilet. You’re supposed to put it in the trash. I don’t feel guilty telling you I rarely followed this order.

Most of the time, it was neither here nor there, but truly, the Santorini airport smelled like a giant port-o-potty—which was shocking, because the island itself is stunning beyond measure.

There is one particular highlight of all the restrooms though—the signs on the doors  indicating the gender. I wish I’d taken pictures of all of them from both trips, but I do have a few. Each and every WC has its own personality and it’s fun to see them all.

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3. The array of quality—and fun—transportation.

Another surprising thing about traveling overseas is how many forms of transportation you take—and often in the same day. It becomes second nature to hop on a train, a bus, a ferry, a quad, a funicular, a plane, a bike, a scooter, a kayak, a gondola. And it’s all so organized and seems to run like clockwork. The schedules for us, so far, have been largely accurate and seamless. It makes you realize how far behind most states in the U.S. are, when it comes to getting from Point A to Point B—without a car.

My absolute favorite—trains.

My absolute favorite—trains.

Quads, scooters, bikes.

Gondolas, planes, buses.

Ferries, chairlifts, funiculars.

Side Note: Jocelyn and her mom have this word they say that means one of several things. The word is “oofta” and it can mean something’s hot, something’s cold, something’s strenuous, something’s shocking, etc. A synonym might be “wowza” or “yikes” … from what I gather.

Anyway, we were on a train going to Cinque Terre … the region of Italy with the five famous villages that look like this:

Nothing compares to Cinque Terre, Italy.

For reasons still unclear, the train was jam-packed and we ended up having to ride in the area between the carts, where you typically just board and pass through. There was a pole in the middle that we were able to hold on to. Here:

If you don’t note a hint of impending hysteria on my face, then you’re not looking.

Standing—and holding on to the pole during a ride—normally wouldn’t be necessary, because that area isn’t often crowded. Most of the time, it’s only used by someone getting on, and then quickly off, at the next stop. But this time, more and more people kept boarding at each stop and we were completely smashed in there. In fact, upon subsequent stops, we became so tight and immobile that the next time we stopped, and the doors opened, we bellowed, “No room!” But guess what; 11 more people shoved their way in, and Jocelyn and I became separated (but when you’re in an 8×8 area, what’s the difference?) We had never experienced such an over-packed train—and the escalating situation would’ve been comical—if it weren’t for the HOUR remaining on our trek.

Then came the smells, y’all. The smells. With every boarding body came a new odor. It was a 95 degree morning and many people had their arms held high, grasping the pole, and others had opted to skip toothpaste. I started getting slightly panicked, not over anything clausterphobia-related—I’m not clausterphobic—but over the smells, and if I was going to survive them. We were so sandwiched in place, that I couldn’t even bring my hand up to cover my nose, so I was getting nasal-assaulted in a major way. Someone in particular was quite tart—like really super-rank—and I was talking myself off a ledge, when all of a sudden I heard a faint, “Oofta!” Suddenly, all was right in my world, because in the midst of that tense ride—even though I couldn’t see her—I realized Jocelyn detected the funk and registered its severity, and I began silent shake laughing to the point of tears.

4. Architectural character.

One of my absolute favorite surprises abroad is, not just their architecture, but how they build their homes, towns, villages, shops and cafes around the landscape … and into the landscape—not leveling it all and starting fresh. It’s exquisite. It’s swoon-worthy. It’s the definition of character—and it’s captivating. Getting away from cookie-cutter buildings, strip malls, houses and highways—and immersing yourself in the pure art of their landscape—is breathtaking.

Nothing sparks my creativity or sends me into a glorious daydreaming stupor more than being surrounded by such character and beauty.

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Although, along with this design style comes one very predominant thing. STEPS. Lots and lots and lots of steps.

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Regardless of ample transportation options, our #1 preferred mode is walking. It’s truly pleasurable to be able to get around by foot—something we simply can’t do back home. Our Fitbits got LOTS of playing time. The image below was just one particular day.

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5. Traveling changes how you think.

Traveling overseas—or really anywhere for me—makes my head spin in such a good way. When I’m in new places, seeing fresh sights—and away from my normal routine—it becomes so glaringly obvious to me that we (as people) just aren’t doing life right. That’s a strong statement, but I believe it. I work 48 weeks a year, so I can do what I actually want to do four weeks a year. I don’t know about you, but that math is a real downer.

Don’t get me wrong, I L-O-V-E those 48 weeks—namely the evenings and weekends—but I love them in a different way than I love traveling. They’re comfortable, safe and very fulfilling; but, they don’t ignite my imagination the way adventures do.

Inevitably, every time I travel, whether it’s abroad or two states over, more than one person asks on Facebook, “Do you ever work?!” It’s comical to me. Why, during the 48 weeks I work, doesn’t anyone ask, “Don’t you ever take time off?!”

We met many people on our trips who were in the middle of month-long vacations. Successful, well-balanced people.

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Traveling is a blessing. I’m so abundantly grateful every single time I get to climb out of the lather, rinse, repeat cycle of commuting to work—to see how others live and to enjoy their landscape and eat their food and hear their stories. I thank God every time I get the opportunity to experience more of His world. I don’t travel to escape my life—I’m in love with my life—I travel to show my eyes something new; to open my mind to life outside of my tiny, tiny world, and to revel in the heart-swelling splendor of it all.

6. I almost forgot.

The single most surprising thing about traveling 5,600 miles away is passing Guy Fieri on the chairlift—and somehow capturing a pretty clear selfie—on the Isle of Capri.

Yes, this happened.

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