I Wish I Was Better

Like most people, I fall short in many ways. I wish I was better at managing my time—at turning off my work mind, and turning on my calm mind. I wish I was better at goal-setting, and not allowing mindless iPhone scrolling to replace actually productivity.

I could document a laundry list of things I’d like to get better at; but today, in this very moment, my wishes are not that simple.

I wish I was better at knowing if someone was a good drummer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pre-teen phenom or Travis Barker—once the solo part hits, it just sounds like a damn free-for-all. All I see are limbs flailing and sticks flying. I can’t find the rhythm in a drum solo to save my life, so I just end up feeling like an idiot. An idiot caught in a scary, chaotic storm of frenetic high hats and snares.

I wish I was better at handling the surprising news that a couple has broken up—especially if the news comes via Facebook. Not as an announcement, but as a clue. It’s so alarming to be scrolling along, then notice something is amiss.

“Oh, there’s Lauren. Seth’s wife. With a bearded guy. A bearded guy that’s not Seth. Looking a bit too chummy for my taste. With “God is good!” as her status update. Wait one cotton-pickin’ minute, Lauren. I don’t think so, you two-timing ninny. Not on my Facebook watch. Then I go to her actual page and scroll through it—noticing the last time I saw a pic of Seth was over four months ago; but that Beard has been making weekly appearances with his stupid, cheating beard.

It’s so upsetting, even though Lauren and Beard look pretty happy. Where is Seth though? Oh no! He’s not on Facebook! I can’t see if he’s happy with a pretty lady with a pixie cut. How will I know if Seth and Pixie are happy? What if I never see them on a ferris wheel saying God is good? Will I be left believing that Seth is at home, unshaven, going through old photos of Lauren, while eating expired Vanilla Wafers? Yes. Yes I will.

JTSad.gif

I wish I was better at policing my online activity. When I know I should be writing, or making headway on a work project, or updating my passwords—but instead, I’m taking a quiz to see what my werewolf name would be, I’m left with the thought, “I am what’s wrong with the world.”

When I spend an hour scrolling through Soulja Boy’s social accounts, looking for clues that he’s finally off the sizzurp—I’m left with the thought, “I don’t deserve 24 hours in a day.”

I wish I was better at not feeling personally affronted by other people’s lack of dignity. When I roll up in the work restroom and am confronted by two co-workers having a deuce-off, I’m nearly incensed.

Side Note: A deuce-off is what sometimes happens when two people go into the restroom close to the same time—with the intent of doing private bowel things in public—only to be left waiting on the other person to start, stop or leave.

Back to the outrage. The silence, the two pair of motionless shoes, the waiting. I will not be a party to this scene. I will not provide them the outside noise they’re undoubtedly counting on. I won’t do it.

I’ll walk in, realize it’s a deuce-off and promptly leave. I’ll go to another restroom in the building (which is precisely where their shameless asses should’ve gone when they realized a number two was on the horizon.) Why wouldn’t they drop their kids off at the pool in merchandising’s wing? Why would they want to do their private biz in the same small space their CMO uses? Where is their pride?

not_amused

I wish I was better at understanding our rogue refrigerator. Some couples have to keep their voices down or spell out words so their pets don’t know they’re leaving for a trip—we have to keep our voices down and spell out words when we’re going to have company … so the fridge doesn’t stop making ice.

Can anyone tell me how it knows people are coming over? Never do we ever have ice issues until the day people are coming over. Then, like clockwork, not one cube of ice is produced. That is, until the final farewell is said—at which point the little spoiled brat promptly gets back to cranking out delicious ice. And she knows we have to take her back—or we won’t have ice. HOW DOES SHE KNOW THIS?

What sensors were added to this LG model to notify her of our plans? Go ahead and make fun of us, but we now discuss our plans for company outside the house—then come back in and try to keep our body language cool. Sometimes I even walk extra languidly, as if to say, “It’s cool. There’s no news here.” We’ve even stopped taking chances with spelling—because we’re pretty sure she knows p-a-r-t-y by now.

I wish I was better at allowing myself to pray with poor grammar and syntax. I can be knee-deep into an earnest ask, but unable to stop myself from rewording sentences that end in a preposition.

“Thank You for all Your abundant blessings I’m so unworthy of … grr … Thank You for Your abundant blessings of which I’m so undeserving … ugh, Lord, please forgive me for sounding pretentious with that proper grammar. Sooo, thank You for all the blessings I don’t deserve. Thank you for Your guidance and protection. Please watch over everyone I love, and protect Jocelyn and I as we … grr … please protect Jocelyn and me as we leave for our trip. Please guide me on if I should go a step further in my efforts to … grr … go farther in my efforts to … grr … further? Farther? Sigh, never mind, just please guide me? And please forgive me for my inability to pray with questionable grammar. I hope that’s not some sin of pride or something. If it is, please show me how to have less pride—like the hosers at work who light up the bathroom I use. Please give me their low level of pride, if that is pleasing to You. No wait, please don’t do that. Please? For real though. Actually, please deal with them. Please lead and guide them … to another restroom. Thank you, Father. I love You, Amen. Wait, do You prefer Ahh-men? Is this one of those things that annoys You—the same way it annoys me when people say a Y instead of an H in words like Houston? They say Youston. Please let me know so I don’t annoy You. For now though, I do love You—Amen.”

I wish I was better at knowing, understanding, or caring about characters or stories not based in reality. When people talk about fairy tales or cartoons, they might as well be talking about quantum physics. Aside from the way they look, I don’t know Batman from Peter Pan. I don’t know what Peter’s superpower is. I also don’t know what a zombie actually is. I truly don’t. I mean, I know they’re not real, and I know they’ve got terrible complexions. I think they might be forest people? Or forest creatures? Pictures I’ve seen of zombies look super foresty.

Because we didn’t really grow up watching cartoons, I’m not clear on different cartoon characters—and I don’t know any fairy tales. You could offer me $1,000 and I wouldn’t be able to tell you the outcome of The Three Little Bears—or the premise of that one story with the shoe, and the lady, and the prairie dogs, or whatever they were.

It’s a bit odd that I’m extremely imaginative, but wholly uninterested in anything not realistic. Even in my made-up stories or daydreams, my thoughts have to be plausible. Not necessarily likely, but plausible—or I can’t focus.

I see people in restaurants or airports and concoct great tales of why they’re there, or where they’re going (but I can assure you, in my story, they’re not on their way to another planet or going back into the forest to do zombie things.)

Side Note: I need to out myself before someone else does. I did actually read—and enjoy—the Twilight series. Although totally out-of-character, I cannot apologize for that lapse in my everything-needs-to-be-realistic personality. Jacob meant too much to me, and I will not forsake him in that way.

jacob

Team Jacob.

 

I wish I was better at troubleshooting embarrassing death situations. Like honestly, I don’t want to croak and have someone see that the last thing I was listening to was the Richard Marx version of O Holy Night—or that the last thing I googled was, “is a Trapper Keeper an age-appropriate notebook for my career?” Should that keep me listening to it or daydreaming about the day I can once again pick out and carry a Trapper Keeper? Maybe.

I also like to wear two pair of socks. I just do. I have bony, baby-soft feet, and they fancy proper cushioning. Maybe even three pair of socks on occasion. I SAID MAYBE! But, do I want to be—literally—caught dead in three pair of socks? I do not. Should I stop wearing them? Probably. Because even though my feet would be super comfy at the time of my death, and although I’d be in Heaven, and shielded from the embarrassment of it all, my family would not be.

I can hear them now, “I knew she wore two pair of socks sometimes, but three is news to us. This is something she kept hidden from us. We’ll never get over this rogue life she led.”

I wish I was better at not feeling offended by people’s lawn-mowing habits. It rubs me so wrong when people mow, but don’t edge their grass. I have to fight the urge to grab our weed-eater and finish the job for them. The only thing stopping me is Jocelyn—she says it’s not appropriate. I actually think they’d appreciate it—and be keen on me trimming their out-of-control trees while I’m there.

I feel like these non-edgers are the same people who claim their house is clean, when all they do is “pick up.” If you pick up toys and put bills in the junk drawer daily, but only bleach your bathrooms and do your floors every three months, your house is clean exactly four times a year. Stop shouting at me! I don’t make the rules—I just follow them!

I wish I was better at singing Happy Birthday. I do okay until the third “birthday”—then it’s wheels-off. “Happy birthday to you” (not bad) … “Happy birthday to you” (not bad at all) … “Happy BIIIIRTHDAY dear Delilah!” (cue the howling wolves) I’ve learned to just mouth this note … then come blazing back with “and many more!” I feel like that somehow makes up for my lip-syncing.

brit

Britney forgives my lip-syncing. Trust me.

I wish I was better at not honing in on external noises. This issue probably deserves its own blog post, but for now, I’ll just re-iterate my desire to not notice “noises.” I’m fairly certain I have a mild-to-severe case of Misophonia—and I would absolutely love to shed it if there was a way. Okay-okay, not a severe case. People with severe cases want to literally OFF an offender. I’ve wanted to OFF a chip eater, pen tapper, bad water-bottle drinker, inner smacker, loud breather, aggressive typer, bag cruncher—only a dozen times or so. Over the past week.

Seriously though, as bad as it is, and as on-edge as all these sounds make me feel, I’d never want to be medicated for it. Not at all. I’ve told y’all, I barely like taking Ibuprofen. Buuuuut, helped along with a little hypnotherapy or acupuncture? YES. That seems healthier than the physical harm I imagine unleashing on people who attack chips like it’s an MMA fight—or sound like they’re taking a bath when they drink from their water bottle.

Like I said, the issue deserves its own blog post—which brings me to my last desire.

I wish I was better at posting more often. Send money and I’ll do my best. No amount is too small. And don’t pull any of that “in lieu of” crap. Send actual cash. I wish you were better at that.

Let’s link up on Facebook and Twitter!

Advertisements

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!”

13-DSC_9086

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.”

14-IMG_3898

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.

16-148-DSC_0104

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.

02-IMG_5742(1)

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.

IMG_5835

IMG_5836

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

1-IMG_5793

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.

IMG_5823

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.

twaintravel

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.

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter!

80% Girl

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really a girl.

Every week I tilt my head at something I hear or read. Last week it was, “Every girl needs a pair of killer heels.” Uh-­oh. Not only do I not have or want any, I don’t actually “need” them—because I have Sperry’s. Even with my vivid imagination, I can’t fathom how killer heels would enhance my life. (All the things you’re yelling at the screen are things I don’t want.) If I could come up with even one benefit that made sense to me, then maybe I’d hit up DSW; but, as it stands, if every girl needs killer heels—and I don’t—then I guess I’m not a girl?

But wait, wait, wait. I enjoy loofahs and talking things out and doodling hearts in the margins. I also like reading into conversations, taking things out of context and perusing every aisle at Target—except the pet one—so I AM a girl, right?

Thank you, Oprah.

Thank you, Oprah.

I also heard this one recently: “Every girl deserves to go to a ball.” First of all, that’s just not true. I know a lot of girls who deserve to be grounded and strictly forbidden from going to balls. Second of all, I have to assume that ball attire requires killer heels, so thankfully, I’m out. Going to a ball appeals to me none percent. It requires shoes I oppose and a pretentiousness that pricks my baby skin. I’m also assuming the football game won’t be on anywhere at the ball, right? Do people who host balls serve anything in the buffalo-blue-cheese-slider family? I’d need to know this before I decided if I really and truly deserved to go to a ball like every girl supposedly does.

This one you’ve all heard, and I could write a dissertation on it, but I won’t. “Every girl wants to be a princess.” People, not only has that never crossed my mind—or taken up even momentary residence in the chamber of my heart where dreams reside—but I want to be a princess about as much as I want to be a lobster, in a pot of boiling water, being prepared for the main course, at a ball I don’t want to attend.

What is the appeal of being a princess? I’m asking because I genuinely want to know and understand this breed.

I can list 5 really quick things that make me not want to be a princess.
1. Their voices are annoying.
2. They wear gowns and killer heels.
3. The have to eat politely … and in small quantities.
4. Their hair is long and they wear it down. All the time.
5. Most of them are dainty, demure and seemingly helpless.

6. Some of them have flippers and act like this.

6. Some have flippers and act like this.

I don’t even want to be friends with anyone over the age of seven who wants to be a princess. I’m sorry—that’s just not a thing. In my mind, that’s just not even a thing. Wanting to be a princess is like wanting to be a figurine. That’s something every girl wants? Like, when they’re stone-cold sober? Ladies, is that true? To the readers who are out of footed pajamas and who don’t still have baby teeth, do you dream of being a princess?

I’m not asking if you want to make babies with Prince Harry. I’m for-real asking, do you really dream of being a princess? I mean, if you do, that’s fine, I guess … I dream of us going on an African safari with Roger Federer and his wife and two sets of twins, and capturing phenomenal shots of giraffes while the sun is setting, but it’s not like I go around saying and tweeting and posting, “Every girl wants to go on an African Safari with Roger Federer and his wife and two set of twins and capture phenomenal shots of giraffes while the sun is setting!”

Nope—no, I don't.

Nope—no, I don’t.

It’s no secret that I like the smell of Home Depot as much as the smell of Sephora. The ambiance of both stores makes my whole body happy. And most of my people know I’d rather watch the NFL Draft than the Oscars.

Side Note: I know something I dream of. I dream of being on the red carpet at the Oscars one day, simply so that when Mario Lopez asks me “who I’m wearing” I can clutch my locket and sigh, “Aunt Norney … I miss her so much.”

But I know I’m still a girl because I have boxes full of old cards, letters, pictures and diaries, and I’d put someone in a full nelson and snap his collarbone if he tried to throw them out. Uh-oh. Only guys do full nelsons and bone-breaking things, huh? Whatever. Still, the high sentimental factor makes me a girl—admit it.

“Every girl dreams of and plans her wedding day from the time she is five.” Really? Like, really­ really? I fully understand dreaming of and planning your marriage, but the wedding? So you’re saying, for 20 years straight, every girl plans those few hours of her life? Every girl? All of us? Dang it—there I go, not being a girl again. But it doesn’t add up, because I love to take long baths and daydream about Britney and Justin getting back together … and in time to have a baby. This is in the girl category, right?

Bang.

Bang.

“Every girl knows where to get the best brunch.” Sigh. Don’t get me started on brunch. It’s NOT “the best of both worlds—breakfast and lunch combined.” It’s HALF of both worlds, without being as good as either. If I have to “do brunch” to be a girl, then I’ll pass, because there are too many good places for afternoon craft beer, hot wings and Neapolitan pizza—none of which will include an egg or Hollandaise sauce.

“Every girl deserves to be treated like a princess.” Again I say, “Not true.” Have you met every girl? This is patently false, because a lot of girls deserve to be treated like the wicked witch of the West. And besides, gross. Why is this so gross to me? I’m fully down with being treated well and being respected and even waited on—for special occasions—but the notion of being treated like a princess gives me the shakes.

I saw a pin on Pinterest the other day and it was an image of a dress and shoes and accessories laying on a bed … with a note on top of it all that said, “Wear this and be ready at 7:00.” Then the caption on the pin said, “Every guy should do this for his girl at least once in his life.”

gag1

I’m not on the market, but if I was, and a guy did that, I would fracture my eyeballs rolling them. Please don’t dress me. The “be ready at 7:00” part is kind of sexy and bossy, but please leave the clothes and accessories purchase out of the mix. That’s not cute.

One thing that makes me feel A-OK about my supposed partial-girl status is The Bachelor. I can’t watch it or even listen to people discuss it, because of the way the girls act on the show. It makes me happy to separate myself from their ilk. I’d rather watch a 10-part A&E series on Houdini’s cousin than two minutes of The Bachelor. But bear in mind, I can watch HGTV until my legs go numb. So who’s the girl now?

I wish society would just stop trying to convince me I’m not a girl, because minus the brunching and killer heels and dressy galas and pukey princess and Bachelor stuff, I’m 100% girl. Or at least 75%—maybe 80% if my obsession with wanting Beyonce and Jay-Z to stay together counts.

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter!

 

Wanna Play?

I’ve lived and breathed competitive sports for most of my life, but I’m surprisingly not that competitive.

Whoa! To those of you who know me and are yelling at the screen, hear me out. I love competing—games, sports, anything with an opponent (I also think smack-talk is a sport in and of itself. YES, even during board games.) It’s just that my favorite part of it all is the ride itself. I rarely get bent out of shape about losing, if the game’s been fun.

Side Note: I actually win a lot.

When I say I’m not overly competitive, I mean not in the way you hear about certain people—where you barely recognize them. You know, the ones who will stop at nothing to win even the most inane argument, like how many of Grisham’s books have “The” in the title? I mean really, if you have to Google it, then you didn’t win. Google won.

Google: 1
You And Anyone Searching For the Answer Anywhere But Their Brain Vault: 0.

I refuse to accept that the look of satisfaction on your face is because you were the fastest Googler. You’re better than that.

carrollstrut

I’ve heard many stories about people getting competitive with their workouts. Just regular fully grown adults who workout to stay fit. You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill, sneaking a peek at the screen of the person to my right and adjusting my speed so I’m running faster—because here is the thing:

1. We’re not actually racing. We’re on a conveyor belt that leads to a land called nowhere.
2. I don’t care, even in the slightest, what you’re doing.
3. Because this warrants repeating: We’re not racing.

Side Note: I could have stopped the original sentence after “You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill” because while I triple-love being active, I have to PLAY … racquetball, flag football, catch, tag, softball, in the pool … anything not in the monotonous family.

I laugh because sometimes Jocelyn will come home from a run and appear a little extra amped up as she guzzles water—telling me about the three people she beat. I cock my head, wondering if this calls for a high five or dap of some sort, but I’m too confused about why her run turned into a race at all. I usually think I’ll lay the conversation to rest by simply asking, “Did they know you were racing?” But she’ll catch her breath and reply with peaceful satisfaction, “No, but I did.”

See? I don’t have that need. I can’t fathom a day where I’d be on a run and thinking about anything other than how I’m going to make the torture stop. I wouldn’t even know who I passed or was getting passed by, because my one singular.laser.focus would be to get the suffering over with.

I know people (oh how I know people) who want to win everything … from games to arguments to how many shiny things they own. When I imagine that type of brain or outlook, it exhausts me. It must be so emotionally draining to feel the need to “win”—if we can even call reading a trilogy the quickest—winning.

competition

I’m trying to conjure up that existence and how it would feel if I “lost” at a few random things. I’m imagining:

  • Getting rip-roaring mad if my sister-in-law is able to open the jar of pickles I couldn’t. I’d huff around, saying under my breath, “Hmph, must be nice to have never fractured the thumb that helps you grip.”
  • Feeling completely defeated if I couldn’t swat the aggravating fly on the patio, but my dad could. “Yeah-yeah, go ahead and cheer him on, see if I care—he’s wayyy older than I am so he’s had more practice. Like, decades.”
  • Being livid if I can’t get my niece to stop crying but her mom can. “Whatever. That’s such an unfair advantage since you provided her an umbilical cord in your womb. Must be nice to have connections.”

I’m bone-tired just picturing it!

I mean, I have a healthy amount of drive, but it seems to stick close to me—living in and around my own personal goals. I rarely wonder how I can get what someone else has (unless it’s a big crock pot of buffalo chicken dip, then all bets are off because I WANTS.)

It's impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

It’s impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

But on the off-chance I do want what another person has … I don’t want to take it from them, I just want it, too.

  • Oh, you have a vacation home on the Italian Riviera? I hope to one day, too—do you have any advice?
  • Oh, you have a kegerator with perfectly cold, carbonated beer at the ready at all times? Where might I purchase this treasure?
  • Oh, you only have to visit your gynecologist once every three years? Is she taking new patients?

I’m much more competitive when it comes to team sports. I really love strategizing, working and winning as a team. I also like knowing that the losing team can pick each other up and have some help getting over the loss—unlike a tennis player or gymnast who loses and just has to sit there with her own stupid losing self.

tennis1

I never thought it was fun to beat someone one-on-one. Well wait, except tether ball. In elementary school, I was unstoppable and enjoyed the perks of tether stardom. But winning a dance off or Checkers made me feel no more good than bad. Even in racquetball, which I love, I prefer cutthroat or doubles, because it means 3-4 of us are playing—which cuts down on the awkwardness of winning or losing.

Winning is winning—we’ve all done it and it doesn’t suck. Losing is losing—we’ve all survived getting beat. But what I love is the journey … the game itself. Whether it’s a sport or a board game or air hockey, the most fun part to me is the process and every step leading up to the end. The outcome is relatively unimportant if it’s been fun.

Side Note: My sister does not feel this way and won’t hesitate to gain a suspicious advantage at every turn. And by gain a suspicious advantage, I mean cheat. Let me give you an example. Every Easter my fun, awesome parents have an adult Easter egg hunt for us “kids”, where they place gift cards in big plastic eggs and get our nieces and nephew to help hide them.

We’re quarantined during the hiding process, then let out and corralled until they say, “Go!” Well last time, right when the light was green and we bolted out, my sister “pantsed” me—putting me back a good 30 seconds and scarring my nephew for life.

I thought there was a lesson in all this for my sister, when I still scored iTunes, Home Depot and Amazon, but no … 4th of July weekend she was caught pinching our niece during 3-on-3 when we were one hoop away from winning.

Bottom line: I love sports, games, competing and playing. I enjoy winning but can handle losing if we’ve had a good time getting there, even if—especially if—I start out with no pants.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

Well I Never!

I can’t say what’s right for you and your life, but I know for mine, saying “never” is a big no-no. Saying I’ll never do something is the fastest and most certain way of seeing it come to life in full HD.

I’ve touched on it before, but when I first started actually noticing being brought down a notch, was when I piped off that I’d never work retail. Not only was I sporting a Barnes & Noble name tag before long, but I was doing so with a Master’s Degree and a meaningful 7-year career under my belt.

Talk about being humbled.

Talk about being humbled.

I had to learn some serious humility (and quick) because every time a jackhole customer got snippy over an out of stock book—and looked at me like it must be my fault because only uneducated slackers would work retail and have an out of stock book—I had to keep myself from launching into the very logical explanation of what led me to that position.

I wanted to tell them all about my education and previous career. I wanted to say I wasn’t a person without ambition—and this job was temporary. I wanted to show them every single book in the store I’d read and assure them most of the associates were wonderful, well-read people. I also wanted to tell them Amazon might be a better option for them because in the privacy of their mother’s basement, no one could see them in their tighty-whities whining like a little punk because we didn’t keep our Lawmen of the Old West section stocked to his satisfaction.

I did none of these things. God was good. He taught me multiple lessons in one fell swoop.

Self-Reporting: In the year I was there, I only have one moment I look back on with any measure of shame. I was closing on a Saturday night and rushing around shelving abandoned books—in between helping customers. My jurisdiction for that particular evening was the children’s section. There were a few families notorious for letting their herd run wild, never returning a single book to its shelf or replacing a Thomas the Train figure once bored of it.

None. Of. Us. Could. Stand. Them. Not the parents, not the kids, not their ways.

It was approaching 11:00pm and the kids were still having their way with my section. I did a quick scan for the parents, saw they were preoccupied (shocker) and rounded the corner to where the mayhem was in full swing. I glared at the guiltiest of the group until she stopped throwing books off the shelves and looked at me. When she did, I bore a hole through her with narrowed eyes and with my thumb, slow-cut my own neck.

OK, back to the reason we’re here.

I also used to recoil when I heard people talk about coffee like it was the ruler of their tiny world. I’d hear, “Everyone knows not to talk to me before I’ve had my coffee!” and, “Let me get properly caffeinated and then we can meet.” I’d audibly groan in disgust. And the worst of the worst? Someone being so addicted to coffee that she purchased and PLACED this bumper sticker on her expensive car: No Coffee, No Workee.

I’d sit at a red light behind her and think, “Really? Two e’s on workee? Coffee is so delicious and necessary that you tattooed your car with a baby-talking edict? Grow up. Drink some water.”

Cut to two years later when my Keurig Platinum is one of my more prized possessions and making its way on the list of things I’d grab if there was a fire.

jimhalpert

See? Haughtiness leads to dependency. Let this be a lesson.

I’ve become so convinced that saying I’ll never do something or never be a certain way is so wrong for me that I feel the need to shut it down in others, too. In the same way I cringe when old people still use racial slurs, I want to physically jump up and shield people who make “never” proclamations like it’s no big deal.

I was having lunch with a friend one time and through a mouthful of buffalo chicken tenders he said, “I mean can you believe that? I can’t. I’d never die in a fire—I mean gimme a break.”

I mentally hurled myself across the table to cover his mouth and wail to the sky, “Forgive him! He knows not what he says!”

I said, “Don’t even say that! No one thinks they’ll die in a fire, you ding dong!”

“No, I’m serious. No way I’m dying in a fire, no way. Or drowning … never gonna happen.”

Now he’d gone too far and my brain flashed forward to his obituary and some awful apartment fire with his arrogant charred remains.

It’s not like I think God says, “Oh really? You’ll never fall overboard on a Carnival cruise line? Hide and watch, my lady—HIDE AND WATCH.” I don’t think that at all (although you’ll never hear me saying I’ll never fall overboard on a cruise. Wait … I mean, I hope I’m never dumb enough to say I’ll never fall overboard on a cruise … see, still working on it).

I just think for me, the bottom line is that I’m not supposed to be high and mighty or know-it-all’y. It probably all comes down to judging. I try not to judge and in a lot of ways, using the phrase “I’ll never” is a form of judgment.

Think of all the definitive statements people so carelessly make without knowing or having been in the situation:

1. I’ll never put my mother in a nursing home.
2. I’ll never get blindsided like that because I get my mammograms on time.
3. My kid will never post obscene garbage on the internet.
4. You’ll never see me getting fast food for my family.
5. I’ll never grow cilantro that begins to suspiciously look like marijuana, then be convinced the DEA is hovering over my house in a helicopter one night.

Follow-up to #5:
Anna: Moma! Where did y’all get the cilantro seeds you gave us?
Moma: I think (name not disclosed) brought them back from Mexico with some antibiotics, why?

My point is, it’s not only short-sited, but extremely presumptuous and egotistical to think you know everything for all of time, present and future. Situations change, finances change, hearts change—life happens. One day you’re making salsa with homegrown vegetables and the next thing you know, you’re high as a kite from some suspect cilantro.

motherslove

For some odd reason, three different people in my office building had some kind of foot injury that necessitated those knee scooters … one knee was on the scooter and the other foot would push off and they’d have their notebooks and peanut butter sandwiches in a little basket as they traversed the halls.

I’d watch them, shaking my head and thinking, “I’d rather open up a wrist than have to use one of those things at work.” I started thinking it so often that I became worried it would soon be my fate. So, I changed my thought pattern when I peeped someone scootin’ my way: “Oh please Lord, if I must fracture my foot or have some random heel surgery, please please please let a boot or crutches suffice.”

scooter

Because as much as I knew I’d do everything in my power to not be on a knee scooter at work, I also recognized that maybe they didn’t want to be either—maybe it was the only choice—so I shouldn’t be judgmental.

Of course, I shared this thought with a friend and she said, “Oh please, he’s a lazy #@$%. He wanted that scooter.”

Fair enough.

“Never” has a cousin. His name is “not.”

Example: Cocky head-twirl with a sassy finger-point, “I am NOT working into my 60’s.”

If anyone hears me say this, please run at me full speed and tackle me so I land face first and can’t say another ill-advised word (because I really, reallllly don’t want to be putting 40 hours into anything but travel by then … but if I get all insistent, I might be in a cube ’til I’m 80).

A better proclamation: “I really hope to plan well enough to not work into my 60’s.”

Whew, that’s better. That shouldn’t get me schooled.

And for those of you who pompously declare you’ll “never associate” with (pick one) a liberal/a Bible thumper/a hunter/a gay guy/an evangelical/an atheist/a tea partier/a drug addict/anyone in the Palin family … please wait while I get a huge bag of popcorn, because for once, I want to see what evaporating superiority looks like from afar.

Jfpopcorn

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

Adventures In Moderation

I’m a big believer in moderation. I shy away from just about all extremes—this includes, but is not limited to—sports, music, food, politics and personal comfort.

Quick examples:

  • I like Duke AND North Carolina men’s basketball (but Gonzaga is my team)
  • I like Coke AND Pepsi (and Dr. Pepper, but it’s all Coke where I’m from)

Friend: You wanna go get a Coke?
Me: Yeah!
(pull up to the drive-through)
Friend: What kind of Coke do you want?
Me: Dr. Pepper.

  • I like summer AND winter; sun AND snow
  • I watch American Idol, X-Factor AND The Voice
  • I like singer-songwriters AND rap/r&b/soul
  • I work on a Mac AND a PC

I like a little bit of a lot of things—even when they’re supposedly opposites or in competition. I rarely feel those pulls to the extremes. I do, of course, have some absolute NO’s on certain artists, politicians, etc. …  but I’m a fan of the “Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate” mentality, so we will not discuss the UCONN Huskies or Redd’s Apple Ale commercials here.

no

I think one of the main reasons I happily live life in the middle is because I never want to utter the phrase, “And I’ve never been the same.” I live, somewhat, in fear of that notion.

When I hear enough people make similar statements about a particular thing, I’m ever-vigilant to avoid it.

“Derek got a flu shot in 2004 and he’s never been the same.”

Nope. About the 5th time I heard someone say that, I knew a flu shot wasn’t for me. I was already pretty sure, as I’m just not someone who gets sick often or catches other people’s illnesses (please don’t panic and tell me to knock on wood—I don’t even know what that means.) Oh that’s right … and I hate sharp objects containing the flu virus puncturing my skin.

“Girrrl, Tara got her eyebrows waxed last year and they’ve never been the same.”

Nope. Having to paint on artificial eyebrows every morning would send me into a downward spiral. I don’t want something that’s already pretty manageable to place me in never-been-the-same territory.

“My aunt did a cleanse a couple of years ago and I swear, she’s never been the same.”

Nope. Cleanses sound logical and intriguing. I’ll hear something about a new or popular one and think, “Well I don’t like Helicobacter Pylori any more than the next person. Maybe I should do a cleanse.”

I’ll read and research and inevitably circle back to the original fear: what if a cleanse encourages my body to never work another day in its life? What if the cleanse entices my digestive system to go on a sabbatical and it has such a good time, it never comes back?

I never want to knowingly upset the natural balance of my body and life.

So I suppose this is where “moderation” walks in. I’ll do what I can to stay well. I’ll avoid licking children’s palms. I’ll stay on top of my mostly-behaving eyebrows and I’ll make sure I’m not eating too many Vienna sausages.

Yes, I’ll put a hurtin’ on some hot wings, mexican food and craft beer—but I’ll also eat tons of veggies, drink plenty of water and workout. I’m just not the kind of person who is “all or nothing”—to me, that’s a formula for unhappiness. I prefer balance.

Admittedly, however, when it comes to personal comfort, it’s a slippery slope. I’m pretty patient and I usually acclimate quickly—but not when I let my guard down.

MommyKitten

For instance, when I write in my study in the winter, I sometimes turn on a little space heater to stay toasty. You wouldn’t believe how quickly I’m “freezing!” when I turn it off or step away. And yet, there is no way I’m freezing. I’m convinced that catering to those little comforts is a recipe for losing my acclimation prowess.

I don’t want to become dependent on anything I can’t always have (I’m looking at you, electric blanket.)

Yet, here I am, fully admitting I don’t want to own a car without seat heaters. I’ve had them for years and fear the day I’m denied them will be the day I lose my will to live. Do you see how these personal comforts are slowly chipping away at my wherewithal potential?

Side Note: You can imagine how horrified I am at my unrelenting Chapstick addiction. Truly despondent.

Also, we lived with my sister and niece for several months when we were building our house. Part of that time, we were living through one of the hottest summers on record, so we slept with an oscillating fan every night. Well guess who “needs” her White Noise App (with accompanying oscillating fan noise) at night now? I disgust us.

At work I was offered a second monitor. I actually turned it down a few times, simply because I knew I would become dependent on it just about the time it was ripped from my loving arms. Cut to present day—I accepted it, we exchanged vows and I cannot imagine how I could possibly work without it. I’m deplorable.

Regardless of whether I stay the course or falter at times—allowing myself frivolous comforts—I know deep down that it’s best I stay strong and travel light, so the fall from personal comfort is more like being dropped on a Sealy Posture-Pedic than taking a header off a skyscraper.

Is it any wonder I’ve never tried drugs and rarely self-medicate? I don’t have an addictive personality, but I do have an, “Oh, this is really nice and I want it forever” personality. I know this. So I gladly live a life of moderation.

Maybe deep down I’m systematically preparing for—let’s just say “worse days ahead.” If an EMP or natural disaster occurs and we’re back to bare bones basics—having to brawl with others for water and squirrel meat—the last thing I want is to also be at my wit’s end over not having Dr. Pepper or weed.

Yes, I triple love my morning coffee, but if it was pulled from my line-up, I’d just be sad—not helpless. I’ve been a morning person way longer than I’ve been drinking coffee.

A wee bit of self-deprivation now to soften the blow later … is this weird logic? Maybe. But planning ahead is what got me into a Justin Timberlake club concert with only 1,000 other fans. Case=closed.

jt2

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.