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.

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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.

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I Kid You Not

Kids fascinate me. Their cuteness; their grossness; their individuality. I love watching nature—not nurture—in all its glory.

Recently, I imagined what it would be like if little ones never outgrew their weirdo ways—namely in the work place.

Scene 1: Reese, our man-child, getting his boss’s attention.

“Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren!”

“LAUREN!”

Lauren rushes to wrap up her conversation with Chad and says, “Yes, Reese?”

Reese then balances on one leg and pretends to blow a horn using his thumb.

Lauren stares at him, unamused, and walks away.

Scene 2: A human playground.

Reece runs full speed towards an unsuspecting Tina and jumps on her back—sending them both face-first onto the floor.

Scene 3: Morning needs.

Reece barges into work and declares, “I’m hungry! Lauren, I’m thirsty! Lauren! Hungry! Juice! LAURENNNNN!”

Scene 4: Who’s the boss.

Reese gallops into a meeting on a broomstick—uninvited—and unplugs the projector, disconnects the conference call, and gallops out.

suckas

Scene 5: Clothes are for punks.

Lauren calls Reese in for a meeting.

Lauren: Reese, you have to wear pants. You also have to wear underwear. You have to wear both. This is not up for discussion.
Reece: But whyyy?
Lauren: Because you have to. You can’t run around the office naked from the waist down. Do you see anyone else doing that? We’re not debating this. Clear?

Reece’s chin hits his chest and he crosses his arms as hard as he can while pushing his lips out.

Later, during an afternoon meeting, Reece seems to have complied with Lauren’s orders, though not without over-dramatized pouting. But when the meeting wraps and everyone pushes away from the conference table, Reece emerges with no pants or underwear—and a creepy grin as he runs away from Lauren.

Scene 6: Color commentating.

Reece walks around the office, seemingly normal, then assumes a snow ski stance, lets one fly and yells, “Silent but violent!”

Scene 7: Such a melodious sound.

Reece, as a means to expel energy—and generally annoy everyone—unhinges his jaw and unleashes a long, ear-splitting scream.

Lauren tells him, “NO. NO SIR.” Reece complies for just under two minutes, then does it again. Lauren tells him, in no uncertain terms, that screaming is neither appropriate nor acceptable. Reece manages to keep the next blood-curdling scream in for about 10 minutes.

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Scene 8: Sudden, unexplained shyness.

Reese is talking, making noises and doing anything he can to get attention, so Lauren says, “Reese? Did you want to elaborate on the new process?” Reese then dips his chin and pretends to talk, but all you see is his shifty eyes and moving lips—but absolutely no sound coming out.

Scene 9: What’s yours is mine.

While sitting at the lunch table, Reece grabs the glasses off of Alice’s face and shoves them onto Nathan’s—poking him in the eye.

Scene 10: An answer for everything.

Lauren: Reece, were you able to run that report?
Reece: Blaaaaaaaah, poop!
Lauren: What? Reece, come on. Yes or no? We need it for the 2:00 meeting. Will you please get it done so we can inform the team?
Reece: Poop! Booger poop! You eat poop boogers!

Scene 11: Reece the boomerang.

Lauren and Reece wrap up their weekly meeting and Reece leaves. He comes back into Lauren’s office 15 minutes later.

Lauren: What’s up?
Reece: I’m thirsty.
Lauren: Okay, go get a drink—but then I need you back at your desk.

Ten minutes later, Reece slinks back into Lauren’s office, with an insecure, semi-creepy walk.

Lauren: Reece. What is it?
Reece: I can’t work.
Lauren: WHY NOT.
Reece: I’m scared.
Lauren: Scared? Scared of what?
Reece: I’m scared Sara is hiding under my desk.
Lauren: Sara? Sara Lawrence? Why would she be under your desk? Why don’t you just look under and see that she’s not there?
Reece: No, you.

Lauren gets up, exasperated, and leads Reece back to his desk. She makes a big production out of looking under the desk and proclaiming, “Nope. No Sara.”

Fifteen minutes later, Reece is back in Lauren’s office. Lauren just stares, defeated.

Reece: My chair is uncomfortable. It feels funny.

not_amused

Scene 12: Working lunch.

Lauren: Thanks everyone for tolerating another lunch meeting. Hopefully these sandwiches make up for having to stay in. Let’s go ahead and get started. As you all know, we …

Cut to Reece purposefully dropping his sandwich on the floor, staring right at Lauren and saying, “Uh-oh.”

Lauren gathers her patience, hands Reece another triangle of sandwich and returns to her intro. Reece holds his hand high outside his body and drops his can of Coke, “Uh-oh.”

Scene 13: The highest form of flattery.

Lauren: Hey Reece, stop by when you get a sec.
Reece: Hey Reece, stop by when you get a sec.
Lauren: What? Really, I need another set of eyes on the graph I’m showing Will next week.
Reece: What? Really, I need another set of eyes on the graph I’m showing Will next week.

grrr

Scene 14: The heart wants what it wants.

Sara: Hi-ya, Reece. Here’s your copy of the report for the meeting.
Reece: But I wanted my copy on blue paper.
Sara: Um, blue paper? We don’t make copies on blue paper.
Reece: But I wanted it on blue!
Sara: Look, it has the information you need—that’s what’s important.
Reece: BLUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scene 15: Adventurous palate.

Lauren: I’m so happy we could all get away from the office and celebrate an amazing quarter. Here’s to eating, drinking and being merry!
Waiter: What could I get you, Ma’am?
Sara: Hi. I’ll have the filet, medium rare, asparagus and the Dijon mashed potatoes.
Waiter: And you, Ma’am?
Lauren: I’ll have the Portobello gnocchi, and a salad with the house dressing.
Waiter: Nice. Sir, what’ll you have?
Nathan: Let me get the pork shank, risotto and the bacon jam Brussels sprouts, please.
Waiter: Great choice. And you, Sir?
Reece: Chicken strips and a large chocolate milk.

Scene 16: Say Cheese!

In every picture taken, Reece’s fake smile looks like someone told him to show all 32 teeth and look as surprised as he would if an 18-wheeler was heading directly at him.

Sweet Sam. This phase will last a full year.

Scene 17: Let’s GO.

Nathan: Say, Reece, you ready to go down to the presentation?
Reece: Yeah. I mean no. I’m a helicopter.
Nathan (5 minutes later): Reece, come on man, we need to head down or we’re gonna be late.
Reece: Yeah, ‘k. (continues being a helicopter)
Nathan: (2 minutes later): We have to go. Now. I’m leaving, so come on if you’re coming. And get your notebook.
Reece: (stands there, slumped over, with his arms hanging all the way to his feet) I’m cominggggg, ugh! (continues to stand)
Nathan: That’s it, I’m leaving. Do what you want. (walks off)
Reece: WAAAIIITTT!! NATHAN WAIT! NATHAAAAAAAAAAAAN! (runs for Nathan and lunges, throwing his arms around Nathan’s mid-stride leg)

Scene 18: Storytelling.

Lauren: Hey gang, good meeting. Before we head back to our desks, I wondered if Reece and Claire wanted to tell us about their experience at the conference this week. Guys?

Reece: Yeah, so, so, so, so when, when, when we, we like – like it was yesterday and we, we had, we went, when we went to …
Claire: Yeah, we headed into Stratton Hall and …
Reece: ME! I’m telling it! I’m telling the story!
Claire: Fine, tell it.
Reece: So like we, we, we went and when we went, we … Stop Nathan! Nathan’s making faces at me! Stop it! Stop making faces!”

Scene 19: Name calling.

Lauren: Thanks for coming in guys. I understand the two of you are having some difficulties relating to one another and I thought we’d see if we can come to an agreement today. Nathan, why don’t you tell me a little about the circumstances that led to yesterday’s confrontation.
Nathan: Sure. I approached Reece about the email he sent to …
Reece: You’re stupid. You’re a dumb stupid-head.
Nathan (hands in the air): See? This is what I’m dealing with—and he’s done this in front of clients.
Reece: Because you’re an idiot dumb-dumb poopy diaper face.

Yeah, so the next time you want to throttle a co-worker for making your work life twice as hard as it should be, just be thankful they wear pants and don’t ask you to nurse them during a meeting.

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I’m Not That Picky

It’s not a secret that quite a few things in this life bug, bother and baffle me. We’ve united in furytwice. But the other day, I was chopping up pickles for tuna sandwiches—and making absolutely certain to keep the butts (where the stem had been) out of the mix, for people who are particular about such things—when I realized that it really all balances out. Meaning, there are lots of things I don’t mind at all, that others simply cannot abide. I noted this fact as I popped the butts of about 15 baby dills in my mouth, while doing a happy food dance.

Maybe I’m not as picky as I once thought. Let’s swan dive into some examples.

I don’t panic over banana strings, because I’m too busy eating them. They’re called phloem bundles—but I just call them “part of the banana”—and they help carry nutrients to the entire fruit. So while you’re delicately removing them with grouchy, pursed lips, my fully nourished body has moved on.

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I also don’t mind extreme heat. I was born and raised where it’s routinely over 100 degrees in the summer—and I like it. In fact, I like it to be so hot it’s hard to breathe. Bring it. I prefer dry heat, but I’m not that picky. I also love the deliciously crippling heat of saunas and steam rooms.

Side Note: My mom loves steam rooms, too. One time we were at a spa in Arizona and decided it was time for a good steam. The room was rather large and looked a lot like this:
steam room
Ours was brighter and appeared welcoming. Other women were already in the middle of their terrifying experience steam, so we found a spot and sat near each other. Our moods were good as we anxiously awaited purification. We were quietly carrying on about something—more than likely the location of our next meal—when all of a sudden, the loudest, eeriest, most horrifying sound came surging out from below the benches. I’d liken it to Darth Vader’s breathing, but about three minutes longer and maybe how he’d breathe if he had fingernails and someone was pulling them off, one by one, with needle-nose pliers. Right when the sound started, I jumped out of my skin and held both palms up high to show I wasn’t armed, then turned to look at my mother—who I thought would always protect me—but I couldn’t see her. I couldn’t even see my own body. WHERE WAS MY BODY?! It was like a thousand angry cumulus clouds had filled the room. The sound, plus the absolute blindness—and truly not knowing if something had gone awry in the bowels of the generator—had me disoriented and confused. Just when I was about to assume the fetal position and re-invite Jesus into my heart, the steam stopped. I could sort of see the door, and soon, a few faces even came into view. I looked to my left and my mom was sitting straight up, bug-eyed, with both hands on her heart. Once we made eye contact and blinked hard a few times, we died out laughing. Then we held each other and promised to never let go. Then we remembered food was next on the itinerary, and the joy was back.

We needed comfort.

We needed comfort.

I’m guessing this isn’t common, but I like to listen to songs on repeat. If I fully and completely love a song, I can literally have it on repeat for several days. However, I never re-read books—ever—even ones I dearly love. I have zero desire to re-read a story I’ve already fictitiously experienced. I’m sure these two things don’t jive, but it’s my reality. I also never re-watch movies. Wait—that’s not true. I forgot about Dumb & Dumber. And Tommy Boy. And Knotting Hill. Oh, never mind; I was younger then. These days it would feel like such a waste of precious time to re-watch a movie.

And now I’m probably going to make some of you mad. So if you have a short fuse or feel defensive over your slothful ways, you might want to go stand by that sink of dirty dishes and count to ten. Here goes.

I enjoy cleaning. The house, the garage, the porch, the car. I love trimming trees and pruning hedges. I like putting away clean laundry. I like taking out the trash. I like sweeping off the patio. Certain tasks are more rewarding than others, and I especially delight in the ones where I can see marked improvement and revel in the visual appeal of orderliness. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind, so I love making—and keeping—things neat.

Order creates harmony and happiness in my brain synapses, so cleaning doesn’t feel like a chore to me.

Side Note: This is one of the many reasons I’d find driving a tractor or running a lawn service more fulfilling than wordsmithing Hello Kitty dresses. Plowing a field, mowing, landscaping—something where I can see progress—satisfies my being on a cellular level.

Side Note For The Side Note: My friend text the other morning and said she stopped to fill up on her way to work and saw a bunch of lawn guys jump out of a truck. She found herself looking at them longingly, like TAKE ME WITH YOU. She also has a good job—the kind we’re supposed to want—but there she was, looking dreamily at the crew and wanting to jump in the back of the pick-up with her own bag of Takis. She thought I’d think she was crazy, but I told her, “Shut. Up.” the way I do when she texts me pics of good food, because, I. KNOW. AND. I. WANTS.

This plus this equals YES PLEASE.

This plus this equals YES PLEASE.

Hand in hand with cleaning is this: organization soothes my soul. I love the satisfaction I get from changing a light bulb, putting new batteries in a flashlight, charging my Fitbit and cleaning out a junk drawer (I’m almost totally positive I don’t need the gas bill from 2012 or those tiny, random screws or 2-year old lip balm I never liked to begin with.) I love adding new passwords to my master file and feeling like I have my affairs in order. Disorder weighs on me—I can feel it physically. I have approximately umpteen thousand trillion photos and videos saved across 3 hard drives and the Backblaze cloud—and they’re mostly organized by date and event—but I also have lots of duplicates because of edits and photo albums. It soothes me that they’re safe, but weighs heavily on me that they’re not fully organized the way my brain wants them to be.

Side Note: At any given time, if someone thinks I look off my game and asks what’s wrong, it’s probably just that I need to organize the pantry or pack for a trip. Nothing is wrong, I’m just mentally tidying up—which often times presents itself as a serious face.

Please don’t get physical with me, but I also love waking up early on weekends. I know that’s not popular, but for me, it just means I have more time to do things I love. An extra hour or two allows me to make the most of every minute not spent at my work computer. If I’m asleep, I’m just dreaming of life, but if I’m awake, I’m actually living it—and that makes me happy.

I drive 40-45 minutes to work each day—each way—and I don’t mind it at all. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Reading is fuel to my soul and my commute allows me to get through exponentially more books than I would if I just read before bed. I actually look forward to getting in my car each day, so I can get back to my story.

audible

I know many people who just hate certain words. I have to say that, while I completely and irrationally despise the word “tasty” … I’m not as passionately disgusted by “moist” as a lot of people I know and love. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it or use it, but I don’t run away plugging my ears either.

Side Note: One time, my sister and I were discussing words we dislike and most of the usual suspects came up (ointment, panties, goiter), and then she said, “I HATE the word duvet.” I just laughed like, “Duvet? You hate duvet? You actually have an opinion about duvet?” She got more and more worked up the more she considered this “obnoxious” word. I was becoming weak from laughter when my niece—just as serious as her mom—chimed in, “I can’t stand the word “elsewhere.” I decided they were two peas in a pod—just two peas hating-random-words-they’d-have-a-hard-time-escaping-in-this-life in a pod. Just two ointment-hating peas in a moist, tasty pod.

Sorry, I’ll go now. But not before I share the greatest comment section of all time—please enjoy all 2,800 and thank me later.

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Would You Rather

I think I’m hard-wired to make a game out of nearly everything.

If Jocelyn asks me to grab a new roll of paper towels, I will, but only if she yells, “180! Set! Hike!” and I’m able to hike them across the kitchen. Like, why would anyone just hand over something they can hike?

I’m also not interested in dropping something in the trash when I can just as easily juke around a bit before executing a banana peel jump shot.

When I’m waiting in the ice machine line at work, I peruse the vending options to the left and make myself choose the three items I’d live on for one month, if I had to. I thoughtfully scan and ponder, immediately ruling out anything sweet (I’d rather eat a sock than a honeybun.) It never fails; I always pick pretzels, beef jerky and anything with “Flamin’” in the name.

Or these. I'd exchange vows with Takis if I lived in Vermont.

Or these. I’d exchange vows with Takis if I lived in Vermont.

Sometimes on my commute home from work, when my mind is wandering, I’ll tell myself that triplets will be on my doorstep and I have to figure their names out NOW. I’m not giving any of you free-loaders my ideas—you can name your own triplets—but I will tell you that my three cuties would not all share the same first letter.

I’ve found that others aren’t always as eager to play my random games.

“So which Property Brother would you pick?”
“For what?”
“I don’t know. Just in general.”
“But why?”
“Because I need to know.”
“Well you have to tell me what for because obviously I’d pick one for my realtor and the other for my builder.”
“Not for that! I mean, like, if you were gonna play Twister with Baby Oil.”
“Oh—Probably Drew.”

There is really no wrong answer here.

There is really no wrong answer here.

I also like to spend time thinking about whether I’d rather be an Olympian or a professional athlete—and what my specialty would be. A quarterback? Pitcher? Wide receiver? Golfer? Tennis player? Would I want to do the uneven bars? Synchronized diving? I weigh out the pros and cons of each, considering travel schedule, chance for failure, injury rate, income and possible endorsements.

Side Note: I also consider uniforms, and because female Olympic swimmers have been saddled with unflattering suits (and unsightly swim caps), I’ve ruled out trying to medal in the 400 butterfly.

Allison Schmitt is awesome—this gear is not.

Allison Schmitt is awesome—this gear is not.

It’s disappointing to play with someone who just blurts out an unthoughtful answer.

“NFL quarterback for sure!”
“Really? Have you considered all the hours of film you’ll need to watch of other teams? Will it bother you to snug your hands up to that big’ol booty 100x a game? Are you prepared to take the blame for the failures of an entire multimillion dollar organization?”
“Oh. Ok then, I guess golf.”
“Yeah? Are you sure? Are you willing to endure a lifetime of shoulder and hip issues once you make your millions?”

Side Note: Actually, now that I think about, maybe I’m the one who is disappointing to play with.

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My desire to play games goes back many years. I used to get my teammates—in high school and college—to pay me to eat concoctions at team meals. They could not believe what I’d ingest or how often they were swindled into handing over their money. They’d mix together Ketchup, sugar, salt, Dr. Pepper, ice cream and then dunk a half-eaten hamburger bun it in.

No problem. GULP. Pay up, Losers. I was very good at this game until about five years ago.

We had a big family dinner at our house, and one of the appetizers was shrimp cocktail. We arranged it on ice, in a circle, with a bowl of cocktail sauce in the center.

Everyone devoured the shrimp pretty early and then moved on to other foods. The night went on and right before everyone left, my dad said he’d give me $20 to take a big drink of the ice that had melted into water. I was like, “You’re going to PAY me to drink melted ice?”

I felt kinda bad for him, wondering why he was just wanting to give away money with no real pay-off for him. I chalked it up to him being less seasoned than I and just not knowing the scope of my capabilities—poor guy.

I moved the bowl of cocktail sauce, picked up the platter and tilted it to my mouth, still feeling sorry for my sweet dad who just didn’t get it.

I took a big swig and immediately started aggressively heave-gagging and fighting with all my might not to throw up the surprisingly warm and shockingly pungent FISH WATER. My eyes were running with tears and my dad—oh so victoriously—handed me $20.

I couldn’t eat shrimp until last year—and it’s still not a sure thing.

I thought my dad loved me.

I thought my dad loved me.

Most of my friends know that if we’re going to spend time together, there is going to be some game-playing. “Would You Rather” is a shoe-in because it can be big fun in its G-rated-niece-and-nephew-version or its X-rated-my-friends-are-perverted-perverts version.

“Hey Sweet Pea, would you rather have super lush, gorgeous hair, but it’s cobalt blue or two noses, but one is on your tummy?”

“Hey Dirty Bird, would you rather …”

Side Note: Ok, what I nearly wrote is not fit for upstanding citizens or a blogger whose mom teaches Sunday School.

Bonus Side Note: If we’re playing WYR and you answer “neither” to my question, you are dead to me.

My brother and I decided that people will do anything for the right amount of money. We, not very creatively, call this game “How Much.” The idea is that someone will hand you the exact amount of money you demand for a particular task or activity.

A couple of easy examples:

  • How much would it take for you to swim across that swamp at dusk?
  • How much would it take for you to get a tattoo on your shoulder—in comic sans font—that says, “Soaring On The Wings Of A Gluten-Free Diet?”

You can learn a WHOLE lot about people when playing this game—sometimes to the detriment of your once-high opinion of them.

Where you might demand $1,200 to reach into a garbage can and eat some tossed out french fries, your friend might wave it off like, “Oh please, I’d do it for twenty bucks—I’ve eaten stranger’s left-overs off a room service tray at the Hampton Inn.”

All I’m saying is, make sure your friendship is strong before you dive into “How Much.” You are likely to find people are much grosser—and way more sexually adventurous—than you once thought.

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Often times, in bigger work meetings, I try to decide who I’d pick as my conjoined twin (if I had to). My first thought is usually, “Uh, none of them.” Then I remind myself that I have to play the game or lose two fingers. Next thing I know, I’m staring a hole through Jake and wondering if he’d be handy around the house.

After the meeting:

Lauren: You were looking at me funny, were you wanting me to bring up our issues with the new system?
Me: The system? Oh, no, I was just wondering if being attached at the neck would hurt our friendship.
Lauren: Huh?

Playing games alone isn’t as much fun as playing with a close co-worker.

Me: (quietly and discreetly) Who, from that whole row, would you kiss—if you had to?
Co-worker: Ugh, I don’t know—gross! I don’t want to kiss any of them!
Me: Of course you don’t—none of us do—but you have to.
Co-worker: So, the row that Gina’s on?
Me: Yep.
Co-worker: Ugh, really? Why … why them?!
Me: Because this PowerPoint has about 90 hours left, so GO.
Co-worker: Grrr, I guess Craig.
Me: CRAIG?! Why?!
Co-worker: I don’t know, he seems tender.
Me: Tender? Gross. You’re not a porcelain figurine!
Co-worker: I don’t know—I guess he has nice lips.
Me: Oh. My. Gosh. You’re in love with Craig!
Co-worker: Well it’s not like I planned it—it’s news to me, too!

Honestly, I can’t imagine not finding ways to make each day more fun. Life is too short to not use your turn-around jumper to get socks into the dirty clothes hamper … or see if you can shave five minutes off your morning routine. Why go through a day without asking someone, “Would you rather have a hearse for a car or a tree house for a home?” Just don’t ask suggestive questions about Judge Judy or Bill Clinton unless you’re really prepared to hear the answer. (Please trust me on this one.)

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

The Disappearance of Discretion

I value discretion.

But it seems as if this era of over-sharing and perpetual TMI has caused those around me to lose their privacy compass. I’m not paid to be the Decorum Police—just happily volunteering my time as a public service.

It all started several years ago when I worked in an “open cube” environment, which meant our work cubicles were no more than a low border around our desk and work area. You could see the entire floor while seated in your chair. This afforded us no privacy whatsoever.

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Because of the floor plan, the cutting edge thinkers of the department designated an open desk at the end of our row as a place where we could “make personal phone calls.” Since it was an exact replica of our occupied desks, it offered precisely the same lack of privacy. I never said, “I need to call and dispute this ‘shake weight’ charge on my debit card, but it’s a private matter, so I better go use the phone 6 steps away.”

Most of us didn’t use it—as we understood that its intended purpose was illogical. However, one co-worker (we’ll call her Jules) took it all at face value and proceeded to call her veterinarian about one of her cats.

I missed the first part of the conversation but gained full consciousness when I heard, “Yes, I believe it’s an abscessed anal sac.”

We were all looking quickly back and forth at one another with shocked, frightened eyes. Unfortunately, the person on the other end of the phone didn’t hear her, because she let it fly again, “Yes Sir, an abscessed anal sac.”

And now a beautiful third time, as she decided to go for broke, “ABSCESSED! ANAL! SAC!”

At this point we were all doubled over, silent heave-laughing ourselves into a solid ab workout. We were losing it. As soon as Jules hung up, we all corrected our posture and feigned concentration on our work. She was a crazy coo-coo bird, but very sweet and none of us wanted to hurt her feelings—so we covered ourselves pretty well.

And that is part of the problem. With all the other moments and experiences with Jules, this is really all that stands out in my mind when I hear her name. No, not the memory of her yelling it, but the actual visual of a cat’s abscessed anal sac. And guess what? I don’t know what that looks like, so this horrific visual, right or wrong, haunts me to this day. I probably have the sac part all wrong—but either way, it is not a sight to behold.

So here is the lesson. Medical issues typically do not have favorable names. If you feel yourself about to say something involving the words abscessed, fissure, polyp, boil or puss—and your audience is not someone with which you share an address or a mother—you back that truck up.

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Additionally, if you need to make a phone call at work (yes, even to your doctor) and any of the aforementioned words might see the light of day, put those two legs to use and walk away from earshot of any and all co-workers. This is non-negotiable. I don’t care if you share a wall with someone who seems to love discussing digestive regularity with you, go make the phone call in private. I can assure you that someone who is seemingly okay with excrement talk would draw the line at rectal fissures.

While we’re talking about what is and isn’t permissible at the office (and in public), let me tell y’all what—in my ideal world—a work restroom would be for. Ridding yourself of LIQUID, washing your hands and giving yourself a quick once-over in the mirror. The flossing, brushing, plucking and various other stuff would ideally be addressed in your home bathroom.

It might sound critical, but I just cringe when I walk in the work restroom and see someone leaning over the sink, brushing her teeth. To do something hygienic in such an unhygienic public restroom seems counterproductive. Dentists themselves recommend brushing twice daily, and I can think of two awesome times and places for that—in the morning AT YOUR HOUSE and at night AT YOUR HOUSE.

Worthy side note: My friend had an employee who used nail clippers in his cube … wait for it … on his toenails. That is a technical foul of the highest order. (notice I said “had” an employee)

This may shock some of you chronic over-sharers, but sometimes even talking about your cold or sinuses treads into TMI territory. A good rule of thumb: telling someone you have a cold or sinus pressure is typically enough to paint us a proper picture. I’ll have a good grasp of your snot situation without you actually quantifying it for me in measurable amounts.

The truth is, we’re already shoved together at work with people we’d probably not spend time with, if given a choice. We’re exposed to each others’ habits, sneezes and snacking. We hear about relationship issues, family feuds and financial woes. Do we really have to also hear about Carol’s bowel movements?

“You guys! Did you hear?! The African Roobio tea worked! Carol moved her bowels!”

You’re never going to hear me lamenting not being in-the-know on that nugget of information. “What?! Carol moved her bowels? When? Where? Why didn’t she tell me? Why’d I have to find out with the rest of the department? Carol SUCKS!”

Ah, the second-hand deliverer of TMI.

“Do you guys have any idea what Delores has been through with potty-training her new puppy? He has literally gone #1 and #2 in every room of the house. She’s at her wits end, you guys. They may have to rip out all their carpet. And this is on top of the issues she’s always had with Whiskers having accidents in the kitchen.”

Me: “Wait. You mean the Delores who who brings all the dishes to our potlucks?”

The second-hand deliverer of TMI—who also wants to be a hero:

“You guys, start sending good vibes now—Danny is giving a semen sample as we speak. He and Lauren think their infertility issues might be his low sperm count.”

Me: “I’m sorry, what? Are you sure Danny really wants us thinking of him at this moment and do you really believe he wants information about his swimmers making its way across our department?”

Look, all I’m asking for is a little discretion. We’re all human beings with issues and things that must be dealt with and tended to. Without a doubt, some things are unavoidable—no two ways about it. My problem with the disappearance of discretion is that 90% of the time it’s just laziness. Scoring a productive nose-blow at your table in a restaurant is lazy. Yelling at your ex over the phone at work is lazy.

Yes, please use Instagram and Facebook to share your life with us, but please don’t feel like you have to share your credit score, your post-colonoscopy side effects or anything involving anal sacs—abscessed or not.

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter!

Sweet Nothings

I was just trucking along, enjoying a nice day at work when it happened. A few co-workers passed me in the hall and excitedly announced there was dessert in the conference room, as they opened up their circle to usher me in.

“Oh, thanks so much—but I’m good.”
“What? Oh come on! A little sugar rush won’t kill you!”
“No, it won’t—I agree—I just don’t have a sweet tooth.”

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You’d have thought I just announced plans to vandalize a nursing home or light myself on fire and run through the building yelling “Pain is weakness leaving the body!”

They continued the interrogation.

“But you work out! I’m sure one piece of cake won’t hurt you that much!”
“Oh, it’s not a fitness thing—I genuinely don’t like sweets.”

Then they exchanged accusatory, almost condescending looks.

I continued, unsure of why I even had to justify anything, “I’m serious! Trust me, if I liked them, I’d be sunk. I have very little self control when it comes to spicy or salty foods. Just ask every waiter at every Mexican restaurant we frequent—they’ve learned to just leave the pitcher of salsa at the table.”

Then the group leader—we’ll call her CathyCarrotCake—took this information as a personal affront and resorted to the move I’ve seen a dozen times. She copped the, “Hey Everyone, I’ve got a HUGE announcement” stance and paired it with an endearing snarky tone.

“Oh, OK! OK! Hey Everyone! Annnnnna doesn’t like sweeeeeets! (She put “doesn’t like” in air quotes to indicate fraudulence.) Isn’t she just the bees freakin’ knees?!!!”

What? Why?! I’ve never understood why my not liking sweets elicits such ire in certain people. They might as well clink their glass for a toast and announce, “Hey Everyone! Listen up! Annnnna hates the Constitution and animal shelters!”

I don’t get it. I’m not keeping anyone from their Krispy Kreme donuts. I simply don’t like desserts—or regular food that’s sweet (I’m looking at you, sweet and sour meatballs). I don’t even like sweet-smelling candles. When I walk in a room that smells like wax-created caramel creme brulee, I become disoriented and start flinging myself in circles, shaking my head no-no-no as I feel around for the nearest exit. I can’t help it—my body simply rejects sweets.

On an unforeseen rare occasion, a cookie or cupcake (without icing) will look relatively appetizing. I’ll think, “Hmm. Well this is unexpected, but I really think I can do this.” It’ll even taste pretty decent at first, but 2-3 bites in and I’m pushing it away—rejecting its very existence.

Reluctant full disclosure of the week: I have found, for reasons that elude me, that I can put away some bread pudding—go figure.

It’s just that by and large, I never crave sweets and I’d never pick a danish over a salt bagel, a brownie over buffalo wings or cake over chips and salsa.

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I could understand people’s irritation if I claimed oxygen was overrated, but to get bent out of shape because I don’t want a snickerdoodle? I’m at a loss.

Tell you what—omit the sugar and replace it with wasabi and I’m on-it-like-a-bonnet. Bake a cake with Sriracha and I’ll polish it off without breathing or looking up. But hide your children because it won’t be pretty.

“Hey, wanna run to Sonic and get a milkshake?”
“Do they have pickle shakes?”
“Gross, no.”
“Olive shakes?”
“No—gag.”
“Then probably not, no.”
“They have chocolate and vanilla, stuff like that.”
“Can they replace the vanilla with Tabasco?”
“Get away from me.”

This reminds me of the time Jocelyn walked in the kitchen and I had my head back, slamming the last bit of pickle juice from a jar of baby dills.

“You know that’s disgusting, right?”
“Yes. If by disgusting you mean Liquid Heaven.”

All I ask is for some common courtesy or basic manners. I don’t go around saying, “What did you just say? WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY? You don’t like habaneros or anything above 8,000 on the Scoville heat scale? Why don’t you just stick an ice pick in my ear canal because I don’t want to hear this crap!”

Like, just be normal. We don’t have to like the same stuff. I won’t relegate you to an outer circle forever simply because, unlike me, you have met an olive you don’t like. If the most heat you can handle is ketchup—no problem—more heat for me. I’m not gonna pin you down and make you explain yourself to the group.

That would be awesome though. Imagine me physically pinning you down—yelling, “Say it! Tell everyone why sodium and cayenne aren’t in your diet, CathyCarrotCake!!! Tell them what you said about Frank’s Hot Sauce! Explain to this lovely group why you don’t like your bloody marys spicy!”

You laugh, but that’s sort of what it feels like when someone gets all haughty about sweets and dessert. For some reason, they assume I’m being prim and proper. But really, I’m pretty sure eating fresh serrano peppers is more badassy than eating macaroons. So who’s really the goody-two-shoes here?

And on that note, it’s time for our monthly birthday celebration at work, where I’ll go pretend to eat a brownie, while actually just chewing on cinnamon gum.

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

Fielding My Tribe

I love to sit in meetings and field a team. If it’s a smaller meeting with a mix of people I do and don’t know, I’ll just determine who I want for a flag football team. Easy enough. It’s not difficult for me to peg a great defensive tackle or crafty wide receiver. Not much more to picking this team than looking for athleticism, a little endurance, a good attitude and a willingness to have a good time.

If, however, the meeting is bigger and I’m encircled with strangers, I prefer to up the ante and imagine I’m stranded on a deserted island with a group of people and we have a finite amount of time to escape if we want to survive.

Time to pick my tribe.

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This is no joke and must be treated as such. At this point, I will mentally check out of the meeting and embark on a mission to assess the strengths and weaknesses among the group. I will begin to decipher, to the best of my ability, who would surprise or disappoint me. I enter a world of scouting out skills, strengths, hidden talents, stamina, attitude and desire.

Only an amateur would think this could be done by looking at physiques, current position or hierarchy. No. Sometimes the lowest person on the career totem pole is actually the only one in the entire tribe who could squat for hours on end, rubbing sticks together for fire without having a total meltdown. I’ve even been in meetings where a senior admin or detail assistant was my number one pick, based on what I perceived to be an invaluable ability to set up camp efficiently and dole out rations, without fanfare or need for recognition.

Most often, the leader of the meeting or the one who has the floor is not anywhere in my line-up. Deep down I know that she has grown soft and lost the necessary skills to actually survive. She’s accustomed to merely sounding knowledgeable, rather than being a true expert. She’s become dependant on delegating; however, underneath it all, her house is a wreck, her children are terrors and her husband is getting loved on once every two months, begrudgingly. This is not a woman I want in my tribe.

We’ll have many needs as a stranded people. Basic survival skills are incredibly important, but so are brains, logic, attitude and determination. I never know what kind of challenges my tribe will face during our unknown time on the island, so I’ll need to assemble a cornucopia of talent that can handle any task.

I like to believe I have the ability to spot people’s hidden talents. I have thought more than once, “I bet that lady can spear a fish with acute accuracy.” It is not uncommon to imagine that a particular woman could survive on very little sleep while maintaining the focus of an elite quarterback in the 4th quarter, down by 14. I realize these are gifts that many others don’t posses and I’m thankful I can peg the babies of the group and the brats who wouldn’t step up when faced with adversity or even death.

Another thing to consider is body temperature. This one is tricky. Sure, the island is tropically comfortable by day, but it’s bitter cold at night. I’ll need a group that is well-balanced with cold-and hot-natured people. About the only way to assess this is by looking for people doing extreme things in a temperature-regulated conference room. The lady who is fanning herself with a notepad will be a problem during the heat of the day, but an asset at night, as people can warm themselves next to her. The woman who has on a cardigan but is still hugging herself and rocking rhythmically will be comfortable during the day and have an excess of energy to use towards being productive. She will be a go-getter and not off in the shade for hours trying to cool herself. The importance of balancing these types of people cannot be measured, yet a rookie might overlook it and end up with a vastly insufficient tribe.

Let’s discuss smarts. I’m extremely careful about the I.Q.’s I choose. Inevitably there will be people I lean towards because I know and enjoy them, but I make absolutely sure I’m using my head more than my heart. If I pick a dim light, she could very well end up covered in poison ivy, rendering her virtually useless for a few precious days. Imagine the travesty of her becoming overjoyed by the abundance of coconuts, realizing all too late that they’re a natural laxative. Nothing puts someone out of commission like foolishly tanking up on a diuretic. Therefore, in scanning the room for possible tribemates, I try to remember that the person I love to discuss American Idol with may also be the one who will drink salt water.

Here are a few random things I’m mindful of as I scan potentials. When I see a self-soother—someone massaging her own hands, knees or ears—I promptly place her in the yes column. She is self-sufficient and she is a survivor. Additionally, I always choose one or more of the rare guys attending the meeting. More than likely he’ll have a utility knife (and tweezers, bottle opener and wrench) as well as natural strength and an innate ability to hunt and keep watch for a good portion of the night. I never pass up a male tribemate—ever.

I’ve come to grips with the fact that some bug eating will take place. Marooned folks never know what fruit or berries the island will offer and bugs are a wonderful source of protein—something everyone will need in order to maintain the energy to escape. Because of this disgust-inducing fact, I make sure not to choose anyone too girlie or easily grossed out. No one wants to eat bugs, so the last thing I need is someone squealing “Eww! Eww!” and recoiling in horror as I reluctantly chomp on a beetle’s thorax.

I have been in meetings where I knew the group I assembled would make it out alive—whether from an exotic island in Fiji or snake island in Brazil. But I’ve also had to choose from inferior groups where I did the best I could with what I had and still knew in my heart of hearts we would perish. I do not leave those meetings with a good feeling—or with any idea what the meeting was about.

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