20/20 Vision Is For Suckers

Do you have a favorite doctor? I’m not talking about your favorite M.D. who takes care of you the best at their medical practice. I mean, do you prefer the laser-eyed-mole-chasing Dermatologist over the pinprick-scratch-test Allergist? Or the “take a deep breath” (100 times until you’re dizzy) Internist vs. the “slide down to the end of the table, you might feel a little pressure” OBGYN?

My favorite doctor has always been the dentist. Mostly because I have never really been told anything bad during my appointment. I am blessedly free of cavities (ok, ok, there was one, but I’d like to think it was a fluke), and have skated by with barely any scolding over my sporadic flossing habits. In fact, I am usually able to shine like a braggy, obnoxious star pupil when I exclaim with pride that I am not a coffee or tea drinker, nor do I favor soda outside of the occasional movie theater cherry coke. I get my pearly whites all buffed and sparkling, then walk out with a new toothbrush and things are looking good.

Perhaps you aren’t really a doctor type of person. Like, if I came over to your house and was in need of some Ibuprophen and inquired as to where your medicine cabinet was, you might give me a quizzical look to say “Why would I need an entire cabinet for medicine??”

I see your point.

But, here’s the thing, I grew up in a very medicine-friendly household. Not like substance abuse medicated or anything, just the kind that felt strongly about the benefits of a 6 month supply of Tums, a 3 month supply of inhalers, nose spray, cough medicine, 3 varieties of aspirin and a couple boxes of Sudafed, (when it was still available over the counter and crafty kids had yet to realize it was a key component in Meth making).

Sometimes, when I was older and found myself tossing and turning at 3 am unable to sleep, I’d creep into my parents room and whine to my mother about my insomnia. She’d kindly drag herself out of bed and into the kitchen, where she’d cut a Benadryl in half and hand it to me with a glass of water. Now, mom, before you get defensive, I was very grateful for this instant fix! I feel like it’s the equivalent of doctors suggesting that you give your baby a touch of Benadryl before a long flight or car ride in order to calm them down. So, whether it had a placebo affect on me or not, I always fell into a sound sleep immediately after that middle-of-the-night dispensing of medication.

By the same token, we were also a family that would head to the doctor for pretty much anything that ailed. For the mere price of a copay (thank you insurance), we could at least obtain peace of mind, if not a friendly Z-Pack. Hence my lengthy list of doctors at the beginning of this wayward rant. I assume most people struggle to maintain a general physician, with nary a need for an additional Grey’s Anatomy entourage.

For example, a friend of mine once told me that, growing up, if she complained to her mom that she didn’t feel well, her mother would reply, “Are you bleeding?” If not, there was no doctor to be seen. This so affected her psyche, that when her parents did try to offer her medicine or take her to the doctor, she thought she must be terminally ill and adamantly refused any sort of treatment.

So – the overall truth is that I was born and bred to find a sense of calm upon entering a physician’s office, and a sense of purpose behind dutifully taking my assigned prescriptions. It all goes to instantly soothe the beast inside of me called, Hypochondria. My fear of impending illness or disease, for both myself and those around me that I love, is so intense that I’ve succombed to panic attacks just thinking about the big What If’s. When I worked in a hospital during college, my mom’s first question to me, knowing my fears, was,

“Doesn’t it bother you being around sick people all the time?”

And I responded “Actually, I feel really safe constantly surrounded by doctors. Should anything go wrong, I’d absolutely be in the right place!”

It seems that I’m a medical lifer. Scrubs and white lab coats, icky tongue depressors and those weird plastic moldings of our internal organs just seem to put me at ease. Only one doctor do I really loathe, and he comes with one of these.

*Insert dreaded da, da, dum music here.

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The eye doctor is a certain brand of torture. They employ all kinds of ancient pain techniques that involve blinding, blowing, straining, gouging, searing and overall frustrating that leave the so-called patient (aka. Prisoner Of War) feeling adrift in a sea of misery. Left at the utter mercy of your Opthamolo-hitman until they release you from your hazy world.

My vision has been terrible for decades, so at this point, trips to the eye doctor are too many to count. Maybe my anger and anxiety are the result of my first pair of glasses being delivered just weeks after I attended a Bryan Adams concert—wearing a bejeweled tie and broad-brimmed black hat, no less (blame it on the vision problems?)—and, subsequently, was too blind to see him clearly when he romanced me with (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. C’mon, that is a TOTAL catastrophe and grounds for the seeds of hatred to begin.

Or maybe it all started after I begged my parents to finally let me get contacts on my 13th birthday. I thought they would transform everything in my benign seventh grade life, and I would reappear as a majestic butterfly to expertly bat my newly glasses-free eyeballs at Steve Dugger to win his affection. Too bad that, by the time I was finally able to jab those transparent half-orbs into my eye-sockets, I was affronted with a mirror reflection that was basically ⅔ eyebrows. For years I’d been hiding those hairy caterpillars behind the rims of my standard, 90’s oversize frames and, TA DA, now they were front and center for the world to ogle. I don’t blame Steve for deciding Missy Scheer was the hot one!

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It could be because of that whole, lazy-eye, had to wear an eye-patch like a pirate situation, but let’s not get into that again.

But, if I’m really being honest with myself, the true fear stems from embarrassment, pure and simple.

Somehow I always take it personally when I can’t read the lines on that stupid eye-chart. It’s a test I can’t study for (though, full disclosure, I did memorize the board once when I was tired of guessing wrong and just wanted the torture to be over) and am always doomed to fail. As if every time the doctor says “And can you tell me what this line says” I’m forced to scour my mind for a realistic answer…

“E, S, T…um, 2? Are there numbers in here? Are you going to take away my license? Do I need a seeing-eye dog?

And the doc will just keep forcing me to plug away, moving to the next line as if they don’t notice that I’ve started sweating so profusely that I’ve pitted out the shirt I’m wearing. As if suddenly the line will become completely clear.

“Ah, yes! I see it now!  The first one is a rooster, then Justin Timberlake, some cowboy boots, a measuring cup and some mac & cheese.” 20/20 vision! Hand me my pilot’s license.

Let’s not even GET into the process where they ask you which one is better, 1 or 2. 3 or 4. 5 or….come on!! Now you’re just shitting me! You’re gonna go back into your little perfect-vision lounge after this appointment and laugh with your cronies about how many times you got that gullible little twit to guess! “And it was the same one the whole time! Hahahahah!”

I realize the further I get into explaining this phobia of mine, the more crazytown I sound. I once told a friend that I had plenty of neurosis…she wondered at the time, what those might be. DING DING. Here you go.

Apparently, stressing out over going to the eye doctor is just going to be my lot in life, because I’ve heard your vision just get’s worse as you age. And I’m too afraid of someone peeling back my cornea and buzzing lasers into my brain to get any sort of Lasik surgery.

Instead I’ll just wail all my sorrows and horrors to you fine people.  And maybe the next time you find out I’m heading to the eye doctor, you’ll offer to buy me an ice cream cone afterwards.  For now I’m just going to schedule my next dentist appointment so I can feel better about myself.

All Hallows Eve (aka) My Favorite Day Of The Year

If you know me, you know I love Halloween.

If you don’t know me, I’ll probably end up sharing this tidbit with you long before it’s conversationally relevant or seasonally appropriate.

Like, when work functions demand you play that awkward game where everyone has to “share something unexpected with the group.” My fallback tends to be, “Halloween is my favorite day of the year.” My birthday is in early November, but I truly have no interest in it, (and I’m not just saying that in a whiny way where I really expect you to make a big deal out of my bday even though I swear I don’t care). So, I request that anyone who really loves me should participate in Halloween instead. Just pretend October 31st is my real birthday and, instead of presents, wrap yourself up in a costume of some sort and come on over!

Ridiculous? Probably. But for some reason, the ability to get dressed up in a random costume and eat copious amounts of chocolate, or as an adult, consume mass amounts of liquor, is incredibly appealing to me!

The biggest nerd flag I fly is that I’m a sucker for anything that feels magical. And I mean, Harry Potter Hogwarts magical, not “what card am I holding?”  pull a rabbit out of a hat magic. When someday my kid asks me if I believe in witches and wizards and unicorns and flying hippogriffs, I won’t have to hesitate when saying, yes.

But in the essence of not embarrassing myself or those around me, I try to limit this excitement and childlike obsession to 1 month a year when it is somewhat accepted by society. Enter, All Hallows Eve.

Dressing up is a big deal. It’s not enough just to slip on a pair of cat ears or a clown nose and call it a day. I have extreme appreciation for the kind of creative detail and planning that goes into the perfect Halloween costume, and will always have a big soft spot in my heart for those who go down the rabbit hole with me on this occasion.

That being said – I feel a certain amount of stress over choosing the perfect costume. One that is crafted as much by hand as possible, with the right amount of clever mixed in with pop culture, immersion-blended with some unique imagination. But, most importantly, does not have the word “sexy” in front of its name. You are not a “sexy” pirate, or a “sexy” Rainbow Bright Doll, or a “sexy” nun. These things are counterintuitive and wrong and I will not stand for it! (whew!)

And so, in honor of the upcoming occasion, (and because I’ve yet to figure mine out this year and I need some inspiration) I give you…

My top 10 costumes:

10. A (Good) Witch: Notable only because it was the first costume I can remember wearing and the first birthday I celebrated in Halloween-style. I was turning 3 and all the kids dressed up in costumes to attend. I was decked out in a perfectly ragged witch costume, though apparently I was vehemently adamant to anyone that would listen that I was a GOOD witch, and rung in my new year with a pumpkin shaped cookie cake. My mom used chocolate chips to create a smiling jackolantern face, and I’m thinking that I’d be pretty damn pleased if someone wanted to make me that exact same cake every birthday for the rest of my life!

9. 70’s Rollerskater: I’m convinced this was a clever costume for 2 reasons:

First, because I found the perfect pair of old-school roller-skates in a thrift store. They were shiny white with neon orange wheels, and I paired them with expertly feathered hair, ill-advised skin-toned tights and a violently short pair of polyester track shorts that I wish I could say were actually from the 70’s, but were really from Abercrombie and Fitch.

Second, this was the first year I lived in Chicago and I kept those death-trap roller skates on ALL NIGHT. I mean, this girl maneuvered them in and out of bars with beer soaked floors, cabs that lurched us through the night and straight into 6” deep rain puddles and what had to be the worlds steepest climb of apartment stairs.

I managed to stay on my feet and off my ass for 99% of the evening, and didn’t wimp out even when my ankles were screaming “UNCLE!” Sometimes costumes take real dedication to pull off, and a night spent on 8 little wheels proved that.

8. 80’s Aerobicizer: Originally I had intended for my costume to be Olivia Newton John in Xanadu, but that required more rollerskates and I just wasn’t up for it. So I went with Olivia Newton John in Let’s Get Physical instead. (Though even that is kind of a mouthful, so 80’s Aerobics dancer it is.)

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oh, OLJ, this was a risky move

And while the key costume items mainly consisted of a sweatband and leg warmers, the real kicker was the assless leotard. I SWEAR I wore two pairs of opaque tights underneath! Oh, and I was 24 not, like, 8 when I wore this. Though, now that I think of it, a Little Miss Sunshine costume would be pretty amazing!

7. Jem & The Rockers: We’re just moving right along with an 80’s theme, huh? Well, this was when I was about 8 and my mom concocted a brilliant fuchsia shredded dress that sure gave that little animated rockstar a run for her money! Then my Aunt surprised me with a homemade cardboard guitar that was completely covered in pink glitter. I might have cried 8 year old girl tears of joy!

6. Elvis: Ok, I have never dressed as Elvis myself. But last year that’s how we decked out our then 18 month old, and it was kind of an amazing homemade feat. I usually wouldn’t brag, but take a look for yourself and let me know if you think this earns me a little mommy pride?

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enter, The King!

5. A Piece of Pizza: Pizza Hut pizza, to be exact. Including a real, cardboard pizza box with a hole in it as my hat. Clearly as a 5th grader I was not at all concerned with what people thought of me, because there might have been some questions when the elementary school parade was taking place and, mixed in with all the princesses and pirates and superheroes, was one random, awkward slice of pepperoni pie. This oversize triangle even had sad little strips of felt mozzarella cheese hanging from it’s belly. Truly delicious.

4. Ziggy Stardust: So, in addition to my intense love for Halloween, I also have a little obsession with David Bowie. And not even for the right reasons! I shamefully didn’t learn to love his music until I was in my 20’s. My crush with this man started much earlier (and this will come up later in the countdown) when I saw The Labyrinth for the first time, but has extended since then. So I was honored to pay proper homage to Bowie’s incredible, glam-rock, androgynous alter ego.

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Oy vey.

3. Super Jew: I still stand by the fact that one of the easiest costumes to concoct on short notice is that of a homemade superhero. Dawn a ski mask, tie a sheet around your neck, grab a plunger as your weapon and, TADA! Creepy Toilet Man is here!

So my sophomore year of college I decided to craft my costume around an oversize Jewish star necklace an Israeli friend had bestowed upon me. My clever roommate Audrey deemed it the “Super Jew Necklace” and even non-Jew friends used to borrow it sometimes for a little extra power. I paired it with head and wristbands bedazzled with glittering jewish stars and a cape that I believe said, “The Chosen One”. No one at the parties we attended that night had any idea what I was dressed as.

2. Chippendales Dancer: Sometimes I want to copycat this group costume because it was that excellent. I mean—3 girls wearing flesh colored t-shirts under plastic man-body chests, with penciled-in facial hair and sock stuffed pants—it was the perfect blend of innovative, hilarious and totally creepster. We were invited to do “shows” on the tops of every bar we visited, and in lieu of dollar bills we accepted free drinks. My children are going to be VERY embarrassed someday when these pictures resurface.

1. The Goblin King: This is the yet-to-be costume. The ultimate of all costumes that will require months of planning and practice in order to make it right. And if you haven’t watched The Labyrinth yet, lemme tell ya, you’re missing a magical musical Jim Henson tale with a lot of puppet goblins and weird M.C. Escher stairs. Sounds pretty awesome, right??

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I didn’t say it was pretty, just that it was my favorite.

One fine October 31st, I’ll dawn my intricately homemade Goblin King costume and know that it will never get better than this. My favorite movie character on my favorite day of the year. Eating too much candy, drinking too much spiked cider and watching my kid start his own top ten list of costumes to adore and rehash at length someday:)

Keepin’ It Classy

I can’t breathe. Everytime I try to inhale deeply, I feel constrained. It’s making me panicky. I’m breaking out into a cold sweat and the lack of oxygen is making me a little lightheaded. My lungs feel compressed, gripped, like they are slowly and painfully being squeezed together by a vice or a noose or…my belt.

Wait. This doesn’t sound normal. I bet this doesn’t happen to you, does it? Panic-inducing breathing problems brought on because that stylish skinny belt wrapped around your waist is somehow cutting off your airway? That’s just some of my crazy.

It begins like this: I  wake up in the morning after a good night of sleep, and I’m feeling the slimmest I’ll feel all day. The food slate has been wiped clean, there’s been 8 blissful hours of digestion going on, and things seem relatively flat and un-bulgey. So I figure I’ll cinch that belt around my waist to try and add some curves to a body that looks more like a 12 year old boy than a 32 year old woman—more Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory than Sophia Vergara.

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I hold my breath while threading the buckle into the loop, (trying not to think of the Culver’s double cheeseburger and fried cheese curds I had for lunch yesterday), seeing what hole I’ll be able to reach. It’s sad, I realize this, feeling at competition with a belt. Hoping I’ll be able to mouth-off at it when reaching the inner circle of notches saying “That’s right! Take that, generic mass-market belt Biatches, I’m in it to win it!” Then I breeze out the door feeling fit and fine, off to start a wonderful day.

Things first start to go downhill once I reach the car. This teeny cinched belt was MUCH more meant for standing then sitting, and now that I’m curled into my munchkin Ford Focus, I’m feeling a lot less slender than 10 minutes ago.

Then I arrive to work and it’s time to eat breakfast. Sitting and pumping food into my belly is also not conducive to tummy restraining devices. Neither are unseasonably early bowls of Halloween candy that seem to tempt me at every turn. Come 3pm I’m fidgeting in my chair trying to find the most comfortable position, and somehow I’ve completely forgotten that the nucleus of this problem is a .25” leather band. I’m stressing out – people outside my office can probably hear me huffing loudly in attempt to grab a full breath – when it suddenly occurs to me that all I have to do is loosen my belt. Or even better, take it off completely.

The relief is immediate. I splooge (I want you to know that spell-check didn’t even underline that made up word) into my chair as a puddle of mushy, oozing, relieved goodness. Not even caring if someone wonders what happened to part of my outfit from earlier that day, or whether I look like the Wicked Witch melting into a hazy abyss.

Really, this is just one of the many things about me that starts out with the very best intentions of classiness, and ends up crashing and burning into a smoldering pile of oh-so-much-trashiness.

Another shining example would be my illustrious kleenex and napkin debate.

In our house, you will rarely, if ever, find actual kleenex or napkins in our cupboards or bathrooms or bedside tables. Where is the need for them when you have paper towels and toilet paper?

I wouldn’t claim to be a terribly proactive save-the-earth kind of girl. I buy fancy organic cleaning products more because they smell delicious then because they lack toxic ingredients. We have a drawer in our kitchen overstuffed with hand towels, and at any given time we’ll be simultaneously using three of those, in addition to a roll of paper towels, for various tasks. So the decision to allow certain paper products to do double duty is, sadly, not a politically correct one. Just laziness at it’s best.

The other day I was dreamily e-shopping on Anthropologie (be still, my heart) and sent my sister a text out of the blue that said:

“I think I want to start collecting pretty placemats.”

Her response.

“Fun–that can be your thing!”

Like how she decided one day that collecting kaleidoscopes was going to be her “thing.” Or how collecting empty plastic water and Gatorade bottles in the back of his car seems to be my husbands “thing.”

So I’ll start collecting lovely, colorful placemats. And I’ll design my entire meal around the theme of their pattern, and create a magnificent tablescape all Martha Stewart style with repurposed sticks and calligraphed placecards. Like the one time I cooked a meal for 13 girls in Chicago where I bought bright fabric for a tablecloth and planted little ceramic pots of grass for a centerpiece and served parchment wrapped sea bass and lemon infused noodles. YES! Yes I have done this, I WILL do this! And I’ll use paper towels as my napkins. So what?

I seriously didn’t realize this was an issue until we moved away to Dallas and noticed that any time my mother or mother-in-law visited and went shopping for us, they returned home with a huge package of napkins and several boxes of kleenex. I guess adults don’t find it charming to seek out a roll of toilet paper when they need to blow their noses, or using oversized paper towels when they need to wipe their hands. It was a not so subtle way to remind us that we were also grownups, no longer living a college or nearly post-college lifestyle, and should join the real world of proper household accessories.

Considering somewhere along the way my child has become fastidious during mealtime and is always demanding “a napkin!” with which to wipe his grubby paws, (yet he somehow could care less that his cherub face is smeared ear to ear with spaghetti sauce – just get his hands clean for fucks sake!), I guess we’ll have to follow suit and start stocking them in the house.

Nobody is perfect, and I certainly don’t hold myself to such high standards that I expect my whole world, from closet to cupboard, to be Pinterest perfect. It’s just some of the more egregious errors in class that gnaw at my conscious. Like the suffocating belt issue, or lack of napkins, or when I consider licking clean my food utensils at work and putting them back in my drawer an adequate substitute to antibacterial soap and a dishwasher.

I’d ask you to please not judge me, but it’s ok. Go ahead. I’m sure I’d be overly critical if I saw someone else filling up the same water bottle on their desk that hadn’t been taken home and cleaned in several months, (it’s just water! how does that get dirty??).

My one request is that, if you ever happen upon me looking red faced, irritated, awkwardly trying to take in a breath while sitting at my desk, please just kindly point out that perhaps I should loosen my belt.

Love Letter

Dear College,

 I was just thinking about you today, you know, a little reminiscing about how, at this time of day while we were hanging out, I’d just be dragging myself out of bed. Instead, I’m in the midst of making edits to a Powerpoint Presentation I’ve been working on since 8am. Sigh. Remember when Powerpoints were just for professors? To be fair, I once wanted to BE a professor, so I can’t give them, or you, too much crap.

 Remember how I got lost on my way to English 101 that first week? It was so cliché – this newbie freshman wandering around campus in the mid-august heat – walking briskly but not running (wouldn’t want to look like a loser), while silently freaking out that I was going to be late. When I finally arrived at the correct building, I flung myself inside the classroom to the interested looks of everyone else in the room, and tried tononchalantly take a seat while brushing away sweat beads on my upper-lip. So much for playing it cool. Oh, college, you must have been laughing your ass off at me.

 School started back this week. We just finished putting a lookbook together at my job featuring a bunch of home decor items supposedly perfect for that college dorm-room makeover. We’ve got leopard print bean-bag chairs, rainbow shag pillows, canvas prints that say “Love”, “Inspire” and “LMAO”, the latterof which would have been just a big ol’ misspelling in my day.

 Then you get down to business with important items like dry-erase boards for the outside of your door. Ya know, so you can give your roomies a heads-up when you’ll be back late. Or, in our case, start hate-filled ranting wars with the guys down the hall.

 “Turn down your mother effing music! If I have to hear the baseline from Metallica’s Welcome Sandman one more time, I’m going to slap your face off your face!”

Remember when we hated Jim and Ryan from next door? We even complained about them to the Resident Advisor! Hahahah, I know, right?! He was really a total goober. Seriously, College, how could you have put him in charge of a bunch of rowdy 18 year olds? I mean, silly RA should have known that after a few angry dry-erase-board-exchanges, we’d work things out in your regular college way. By making out with each other. But I will give that dude props for helping us dispose of our suicidal fish. To this day I can’t figure out how that little guy managed to lodge himself in the air filter.

 Hey, College? Um, while I’m thinking about it, would you mind keeping a few things under-wraps for me? Like, how my roommates and I choreographed that dance to a Britney Spears song and then tried to perform it on the dance floor at The Sports Column? See, we’d been pretty inundated with those 90’s movies like “She’s All That” where the charactersburst into simultaneous booty shaking and hip grinding during a designated song, and it like, totally revved up the party. Just don’t tell anyone that we got confused looks and were basically booed out of the bar. Oops, we did it again.

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Also, let’s just refrain from telling my parents about what that art teacher told me my freshman year. Ya know, about how I was lucky I had talent because otherwise I would have flunked out of class from talking too much. I’m pretty sure my parents thought that those immature Chatty-Cathy tendencies were limited to High School only.

 And for my sanity, could we lock the vault on discussing my job with the survey service and the other one where I had to sort through slides of Dermatological oddities. Honestly, to this day, thinking about how miserable I was at both of those places of employment still gives me a stomachache. Please don’t ever make me call 14 year old boys and ask them what their favorite X-Box game is! Or lethargic 50+ males asking about their diabetes medication! And, please, if you ever loved me at all, don’t remind me about the horrific images of genital herpes that I was forced to label and file. I can forgive, but I’ll never forget.

Speaking of unpleasant College memories, remember the Green House? Don’t play dumb with me, I know your skin is crawling just thinking about it. See, my husband and I just moved into our first house a few months ago, and one of the annoying things we’ve had to deal with is bugs. Stupid ants swarming the deck, and spiders building exaggerated webs on every bush in sight. But the worst of the worst, are the Silverfish. YOU know the ones. They haunted that green house we lived in our senior year. I shiver to recall the way we would suddenly see this 3” long critter with it’s million+ legs scurrying over the wall. Or that time Dana found one in her laundry basket…deep breaths…trying not to hyperventilate.

 That house was such a dirty wilderness. One time I found 3 DIFFERENT kinds of bugs in my bed after pulling back the covers. Are you kidding me? Look, College, I know you were trying to throw a learning curve our way, but could you have stuck with just one species? And you really crossed the line with the snake.

 There I was, minding my own business, heading to the basement to throw a load of wash in, and what happens to catch my attention? Something twitching on the floor. Just  a lil’ ol’ garden snake creeping his way behind the dryer. Thanks for at least keeping that one in the basement. Oh, the horror.

 But, enough about me. How are you, College? How’s life treating you? I heard you received some accolades recently.  May I offer my congratulations? I’m impressed you’ve kept up such a stellar reputation! I mean, I’m not surprised. I’ve been singing your praises ever since graduating. Though, let’s be honest, I sure can’t party like I used to.

 If we were still hanging out, it would be cup night at the Q Bar tonight. Bring your trashy, plastic red cup from the previous week, and refill it for $.25 all night. Now THAT’S a bargain! Then we’d sink the rest of our quarters into darts, which I really only played so I could flirt with my now husband.

 Thanks for that, by the way, College. I really appreciate you introducing the two of us. I know that it’s not always reasonable to meet the person you’re going to marry while in college. I mean, at the time you’re priorities are a bit skewed and you still barely know what kind of person you want to be when you grow up. But, we were lucky. Your charming midwestern campus, lax underage drinking laws and enticing beer specials were enough to bring the two of us together. And then hard work, dedication and a lot of love kept us together. Sorry, I can’t give you all the credit.

 Anyway, I just wanted to say, hi, and that I think of you fondly every now and again. You were pretty fantastic during those 4 years, and sometimes I still wish we were close. Like on a Saturday morning after imbibing too heavily the night before. You would keep my head from feeling like it was being trampled by a herd of buffalo. You’d serve me up some frozen burritos and put me sweetly back to sleep until the nightmare passed. And then you’d ring me up and tell me that that it was $2 You Call It night at the Airliner and I’d better get my ass outta bed and meet you for a drink.

Here’s Looking At You (I sure am)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people pretend they can’t see glaringly obvious body malfunctions.

“Oh, I didn’t even notice you had spinach stuck between your two front teeth.”

“What pimple? I can barely even see your dainty, dirt-free pores.”

“Don’t be silly. No one else will even notice the, ahem, Gatorade stain on your white skirt.”

Not only do I NOT BELIEVE YOU, but my opinion of you has now plummeted a few notches for the impertinent lie. These kinds of things are not subtle, and you aren’t doing me any favors by “pretending” that you didn’t notice that I had my shirt on backwards all morning. As a friend, it is your duty to shield me from as much awkward embarrassment as possible, therefore, when you see me looking crazy – for the love of all that’s good, TELL ME.

I’m even happy to have complete strangers helping me get through the day in one piece. See a dark, stray hair blemishing the back of my white shirt while standing behind me on the train? Feel free to pluck it off. Notice while sharing the elevator that I’ve got mascara smudged underneath my eyes? Please, go ahead and give me a little clue. I won’t be mad atcha! It’s a true kindness and deserves a badge of honor to deliver the truth, albeit as kindly as possible, to those around us so that they can avoid these needless pitfalls.

But, the truth is, I notice a lot of details on people. Perhaps more than the normal human being. For instance, today while in a meeting, I became engrossed in the fact that 3 of the 4 men at the table had an intense amount of dark hair on their arms. Like, seriously, they were all in the third phase of werewolf transformation. It looked like they would need a comb to keep it in check.

Additionally? Another one of the guys had exceptionally pretty lips. They were perfectly bowed on top and plump on the bottom. The kind you would draw on a comic book superhero to accompany his sexy five-o’clock shadow. This of course sounds super creepy, like I’m one of those hillbillies in Deliverance saying “You got a purdy mouth.” Shudder.

It’s just that I happen to be fascinated with the details, and constantly soak them in when in the company of others. While listening to you talk I might easily notice that your hair is wonderfully shiny and looks really soft. Or that the freckles on your arm are in the shape of a spaceship.

Have you ever really paid attention to people’s hands? A big, bulky guy, buying vitamin B tablets and Muscle Milk next to me at Walgreens, might have baby-size hands that are smooth and callus free.

Or the woman in line at Snappy Salads who’s tapping obnoxiously on the plastic sneeze-barrier will have an extra lumpy knuckle, one she clearly chews on when she’s anxious or upset. And now it’s all calloused and protruding and a foot away from the edamame I’m now thinking of leaving off my salad.

Hands can be hilariously missized for the overall height of a person. When I was in 5th grade I took an art class where we were learning figure drawing and the method of proper proportion. My teacher explained that a person’s hand was, on average, supposed to be the same size as their face.

Try it. Line your palm up with your chin and spread your palm over your face like a catcher’s mitt. Does your middle finger almost meet your hairline? Congratulations, your hand is fairly proportional. As for the rest of you, who’s hands barely cover your nose, don’t worry too much. I doubt thaaaaat many people will notice the anomaly (aside from me, of course).

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This kind of microscopic attention to detail is even worse when it comes to things I tend to self-obsess about. For instance, I have never had nice skin. I battled acne for 10 years before going on Accutane in 2008, and I’ve yet to wake up in the morning without leaning into the mirror to inspect my entire face for anything foreign and unwanted that might have sprouted up overnight. Thus, I am terribly fascinated with women around me who are blessed with flawless skin. I’ll be listening to you tell a story while simultaneously following the smooth sweep of your brow and relishing in the beautifully soft, unlined curve of your cheek. I’ll sigh wistfully at your invisible pores and wonder what kind of under-eye cream you use before bed.

I also have a weird thing about eyebrows. Mine, if left unattended, would take up half my forehead. Like I got drunk and pasted a fake mustache too far up on my face. I spent many years trying to tackle them myself and ended up with all sorts of questionable question-mark shaped icons tacked onto my head. But then an eyebrow-waxing magician changed my life and I haven’t looked back since.

That being said, now I’m always curiously looking at the exact definition of other girl’s eyebrows. Do they have a really defined arch? Are they filling in with a curiously mismatched pencil? Are they battling some errant hairs that seem to be rebelling from the pack and sticking up? An old boss of mine had eyebrow hairs at least an inch long that curled away from his forehead. I can’t tell you how desperately I wanted to just reach up, and pluck them off.

Understandably, sometimes this kind of thing can get a girl in trouble. I was talking to a co-worker today and she mentioned how she accidentally made an office enemy after being caught one too many times giving another woman the elevator eyes. Anytime they were in the same room together, she would find herself staring at this other woman’s clothing. But while she was truly appreciating her sense of style and grace, all the other woman saw was some snotty bitch giving her the once over.

Therefore, I try to be sly in my perusal, or at least offer an immediate compliment if caught. I swear I’m not judging. Well, 90% of the time I’m not judging. Mostly I just end up fascinated with the slight nuances that make us all individuals. And I store them away as minute fodder for a character I might create one day.

In the meantime, I cross my heart pinky swear that I’ll do my best to let you know if something funky is going on with your appearance. Or anything you can control, that is. I can’t do nuthin ‘bout that gnarly, chewed on knuckle. Ew.

Parenting Faux Pas: Mystery Goo & Other Questionable Activities

“My eye hurted!” says my almost-two-year-old in the bathtub.

“My arm hurted” says my almost-two-year-old after lifting his fork.

“My butt hurted!” says my almost-two-year-old on the changing table (that he’s way too big for btw, and lays on like a fat weiner dog smushing a chew toy).

I’m sure you’re thinking “Awww, poor little baby! What’s hurting him and how can I make it better?” Start gathering up your stones to throw, because our reaction to this constant stream of apparently painful, yet invisible, physical problems has become one of strained patience and unbridled sarcasm.

“Your eye doesn’t hurt. Your face isn’t even wet. There is no soap anywhere near your eyeball and, even if there were, the fat alligator tears you’re producing would have already washed it out by now.”

“I’m sorry to hear that your arm hurts. Perhaps you should stop poking it with your fork. There is plenty of food on the plate for you to practice spearing, leave your own flesh alone.”

The butt issue is a little different. I’ve seen/cringed/cooed/powdered and patted that little behind many times when he was suffering through painful forms of diaper rash. But this is not one of those times! He’s claiming that his baby ass hurts when it’s hanging out commando, footloose and fancy free in the breeze! He should feel golden, not grumpy…in my opinion.

At this point he doesn’t quite grasp the idea of “the boy that cried wolf”, so it’s difficult for my husband and I to convince him that, the more he whiiiiiiiines about things hurting him, the more eyerolls he’s going to get. He also doesn’t seem to understand that the more times in a row he says something, doesn’t automatically lend it more weight. Saying “my foot hurted” a dozen times in the span of a minute while I continually nod my head and reply “I’m sorry about that buddy. I know. I hear you. Yep. Ok. Uh huh.” does not seem to bother him in the least.

On the flip side, he’s also thrilled to repeat pleasantries randomly throughout the day. He’s constantly checking in on my husband and I by happily chirping, “hi mommy!” “hi daddy!” Rarely even stopping first to see what warm-bodied adult he’s even sitting next to. He’ll say “hi daddy!” to me a variety of times before he looks up from the mud pit he’s been poking with a stick to realize that I am not, in fact, his father. No biggie. “Hi mommy!” is soon to follow.

And yes – poking mud pits with a stick is one of his favorite games. And no – we don’t live on some backwoods farm where there is nothing for him to play with besides old corncobs and abandoned mailboxes. He’ll ignore soccer balls, sidewalk chalk, plastic trucks and mini-golf sets in a heartbeat if there is a pile of dirt within squatting distance.

Some assume this is an inherently “boy-ish” trait, similar to laughing when he farts or hanging out with his hand in his pants. But the weird part is, no matter how much he LOVES digging around in the dirt, he HATES having his hands dirty. He’ll run frantically towards me clenching and unclenching his little digits like crab pincers screaming for a napkin. Then once he’s been properly wiped down, head straight back for the stix. Go figure.

I’d like to pretend that we’re the kind of parents that get down and dirty playing with him in the backyard every night until darkness falls and everyone is sleepy, and smelling of summer, and ready to tumble into baths and bed. The truth is that we probably do that, like, once every….week? Fortnight? It’s not like we don’t want to play chase through the sprinklers with our kiddo, but after a long day at work, it’s more likely that he’ll get about 30 minutes of outside time before, insert dread-like music here, the Apple products come out.

The first time our son looked at me and said “iPad” was one of surprised baffledom. I’m pretty sure I asked him to repeat the word a few times to make sure I had heard him correctly. “Sam watches Elmo on iPad. Please.” At least he’s polite about the request (unless refused, then he turns into a shrieking poltergeist who can only be silenced with puppy and paci and night night).

Is it normal for almost-two-year-olds to refer to Apple products by name? How about the fact that he knows how to uncover it, turn it on, swipe to the proper app, open it, scroll through a variety of Sesame Street seasons until he chooses the one he’s after, and then press play?

A year or so ago I saw a hilarious video on YouTube of a pre-toddler girl trying to play with a magazine like an iPad. She kept punching the pages with her stubby finger and trying to swipe around the images to no avail. And the more the pages actually turned and tore instead of magically move around the crystal-clear screen, the more frustrated this little baby nugget got.

Our dude can seamlessly toggle between Elmo and Nemo and a drawing game where he creates collages of miniature bananas and helicopters. There’s also an alphabet game he’ll play with where we’ll hear his sweet little voice reciting letters aloud. Why, thank you iPad, for acting as teacher and playmate and babysitter while mom and dad drink beers and look on with avid curiosity.

I promise that we roll around on the floor playing airplane, or indulge in rousing games of hide-and-seek in his old-school teepee, or practice counting all of his animals who, when they tip over on the carpet, are immediately deemed “sleeping.” But dear, sweet iPad is like the nanny we can’t afford on many nights where we just can’t muster up the energy for high-level parenting.

It’s also quite nice that, since the day our child was born, he’s been able to self-soothe by playing with his hair. He’s had so much since the day he popped out that it’s been a constant, replacing the need for a well worn lovie and becoming his go-to whenever he’s tired or upset or confused. You’ll never see me crumpled on the floor in agony because we left his favorite singing dolphin at home and now he’ll NEVER go to sleep. Or worry that he’s dribbled, sucked and drooled one too many times on that scrap of cotton until it dissolved into a pile of germs and bacteria. Instead, we’ll just watch as he reaches up to twist the strands of brown hair between his stubby little fingertips, or just pat the tips with his palms, and instantly his eyes will go dreamy.

Recently, however, he’s decided that playing with his hair is also appropriate while eating. How he decided that hairplay and yogurt, or spaghetti sauce or peanut butter, were a good mix I’ll never know. But for a kid whose “eyes hurted” even looking at water in the bathtub, this makes for a, pardon the pun, sticky situation. Now he comes home from daycare with more than just notes like “Learned about sunshine and cardinals today!” on his report card. On the extra space provided we’ll see things like “Got syrup in his hair today after lunch” or, “Played with his hair after fingerpainting, this is why you might see orange and yellow streaks. No we didn’t try to dbag highlight your son’s hair.” **

Today I arrived home from work and, as is a usual routine, husband and son were spotted watering the lawn together in the backyard. (It’s a pretty adorable sight, I tell ya.) Well, following greetings and hugs and reports on the day, my husband asks me, “Did you put gel in his hair today?”

“Um, what? Why would I do that?”

“Well look at it! Feel it! It’s super crunchy.”

I take a closer look and realize that his hair has taken on more than just it’s usual windy, slept on wildness. It’s clumped together in haphazard spikes and really, really hard.

“Buddy, what’s in your hair?”

Chirping nonsense reply.

“What?”

Same chirping nonsense reply.

“He’s clearly trying to tell us something,” my husband says. And we stare at the boy as if he’s alien and communicating with us in some advanced space language.

“It smells kind of sweet” I say after a sniff that almost gauges out one of my eyes.

Braver than I, my husband then leans over and takes a chunk of mystery hair in his mouth.

“Well, it’s definitely not gel.”

This reminded me so much of that moment in the movie Baby Mama with Tina Fey and Amy Pohler, where the sister licks some unidentifiable brown substance off her kids face and asks “chocolate or poop?” Deeming afterwards, with a collective sigh of relief from the audience, “chocolate!” And Tina Fey asks, “What if it had been poop?!”

I’m not saying I plan on licking anything questionable off my kids face, but I have absolutely used my own spit to clean things off, and am grateful my husband is daredevil enough to taste-test the latest hair product from lunch. We later realized, after checking the weekly school menu, that they had ice-cream sandwiches as their end of day snack.

“Did you say you have ice cream in your hair?”

His tiny face lights up with happiness. The uneducated humans from this foreign planet have finally uncoded his language and understand.

What can I say – we’re muddling along as we go. Many things are a crap-shoot and I’m careful to steer clear of blanket statements about what I will and won’t do when raising my kid, because you never know what’s around the corner. But with sweet ol’ iPad hanging around, ready to teach him to read and write and arithmetic, how can we go wrong?

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*What? This isn’t how you eat a pear? 

**No. The daycare girls didn’t actually write that they weren’t trying to bleach my son’s tips. But the afternoon shift can’t be any older than 17, so I’m not sure I’d put it past them.

My Name Is Jennifer, And I’m A Nostalgic

I write to remember.

Every memory, every moment—I need them captured within words. Because once they are gone, I will miss them like a long lost friend. And if I have them tucked away, encapsulated in verbs and nouns and adjectives, then I can revisit them whenever I want. And know that they were real, once.

Some people think it’s crazy that I re-read books. In fact, for almost 10 years I read the same book over again every April and October. Of course I already knew the story, but that was the delicious part of the experience. By opening the love-worn pages of this book, I was able to feel anew the joys, sorrows and excitement of the characters. I never really had to let them go when the story ended, because they would remain perfectly intact inside the pages, even if the front and back cover had long ago been taped together.

Yes, I’m nostalgic. Probably overly so. Is that awful? For as much as I cling to the depth of my memories, I don’t hold grudges or judge based on things that happened long ago. But I can remember the exact tone of conversations, or the way my body flushed at just the slightest touch. I can close my eyes and bring to life the entire scene—fully surrounding myself in the scale of the moment,  whether I was naive and clueless or heady with the elixir of control—I can take myself all the way back and relive.

It probably started with my very first diary. Oh those frightening, scribbled pages filled with the subjective woes of a pre-teen girl. He did or didn’t like me. She was or wasn’t talking behind my back. My parents would or wouldn’t let me go over to so and so’s house after school. Really stimulating stuff. And yet, when I happen upon the bin in the dark recesses of my parents basement that contains these afflicted novels, I end up pouring over the pages of each book for hours. Cringing incessantly at the constant whining – or laughing at my follies with all the “wisdom” that semi-adulthood has provided. And with each, I’ll store more details in the corridors of my mind so that the next time I think about it, the memory will be that much clearer.

Recently, I was talking to my paternal grandmother—an exquisite woman who can empower with one word or soothe with just a touch—and she had taken a similar trip down memory lane after stumbling upon an old packet of letters. At first I said “That must have been fun!” But she paused and replied, “Well no, not really.” Because drumming up those kinds of feelings and emotions can be as painful as it is lovely. But she said that she did see some things anew after reading them this time around. Maybe slight nuances that resonated differently with her now than they did in the past. And it makes you realize how incredible it can be to hear someones voice again through even the plainest sentences and paragraphs.

I wish I could say my need for words is selfless, but unfortunately, I have reduced myself to a beggar’s level in order to get them. Written or spoken, sometimes the desire for them is an overwhelming force that has no justification.

I tried to craft my serious high school boyfriend into a poet and asked him to spill his heart to me on yellow, college-ruled paper. Granted, as an enthusiastic thespian, he wasn’t too phased by the challenge, and even took it one step further by reading his soliloquies aloud. But I soon realized that it’s never the same when forced. It’s the unexpected words that make time stand still. The ones you never saw coming, and will never, ever forget.

Once, when I was a sophomore in college, friends and I gathered at a dingy old bar for our regular Sunday night drink deal. Friends of friends were in attendance that we didn’t know and everyone tried to make introductions over the din of twentysomething voices. Suddenly a girlfriend grabbed my arm and whispered in my ear, “See that guy over there? The one with the plaid shirt and messy hair? He just told me that you are the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.”

I was completely dumbfounded. It had to be a mistake. These were not the kinds of things random people said to, or about me, ever. And though I can’t remember his name, and never saw him again after that night, I have such gratitude for those words in that moment. They serve to remind me that anything is possible when viewed through someone elses eyes.

Fast forward a few years: I’d been living in Chicago, working retail and going back to school for design, when I decided it was time for me to get an internship and start my foray into the real world. I found an enticing ad for an intern needed at a luxury jewelry design company, and was thrilled when they called to interview me only days after my resume submission.

The interview went great and they offered me the job on the spot. When I walked out of that building and started down the busy city street, I felt such an unmeasured joy and excitement about my future. Later I called my sister to share the news, going on and on about how hard I was going to work and how I couldn’t wait to contribute to the company. And she responded, “They don’t know how lucky they just got, finding you.”

It was such an incredibly genuine compliment that filled me to the brim with love for her.  And it’s something I’ve tried to remember every time I thought maybe I wasn’t good enough, or was falling short…that at one time, someone told me I was an asset, and I learned to believe it and work hard to prove it true.

Forgive me for reminiscing, I just can’t help myself sometimes. Not everyone likes to go back. And not everyone can.

My maternal grandmother has been sliding further into Dementia over the past year.  Forgetting her surroundings, her visitors, her life. Right now it’s mostly her short term memory, but at some point, will the long term memories also begin to fade? What will happen to the strong-willed, fiery and fabulous character she once was? I want to write it down—any vivid memories she has left, and those of my own—depicting the vibrant life she once led so that it will always exist.

I try to pay it forward with my own words. If you know me (or are reading this blog at all) you’ll know enough that I am not a short winded person. I could never be a true journalist where the information must be relayed in short, concise messaging that doesn’t elaborate. I’m the girl who wrote about the sparkling, glittering, brilliant, gorgeous, rainbow-colored, splashing diamond waterfall when she was 8. I’m not sure how much has changed.

I give my words freely in the hopes that, sometimes, they will mean as much to others as theirs do to me. I try to paint pictures so crystal clear that I can envelop those around me and take them there, too. And I write about what matters to me most so that I’ll always have a time machine.

No, It’s Not A Sex Tape

But, my husband and I DID star in a video. Now let me explain before you start getting the wrong impression and thinking we’re some wild, swinging, key-party couple. It was only 1 video. It’s not like either one of us is Hollywood bound. No hidden, on-camera talent was discovered. In fact, neither of us is really even that photogenic! (Sorry Honey) Wait, I don’t have to be sorry, he doesn’t even read this blog:)

It’s all my sister’s fault. At the time she was wrapping up her undergrad as a broadcast journalism major at the University of Lincoln. (She’s now a successful social worker with a masters—if that’s any indication of how far her broadcast career took her). As a final project for one of her classes she was required to film a music video. Immediately she knew the song, Please Forgive Me from the amazing David Gray album, White Ladder. Beautiful lyrics mixed with a pulsing, toe-tapping, get-stuck-in-your-head backbeat.

Next up was a theme for the video. Her vision was of two people passing through life and always missing each other. A shot of feet walking past each other, or people crossing paths with no recognition. Not until the final frame, when the song goes into this amazing musical fade out, will the couple meet face to face. And it will feel like a reunion, even though they’ve never met, and the camera will pan out and catch them in a dramatic, moving 360 degree turn.

Doesn’t sound too shabby, right?

The only problem here is that my sister is NOT A VIDEOGRAPHER. I’m not crushing any dreams right now, it’s just the truth! And what she discovered was that, in order to cobble together a 5 minute and 36 second video (geez, Laura, could you pick a longer song?!), over 5 hours and 36 minutes of film had to be taken! Oh ya, and she also had to find two willing schmucks to star in her debut film.

Enter Jennifer and Mike.

Dating about 4 months at the time and freshly off our first “I Love You’s” we were prime for emanating those uber romantic vibes. Not to mention the fact that I was leaving for the summer to be a camp counselor in Wisconsin, so this video was like a touching farewell. Something we could cling to over the days and weeks we were apart, missing each other so dearly, sitting in front of a tv screen with our fingers grazing the face of our beloved and whispering “I miss you so much!”

Mkay. Let’s just say that my now husband isn’t usually the overly emotional or dramatic type. He was not consulted about participating in this video, just enthusiastically volunteered.

My sister’s first question when I agreed to a day of filming was, “Does he have any shirts that don’t have stripes?” I think the answer was, “no.”

Our shoot began at a downtown business park. She had us criss-crossing through brick pillars, not looking at one another, and she stood back with her old-school, 20lb, on a tripod video camera and took various shots of our feet and swinging limbs. All the while yelling at me, “Jennifer, stop smiling! Look lovelorn and lost!” Mike didn’t have any problem with the no smiling rule. Half hour in and he was already bored.

Problem with this location was that, since it was company property, the establishment seemed to frown upon random kids videotaping anything on the premises. A uniformed guard eyeballed us warily for a little while and then, kindly, escorted us to our car.

Next up, a huge park with rolling hills and gardens. Director’s instructions to me? “Jennifer, sit on this bench and pluck the petals off this flower, all the while staring off into the distance as if wondering when you’re true love is going to arrive. Look stoic, but hopeful.”

WHAT? You seriously expect me to pluck petals off of a flower while my boyfriend looks on and random passersby point and stare, and not dissolve into fits of laughter? She must have tried to shoot this portion of the video a dozen times. My face constantly in an unattractive scrunch, trying to hold the laughter in before it burst free into tear-filled guffaws.

And, now that I think about it. I don’t even think I was sitting on a bench. I think she had me on my stomach with my legs kicked up in the air, like I was getting high school senior pictures taken. Would YOU have been able to keep a straight face?

Now, as all industrious film students are aware, you don’t always shoot things in order of appearance. So the final 360 shot followed the flower petal plucking. The director stuck us in the middle of a public park and requested that we kiss each other while she moved her clunky camera to no less than 15 different spots around us.

Kiss each other. In public. For, like, a half hour. Did I mention that my husband isn’t much of an exhibitionist? He’s wonderful and loving and all for PDA’s…minus the P portion. Plus it was hot outside and I think there were bugs, and tarantulas and lighting and any other thing you can think of that would make the situation even more awkward than it already was.

By this time we’d been running around town for about 4 hours and my loving counterpart was ready to call it quits and beeline home for a beer (or 20). But Laura was worried that we didn’t have enough film to finish the video, and she was hoping to get some more guy-centric shots.

We headed to a local man-made lake where the plan was to have Mike skipping rocks across the water. This was to add some literal imagery to the video to pair up with the lyrics:

Throw a stone and watch the ripples flow

Moving out across the bay

Like a stone I fall into your eyes

Deep into some mystery

Beautiful, right? Well, the only looks I was getting from my boyfriend were far from mysterious. He was getting closer to throwing that stone deep into my skull.

We wrapped up with a few more shots of us walking towards each other on a bridge and a full-frontal of me lip-syncing the entire song so that Laura could fill in blank spots with visuals of my sweat-stained face pretending to know the words to a song I had just heard for the first time that morning. I’m a natural.

I think, in the end, she got a B+ on the video. Nothing to scoff at. Their one complaint was “Why is only the female lip syncing throughout the video? How come you don’t have the guy as well?” Laura didn’t think it was worth explaining, “Well, at that point, if I had asked the guy to do ANYTHING else, all the film and video equipment might have ended up at the bottom of the lake.”

I said my oh-so-romantic goodbye’s to Mike and headed off to Wisconsin with a heavy heart. But I was excited about the fact that in a few weeks, a VHS tape showing us in all our lovestruck glory would arrive for me to watch, in private, on a random TV in the camp auditorium one night after dinner. I popped it in and sat 3 inches from the screen, eyes welling up at the music and heart swelling up from missing him so much.  It was a masterpiece.

I immediately packed up the video and sent it to Mike’s apartment, then waited with bated breath for it to arrive and him to call me and say how amazing it was. He told me that he loved it, thought it was great, and that he missed me very much.

One of those things was true.

About 10 years later it came to light that Mike had never watched the video at all. Said he couldn’t bear to cringe his way through those 5+ minutes and just faked the reaction for my sake. Oh, well. At least the missing-me part was true. And at least that video didn’t show up at our wedding, as I seriously feared it would. Pretty sure I’d do some cringing if I had to see it now, too.

Either way, I’ll send out a big “Thank You” to my sister for the hilarious memory, if not the catapult into stardom.

The Search Is On

How did we exist before the invention of Google? I mean, did we really get all of our questions answered by parents, librarians, store clerks or the smart looking guy waiting at the train stop? And then you were under the blatant scrutiny of the question answerer to openly judge you for whatever question you, the asker, were posing. Therefore causing an excess of personal editing and a general loss of the knowledge you were seeking.

 With Google at my fingertips, I have an extensive—and private!!!—tool at my disposal to get all manner of random questions answered instantly. Looking over the search history on my computer is a very intimate, albeit slanted, visual of what is going on at my head at any given time. Slightly alarming? I’ll let you be the judge.

  • How many calories are in a Cadbury Egg?

Yes, yes. I know that Easter is over. But this delectable treat is delicious year-round. In fact, in college my mom used to buy Cadbury Eggs in bulk to store in her freezer so that she could send them to me during finals. I tell ya—pretty motivational studying material! (Thanks, mom! xoxo) But when you’re sitting at your desk, giving in to a 3pm chocolate craving, it’s helpful to know how many calories you’re in for, if only to dissuade yourself from repeating the same (wonderful) mistake the following day(s).

  • Couch cleaning tips

Upon moving into our new house, one of the immediate decisions made was that our current sofa and chaise should be banished to the basement. They were the first we had ever purchased as “adults” living in Chicago, and had since seen their fair share of hard living.

Multiple overnight sofa sleepovers? Check.

Late night sessions of Rock Band? Check.

Comfortable participant in a stadium seating experiment? Check, and success for Superbowl XXXVIII!

These couches were also the mainstay of our foray into parenthood, only further mushing the almost non-existent stuffing, and adding new stains of the formula, banana and apple sauce variety.

Midnight sessions of VH1 videos while new baby didn’t sleep? Check.

Father and son naps during weekend golf tournaments? Check.

Subsequent fort, trampoline and lemme-show-you-how-many-times-I-can-climb-back-and-forth-over-this-sofa game? Every chance the kiddo got.

 But even though it’s being banished to the basement, I’d still like it to at least appear presentable to the untrained eye. What did I find out was one of the best tips to clean off dirt and stains? Baby wipes. How appropriate.

  • How do you change your actual home address?

I’m not talking about submitting a form to the Postal Service telling them that I moved from one place to another and need to get my mail. I’m talking about the actual, physical address written on my door. I don’t want it anymore. After a burst pipe, leaking toilets, holes in my ceilings, nails driven into other pipes and hail damage that is going to cost us a new roof, I’m a little worried that my house is cursed. It doesn’t help that 666 is in the address.

Now, I’m not really a superstitious person, but I’m also not going to say that I DON’T believe in ghosts because then I’m just gonna end up with some whiny, old, misplaced spirit moaning through my hallways. So, here we are, not even 6 weeks into our new place and the hits won’t stop coming. We’re beat up and scared of the elements and basically tiptoeing around a house that supposedly passed it’s inspection with flying colors. Could switching my address to 668 change the chakra or juju or whatever is inhabiting the walls of this building? I don’t know, but I’m hell bent to try.

  • Why do guys wear wood bracelets?

This was a bit of a useless search, as I don’t think there is a valid answer that exists online (or in nature), but I really wondered if it was a sudden fashion trend I wasn’t aware of? Several times in the past few weeks I’ve encountered grown men wearing elastic, wood-beaded bracelets. The kind you’d maybe see on college kids returning from spring break in addition to the cliche pooka shell necklace.

 My husband had one of those necklaces when we met. He wore it religiously and had a tan line from it on the back of his neck. At first I tried to pretend it was cool because, let’s be real, I was already trying to stalk him into dating me. But once that initial rope, I mean connection, was cinched, I prayed daily that the necklace would “accidentally” snag on his coat or my hand…or a pair of errant scissors. So this random resurgence of cheesy tropical jewelry on men is baffling to me. Especially when it’s paired with pressed chino’s and an IZOD button-up. What kind of regge-prep-school is this place I now live??

  • How much should a 20 month old be eating?

I know this certainly varies by child, but mine seems to be training for a future career as a professional eater. He’s constantly walking around saying, “eat” “eat” even if he just finished a meal. The other night we watched him put away a veggie patty, hot dog, carrots, broccoli, rice, two pieces of string cheese, some graham crackers and two cups of milk. You’d think he was on some sort of bender after a month long cleanse consisting of only lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. (I tried that once, for two days, decided it was poppycock and reverted to eating like a horse). Mostly I was just looking for some sort of assurance that his intestines weren’t going to rupture if I continued allowing him to ingest the caloric intake of a 40 year old man.

  • Pheobe from Friends + Banana Hammock

Did you know that Tuesday, April 9th was “Name Yourself Day”? Nobody else did, either. Except that my job revolves around producing new, interesting content all day every day, so I’m constantly scrounging around for little nuggets of inspiration. What came to mind when I thought about naming oneself anything in the world? Princess Consuela Bananahammock. Never heard of her? Where WERE you in the….wait….gimme a sec to Google search when Friends was on the air….

I should probably start deleting my search history on a more regular basis.

The Road Less Traveled (Plus A Few Other Roads)

In the mood for some light meditation? (Just a warning that I’m not trained, so this might put you to sleep, or you might end up dancing naked on your desk). Close your eyes, relax (but somehow keep reading). You’re in a warm, dark place and there is just a whisper of wind brushing across your face. Everything is calm and quiet, and the feeling threading through your veins, just below your skin, is one of curiosity…energy and anticipation.

Now, open your eyes. You’re in the middle of a forest, and the leaf-strewn path beneath your feet has come to a fork in the road, inviting you to travel down two separate paths. On your right the light is dimmer and more mysterious. Fireflies are dancing in the depths and the shadows beckon intriguingly. To the left the light gets brighter, fiercer. You can feel a steady heat emulating towards you. Which way will you go?

Choose Your Own Adventure books were a steady part of my childhood. I loved the game of chance you took every time a new decision was made. Would your character be chased through the forest by angry, evil animals? Or made queen of a castle made of glass and mist?

You could cheat and skip to the end to see what would happen, help yourself to make the “right” choice, but what fun is there in that? Isn’t the joy in the journey? The heady lure of the unknown. The sweet sting of regret. The aching power of success.

I truly believe that there is no right path. That either way you turn will bring you moments drenched with happiness, and those weighed down by sorrow. My life thus far has had it’s share of unexpected twists. Things that I would have sworn as a naive adolescent that I would never do or try, and then found myself thoroughly engaged in years later…and loving.

For example:

I never wanted to live in a big city. I grew up in a mid-sized town, like one big ol’ suburb stretching further west from the Mississippi every year. It was filled with strip malls and business parks and chain restaurants. Everything was family friendly and you were bound to find a new elementary school around every bend. It always felt happily secluded, yet just quirky enough to have it’s own individual personality. You could send your kids out to play until dusk without worrying that they wouldn’t make it home. And then you could go have dinner at a family-owned italian restaurant tucked away in some cool, old neighborhood, and enjoy handmade pastas and jugs of wine. It was unintimidating, and I liked that. I was drawn to places where I wouldn’t get lost and didn’t have to be scared.

Then, when I was 23, I decided to move to Chicago. Suddenly, I had to navigate the El train (going the wrong direction and having to backtrack more than once). I had to flag cabs with authority, standing in the street with my arm up high, making sure the light of the cab was ON not OFF to know it was available (then you earn the right to scoff at people who are waving exuberantly at cabs without their light on and think “amateurs”).  I even bought a bike and rode to and from my office, a 12 mile roundtrip commute, on streets with bike lanes (desperately hoping I wouldn’t end up on YouTube as one of those riders who gets bashed by an unsuspecting car door).

Apparently, all my trials of big city life revolved around transportation. But, in practically no time at all, I conquered those fears and realized that this big city held so much spark and excitement and energy. I found little BYOB thai restaurants and took ballet classes in the city park. We lived so close to the baseball stadium that, on warm days with the window open, we could hear cheers from the crowd. And even though I got lost a thousand times, or hated life again and again while freezing my ass off waiting for the bus in below-zero temps, the original intimidation melted away, leaving behind only a burning ember of adventure.

Other things I thought I did or didn’t like? Did or didn’t want? Would or would not do?

  • I wanted to marry Michael Jackson

  • I wanted to name my first son Tristan Atreyu

  • I didn’t want to travel for my job

  • I didn’t like good beer

  • I thought I’d never dress up for Halloween again

  • I thought my older sister would hate me forever

  • I figured red, pleather pants were flattering

  • I couldn’t stand the taste of mushrooms

  • I thought an overly dramatic, emotional guy was my “type”

  • I thought fashion was an Abercrombie tee & K-Swiss shoes

The idea that there is a “wrong” path to choose is abhorrent to me. Just like the idea that there is only one soulmate for every person feels so wrong and sad. As if you could accidentally miss the one and only person in life that could make you happy?! I just don’t believe that is true. No matter what path you choose, there will be people along the way that can enter into your world and make it shimmer. And, if you’re lucky, there might be more than one.

I’ve brushed up against a few soulmates in my life so far. Each rare and earth shattering in their own way.

They will build you up, and break you down. Blaze with passion or offer you peace. Give you a thousand things, and withhold a thousand more. Support you, challenge you, laugh with you until your body hurts from the shaking, cry with you until you’re sure that your broken spirit will never recover. And then they’ll pull you in and surround you with a warmth so complete that it feels like you’ve never felt the sun until that very moment.

They’ll spark something inside of you that becomes a living, breathing thing—bringing a new sense of wonder to every inhale, and an unknown terror with every breath that escapes from your lips. And they will understand when the things you said you wanted, swore you could never live without…change.

My husband, while not the most prosaic man ever made, said something once that has resonated with me forever after.

“How can you promise someone forever? The best that you can hope for, is that when you change, you’ll change together.”

Because we WILL change, and our lives WILL differ greatly from what we first thought. And things we were once afraid of, in the end, will bring us joy and laughter and wonderment. It would be naive to expect that plans laid so early on would never have hiccups, would never force you to rethink your route. But if you can accept those things and be flexible with change, you’ll open yourself up to so many amazing things you never before knew existed.

I’m no motivational speaker or expert on how to live your life—but I’m truly grateful for the divergent path my own life adventure has taken so far, and I’m pretty excited to see what the next chapter holds…Plus, I’m REALLY glad my kid’s name isn’t Tristan Atreyu (though I’ve still got mad love for you Brad).