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).

Advertisements

An Illustrious Career Path

I don’t mean to brag, but….I’m kind of an amazing gift wrapper. Now, now, don’t be jealous. It’s a skill one must hone over time. The precise measuring, cleanly folded corners, perfectly aligned overlap, the use of only 3 pieces of tape, expertly covering the seam with your decorative ribbon. It’s quite the science, I assure you. Then again, your first job probably wasn’t as a holiday gift wrapper at the local jewelry store in your town.

For a girlie-girl who just turned 16, this was actually kind of a dream situation. I got to eyeball all kinds of sparkly, diamond-encrusted little baubles and then wrap them up prettily in silver foil paper. All the while I’d be dreaming of the day that I’d be the recipient of such a gift, oohing and aaahing as my dashing young hunk clasped that twinkling tennis bracelet around my wrist.

“Ohh honey, I’ve never received anything so beautiful before in my life!”

“My darling, it pales in comparison to your breathtaking beauty”

Smoochy smooch smooches.

Did I also mention that I read a lot of romance novels around that time and was still in the market for a boyfriend?

And so I packaged delicate parcels for about 3 months until Christmas passed and I “wrapped up” (haha, get it? should I take these jokes on the road?) my first job. It had been a good experience. I made friends with some middle-aged women and got to wear dress clothes to school on days where work immediately followed, constantly inviting questions from my fellow classmates about whether I had just come from, or was going to, a funeral. I even used my employee discount to buy a tiny Swarovski Crystal porcupine. I wonder where that little fella is today?

Employment options for the 16 year old set are somewhat slim-pickin’s. That’s not a judgment, I understand that most employees aren’t super gung-ho about a bunch of ornery, hormonal, first-time-on-the-clock teenagers in charge of the well being of their company. I mean, my bestie and I used to go apply for jobs TOGETHER. We’d walk into some sort of retail establishment, request applications, and then simultaneously fill them out side-by-side while checking in with each other about certain, baffling questions.

“Wait, are you putting down that you babysat before this? Does corralling my snotty nephews count as previous employment?”

“Um, what is our area of study at Millard North High School? Like, stuff, right? Like, reading and stuff? Is that what they want to know?”

“Hey, why did you just spell your name like that? It looks so funny with that “fer” at the end. Hey, Jenni-FER. Hahaha, why is that so funny? HAHAHA”

Thus the confused clerk or manager or current employee watched the two of us fumble, stutter and laugh hysterically throughout our application process. Oh, ya. HIRE US.

Surprise! They did hire us, three different times! My first three jobs (after that quick foray as a holiday wrap-artist) were hip-to-hip with her, making that $5.75/hr minimum wage I was earning so much more enjoyable. First up, I introduce to you: Jennifer, your hostess with the mostess at Fill-up’s restaurant.

Did the name confuse you? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. The restaurant’s attempt to resemble an old timey filling station was lost on most of the patrons as well. Overall it was an eating establishment with a bit of a personality disorder, attempting to attract families with young, messy, noisy children as well as patrons would would want to belly up at the bar and drink ‘til they were singing Piano Man in rousing unison. Is it any wonder the restaurant closed after only a few years in business?

Either way, she and I hit the scene as their newest silverware-rollers, window-washers and waitstaff-villains, constantly berated for either over, or under seating their sections. What I remember most about the job was how one of the owners (a trio of brothers) fell in love with Dana and let her sit down on the barstools while folding napkins…a luxury not bestowed upon us other lowly fools. We also had access to the kitchen, and depending on the night and what cooks were working, we could sneak back and steal pepperoni from the prep-bins. Clearly I was learning valuable lessons about business ethics, hygienic food prep, and workplace flirting.

Having checked “restauranteering” off our list of future careers dabbled in, it was time to hit up another well-worn adolescent pastime. Retail. Yes, folks, we were ready to take on that gum-chewing, hair-twirling, snarky-raised-eyebrow, big-sigh-because-I-hate-dealing-with-customers persona that accompanied many teenagers in the retail hemisphere. Good news is that we picked a store that any human over the age of 17 would be loathe to walk inside, so at least the angsty, pierced, brooding clientele was similar to that of the staff. Welcome to, Gadzooks.

Our boss was a munchkin from Oz. I’m not saying she was an actual little person, but she couldn’t have been much past 5’1” and her voice was similar to that of Michelle from Full House. There was no real dress code, (just show the world your individual personality!) so she mostly wore mismatched pajamas and denim overalls. I guess her personality was that of a very tired, rural toddler.

Primary responsibilities included:

  • Folding mass amounts of graphic t-shirts spouting inspired jargon such as, “Old, ornery & obnoxious” “I’m not a gynecologist, but I’ll take a look” or “Nice new girlfriend, what breed is she?”
  • Sitting on top of the halved-out Volkswagon Beetle and greeting people walking into the store with “It’s a crazy, cool day at Gadzooks! How can I help ya?!”
  • Untangling mass amounts of neon string bikinis left in a pile on the dressing room floor where 15 year old girls just spent a half hour posing for each other and taking photos.

The last hurrah, and the job with my longest tenure during those teenage years, I fondly refer to as “the bagel shop”. 300 sq feet, one glass bagel case and a long prep counter were pretty much all it consisted of, and can I tell you? My mouth actually started watering when I thought about the toasted, chocolate chip bagels I devoured for breakfast, the towering turkey sandwiches on jalapeno cheese bagels for lunch, and the colossal rice krispie treats devoured for dessert every single shift. I barely even remember working…most of my time was spent preparing delicious eats for myself.

Our boss was a 22 year old guy named Jed who worked 90 hour weeks and was really just looking for a little company. He’d do all the real work—mopping floors, restocking bagel bins, slicing onions and tomatoes—before we even arrived for our shift. Once we got there it was time to play, and we’d sit in one of the booths for a game of chess or blackjack or scattegories, only hopping up on the off chance a customer came in for an everything bagel with schmear.

Additionally, he was totally willing to buy us cases of beer and leave them out back by the dumpster to pick up on the way to Friday night parties. He also made good with the smoothie shop ‘round the corner, so we could always exchange bagel sandwiches for delicious blueberry, banana kiwi smoothies on hungover Saturday mornings.

While all of the above paints the picture of a couple girls who maybe didn’t have any work ethic whatsoever, I’d now claim honestly that both of us are dedicated and enthusiastic about our professions as adults. But it sure is nice to think back sometimes on those days of lowly, grunt labor where you really were just workin’ for the weekend.

And there is also the fact that I can now slice bagels symmetrically without ever cutting myself. Finger-space my closet to such perfection that even a district manager would approve of. Blindly roll a basket of silverware in under 10 minutes. And, of course, blow your mind every holiday season with the stunning perfection of my gift-wrapping skills. Did someone say, it’s the thought that counts? Nope. It’s the packaging.

Wanna Be Friends? Check Yes/No

When was the last time you had to make friends? I mean, really, truly, make the effort to appear fun/attractive/interesting enough to some group of strangers in the hopes that maybe one of them would someday enjoy playing Apples To Apples in the basement of your house while drinking copious amounts of red wine.

It’s such a stress as an adult! When you’re little, there isn’t so much to think about and friends are made and lost in the span of a dodgeball game. Did Melissa share your love of My Little Pony? BFF’s forever. Did Brandi invite you to choreograph a dance to Madonna’s Like A Prayer on the playground at recess? Bosom buddy. Did Janet hog the best tiara in your dress-up bin and make fun of Peaches and Cream Barbie a little too much? Cut the B out of your life.

I’m not saying it’s not dramatic, the epic shifts and changes of those you choose to play with throughout your childhood and beyond. There are many tears (or in a boy’s world, punches in the face) to be dealt with when naive, guileless kids are petty or cruel or unfair. As a parent I’m already dreading the day when my little dude asks me why so-and-so-ginger-headed-neighbor-boy doesn’t want to play with him anymore. What can I say?
“Oh honey, he’s a total d-bag, just don’t worry about it.”
“Sweetie, don’t worry about that pimply, brace-face. His teenage years are gonna be hell.”
“I don’t know baby, maybe because you can’t kick a soccer ball worth shit and he wants to find someone who can actually play.”
(of course, we hope it’s not the third one)
I will have zero control over who’s gonna want to hang out with my kid through thick and thin. All I can do is try and raise him to be as easy-going, intelligent, fun-loving and lighthearted as possible…and pray that he’s not super annoying.

But here’s the thing, I’m a grown adult, not a boppy sixth grader ready to take on a whole batch of new middle-school recruits. How exactly am I supposed to meet people to make friends??

My husband, son and I just moved from Texas back to my midwestern home. It’s an interesting transition as we are currently squatting at my parents house while waiting to close on our future home. I’m even sleeping in my old, adolescent bedroom. It’s like a weird flashback where I’m actually allowed to have a boy in my room (in my bed!!)  and not have the “lights on, doors open” rule enforced by my dad. Except in this scenario, there is also a toddler upstairs who wakes up promptly at 7am every morning screaming Eat! Eat! Eat!

We moved back to be closer to family. To buy our first home. To hopefully lay down some permanent roots and build a community of our own to run around with, raise our kids with, amass embarrassing drunken stories with. But first, we have to find those people.

The first thought that comes to mind is attempting to reconnect with old friends who still live in the area. We might still have something in common, right? I’ve stalked enough on Facebook to see that some of them have young children and/or still seem to enjoy watching losing sports teams and drinking Miller Light. But then, even if we get past that awkward hurdle of “Oh, hey, you. Uh, wanna maybe hang out sometime and see if you still think I’m normal (and vice versa)?” there is this huge fear that we’ll get in a room together and have nothing to share with one another besides old stories about that time we drove around stealing lawn ornaments.

I started a new job this week, and can’t help thinking every day I pass through the halls that somewhere inside this building is a new bff just waiting to welcome this not a nerd…but almost girl into his/her life. It’s not a crazy thought, I’ve been lucky enough to have it happen before. Now I just have to seek them out…

Let’s see, where to begin? Ah yes. I had sent out some introductory emails to associates with whom I will be working with down the road. While reading through their responses, I came upon one that seemed exceptionally friendly. Dare I say, fun? I held my breath as I went to check her out on the company org chart, which halleluja!, includes photos.

Jackpot! She’s relatively young. I don’t detect any crazy eyes and her smile is authentic, yet quirked enough to convey that she knows standing in a mustard-colored hallway, haloed in florescent lighting, isn’t going to be her best look. This could be her. She could be fun, enjoy writing or running, think Halloween is the best day of the year, too. Who knows?

I haven’t sacked-up yet and gone to visit. My hair kind of looks like ass today and I dread the fact that I’ll get lost on the way to her office. Not sure what I’m so afraid of. I’ll either find myself laughing heartily while bouncing ungracefully on an oversize athletic ball in her cube, rejoicing that this is just the beginning of a lifelong friendship, or I won’t. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow…

Is 18 months too young to enroll my kid in some sort of competitive sport? I keep imagining how perfect it will be to meet other cool, like-minded adults when we’re all huddled around the sidelines of a soccer field on Saturday morning. Each lamenting over the early hour while hugging our coffee, and then covertly making fun of that one kid who keeps picking boogers instead of chasing the ball. Haha, gross. Wanna grab lunch somewhere they serve margarita’s before noon?

My husbands parents have a very tight-knit group of friends that they’ve maintained since high-school sports days. All those seasons of football, basketball and baseball where the same 5 couples took over their reserved portion of the bleacher seats and prepared to cheer their kids to victory. Then they knew exactly whose turn it was to bring stadium snacks, and now they take turns boating together while thoroughly enjoying retirement in sunny Florida. I’m not one to fast-track time, but that sounds pretty amazing.

I guess, in the meantime, we’ll just have to be fearless in our search to find future boating buddies. We’re good enough. We’re smart enough. And gosh darnit, people will like us! So, if sometime in the near future I show up in your office all smiles and supposed-to-be-funny quips, hoping to appear casual yet clever yet entertaining…throw me a bone, eh? I promise I’m not a serial killer.

An Ode To The Gym: You Are Gross

I once fell off the treadmill while running at the gym. Yep. That girl was me. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about that appalling possibility any and every time you’ve stepped near one of those evil devices! It still runs through my head every time I bite the bullet and hop back on. Just one of the many things that makes my gym experience oh-so-special.

I’m no die-hard when it comes to working out. I’ve never been an athlete—general hand-eye coordination somewhat escapes me—but I love being outside, and realized that learning to run a few miles in the great outdoors was a hellavuh lot easier than learning to swing a golf club. So over the years I’ve tried my hand at a variety of exercise methods: kick boxing, spin class, hot-as-balls Bikram Yoga. But none beats the endorphin release I get from a good ol’ 5 mile jog on a sunny day…preferably around a lake, surrounded by trees, at the height of fall. And when that isn’t available?

Da Da Dummmm (menacing music sounds), THE GYM.

Describing the gym, any gym on the planet, is like that SNL skit where “Stefan” talks all about the new clubs opening in New York. The name is always something like “Two-Tone Swirl Factory” and it has glitter bombs and naked acrobats and midgets carrying boom boxes. That’s pretty close to most of the fitness factories I’ve attended. So many random things can be seen and wondered about when visiting the gym. Here’s just a few of my own observations…

Attire:
It was only a few years ago that I stopped wearing old boxer shorts to the gym. This was spurred on by a combination of things.
1. My older sister’s guilt-inducing distaste of my workout apparel.
2. Moving to TX and its unendurable 110 degree heat, which required better, moisture wicking (my mom says “wikkan”, like witch voodoo, technology) athletic wear.
I always figured, who  cares?  I’m gonna get gross, sweaty and breathlessly unattractive over the next 45 minutes-1 hour, why should I care what kind of outfit I have on? And this is coming from someone who really loves fashion! A slave to pretty clothes and the experimental art of crafting the perfect look. But, for one reason or another, workout gear has always been off the radar. Hook me up with some greyed-out leggings, an oversized t-shirt from my dad’s old bowling league and I’m ready to run.

TV shows always seem to depict gyms as a place to meet potential mates. Somehow urging the innocent viewer to believe that, in addition to their goal of burning 500 calories on some sort of mechanical torture machine, they should make sure to look hot while while working up a sweat. But, you guys?!! It’s hard enough convincing one’s self that hitting the gym during their lunch break will be SO much more satisfying than a visit to Wing Stop. Add in the pressure of potential flirting across the gleaming collection of dumbbells and things start hitting terror level orange. I don’t want to spend any additional time making sure my ponytail looks properly mussed-yet-perky, and I certainly don’t need the stress of worrying if my socks don’t match. (Those suckers are all small, and white and the biggest pain in my ass when folding laundry. You’re getting matched up with the closest cotton ball I can find, you hear?!). So if…let’s just say when, you see me stretching in a pair of american flag boxer shorts that I got as a camp counselor back in 2000, please understand—it’s not that I don’t appreciate those pretty, ass-raising lululemon shorts, or that lovely, built-in sports bra tank top that perfectly hides your underboob sweat. I’m just too lazy.

On the flip side, I recently encountered an unexpected outfit choice while attending the gym at my local Jewish Community Center. This guy, who I first spotted on the elliptical machine, was wearing a white collared shirt, dress pants…and suspenders! At first I thought, perhaps he’s just squeezing in a leisurely 10 minutes before changing for his racquetball game. But no! He went from the elliptical to the stairmaster to the weights before fitting in a good stretch. This was a full-fledged workout, done in pretty upper class attire. Hat’s off to you sir. I admire your ability to keep that ol’ ticker in A+ shape while dressed to impress.

Camouflage:
The last thing I want when working out is to attract any sort of attention. I want to blend seamlessly into the scene, so that my huffing, dripping personage is no more noticeable than the next heaving, galloping human. I’m not saying you can’t look around while you’re there…I love judging, I mean, observing the locals while maintaining an elevated heart rate, but it must be done covertly.

For awhile, I was working out at my office gym over lunch. This makes the don’t-look-don’t-talk-don’t-ask policy a little harder as co-workers are awkwardly hovering everywhere. But there was this one girl, let’s call her Tiffany, who apparently had no qualms about brash treadmill behavior that drew the attention of anyone within a 20 ft. radius. She would literally crank up the speed on her Precor 5000 and do ACROBATICS for a good 30 minutes! I’m talking full-fledged splits, hops, skips, jumps and leaps as she spun side to side in some sort of frenzied, Richard Simmons rockin’ to the oldies routine. Pity to the poor soul who ended up on the machine beside her. You could actually feel the floor vibrating, and no matter how much you just tried to ignore it and focus on running until the end of your Justin Beiber song, her flailing body in your peripheral was seizure inducing. 

Another key element to fading into the background? Don’t fall off the treadmill. That’s right, don’t get on a machine in the first row, where the entire gym can see you. Don’t crank the speed up to 8.0 in an attempt to run off the chili cheese burrito you just scarfed. And whatever you do, don’t get so caught up in a sports play on tv that you forget to run straight and end up hitting the plastic side rail with one of your feet, forcing your other leg to crumple uncomfortably before you hit the deck. And please, please, don’t try to quickly get back up. That thing is still moving, and no matter how much you paw at the rolling track, you’ll just end up looking like a cat thrown in a bathtub, squealing and trying to get out. Rest your limbs and allow yourself to slump to the floor in the pathetic heap of sweat embarrassment that you now are.

Look Away, Just Look Away:
In case you didn’t know, there is a lot of nakedness in locker rooms. It’s pretty unavoidable, and most of the time, unnoticeable if you’re just focused on getting in and out of there as quickly as possible. But unfortunately, there are always a collection of loitering exhibitionists that want to make everyone uncomfortable. I have found that these women fall into two categories.
1. Chicks with breast implants. Always looking to share with the world their new lift, size, shape and relative lack of self-esteem.
2. Old women who take an inordinately long time locating, and then putting on their granny panties.

But really, the worst of what I have seen in the locker room has happened on accident, and can truly scar a girl for life. And thus, I feel the need to share these things with you so that we can indulge in a group round of cringing and I won’t feel so alone.

I’ve caught women blow-drying their nether regions
I’ve heard the most horrific labor and delivery stories on the planet
I’ve accidentally dropped my panties in front of my boss
I’ve realized that the girl who sits next to me in my cube doesn’t wear panties with her skirts
I’ve noticed that a large number of sweaty women don’t shower before heading back to work
I’ve seen the most gnarled, bare, ogre feet enter in and out of bathroom stalls uncovered
I’ve had sweaty, smelly towels hit the side of my neck on their way to the hamper
I’ve discovered stray piles of dandruff sitting idly by the hair tools
I’ve heard my spin teacher putting a pad in her underwear a foot away from me

These things shouldn’t happen in real life. But I guess the gym is like an alternate universe, where a variety of death defying, guilt inducing, brain bleaching moments are sprung at you with only a second’s notice. You have to be prepared, because you never know what might be coming at ya on your next visit.

I suppose it could be considered a little entertainment to keep you going during that 45 minute workout. The reality is that I’m saving up to buy a treadmill that I can put in my basement…so that I can huff, puff, undress and dismount (however ungracefully) in private.

Not A Nerd…But Almost

Remember that character in Sixteen Candles with the back brace? The one played by Joan Cusack who had braces and wore a red sweatshirt with some 50’s doowop girl on the front? And when Joan bent over for a drink at the water fountain (all awkward and hunched because the metal hinges on her brace only allowed for robotic movement) she used the skirt on her sweatshirt to wipe her mouth?

That could have been me. That probably should have been me. Somehow I managed to escape epic nerddom by a just a hair.

A brief (or not so brief, depending on your attention span) blast to the past will outline a few of my more prominent dweebilicious traits. Weigh in as you will. Remind me of others I have forgotten, this should be fun.

The Eyepatch

It wasn’t a black pirate one, but almost as bad. I have what is called a “lazy eye”, and NOT I must clarify, the kind that runs rampant in its eye socket like a cat chasing red laser dots on the wall. This kind of lazy eye is truly of the slacker sort, and allows its counterpart to do all the work while it sits aside, smoking pot, looking pretty and batting its eyelashes at the passersby.

My patch was flesh colored, which now that I think about it, might have been worse than channeling good ol’ Captain Hook. It pretty much matched my skin color and was plastered over my left eye and worn in hideous combination with oversize 80’s wire-rimmed glasses. I bet from afar it looked like I didn’t even have a left eyeball, just some super creepy stretched skin cavity where a normal 9 year olds eyeball should have been. And I walked around like this, day and night (that’s right, I had to even sleep in this ocular bandaid), possibly oblivious to the horrified looks of small children. Or just blind to them because they were always on my left side.

I endured an entire summer of this superficial deformity. I can only imagine the kind of traumatic, self loathing inspired poetry this inspired at the time. (That’s right, 9 year old poetry. Also nerdy). And now my left eye is only slightly worse than my right with proper lense correction. My family was kind enough to avoid any photographs during this short phase of my life so that it’s memory lurks only in the disgruntled recesses of my brain. It’s so much easier to laugh about when the off-balance, one-eyed raccoon tan line fades.

Scoliosis

I was diagnosed with scoliosis in 5th grade. This was after several embarrassing moments in the gym locker room where some stocky, fuzzygendered nurse would ask me to lean over the dressing bench while he/she ran a prehistoric plastic tool down my spine. For everyone else it was a quick, painless swipe. But for me…there was always this dramatic arm movement when he/she swished around the curves of my rogue vertebrae. Then there would be sighing, and retrying, as if on the 3rd attempt each spindly, spinal piece would suddenly jump to attention and back in line.

What followed was quarterly trips to the Orthopedic Surgeon so that they could slap lead magnets over my ovaries and x-ray my thoracic curvature for changes. My spine was a lazy piece o’ poo. Slumping in not just one spot, but two! Making a sinking, slimy ‘S’ pattern on my back that, later in life, prompted my mother—irritated already by the 90’s trend of backless tops—to point out that I “didn’t really have a pretty back”. (Sorry mom, hate to throw you under the bus here, but that comment has been the source of much laughter between your two eldest daughters throughout the years).

I had nightmares that I’d end up like Joan Cusack. A clunky, rigid human being who creaked her way through life, carrying an oil can just like the Tinman in case of rain. It’s possible these were the only months of my existance that I paid any attention to posture. I sat straight up, poised and proper through every reading, writing and hebrew school studies class I had. The completely slumped, side-shifted, kicked-back-gangster position I’m adopting currently in my chair as I type will clue you in that I managed to scrape by without the brace. However, if you happen to catch a glimpse of my back you can easily see where it goes astray. Just glad I managed to dodge that iron bullet.

Swing Choir

Now, the first of my two pushes towards nerdvana were out of my hands. Just random lumps of coal in my genetic stocking. But this third piece? All of my own making. When I turned 13 and entered 7th grade, something inside of me called out for, The Jazz Square! Three Part Harmony! Acappella Christmas Carols! and Awkward Middle School Choreography!

I tried out and, oh joy, joined a group of gangly bumpkins ready to sway their way through a bunch of boring show tunes. And as if just being a part of this song squad wasn’t enough, I somehow managed to get stuck in the soprano section. Have you heard me sing karaoke? I can rock a mean Just Like Jesse James, but those high notes are A STRETCH. So how could I have possibly ended up singing One Tin Soldier at the top of my lungs, at the top of the music scale? It must have sounded like someone was chasing a potbelly pig the entire performance the way I was squealing out those notes.

Thankfully that year, my weekend choir performances at the local retirement home were offset by a constant stream of Bar and Bat Mitzva parties on Saturday nights. While this may sound like it belongs in the geek bucket, it was actually a place to eat, drink (soda), and dance the night away with boys. Albeit they were the adolescent, hairy sort, but better than nothing. And I found that I’d rather belt out every word to Baby Got Back than Circle Of Life, which led to dumping swing choir the following year. Though, there may, or may not, be a video on my facebook page that some crazy ex-swing choir mate tagged me in. We’re dancing with hightops on our hands. Enjoy.

I’d like to be clear that I in no way mean to offend the glorious land of nerddom. I could have flourished there just as happily as anywhere. I’m just intrigued by the slight forces that ushered me away from the world of dungeons and dragons, and into one of busch light in basements. Maybe that’s why I’ve always had kind of an affinity for the loveable geek? The answer to why many of my crushes over the years had a couple of dorktastic qualities themselves. I consider it an honor that I was able to straddle the fence between spouting Shakespearean sonnets on stage, and playing Beer By Albertsons with the cool, older kids.

And now, what’s nerdy is cool, and all the lines are blurred and preconceived notions should be left at the door. And I’ll work hard to make sure that, whatever my child enjoys doing as he grows up, that I strive to embarrass him as much as possible along the way. Maybe he’ll develop a love for the foghorn, or realize early on that studying cell particles is his thing, or take up yodeling. Or, you know that lone boy in the ballet recital who’s dressed as a crab while all the other girls are mermaids? That might be my kid.

I’ll never be sorry for the path I’ve traveled thus far. It’s all just a part of Choose Your Own Adventure, right? But dude, I’m pretty happy that I don’t have an eyepatch on right now.

Parenting Faux Pas: Just Kicking Things Off

It’s bedtime (7:15pm and still light outside). Jammies are on (the fleece footed-onesie has a hood—because he might suddenly need a head covering at 3am in his crib). Bath routine has been successfully completed (this includes a fond goodnight to the bathroom Hawkeye gnome). Time for a story while tucked up on the little sofa in his room. His hand immediately goes up to pat the unintentional mohawk sprouting voluminously from his tiny head, and I pop open a beloved storybook with beautiful pictures, a singsongy rhyme cadence, and plenty of swear words.

Is this when I should question my parenting decisions?

I know I’m not the first to receive Adam Mansbach’s hilarious “children’s book” Go the F#@k to Sleep as a ha-ha-funny indoctrine into the world of parenting. But, wait, am I not actually supposed to read this to my kid? It rhymes, and that’s supposed to be good for their cognitive learning. It has pretty pictures with animals that he can point to and say “rooooaaar”. Plus, it’s just the right length to get him bedtime-prepped without putting mom to sleep as well.

Many of my friends laugh and say “Oh, sure. I read that to my baby, but I replaced all the cuss words with banal language that wouldn’t be offensive.” Guess I didn’t get that memo. I mean, he’s only 1 ½, he can’t read and at this point he leaves off the end consonant on almost every word he says…so even if he tried to say “fuck” it would come out “fuuu” and we would promptly infer that he wanted some traditional vietnamese noodle broth for dinner. No harm, no foul.

It’s things like this that give me momentary pause in the haphazard cadence of our lives as first time parents. Should I be worried about how the outside world will judge my decisions? Is it like a tree falling in the forest if these “errors in judgement” happen within the private walls of our home? If no one can see them…maybe they didn’t happen at all.

The problem is, it’s not limited to just our house. For example, a couple weeks after our son turned 1 and started walking, we took him for a weekend getaway to Austin. On his first trip to the stay-weird-city he was confined to his carrier for any outings…which of course meant we took him to a bar for the NE vs. UT football game. But this time around it was full-fledged summer and we had a tiny toddling man to entertain.

When my sister suggested a visit to her local splash pad, we were all in. If you haven’t visited a splash pad before—it’s a wonderful invention. Schizophrenic fountains of water spout up from the ground and out of control kids run through them screaming like banshees. Squatting their little hiney’s over the bubbling water like it’s one big, concrete bidet. And the best part is that parents can just hang out on the sidelines, clapping and smiling enthusiastically without worrying about trudging through some pee-soaked baby pool like at the Jewish Community Center.

Needless to say, Sam was mesmerized, and hit the chlorine soaked pavement with the vigor only a newly walking human could possess. Adding to his joy was the fact that he had the splash pad all to himself and could squat carefree over every jubilant, spurting stream without challenge from older kids weighing more than 19 lbs. Why, might you ask, was this fabulous water park so empty on a Saturday afternoon in August? Oh, well, that’s because there was a storm brewing and thunder and lighting were currently assailing the afternoon skies.

I swear I don’t want to get my child electrocuted. Between my husband, sister and myself,  a large amount of thought was given to the fact that a mere baby was splashing through frothing puddles while laser flashes crashed over our heads. But…he was having so much fun!! The cheerful exaltation of his cries stopped us every time we thought to rescue him. Just one more minute, we said. Then finally, after a somewhat nasty bout of thunder shook the ground, and the drizzle turned to a full on downpour (I mean, WE didn’t want to be wet) we scooped him up and headed home. Fun, right?

There are a lot of heated debates on parenting techniques these days. To breastfeed or not (and to say “not” is to be assailed upon by screaming righteous feminists, so be wary). Homemade, organic baby food vs. old school Gerber mushed turkey-product sticks (I loved those as a kid. So did our cats). Landfill-waste disposable diapers vs. good-luck-keeping-their-poop-confined-to-that-washable-landing-strip cloth diapers. It’s gonna be a toss-up either way. Your kid will still cry, and laugh, and sneeze out the most disgusting boogers you’ve ever seen.

Which brings me to my biggest “oops” so far in the 18 months my son and I have been learning to work together. And I’ve already told my mother, so this hopefully won’t make her keel over in a dead faint.

It was our usual morning before work routine. Hubby makes breakfast for baby while mama finishes getting ready. Then baby and Kitty discuss world politics while lunches are made and bags are packed before we head out the door in separate directions. I was hefting little dude into his carseat—you know, under the awkward strap that holds it steady while he’s still facing backwards, forcing us both to duck and tuck and contort—when he lets out a huge sneeze that sends strands of Nickelodeon snot cascading down his face. It’s a slow motion dance, me diving into my purse for kleenex before his wily arms can reach his face and smear green goo galore. Whew! We make it in time, and he smiles gaily at me as I hand him Hop On Pop and get into the drivers seat.

It sucks not being able to see his face on the drive since he’s turned towards the back window, but in the rearview mirror I notice his head cheerfully bobbing as we merge onto the highway for our 25 mile commute. I zone out thinking of the day ahead, and after a half hour or so we make it to the lights right outside my office, which is when I hear a chirpy “hi!” from the backseat. He’s turned around looking at me from his chair. Hmmm, that shouldn’t be possible. Unless, of course, someone forgot to strap him. It dawns on me that he just spent the last thirty minutes exploring the backseat while I went 75 mph on the Tollway.

I was horrified, I was ashamed, my hands shook for the next 15 minutes and I was grateful we were both safe. But when I told my scary story to co-workers and friends, I was met with consoling pats and reassured with equally pee-your-pants tales about leaving their kid at the grocery store or watching them fall off the table. Shit happens. We do our best.

So…when we let the baby take our Coors Light cans to the trash for us, or drop him off at Great Aunt Judy’s house on a Saturday so we can go to a movie and take a nap, or watch him run around the house with suffocating-hazard-plastic-bags while we lounge on the couch scanning ESPN and Pinterest on our respective Apple electronics…it’s not for lack of love. He’s our joy, he’s our life, he’s our heart. But we’re all just trying to get along, and sometimes that ain’t pretty. I figure if someone wants to judge, I’ll just tell them, kindly, to go the f#@k to sleep.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

 

very-inspiring-blogger-1

First off – a thank you to the lovely and talented Anna of annaleawest.com for the nomination. Your writing is ridiculously clever and bursting with hilarity. You are too good to me (and possibly biased) but I am grateful! Here’s the scoop…

Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog. Done and done.
  • List seven random things about yourself.
  • Nominate other blogs.
  • Notify the nominees.
  • Put the award logo on your blog.

My 7 idiosyncrasies:

  1. I like to think about home decór while running
  2. I have the uncanny ability to recount entire tv episodes or movies with enough intrigue and drama to move the listener to tears (it’s true! ask my bff about Armageddon).
  3. I’m not a fan of top sheets. Just a fitted sheet and two oversize comforters.
  4. I have a strange fascination with tornadoes and have fantasized about opening up an underground theme park where people could watch them in complete safety.
  5. My first concert was in 5th grade to see Bryan Adams and I still get a bit choked up when I hear Everything I Do I Do It For You (this relates back to my original confession).
  6. I can’t really handle caffeine. No coffee, decaf tea and soda only at the movie theater. Subsequently, mornings suck.
  7. I think Halloween is the very best day of the year and am serious when I tell friends that they are welcome to forget my birthday as long as they participate on All Hallows Eve.

Some wonderful blogs that I find fun, interesting  and well worth your time:

  1. kendieveryday
  2. myedit
  3. abeautifulmess
  4. suchaprettyface
  5. rants,raves,andrambles

Preschool Tim And The Communal Bathroom

How do 3 year olds substantiate a relationship? Does it start with fond glances over a box of chocolate milk? A shared love of all works by Dr. Suess? Perhaps fleeting laughter over the antics of that silly classroom hamster? Whatever the initial spark, Tim and I were committed. We sat together on the brightly tiled, Hebrew alphabet rug and raised our voices together in song…”alef beit veit, gimel dalet hei”. I don’t think Hebrew qualifies as a love language. Too much phlegmy “chcchhing” involved.

These days I look at toddlers, my own spastic 16 month old included, and find myself unduly fascinated with the level of intelligence that can spout from approximately 40 inches of human. It’s already a scientific wonder that all those organs manage to fit inside such a compact body, but add in any sort of verbal wherewithal or cognitive function beyond drooling over shiny objects and I am completely dumbfounded. They can form compound sentences! Scamper off to the potty unassisted! And, apparently, fall in love with each other from 9am-12pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

We had a song, Tim and I (or maybe it was a poem). “One, two. I love you.” Catchy, right? We used to chant it to each other while tucked into our coat cubbies at the end of the day. As each of us huddled into the 2’x4’ wooden container housing our jackets and lunchboxes, we would gaze deeply upon one another and repeat our Shakespearean sonnet in unison. His eyes were a dark, chocolate brown, rather oversized in a tiny elfin face.  And he had freckles speckled haphazardly across the bridge of his pug nose and dotting his baby cheeks. The kind of freckled constellation that a mother swoons over, and a 13 year old kid later tries desperately to scrub from his adolescent face.

For the most part, I believe our flirtation was pretty above-board. We walked side-by-side during our classroom field trip to the grocery store, where he manned-up honorably and partially blocked my view during the disturbing meat-grinding demonstration. He used just the right tone of voice when helping to instruct me on the art of hammering nails into Styrofoam, not too patronizing with just enough focused praise. Overall I think it was a lovely little romance, and might have blossomed into a long-term, kindergarten relationship if one small advance hadn’t flushed it all down the toilet.

Unisex bathrooms are confusing. Even to adults. I realize it can be a space saver at small restaurants, or a lazy attempt at keeping the line moving when it’s apparent that women take at least twice the amount of time to do their business than men, but for the most part I think people are cool with gender specification when it comes to the ol’ potty. As a 3 year old I was just at a loss. Most likely it had only been a couple months since I had even started using the bathroom by myself, and let’s be honest, I’m sure some panty pooping still crossed my mind now and again as a matter of convenience. But add in the fact that I was bopping into a bathroom where a strange and unfamiliar urinal posted sentry across the wall from the sad little porcelain toilet, and I was sunk. At what age does one learn propriety? Or more importantly, performance anxiety? First you want me to know when it’s time to go, then I have to request permission to use the bathroom and then I have to try and tinkle with a random dude in the room? Help!

It was a place of uncertainty – a tiled and whitewashed underworld that smelled of bleach and offered a bleak view of mis-aimed toilet paper and yellow splatters of urine. I held it in as long as possible before grudgingly trudging towards the bog of eternal stench. If I was lucky, there would only be another little girl finishing up before my turn. I may not have been used to bathroom gossip at the time, but I was certainly more at ease with those of my own kind. I’d pop open the buttons to my corduroy jumper as quickly as possible and squat ,hunched forward, knobby knees knocking, staring at the reflection in my polished mary-janes while peeing like a racehorse. There was a precise system to be followed, and the quicker I could finish, the less likely a chance that some random snot-nosed boy would saunter into the bathroom, hand already poised to unleash the dragon.

Then, one day, it happened. The worst case scenario. A moment so ingrained in my mind some 30 years later that I can almost smell the tinges of cleaning product and feel the prickles of sweat on the back of my neck. No sooner had I taken a seat with my Sesame Street panties slung low around my bobby-socked ankles, then in walked Tim.

Some people say all romance is lost in a marriage once couples stop closing the restroom door. But that still doesn’t mean someone is literally watching you pee. Someone you love, who “1, 2 I loves you” right back, staring quizzically at you while your bladder unloads. I was traumatized. Pinching off mid-flow, I scrambled to pick myself up and put myself back together while his freckles seemed to pulse behind my scrunched-closed eyelids. Of course, he seemed totally unphased and continued to watch as I went through the motions of washing my hands.

“Hey” he said when I finally turned to face him.

“Um, hi” I muttered, not making eye contact and desperately looking at the door.

“You look pretty today. So…you wanna kiss?”

Hold up. What?

I was 3 years old and my little jewish boyfriend was trying to get to first base in the communal pre-school bathroom.

All vestiges of romantical feelings for tiny Tim were gone. Following that mortifying moment, the spell was broken and I did my best to avoid eye contact of any sort throughout the rest of our minute acquaintance. He would forever remain locked in my memory as an awkward toddler boy propositioning me in the bathroom. A memory that would be regurgitated in my mind throughout college when awkward frat-boys attempted to proposition me in foul smelling bars, just before last-call, in a last-ditch effort to sling a girl home to score. It’s an early, yet valuable lesson to learn I suppose. Don’t trade sexual favors in public restrooms. Don’t date men who are wholly devoid of social timing. Always pee in private.

I guess you can’t fault a guy for trying.


To Israel And Halfway Back

***Written years ago for a travel writing class in college, I recently reread this story and realized its potency and relevancy in the world of today. It highlights memories that still blaze true, and are even more reflective now that my sister is living in Israel.***

Seventeen is a tender age to visit one’s homeland.  In a place where the sun rises and sets on some of the holiest places on earth, my memories of Israel are a haphazard collection of adolescent love affairs, fabulous mountaintop sunbathing and nights spent taking vodka shots out of empty film canisters.  At the time I promised myself that I would write in a journal every one of the thirty-four days that I was in that tiny strip of exotically landscaped history; but when reading that journal today I find misspelled Hebrew names of the landmarks we visited, plenty of gossip on who slept in whose sleeping bag last night and whether that strange kid actually attempted suicide with the plug-in wire from the iron.

I remember nameless places and sweat drenched complaining.  I remember techno dancing in bomb shelters and mysterious eggplant meals.  But most of all, I remember those sunsets.  The most alluring and heart stopping moments that stun you back to life, running on the cracked, barren ground toward the ends of the earth, just to make the magic last a few more precious seconds.

Visiting the Bedouins and following them camelback through the desert was the most authentic, yet somehow luxurious experience I had on my israeli adventure.  Knowing that this group of people were vagabond types who slept in tents far away from civilian cities, I reluctantly dragged my hundred pound wheeless suitcase towards what looked like a circus tent made of rain resistant tarp.  I groaned as we stumbled over jagged rocks and looked around at the vast and empty expanse that surrounded our hovel for the night.

Pulling back the plastic shower curtain of a door to get inside, I ran into a few of my fellow group members who stood fairly agape at our Indiana Jones accommodations.  It was so unexpected that you had to take a minute to shake off the surprise of finding Persian rugs sprawled across the floor and miniature round tables set low to the ground, crowned with lit candles and surrounded by soft, white pillows.

It was warm and glowing inside the corners of the three-walled abode, and on the left side you noticed that there was no curtain enclosing us from the world outside.  Ten feet from where we were sleeping was a fence of 4’ boulders all snuggled up against one another, attempting to keep warm amidst the evening desert wind.  Beyond that protective barrier, the earth dropped off into nothing.  Miles below the land looked like a feather stuffed quilt, its colors and designs rolling up and down against the twilight sky.

It’s hard to breathe standing in a place like that, where the wind is tempted to blow you right off of your crest and into the waves below.  Everyone has colorless eyes, reflected against the wash of pinkish grey, cascading down the boundaries of the world.

Israel is like a whirlwind game of Jumanji, where a new set of challenges and adventures are awaiting you around every turn.  In a country that is only 280 miles long and about 85 miles wide, it seems that the eclectic landscape of oceans, forests, mountains, and deserts are the only thing residing peacefully together in the cramped quarters.

Five years ago when I boarded my midnight Tel Air flight to Israel, over 500 other anxious adolescents were joining me.  In a time of so-called peace, there was only one suicide bombing that happened in Jerusalem during the month I was traipsing around, and I probably only stopped for a second to be thankful I wasn’t near the attack.  Now, most of the youth group trips to Israel have been cancelled. Any young adventurers are left to endure a hundred year sleep plagued with nightmares, patiently waiting for prince charming to sword through the decades of war’s undergrowth, and let back in the dreamers.

We were the dreamers, the schemers and troublemakers taking over the gawky tour buses that summer. Seventeen, free from parents, and legal to buy alcohol and cigarettes, get tattoos and piercings, we skirted around every rule and took full advantage of all our opportunities.  Trekking through the sandy sun drenched Negev, I lit a cigarette while riding high atop my new camel friend, Abu.  There were so many clothes, sleeping bags, and other random supplies stuffed into the side pockets of Abu’s sporty fanny pack that my inner thighs were stretched in gymnast like directions.  I just looked down to my far-from-Moses-and-forty-years-in-the-desert-friendly companions and laughed, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I were smoking a Camel on my camel?!”

By noon the heat in the desert is too intense for laymen to be bumming around in, and our Bedouin guide led us to a giant rock structure that seemed to rise out of the barren landscape at exactly the right time.  It was a twenty-foot alcove that tucked us inside its cool, stone walls, and we scattered like mice to find the best shaded hiding places that might lull us into mid-afternoon sleep.

No air conditioned hostel before, or cushioned mattress after, would offer the kind of sleep we found in that sprawling old piece of God’s architecture.  I lay there with my head resting on my water bottle, looking out into the starkly blue and brown landscape, peacefully unappreciative that it would be one of the most serene moments of my life.

When you first think about camel trekking through the desert, Aladdin-like images are conjured up full of rolling orange sand dunes and magic carpets.  But our abandoned dune seemed to appear out of nowhere and stood singularly majestic amongst the miles of flat, cracking, rocky desert floor.  After a breathless climb to the top, I expected to look out over that imaginary sea of blowing stand, but instead was accosted with more of the rocky, ungraceful terrain we had previously traversed.  So I sat atop my lonely beach castle and entertained myself in the evening sun, watching handfuls of sand slalom around the stiff brown hairs on my unshaven legs.

For millions of people around the world, Israel is the religious mecca, and some spend all their lives trying to make one trip to see the birthplace of their beliefs.  When I tell people that I spent over a month in the holy land when I was only seventeen, they always ask me, why?  I tell them that it is sort of a tradition.  I tell them that my parents did it when they were teenagers, and it was their plan to send their children to experience the same sort of adventure.  I tell these people that it was my right of passage, my good fortune, to be sent away to have such an important and life altering experience.  Sometimes I wonder what I have to show for such a lucky break besides remnants of the vulgar songs we used to sing on the bus, and photographs of the vicious sunburns we managed to incur.

People look at me in disbelief when they find out that I spent so much time in this war torn country at such a young age.  I find it impossible to explain that it hasn’t always been this way, that there have been times of peace, that Israel is a stunningly beautiful country perfect for any type of fantastical vacation or getaway.  I see the confusion in their eyes and know that they are wondering how it is possible, after all of these bombings, that anything beautiful could be left behind.

I remember how we used to sit in only our bras during the long trips up the coast, and pluck our eyebrows to pass the time.  I remember how we begged to go see Armageddon one night and I cried the whole movie through.  But most of all, I still remember those sunsets.  We ran on the cracked, barren ground towards the ends of the earth; watching the dragon-fire sun sink deeper into the dusk, with tears in our eyes from the stinging dry air and my camera long since gone.  I stared in disbelief and promised myself I would never forget what that moment felt like.  The most alluring and heart stopping moment, that still stuns me back to life.

The Taylor Swift Confession—A Musical Interlude

I have terrible taste in music. I always have. Those of you that know me are currently nodding your head in agreement, perhaps sighing audibly over the assault your eardrums suffered the last time we rode in a car together, or the horrifying compilation of artists you viewed when recently perusing my playlists. I find that owning up to my general lack of musical maturity makes it a more easily forgiven offense—people view it as a charming idiosyncrasy of my personality and inherently understand that it is their responsibility to introduce me to more, shall we say, lofty artists both past and present.

Go ahead! I gladly welcome the helpful suggestion of your new favorite indie band, or that classic Pearl Jam album that I just have to reconnect with. And usually I find these new offerings pretty awesome and try to integrate them into my daily soundtrack. But try as you might, you won’t be able to rid me of that instinctual, threaded-into-my-veins attraction to utter crap pop songs and sobfest ballads. I will remain forever weak for the likes of Britney, Tori, John Mayer, Jon Bon Jovi, and little miss breakups herself…Taylor Swift.

Oh yes, I downloaded her latest album the day it came out. I’ve memorized at least 12 of the 16 songs and have listened to the cd in its entirety every day since it’s release. You might pass my cube at work and see me bobbing my head jauntily with track 9, or worse, catch me gesticulating emphatically to track 5 while running outside. My feet pounding the pavement with every drama soaked chord, my chest heaving at the effort of lip synching the words while still maintaining a reasonable breathing pace.

The high’s and low’s of loving Taylor are a daily grind. One moment my best friend (who works at an acclaimed newspaper and always knows the hottest music critics) is telling me that the album is highly rated, therefore making my recent obsession completely valid, dare I say, hip? The next moment I’m offering to burn the album for my friend’s 8 year old daughter, assuring her that “she’ll really, really love it” and coming face-to-face with the fact that I share the same music tastes as a second grader, not to mention I just used the word “hip”. Help.

Oh TayTay—your lyrics can really tug at the heartstrings! Why do I find myself so drawn to your redundant, boy berating music? Why am I not more embarrassed to be singing along loudly to a song about another dude with freckles and green eyes who broke your heart? It was always kind of a mystery that I loved such dramatic breakup songs. While I’ve had no shortage of disinterested crush objects in my past, no one ever ruined me so terribly that I had grounds for such intense anger. And yet, more than once I’ve been found tearfully belting out the lyrics to some tragic tune like a love-starved spinster with 6 cats, a carton of Ben and Jerry’s and pajama jeans.

Like, one time, at a sleepover in 7th grade, I thought it would be really moving if my friend Jenny videotaped me singing “All Out Of Love” by Air Supply while I was lying desolately on a pile of pillows in her basement. I think I even managed to squeeze out a tear—one tear that represented all my lovelorn adolescent angst about the fact that Arik-with-an-A wasn’t going to attend my Bat Mitzvah party.
Or that night after our first senior dance in high school, the one where we took shots of peach schnaaps in Dana’s old Honda, and then and then slow danced in Ryan Hansen’s basement. She and I proceeded to sing loudly to Barenaked Ladies “Break Your Heart” while three boys sat on the couch and watched in varying degrees of abject horror, fascination, and possible sexual frustration.  One of whom asked, after the song ended and we had regained our composure, whether either of us had ever even been cheated on. No? So? Can’t a girl commiserate?!!

So is it really any wonder that even as an adult woman with a husband and child, that when Swifty croons “that magic’s not here no more, I might be ok, but I’m not at all” I find myself getting a little choked up? And I may or may not have just paused typing in order to flip to this song on my iPhone and hit play…

Don’t judge. I swear I won’t try to foist my dismal taste upon you, even if you happen to mention in passing that you too attended that Lifehouse concert in 2008. In fact, I’m usually hard-pressed to throw together the randomly requested mix-cd because I’m so nervous that the intended recipient will be sitting around later while listening to the carefully chosen songs thinking, What. Is. This?!

So I’ll send out a real apology now to that mysterious drunk person who “broke into” our apartment in college, (I say this lightly because the back door was never locked. Super responsible) and walked out with a couple of waitress aprons and my cd case. I’m sorry that you got home, opened it up, and found the soundtrack to Bed of Roses, Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits and at least one Ani Defranco album.

And to you, Taylor, keep on churning out those hits. The 17 year old in me will always cheer your inexhaustible efforts to find love in the unstable and unlikely world of celebridom. For those of you who cringe at my egregious errors in music, feel free to look the other way. Or better yet, turn that scope inwards…can you really tell me that you don’t have a secret affection for some crappy nineties artist like Third Eye Blind, or have a poster tucked away from that awesome Mr. Big concert you attended back in the day? Did you really not get a little misty-eyed when Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert won the CMA for “Over You”,  a song about Shelton’s dead brother, and were both crying while accepting the award on stage? What are you? A robot??

It’s ok if you won’t admit it, I’ll take one for the team this time around. Just don’t complain when I request “Like A Slave” to be played at your wedding. I’ll keep the dance floor packed.