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.

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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.

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.

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).

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.

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.