Getting over an exercise addiction.

I am 35.

I can’t remember a time I haven’t exercised (except for the require period of rest after having babies). Even when I was 8, I was going on jogs and doing sit ups.

I never wanted to stop exercising because, with all the conflicting opinions about healthy eating, exercise has always been the rock of my stay healthy plan.

I am now officially exercise-free for one month. That’s not including the occasional sets of guilt-pushups or daily walks. I’m talking real, heart rate rising, sweat producing workouts. And, I’m afraid. Of what? I don’t know! I’ve never had fluctuating numbers on the scale. I don’t really change sizes in clothes. I’m always afraid of dying, regardless of how healthy I am (thanks anxiety). I guess I’m afraid that if I don’t work out, I will lose my identity.

I’m the health-nut. The exercise-freak. If I quit those things, then what am I?

Every day, my watch shames me for another workout not completed. “Just stand up to me your stand goal!” I don’t even care to meet that. I remain seated. And anyway, what the hell is a “stand goal.” Have we really sunk that low as a society that we get rewarded for standing? Usually mine will go off somewhere during the time I’ve been sitting at my desk for hours without moving. (Maybe I should listen to that stand prompt?)

It’s not that I don’t enjoy working out. I love it. I love how I feel. The energy I have to watch late night television hours after Donnie goes to bed. I just don’t feel like working out. I’m enjoying the “doing nothing” phase of my life. Doing nothing is an inaccurate name for it though. I’m not doing nothing. I’m building things. I’m painting. Boy, am I painting. I’m creating all kinds of art.

I will call this the period of relaxation. I’ve never been good at relaxing. I’m always up and on to the next thing. Can’t sit still. Can’t do nothing. Go go go! I’ve had masseuses (on numerous occasions) tell me to relax mid-massage. I’m always tense. But now, I’m getting pretty good at relaxing. Damn good, in fact. I even binged watched a series on Netflix, while working on a painting. I sat on the couch for 3 straight hours, just reading.

I’ll get back to working out eventually. But for now, I’m not even going to try. I’m enjoying the break.

Homebody

I am a homebody.

At least, that’s what I tell my family, my friends, my husband and my kids when they want to go somewhere. If I do go somewhere, the questioning goes as follows:
– Do I have to wear a bra?
– Do I have to wear makeup?
– How long will it be until I can put my comfy clothes (ie. pajamas) back on?

What a killjoy!

This morning Donnie wanted to go to the Pumpkin Patch as a family. Immediately I tried to push back the time so I’d have more time with my book on the couch. It didn’t work. Donnie explained the logistics of why we had to be there by noon. At least I think that’s what he was doing while I was staring out the window and nodding. I complied. Alright, we’ll leave in a hour.

And you guys, we had the best time.

I haven’t always been a homebody. I used to go out on the regular with Donnie. I used to sneak out of my parents house. Out is where I always wanted to be. When we were dating, Donnie and I agreed that we’d never become hermits when we got married and had kids and grew older. We’d always go out and do fun things. I think it was even in our wedding vows.

What happened?!

Somewhere between playing air guitar to my friends’ band, bumpin’ n grindin’ to my favorite Nelly songs and getting married, having 3 kids and moving the country, I lost it. I lost the desire to party. I don’t want to go out. I’ve been out. I don’t want to be out.

Is this a funk? Am I in burnout mode? Am I a homebody now?

The older I get, the more I want to do exactly what I want to do. And I’m happy at home. I love my house, I love my reading couch, I love my family and watching The Flash with Logan. Everything I love is at home, why would I want to leave?

I’ll go out when I’m good and ready.

For now, I think I’ll work on being ok where I am. At home.

Well FOK you too!

I’m a sports mom again!

My kids’ sports are in full swing, or kick, or tackle because my kids don’t swing anything in their sports.

I have 3 kids, which means I won’t make it to all the sporting events. Last Saturday, I went to my daughter’s soccer game. My 5 year old HATES going to soccer games and would rather be at big bro’s football game… but he had to go with mom this time.

Because he makes it his life’s mission to not watch even one second of soccer, Riley decided he’d bring something required a lot of Mommy-attention: a preschool workbook. And! Because he knows I love when he learns, he got my attention.

We sounded out words like r-r-rug and m-m-mop together as I taught him about letter sounds, while also making sure I didn’t miss the moments when Anya got the ball (all other soccer is boring unless your kid has the ball).

Next came fog. F-f-o… whoa! Anya’s got the ball there she—

FOK!!

Riley mistook the G sound for a K and enthusiastically yelled what sounded like an expletive during what I would describe as the quietest moment in sports history. You could here a pin drop, and you heard “FOK!” as plain as day. What followed was the most boisterous laughter ever heard at a sporting event.

Red-faced I explained to Riley that it was “fog” and the parents were laughing at something else (I have a sensitive kid).

Some of the nicer parents came up after the game and told me to make sure to read him something a little less profane next time.

There goes Riley’s favorite bedtime story, “Go the Fuck to Sleep.”

What’s with cheesy detective fiction sex scenes?

I’m an avid reader. I enjoy both print and digital… and audio (which I definitely consider as reading, even though I’m listening). Mostly, I listen to self-help books, like most other women her in their 30s. I don’t know what we’re looking for, but we won’t stop even when we find it.

Occasionally when I’m knee deep in self-importance or self-loathing, I need a break. And oftentimes, I reach for some sort of light-hearted fiction.

This time, a detective fiction. While mildly cheesy, these types of books keep my interest because they are easy to digest and can suspend my disbelief… with one very major exception: the sex scenes.

Why? Just why do they have to be soooo overly pornographic. Real sex isn’t like that! Even movie sex isn’t like that. Why must cheesy book sex be like that? When I’m sighing and rolling my eyes, it’s not believable.

For instance, can we stop claiming that virgins have orgasms their first time. It doesn’t happen. It’s never happened, since the beginning of time. I don’t believe you and you lost me. (talking to you, Grey books.)

Second, grown women don’t walk around in a “teddy” alone, in their apartments for no apparent reason. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a wonder women wear them at all since we got the right to vote.

Those are all the examples I can think of for now. Let this be a message to fiction authors everywhere. When it comes to writing about sex, do more research. They say it’s better to write what you know. (smirk)

And we call them weeds

Why are certain flowers, trees, and plants called weeds and others aren’t? I admire my mint and sedum spreading voraciously and without abandon in my newly-planted, otherwise cleanly-weeded flower bed…. and yet, I pull those little sunflower-looking things because I was told “Oh get rid of that! It’s a weed!”

My friend told me I needed to dig out these Elm trees that voluntarily seeded near my house. “Oh, goodness, get rid of those weeds!”

But I like the little sunflowers. And the weed trees are nearly taller than my house at this point and I don’t mind the shade. And I especially don’t mind avoiding the arduous labor that goes along with digging up a weed tree.

As I walk along the path around our neighborhood, I notice purple, and white, and yellow little buds everywhere. Some look like blueberries, some look like sunflowers, some look like foxgloves, beautiful, untamed. My 4-year-old Riley asks me to take a picture of the pretty yellow ones. He doesn’t think they’re weeds.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is famously credited with describing a weed as “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

What a metaphor for nearly everything in life! People are weeds, animals are weeds, books are weeds and yes, Netflix Originals are weeds.

If we don’t take the time to meet, and discover, and research, and experience, everything will always be weeds. If I look at the world like Riley looks at weeds, maybe I’ll be a little more open-minded.

Except when it comes to crabgrass. Crabgrass was, is and always will be a weed.

You’re the asshole

Someone cuts me off in traffic.
A-hole! (I don't know why I censor this word when I'm alone in my car.)

The coffee at work has a drop left and the last person didn't start a new pot.
What an a-hole!

People talking, meeting and joking behind my desk all hours of the work day.
Shut it, a-holes! I'm trying to work.

Good morning? Good morning! Stop telling me Good Morning!
A-hole.

I don't want to talk to you. I don't want a hug. I don't want a fist bump. I'm here to work!
Annoying a-holes.

"If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you're the asshole."
-Raylan Givens

This is a great reminder on perspective. That morning a-hole can impact my entire day and leave me with a horribly bad attitude. It makes me into an a-hole. If I let it roll, and move on. Those people who WANT to talk to me are no longer annoying a-holes, they are caring friends. (Sometimes caring friends need to know when to shut up, but that def doesn't make them a-holes.)

Me to Jimmy Johns employee: I'd like mayo on that slim.
Anonymous Jimmy Johns employee: It's procedure to not put sauces on these sandwiches.
Me to JJ employee: But, can you just do it? I mean, you have mayo back there, right?
Anon JJ employee: Well, no that's against our policy. I can give you mayo packets
Me to JJ employee: Policies and procedures aside, I have two hungry, messy little boys in my nice clean car and mayo packets will wreak havoc back there. They can barely open them! So I'll be opening 4-5 mayo packets while driving.
Anon JJ employee: I'm sorry ma'am that's all I can do.
Me: *pulls up to window*
Anon JJ employee: Here you go ma'am, we made sure to give you lots of mayo… Packets.

What a bunch of a-holes.

Lake life

Since I moved out to the country (or as Riley says it: crunchy), life seems different out here. I live in a neighborhood so it's not total seclusion but it's close enough. Far away. Peaceful and quiet. The only traffic I hear comes from the lake (this morning it was hot air balloons). There's a reason people retire here.

Driving 10 minutes to the nearest town is now called "Going to town" and we try to consolidate our trips. Life is different out here.

Now that I'm a country girl (for a about 2 months), I HATE going to town.

Drinks?
No thanks.

Shopping?
Nah.

Coffee?
Meh.

Yes, even for coffee.

Once you find your happy place, why would you leave? It makes no sense.

If only I could bring my work to me.

#lakelife

Toastmasters to a married woman.

"I'm tired."
"I have a headache."
"Didn't we just do this last week?"

When I first started going to Toastmasters, I wanted to go all the time! I'd go to Toastmasters every day if I could (maybe a couple times a day, if the mood struck).

In those first several months, I looked forward to Toastmasters meetings, I did extra practice on the side, writing and re-writing speeches until I was satisfied, I dreamt about Toastmasters.

Then I got comfortable. I went through the motions. I showed up for the obligatory meeting, feigned enthusiasm, but over the span of minutes, I was bored… then, without warning, I'd be called on. Suddenly, my heart would start racing, I'd stand up to speak extemporaneously, adrenaline pumping, sometimes I got a chill down my spine. And I'd leave feeling a renewed vigor. A zest for Toastmasters again. It was that good. Why don't I do this every day (a couple times a day when the mood struck)?

The next time someone proposed that I go to Toastmasters, I sighed. Ugh. I'm tired. I have a headache. I have too many things on my mind. Didn't we just do this? When the opportunity presents itself, why do I resist? I know it's good for me. I know it's enjoyable.

Then, I realized how familiar my excuses sounded.

Toastmasters is like sex.

If my kids were critics…

If my kids were critics, I don’t think I’d ever be upset after a critique.

Kids are incredibly honest without prejudice. They aren’t jealous. They don’t project shame. They are NATURAL critics. They do it when you don’t even ask. Most of the time they do it without you asking.

Case in Point:

Logan (8): “Mommy, you know I love you, right?”

Me: “Yes, of course!”

Logan: “Your story wasn’t really that funny… but I still love you.”

Then we hug it out.

Notice how his critique began with a positive and ended with positive, with a little something to work on in the middle.

The best part about a kid being my critic is that I can tell him he’s wrong and then send him to his room while I retell the unfunny story to another person.

If my kids were critics…

Be yourself, even if they don’t like it

“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY! I looooooooove these light-up shoes! Please, please, please, I will pay you back. I will do the dishes the rest of my life. Please!”

Logan half-screamed at Shoe Carnival holding an LED, rechargeable black high top, blinking in rhythm to what I’m certain was the beat of Golddigger by Kanye West. I took one glance at the price, $50!!? I reminded Logan that we were here for the deal on cheapo gym shoes.

Logan looked to the ground, turned around, and took the shoe back to its display.

I’m completely impervious to his strikingly blue sad eyes just before he looked away. I move on. “Let’s see here, Sketchers? Fila? Anything under $30. That’s what we’re looking for,” I say, completely stoic. “Do you want green or orange?”

Logan sighs, “Orange, I guess.”

“Hey, Danielle, can you go help Anya? She’s on the other side of the store, ” says my mother-in-law. She thinks she’s sneaky but I know exactly what she’s doing. She’s a sucker for those baby blues and Logan’s will be stepping out of this store in LED-style.

Logan half-screaming, tears streaming down his face (he’s a happy crier). “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY! I looooooooove these light-up shoes! Ga (grandma’s nickname) is buying them for me!” Me, acting shocked (unconvincingly), “Wow, you are one lucky boy!”

My MIL apologized a nonapology. I know she loves spoiling them so I let her. I feign frustration. It’s a game we play.

Logan put those shoes on the minute we got home to show his dad. He bounced around in the shadows so Donnie could really get the full effect of the light show. Then Donnie says, “Those are really… crazy looking shoes.” Then I get a text from MIL. “Are you sure those are cool? I don’t want him to get made fun of. If he gets made fun of, let’s take them back and get other ones.”

I sighed. No. We will not do that.

  1. I don’t care if they are “cool” and I don’t want Logan to care either.
  2. What other shoes would we get? Take a poll of the kids who made fun of him then go to the store and get what THEY want for Logan to wear.

No. I will not do that.

I responded. “If he gets made fun of, it’s a life lesson.” MIL didn’t like that. She’s very protective.

Donnie told me that she’s probably extra cautious because when he was young, he had new everything. He was a trendsetter. In middle school, trendsetters get eaten alive. Anything new or different is subject to incessant criticism. He took it hard.  “She doesn’t want that for Logan.”

I countered. “Well, I never tried anything new. I made decisions based on what was ‘cool’ or what I saw other kids do. I never acted like myself, I acted like others. I didn’t make any friends because no one knew me. I didn’t know me. That’s not a way to live. I don’t want that for Logan.”

Donnie admitted that it’s better to be yourself and let other people hate you for it than to be someone else and have people not even notice you.

I drove home that day, singing along with the “I’m still standing” by Elton John (how appropriate). At a stoplight, I turn to my right mid-chorus (because we all have to check out who’s driving the cars next to us.) And the guy smiled. Kinda laughed. I thought “Oh. He’s laughing at me for my unabashed performance of an Elton John classic.” then I thought. “I don’t care. I’m having fun. This is me. This what I want. I don’t care about what you’re thinking.” and went right on singing.

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid!

 

To be happy, you must be grateful.

Mudita (moo-deet-a): when we can be happy for the joys others feel.

DISCLAIMER: I hate to keep hitting you with more Buddhist words (who am I kidding? I love it, shamefully), but it’s what’s at the top of my mind right now. If it offends you, please look away.

Carol got a promotion. “Good for you Carol!”

Jenny just won a trip to Jamaica. “Wow. That’s awesome.”

Larry and Susan just had their dream wedding, all expenses paid by her parents. “Congratulations you two!”

I struggle with mudita. It’s not that I’m not happy for other people. It’s just that, when I see success and happiness in others’ lives, I can’t help but compare that to mine. “Geee. I didn’t just get a promotion.” “I never win anything.” “It’d be nice if my parents even bought me lunch every once and while.” This is not being happy for other people. It’s envy.

Why do we do this? (I know I’m not the only one)

I (we) scroll through Facebook and Instagram browsing through the lives of people I (we) may or not have even met in person and all the while becoming increasingly jealous. Everyone’s lives seem so perfect. Then I (we) proceed to poke holes in the life I (we) thought was perfect.

Is this social media’s fault? Was (were) I (we) more satisfied with my (our) lives before Facebook? Does it have anything to do with satisfaction at all? I don’t know. I was hoping you would answer these questions.

Here’s what I think. It has more to do with gratitude. Like I tell my kids, if we point out the things we are grateful for, we’ll be fully aware of ALL the things we should be grateful for. Then, maybe we’ll be less inclined to point out the things we don’t have.

Here’s what I think:

For mudita, start with gratitude.

Wakeboarding… boarding the wake

My back. My knee. My hamstrings. My shoulders. My sinuses. 

I am a wakeboarder.

When Donnie came home with a new wakeboard. I was not surprised. It’s how Donnie works. I say I want to wakeboard, eventually, I will get a wakeboard. It’s just good husbanding. 

Naturally, I had to be the first one to try it.

After watching literally minutes of YouTube training videos, I was more than ready to rock that wake!

Donnie manned the jet ski while I boarded the wakeboard. 

He gunned it and I ignored my screaming back while I held on with all my strength and popped up. First try (but I’m pretty sure I made it WAY harder than it was supposed to be). I squatted my back leg as I surfed over the water behind the jet ski.

One time round the lake and my back leg was ON FIRE. I shifted around. I’m not sure how much shifting to do because I didn’t want to face plant into the water (as my coworker kindly warned me). Finally, I had to. I straightened my back leg. 

AGGGGHHHH! BOOM!

I tumbled around as the lake water irrigated my sinuses. 

Thumbs up! I gave Donnie as water poured out my nose.

“It was fun until I fell! Let’s go again. But don’t let me fall.”

I am a wakeboarder.

Pass the prapanca please

To get right to the point.

Prapanca (pronounced Pra-punch-a, which is important because it’s fun to say)

– useless narrative

– borrowing pain from the future

– anxiety spiral (that’s my definition)

I came across this awesome word in my meditation book: 10% Happier. Finally, a name for all that negative, anxiety-filled, egoist self talk. Prapanca.

We all have that voice in our head that we think has our best interest at heart. Until it doesn’t. That voice (bear with me, I’m not crazy. But that’s what crazy people say, so maybe I am) in our heads, our conscience, ego, said can get very loud and annoying. I know mine does.

Her name is Penelope. She’s a bitch, that Penelope. Always being the “devil’s advocate” to all of my awesome ideas. Side note: Can we please stop starting speeches with “I hate to be the devil’s advocate” when we’re about to say something really negative and bitchy? Just stop. Don’t be the devil’s advocate. We know you don’t reaaaaallly hate it. Besides, I’m pretty sure all devil’s advocates go to hell. Something to think about.

Anyhooooo… Penelope tells me that I’m a fraud. That I shouldn’t ask for a promotion because I probably don’t deserve it… or who do I think I am? She’s responsible for forboding joy, perfectionism, and self-doubt. All the things I despise about myself.

Penelope is prone to prapanca. If, I give her too much power. In other words, if I listen, humor her, believe her, enable her.

My goal with meditation is to quiet the prapanca. Recognizing that the conversations I’m having with myself (er, hm, Penelope) are useless narrative that’s prone to become and anxiety spiral. And, we don’t want that.

Here’s how I will be doing this.

Danielle: I think I’ll go for a run.

Penelope: What if people see you doing pushups like that? I think they think you’re stupid. You look too fit. A fitness fanatic. Crazy. Obsessed.

Danielle: STFU Penelope. I’m trying to run here!

Penelope: <Repeats phrases over and over but louder this time to compete with all the yelling.>

Danielle: Breathing. Stepping. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Focus. Breathe.

Penelope: but I—

Danielle: Nope, bringing attention back to breath. Legs moving. Running. Breathing.

Pretty soon that bitch Penelope is dead. Died of boredom. And I prevail.

Ok, she won’t be dead completely, but the idea is that if I recognize that the prapanca narrative in my head cannot be proven true or false and it’s simply useless, I can change Penelope into someone more like a Poppy. Who is healthy, beautiful, bright, confident and… POSITIVE!

Addiction

I’m an addict.

There I said it. That’s the first step, right? Admitting it? Well I admit it. Shamefully.

I can’t stop buying plants. I can’t stop deadheading, pruning and digging. I can’t. 

I thought I was done buying plants this year when I got 2 giant Crape Myrtles to flank my front sidewalk. There. Beautiful. Half off. And I’m done. 

It’s too hot to keep planting anyway. All that’s left at the nurseries are scraggly, half-dead close out plants. I’m done. My garden is almost full. It looks nice. I’ll maintain and won’t plant another thing until next year. Well. Maybe I’ll pull some perennials out of my pots and put those in the ground. There. Done. I did get these free succulents. I’ll put those in pots inside. There, that looks super classy. Now, I’m done. What else could there be. I’m done.

Lowe’s has 75% off all plants on Sunday?! What!?  I won’t go. I don’t need anything? Why would I go? It’s probably all dead stuff I don’t need to try to revive anyway. I’m avoiding Lowe’s. 

This morning I went to Lowes and bought 20 more plants for $30! Guess I better get to planting. If you think about it, I’m doing something good for the earth by planting more plants. My house looks nicer. I’ll get a nice tan. It’s hard work, which is fulfilling. This is a good thing. It’s not a problem… just one more plant.

 I can stop anytime I want.

I’m not an addict.

Why don’t toads stress eat?

Logan was frustrated that a toad peed on him and asked “Why don’t toads stress eat?” It was the perfect question. Or better yet, why don’t humans pee when we’re stressed. It would definitely prevent a lot of us from gaining stress-weight. Also, I think the diaper/pad industry would be booming.

And would it be acceptable?

“What’s with Frank?”

“He wet his pants again.”

“Aw. I really hope he gets that stress under control.”

The reality is, only humans stress-eat. It’s what separates us from the beasts. Well, that and opposable thumbs and a few other things. I’m typing this as I boredom-eat a granola bar I wasn’t even hungry for. I don’t think animals do that either. Pop open the fridge and look around until something seems interesting, then mindlessly eat that cherry pie. Most animals don’t even HAVE fridges.

The point is, and there is a point, animals don’t really seem to get stressed unless they have a good reason. Like say, when my careless 8-year-old is carrying Kebby around by his leg (Kebby is the toad with incontinence issues.) 

If Kebby only gets stressed at death’s door, then maybe I can chill the eff out about my new flowers dying in this ridiculous heat, or someone hurting my feelings, or stumbling over my words in a Toastmasters meeting, or stubbing my toe. 

When it comes to stress, I’m going to be like the toad. 

(Hopefully, I’ll never pee my pants, but you know, if I’m in a scary situation like Kebby was today, it could happen.)

My kids are the only ones not in sports

The last time I went to a sporting event to watch one of my kids was in May. It feels like an eternity. I see all my friends going to baseball and soccer games and I can’t help but worry that my kids are being left behind.

It’s not like we’re doing nothing.

We’re fishing. We’re nature walking. We’re swimming. We’re jet skiing. We’re tubing. We’re outside, spending time together.

But still. I sit there and scroll through Facebook to see all my friends at sporting events. I text my friends to come over and hang out. “Can’t. Have another late game.” Should I be a late game?

When I was growing up, there weren’t sports until fourth or fifth grade. There was no worry that we’d miss out or not be very good because we didn’t start sports in the womb like Brazilians do. Donnie started basketball in 4th or 5th. I started volleyball in 5th and we both played D1 sports. But… times, they are a-changing.

There’s a theory (Jerry Seinfeld?) that it takes 10 years to master something. So… if we start our kids in competitive sports at age 4, they’ll be ready to rule the high school and prime for a full ride when they graduate, right? Maybe. I’m sure that many hours focusing on one thing could really make a person an expert. But. At what point does expert level peak and passion start to drop? Does passion always drop?

I’ve seen very talented kids quit sports when high school is done or worse before they even get to high school. Burn out. I’m afraid of that.

I want my kids to grow up playing sports but I also want them to enjoy their unstructured “I’m bored” childhood. I think it’s good for them. So I’m going to continue to take the approach that we’ll do sports, but we won’t over-do sports. And, if my kid wants to be a 6’7″ Metaphysicist, then so be it. (I say this through gritted teeth).

So yeah, my kids didn’t do any sports this summer. No practices, no tournaments and no camps. Will they be behind in skills? Probably. Will they eventually catch up? Maybe. All I know is that when I see them out fishing and tumbling down a grassy hill, giggling all the way, I know we made the right decision.

All I know is that when I see them out fishing together or tumbling down a grassy hill, giggling all the way, I know we made the right decision.

Contribute more than you criticize

“How might we…” is a phrase that behemoths like Google, Apple, IDEO and others swear will facilitate more open and productive brainstorming. In a group setting, it’s intimidating to throw out new ideas. It’s much easier to say no to everyone else’s ideas than to step into the arena and prepare for tomato-pelting. That’s why everyone does it. 

Except me. 

I’m an idea-giver. Ideas well up inside me until I feel like I’m going to explode, then I have to let it out. I have to say it. Embarrassing or not. I just do it. And it sets me up for all kinds of failure and tomato-pelting. But I don’t care. I do it anyway.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t criticize an equal amount. I criticize. Some might say, I’m judgmental. It’s human nature to be a little judgmental. It’s how we know to not go home with the creepy guy from a bar. It’s why we won’t let the pedophile babysit our kids. A little bit of judgment and criticism is ok. That’s not exactly the type of criticism I’m talking about. I’m talking about when we look at others’ creativity and say “That’s not good” or something else negative. 

When I hear phrases like “contribute more than you criticize” it reminds me of why I started this blog in the first place. I need to check myself regularly. Am I passing judgment and not putting myself out there to be judged? (Hides Audible review screen)

Among the 5 books I’m reading and the 3 books I’m listening to, am I writing? Am I creating? 
Am I contributing?

Uterus Garden

My uterus fell out.

At first, I couldn’t figure out what that thing was on the floor. I googled it. Oh. That’s a uterus. Now I’m pacing back and forth with my uterus dragging behind me, trying to figure out how I’m supposed to go to work like this.

I can’t go to work with my uterus out. What will people think? Besides, I wouldn’t be able to get any work done with a uterus in my pocket.

I never came to a solution. I just spent hours worrying.

Don’t call 911. It was just a dream.

This is not the typical underwear at work, falling off the side of a cliff or teeth falling out. It was incredibly specific and real.

So naturally, I had to poll the women at work. “Um. Yes. Girls, what does it mean if your uterus falls out? Er, um, in a dream?”

One: Pregnancy

Two: Happy that you’re not having any more kids. So happy that you don’t want your uterus anymore.

Three: OMG. LMAO.

Four: The internet says dreams about your uterus could mean you’re working on something creative.

Me: Like my garden?!

Four: Yes! That’s it!

And that’s how my garden got its name: Uterus Garden.

Freak!

That’s what Josh Hein called me as he slapped me on the back in the church parking lot on a cold night in 5th grade.

Freak.

What did that mean? How was I a freak? What were my freakish features? I don’t want to be a freak.

Those thoughts swirled through my head as I cried and twirled my hair around my fingers. My hair. That I’d labored long and hard to make “perfect” for that evening’s mass. My hair. That was incredibly difficult to manage. My hair. On top of my head. My freakish head.

Why?

That slap on the back changed the course of my night, and at least for the next few weeks (ok months). And, for whatever reason, maybe insecurity, maybe mildly traumatic, I’ve remembered that night from time to time. Why did Josh do that? I thought we were cool? I mean. Weren’t we cool? I’m certain it wasn’t because he “liked me.” (I hate that and I wouldn’t do that to anyone I liked).

I thought about that night most recently when I was picking up groceries at Walmart with my family. As I was loading, some guy hung out the passenger’s side of best friend’s ride (like a SCRUB, thanks TLC), and yelled “Nice **** for a little boy!”

I froze. I didn’t turn around. I was thrust back to 10-year-old Danielle– shy, insecure, proud of her ‘do that took hours to perfect. I’m 35 years old. I’m being called a freak. I shuttered. I got back into the car.

What did that mean? How do I look like a boy? What were my boyish features? I don’t want to look like a boy.

Those thoughts competed with my very adult thoughts of: Don’t let some dumb kid bother you. You’re a woman. You’re not a kid anymore. Let it roll.

And those thoughts competed with my friends’ thoughts of: He’s a bully. He’ll say anything to make himself feel better. He’s probably jealous. He probably likes you.

I choked back tears as I twirled my hair. My unmanageable, messy hair on top of my head. My boyish head.

I tried not to give this event a second thought but the thoughts kept creeping back up, third thoughts and fourth thoughts. I sought reassurance by telling this story to my close friends and I got what I wanted, unsolicited compliments and offers to “kick his ass.” It helped. They’re great.

I didn’t realize why it really bothered me until I matched this story up with something that happened 25 years ago. It was Josh. He was calling me a freak again. He was slapping me on the back and invalidating me. Years of growth, success, unabashed vulnerability and just plain life-living and here he was again, to bring me back down.

And it worked! Why? Why did it work?

Why do strangers with an opinion have so much effect on us?

Why do THEY make US feel like freaks?

A pact with the wasps

I have a problem.

We moved into our new lakehouse without realizing that a family already occupied the house. A family of wasps.

Wasps scare the bejesus out of me. I’ve been stung by a wasp once. I was 14 and I’ll remember is that it’s the stuff of nightmares. The plan since then has been to avoid wasps altogether. Don’t go in their house and they won’t come in my house. We won’t be meeting for tea, we won’t swap recipes and neither of us will be getting hurt.

So here I am, unknowingly breaking the pact I made with waspkind all those years ago. I did it. I did it to myself. And now, one of us has to go. I called the Bug Guy, or Master of the Creepy Crawlies, as I imagine him when I make the appointment. He came to my house and told me that I needn’t fear and my pact should hold firm because these are mud dauber wasps. “They’re not aggressive. They actually eat spiders. They won’t hurt you,” he promised.

After weighing the fear-pounds of spiders vs. wasps, I begrudgingly let him leave without spilling any wasp blood on my newly planted hostas.

These are good wasps.

These are good wasps.

These are good wasps.

I said repeatedly as I grabbed my hedge trimmers.

These are good wasps.

These are good wasps.

These are good wasps.

I plugged in the trimmer and readied the stance to clean up miles of boxwoods in front of my house. Then it began.

Bzzzzz!

Gah! What the-!? I smack my own face.

I look around. Nothing.

BZZZZZ!

AGHH! I jump and run across the lawn. Ok. That was a wasp.

After 5 minutes of repeatedly telling myself that “These are good wasps. They won’t hurt me.” I went back to the bushes and got back to work.Then left and right the wasps began dive bombing

As soon as I turned on the trimmer, they came out. Left, then right, then left again. The wasps were dive bombing me! I’m hopping and dancing across the lawn in a hibbity-jibbity manner as I try to get the bushes done.

My 8-year-old yelled that they won’t hurt me and I can only hope the neighbors don’t think I’m having some sort of seizure, what with all the spasming and neck wrenching.

I finally finish trimming the hedges. It looks like Edward Scissorhands first sculpture, maybe before he actually got good and was just hacking at foliage with his razor-blade fingers. But… the job is done. I guess.

Now the wasps have a less overgrown place to raise their wasp babies and peace between Danielle and waspkind has been restored… until next time.

I don’t ask for much

I don’t ask for much. Just 15 minutes alone with a sandwich at a house by a lake.

When Donnie moved us out of our first home to downsize, I told him, “I’m never moving again, unless…. it’s to a house on a lake (half-joking) and we hire movers (totally serious).”

So when he switched jobs again and almost simultaneously found a house on a lake, I wasn’t sure how to react. Too good to be true. All I needed was 15 minutes and a sandwich and all my dreams would come true.

So put in an offer, it was accepted and all we had to do is sell our house, in two weeks before we left for our family vacation. That’s totally, completely, and in no way stressful at all (looks into xanax). 

We’ve been in this house for about a week and a half now and it still feels like a really long vacation. It wasn’t until I folded laundry this afternoon that it finally started feeling like home. We’ll probably be living out of boxes for the next five months or so but… at least we’ll be doing it while looking out at a beautiful lake. 

Now, to get me that sandwich.

35 on vacation

Today, I’m 35. 

Not too long ago, 35 seemed old. In the not too distant future, 35 will seem young. Today, it’s just where I’m at.

I used to celebrate my birthday all week. Now it’s not even a day. Is this a sign of things to come? Ignoring birthdays. Not wanting any sort of attention and denying they’re even happening?

As I sit here wondering what I should do with myself today, I’m watching my boys swim. I’m worn out from a week of vacationing. No sleep in the 2 double bed room we’ve been sharing with our boys.

“Can we go to the pool?” 

“As long as I can just sit there.”

“Can we go to the Waterpark?”

“Can I just sit there and relax?”

Hell, I don’t even want to relax. I’m bored. I have no energy, no motivation, all the time in the world and no desire to do anything. Is this 35? 

Over the week, we’ve done Gatorland. We’ve done beaches. All the seafood I can stand.

The 25 people I’m sharing a vacation with are gone at the volleyball tournament. And now it’s just me and the kids again. 

The humidity is fogging up my glasses. Is that I sign I should put my contacts in and just get into the pool??

Alright, I’ll get my suit on. Vacationing is hard.

Relax don’t do it

I have time on my hands. 

I’m a busybody. I can’t sit still. Our first day of vacation, after I ate my breakfast, I sat out by the pool… for like 5 min. Then I launched into a few sets of pushups, squats and lunges around the pool. What else am I gonna do? Relax? Pssshhh.

After I was bored with that, I snagged Riley out of the water and we headed to the resort Waterpark. Three hours there, then back to the house. Then… cleaning. Yeah. I’ll clean the kitchen. The kitchen that was destroyed by 20 people that morning, in a rush to down breakfast and head off to a volleyball tournament. 

Cleaning. Cleaning. Cleaning. Hmm… It’s pretty clean. Now what?

I’ll take a shower. Yeah. I need a shower. 

Shower=check!

As soon as everyone gets back I head off to the store for supplies. I get back and most are 3 deep in Bud Light. It’s 4 pm. Vacation drinking. I get it. But… I’m bored. 

Workout? Someone wants to check out the fitness center. Let’s go! I put 2 moms through a workout. 

Then back to the house for dinner. More sitting around. More drinking. More chilling. Do I relax? Ok. I’ll relax. 10 minutes later… Walk? Someone wants to walk around the resort. I’m in! Let’s walk. 

Back at the resort. More sitting. More chilling. Ok, I guess. I’ll sit here for a bit. 

10 minutes later… Time for a book and the soft leather couch. Now. Now, I’m relaxed. 

Good night.

No, we’re not going to Disney 

“You’re driving to Florida? Oh. Um. Have… fun?” is the reaction I got from nearly every single soul when I told them we were driving the family (3 kids) to Orlando, Florida from Wichita, Kansas. I’ll admit, I too was a little leery about 22 hours on the road with my kids who get bored driving to the park.

We’re going to Florida for a national volleyball tournament. And no, we’re not going to Disney. I have zero desire to see Disney. The people, the lines, the empty wallet. There are so many reasons I don’t want to go there. I know it’s an unpopular decision and it seems insane to go to the Disney capital of the world and not go to Disney… but… that’s kind of how we do things in the Wallace family.

At one point, I thought the kids would miss out and for a fleeting moment, I thought they would miss out. I even priced out tickets. Donnie reminded me that we’d be spending nearly a grand on standing in line and dealing with other people who were also standing in line. So the verdict was, no Disney.

Instead, we’re thinking… gator park?

The day before we left, Donnie and I realized we had no real plan for our trip. That’s probably something that should probably be settled more than 24 hours before you hit the road. Unless it’s a brocation, in which you just get in the car with the clothes on your back, or just a pair of good swim trunks. This, however, was a full-fledged, week long family vacation and we hadn’t even booked a hotel yet.

Ten minutes on the interwebs and that problem was quickly resolved. Thanks Priceline, hotel right on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Beautiful.

We got on the road late and Siri navigated us through our first full day of driving, 14 hours.

Sometimes I imagine how Donnie and I would even survive pre-digital age.

I, like most people, would just like to get there so the vacation can begin. But… there’s so much we miss when we fly over states. For example, I’d never have known how disgusting Mississippi was, or how its probably home to the most Dollar Generals per square mile than any other state. I’d also have never known how AMAZING the Alabama coast is. Before this trip, I had no desire to visit Alabama. None.

The area that I picked on a whim the day before we left, turned out to be so great: white sandy beaches, family-friendly night life, and a tourist area that wasn’t overly packed with tourists. We decided to stay 2 nights there in Orange Beach.

Now, as we drive on to Orlando, I’ve got a belly full of fish tacos and a new memory of the boardwalk in Destin, Florida. A Yelp suggestion. Thanks again digital age.

Five more hours until we reach our final destination. Guess I better get on Priceline and figure out a hotel.

Rain: falling, yet uplifting

I woke up this morning with my eyes already rolled. 

Rain. Again. All day rain. 

I hate being inside. I hate the humidity. I hate that allergy sore throat, headache, body aching I get when it rains. Meh.

I came downstairs. Ate breakfast while trying to remember everything I’m thankful for so as not to launch into a completely negative Sunday. It didn’t work. It was still raining and my shirt is still sticking to me.

I got up. Went outside and looked at my amazing flower bed. Hours and hours of work went into this flower bed and it looks so great. I’m swole with pride. I sit on my stoop, coffee in hand and breathe.

The rain smells so… rainy. For someone who hates rainy days, I sure so love the smell of rain. I love it so much, in fact, that I used rain-scented body wash as a teen. (It didn’t come close but it worked).

Suddenly, I felt that negative mood lift. Suddenly, I have energy (the energy the coffee was supposed to provide). Suddenly, I’m taking pics of my flowers and Riley (4) tending the garden and feeling truly thankful. My aches and pains are still here (hitting up the ibuprofen in a minute), but it’s amazing what a little outside time will do to me. 

My beauties below. 

Sit on a wall, eat more bacon and other healthy advice.

Did you know there’s a “Carry a briefcase” exercise? No literally. It’s called that. You lift a weight and walk around carrying it like a briefcase. This blows my mind. Here I am trying to lighten my purse load because it’s bad for my back and you’re telling me to carrying a weight around like, well, like a purse.
It’s like how sitting will kill you but instead do this “wall sit.” So, sit in a chair… dead. Sit on the wall… picture of health.

No wonder people are so confused about how to be fit and healthy!

Case in point: My mother in law is trying to lower her cholesterol. So she thinks “I’ll eat less fatty foods.” But people tell her, oh no, eat the healthy fats. Eat the “good” fats like bacon. Bacon? Really? Yes. Bacon. What’s a lady to do with all this mixed information?! No, really. She asks me, “What the hell am I supposed to eat?”

This is why people hire trainers and nutritionists. Or, ask their daughters-in-law what the hell to eat and how to do that one carry the briefcase exercise they’d been hearing so much about.

To all the confused minds, I say this, “MODERATION.”

You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. And yet, we try to create and follow a set of very strict rules for the quickest, best, most dramatic results. WE WANT RESULTS! But, people, I’m telling you. This won’t last. It’s unreasonable to ask yourself to change that much that quickly.

Cut out fried food. Cut out soda. Go for a 30 minute walk everyday. Let’s start there.

Good luck and good cholesterol!

Fear thoughts

I am an anxious person.

I go through cycles of being not anxious and anxious. Some days are ruled by fear thoughts and others I’m walking on air. 

One thing that helps me get perspective on my fear thoughts is writing. Not googling. Googling is the opposite of helpful. Yet… I still Google everything. Ev-er-y-thing. When really, I should be writing. Googling only makes the anxious sharks in my head swim more voraciously with more gusto (if sharks could have gusto.) I like to think my anxiety sharks enjoy tormenting me and that would make them have gusto in their voracity. Annnnyway…

I read somewhere that anxious people look inward instead of outward, too distracted by our own minds and bodies to notice what’s going on around us. To me, writing turns that around. I’m taking what’s inward, a dark and stormy night or a field of rainbows and grilled cheese sandwiches and I’m putting that out there. Then I’m out of my head. I’m the on the screen. I’m on the paper. I’m in the world. 

I haven’t blogged in a long time.

For me, blogging is like my kids taking a bath. They fight and claw as I drag them the up the stairs (just painted over some claw marks the other day, in fact). But… now, as I type, I can hear the squeals of laughter and the splashing water that’s probably going to eventually damage the wood work, and I smile. They love that bath. And I love this blog. 

Blogging therapy over. A water fight drew blood.  There are tears everywhere but my fear thoughts are gone. 

A comfortable mom is a good mom.

“Is this game over yet?” I thought (and may have actually said out loud) from underneath an Avengers comforter at my daughter’s first soccer game of the day.

It was 11:00 a.m. and I’d been sitting in the 40 degree Kansas wind for 2 hours already.  This week I was actually prepared, I had 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of socks, 2 jackets and 1 pair of rain boots. I told the boys to layer up which, to Logan, meant socks with his sandals (eye roll). 

I dragged 2 comforters (yes from the boys’ beds), a mat to sit on and cozy chair, and my hot-hot coffee out to the field at 9 a.m. sharp for soccer pictures. I was set to be as warm as possible as I yelled “Go Anya!” at all the wrong times (apparently). We set everything up on the game-side of a 3-pronged tree. This was sure to block some wind. 

With a comforter wrapped tight around my body and the boys underneath the other, my toes were still frozen and my face was wind-burned. I watched with shock as my daughter threw off her sweatshirt because she was “hot.” I couldn’t keep my teeth still and here she was all sweaty. “Maybe I should run around?” I thought and stood up, then I quickly quashed that thought and sat back down in my warm blanket. This was no time for cardio. 

The soccer game lasted 83 hours longer than the 2 hours I’d planned for and my face hurt. Riley wanted on my lap, then off my lap, then on my lap, then off my lap. The revolving blanket let huge gushes in every few minutes, which made my blanket useless. 

Whistle for the 4th quarter, welp. I’m off to the car. Luckily, I parked right on the edge of the field. Anya would understand. It was cold. So cold. So windy. 

I enjoyed the 4th quarter. I kicked my boots off. Leaned my seat back. And honked when we scored. I was just as a good of a parent from the car. Better even because I wasn’t cranky. I took a sip of my cold coffee. I didn’t even mind that it was cold. Because I was warm. Toasty warm. Then I cracked a window. It was getting a little hot in there. 

The opposite of empathy

Solipsistic. It means self absorbed. I heard this word several times over the past week. It’s not hoe it sounds. People didn’t call me “solipsistic” (thank goodness). All of the mentions were from the same book. Being the ever-learning person that I am, I looked up the definition.

And now I get the humor the author was trying to communicate. The person in her story had to look up the word solipsistic when she herself should be pictured next to the word in Webster’s. 

Wait. That’s not me. I AM writing a blog about myself… Does that make me solipsistic? Perhaps a little.

As hippie as it sounds, I’ve reflected on this word for the past week. Where did it come from? What is the origin? How is it used today?

Solipsism originated as a theory that a person doesn’t acknowledge anything exists outside of his/her own experiences. 

Gee. Sounds like a lot of people. Sounds like me sometimes. It’s very hard to be able to understand situations that you yourself have not experienced. We make life choices based on our own experiences. Our experiences define us. 
But that doesn’t mean we are exempt from acknowledging or at least trying to understand others’ situations. 

It’s empathy. Some consider empathy as “being ok with everything” and having loose morals because you “accept” others decisions or lifestyles. I think there’s a difference. I can have very strong differing opinions but still acknowledge and understand that someone reached her position in life through a series of decisions based on experiences. And I can understand that I may not understand, but that doesn’t devalue her existence.

I think today, it’s easy to hate what we don’t understand. Solipsism is rampant and it’s disguised as high morals and strong convictions, but really, all it is, is ignorance.

Empathy is hard. That’s probably why so many people don’t bother even trying. But I will. I’ll continue to try to be empathetic, because I definitely don’t want to be solipsistic.

Are you a good storyteller?

I learned about storytelling at a very young age. Or rather, I learned that I was a BAD storyteller at a very young age.

 My sister and I were total goofballs and ornery AF. We were always involved in some sort of shenanigan. We would trick my other sisters into doing something hilariously embarrassing and then tell the story. We knew our stories were hilarious… we just didn’t exactly deliver them that way.

Growing up, one of my most prominent memories from our family gatherings includes this level of storytelling. My sister and I would run up to one of our uncles, snickering about our latest prank. We laughed through every word. Then, something strange would happen. My uncle would just turn and walk away. Mid. Sentence. Dawn and I would look at each other for a second, baffled. Then we’d continue telling the story until one or both of us realized how silly we looked, telling each other a story about an event that included the both of us. 

We were insulted. We were confused. We just laughed it off. 

Thinking back about this phenomenon, I realize that it probably wasn’t that our uncles were rude or didn’t want to hear our story. It’s like when you’re about to hit your punchline and someone asks you to pass the ketchup. But it was probably because we did such a poor job with delivery. 

Kids aren’t really known to be great at telling stories. We drone on and on and on, with no real point. Most times I’m stuck in a conversation with a 13 year old, all I want to do is be OUT of that conversation. I get it.

Unlike most kids, I internatlized this inaudible feedback. Why would they walk away? They don’t like me? No. That’s not it. This story is annoying? No, this story is the bomb. Did I take to long to get to the punchline? Bingo! They never even got to hear the punchline. 

I started focusing on getting the story out faster, to beat them to the walk away. Talking really fast didn’t work, because then no one really understood me. So, I started using way less words to get to the point. I’d like to think this practice helped me become a better writer and speaker. Instead of giving the entire meadow report, I list off the most important, most interesting events. I got better and better at it. And, suffered through way fewer walk-aways.

Today, when I was “listening” to a 13 year old telling me about the trick shots he posts on Instagram: speed, length, distance, frequency, I walked away. As I left him staring at me in total confusion, I’d like to think that one day he’ll be a better writer for it.

Abuse punctuation for the right reasons

“It is my destiny to know people who abuse punctuation.”

I nearly spit out my coffee when I heard this line from “Hidden Bodies.” Caroline Kepnes sure has a way of developing a psychopathic murderer whose sense of humor aligns nearly perfectly with mine.

Joe Goldberg (said murderer from Hidden Bodies and YOU) was talking about his coworker and later landlord, who were so overly enthusiastic you could see the exclamation points flying out their mouths.

omg-exclamation-pointsNaturally, he’s extremely annoyed. I, too, am annoyed. Joe and I, we have a lot in common, less the whole vengeful stalker, killer bit. Joe and I also agree that it’s pretty difficult to hate someone who is that enthusiastic about nothing, about life.

I’m not the cheerleader type (shocking reveal, I know), and cheerleaders annoy me (equally shocking). But… sometimes you need that extra positivity on an otherwise mostly negative day.

I used to have a neighbor, I nicknamed him “Gipper” because he was always eagerly waving and shouting his obscenely friendly “Hi-diddly-hos!” It was almost surreal. I suspected he was some sort of serial killer (we still don’t know for certain). However, when he bounced around his yard with his 4-year-old daughter, I couldn’t help but smile at his ridiculous, annoyingly good parenting.

Over the years, I learned a thing or two from Gipper. Friendliness goes a long way and positivity doesn’t have to be forced… and it’s possible to use exclamation points for emotions other than anger.

Today, I welcome those who abuse punctuation. Five exclamation points in an email used to annoy me (no one is that excited about cookies). But now, it’s a little infectious.

Have a good week!!!!!

 

 

Grateful for all the annoying things

Siiiiiiiiiiiigggghhhhhhh. As I changed the roll of toilet paper. Like always, the new roll was 1/2 used and still stacked on top of the old cardboard roll. Why? Why can’t we change the roll? What’s so hard?

Ok, it’s a little hard, you have to compress the metal spring while also sliding the metal roll out of place and then somehow do the same thing with a roll of toilet paper covering the spring. I can do it. It’s annoying, yes. But I can do it. And so can every other woman I work with. I know this, because I’ve trained some of them to do so.

I walk out the bathroom door, picking up paper that had missed the trash can, reminding myself to be grateful that I have both the dexterity and the thumb/finger strength to change the roll. I guess not everyone has that. Everyone can, however, pick up an errant ball of paper. #eyeroll

Siiiiiiigggghhhhhhh. As I go to refill my water from the Culligan. Not a drop to spare…. again. I remove the empty jug and grab a new 25lb jug and awkwardly tip it upside down and onto the dispenser. No spilled water this time! Am I the only one who changes this? I change this thing AT LEAST once a week. 

After filling my bottle, I reminded myself that I should be grateful that I have the strength and coordination to lift the jug and turn it around to put on the dispenser. I should be grateful we have filtered water, remembering how horrible the tap water tasted before the arrival of the jug.

I’ve been listening to The Gratitude Diairies and I’m trying to take a tip or two from it. Gratitude has never been my strong suit. As little as my family had growing up and as much as my parents reminded we kids to be grateful, I still struggle with being annoyed about things that, frankly, I’m lucky to be annoyed by. If ya think about it.

When I sat back down at my desk, I felt a little less annoyed than I normally do when I have to do these chores. Maybe this gratitude thing is actually working.

The Villian becomes the Hero

I’ve recently branched out to reading more fiction. In particular, thrillers. Which, if you know me, you may not believe the previous sentence. I’m a weeny. I’ve been a weeny since I was 2 years old hiding under the bed of my neighbor’s dad because I was scared of him, for no apparent reason other than he was an adult male. 

Fast forward many years, and I’m finally getting the point where I can handle a bit of a thriller, under my conditions. No science fiction and no paranormal. That unknown shit really messes with me.

My first book: YOU by Caroline Kepnes. 

I’m Audible customer, so 99% of all the books I complete are audiobooks. Yes, I can read, but I can’t sit still long enough to make it through a whole chapter. Sad, but true. 

As I listened to YOU, I found myself identifying with the narrator/main character. He was real, he was honest, he was a cynic. I was annoyed when he was annoyed with certain other characters for being pretentious about books and beers and club soda. I was on his team.

When it occurred to me that this person is a sociopath and I probably shouldn’t be rooting for him, I wondered if there was something to that. 

I’m watching MadMen now too. Same sort of deal. Don Draper isn’t a villain but he’s not exactly the hero type. I find myself rooting for him. It doesn’t hurt that he’s charismatic and good looking. But when his secretary thinks that her one night stand with him was something more than that I think, “She knows him. She knew what she was getting into.”

This seems to be a relatively new story trend. We’re all familiar with hero’s journey: Hero is normal, hero finds flaw/problem, hero struggles with flaw, hero finds sidekick or mentor to help him deal with flaw, hero overcomes flaw. Hero becomes stronger than before. Maybe we’re bored with the hero’s journey, it’s predictable. It’s common. Even my 8 year old notices: “Mommy, the good guy always wins.”

This is the villain’s journey. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel after watching/reading a villain’s journey. Mostly, I feel confused, maybe worried, mad. Definitely not the feelings I get after a hero’s journey, renewed, relieved, resolved.

In a villain’s journey, the villain starts out with all the power and he declines through the story and oftentimes, ends up a pile of mush at the end. We are showed the villain’s back story so we can emphasize, maybe identify, with him, why he’s such a lunatic. (Read: Don Draper’s awful childhood and Maleficent’s stollen wings). Sometimes we think, “he’s doing awful things but for good reasons” (Read: Ray Donovan).

While it sometimes feels wrong, it’s fun to watch the villain story unfold. We want to know what horrible thing made them who they are. It’s less predictable. We’ve seen the hero’s story and we know it by heart. The Villain’s Story is mysterious and new to us. 

That’s all it is. This entire post basically justifies my identification with the sociopath in YOU, with the narcissist in Don Draper, the vigilante in Ray Donovan, and with the vengeful Maleficent.

We’re not evil for empathizing with a seemingly human response to evil. We’re all human. (Except Maleficent is a fairy… but you get the idea.)

There are no new ideas, only new perspectives

This morning I was going through my “idea file” for a good blog post. 

Starting a workout only on a Monday and other pointless rules

Have I written that? I scoured my blog but found nothing under key terms. Seems so familiar, I better move on.

The man who believes he knows everything learns nothing

Oh yes! That’s good. Wait… didn’t I write something like that recently? 

Then I thought something very discouraging: Am I reframing the same ideas and stories over and over? 

It’s like talking to my husband about the time we had a lemonade stand so we could pay our entry to the pool. “It was a slow day and we didn’t think we’d swing it, then the neighbor came over and gave us a $20 bill! That would pay for the whole neighborhood!”

Donnie stops me, “Yeah, I know this one.” My shoulders drop. “Oh. Ok. Good story though, right?” Him, “Yeah, it’s a good story.”

Is my blog getting to that point? Do I need to erase my “idea file” and start over? Is my brain getting to that point? Do I need to read more books? Or maybe different books? Am I reading the same books over and over??

What is even the point of this blog? A collection of stories and rants and observations. Is it useful, entertaining, or is it just a bucket filled with my mushy brain matter? 

Boy, that escalated quickly. While I was just wallowing in my own victimhood, I just thought a new blog post idea! That said, this post wasn’t a complete dumpster fire. 

What did I learn in the 20 minutes it took to bare my soul? 

1. Read a wider variety of books

2. There aren’t many real new ideas out there, only new ways of presenting them 

3. There’s nothing wrong with reframing if the story’s good

4. Simply putting pen to paper (or keystrokes to screen) can get ideas flowing.

5. The right people like my bucket of brains. 

Is “busy” the only good excuse?

I didn’t work on this speech this weekend. 

That’s ok! You have 3 kids, you must’ve been really busy.

I didn’t go grocery shopping this weekend.

That’s ok! You were busy.

I forgot about that deadline.

You just have so many things going on.

I haven’t blogged in a week or so and I have no excuse. Have I been busy? Not really. Do my 3 kids require attention from me 24/7? Not really. In fact, I had several free hours over the weekend that I filled with light reading, heavy reading, working out and roaming around Target.
I wouldn’t say I’m too busy to do anything. I just dont’ want to.

I don’t want work on that speech, I’d rather indulge in a movie on Koty, or play board games with my kids, or do a mix of light and heavy reading. I slacked off and “busy” is not my excuse.

Lazy? Yes.

Different priorities? Yes.

I spend the weekend taking in everything I possibly could, from the beautiful weather to eye rolls from my daughter’s beautiful big browns; from a tutorial on comedy writing to George Orwell’s 1984; from Mighty Ducks to Sister Act; from the home section to the freezer section, I took it all!

It was relaxing… and I was consumed with guilt. 

I didn’t get milk (or EGGS!). I didn’t practice my speech. I didn’t write on my blog. I didn’t finish anything I started.

So today when I replied, “No, I didn’t really get anything done this weekend,” and my coworker offers up a classic “you were probably so busy” excuse, I took it. Shamefully. 

“Yes. That was it. I was just so busy.”

Busy enjoying my life.

Do you know how big of an a-hole you are?

When I was younger, I was pretty big a-hole.

I would wake up at the butt crack of dawn and not let parents sleep. I’d spit food out right on the table if I didn’t like it. I’d break toys, flush too much toilet paper and I couldn’t even ride a bike. Of course, all was quickly forgiven because I was just a toddler.

As I grew up, I became less and less of an a-hole.

I didn’t pick up my toys but at least I wasn’t breaking them. I said mean things to my friends like “I hate you” and “You can’t come to my birthday party.” I quit in the middle of the game of knockout because no one was “playing fair.” I pouted when we had pork chops with creamed corn and spent at least an hour letting that over cooked ball of meat roll around in my mouth until it had lost all flavor. Of course, all was eventually forgiven because I was an adolescent.

Then I grew some more, the teen years.

Raising a pre-teen now, I’m frequently surprised at her tone of voice. Why is she so angry? I asked my sister, “Were we that mean?” (Surely not.) She reminded me of the time we tricked the neighbor boy into cleaning up after our club meetings by letting him be the “chairman.” In our later teen years, we lied to my parents on a daily basis. We snuck out. We drank. We hung out with guys who I wouldn’t let my daughter even look at. Boy, were we a-holes.

Ah, the 20s. So mature, right? No longer an a-hole. 

Unfortunately, that’s not true either. Now in my 30s, I look back at what an a-hole I was in my 20s. I’d cut off friends at the first sign of disloyalty or conflict (lost a lot of friends that way). I let a lead position go to my head at my first waitressing job. Boy, was I an a-hole to some of those people. I trash-talked behind people’s backs and picked fights with those who made me mad. Wow, this blog post seems like a confessional at this point.

Now, in my 30s, I’m acutely aware of my a-hole-ness. Yes, I’m still an a-hole sometimes. But, I like to think that I’ve got things in check. I break my toys occasionally, but I know longer spit food on the table. I don’t say “I hate you” to anyone and I actually try to resolve conflict instead of cutting people off. That was a hard one to learn. I don’t lie. I never lie. I think in the past 8 years or so, I’ve grown more psychologically than I have my entire life. This story just goes to show that,, eventually, most of us grow out of our a-hole tendencies. Hell, it’s always a work in progress (especially in an election year). 

I was born an a-hole, but through the passage of time and life lessons and growth, I’m way less of a-hole. How much of an a-hole are you?

I’m right! (and other things I’m wrong about)

Lighting strikes the same place twice: wrong!

A penny dropped from the Empire State Building can kill you: wrong!

The blood in our veins is blue: wrong! (For most of us anyway)Blue blood

The earth is flat: wrong!

Riley (4) won’t make a huge mess in my new car with just one tiny cracker: wrong!

There are so many things we’ve been wrong about. If we all know this, then why do we try sooo hard to be right all the time? I’m no exception. I’m shamefully on a never-ending quest to know everything about everything. But, thankfully, that’s impossible. We can’t know everything and we shouldn’t. In fact, much of what we do know (FOR A FACT!), could be prove false in 5, 10, 50, 100 years from now. 

So instead of always trying to prove myself right and make sure my rightness is known, maybe I should ask mysel how wrong I am, most of the time. It’s all over the place, the wrongness. Seeing only right, correct, done, stifles growth and, let’s be honest, makes me look like an ass.

Who cares if I’m right about how to pronounce a word, or the best substitute for oregano in a recipe, or what to do at a 4-way stop? Ok that last one’s important because I’m certain no one actually knows and “safety first,” am I right? 
The point is: I need to question the things I’ve filed away as “solved” and continue questioning what I think I know, what I value, what I learn. I think this is how I’ll  grow. 

Or… maybe I’m wrong about that. 

Tell me I’m not alone.

Anxiety is a mother.

Anyone who tells me they have no anxiety is lying.

One thing that makes me feel better when I have anxiety is to know that I’m not alone. I think that’s how support groups and forums originated (?). As much as I dislike the term “normal,” when I’m in my anxiety spiral, I just want to know that what I’m experiencing is normal. I’m not alone.

So many people suffer in silence, alone. Afraid they are overreacting (hypochondria), overprotective, or experiencing anxiety for some unwarranted, unrealistic reason.
When I’m really worried, I’m amazed at the power of two simple words: Me too.

I thought about this today when a friend told me her insecurities and struggles. I knew that the physical anxiety symptoms  were a typical response to what she’d been through recently. (Sorry for the generalities due to privacy). In our conversation, I realized she was looking for some sameness. Some empathy. Some people don’t have a Kendra to say “Me too” or a Donnie to say “You’re normal.”

So I did her the favor. I said “Hey. Me too. I’ve had that exact same symptom when I’ve been extremely stressed.” I told her a personal story of a time when I’d been extremely overcome with worry. My legs went numb. My fingertips tingled. I had heart palpitations. Just. Like. Hers. She was shocked. She’d googled every possible disease associated with her symptoms and she never believed it was simply anxiety.

I could almost see the weight lift off her shoulders when she said, “Really?”

I told her about my vulnerable moments that caused the anxiety with the same symptoms. And she unfolded. I like to think she left my house a little bit less stressed, knowing that she didn’t have an incurable disease,  that she likely wasn’t dying, and that she was not alone.

Joie de vivre

For a while I’ve been looking for french phrases that I want to express artistically on the walls in my house. I even asked my French pal, who didn’t exactly understand what I meant as she gave me phrases like: 

“One in the hand is worth two in the bush”

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch”

And other idioms those. While clever and good advice, these phrases aren’t exactly what I’d want on my wall.

Looking for french sayings on my own isn’t easy because it’s not my first language. I’d say I’m fluent enough to carry on a conversation with an 8 year old. The thing with sayings is that they almost never translate verbatim so I can’t exactly apply the french vocabulary I know to make an english phrase I like.

In my daily french practice (ok, maybe not EVERY day), I found a section on idioms. Perfect! I’ll practice my french while also learning new idioms that may be appropriate for wall adornment.

Même pas mal. (Didn’t even hurt) Meh. Maybe for my workout room?

Je ne sais quoi. (I don’t know what) Haha. Maybe for my desk?

In my search for french sayings, I discovered that many sayings are exclusive to language. I can’t simply take an english phrase and make it french. It’d be like taking tofu and trying to pass it off as chicken. It may taste like chicken and look like chicken. But it’s not chicken. And deep down, we know it.

Many of the best phrases are a reflection of culture.

Joie de vivre. (Exuberance of life or Joy of living) Yes! That’s a great one! It sounds like the name of a travel magazine but I think it gives off a positive vibe. 

I think this saying could go anywhere. At times when life’s got me down and I’m feeling sorry for myself, my Joie de Vivre poster could be a simple reminder to enjoy life. Plus it’s super fun to say.

Twin day without a twin

Today was twin day at Logan’s (8) elementary school. Let me preface this story by saying that I HATED twin day. Twin day is the one day a year when the fact that I had no friends was shamefully exposed. Twin day is misery when all the twins are taken.

But, this wasn’t my twin day, it was Logan’s. So when he bounced down the stairs in his basketball shorts and skater tank (in the middle of winter), I asked him who his twin was.

He replied, “No one wanted to be my twin today.”

I said, “Those little a-holes need to be smacked.” Ok, I didn’t say that. I told Logan that “Some kids are so special and unique that others don’t understand and don’t know how to treat them.” Because Logan doesn’t follow the crowd, he gets left out and picked on.

I told him that “One day the right people will understand you and realize how cool you are.” He seemed to agree and I seemed to be talking to 8-year-old Danielle.

I asked him if he’d rather just join the crowd and do what everyone else does so he’d have more friends. He said, “No way! I like who I am. I don’t want to change because someone doesn’t like me.”

As he hopped out of my car (the kid’s always hopping or jumping), I said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Don’t let those a-holes bring you down!”

He replied, “I never do!”

God, I wish I was like him when I was 8.

 

Turn the radio up for that sweet sound!

“Um, Dad, can you turn that music up?”

The few times my dad actually had music on in his truck, it was on audio level 1. I’m not sure why there even is a level 1 on the dial. The sound level this low was loud enough to compete with the heater fan… and the heater fan usually won.

CB102572When I asked Dad to turn the music up, he’d comply, unless he didn’t want to “because.” He’d generously turn it to 4, nope, too loud, back down to 3. I’m assuming this is why I know the melodies of many oldies station songs but have no clue what the words are.

As the notes barely tickled my eardrum, I imagined I was really rocking out. Sometimes I would sing, unless singing was prohibited at that particular time “because.”

Just as we’d approach the chorus, the only part I knew (presumably from hearing it at the grocery store or in doctor’s office waiting rooms), we’d hit a stop light.

When we stopped, the road noise silenced. My dad turned the knob ever so slightly (because, really, the knob only needed a 2/10ths turn) back to 1. When the light turned green and the road noise grew louder, the music was all but gone. I’d clear my throat, “Um, Dad, can you turn the music back up?”

Usually my question would receive a slight tap in decibels, unless it was a no “because” and “you’ll be fine.”

This game of turning the volume up and down continued through 5, yes 5 lights. My dad always “forgot” or “didn’t notice” the music was back at, let’s face it – zero, at every light.

The other night, I thought about this stressful game of “Um, can you turn that music up?” I was driving back from my 8-year-old’s basketball practice blasting on of my favorite songs “Turn the Radio Up (make me lose control)” Riley yelled, “Mommy, turn it down, it’s too loud!”

I said, “No” and “because” followed by “you’ll be fine.”

I’ve been blaring my music in my own car since I was 17 years old and I NEVER turn it down at stoplights.

 

Blaming Donnie

I am good at many things but I would say the thing at which I’m the best (in the world) is blaming Donnie.

I can turn any difficult situation into something that is Donnie’s fault. It’s a gift, really. I can tell Donnie doesn’t really appreciate my abilities. Case in point:

Logan announced at the dinner table that he searched “naked girl butt” on YouTube.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I quickly told Logan that he shouldn’t be searching those things. After dinner, Donnie and I had a whisper conversation about what could provoke Logan to search that. Sexual curiosity? Hanging with older boys? It was decided that he needed his curiosity quashed. I volunteered to do the quashing as I’m weirdly not awkward when talking to the kids about bodies and sex.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-1-48-28-pmI grabbed the “I’m special, you’re special” book with naked cartoons in it and mentally prepared for our talk. As we turned through the pages, there were giggles and questions, and when we got to the naked lady, Logan said, but where does the baby come out. I said, “there’ as I pointed at the extreme closeup cross-section. Logan didn’t get it. He hasn’t had biology yet, thank goodness.

Logan got more specific. “Well when Daddy told me we came out of your butt, I wanted to see how.”

Maybe most things really are Donnie’s fault.

It’s ok for things to suck sometimes

I’m listening to a new book called, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

I was 10 minutes in and already laughing at my own expense. Yes I feel guilty about a lot of things and yes I feel guilty right now for feeling guilty. 

When I’m mad, I get frustrated and mad more quickly about petty things.

When I’m anxious, I become more anxious about being too anxious all the time.

I love looking into these feelings, discovering what makes me tick. Why I am the way am and maybe how I can change for the better.

I’m always looking for the next self help book that will help me be better, better at writing, better at momming, better at making art, better at volleyball, better at life. Sometimes I can be deep into these books and totally bought into the message that, yes I can be happier if I just tweak these few things and keep my kitchen sink clean. Gee, I guess I never realized that I wasn’t happy enough… until I saw a book that pointed it out or social media posts of seemingly happy people to compare myself to.

What I’m learning from this particular self titled “the anti-self help book,” is that maybe we just have bad days, anxious days, angry days, guilt-filled days. It’s a just a matter of seeing it for what it is and not letting those feelings take over my entire week, month, year or life.

Sometimes life sucks and the sooner I accept that, the better I’ll be. 

March on! 

Today was a momentous day in history.

Nearly 3 million people (estimated)  participated in The Women’s March worldwide!

Many people (with countering political beliefs) may think this march was a hissy fit or some sort useless outcry. At first, I thought, what’s the point? Trump will still be president in the morning. Nothing will change.

I think I understand a little more now why millions of women and men – feminists – across the globe gathered to march today. And it’s the same reason I think many people voted for Donald Trump in the first place: fear.

Fear that our civil rights will be lost. (Among other things, of course)

As all election years are, 2016 was brutal between the right and the left. However, it seemed that more than ever, they were soooo extreme. Too extreme. I don’t think you could get more opposite than a bull-headed, feminist woman and a misogynistic man. I mean, I guess it’s possible but this was a lot to handle.

When my kids came home and told me things their friends (2nd grade!) told them at school, I was mortified. These were gory, specific things kids don’t make up, but things they overhear from adults. It’s scary to hear what untruths were being shared.

When Donald Trump won the election, many people felt betrayed. Betrayed that people we respected (respect) would vote for someone so crass. To them (us), it felt like, our peers/friends agreed with the things (all the things) he said/did. It hurt. It hurt because many of us thought we all agreed that we abhorred those disgusting, offensive things. Then, it was like we were Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. Standing on that front porch all dressed up, and then pelted with eggs. We felt alone. We felt like failures.

But we were wrong to think that. Just because people voted for him, it doesn’t mean they share each and every one of his beliefs. I admit, I agree with a few things he stands for and even more now that the ridiculous carnival is (mostly) over. I think, we all value certain political ideals over others. And we have to weigh the importance of those values when we cast our ballots. Not everyone is as extreme as the candidate they vote for. 

So yeah. I’ve “gotten over it” and I’ve “accepted it.” He’s my president. He’s all of our president. 

Not all women who marched in the Women’s March are expecting something to happen. Yes, there are extremists. But many of us just want the reassurance that we are not alone. That we haven’t failed. And, that we won’t lose these rights because there are millions of us who will still fight to keep them, if they ever are threatened. 

We want to be fearless.

“Good decisions come from experience, which comes from bad decisions.”

I heard this line in a movie last night. I said “Oh! That’s good!” and quickly added it to my “Quotes” section in my Notes app on my iPhone. 
I think we all try really hard to make the best decisions (unless you’re Vince Vaughn in every Vince Vaughn movie). How do we know what the best decision is? Sometimes we think we know, we apply our good sense and lessons we’ve been taught.

But what if we’re making a decision without any prior knowledge? What if there was no lesson on this one? Then what?

Intuition.

The best example I can think of is in parenting. Parenting is years of trial and error. Yes error. Parenting our kids isn’t like parenting anyone else’s kids. So even if mom and dad give me tons of advice on how to parent my kids, I’m still going to make mistakes. For many reasons: my kids are different than I was, my kids were born in a different time, I don’t agree with some things my parents did, and so on.

The first time one of my kids said something hurtful to me, I reacted. I got very upset. I shamed her. I yelled at her. I cried. It didn’t occur to me to get to the bottom of why she said the things she did and maybe, just maybe, she didn’t mean it. I’d already reacted. Things got out of hand. Really, I wanted to not talk to her for several days and then just sweep it under the rug. I’ll be honest. I did do that. Did that solve anything? No. Did I learn anything? Of course I did. After several days of distance, I was still mad at her. Nothing had been resolved. 

This bad decision led me to come up with a better decision when it happened again. And yes, it will happen, a lot. Now, if that happens, I’m able to take my emotions out of the equation and look at the root of why she said the things she said. I back off when I sense that I should back off (instead of pushing and pushing until I hear what I want to hear) The result? She’s WAY less combative with me in arguments. She’s even stopped using hurtful things in these conversations. And that’s another thing! We have actual, calm conversations. Questions and responses. Instead of yelling and crying or yelling and yelling. 

While I would have liked to make the best decision the first time around (it would have saved a lot of pain), I’m happy that I can clearly see now why the bad decision was bad. Maybe Vince Vaughn is on to something.

Oklahoma is where the words are.

I want to go to Oklahoma.

We vacationed at Grand Lake last summer. It was wonderful, relaxing, adventurous, and, at times, irksome (we have kids).

But it’s not the black-blue waters of Grand Lake that I’m craving. It’s the middle of winter for crying out loud. I’m not crazy.

When I talk about distractions with my writer friend, she refers to Oklahoma as the place you go when you are deep into a subject. Your hands are like two humbingbirds with your fingers flying over the keys smoothly and rapidly. When I’m writing, really writing, I’m in Oklahoma. I cannot type fast enough to get the words on the screen.

I love being in Oklahoma, literally and figuratively.

Sometimes, when I’m sitting on my couch after the kids go to bed. Donnie’s playing Nintendo. I begin to find things to do. I do the dishes. I pick up toys. I play with Google photos on my phone (pretty awesome btw). Then, light bulb! I should be writing.

I should be basking in the sun on the boat deck with my iPad out, fingers poised.

But how do I get to Oklahoma?

News flash: It’s better to be impressed than to impress.

I was 9 years old the first time I remember trying to impress someone.

It was about 50 degrees outside.

I challenged my sister Dawn to a run around the block. More like, convinced her that if she didn’t go with me, she could just stay home and continue being bored and everyone would know that I was the fast one. Methods aside, I convinced her to go with me.

The block was probably about 1/2 a mile but at the time, it seemed more like 5. We took off. I loved running. I wanted to be fast. I was the fastest kid in the neighborhood. Note: I didn’t say the fastest GIRL in the neighborhood.

We circled the block and huffed and puffed up the driveway. Dawn’s relentless competitive nature helped her keep up with me, most of the way.

I remember grabbing a glass of orange juice. I knew that was the healthy option so that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be fast and healthy. Dawn casually grabbed a bag of Doritos despite my warnings that she was cancelling out her run with those Doritos. My dad (a known health nut) walked in as we were sitting down for our snack. I caught his attention “Hey Dad, Dawn and I just ran around the block. I’m drinking this healthy orange juice and she’s chowing down on Doritos.”

Dawn said, nonchalantly, “Yeah. Doritos are good.”

Dad nods. “That’s nice.”

Not quite the praise I was looking for. Wasn’t he impressed that we went all that way? Wasn’t he impressed that the healthiness continued with the orange juice?  I’m being who you want me to be, Dad! If I wasn’t doing this to impress someone, then why was I doing it? Why couldn’t I just eat the Doritos with Dawn?

Dawn didn’t care about impressing anyone. At the time, I just looked at her thinking, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you care what he thinks?” In all honesty, I don’t think she did.

So then why did I care so much? Why do I still care?

It’s funny. I’ve spent a lot of my teen and adulthood trying not to care what other people think (especially my dad). This is a 25-year nagging feeling I’ve been fighting against. Yet, it’s made me challenge myself most of my life. Yes, I’ve accomplished things for myself, of course. But a small part (probably bigger than I’d like to admit) of that was trying to impress other people as well. Did it all start with orange juice?

It’s good to care a little bit about what other people think. Everyone cares about what other people think (except for the competely apathetic). As always, it’s about moderation. Spending all my time concerned about what other people think and letting that dictate all of my decisions is very unhealthy. As a teen, that behavior led me to be extremely susceptible to influence. And believe me, the influence was not as positive as my parents would have wanted. I was trying to impress anyone who would be impressed.

My dad wouldn’t be. Other adult figures were barely impressed. Other successful, athletically inclined kids were too busy thinking about their own lives to be impressed by me. I had to find someone who I could impress. This method definitely took my far, far out of the way of the path I originally intended on travelling. In fact, I’m lucky I made it back safely.

Knowing what I know now, I would say that trying to impress people is not a good way live your life. It may be better to be impressed by people. Other people appreciate people who appreciate them. Thinking back to my dad, maybe if he’d been impressed by the things I was doing specifically to impress him, I wouldn’t have gone down that darker path. Maybe I would have. Is this really just about orange juice? Probably not. But, I can’t really blame my parents for everything bad that’s happened in my life, can I?

Showing appreciation and that you’re impressed by another person is a great way to make them feel good about themselves. I know for a fact that I like to surround myself with people who make me feel good about myself, don’t you?

Today I spend more time trying to appreciate other people, notice their accomplishments (no matter how small), compliment them, let them know just how much of a bad ass they are. People need that no matter how much they deny it.

And, maybe sometime, try to impress them. It will fuels your competitive side. And without competitiveness, Dawn never would have gone on that run.

I’m going to quit my job and draw

Donnie and I were watching a Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates the other night. I saw it on our list but avoided it because sounded like one of those college-age, binge drinking, sleeping with everyone in sight style movies. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen American Pie. I thought it was hilarious. At the time. 

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe I have higher standards for movies now. I can’t even look at those American Pie actors without mentally rolling my eyes.

However… we were tired of browsing and settled on this one. Have I sufficiently convinced you that I don’t typically watch this type of movie? Ok then, we watched it reluctantly. And I’m shocked to say that it was hilarious. I actually put my phone down and got into the movie. Then we got to the end. Zak Efron’s character decides he’s going to quit his job and draw full time.

I lol’d. Ok. A lot of this movie was somewhat belieavable, but seriously? You’re going to quit your steady job and live with your parents and survive somehow on… drawing?  “Become a graphic novelist” to be precise. I love drawing. I’d love to make money from drawing. It’s just not realistic. In real life, we have to pay bills. Then, in our free time (if there is any), work on our graphic novels. It was kind of a quick way to wrap it up. For a man who is irresponsible and sketches in his spare time to now have a dream and a future (promising, of course).

Now that I’ve worked through this entire post, I’ve realized that maybe it’s not as unrealistic as I thought. I’m such a cynic. If you’re good enough, you can excel if you take that chance. Maybe I’m just envious. Envious that I haven’t taken a leap, or hardly even a step toward a creative dream like that. Envious that I wouldn’t have the guts to believe in myself enough. Envious that I don’t have Zak Efron’s abs. 

Maybe my initial reaction was only surface deep. I guess not all of us have the guts, the means, the talent, the drive to quit our jobs and draw.

Did Teddy Roosevelt hate Monarch butterflies?

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Teddy Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship in a Republic in 1910.

To me, this quote means that we need to keep trying things, fail or succeed, no matter what others say. Daring greatly means taking risks, even when (especially when) the odds are against you.

I’m horrible at following Teddy’s advice. I care too much about what the critics think and where the odds are stacked. I tell myself I don’t enjoy writing and choose a hobby that’s also enjoyable, but much easier, then I do that instead. I’m working on it, I’ve read the book, I’ve taken small steps toward the arena, I’ve written the blog posts. But eventually I’m going to have to actually take action (write something meaningful) despite my reservations.

When I think of the man in the arena, I think of my husband Donnie. He’s always been the man in the arena, (sometimes I have to push him into the arena) but hes always been different. At nearly 7 feet tall, one gets accustomed to standing out from the crowd. But he embraces it. He lives his life the same way, his way.

Last night, we were watching the life cycle of Monarch butterfly and there were literally hundreds of thousands of

butterflies in one tree (a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope – how cool is that?!). There were so many butterflies crammed on each limb that the branches drooped down. Meanwhile, the tree next to it, same type of tree, was completely empty. I remarked, “Donnie, if you were a monarch butterfly, you’d be on that other tree enjoying your space and mocking the butterflies that were uncomfortably cramped on the other tree, “Stupid butterflies.” He agreed.

 

While, being in the arena has major benefits, one thing Donnie never gets used to is the criticism. Who can? And, boy is he criticized. He’s failed. He’s succeeded. He’s dared greatly. But the other butterflies don’t understand that. They only understand sameness, routine, conformity. It’s instinctive. Donnie wouldn’t survive as a monarch butterfly.

Luckily! We are not butterflies. We are humans (duh). We need to stray from the kaleidoscope and try new things to grow and thrive. We have to go through a lot of pain, dust, sweat and blood to succeed and live whole lives. But it sucks in the arena! (Clearly I’m conflicted) Many of us (me) never enter the arena because we (I) anticipate the pain involved. Unfortunately, if we never enter the arena, we could be (gulp), “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

For the record, Teddy Roosevelt probably didn’t hate Monarch butterflies.

Everyday I’m hustlin’

I know how to play volleyball. I’ve played indoor 6s for two decades. I’m comfortable there. I’m good. I’m reliable. I’m confident. But beach volleyball is something I play a few times each summer with a few people who are just “messing around.”

I read somewhere that when trying something new, you should be humble. Learn all you can. Don’t pretend to know everything. If you do, people will resent you, overestimate you and you may not improve. Which is the ultimate goal when you’re learning.

So, when I started actually playing beach volleyball (no sideline beers), I took the humble route. I let everyone know “Hey everyone, I’m a beginner.” That was very hard for me to do. I don’t like failing publicly (I do a lot of that in Toastmasters… but I’m a beginner there so it’s ok). I don’t like sucking at things. It’s why I don’t bowl. Like, ever.

The reason I went the full disclosure route, is because I didn’t want those players to think that I’m a veteran who just sucks. This way the general consensus becomes “she’s really good for a n00b.”
If you’re gonna fail, it’s the best way to fail.

I made sure no one had lofty expectations of me. People gave me the benefit of the doubt when I messed up and made dumb moves.

It’s like when I used to wait tables and I’d have a bad night where nothing seemed to go right. I’d mess up so many times that finally I’d just tell the people, “It’s my first day.” The rough edges get smoothed, shoulders drop and people have a little more empathy for my errors. What? Everyone did it.

So when I went to my third high level doubles beach tournament, I told all my partners, hey, I’m a n00b. Among high verticals and even higher egos, it was the best approach.

It was a queen of the beach tournament. Basically, the idea behind that is: the best teammate wins. You are matched up with each person in your pool. You start each game with a new team. No prep time. No practice. Just playing. Whoever wins the most games with different teammates, wins the tournament.

This is very difficult because many partners spend years trying to find their mojo. We had 20 minutes and then it was over. But… we were all on the same playing field.

So back to me being a n00b. I was walking around all n00b-like. Putting my sand socks on the wrong feet and sunscreen in my hair (really selling the n00b-status). It was borderline hustling. I wasn’t the best among this group of women, but I definitely was not the worst, not even close. That’s the big problem with the n00b strategy. Employed in a competitive setting, like this cutthroat tournament among strangers, it becomes my glaring weakness.

My partners treated me like a toddler, coaching me and putting me in the least favorited positions. At this point, I know as much about strategy as they did. I’m not an idiot. But… I sure felt like one.

It was even worse that the other teams knew I was a n00b. That means, they picked on me. And BOY, did they pick on me. They served me every ball. Some nails (low and hard) and some lobs (high and easy). But, you better believe every single serve (and most attacks) went my way.

Typically, I can handle being picked on a little bit but this was a little boy on ant hill with a magnifying glass and I was writhing around in the scorching heat (this is an appropriate analogy because it was literally over 100 degrees that day). Even Kerri Walsh-Jennings couldn’t handle being picked on in Brazil at the 2016 Olympics. Competitors finally realized that maybe Misty May-Treanor was the amazing one and they should have been picking on Kerri all along. They more than made up for the misappropriation of serves by taking Kerri way out of her game by serving her off the biggest court in the world. She couldn’t pass, she couldn’t hit. Eventually, she fell apart. I, being a shorter player, never overestimated Kerri and always knew Misty was the real talent. But I felt for Kerri. It happens to the best of us.

So after hours of beatings and humiliation that July day, I was sunburned and dehydrated and so was my spirit.

I learned many lessons that day, which are as follows.

– Never underestimate your competitors or your teammates

– Be honest, don’t try to under promise so much people look down on you

– Be confident

– Hydrate

– Hustlin’ is only effective if you’re a phenom.

I think it’s ok to be honest about being new at something. It’s good to admit when you don’t know something. But maybe I took it a little too far with the n00b volleyball status.

Is today grey or chai?

Today is grey. After about as much sleep as a mom hosting an 8 year old sleepover is allowed, my eyes were swollen from the start, and my patience went on hiatus sometime between the midnight wrestling and the 3 a.m. nightmare announcement.

I shortchanged myself with one too few scoops of coffee in the maker. It was vanilla (not french vanilla) flavored water. Disappointment.

I drank it anyway. In desperation.

Coffee time went way too quickly as the herd of elephants demanded pancakes and tornadoed through the kitchen.

Ready for the kids to make their exits, I loaded up the car to make the drop-offs and we headed toward a day’s worth of basketball games. 

The fog-filled air made morning seem darker, denser. Sparkly white specs swirled around and around in the coarse wind before sticking to the dry grass. The blustery breeze stung my exposed skin.

After the last drop off,  the in-car sword fighting ended. It was at this point I was incredibly cognizant of the caffeine-less blood coursing through my veins.

Luckily, in Wichita, there’s a QT about every mile. “Chai. Latte.” Is all I said when the kids asked why we stopped.

I told the computer at the little cafe that I wanted a hot chai latte (unfortunately no soy… which most chai lovers know makes the chai latte so special) 

After I paid the very reasonable price for an average chai latte, I took a sip.

The clouds parted and the sun shone through. It heated my face when I looked to the sky. 
Glorious. 

There’s hope for this day after all!

I’m refreshed. Renewed. Revived!

Then smack! I ran straight into the side mirror of a huge truck. “OUCH!” I screamed, along with many other expletives. The sun’s not even out. What the hell? It’s still grey. It’s still windy. It’s still 10 degrees! I’m still standing outside!

I get in the car, trying to re-ignite the warmth that chai brings. I wrap my hands around my hot cup and breathe in the spicy, cinnamon, ginger, and clove black tea.

Ahhhh… is that the sun shining? I thought as I backed out and headed to basketball.

Perspective.

Nice guys finish last because kindness always wins.

“Be nice” is what I tell my kids when they are “not nice.” It’s also what I say to my adult friends, family members, irritable people waiting in line at Firehouse subs, anyone who’s not “being nice.” It never occurred to me to look deeper into what “be nice” actually means.
“I know there’s a difference between being nice and being kind, and I’m going to figure out what it is.”

That’s what I said when a good friend of mine told me she wanted to work on being nicer. (NOTE: It was not in response to me telling her to “be nice.”)

After some research, I think I’ve figured it out. It’s about motive.

Being nice is externally motivated. A nice person craves acceptance and acts nice in order to belong.

Being kind is internally motivated. A kind person cares less about what people think and more about “doing the right thing.”

TRUE CHARACTER IS WHO YOU ARE IN THE DARK

A nice person avoids confrontation and saying no. He will not express anger for fear of upsetting someone, but in the same right, will have anger outbursts due to long-held resentment.

A kind person doesn’t seek confrontation, but will not avoid confrontation if it means being untrue to himself.

A nice person is not true to himself for fear that he won’t be accepted

A kind person is authentic and is not diminished by others’ disapproval.

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE

Being a “kind” person is my ideal self. It’s why I read all those self development books. I would love to always be authentic, true to myself, care less about what others think, no need for approval, honest. Okay, I’ll be honest. The last year, I’ve done way better at the genuine part. 

 In the article I read, it said that most people look up to those who aren’t afraid to be genuine. But, sometimes, the real, fallible you isn’t socially acceptable. Sometimes, doing what’s right isn’t popular. These are the times, when I really look up to those kind people, the ones who are strong, confident and do what’s right, regardless of what other people think.

If you want to stop being “nice” and start being “kind,” stop looking to others for love and approval and look inward instead. 

I think I’m going to stop telling everyone to be nice. It’s the kind people who really have their shit together.

Couples who idealize each other are happier

Michaelangelo believed that his sculptures were resting in the stone, waiting for him to release them. The way I see it, that’s how we all are. We are resting in stone and over time, we are sculpted. Into what, well, it’s determined by the sculptors.
For better or worse, we choose our sculptors. They are the people with whom we choose to spend our time. Our friends, our family, our spouses. They sculpt us. Most importantly our spouses. I think it’s because this is the person with whom we are most invested.

Generally, the Michaelangelo Phenomenon means, “Couples who idealize each other are happier.” But it’s not just idealizing, it’s helping each other become our ideal selves. 

I’m not always so certain that we’re doing this marriage thing right (we learn as we go).  

Are there times when we might have a bit of an inflated opinion of each other? Yes.

Are there times when we annoy the crap out of each other? Yes.

The Michaelangelo Phenomenon exists between us. This is one area in which I know Donnie and I are killing it. We believe in each other, we idealize each other, we sculpt each other. Without that support, it would be damned hard to achieve our dreams.
In fact, I think we annoy other people with our blind support for each other. Donnie regularly thanks me for my “unbiased opinion” of his work. And he knows that this blog has got some pretty eloquent writing in it, and he doesn’t have to read a word. (I’ve read some out loud to him, he’s not much of a reader.) If you asked him if I could be president, he’d probably say “Yes, if she put her mind to it.” That’s how annoyingly supportive he is.

The downside to the Michaelangelo Phenomenon is when one or the other is not working toward his/her ideal self. It can be really frustrating when the person who supports you, believes in you, motivates you, sees you failing. I know I want to write a book. Each day that goes by that a book isn’t being written makes me feel guilty. Not only am I letting myself down, but I’m letting him down. Because he believes in me.

This is the part we try to work on. It may not be the right time. It may not be the right goal. So, we must back off or redirect our annoying support.

All in all, I think, with the right sculptor, the Michaelangelo Phenomenon does make couples (people) happier.

When the sculpture is finally revealed, it’s going to be amazing.

You’ve Got to Stand for Something

I was 9 when I first heard the song You’ve Got to Stand for Something by Aaron Tippin. There’s a Mellancamp version but it’s super weird.

🎶 You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything 🎶

It wasn’t until I got older that the lyrics actually meant something to me. Growing up, I was always very gullible. I’d listen to this song and think, “Yeah, I do need to stand for something.” That’s how gullible I was, letting songs tell me what to do.

Still, anytime I stood up for myself I thought about that twangy lyric. It’s true. It’s good to have firm, unwavering beliefs. 

But…

Is it possible to have an open mind and firm beliefs? 

My beliefs have changed over the years. Does that mean I’ll fall for anything? I could fall, but I’m grower and a changer. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. I like to think that I won’t let my pride stand in the way of believing/standing for what I think is right. Maybe this year I’ll stand for something and then next year (with new information, experiences), I’m standing for something else. 

I would not knowingly continue to stand ignorantly. 

I guess I’m still the same ol’ gullible 9 year old. 

Let your creak flag fly

My bathroom door has a creak. 

Creak open. Creak close. With 3 kids, that door is revolving in my house. Creak, creak, creak, creak.

The creaking was about to drive me insane when I remembered that I have some WD-40. I grabbed the can from the garage and smartly sprayed the hinges. Then I patted myself on the back for a job well done.

I gloated about my problem solving abilities and demonstrated for Donnie. I opened the door. I closed the door. I opened the door. I closed the door.

Silence.

I smiled. 

Donnie made that face he makes when he’s really trying not to roll his eyes at me.

The next morning, as I’m getting ready for work, the door smacks me in the back of the head. Turns out, the un-lubricated hinge was keeping the door from closing on its own. So, now, when I get ready in the morning, I hold my arm behind me and push the door back every time it comes a swingin’. 

What is it called when you solve one problem and it causes another to appear? I’ve been trying to figure out if I can use this as a metaphor for something in my life. 

At this point, all I can think is that I wish I had my creak back.

We need each other

I like to be alone.

I’m one of my favorite people. I don’t mean to sound like a narcissist (it’s not like I spend all my time alone practicing my smile in the mirror). I firmly believe that time with myself makes me a better person. Loving myself makes me a better person.

Being alone is easy for me because I’m an introvert. I love my family and I love my friends but too much of a crowd can be overwhelming and exhausting. 

Thanksgiving is the perfect time for me to reflect on what I love about being alone…. but I won’t. Being sick and having most of my family out of town, I spent a lot of time alone over the last week. Contrary to what I always say, this week has actually reminded me that I need other people.

I have a weight room in basement, and yet I get my best workout at the YMCA. As I was working out, I realized that I had increased my weight, despite a solid 4 days of sickness. I people-watched for a minute and noticed that everyone seemed to be killin’ it on Black Friday. Is it the competition? The solidarity? Whatever it is, I felt rejuvenated. We need each other. 

As much as I love being alone, too much isolation can be lonely and overwhelming. It was nice to get out of the house and speak to another adult using my actual voice box. I rode a wave of extrovertism as I said bye to the YMCA people and danced my way out the door. 

I suggested the boys and I head to the store. 

Let’s shop! Let’s go to Lowes! Then we’ll go home, and we’ll do some painting! Then a nice long walk! Then I’ll make some homemade dinner and finish that book I started!

I started the car, pulled out of the lot and headed home. The boys took a nap and I brewed some tea and reconnected with House of Cards for the next few hours.

Sometimes I just really need my alone time.

Rainbow Riley

Tonight, I had a date with my 4 year old.

He held the door open for me. He ordered his own food. He got his own drink. He sat across from me (instead of nearly on my lap). He ate his food with a knife and a fork. He used a napkin (a napkin, people). He made conversation.

This 20 minute dinner on our way to basketball practice was very personal, very one-on-one. It was a definite aside from our usual hustling around, me yelling at him to keep up and then chasing after him as he runs across the parking lot. 

I’m pretty impatient with Riley. I think it’s partially because of his being the 3rd kid and partially because he’s so mature. But Riley has a very special place in my heart. 

I got pregnant with Riley after two previous pregnancy losses. In some circles (pregnancy forums), babies after loss are called rainbow babies. The idea is the rainbow after the storm. Not that my other pregnancies were a storm but that they were painful, scary. 

As such, we wanted to add Rainbow to Riley’s name in remembrance and celebration. His full name Riley Reyn resembles that notion. We just wanted a simple thing, not over the top. No rainbow walls, no rainbow bedding, no rainbow striped hair colors. Just his middle name. 

Not knowing the origin of his name, Riley’s favorite color is rainbow. 

I think I should go on dates with my 4 year old more often. 

Tristesse

Malheureusement, je suis malade.

Je ne peut pas joue mes enfants. Je ne peut pas travaille dans ma maison ou mon table.

Ce repos est très barbant. J’ai étudié la langue du français et regardé la télévision.

Alors, cet vacance est horrible.

Pauvre moi. Pauvre, pauvre moi.

White Chicken Chili… Pioneer woman inspired.

I hate baking, but I looooove to cook. I think it’s because, cooking is a lot more forgiving. If I mess up, I can easily tweak here and there to get it back on track. The people I’m feeding are none the wiser.

Here’s what I cooked last night and the adventure that got me to one of the best soups I’ve made… sort of on accident.

8ish cajun grilled chicken thighs (#darkmeatmatters)
3 or 4 cans of Northern beans (or Navy beans, which are also white, it makes no sense.)
1 red onion
A spill of garlic powder (if you’re out of fresh garlic)
8 CUPS of chicken broth or bouillion
1.5 TBSP of cumin or 3/4 tbsp of chili powder if you’re out of cumin because you use it so much
Salt and pepper
1 can of Rotel
3 TBSP of butter (not margarine, are you kidding me with margarine?)
2 TBSP of Masa or cornmeal (because who just has Masa in their cabinets?)
1 CUP of whole milk (It’s almost never ok to use Skim)
5 or so slices of monterrey jack or pepper jack cheese. The jack part is important.

This recipe is loosely based on Pioneer Woman’s White Chili.

As I recall from last night’s soup-making party, here’s how I compiled this soup.

1. I diced up the onion as much as I could until my eyes were burning so badly I was dancing around the kitchen. All parties must have dancing.
2. Toss all those onion bits into the crockpot quickly. Those heathens won’t get the best of me!
Note: My crockpot has a stovetop setting, so if yours doesn’t, better use a pot on the stovetop.
3. Sauté on medium heat with 3 TBSP of butter and a spill of garlic powder. Fresh garlic is preferred but I cook with garlic nearly every night, so I was out. The recipe said 2 minutes but I like to make sure there are no crunchy bits in my soup… so I held out an extra minute or two.
4. I went ahead and started tossing more stuff in. Like, the chili powder (or cumin) and the can of Rotel. Green chilis would have been better, but I always have Rotel on hand. Sprinkle a dash of salt and pepper in the pot.
5. Now seemed like a good time to add the chicken.
6. Then 2 cans of beans.
7. 8 cups of chicken broth. I used bouillion cubes and 8 cups of water.
8. Then I frantically started scooping out some of the water because I realized that my beans are canned and not dried. Then I Kendra that I’ve ruined my soup and am now hoping to save the beans from drowning. Leave about 2 cups of the water in the pot.
BONUS: If you use bouillons like me, you’ll have more concentrated flavor and less liquid… just go with it.
9. I took the temp to high and removed the lid until it started simmering and then dropped the temp and replaced the lid. I set the time for 30 minutes, which gave me just enough time to get Riley bathed and in bed and address 3 post bedtime visits to answer “What is tomorrow?” “Why is that light on?” and “Why do my eyes hurt?”
10. I returned to the pot to find the beans disintegrated. Hm. At this point, I added another can of beans.
11. Then, I let it simmer another 10 minutes while I made sure Logan got to bed and actually brushed his teeth.
12. I returned to the pot to find it disappointingly lean on the beans. I added another can of beans. That did it.
13. Then I went back to the recipe. I mixed (I mean, really mixed) the cornmeal with the whole milk and let it set for about 1-2 minutes.
14. After that I poured the mixture into the soup to help thicken it and to also give it a corn-y flavor.
15. Then I let it simmer for 10 minutes while I cued up Gilmore Girls for Anya and me to watch.
16. I tasted the soup but it was much to hot to determine the flavor so, as a precaution, I added 3 slices of pepper jack cheese. Fun fact: Jack cheese is the best cheese for soup because it melts to a liquid and not stringy.
17. I added two more slices of pepper jack for good measure and kept the soup on low for a little while longer before storing it in the fridge.

So, there you have it! A white chicken chili! So many mistakes… but it still turned out yummy. I love cooking.

3 bricklayers… and finding my true calling

This morning on my way to work, I heard the parable of the three bricklayers. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this parable before but I forget a lot of things if they don’t directly apply to my life at that present moment. (It’s good to have a blog).

Three bricklayers were working side by side.

When asked: “What are you doing?”
The first bricklayer: “I’m laying bricks.”
The second bricklayer: “I’m putting up a wall.”
The third bricklayer: “I’m building a cathedral.”
bricks

To me, this parable is about perspective. Based on the type of water cooler talk I hear (“Is it 5 yet?” and “I can’t wait until Friday” and “Are you trying to look busy?”), most people are laying bricks or putting up a wall. What I mean by that, is that people see a task and complete that task because they have to. They do the work, they get the money, appreciation, recognition, whatever. They don’t do the work because they love to do the work.

Most people don’t think of their jobs as a “calling” or a “vocation;” To most, a job is a job or a career. I’m definitely not completely exempt. I won’t lie, I’ve dreaded Mondays and watched the clock. I think we all have at some point.

You spend your whole life dreaming that you will someday stumble across your calling and then you will live the rest of your life fulfilling that calling. It’s not that easy.

I think it starts by following aspirations and it ends with perspective. I’m a writer. Am I writing famous acceptance speeches? No. Am I writing screenplays for comedies? Sadly no. But I am writing… a lot. That’s where my calling lies. I write because I love to write. When I’m writing, I’m not watching the clock. Most of the time, I don’t get any special bonuses or awards or recognition. Sometimes, when I’m writing, 5 p.m. on Friday evening can come and go and my mind is so engaged in thought and in practice that I’m practically floating over New Zealand.

To me, that… is building a cathedral.

But they’re doing it, why can’t I?

I was watching Logan play 7 year old flag football and loving every minute of it! But… sadly, they were losing.

Logan came over to me at half time to express his frustration (i.e. Started crying because he didn’t want to lose to his best friend’s team). He said, “It’s just not fair, the flags are hard to pull so they keep tackling us. I’m going to start tackling. If they can do it, so can we.”

This is strictly a no-tackling league.

Big parenting moment here. I live for parenting moments (well the easy ones).

I told Logan, “Just because the other team is breaking the rules, it doesn’t mean that you should.”

Logan said, “But it’s not fair. They are getting away with it and winning the game.”

So I said, “It’s not about being fair. It’s about doing what’s right, even when others aren’t. It’s not your job to make sure things are fair and even. It’s your job to do your best and do what’s right.”

This was an easy for Logan. He’s got a good moral compass. He knows what’s right and not right.

Now if only adults could learn this lesson just as easy.

Doers vs. Watchers

This morning I had a conversation with Anya (13) about consumers vs. producers. She shared a famous quote that she liked on Instagram, it’s been more of the same since she started using social media two months ago.

I told her she should consider taking some of her photos and interpreting famous quotes instead of simply, re-blogging (inside joke).

Anya: But Mom, that takes a lot more work.
Me: Yes, it does. But you dont want to spend all your time consuming because the world needs producers.
Anya: Wut?

Cue the whole meaning behind the name of this blog: elephant poop. Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant. Consume a little and then Produce and keep producing and keep producing. It’s good for your soul, it’s good for your skills and it’s good for the world.img_0775

But, knowing this, why do most people resist producing?

Anya said it. “Too hard”
But why is it hard? I can type words on WordPress. I can get my paints out and express myself. I can start a support group and get 630 members in order to grow the game of beach volleyball in Wichita, Ks (did that in one day, btw).

It’s hard because we’re scared. Watching other people make waves and try things is easy. We justify our not-doing-ness with excuses:

– I’m not good at that
– I don’t have time
– It’s dumb

It’s ok to be a consumer. Producers need consumers to be successful! But, we sometimes take even further measures and criticize those who are doing:

– That’s not going to work
– I’ll wait until I see proof and then I’ll try it
– That’s a terrible idea
– That’s not the way most people do it

It’s bad enough to make excuses for not doing. It’s even worse when you feel soooo guilty for not doing, not being part of something that could be so great (but yes, might fail), that you make others feel bad when they have the courage to be a doer.

The greatest innovators are always criticized with the reasons above and more! Yet they have the courage to keep innovating through criticism and failure. It’s what makes them great!

So… if you see someone who’s pooping like an elephant, inching out a narrow branch, trying to reach something new, taking a chance, failing (gulp), don’t put them down. Don’t tell them they will fail because others have failed or because you think it’s improbable. Encourage them. Support them. Because it’s hard enough standing on that branch alone without you shaking the tree.

“When we are happy, we are always good”… or are we?

quotefancy-380144-3840x2160“When we are happy, we are always good, but when we are good, we are not always happy.”
Oscar Wilde

What does that even mean?

What does “good” mean?
Like when someone asks me “How’s it going?” and I say “Good” (I don’t want to seem pretentious so I say “Good” instead of “Well” even though I know that “Well” is correct… is writing that in this post pretentious?). Is that what “Good” means? As in, “healthy”? Or, “in a good frame of mind”? Or, “nothing is currently wrong”? Or, “leave me alone I don’t want to tell you the truth so I’ll just say ‘good’ and keep walking”?

Some interpretations of this quote say that “good” refers to your actions. In which case, when I’m happy, I’ll behave… but just because I’m behaving, that doesn’t mean I’m happy. That makes sense. I think truly happy people generally make good moral decisions and vice versa.

HOWEVER, I’ve made plenty of good decisions when I’ve been blue, depressed even.

So. What does it really mean then??
I think what Oscar Wilde is trying to say is that it’s easier to be good, productive, compassionate, loving, supportive, empathetic people when we’re happy. But when we’re not happy, those things are much more difficult to achieve.

However, my description is not nearly as poetic.

The Road to Hell

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Sounds like something a really judgmental grandmother would say. But… it’s a proverb. Another way of saying it is “Hell is full of good meanings, but Heaven is full of good works.”

The idea (which is more obvious in the latter) is that those who meant to do good but never did, will end up in hell. Those who do good, however, will rise to heaven in all their glory.

Makes sense.

hellWhen I first heard this quote I thought of even another meaning. Those who do bad deeds with good intentions are going to hell. Say, I punch you in the face because you hurt my child. Now, I was trying to defend my child (good intention) but I committed a rueful act (punching you in the face)… and, even if you deserved it, I’m going to hell.

I’m not sure it’s quite as cut and dried as that. I do bad things for good reasons all the time! And… I do good things for bad reasons! Where’s the proverb on that one? Anyone? Yes, if you do charitable work for the credit or post on social media of your church event because you want people to know how devoted you are, (when in fact you’re too busy taking selfies and gossiping about the majority of the congregation’s fashion choices to actually be devoted), I’d say that the road to hell is paved with that as well.

In conclusion, I believe the road to hell is paved with a lot of different materials, a mosaic, so to speak. So we all need to stop acting like judgmental grandmas because it’s quite possible we carry some of those materials as well.

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

You is also illiterate, but… I choose to look past that part to see the message from the gut-wrenching, infuriating, inspiring movie, The Help.

I love how “kind” is in there. And it’s first!

I think we (I) spend too much time worrying about whether our (my) kids are at the top of their classes, the best on the soccer team or the fastest runner, first to tie shoes, first to learn ABCs.

We spend so much time and effort molding our kids into perfect, successful human beings that we forget about the human part.

Your kid may be the smartest kid in the class but I just watched him push a little kid out of the way, look back at the crying toddler and keep going. I don’t want my kids to be that way.

I won’t tell my kids “You is smart” because then they will think, “I know all I need to know and don’t need learn anymore.”

I’m not perfect though, in the past, I have focused a lot on grades and excellence in sports (nee every aspect of life). I’ve recently come to the realization (parents are always learning) that if my kids fail 5th grade science, it doesn’t mean they will become losers. It doesn’t mean they will be homeless, or worse, live with me until they’re 30.

I’ve started focusing on what makes them special, what makes them happy, what they work hard toward.

My son is below average in reading, but off the charts in math. I decided not to worry so much about the Cs he got in spelling and reading. It’s obviously not his thing. He will have to work at it, but I won’t set unrealistic goals for him in something that he already struggles with. That kid has a heart of gold. “You is kind” is his life’s motto. He’s got empathy for miles. Practicing empathy is not always easy, believe me, I know, so if kindness is your kid’s thing, I think he’ll be alright.

I know he’ll be alright because that kid has a heart of gold. “You is kind” is his life’s motto. He’s got empathy for miles. Practicing empathy is not always easy, believe me, I know, so if kindness is your kid’s thing, I think he’ll be alright, too.

The fact that I notice but choose to ignore the illiteracy of “You is kind. You is smart. You is important,” shows that I’m growing (as a mom and a perfectionist) and focusing on the very important message and not the delivery.

Also, watch The Help. It’s good for your heart.

 

I’m so old… but not as old as Cameron Diaz.

Today I woke up to the lovely ambiance of the crackle-popping of my knees.

I got out of bed.
Crackle pop, Crackle pop, Crackle pop.

I walked down the stairs.
Crackle pop, Crackle pop, Crackle pop.

I made breakfast.
Crackle pop, Crackle pop, Crackle pop.

Usually, the crackle pop is more annoying than painful. But today, there was pain there. I hate these stairs that I’ve always loved. Who the hell buys a 2-story house when they’re going to get old soon!? I began to think, “I’m getting super old. My body is falling apart.”

cameron-diaz-1-600x450So, the next natural step is to Google. I googled to see which celebrities are older than me and still actively reinventing themselves, still “cool,” not dead yet (eg Cameron Diaz). Turns out there are a lot of famous people who are older than me and don’t seem old at all!

Feeling like a spring chicken, I crackle-popped out the door. Then I ran straight smack into my new garage screen door. Now my face hurts and my knees hurt.

I’m not that old. I’m just clumsy, I justify. I popped a couple of my husband’s glucosamine just in case (well, after I Googled all the ingredients and read at least 3 articles of potential side effects.)

Turns out, in 6-8 weeks, my knees will be good as new! That is, if I don’t run into any more doors (unlikely).

How to let go of always being in control

Question: How many of you would say you are in control of your own life?
Question: Raise your hand if you agree with this statement. “When it comes to my life. It’s important to always be calm, cool and collected.”

The key word there is “always.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever be calm cool and collected.

BUT… As adults, I think we don’t allow ourselves to be goofy or silly because we think we always need to have it together. Many of us are so worried about what other people think or about what could happen if… We present ourselves as this perfectly put together package. We won’t take any risks because we might fail and then how would that look? When we were kids we wanted to grow up so badly… And look at us now. Just look at us!

Dad in control
When I think of control, I think of my dad. I imagine a time my family went to Wilson Lake. We went to Wilson Lake every summer. But this time was different. I was finally old enough to try waterskiing. We got out on my Aunt Barbie’s boat and she said it’s best that someone demonstrate how to water-ski before I jumped out there. So my dad, the athlete and the “everything expert,” jumped into the water.

My dad had never waterskied before.

He put the skis on, grabbed the ropes and gave Uncle Ken the thumbs up. Ken gunned it. Dad fell. Ken gunned it. Dad fell. Ken gunned. Dad fell.

A self-proclaimed bodybuilder, my dad was very strong in those days. He had quite a grip. So, that wasn’t the problem. Being the gritty man he is, he tried again. And again, and again.

Each time he went up, his shoulders were hunched and his whole body looked incredibly stiff. We watched from the boat as he leaned back and forth. Then Aunt Barbie said, “He looks like he’s trying to drive the boat.” We all laughed. It really did. He was trying to control the boat from the back.

In only a few minutes, my dad held up the sign for stop and fell back. He didn’t want to ski anymore, he said it was “dumb” and “not fun” and “exhausting.”

Well yeah! I don’t know how familiar you are with waterskiing but… that’s not how you do it. You’re supposed to lean back and let the boat pull you.

He could not relinquish control to the boat. This is classic my dad. He always has to be cool and in control. But, control is an illusion! He had no chance in hell of controlling the boat, so why try?

Me in control
I can articulate my dad’s thoughts so well because, gulp, I’m the same way. I’ve struggled with the illusion of control my whole life as well.

When I was 5 months pregnant, I lost a baby due to a very rare genetic abnormality. Something happened to me when I lost that baby. I was devastated. It hurt more than anything I’d ever experienced. I was confused and I questioned my own mortality. My anxiety skyrocketed. I worried. I worried about my kids. I worried about me. I worried about my husband. I became obsessed with all my worry. At times, my anxiety got so bad that I had actual physical symptoms. Feet, hands numbing. Headaches. Heart palpitations. Digestive issues. Then I really had something to worry about!

I burned my hand once and it got infected. I thought, “Welp. This is how I die” It was about that bad.

I justified that if I think of every possible scenario that could go wrong, nothing will go wrong. Because what are the odds that the very thing your researching, obsessed over, will be the thing that goes wrong? Maybe on some level I thought that’s what happened with my baby. I was caught off guard. I wanted to prevent that from happening again. I was trying to control and predict my future, my family’s futures, with worry.

It felt like no one understood why I was so anxious. Most would say that I worry too much and laugh it off. I just stopped talking about it and started internalizing my worries.

That was not a way to live.

Having worries and negative thoughts is human. Like having hands. Hold your hands up like this. These are your negative thoughts. Bring those thoughts closer to your face. Closer. Closer. Now your negative thoughts are so close to you they are impairing your view of the world. This is how I was living… or not living.

I knew I had to let go. To relax. I was gripping those ropes so hard my hands were bleeding.

A solution

Then I was introduced to Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability. It came out at the perfect time for me. Brene says we should let go of certain things in order to cultivate a wholehearted life. Take a look at the list on the left, which of them describe you? Trace your finger to the right of that one to see what you could have if you let go of perfectionism, need for certainty, to always be in control.

With Brene’s help and meditation, I’ve worked through my anxiety (and it is work). One of my biggest struggles is to be who I am, where I am. I internalize and overanalyze too much.

Sometimes I try to emulate my sister. A woman who has more potential stressors in nearly every aspect of life than anyone I know. And yet, she has no problem letting go. I think the advice “laugh a little every day” started by someone who had met. When she’s having fun, everyone is having fun.

She doesn’t constantly worry about when her son will have his next seizure. She’s ALWAYS living in the moment. She doesn’t worry about being embarrassed, she gets right out on the dance floor and does the humpty dance at the company Christmas Party, with no shame. And people LOVE her for it.

By letting go of being cool and always in control, Dawn’s the coolest person in the room!

I think it is so important to let go of being in control and of what others think because it robs us of some pretty amazing and necessary experiences in life.

What’s more amazing than waterskiing??

Now take a look at you. Are you often in the moment, sitting back, letting boat pull you? Or are you gripping the ropes?

Write about something presently in your life that is “worth it”

Toastmasters.

Sweaty palms, sweaty pits, sweaty-ness.
Shaky hands, shaky voice, shaky confidence.
Toastmasters is a weekly reminder that I need more Toastmasters. As much as I dread the roller coaster of anxiety that happens for one hour once a week, I know each ride takes me to higher highs and… Weightless free falls.

I’ve seen a change over time. The confidence, the eloquence, the dry shirts. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, it’s annoying.

It’s worth it.

I hate hate.

I hate my phone.
I hate kale.
I hate Justin Bieber.

What’s with us and carelessly throwing around the word hate? I honestly don’t think I could muster up enough energy to hate an annoying pop star.

I probably notice it more because, in my house, hate is a bad word. I implemented this “mom law” years ago because, frankly, I didn’t want my kids saying “I hate you.” or “I hate her.” or “I hate them.” It was to protect others and to protect them from saying something regretful in a moment of anger.

So when I see the word hate in the context of some mundane thing (like kale), it’s funny. It’s absurd. And, honestly, it’s warranted. Kale is disgusting. Kale is hateworthy.

But kale is a gateway hate subject. Bear with me. When we use hate to describe how we feel about hairy, bitter spinach, it’s easy. It doesn’t hurt anyone. But then we continue to make the word hate part of our vocabulary.

We talk about our phones or our internet. We hate celebrities because they are annoying, or popular, or successful. Still, no one’s getting hurt, right?

But as we get used to saying “hate” all the time, it loses it’s power to us. We turn our hatred from objects and inconveniences and distant figures to real people. That’s when people start getting hurt.

I hate that woman because she thinks she’s so perfect.
I hate that guy because everyone loves him.
I hate you.

This is what goes through my head if I hear kids say, “I hate cleaning the house.” or “I hate that movie.” I worry, that eventually, that hate will hit a person, and it will hurt.

Playing competitive beach volleyball: How old is too old?

This past weekend I played in a doubles beach volleyball tournament. Amazing right? It’s what I’d always dreamed of! Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved beach volleyball. Unfortunately, I live in the Midwest where there aren’t too many beaches, or low wind days, or beach volleyball players.

I spent so many hours begging, pleading my friends to give the sand a try. “You’ll love it,” I swore. Some tried and continued to play but most quit and went back to the indoor hardcourts, where the game is easier, more predictable and familiar.

gif-keyboard-8870400616303424519Not me though, I still kept trying. Year after year, at the end of every summer, I was upset that I didn’t get to play enough in the sand. Sounds like a child, I know. But it wasn’t the sandcastles I was after, it was the thrill of the game, the squishiness of the sand and let’s face it, I got to hit the ball a lot more.

Then something amazing happened, in December of 2015, an indoor sand volleyball facility was built. Just 25 minutes away from my house!

I created a Facebook group and endlessly promoted events. I’m helping grow the game in the Midwest because it wasn’t available for me in my teens and twenties. It’s an amazing opportunity for young volleyball players today.

We finally got a decent showing and regular crowd ready to play in the sand. One thing was a little off though. This regular crowd is at least 10 years younger than me. Any given day out on that indoor beach, I’m close to the oldest one in the group.

It’s an inner struggle each time I step onto the sandy court. Should I still be playing? Am I too old? How old is too old? I’m 34 and I can still play pretty well. Current AVP players are my age! Kerri Walsh is older than me! But these are just kids. I could be their mom (or a least their mom’s younger sister, the fun aunt?).

I remember playing with the old geezers (I’m sure they were like 30) and thinking that they were either too slow, too committed to old rulebooks or they wouldn’t let me play because I’m a woman.
too old
I think of those geezers when I step out onto the sand and look around. Innocent eyes, acne and french braids. I can’t help but feel like the old geezer.

But things have changed, or my perspective has. I’m not like those old geezers. Age is just a number. To me, it’s all in how you look at it… and how you behave. You’ll never catch me saying, “I’m too old for this or that.” At least not yet.

The moment we start playing, I’m the teacher. I’m the Todd Rogers. Yes. I am old among the crowd of budding volleyball players, but I’m still out there and I’m schooling them.

The time for my generation to rule the sand may have passed, but for now, I’m still Queen of the Beach.

The Ugly Christmas Sweater

Every year at Christmastime, I notice the Ugly Sweater tradition. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s cool (not literally). It’s fun to make everyone dress ugly ironically. Whoever has the ugliest sweater wins. And then the one who wins is Aunt Denise who actually didn’t know there would be a contest. If you think about it, it is a little mean.

That didn’t stop my family from hosting its first Ugly Christmas Sweater party several years ago. I went out to Goodwill because that’s where you could find all the really ugly Christmas sweaters. (Conveniently, Old Navy has a line of ugly sweaters now. If you go this route, you better hope Uncle Carl doesn’t pick the same Old Navy ugly sweater. You want to dress ironically ugly, not actually ugly.

Anyway, I found the ugliest, most ill-fitted bags of wool available at Goodwill that year. One for each member in my family. We wore our sweaters proudly and laughed at the horrible looking sweaters my relatives showed up in.

I’m not sure if it was my cousins spiked wassal or the ridiculously effective sweater I was wearing, but I started really sweating. It was soooo hot. Everyone was hot. We were miserable and uncomfortable and sweaty and we couldn’t wait for the contest to be over. We opened the doors and window to let IN the draft. These sweaters were super effective. After the contest, all the sweaters were peeled. The fun was over.

And my family never did Ugly Sweater Christmas again. Every time I hear of someone doing an Ugly Sweater Christmas party, I think, “How fun for them!” and immediately feel an empathic bead of sweat rolling down my forehead.

 

The cool kids don’t get it.

Last night Anya had her 6th grade music program. I think 6th grade is about the time I stopped doing music programs and started doing choir.

I joined choir because it was “cool” at the time. Yes, in 6th grade, choir is cool. But what wasn’t cool was that I had an alto singing voice. All the “cool” girls were sopranos. You know? That princess-y soprano sound you’d hear in all the 90s Disney movies. Still, I sang in my alto voice. I liked choir. It was nice to belong in a group.

For days, Anya has been swearing to me that she “hates” music and singing. She tells me after this, she’ll never be in choir or anything lame like that. It’s embarrassing and the songs aren’t cool and “We don’t have to go to the concert. It’s not mandatory.”

I know Anya doesn’t hate music and singing because I hear music and singing blaring from her room every day. Even Mozart. I hear her practicing her program’s songs.

Tell me she hates music and singing.

At the concert, I watched Anya walk onto the stage with about a thousand other “cool kids.” When the songs started, I could hear singing but few mouths were moving. Eyes were darting around the risers to see who was “uncool” enough to care.

Then, I noticed. A smile on Anya’s face. She was into it. She was belting out the songs and smiling, and maybe even dancing a little bit. She knew all the Hebrew words to the Haida Song.

Tell me she hates music and singing.

The group received a standing ovation. I was proud of my little 6th grader for letting her vulnerability show at the risk of appearing “uncool.” She was proud of her performance. She had a great time and it showed.

After the concert, Anya comes over to me, “I’m so glad that’s over. How embarrassing.”

The boys side of the gym. 

The mostly men side of the weight room is like a boys’ only club. It’s just understood that the men workout here and the women workout over there with all those tiny pink weights and a billion ellipticals. There are reasons for this segregation, men like to grunt and drop 400 lbs. of weight that shakes the entire floor and women prefer to not be gawked at while we’re lifting.

A few months ago, I decided to forget all that. I can hang. I reached back to my roots as a tomboy and decided I really wanted lift at the boys’ club. All the cool equipment is over there! I was done with Bosu balls and the inner thigh machine (you know the one).

Plus, I don’t care if the guys think I’m “not doing that right” or if they gawk or judge (I say to myself, very convincingly). I put my headphones on and queued my music to my Kick Ass Workout Mix.

Now, about 3-4 days a week, I’m 1 of 2-3 women in a gaggle of bulky men.

At first, I was timid to ask about using equipment and took up about 4 square feet of space. If a machine was taken, I would skip that set until the end of my workout. Now I stretch out my arms. I jump in on sets. I feel completely comfortable lifting way less than what most of the guys lift.

After a few months, I’ve realized it’s not so bad over there. There’s a bit of camaraderie among the men and I’m like their mascot now, the token female. I think they respect me for lifting with them. And I’ve gotten used to the earthquaking weight drops.

I feel most at peace when…

Journal prompt: “I feel most at peace when…”

The first thing that comes to my mind is “when I’m doing something creative.” I’m lying. Specifically, the first thing that came to my mind was drawing but I didn’t want to admit that because it sounds silly. Or at least, I think it does.

I should probably say something like “writing” or “exercise” or “playing with my kids.” When I asked Anya (11) when she feels most at peace, she said “When I’m sleeping, I’m the most at peace.” And that makes perfect sense to me.

When I’m writing, I feel like I’m in a sudden downpour and I’m running around frantically with my rain barrel trying to catch as much watery goodness as possible. In other words: No peace.

When I’m exercising, I have a goal. It’s solid determination. Does it make me happy? Yes. Does it make me feel more alive? Yes. Peaceful? No way. With all the adrenaline pumping through my veins, I can’t even imagine what peace is like.

When I’m playing with my kids, I should be at peace, right? Not always. I’m Momming. I’m making sure these kids grow up to become responsible adults. I’m the designated responsible adult. Plus, I’m too busy trying to conquer the task of not touching the floor of the playground fort while monkey-swinging it all the way to the other side. Playing with my kids is fun, not peaceful.

When I’m drawing in my private sketchbook that has a lock on it (the lock is invisible, as in it’s understood that this is not for random perusal), I feel the most at peace. I can oft be seen sighing peacefully while sketching flowers from our flower garden or drafting out compositions for some of my favorite quotes.

So without shame (ok, maybe a little shame), I say that drawing is a no pressure, creative outlet that brings me peace.

 

 

What is calling me right now?

My journal prompt for today. “What is calling me right now?”

Right now. As in right this second. My lunch is calling me. I’m so hungry! Be right back.

Ok, I’ve got my Mason Jar Salad and I’ve set my timer for 10 minutes. I’m ready to write about what is calling me now.

In reference to my Mason Jar Salad, I’d say health. I’ve always been a sort of a nut job (I mean health nut, or do I?). But this year, I’ve been forced into really working on my physical and mental health.

 

Forced, you say? Yes. After having my gall bladder removed, I’ve discovered that the common knowledge that you can “live without a gall bladder” is flawed. Can you live? Yes. But is it fun? Depends how you look at it. Life as you know it is over.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Ok, I am. But… being forced to eat healthy ALL THE TIME, while a nuisance, is good for me. I’m getting really good at saying no to dessert and avoiding donut days. Some days I wish I could inhale a cheeseburger and wash it down with a thick chocolate shake, but then reality hits. I know what I feel like when I splurge and I don’t want that. It causes pain, anxiety, sadness (I wouldn’t say depression, but just the blues).

My lifestyle changes have been strict, to put it lightly. I exercise more. I eat more salads. I purposefully de-stress. It’s boring some days. It’s very very hard some days. But… It makes me feel great! Feeling healthy is worth all the sacrifice. Who knew that I’d have to have a vital organ removed to discover that?

I’m not sure I’m doing this journal prompt right, but if someone asked me what’s calling me at lunch time and I had 10 minute to give them answer, it’d have to be something to do with food.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

“If I knew I couldn’t fail, I would…” Man, if that’s not the ultimate open-ended statement. Honestly, if I knew there was absolutely positively no way that I could fail, I would do everything, anything.

I would publish a book.

I would be a freelance copywriter.

I would create more artwork.

I would start a jewelry-making business.

I would become a fashion blogger.

I would become a health expert.

I would become  life coach, therapist.

I would pull off the greatest bank heist in history.

This list could go to the moon and back but I only have 10 minutes to put my thoughts on paper. I know the point of this exercise is that, whether or not the chance of failure exists (it always does), we should go for it anyway. Except for that whole robbing the bank thing. Going for it anyway is very hard. I can’t imagine a world without the chance for failure and I’m not sure I want to. Without failure, what happens to the thrill of success? What is there to hope for if success is guaranteed?

Failure builds character. It creates hope. It is what makes people great.

So how about I try a new exercise and do a few of those things above, knowing full well that I may fall flat on my face?

Girls can play hockey too.

I am a tomboy. As a girl, I always ran with the boys. Whatever they were doing, I wanted to do it too, especially if they told me I couldn’t (which they often did).

When I was 12, I asked for an Easton street hockey stick for Christmas. Street hockey was all the rage in my neighborhood and I was determined to join the boys’ little “league”. When I got the stick, I was so excited that I didn’t care that it was the Wal-Mart knock-off version. If I’m going to compete among the boys in street hockey, I had to start somewhere.

I roller-bladed to the street hockey cul-de-sac on the day after Christmas with my hockey stick in tow. I was ready to show them what I was made of. They made fun of my stick because it was “cheap” and “for girls” and consequently, so were my roller blades. I’m not sure how my blue Wal-Mart hockey stick was “for girls” but it didn’t matter, their comments only fueled my desire to prove myself.

Neither team wanted me.

These were my friends. The boys I ran around with. We played kickball. We played foursquare. We went to the drive-in with our families and ate brats on the curbs in front of our houses. It didn’t matter, street hockey was like Fight Club for 12-year-olds and the first rule of Neighborhood Street Hockey was that “Girls were only invited to watch, enamored.”

I begged to play. I demanded. It wasn’t until a kid had to go home, that they let me play (because the teams were now uneven). I was thrilled.

After enduring a hockey lesson from each of the boys, we finally started playing. No one passed to me. No one tried to steal the puck from me. It was like I was just skating back and forth for exercise (which is pretty good exercise if you think about it). I was getting frustrated. I decided I’d just steal the puck (which was extremely difficult with cheap Wal-Mart wheels that barely rolled. It was like gliding on the pavement with ski boots on, you know the ones you put on that attach to your skis? That’s what it was like.).

Breathless but determined; I finally stole the elusive puck from a slower kid. My team was in awe that I actually did something athletic and it had nothing to do with tumbling. The other team said I’d cheated. I didn’t care; I stole that puck fair and square. It’s not my fault the boy fell back and was crying, and maybe broke his ankle.

I like to think that my team was impressed by my courage and skill, but looking back now, I’m guessing they were just relieved I wasn’t being a “total girl”.

It got easier to join the “league” after that. The boys still fought over which team had to have “the girl.” (I have a name, you know). And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the best player out there but I definitely wasn’t the worst… and they knew it.

Something very important to me.

It’s that time again. The Your Turn Challenge Time.

I know these topics are merely suggestions but I’m going to use each of them, not matter how incredibly broad they are.

Day 2: Tell us about something that’s important to you.

Breakfast.

Breakfast is super important to me. It shapes the way my entire day pans out. In fact, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yep, THAT important. So what better to be my “important” blog post than breakfast.

I know I’m not supposed to write about what I had to eat today so I won’t. It was just toast anyway.

What I will tell you is that I AM NOT a morning person, and yet breakfast is my most favorite meal.

Breakfast is important to me.

I am not a morning person.

What a sad coincidence.

I will NOT be a failure Seth Godin!

“I have nothing to write!! Writing is dumb. I quit!” …is what I said the other day when I wrote about having writer’s block. The next day I discovered a blog challenge by Seth Godin’s cohort Winnie. It was like God and Seth got together and said “Danielle, you need a boost. Here you go.”

It’s The Your Turn Challenge is a 7-day blogging challenge inspired by the Your Turn book by Seth Godin.

According to Winnie, she was struggling with her Blog Every Day challenge. Basically, Winnie’s doing what we’re trying to do in the Blog Squad: Zipop, Blendra, Cerrem and the whole gang. The only difference is that while we keep each other accountable (sort of), marketing thought leader Seth Godin keeps Winnie accountable. Seth told her: “Every day you don’t put up a blog post, you’ve failed…..” Being in the same office as Seth Freakin’ Godin, her chances of failure are minimal.

To help her blog everyday, Winnie thought of strength in numbers. “We’ll all do it together”! I’m on board Winnie! In fact, I’ll be the skipper!

Today’s topic is as follows:
Day 1: Why are you doing the Your Turn Challenge?

As if you haven’t already inferred from the context above, my reasons are the same as Winnie’s: Accountability. Motivation. Contagious Energy. But mostly, to keep this blog going!

My New Year balloon of blogging was slowly releasing helium and Winnie just showed up with a truck full of helium tanks.

What if I don’t have what it takes to be a writer?

This morning, as I was flipping pancakes with my special ultra thin and flexible pancake turner, I thought. Man, anyone could be a great cook with the right tools. And then, I started thinking of other things that are so much easier with the right tools.

Building. Donnie’s always making do with what he has for tools, but he’ll comment on how much faster, better and more efficient he’d be with the right ones.
Art. The right pencils and paper and paints and space and inspiration definitely make it easier to be better at creating art.

What about writing? Do you have to have the right “tools” to be a great writer? (by tools I mean mind)

I’m listening to Steven King On Writing and he said something that’s stuck with me this week. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), Writers are born with the right equipment. You can’t make equipment and you can’t make a writer. You can’t train to become a writer if you’re not one.

Of course, then he goes on to water it down a little by saying that you only have to be born with one tiny bit of writer in your blood. But, it still got me wondering (more like doubting), what if I wasn’t “Born to write? How do you even know if you were? Am I wasting my time pursuing something that’s not “in my blood”?

Maybe I read it wrong or perceived it wrong, but isn’t perception reality?

For now, I’m agreeing to disagree with King on this one. I think writers can be made. I think creativity can be made. I think it’s all about exposure and practice. So I’m going to stick to a path of exposure and practice to become a writer that I may or may not have been meant to be.

Am I still a good mom if I just want my kids to leave me alone?

I’m having one of those mom guilt days.

Saturday morning. 7 a.m.
Riley’s daily chanting, “Mommy get up, Mommy get up, Mommy get up” has a melodic, soothing sound. I’m almost lulled back to sleep by his baby baritone.
All I want to do is sleep.

I get up. Blindly feel my way to the coffee pot and make a pot.
I pour a bowl cereal for Riley and me and sit at the table.
I’m halfway down to my seat when there are technical issues with cartoons,
All I want to do is eat.

This repeats throughout the day.
I sat down with a book.
I started cleaning a room.
I opened Pinterest.
All I want to do is what I want to do!

But something keeps coming up. It’s 10 am. I send the kids outside. 5 min later, crying and knocking on the back door. Riley’s covered in mud and poop. (Long story but we have a toilet in our backyard and he thought he better run to that toilet and go.)

Finally, I decided to negotiate and try something fun the kids and I can do together. I tired Pinterest but all of that crap looked boring as hell. Logan wants to make something yummy. Ok, Fruity Pebbles Rice Krispies. Let me clear something up first. When a 6-year-old wants to make something with you, translation: “Mommy, make this yummy thing super fast so I can eat it.” So I sent the boys outside again.

Logan comes running in, “Mommy, I found a key!”
Me: “Where’s Riley?”
Logan: “Playing outside.”

I take off running. As soon I pass the door jamb, I see Riley conversing with the neighbor. He informed me that “They key your boys found goes to the mailbox here.” And then we chatted a bit as the boys ran back inside.

Maybe 3 minutes later, I followed.

As soon as I enter, Logan’s yelling, “MOMMY! Riley drank the vanilla!” I look at Riley who looks grossed out and says “Dat gucky” pointing to the puddle of vanilla schnapps (I mean extract).

Now, I know it’s frowned upon to put the kids in front of the TV, but that’s exactly where I sent them so I could write this blog post. And they’ve only called me about 8 times to come help them with something or get Riley’s arm untangled from the drawstring on the blinds. Now, mysteriously my keyboard has peanut butter on it.

All I want to do is write a blog post!

I know it’s ok to want to be alone sometimes but that doesn’t stop the mom guilt.

How to win an argument

I’m terrible at arguing. I can never think of the right things to say to back up my point of view. And when I do have the most well-put together case, I end up making the other person mad. It’s a lose-lose so I just keep my mouth shut. Keeping my mouth shut is sometimes just as difficult, does that make it a lose-lose-lose? I think it does.

Then this article caught my eye. Now I can, as they say, “Criticize with kindness.”

So here it is. (Paraphrased from brainpickings.org) Better practice these steps if you’re going to make it through next Thanksgiving.

1. Restate your opponents’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that he says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.
4. Then, and only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

It sure blows that whole sandwich theory out of the water. I can’t say I’m going to pick fights with every Joe who has a differing opinion but I can say I learned something.

One thing I can say is that this article will ensure the next family dinner doesn’t come down to fisticuffs.

You know, Schwahmey, don’t you?

Crap. Is that who I think it —
Uh-oh. What’s she doing here?
She doesn’t work around here.
I hope she doesn’t see me.
I’ll look the other way and walk by quickly. That way, if she recognizes the back of my head, I could be all, “Oh I didn’t see you there.”
Now, book it.

Whew, made it.
Now, to the opposite side of the gym to workout in hiding.

I used to workout with my friend, let’s call her Schwahmey. Schwahmey and I met on a volleyball team and decided it’d be a great idea to workout together. At the time, I needed someone to keep me accountable and being new in town, Schwahmey needed some friends.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, we met at the gym to lift. One hour of squats, sumo squats, bossy-ness and trash talking. Yes. Trash talking. Schwahmey doesn’t like many people. I’m not much of a trash-talker (except right now I’m just as bad! Ugh). Anyway, hindsight, it should have been a red flag when she told me that she’s “so glad to meet a girl who isn’t a B.” But, I thought I’d give her a chance anyway.

After months of working out and playing volleyball together, Schwahmey really started weighing me. We weren’t compatible. Workouts weren’t fun. I was stressed after leaving the gym. And, I’ll admit, a little pissy too. Then, I switched volleyball teams. I was going back to my old team and Schwahmey wasn’t coming with me.

As we got busier at work, we started slacking on our workouts a little bit. Seeing each other at volleyball was excruciatingly awkward.

We couldn’t seem to connect with the workout times. I’d force myself to invite her and she’d stand me up. It was over. And I think we both knew it. I felt guilty. She was pissed. Donnie was relieved (he didn’t care for Schwahmey too much).

Then. She found my hidden workout space. I see her. With a new Danielle. Bossing HER around. Telling HER what to do. I said “hello” as they walked by. Schwahmey gave a fake smile that could freeze a urine stream. I watched them walk away. Glad it wasn’t me. New Danielle seemed way more suited to Schwahmey’s personality.

Blockhead.

I’ve hit it.
I stubbed my toe.
My knee is bruised.
My nose may be broken.
My mind is blank.
I hit writer’s block.

What’s on the other side?
I bet it’s something wonderful,
With imagery and iambic pentameter, and
Descriptive language that disguises reality.
I bet there are kittens and babies…
And maybe, maybe I ought to just go to bed.

Unrealized productivity

Logan’s sick. But if you asked him, he just bumped his head the other day and he’s cold because he didn’t put socks on today. And he’s, well, he’s just not hungry today. His eyes look tired because he looked at the lights too long yesterday. And, can he go play?

As I sat here on my couch for the 4th consecutive hour, my mind is full of guilt and irritation from not getting any chores done, my body aches from literally just sitting here… Watching movies with Logan, sketching, and playing pretend with Riley.

Today, Logan made me think. When was the last time I ignored illness, fatigue, boredom, or chores all for the sake of fun?

As I started this blog post, words at the top of my mind were laziness, guilt, unproductive, wasted day. But, in a way, it’s days like these that could be considered my most productive. I just didn’t realize it.

 

 

What would it take for you to cheat?

Last night I watched one of my friends (more like “acquaintance”) cheat to win a volleyball game. And, believe me, it’s not the first time.

Then I thought of times I’ve seen other friends cheat. In fact, cheating happens a lot in rec volleyball. The primary reason is because there are no refs. No one to keep you honest but your own conscience.

Let me make one thing clear first. This is rec volleyball. Which means, if you cheat and no one calls you out, it doesn’t mean no one noticed. And, if you cheat and someone DOES call you out. The caller-outer “cares a little too much about this game” and needs to “calm down” and “stop being an ass” (after all, it’s only for a t-shirt).

Easy ways to cheat are by making “faults” and not admitting them. Faults include: touching the net, calling a ball “out” when it was clearly “in” but you were the closest so you have the final call, double-hitting the ball, lifting, carrying, or throwing the ball, consistently being out of rotation… the list goes on. It’s pretty easy to cheat.

So back to last night. My friend was at the net across from me. I rotated around, she did not. For her own reasons, she stayed in her base position. It was obvious to me because I was watching her. For a whole game, my conscience (and let’s face it: competitive side) wanted to call her out. But I knew the results of this action: bitterness, more cheating and ultimately fighting for no reason. Is it worth it? It IS rec volleyball.

Countless times, I’ve seen my own teammates not call their own net violations, lifts, or double hits when the game got tight. I’m adamant about being honest when it comes to my own mistakes. My conscience and my actions are so close they are practically married.

So, because of that, I’ve even called some of my teammates out, which would LOSE us the point. But I don’t want to win like that. So clearly this is not about the level of volleyball we’re playing or what’s at stake. Is it? It’s about personal ethics and whether you will do the right, honest thing, when no one’s watching, even if it means losing.

3 easy tips to get people to read your blog posts.

It worked. You clicked on the link to my article. A catchy headline like the one above promises insightfulness and knowledge devised in a easily read article that maybe includes a quick tip or takeaway. As long as you can skim the article and see the tips numbered or highlighted in some way. Don’t want to waste too much time actually reading.

In a world full of noise, how do you get people to actually read??

1. Catchy headline
So, because you didn’t read that first paragraph and your eye went directly to the number 1 (We want answers!), here’s the first tip I’ve gleaned from scanning articles from actual experts on this topic. Write a catchy headline with a promise. Here’s a headline formula I found:
Number (or trigger word like “how”)+Adjective+keyword+Promise

I wait until I’m done writing my article to decide on a headline. It’s got to answer the question. “Would I want to read that article?” And, be honest. In other words, “My day at work.” is not something anyone other than your mom would want to read.

2. First sentence
Just because you have a catchy headline, and you got me to your blog, that doesn’t mean, I’m going to actually read what you wrote. I came here for a reason and mostly like I’m going to skim this page until I find what I’m looking for. This is why the first sentence is super important. Your first sentence should answer the question, “Do I want continue reading?” It should contain just the right amount of information to keep your reader interested without spilling all the candy in the lobby.

3. Short sentences and baby words
Long sentences are the worst! Nothing will stop me from reading quicker than having to read a sentence more than once. Same goes for wording. Save your big boy words for impressing your Ivy League buddies on Trivial Pursuit night. If I don’t know what the word means, I’m not going to keep reading. Keep it simple, stupid.

Well, there you have it. Three easy tips to get people to your blog and reading. I’m no expert but these are the things that keep ME reading others blogs. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many more reasons I read blog posts: content and exceptional writing both have a lot to do with that. These are just 3 tiny things anyone can try right now.

Nobody tells this to beginners, I wish someone had told me.

I watched this video derived from an audio track of an interview with radio personality Ira Glass. And it’s basically an answer to all my doubts of being an artist.

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

Yes. You read that right. I said artist. You know, I didn’t always aspire to be a writer. Ok, yeah. I always wanted to write. But I wanted to be so many other things too. An artist. A psychologist. A singer, although I can’t sing. A reality star. (That last one is a joke because who in her right mind would ever want that?!)

In college, I pursued art. Wait, scratch that. Let’s go back further. In 6th grade, I wanted to be an artist. I would doodle and draw, deliver my drawings to my family members and solicit feedback. When I realized I wasn’t as good at drawing as Jennifer Wasinger, I stopped drawing for a while.

Fast forward a few years to high school (zip zoooopp swish!) art was an easy choice for an elective. Of course, Art 101 was full of football players and potheads and basically anyone who didn’t want to do actual work. I was one of the best “artists” in that class but that wasn’t too difficult. I just cared a lot. So I moved on to Basic Drawing, which became more specialized. I didn’t realize how many talented artists we had at Maize High School. I started to doubt myself. I’m not good enough to continue, I thought (pretty much every day).

Then came college. I spent my freshman and half of my sophomore year, undeclared. Finally, I’m not sure why, but I declared Graphic Arts. I love design. I wanted to design. I LOVED my hands-on art courses. I’d spend hours drawing. Hours. I only got better and better. Drawing is one of my TRUE passions.

Then came Design I. I was terrible with gauche. What the hell is gauche anyway (I thought at the time)? Because, I’m more a sketch artist, I struggled to make neat paint swatches and execute with clean lines. My poor craftsmanship carried over to Printmaking as well. I’m pretty sure my Printmaking teacher had a stamp with my name on it that read, “Ambitious designs, but your edges are very untidy.”

I began to get discouraged. People would tell me that no graphic designers were getting jobs and that it was impossible. Most GD majors aren’t designing at all.

So I quit.

When you get to 1:07 in the video, that’s me in college.

I quit. I switched to Liberal Arts in Communications. This was a ridiculous switch considering I’ve seen countless T-shirts that read “I have a degree in Liberal Arts. Do you want fries with that?” I guess I just thought it’d be easier to write.

I did pretty well in Communications and I was lucky enough to get a job that didn’t require me to bathe potatoes in peanut oil. I love writing. No, I’m not a designer by trade, but I do design things. And I love the balance of writing and creativity that I get to experience nearly every day (Yeah, I’m one of the lucky ones).

But every now and then I wonder what could have been. If I’d watched a video like the one above. Or, if someone told me that being disappointed in my work was just part of growth.

Shame.

Remember a few days ago, when I said I wasn’t going to post half-assed “Too tired to write a post” posts this time? Welp. It’s 10:17 and it’s either start a real, juicy post or go to bed.

I could list all the things I’ve done today so you’d know that I’m not wasting time doing nothing. But I’ll save it. I’m busy. There. I said it.

I’m choosing bed.

Sorry self.

Silence is golden-ish.

My yoga instructor tells me in her breathy voice, “Embrace the silence. Breathe deeply and let go of your worries. Put them all in a red balloon and then let go of that balloon. Watch it float toward the horizon. Silence your inner chatter.”

Me. Eyes closed.

Ok. Put my worries in the balloon. I prefer blue, but, she said red so maybe I’ll make sure it’s a red balloon. Poof! The balloon is red. That was fun. I changed it’s color with my mind. Wait. It’s blue again. Balloon: Red. There. It’s red. I just don’t like that color. It’s not right. I wonder if she had a reason for choosing the color red. Is red the color of silence or something? How about purple? Oh well. I get that we need to release our problems into the atmosphere but does she know it’s not a good idea to release balloons into the atmosphere? I’m not sure why. I just heard that somewhere.

I peek at my neighbor.

Dang. She looks peaceful.

I slowly turn my head to my other neighbor.

Is she snoring? What the? Silence is not peaceful to me. It’s nerve wracking. My inner chatter is made of pins and needles (which both pop silly red balloons). I can’t let it go. Has it been 5 minutes yet!? UGH!

Heavy breathing instructor, “Ok everyone.”
I snap my eyes shut and try to appear restful as if in danger of getting caught awake during naptime.
The breather, “Now slowly open your eyes. Enjoy your day. Namaste.”

I jump up. Eyes open. Thinking that meant class was over, I pick up my mat and head toward the door.

The whole class, amidst all the stretching and yawning, turn to watch me leave. Judging. I could cut the inner chatter with a knife at that point. I see several students go up to kiss the Yogi’s feet or whatever it is you do at the end of a yoga class when I’m usually long gone.

I pretend to have somewhere important to be by bursting out the door and speed-walking just past the glass windows until I’m certain they can’t see me anymore. Shamed by the yoga community grandmas, gay guys, a few college chicks on spring break and one super inflexible, muscle-bound dude who always puts his mat in the back of the room (wonder why?).

I just can’t sit there and dawdle. I can’t relax. It can’t be silent. I envy people who sit can sit there for 5 minutes and be all clear-headed. To me, silence isn’t golden. It’s like a poop brown. Silence is poop. And that’s why I don’t like being around it too much.

Comfort zones: not as comfortable as they seem

I’m uncomfortable. My skin is itching. Or maybe that’s resentment trying to seep its way through my pores. Why did I let my friend talk me into this? This is hard. I’m not good at it. In fact, I’m consistently failing. I hate this. A few words come to mind:
Humiliation.
Fear.
Uncertainty.
Shame.
Growth.

I just read an article called “The Psychology of Getting Unstuck.” These sorts of topics are very interesting to me because, I’m a “mover.” As I mentioned before, I’m a GREAT starter of things. I love trying new things. Keeping it interesting. I can’t sit still. If I stay in one spot too long, I start getting depressed. Feeling stuck. Feeling like I hit the “OK plateau,” which early psychologists believed was the “upper limit of one’s innate capacity.” Even a comfort zone gets a little uncomfortable after a while.

So when my friends asked if I wanted to do the “Blog Every Day” challenge again, I said yes. But this time, my intentions are different. Instead of achieving the daily goal of “posting a few words, even if its craptastic, just to get it out there,” I’m taking it a step further.

To keep from falling into blogging complacency, my goal is to improve my writing (and thought process) through deliberate practice.

“Deliberate practice by its nature, must be hard.

When you want to get good at something, how you spend you time practicing is far more important than the the amount of time you spend… Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.” -Joshua Foer

I know it’s going to be very hard. And some days, I’ll just want to throw some words on a web page, just to get it over with. But, I’m going to try my best to be uncomfortable and itchy and fail a whole bunch of times this year when I open WordPress.

Don’t start something you can’t finish.

I’m really good at trying new things. In fact, I’d say I’m the best at starting things: projects, reading books, workouts, diets, even cleaning the house.

I get an idea. I flesh out my idea (usually pump it full of nearly impossible supporting ideas). Then I start my project. It’s going really well. I’m productive as hell as I work ambitiously through my new project. I’m the best at this new thing.

Then it hits me.

This is going to be too much work. I’ll never finish. Who do I think I am trying to execute a nearly impossible idea like this? I have clearly overestimated my talents. I’m not an expert in this field. This won’t end well. No one will read this book. No one reads this blog. No one will know if I skip a week’s worth of workouts. No one will see my messy house.

I’m reminded of fighting words I hear often in movies, “Don’t start something you can’t finish.” The guilt sets in.

-I see my chapters every time I log into Dropbox. Hours of work compiled into 12 documents that are just sitting there. Sad, incomplete, empty.
-I have 5 books with bookmarks about 1/2 way in. An Audiobook unfinished.
-My blog reminds me the last time I logged in was a year ago. A year. Ago.
-I’ve lied to my workout app. That’s right. I lied to an app because I didn’t do my goal number of workouts (in case you couldn’t tell how I feel about this one, I think it’s pretty shameful to lie to an app.)
-My house remains a mess. The parts I cleaned are getting cluttered again. As I walk through my house everything is speaking to me. Overwhelming me with to-do list items.

My vacation is almost over and it’s about time to get back to work. A time when I’ll leave all these unfinished things behind and once again become “too busy” to finish them. Sad, but true. Maybe this year will be different. Maybe I’ll finish something. Maybe I’ll workout consistently and not be forced to shamefully lie to an app. Maybe I’ll have the guts to take the next step with my book.

The beginning of a new year is great time for excellent starters like me. In 2015, I’ll start this new thing where I finish stuff. As difficult as it is, I will fini-

Children living dangerously

I’d like to consider myself a somewhat lax parent when it comes to kids taking risks for entertainment purposes. I’m not completely hands-off but I’m no helicopter mom either.

I like to give my kids the freedom to make mistakes. If you ask Donnie maybe a little too much freedom at times.

When Logan wants to jump from the top step of the stairs (into a pile of pillows), I say “Go for it!”
When Riley tries to balance on the giant cement ball outside the Y, I say “sure!”
Climb on the slide.
Stand on your bike seat!
Run as fast as you can and then slide on your sweat pants through the kitchen!
Hurl Riley over your head across the room in hopes that he lands on the couch and not the sharp corner of the coffee table.

Wait a minute. I definitely did not approve that last one!
“LOGAN!!! No! You’ll hurt him!”

But before I could cue up my “mom voice,” Riley was mid-air. I began to slow-motion run (or at least that’s how it felt) Riley, giggling all the way over the coffee table and onto the edge of the couch. He grips the cushion to keep from rolling off the side and then shakes with laughter.

I turned my attention to Logan.

Logan looked me right in the eye, his eyebrows raised ever so slightly and the corners of his mouth slowly curled upward.

“See Mommy? He likes it!”

I once was a Vampire.

Being ever so wise and mature in my early 30s, I often think about how I handled situations as a kid. Usually I end that thought with, “Man that was dumb!” A particular memory comes to mind.

In my adolescent years, when everything was growing at different rates, I often heard comments like, “Don’t worry Danielle, you’ll grow into those monkey arms.” (followed by boisterous, ignorant laughter). Yes I was gangly; I was the epitome of awkward. Even my teeth came in weird. And that’s what my story is about. My teeth. I have always had a love-hate relationship with myself and my teeth were not loved.

You see, my canines thought they should enter through the top of my gums and not down with the rest of my teeth like civilized canines. Maybe they thought they were better than my other teeth and therefore they should sit higher up in my mouth? That is, if canines had brains, which they don’t; everyone knows that. You know which one are canines, right? If you were a vampire, your canines would be the long, razor sharp ones. My canines were not especially long, but they were razor sharp and they were out of place.

At the time, the more inquisitive kids would even ask me if I WAS a vampire. To which I’d reply, very seriously offended, “No. I am not.”

One especially mean kid would often continue with a followup question like, “Well, have you asked your parents? Maybe it’s in your genealogy.”

Kids are jerks. And freakin clever too. Who knows about genealogy at age 12?!

But, because of the constant commenting on my vampire teeth, I became very self conscious about my smile, and my laugh, and pretty much in talking to anyone anywhere that wasn’t in my immediate family. The evidence is in the especially awkward closed-mouth smile in all my old pictures.

It’s ok now to admit that I didn’t handle that, um, criticism very well. I was on the highway of insecurity and there were no exits nearby, not even those partial exits like on the toll road where they have a gas station and a McDonalds. It was a lonely, desolate road with me feeling like a fool and looking like a vampire.

Recently re-living that time in my head and silently cursing those cruel kids from my past, I thought: if I could go back to young Danielle, I’d tell her,

“Hey Kiddo, your teeth won’t be like that forever. And you’re NOT a vampire. I mean, you don’t even like the taste of blood (Ew!). And that one time, it really was just ketchup on your face. Don’t be afraid to smile, laugh, and for Heaven’s sake, speak! I will be thankful… or you will be thankful… or we’ll both be thankful when you thank yourself later. Oh! And your body will catch up to your arms.”

And then I’d say something really deep and philosophical that serves no purpose other than to impress my young self with all my wisdom and knowledge of big words.

The time I got kidnapped.

The other day I took the kids the park, as I often do when Donnie has an all-day volleyball function. It was nice day and I’d had enough of the indoor rough-housing.

We packed up and drove to the nearest park. The kids love the playground. It’s got all these new types of play equipment and soft, track-like material to land on so as to avoid severe boo-boos. We pulled up to the fenced-in play area. The parking lot was full. Kids were climbing over kids to get on the ladder to the slide.

I sighed, “Let’s go to the other playground.” To avoid the crying, whining and “why?,” I followed up with an overly enthusiastic, “You can feed the ducks!” They complied, not matching my enthusiasm.

We drove to the other side of the park. The side I refer to as the “old part.” It was a ghost town. The equipment was a little outdated and there was more than a slight chance that Logan would break his arm on the monkey bars.

Then there’s the “metal slide of terror.” I remember it from my childhood. The ladder is so steep that if you get too close, your face is in the butt of the person standing up two rungs. Once you’re at the top, you get the slight feeling that you may hurl your body over the tiny metal bar and crash into the poorly maintained, sparse grass below. But before you can think about it too much, you’re pushed down the slide by the kid directly behind you. Apparently he was tired of having your butt in his face. My kids LOVE this slide.

I was trying not to let my anxiety get the better of me as I watched Anya take my precious little baby Riley up the slide for about the 10th time. Suddenly, I heard someone standing behind me whispering, “Don’t turn around.” I perk up.

Are they talking to me? I turn around. Because when someone says “Don’t turn around,” every fiber of my being wants to turn around. I HAVE TO TURN AROUND.

I see a woman holding a gun-metal gray… well… gun. She says, “Dammit. I said don’t turn around. Are you stupid?” Slightly insulted by being called stupid and slightly annoyed at the fact that she didn’t tell me she had a gun before she said “don’t turn around,” I started shaking. My eyes darted to my kids. At the top of slide. It’s the only time I’d ever considered that a safe spot. Acting like she didn’t notice me looking at the slide, she said, “Get in the van.”

I screamed, “ANYA! RUN!”

The woman shoved me in the back of a windowless van. Why do they even make those? It’s like they’re asking for them to be used as kidnapping vehicles.

Anya grabbed Riley and Logan and they all 3 ran toward the nearest QuikTrip. It was about 1 mile away. I run all their possible scenarios in my head. When they get to QT, Anya will call… Wait. Who will she call? She only knows my number?! And 911. Yeah. She’ll call 911. Probably.

I pop up in bed. A dream. A very vivid dream.

Two hours later, I’m sitting at the table with the family eating sausage and eggs, “You know, Donnie, the kids should probably learn your number too. Not just mine.”

Donnie replied, “That was random.”

2015: The year of gratitude

“Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

I just read this quote – posted on Facebook by chief vulnerability superstar, and my personal heroine, Brene Brown – and it’s a perfect first of the year post for two reasons:

1. A few friends are known to light my flame every now and again (you know who you are).
2. It reminded me of one of Brene’s guideposts toward wholehearted living, focusing on gratitude.

After I read Brene’s super awesome, enlightening book on vulnerability, I wrote her 10 guideposts on a piece of paper and pinned it to my cube wall so I could study them and work on them one at a time. A girl’s got to have goals right? And, after all, who wouldn’t want to live wholeheartedly?

This year, I will be putting a great deal of energy toward practicing: “Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark in order to cultivate gratitude and joy.” Ya, I just went psycho-babble on ya’ll!

Basically, I’m gonna be thankful for what I got and happy in happy moments, instead of worrying about what could happen and suspicious when things are going too well.

If you haven’t read The Power of Vulnerability, where have you been? What have you been doing? Get on it! If you have read it, feel free to use this list.

Let go, cultivate.
Let go, cultivate.
Let go, cultivate.

Happy New Year and Joy the World (< see how I’m working on that?)
image

Country concert or Fight night?

Last night, we were lucky enough to watch the Jason Aldean concert from great seats at Intrust Bank Arena. You can’t really tell from this picture because Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan walked all the way to the to the other side to give those peeps some attention.


As you can see, the place was packed!

It’d be great if the story ended there, but sadly, it doesn’t.

You see, my husband Donnie is a very tall man (6’9″) and constantly self conscious about his height, which I usually make light of and try to get him to do the same.

Having the great seats we did, he was worried about blocking someone’s view. I said, “Oh those stadium seats make it to where almost anybody can see over you.”

So we get to our awesome seats and we’re sitting, waiting for the show to begin. Luke Bryan comes out first and he friggin’ rocks! Everyone stands up. It looked almost like the wave. Row 1, then Row 2, then Row 3 and so on. Pretty cool effect considering it wasn’t choreographed.

When it was our turn, we stood. I turned around just to see if the people behind us could see. No one was there. Yes! What are the odds? Were those the only 2 empty seats in the house? We continued to rock out.

Randomly, I turned around again about 20 minutes in and saw two women sitting. The only two people sitting in the entire arena. Donnie said, “They probably think it doesn’t matter if they sit or stand because they can’t see over me.” I’m thinking, “Please. All these 5’7″ guys can see over him at this angle. No problem. These people are just party poopers.” (They had stink faces on).

Then, there was a lull in the performance. Everybody sits down almost simultaneously. From behind, I hear, “Finally, we can watch the show, sh*t!” I ignored that. Then, “F#c%!n& a-hole!” I’m thinking, did I just hear that?

I told Donnie. Immediately he stood up. (This is the guy I’ve seen sit through entire concerts to make sure people behind him could see, but they pissed him off).

I saw him take a glance as he stood, the little lady yelled out, “You’re an a-hole!” Donnie’s glance darted back and he said, “Just don’t talk to me. Why don’t you just enjoy the show and leave me alone.”

The lady continued to belt out expletives and derogatory comments as we stood with our backs to them, trying to enjoy the rest of Luke Bryan’s performance.

Donnie’s mom Annette was sitting next to me and leaned over, “What’s going on?” She could tell something was up but it was so loud in there, she couldn’t hear anything. I told her, “These ladies are bothering Donnie. They’re calling him names and being jerks. He’s just trying to ignore them.”

Suddenly, Annette pushes me forward and reaches over to the “ladies” and gives them a talkin’ to.

Annette is in a heated “Mind yer business” “He’s my son, he is my business” screaming debate them. Annette took off.

Donnie’s used to mama bear getting involved. She is very protective mom. Donnie was mad, “What is my mom doing? OMG.”

I turn around and they say, “What are you doing with him? He’s an a-hole.” Being a lover, not a fighter, I’m tongue-tied, “Because he’s awesome and you’re stupid.” Good one Danielle.

The fighting continues. Donnie’s like, “Can’t you just enjoy the show?” Then a bunch of fighting words were exchanged between Donnie and one of the ladies. She flashed her tattoo while the other one yelled out “5-O, 5-O.” Not sure what that meant.

One of them kept pounding her chest saying, “Let’s go! Let’s go” Donnie’s like, “Please.”

Annette returned and said she’d asked security to watch them. I wasn’t worried about these 5 foot nothing ladies but, the whole 5-0 thing and the fact they didn’t search any women in the search lines, had me thinking I was going to get stabbed in the back the rest of the show.

Annette asked if Donnie was mad at her and I said, “Well, he was trying to take the high road by ignoring them.” She said, “Well, when you told me that, I looked over and they were throwing popcorn at him and they opened their pop like they were gonna pour it in his seat or, worse, down his back.”

What’s with people? Donnie cannot help being tall, just like they couldn’t help being short. One step to the left or right and they could’ve seen just fine, but they had to be biotches about it.

Luckily they left before the encore (probably to round up the other 5-0 gang members roaming downtown with crowbars and pocketknives). Donnie turns to me, “You see why I’m self conscious now? I’ve been dealing with people like this my entire life.”

I felt bad. But, really, Donnie did not let those fun sponges ruin his night.

See? He even took a selfie of us after they left.

So, yeah, I had a good time at the concert, but if nothing had happened, this blog post would’ve been way shorter and way more boring.

I’m no critic

I used to want to be a critic. Food, movies, art, anything. I mainly wanted to do it so I could experience new things and write about my experiences… and possibly get paid for it.

That was before I realized that being a critic would be a terrible career choice for me.

Here’s why:

1. Critics don’t create anything.
There’s a lot of consuming and not a lot of pooping going on here. All they do is feed on others’ innovation. Tear it apart or build it up.

2. Critics are jerks.
Ok, maybe not always. But a criticism is a very personal thing to the person who’s art is being criticized. And to them, critics are jerks.

3. Critics are subjective.
Annnnd, they should be. I mean anything they say is opinion anyway. When choosing a Redbox movie to rent, I definitely don’t see how many stars or tomatoes the movie got. Some of the worst rated movies are my favorites. So, basically to me, an opinion from some critic means almost nothing.

4. Critics have an easy job.
In essence, sit back and write your opinion (as eloquently as possible). That’s it! The only chance critics take is having an unpopular take on something. Basically, anyone can do this job. Thousands of reviews on Amazon proves that point.

5. I’d rather be criticized.
As difficult as it is, I’d rather be criticized; because it means that I took a chance on something. I’ve created something worth being criticized.

In an auditorium, the easiest place to be is in the audience.

I’m glad I’m not a critic (well, professionally).

If you’re going to San Francisco…

Ah. San Francisco. The city where buyer’s remorse originates. At one point, I pondered spending $25 for an egg breakfast (I’m guessing this was that golden egg Jack found after he climbed the beanstalk).

Our waitress at the first bar we went to probably makes more than I do and the people who work on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) definitely make more than I do. But I guess it’s warranted because they have to afford a $25 egg. One waiter told us “What most people do is live in Oakland and work in SF. It’s much cheaper to live there.” I said “Doesn’t Oakland have a crime problem?” Waiter, “Oh yes. It’s terrifying there. But it’s getting better, so… Want another beer?”

San Francisco isn’t only a money pit though, it’s actually a really cool city full of culture. In fact, I saw plenty of people showing their “culture” in the Haight-Ashbury hippie district. I like to call it a Potsmokers Retirement Community.

The piers, however touristy, were pretty cool. The homeless people eat better than I do. Plenty of SF and San Fran (I was told not to call it that) shirts available, each shop cheaper than the next but still more expensive than any of the stores I frequent at home.

The entire time I was there I didn’t see one unfit local walking the hills of San Fran (I’m a rebel, I couldn’t help it). And we did a LOT of walking. It’s a workout climbing those steep hills! Awesome! It would’ve been a little more awesome with comfortable shoes, though. I never learn.

People-watching was my favorite part of the trip (other than my awesome experience with public speaking). People-watching is the best in S.F. because no one looks at anyone so you can stare as long as you want without getting that awkward, “Oh crap, he saw me, do I look away? Shoot, I took too long.”

I had a fun week with the non-judgemental, culture-rich, liberal, pot-smoking, wealthy San Franciscans but was really glad to be home.

Hollyweed

Is it just me or is there a more casual use of marijuana (and other drugs) in movies recently?

I know there have always been movies about drugs but it seems I can’t watch a decent comedy without there being at least one scene where the main character succumbs to an offer of some type of drug. (This is 40, Knocked Up, Hangover, Zoolander…)

Sometimes, it glamorizes the life of a pothead. It’s a false portrayal. “I’m ok, you’re ok and we’re all happily smoking pot every day with no job, no responsibility and yet we can somehow continue to afford this lifestyle.”

I feel like these movies send the message that blazing up or even selling a dime bag is no big deal (and legal for that matter). I’m not for or against the legalization of marijuana because I don’t think legalization will affect me and my family directly. (I could be wrong).

But, to me, it’s not a good message to send teens that are watching these movies that promote no-consequence drug use. I know where a lifetime of drug abuse leads, and it’s not pretty. People lose their jobs due to failed drug tests. No one in Hollywood… But people, real people pay consequences.

I know it’s up to me to make sure the right message gets to my kids but I can’t help but worry when I see some of my favorite actors smoking pot and taking ecstasy like it’s just another day.

Infrequent flyer miles

I woke up this morning 4 hours before my alarm. I’m flying to San Francisco today and I’m a bit of a nervous flyer.

I double check my carry-on to make sure I’m following all TSA regulations. I do not want to be singled out.

I pee. And then again about 6 more times before I leave the house. What is it about nervousness and the need to empty my bladder?

Donnie loads my suitcase in the car while I check my purse for the 10th time.

As we drive up to the airport Donnie points out all the construction. The incomplete state of the airport only heightened my nerves as I imagine balls being dropped by shady contractors and that somehow that may affect my flight.

I couldn’t figure out how to pre-check-in from the itinerary I was sent because there was no confirmation number. I had to wing it (pardon the pun). I hate winging it. Donnie told me to make sure to let him know when I had checked in that all was good. I think all the pacing and peeing got him a little nervous too.

I walk up to United self check in. I’m not sure I’m qualified for this but I proceed. And by proceed I mean, read and re-read the instructions while I fumble through my purse to find my ID. Sensing my pathetic incompetence, a latino man offers to help. “Thank you for choosing United. Ju have a beautiful smile, can I help you?”

I accept, trying not to look too stupid. He shows me how to use the incredibly simple device and says “Ju got it from here, right?”

I nod, looking at the two questions on the screen and having no idea whether I’m over 13 or if I am traveling with an infant. I panic and hit the answers, remembering that I am an adult and looking around to make sure I didn’t have Riley. He checks on me again and asks if I know where I need to go. “Yes” I say in my big girl voice. Wow, I’m a blubbering idiot.

I run outside to tell Donnie I’m good, kiss my babies, and feeling naked without my 40-pound suitcase, I head up toward my gate.

But wait.. There will be no relaxing at the gate yet. It’s TSA time. I know it sounds like a fun song like “It’s Hammer time!” But I assure you, this was not fun.

I show my ID and ticket and he tells me “Don’t worry about removing your shoes and jacket. This is a special line and we have Ninja technology” (It wasn’t actually called that but I can’t remember what it was called).

So I confidently step toward the Ninja scanner 5000. The TSA agent tells me to put my shoes and jacket in the bucket. “Oh and your scarf too. And probably your belt and watch.” I want to question the Ninja technology but I’m on a mission to not be singled out. I comply.

I walk through the metal detector unscathed! I made it! I look around. No one cares.

I go to grab my belongings from my buckets and the ray-of-sunshine TSA lady slides my bucket out of my reach and says unapologetically, “Sorry. We need to keep the line moving.” As if I were wandering aimlessly through the airport bottlenecking her line.

Irritated at my choice of tennis shoes over slip ons, I contemplated walking all the way to my gate in my socks. Instead I sit down on the paper thin carpet and put on my shoes. As I drape my scarf and pull on my jacket I’m wondering why I even got dressed before I came to the airport.

I trudge on. Checking my purse three times on the way to my gate.

I see a friendly face. Yes! The meeting planner booked me with another coworker because she knew I was a nervous flyer.

She asks me what seat I’m in, I check my ticket. It says, “See agent.” Shit! She says, “You better check in, it’s an overbooked flight, you may not get on.” I go into panic mode and hit the bathroom again before asking about my seat. It was no big deal, I just went up there and got an actual ticket, not a stupid “means to a ticket” with no seat number and no hope to get on the plane. Thank you friendly face for the unnecessary uncertainty.

Finally, I’m on the plane. I stow my purse and electronics. I look for my seat belt thinking I had to get buckled quickly. I mean, I only have 20 minutes. I don’t have a seat belt. What the hell?! There is no seat belt on my seat?! Noticing my short breaths, the guy next to me unbuckled his seat belt and handed me mine, which he was sitting on. the. whole. time.

I’m buckled. My things are stowed. I’m holding a water. “Is this legal?” Oh well, I’m thirsty… and now I have to pee again.

The pilot talks over the speaker. He sounds like a guy I dated in high school. I have no confidence in this pilot. Since when do we let people my age fly airplanes?? He’s saying something about possible turbulence (gulp) and names some ungodly number of feet that we will soaring through the air. Why do they do that? As if I’d be like, “um… I wondering how many thousands of feet we’ll be up in the air this time.” It’s useless. It’s only purpose is to reassure me that, if we crash, I’m a goner.

We take off. Suddenly, I can’t hold my head up. How is everyone holding their heads up?! I lean back trying not look nervous, which may be making me look a little more constipated than the “relaxed” look I was going for. “It’s ok. It’s just a normal day everybody.”

I’m lightheaded. Am I breathing? There. I breathed. It’s was one of those breaths that stay in your chest. I try to see the ground from my crappy, last minute aisle seat. The guy next to me is reading, all nonchalant. He probably thinks I’m into him because I keep looking his way, around him and out the window. Breathe. There’s the ground. This is helping. There’s no way that’s 35,000 feet.

The flight chick bumps my elbow for the 18th time without apologizing. I know she feels it. I have sharp elbows meant for a basketball player. However, my sharp elbow is inside the armrest. How does this keep happening? It’s ok, keep walking. No problem. I’ll get her next time, we’ll see if she keeps walking.

The 30-year-old I once saw do a keg stand announces over the speaker that I can now use my electronics and mentions the thousands of miles again. Is this a point of pride?

I pull out my phone to listen to a funny book I bought to ease my flying tension. A message on my phone reads, “You must have internet connection to use this app.” Really Audible? Really?!”

As the flight waitress spills and then proceeds to wipe water from her cart into my hair (now I have to pee again) I pull out my iPad thinking, “I guess I’ll just write a blog post.”

Multi-tasking: Less tasking than you think.

Making a grocery list:

Let’s see, milk, eggs, bread… do we need peanut butter. Yep. Are we out of hummus? Let me check, hm. This fridge is embarrassing. I’ll just clean this shelf. Well, I can’t get it clean enough, I’ll just take it out and scrub in the sink. Well shoot, I’m out of Dawn, put that on the list.

“Anya, can you get Riley? I’ll get his bottle ready.”

Wonder what we should have for dinner? I’ll put something in the crockpot now.

“Logan, stop touching your sister.”

I’ve got to get this shelf back in the fridge. WTH, how was this even in there? This is impossible. It will not fit. Oh, light bulb out in the fridge. I’ll go get a new one.

Hm, this closet needs tidying.

Crap, I forgot about my roast searing, welp, it’s burnt. I just scrape off the burnt parts, the crock pot will take care of the rest, hopefully.

“Logan, really? Just keep your hands to yourself.”

“Donnie, can you come put this shelf in? UGH!”

Ew! Maggie just puked on the floor again. “Who’s giving her table food?!”

Shoot, it’s 11, I need to get to the store before Donnie has to leave for volleyball. Back to my list, bananas, garlic, oh forget it, I’ll just wing it.

“Anya, did you study for your vocabulary test? Let’s study real fast.”

This is a common weekend scenario at our house. This is me, multitasking. Really, it’s a lot more multi than tasking. Half the stuff I start, I don’t finish because other tasks are screaming for my attention and I never get back to it.

Turns out though, “I’m not alone! It’s not just me! I don’t have ADD and I’m not crazy!”

Get this book, guys. Your wives will thank you. (or me)
Get this book, guys. Your wives will thank you. (or me)

This is very common for women in general (according to the Understanding Women workshop I’m currently listening to). Our environments are screaming for our attention. We notice things that need to be done. This is why, in my case, I’m especially cranky when things are out of place at home. I’m actually not a very neat person, so I didn’t realize that this was a cause of my crankiness until now. I AM noticeably happier and less stressed when my house is clean and my bed is made. It’s like there are fewer tasks screaming for my attention and I can chill out a little on the multi-tasking.

It’s easy to say, “I’m a working mom, I’m busy, There’s a lot to do and that’s why I’m stressed.” But why not get tasks done with less stress? To do that, I (or Donnie) have to quiet all those other annoying tasks. This week Donnie cleaned the house every day and made sure stuff was picked up off the floor (he’s good I know-I think it’s because our anniversary is tomorrow). So, because all of that was done, I was able to focus on the kids, their homework and just enjoy them (with less stress) for the few hours I get with them every day. Anyway, clean house = happy, less stressed Danielle.

Oh! It also helps to make lists. Not grocery lists. To do lists. I have to force myself to focus on one task at a time so I don’t start out mopping the floors and end up outside cleaning the gutters while my mop water is sitting there, getting cold on a half-finished floor.

With multi-tasking, eventually, I do get things finished. For example, I got groceries the other day. Mission accomplished. But when I have help to quiet all those other screaming tasks, I’m able to focus on one (or a couple) task at a time, stresslessly (yeah, that’s a word now).

The accident

Today, I drove down Kellogg like I do every day. The sun was tauntingly shining just below my sun visor, directly into my eyes, like it does every day this time of year. The traffic wasn’t too bad (no accidents for the rubberneckers).

I scoot to the far right lane because to prepare to exit in about a mile. Almost to a fault, I typically give myself an ample amount of time to get to the exit lane.

Somewhere between my over-prepared lane change and my actual exit, a red Subaru Impreza hatchback – positioned just to the front of my driver’s side bumper – teeters over the white dotted line.

Whoa.

I swerve slightly. “Yep, on his phone.”

I start to slow down, but not soon enough, he swerves into my front bumper with just enough force to send me into the rail on the bridge.

I’m still going about 50 miles per hour along the rail. The screeching of metal on concrete is nightmare-ish.

I lose control of my car. I brace myself as my car topples over the rail and barrel-rolls in the air a couple times before smashing on the asphalt below.

My air bags inflate. The side of my face is severely burnt by the air bags, but nothing a little plastic surgery can’t handle.

Then I exit Downtown and continue heading to work thinking, “That totally could’ve happened.”

Dessert: You know you want to.

I’m not the type to engorge when it comes to dessert. I’ve overfed myself every now and then, but mostly I’m a moderation gal. I know when to stop. I know when enough is enough. I eat one cookie, and that’s it. One Oreo. One chocolate chip cookie. One Snickernoodle. Or one peanut butter cookie. (Cookies are my dessert of choice).

I can’t tell you when the last time was that I had candy (Halloween?) Or ice cream for that matter (and I love ice cream).

It’s like I’ve gotten used to saying “I’ll pass” enough that I really have no interest in the Friday donuts or post lunch dip cones. And I’m really being honest about that. It must be in my head because I associate sweets with the overly stuffed, low protein belly that I get when I eat only sweets and then I think, “Yeah, don’t need that today.”

Lately though, I’ve said yes to the occasional donut (even though I feel like somehow, I’ll have to justify it to myself later). I think I’m letting my guard down.

I just ate 4 homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Is this the gateway to engorgement?

P.S. I lied. It was 6 cookies. (Dang it!)

Time: It’s still there.

“I don’t have time for that.” is what I was going to say tomorrow when I didn’t have anything published. But here I am, typing away, with all the time in the world.

And, actually, time is always there. I. always. have. time.

I could’ve blogged earlier today at lunch but I worked instead. (on my Fantasy Football team. It’s been sorely neglected for a while)

I could’ve blogged when I got home but instead I packed a sack dinner for Logan, 2 yogurts and a bottle and took the boys for a walk and to the park for a picnic. (see how I worked exercise into that?)

Could I have blogged when we got back? Sure! But, I decided to feed Riley the rest of his dinner because we had to leave the park early due to a… well… emergency Logan could not address in public.

After that… time to blog, right? Nope. Donnie’s playing tonight. I HAVE to watch. This is a big game for him and I want to be supportive (ready with feedback). With the computer occupied by the volleyball game and the kids occupied by other things, and I, fielding frantic volleyball game texts from my mother in law (I certainly couldn’t ignore her), this wasn’t the right time to blog.

Kids in bed.
Game over.
15 minutes before I need to feed Riley his late bottle (he’s going through a growth spurt and needs a LOT of extra food).
30 minutes until Donnie calls for the post game recap.

Now. Now’s the time to blog.

Crap, I forgot to eat dinner. I’ll eat while I blog.

For the win!

I went to one of Donnie’s games today. It’s the first game I’ve been to this year and IT WAS STRESSFUL! I don’t even really know the players on his team and yet I felt connected enough to care how well each of them played. There were ups. There were downs. There were infuriating calls. And, of course… calls that infuriated the other team. They ended up winning! And it was a big win for them. They needed this win. There wasn’t a dry seat in the house!

I’m proud of my husband for his win today, both physical and psychological.

Rageaholic

“Get your head out of your ass before you type an email” is the first thing I thought this morning.

I know it’s not the best way to start a Friday. But neither is an annoying email dancing around the truth with big words used incorrectly and an end that promises to be open and honest, when in fact, the entire message was vague and opaque, to say the least.

You know that person.

The one who squints when he looks in the mirror.

The one who couldn’t see the writing on the wall if the words were painted with his own fingers.

The one who blames the dog when he drives a car through the front window of his own house.

The one who continues to cycle around to the same mistakes over and over and when there is no one left to blame, he blames mental health because admitting you’re a fuck up would be as hard as, well, admitting you’re a fuck up. No one wants to do that.

These people enrage me.

I’m listening to a book recommended to my friend Blendra by Zipop and it’s teaching me a lot about who I am. People like the figment of my imagination above (or is he?) really, really get under my skin.

In this book, the author taught me that those people – the ones I can’t stand to be around, can’t listen to for another second, can’t approach, can’t look at, can’t think about without being filled with rage or anxiety – are not the problem.

I. am. the. problem.

And while those people may actually be royal fuck ups, my inability to deal with them, and not go berzerko, may be something I need to work on. So that’s what I’m doing. This is just one of the steps I’m deliberately taking toward badassery.

I took that rage I felt when I read the email, swallowed the hate words I save only for him, and responded with the facts. And! It did not ruin my day. Actually, (and it’s weird to say this, but) I feel like an adult.

Nerves.

Here I am. Sitting at my desk eating lunch. Now’s a great time to write a blog post. I can’t think of anything. Well, nothing but the butterflies in my stomach.

It’s less than four hours until my presentation. That’s what I’m thinking of.

In about 30 minutes, I’ll eat something to avoid those tummy growls mid-punchline.

In about 1 hour, I’ll go connect my iPad to the projector to make tripley sure it works.

In about 2 hours, I will check my wifi connection yet again.

In about 3 hours, the room will fill up.

In 3 hours and 20 minutes, my heart will be racing and I will be repeating my first lines in my head over and over so I don’t start with a lip-slip.

Just checked my wifi again.

Should I charge my iPad and iPhone? Yep. Better do that. Both have 97% battery life, but, you never know.

I think I’m ready.

Carry on

I heard this line in a song the other day (by the other day I mean, nearly every day because I really, really like this song), “May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground.”


To me, this quote is really thought-provoking as I spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. Basically, it’s telling me to move on (or Carry on if you’re familiar with the song). Maybe that’s why I like the song, because it’s a constant reminder that I need to put things behind me and not dwell.

Some days, I feel I’m constantly bouncing from dwelling in the past to worrying about the future. I tell myself, “Only use the past to learn for the future. That’s it. Spend just enough time there to remember what you learned.” I’m not saying reminiscing is bad, I’m talking about those “learning experiences” we’ve all had. They’re over. I learned, and now, it’s time to carry on.

Even if I have to consciously try to live in the present.

“If you are depressed, you live in the past.
If you are anxious, you live in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

~ Lao Tzu

Is a tattoo part of the fantasy?

Remember when I said I ignore the news?

This weekend I (organically) learned about 3 current events: devastating floods in Colorado, super sad shit in Syria and this Fantasy Football League.

Now, I don’t want you think I’m trying make light of the sad things going on in the world. I’m actually doing the opposite. I’m making heavy of them (if that’s a thing). In other words, I won’t write a blog post about them. Yeah, that sad.

This Fantasy Football League story, however, is a perfect light-hearted topic for the recent blogger’s-blocked Elefant Poop.

You probably don’t know this about me, but, I’m in a Fantasy Football League. I may be winning (I really don’t know). Maybe I would care more if we played like this Fantasy Football League. THIS is no ordinary Fantasy Football League. You see, these guys play NOT to lose because the loser has to get tattoo of the winner’s choice. That’s right. If Eli Manning throws a Hail Mary pass that’s neither Mary nor Hailing, someone may get inked! The only control the loser has is the choice of location.

Three years strong (yes it’s lasted 3 years), the Tattoo League has resulted in some rather good losers, relatively speaking. Each player has to sign a contract before the “season.” As it should be, the first loser was the  idea-man. He now has a unicorn kicking a field goal adorning his upper thigh.

It’s funny to me that ESPN picked this up. Is it real? Or is this just fantasy? (Sorry, I had to). It’s totally real by the way.

While a tattoo is a pretty significant commitment to a bunch of football players in a fantasy game (yeah, it’s pretend), I say raise the stakes. Short of banana-hammocks, shorty robes or during “intimate” moments, no one is going to see that upper thigh. Put the injured Care Bear in a prime tattoo spot, the shoulder. Or better yet, slap it across your forehead. Now, that’s news.

My vacuum Ned.

My vacuum has a name.

It’s Ned.

And Ned is the best vacuum ever. (In fact, the only vacuum I’ve actually named.)

Why?

Because Ned vacuums the house by himself. He is a Neato vacuum and I had a great Groupon deal for him. As I slowly type this pointless blog post with nearly no thought, Ned is circling (or squaring) the living room.

When I’m exhausted after a day full of baking, cleaning and child-rearing, Ned cleans up after me.

That’s why he’s so great.

My vacuum Ned.

The Advice Whisperer

Today was a little rocky.

Started off with me spending 80 frickin’ dollars at Urgent Care so they can tell me that my kids DON’T have ear infections… yet. But “Come back in a week.” As if I’m some sort of millionaire hypochondriac.

Then, I go and get way too involved in other people’s issues. For some reason, I have this innate need to help people; solve their problems. I take EVERYTHING personally. This stress was heavy on my shoulders. AND IT WASN’T EVEN MY STRESS! I have plenty of things to worry about without this breaking my back. I was this close to making a few specific prank-calls or sending anonymous hate mail and also considered Googling “how to legally take someone down.” Not sure if any of those things would be work-appropriate.

My rock is always there to support me. Classic bff stuff like “Yeah, you’re right” and “Those guys are jerks.”

But The Advice Whisperer is who actually turned my day around this time, from the verge of tears back to my usual self. Cold, hard third party perspective is sometimes just what I need to step back, take a look and reanalyze (maybe without all the irrational emotion).

I don’t know if it’s the refreshing cool fall air, the iced coffee from earlier today, the beer I’m drinking now or the contact high I’m getting from some of my more unconventional neighbors, but I think I owe my good mood to the advice whisperer.

So… thanks.

Don’t you LOVE your gift?

Today, Donnie turns 33, which is totally not old at all. If that’s true (and I believe it is), then why do I think I’m old at 31?

Anyway… I pride myself on my ability to choose the perfect gift for someone.

If it’s the thought that counts, then I win because I put A LOT of thought into gifts.

If it’s the gift that counts, I win on that too because I’m pretty damn good at it.

It’s almost a selfish satisfaction I get from seeing someone enjoy a gift I carefully selected (or sometimes crafted) just for them.

This time, I took a chance and bought Donnie a guitar.

“Does Donnie know how to play a guitar?” No.
“Does Donnie know how to read music?” No.
“And yet, you bought him a guitar and you think you’re some sort of gift master?” First, rude! And second, yes, I AM the gift master!

Donnie LOVES music. I’m pretty sure that’s an understatement. I think he loves music so much he wants to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant. There, that did it.

At some point in the time we’ve known each other, Donnie mentioned to me that he’d always wanted to play guitar, but that, “It’s too late now, I’m old.” I don’t believe that. There are few things to be too old for and learning to play guitar is not one of them.

People told me I was crazy to take a chance on such a gift. The risk-taker I am, I did it anyway.

And you know what? HE LOVED IT!

He’s already learning songs. He picks it up when he gets home from a stressful work day and said (quote) “This is the perfect gift.”

HA! I DID IT! The gift master wins again. And my prize? Watching him enjoy his new gift.

My baby saved my life

At this time, 10 years ago, I was sitting in a hospital recovery room scared to death. I’d just had a beautiful baby girl at 21 and my life was not where I’d wanted it to be. What can I say: Shit happens and sometimes smart people make stupid decisions.

I sat there alone in the hospital bed, begging the nurse to let me stay another night. For some reason, I didn’t want to take my new baby home. I wasn’t scared or anything like that. It’s just that, I didn’t want to let her down. As if she, as a newborn, had some sort of expectation already. I knew she didn’t know any better and that my love would be enough for her. But, I had expectations, and I was letting myself down. I think maybe I just needed her to open my eyes to that.

They say everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t have seen it at the time but I think the reason I had Anya so early was to save me from a life of poor decisions and bad influences.

When Anya was born, I could see more clearly what I was supposed to do. I picked up the shambles of my life and, for Anya, I put myself back together so I could make a better life for her.

And today, 10 years later, I’m happy where I am. I’m proud of my life and I’m deeply in love with my family. In a way, I have her to thank for that.

Happy Birthday Anya.
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Celebrate good times, COME ON! $&(@&$

I’m a big celebrator. I’d celebrate a good hair day if it was socially acceptable. Ok, I still celebrate good hair days.

One of my absolute favorite things about celebrating is giving gifts. I discovered that when I give people gifts and it’s not their birthday or Christmas, they may the wrong idea. I AM NOT HITTING ON YOU and I WILL NEVER BUY YOU COFFEE AGAIN.

I sorta stopped with the random gift-giving due to the mass confusion. (To people other than my close friends and family.)

So when it comes to actual reasons to celebrate, I am ALL ABOUT IT.

Anya turns 10 tomorrow. Oh MY GOD. Anya will be 10 in about 24 hours (but who’s counting 8:53 pm). Anya reminded me that it’s her golden birthday (as if I didn’t know!). It’s the date of your birthday. As in she turns 10 on the 10th = Golden.

I planned a party.
Made invitations.
Bought stuff to make a homemade tie dye cake.
Bought cupcakes for her classmates (because I know they wouldn’t appreciate a homemade treat).

And still today I was thinking “What can I do to make her feel extra special (low cost) on her 10th birthday?”
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Yep, that’ll do it.

26 year olds? Don’t take them seriously.

Five years ago, I couldn’t wait to be 30.

Someone told me, “No one takes you seriously in your career until you’re 30.” At the time, I took this as, “No one is taking you seriously.” As if, I was the young, naive intern. “Aw. That’s a cute press release, Danielle.”

I thought, “When I’m 30, I’ll get to do this and I’ll get to do that. I’ll be an expert in something by then. I’ll be serious and people will take me seriously. I’ll probably be running my own company by then.” (Ok, I didn’t really think I’d own my company. But I had my aspirations.)

When I turned 30, I didn’t experience any spontaneous display of respect. It wasn’t like I wore a badge on my shirt that said “Hello, people, I’m 30. Start taking me seriously!” People didn’t suddenly defer to me in moments of crisis. “Ask Danielle, she’s 30 now.”

Gradually, over the years, people began taking me more seriously as I began taking myself more seriously (when it came to my job; I can still make dirty jokes with the best of them). And it wasn’t because I was 30. In fact, I think it started before that. I just didn’t realize it until now.

I’m the same person I was when I was 26. Although, I think I’m much better at my job, a little wiser, a little smarmier and maybe even a little more immature… at times.

I used to say I wished I was still 26, but maybe 31 isn’t so bad.

25 hours

If there were 25 hours in a day, I would wake up early and workout before work. I’d be in a great mood and be in great shape. I’d have time to make breakfast instead of grabbing a granola bar.

If there were 25 hours in a day, I’d have that extra time to catch up on my pop culture obsession. I’d watch more documentaries. I’d find a sitcom and watch a whole season.

If there were 25 hours in a day, I’d maybe take a class or two. Learn some stuff. Practice my presentation again.

If there were 25 hours in a day, I’d cook more dinners. Do more laundry. Actually clean my house. Paint my nails. Curl my hair.

Who am I kidding? I can’t do all that stuff with just one extra hour. I think I’ll just go to bed early.

Paid programming

I had favorite programs as a kid, they would play back to back to back for hours on end on Saturdays. I watched my grandma’s TV in wonderment (my parents would never have let me watch TV all day).

The blue screen with white and yellow type is ever emblazoned in my memory. I’d memorize the numbers and sometimes write the really good deals down. The end “NO CODS”. That’s right, I LOVED watching infomercials. What’s a COD anyway?

I ooohed and awwwed at the cool building blocks. What?! Three payments of $35.99! That’s chump change! And it’s going on my Christmas list. Sometimes I would even yell, “Grandma! Come in here, come in here!” because if she didn’t write down the number for the dishes set, it would be gone forever. I never did get anything from infomercials. Maybe my grandma knew better.

Two weekends ago, Donnie was out of town. I couldn’t sleep so I flipped on the TV. WHA!? An infomercial! What happened to these things? They’re on in the middle of the night, that’s
what. Long story short, I got a helluva deal on some cool hair product “guaranteed” to make my hair smoother and I’m not allowed to watch infomercials anymore.

Here’s why:
1. I’m a little generous with my credit card in the middle of the night.
2. I’m a little too generous with my credit card after a few beers.
3. I’m a little generous with my credit card when Donnie’s not around.

To be fair though, I have waited a really long time to get something from an infomercial. I think my grandma would have been proud.

Skate Park: Not without my game face.

Tonight we went to a park. Not just any park. It had a skate park too. I thought, “Hey, the kids could take their scooters to the skate park while I push Riley around the park?” Never actually, personally, going to a skate park, I was a little naive to the skate park ways.

As we approached the outskirts of Maize, it may as well have been Compton, I saw several tween and teen boys on their bikes hitting the ramps (and hitting them hard) and using cuss words in all the wrong contexts, “F-in M F-er get your sh1ttn bike off my hella leg, yo.” GULP! This did not look like a good idea. Are those boys in a gang?! (I felt so white even typing that). Why did I get the kids all pumped up for this ghetto skate park? “Damn you, self and your unbridled enthusiasm!”

We very slowly approached the fenced park. The kids kept saying, “Can we go?” I took as long as possible to get the stroller out of the car. I guess I was hoping that if I stalled enough, they’d forget all about the skate park and go play in the sand with the safe-looking toddlers. Or maybe, the skate park thug wannabes would see my helmet-laden, fresh-faced cutie pies sidling up on their scooters and wander off saying “This place is wack, yo.” (Can you even sidle on a scooter?)

I finally unfolded the stroller, and threw in my Thanksgiving ham (Riley) and pushed it awkwardly through the grass, all the while maintaining my game face. A face I use to intimidate tween and teen boys (it works at the grocery store).

As we neared the gate, my heart raced. Would they bully my kids? Or worse, cuss in front of them and teach them poor grammar?! To my utter astonishment, a hush fell upon the group, one thug in a sideways hat and half-rubbed off neck tattoo, said, “Watch yo mouth, yo.”

We stayed far away from them on one side of the park. But, from then on it was just the sound of wheels on the ramps. Yes, it was a little awkward and we (I) felt a little out of place, but the thugs left one by one. Turns out they were just killing time after school until their moms could come and pick them up for soccer practice (or to take them juvey, who could really know these days?)

Maybe Maize isn’t the ghetto town I once thought it was (remember when I referred to it as Compton? Slight exaggeration). Maybe I should stop judging books by the cover. Maybe tweens should quit saying bad words and sporting realistic-looking rub-on neck tattoos. Until either of those things happen (highly unlikely), I’ll go ahead and keep my game face on.

Can I work next Labor Day?

Ah. Labor Day. No Work Day. Family Day. Relax Day.

I made enough lasagna to last the winter (or about a week). Folded about 20 loads of laundry. Watched 3 episodes of Orange is the New Black. Played ball with Riley. Vacuumed. Practiced my presentation and even wrote some stuff for Donnie.

When I realized this Labor Day seemed a bit laborious, I decided to sit down and relax.

But it’s tough to relax when…

My baby whines incessantly because he has four teeth coming in at the same time and I don’t know whether he’s hungry or he’s tired because he just woke up from his nap and is crying between bites of lasagna. The only time he’s happy is when he has a magnet in his mouth (should I be worried?).

And then I discovered that in the morning when I’d asked my 4-year-old to throw his laundry down the laundry shoot, he actually emptied all of the contents of his drawers down the laundry and that, that, was why the laundry pile was so mountainous. I look at the empty drawers, look down the laundry shoot, then back at the drawers. It looked as if most of those clothes were in the washer and dryer. Neat.

And then just as the night is about to wind down, the kids are literally getting in bed and my 9-year-old says she has homework. I tell her she has to wait until morning to do it because it’s too late and subsequently search her bookbag for other papers I might have missed. She sobs, “I don’t like people going through my bookbag!” Me: “I’m your mom.” Her: “You don’t understand me!”

I tell her to go make her lunch (10 min post bedtime) while I put the other delinquent into bed. At this point, he’s submissive. He’s already got his PJs on and teeth brushed. I kiss him goodnight and duck out of his room just in time to witness Anya staring at her crying self in the bathroom mirror. I try not to laugh. She apologizes, hugs me and heads to bed.

I think it’s more relaxing at work.

I actually like writing every day

The idea of writing every day seems daunting.

I don’t have enough time.

I don’t have anything to say.

I’m not motivated enough.

I used to dread writing a blog post every day. I’d wait until late at night when I really really didn’t want to write and then make up some lame excuse (see above). Or post some half-hearted, bs post.

Now (this week) I really enjoy writing every day. Once I log in to WordPress and start typing, it just flows out of me. It’s almost like sitting down and logging into WordPress is a trigger. The words come pouring out. It’s like a release. Venting, sort of. By the time I hit publish, my chest is lighter. My head is clearer.

“Donnie, can you do bath night? I need to write my post.” And get this, HE DOES IT. I love writing every day.

I was reprimanded by a teenager

Don’t worry, I wasn’t smoking cigs behind the middle school or anything. He was a lifeguard at the Y. It’s pretty much the only place where teens have authority (except for the intern scorekeepers at our Y volleyball games). Don’t worry I wasn’t trying to drown other people’s kids or anything (although…).

I attempted to use an air-filled floatation device (normally, I would just say “floatie” but I’m using lifeguard terminology for effect.) So after I carried this huge floatie passed 3 lifeguards at the front gate, gave it a little more air, fastened about 20 snaps and dragged into the water under one arm, 30-pounder under the other, sat down, fastened 3 more snaps, picked Riley up and stuck one fat leg through the hole, the head lifeguard comes up and tells me, “Ma’am you can’t use air-filled floatation devices.” I imagine all the lifeguards were pointing at me and sort of conflicted about who should approach the idiot breaking the air-filled flotation device rule.

“Me?” (Me being the only person holding an air-filled flotation device with a baby half-sticking out of it.)

He said, “Does that have air or foam in it?”
“Air.” (Clearly there was air in it. This kid was good.)
He said, “I’m sorry ma’am, you can’t have that here.”

I glanced at all the YMCA branded air-filled floatation devices on the lazy river. He ignore my passive aggressive glance and continued with an “it’s not you it’s them” spiel. You see, he’s protecting future kids from 1) being abandoned in an air-filled floatation device and 2) drowning due to an air leak in said abandoned air-filled floatation device.

He was good. Probably the most well spoken of the bunch. I imagine him teaching the others “use your words, not your whistle.”

I’m a rule follower, I wasn’t gonna put up a stink about it. Someone could have stopped me before i had put so much effort into it…. but… I’ll comply. After all, it’s to save all those other kids with neglectful parents and a staff of mostly incompetent lifeguards.

I’m an idiot, and that’s ok.

Gotcha! I would never admit to being an idiot. Well, not in general. But… there are some things I don’t make much of an effort to learn.

For example, there are states I couldn’t point out on a map. I know. It’s pathetic, but other than passing a memorization test in the 5th grade, it hasn’t really been a setback. It’s like a teacher telling you that you have to learn this math because you won’t always have a calculator handy. Jokes on you, Mr. Al Gebra! (names have been changed to protect certain wrong teachers) I just Googled Delaware. Found it as quickly as I could enter 8×7 (It’s 56). Why was that one always the hard one for me?

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So, there you have it, I’m a geographical idiot. (and maybe a times tables idiot, too). Some of that just never stuck with me. Maybe because I’m not too passionate about it?

But, some knowledge I intentionally avoid. Seems weird, right? I intentionally avoid THE NEWS.

Here’s why: Like my friends Zipop, Siri, Basically Chelsie and Blendra, I’ve had my bouts with anxiety and maybe even some depression (ok definitely depression… we all have our stuff). At one point, I was at the bottom of a very steep hill. Every time I thought my foot was secure and I could begin climbing back up, I’d slip on some loose dirt.

That loose dirt was bad news. A robbery, a rape, a kidnapping, a murder. I couldn’t handle it. No, those things weren’t happening to me. But they affected me just the same. As if those were my close friends and family. Then the worry began.

I flipped the channel.

I never flipped back. If the news is important enough, it’ll find me.

So I guess you could say I’m a current events idiot, too. But that’s ok with me. I think I will try a little harder to learn about geography though.

Showcam: instant projection, instant fun

I’m a BzzAgent. I say that like pretty much everyone knows what a BzzAgent is (but, really, don’t you?). If you don’t, a BzzAgent is a special, unique, talented person carefully selected by a committee of highly influential people to try out new products. (That’s a mostly true description).

As a BzzAgent since 2007, I’ve gotten to try out some pretty cool products, from 5 gum to a CarMD scan tool. Oh and I tried some pretty gross, ineffective teeth whitening goo (they can’t all be winners).

Two days ago, to my astonishment, I received a Playskool Showcam 2-in-1 Digital Camera and Projector in the mail. I’ll be honest. When I joined to campaign, I thought that 1). I’d receive a coupon for 10% off which I may or may not have redeemed. 2). it was just a kid’s camera. Well, I was wrong on BOTH counts.
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This camera/projector is SWEET! Of course, I did a quick crash course for the kids and they were OFF! They’d take a photo in a well lit room and then run into the bathroom and project it on the shower wall. (I’ll be honest, I was running right along with them. Ok, I was leading them.)

All-in-all, I’m pretty pleased with this Playskool camera. Albeit average quality photos, it’s hours of fun for the kids. They even have little animations in the viewfinder where you can put your head on the body of rockstar and then project your little “music video” on the wall. Pretty sweet.

So, when it comes time to review this product for Playskool, I will say “Well done, good sir, well done.”49b8f6d4110f11e38b6c22000a9e17e9_7

The lost art of complaining

I love to complain. I think it’s subconscious, though. I don’t look for things to complain about or look for reasons to complain. Yet, somehow, I find myself in a conversation surrounding negative points of view (most of them mine). I actually, consciously try NOT to complain. Sometimes, though, it’s impossible.

I’m a lot better about it than I was in high school (and college… and early motherhood… and maybe the past week.) I really try to see the positive side of things and I think I do it pretty convincingly. When I’m really on, you’d think rainbows shone out my butt.

Sometimes, though, I really enjoy complaining. I guess you could call it a guilty pleasure. I just miss those days in the hallways at school complaining about a strict teacher or at a bar just bitching about the $10 beer or not enough cheese in the pepperoni rolls. Those jerks couldn’t make pepperoni rolls to save their lives.

I feel like I have been sooo thankful, so positive, so blind to the obvious opportunities to complain that are surfacing right before my eyes! Am I growing up? Am I turning into an adult? Maybe it’s time to put my complaining aside and try not to sweat the small stuff.

Sometimes, though, the itch is so unbearable I can’t stand it.

“GAH!! I freakin’ hate this stupid song on Pandora. I can’t think through this pointless post! Stupid Pandora ALWAYS plays this song! Thumbs down! Does that even mean anything to you anymore, PANDORA! SHIT!”

There. I feel better now. Heard tomorrow’s supposed be a nice day!

I’m a fraud

I have a chance to speak for a group of people in the near future about a topic you’d think I’d do well with: Women.

I LOVE women. Some of my best girlfriends are women. My mom is a woman. I am a woman. I’ve spent countless hours researching, rehearsing, rethinking and redoing an entire 30-45 minute presentation about women. And yet, my worst fear is that someone is going to figure me out. Someone is going to say, “No. There’s no way that’s right.” and then, I’ll be standing up there alone, completely alone, with nothing to say. Nothing on my mind, but shock and uncertainty. What if they think I’m a fraud?

No amount of preparation can take that haunting thought away. In fact, I’ve sort of been avoiding my prep time, in hopes that I will get past this negativitiy. In my mind, fear is prevalent. “Fraud. You are a fraud. What do you know? That doesn’t even make sense.” (I’m pretty hard on myself). I guess a lot of this uncertainty is that I’m telling stories in my presentation. Stories from my point of view, with my reactions and my observations. Like most of the stories I tell, no one will be there to chime in and say, “Yep, that totally happened.” It’s just me. In front of a bunch of men. Telling stories about me, a woman.

As the presentation date gets closer and closer, my anxiety heightens. I tell my friends, family, coworkers about my concerns and they nod and say “uh-uh.” They don’t know. They don’t know what it’s like to be up there. A known fraud. On stage.

Deep down I know it will be fine. Everything will work out fine. If I mess up, I’ll have support. I won’t crash awkwardly to the ground and skin my knee (like I did on Logan’s scooter). If history repeats itself, it will probably go quite well. I’m hoping history will repeat itself. I’m hoping the audience will feel educated, enlightened and entertained and never suspect that I’m really a fraud.

Hannah Mountana

I don’t watch the MTV VMAs. I think I’m too old? No, actually I never watched them. Not cool enough? Yeah, that’s probably it.

Or maybe it’s just abominable dross like this that veers me toward more quality programming, like Orange is the New Black or How I Met Your Mother. I’ll be honest, I never really gave the VMAs a chance. But, with crap like this, I’m glad. The best part is the Smith family’s expressions.

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It worked Miley, you caught my attention. In fact, I cut YouTube music video time short and handed Anya a book. So, thank you for that.

P.S. Don’t worry, I didn’t expose my kids to this awful, desperate, attention-getting publicity stunt. My kids watch music videos and pretend they are the singers. We were watching the Some Nights video. A little war-style blood and gore beats making a baby with a Beetle Juice wannabe on stage any day.

Here’s what I think you should do and other advice

I love giving advice. And, in some instances, I think I’m pretty good at it. I mean, people ALWAYS ask me for advice.

Here are some recent examples:

“What should I do with my boyfriend?”
Me: Dump him.

“What should I do with my life?”
Me: Go back to college.

“Which one?”
Me: That one.

Now that i think about it, all the advice I give is really just my opinion (a lot of times based on experience, but opinions nonetheless). Hmmm…

So I guess I could say I love giving opinions.

I’m full of opinions.

I prefer not to shower

I am terrible at girly stuff. I don’t like girls’ night. I never wore ribbons in my hair and I didn’t plan my wedding before I got engaged. When it comes to things like baby showers, I usually try to come up with a really good excuse and an even better gift, which I will mail. I just don’t feel comfortable. The games are stupid. I get bored with the “oohing” and “awing” of every. single. gift.

So, when my good friend invited me to her baby shower, I thought long and hard before declining. But, before I could, she text me, “Donnie told me you were gonna make it to my shower. Yes!” Dammit Donnie (he’s always trying to get me to be a better friend).

When I walked in the door of the shower, a random group of women sat staring at the door in silence. How she was able to get such a big group of women in which no one knew each other is beyond me.

I cracked a few jokes to the lady next to me but she just kept focusing on comparing how SHE looked when SHE was pregnant and how HER baby was much more active. Blah blah blah.

I was starving but the food table was off limits until games were played and presents were opened. Why do people do that?? When we finally got to eat, I was wondering if the fruit bowl and cake were going to multiply like fishes and bread. That didn’t happen so I sat down and enjoyed my grape and cake sliver.

To conclude the shower (at least I’d really hoped this was the end), we went around the circle to give the mom to be some parenting advice. When it was my turn, there had been about 8 “Love him. Just love him.” And at least 4 “Lots of hugs and kisses!” So when it got to me, I panicked and blurted out, “Make sure you point his little pee pee down after you change his diaper. Fewer wet pants!”

I heard a few gasps and then silence. I think next time I’ll just mail the gift.

Audiobooks are my jam!

Two years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to read one self development book per month. That lasted one month. New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken, right? It bothered me though. I just could not find the time in the day to read.

Audiobooks? I tried that too. I’d put an audio book on my iPod and run with my book. That lasted half a mile. Boooring. I need music when I work out. So… that didn’t work out.

Then I started listening in my car. Game changer. It just makes sense.

I was driving a total 1 hour and 30 minutes every day of the week and most of that time was spent idly listening to the radio or Pandora.  So, I found the time! No excuses now.

I didn’t bother with a resolution because we know those are meant to be broken and I didn’t want to ruin the productivity train I just boarded. In a few short months, I’ve read 5 books! All self development. (Do you call it reading when it’s an audiobook? Or is it listened to? Doesn’t sound as smart.)

jenny lawson

I would like to recommend one in particular that I enjoyed, written by a blogger I admire.
This book was hilarious. Jenny Lawson tells great stories. I especially like her style of writing. I laughed with her, was outraged with her, and was sad with her.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) (Unabridged) – Jenny Lawson
Warning: If you are offended by foul language or grossed out by taxidermy, don’t bother buying this book.

Volleyball night

Yet another late night playing volleyball. It’s like I’m one of those 20-year-olds who play volleyball every night (except of course, I’m setting up the port-a-crib while they’re warming up and feeding Riley snacks between games).

While stressful and busy, playing volleyball makes me feel pretty awesome. And tired. But mostly, awesome.

… And tired.

The B word

Not that B word. I’m talking about “Bully.” Although, at times, the other b-word could apply. I know the word Bully is being thrown around like crazy, but it applies here. I’m not saying we need to file a restraining order, I’m just saying… there’s this bully.

Anya is being picked on by a boy at school. I actually think he likes her but you wouldn’t think so by the way he talks to her. You definitely don’t call someone fat if you like them, right? (If you do, you’re doing it wrong).

I had a bad feeling when she saw her class list said “Great. So-and-so is in my class.” (She didn’t say so-and-so. I’m protecting the alleged from public scrutiny. As if he’d do my daughter the same courtesy.)

Anya’s been in school about a week and 3 out of 5 of those days, she’s come home complaining about So-and-so.

Day 1: She said, “Teacher told us to ignore each other.”

“That’s good,” I thought. Although if I were the teacher, I’d probably try to therapize it out (could be why I’m not a teacher).

Day 2: Anya said, “So-and-so kept screaming at me at recess so I told the teacher. We both got in trouble.”

Not sure about the method here. I’m guessing the teacher didn’t know who started it so, by default, it’s everyone’s fault.

Day 3: Anya said, “So-and-so is talking about me just loud enough so I can hear and quiet enough so the teacher can’t hear.” When I asked her what she did about it she said, “I just ignored him. I don’t want to get into trouble.” Me. “Did it work?” Anya, “No, he kept writing notes and throwing them on my desk. One said the M-F word.”

Me, “Ok, what the hell? I’ll calling his bitch-ass” (that’s where the other B-word comes in). If you’re wondering. No, I didn’t call him. Donnie reminded me that when he got bullied in school, his mom called the kids parents and they just went at it 10-fold. I definitely don’t want that.

So said to Anya, “What are you going to school for?”
She replied, “To learn.”
I said, “Then just focus on that. If he interferes with your ability to learn, let me know and we’ll talk to your teacher. Until then, just write it down in your journal when he torments you.”

I figured, if we do talk to the teacher, I want to have documentation of these events, rather than just emotional recounts, you know, in case we need to file a restraining order.

Kids are worth it.

I know I sometimes seem overwhelmed, irritated and stressed by my kids. I know I post about it a lot on here. In case you aren’t a parent, parenting is hard. It’s irritating. It’s stressful. You will constantly feel overwhelmed and helpless.

Today one of my friend’s 14-year-old daughter died in a car accident. I was at the park when Blendra text me. I was actually mid-sentence yelling at Anya that she needed to do a better job playing with Logan.

I gasped.

I put my hand over my mouth and I put myself in my friend’s shoes. It was a scary place to be. Sad. (RIP Aubrey Mcneill)

I scoured Facebook for details but there were none yet just nearly a hundred people flooding her Facebook page with prayer and well wishes (the official announcement had not been made yet). I posted a “sorry” message and put my phone back in my purse.

I went back to play with my kids. After all, that’s what I think I should take away from this. I can’t focus on the what-ifs and worry about my kids. If anything, this unfortunate, extremely sad circumstance reminded me that I should be enjoying my kids more.

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And as I slowly drove (with my flashers on) behind my scooter-riding kids to another playground at the park, I didn’t care one bit that other drivers were annoyed, shaking their heads and flipping me the bird (one lady even honked).

As I watched my kids scoot (is that the right verb?), I thought of how much fun they were having and that me dealing with the “distractions” was worth every second.

Are you scared yet?

My boss is always saying “that’s an opportunity for growth” when he makes me do something I really don’t want to do. Not simple things like paperwork but things that scare me like public speaking and public speaking. I dread every minute of preparation and sweat through most of the presentation but when it’s all said and done I feel awesome, accomplished, fearless.

Why not make that feeling reoccur on a daily basis? (Maybe on a bit of a smaller scale.) So, starting Tuesday, I’ve been facing small fears and enjoying it.

Tuesday: The scissor-lift. I’m terrified of heights. I get queasy on the mezzanine at work. I cling to the door on balconies. I can barely stand on a 6 foot ladder. So when I was asked if I wanted to board the scissor-lift at work, I had the “no” right on the tip of my tongue. But I said “YES!” I don’t know what came over me. But I did it. We went 20 feet straight up and I white-knuckled the safety rail as it swayed back and forth the entire way, gently telling myself that I was going to live through this. And I DID! And I’m pretty proud of myself. BONUS: We got some great shots too. That picture below is looking straight down.

photo 2

Wednesday: Automotive work. I changed my cabin filter.

Thursday: Multitasking with kids. I took all three kids with me to the gym, where I’d be multitasking volleyball and mommying. Some may say this is more of an inconvenience than a fear and to those people I say, “Hey, this is my fear list so shut the hell up or I will be on your fear list.”

Friday: Public speaking. Today I was supposed to walk through my presentation with my boss. This in and of itself is scary to me. Almost as scary as the presentation sometimes. There’s something about people I know watching me speak that really gets me. I don’t know if you noticed but… I didn’t do anything that scared my today. Bummer. But, I’ll work on it for this weekend.

My goal is to continue this for 20 days because then it may become a habit and what a great habit to have!

scares you

Allergy medicine or child sedation?

Stupid allergies. Stuffy nose, ear ache. I’ve had a sore throat for a month… and a HALF. Doc told me to take Benedryl at night before bed. She made the comment, “Usually I don’t recommend sedation but you’re an adult and this will help during all this rainy weather.”

So I grabbed the packet and read the warnings, looking for something like “instant sedation.” (I don’t take medicine too often.) I came across this:
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Do people really do that?? Not to be all judgmental but, yeah I’m judging you, people who sedate their children! There’s got to be another way (like, I don’t know, parenting).

Well, I guess at least one person has sedated their child with Benedryl. That’s scary and it made me a little sad. But not sad enough to not take any. I mean, I’d had a sore throat for a month… and a half, I was desperate.

The Cabin Filter Challenge

First I’d like to say I’m sorry I didn’t post last night. I was not feeling well (that’s an understatement). I actually considered writing a short witty blurb from my bathroom floor but that idea was quickly squashed by, well let’s just say I was busy.

Anyway… after a horrible night followed by a pretty bad morning, I was feeling almost back to myself after lunch so I decided to do something productive. I did take the day off after all.

Feeling especially ambitious, I decided to change the cabin filter in my car. It can’t be that hard right? I pulled out my trusty manual. Flip to the page on pollen filters. WTF? It says Dust and Pollen filter right there at the top but skips straight from seat belts and floor mats to wipers. Not one word on the filters. photo 4

I started to wing it. Which is always a bad idea with me and automotive work. I knew it was behind the glove box but it looked a little complicated, I didn’t want to blow up my car so I did some research. After a little youtubing, I discovered that I needed a video instruction for Honda Pilot. It’s very similar to an Acura (which is what I have).

Then I got to work. Here’s proof that I did it. You can see my chipped nail polish.
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I had to remove the entire glove box to get to the filter. I actually had to get in my car underneath my glove box to get the last bolt off. I felt all mechanic-y.
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I got it out!! Ew! That was a dirty filter! Could it be the source of all my nasty allergies??
photo 1

I made sure everything was back in its place before I jumped up and yelled “F*** yeah!”

Then I thought I’d start the car to see if it smelled fresher.

My car wouldn’t start. Sh*t! I broke it!

I text Donnie. “Guess what? I changed the filter by myself” After he send his shocking praise and approval, I told him that now my car wouldn’t start. He reassured me that it wasn’t my fault and simply changing the filter wouldn’t kill the car. I’m all “Simple, huh? That shit was complex!”

Turns out, my battery is bad and couldn’t handle me having the door open for 45 minutes. You’d think they would’ve caught that at the dealership I went to last week… FOR A BATTERY SERVICE!

The point is, I am totally proud of myself for doing something I was incredible intimidated by. It goes along with my recent, “Do something everyday that scares you.” Best part is, I didn’t break my car.

Watch out! This one’s a biter.

Forget shark week. This fish needs its own week. It looks terrifying!

ewfish

No. It is not a piranha. The South American Native Pacu is the friendly, vegetarian, nut-loving cousin of the piranha. That’s right. This fish loves nuts. All nuts (so to speak).

“Gentlemen beware,” was the warning sent to male Scandinavian skinny-dippers (I guess skinny-dipping is a big thing there?). These fish like to crush nuts with their strong jaws and often make the unfortunate mistake of choosing the wrong “nut” due to the cold water effect (so to speak).

So if you DO want to go skinny dipping in the ice cold Scandinavian waters, go ahead, I just hope you didn’t plan on having children.

This fish is a real ball buster!

How to ref a recreational volleyball tournament

I’m a professional volleyball ref. Professional ref being defined as “one who gets paid to ref.”

I’ve reffed a particular recreational volleyball tournament every year for the past 5. Actually calling it a recreational tournament is a gross overstatement and way too kind. Other possible names could be:

  • Kiddie Baby Whiner Volleyball Tournament
  • Drunken Angry Monkey Volleyball Tournament
  • Unathletic Awkward Arrogant A-holes Volleyball Tournament (like the alliteration in that one?)

Or simply…

  • Let’s See Who Can Get Hurt First Tournament (no actual volleyball is played)

The theme of this year’s tournament, “If Phil Dalhausser can do it… I can!”

Anyway I digress. Now to the how to!

  1. Put your bitch face on. No one likes you. Especially the really bad players. They think you are out to get them and will make comments like “Of course you would call that on me!”
  2. Bring ibuprofen and lots of water. The gym will likely be very hot.
  3. Expect a whistle sounding in your ear for the next week.
  4. Don’t expect to have any breaks for 10 hours. There are many, many questions and many over-arcing generalizations about the game of volleyball like “You have to be tall for this and I ain’t tall.”
  5. You are there to make sure no one gets in a fight and that no one gets hurt (the latter is inevitable so don’t beat yourself up if someone gets hurt about every 10 minutes).
  6. Never change your call. You will lose credibility. Even if someone walks up and asks why you didn’t call that lift and supports her question with “I coach club” and you think to say, “Coaching club does not an expert make” but instead you tell her that you’re calling to the level of the game. To which she winks at you and agrees that none of these fools know how to play (when really, she’s one of the worst).
  7. No matter what everyone says, you are not a “nazi” because you blew your whistle. (I’m not even sure what nazi volleyball would look like).
  8. Just because someone turns their back doesn’t mean they are done talking to you. They will continue their argument with you as they walk away. In fact, they will say more gutsy things with their back turned.
  9. Expect to hear the same corny, unfunny jokes over and over. Don’t worry, you don’t have to laugh. In fact, not laughing maintains your no-nonsense authority.
  10. Never, ever change your call.
  11. No matter how many times you explain the rules, people will always get mad when you call something and say, “I wish you would have told me that.”
  12. When someone plays well, the others will get mad and make comments like “this is supposed to be fun” and “what’s his problem?”
  13. If every game is played to 21 all day, you will still have people asking during the last game, “What are we playing to?”
  14. Yell out the score after every point. If you don’t, they will ask. They can’t count and they can’t yell out the score themselves. Trust me, I’ve tried to get them to do this.
  15. Never change your call.

I could probably write these tips all day, but I doubt any of my readers are crazy enough to ever, ever ref a recreational tournament of any kind. So technically, this post was for entertainment purposes only (well, I’m entertained).

P.S. If you do ref a recreational tournament, these tips are legit. Take them very, very seriously.

Longest day ever

6:00 a.m. Riley wakes up early.
9:00 a.m. Take Donnie to ER because he can’t move due to debilitating back pain.
10:30 a.m. Pay $150 ER fee. (Ouch)
11:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Ref 3 volleyball tournaments to earn back money spent at ER.
10:30 p.m. Scarf down dinner.
10:31 p.m. Rum and coke.
10:35 p.m. This blog post.

More tomorrow. Too tired to continue thinking.

I’m funny because of you

I’m a firm believer of “you are who you hang with.” Also “you are what you eat” but that’s a different topic for another day.

All of my life I’ve been a wanderer. I never really had a group. I hung with the jocks at jock practice. I hung with the artists at art practice. I hung with the French nerds in French class. And I hung out with potheads on the weekends. (That’s actually true but don’t worry I wasn’t a drug dealer and I didn’t do drugs). My point is, I didn’t have a group I stuck with all the time. I was an eclectic mix of all these groups (except the pothead part… That was a rebellion phase and I hated every minute of it.) So, in a sense, I was who I hung with.

As I grew, I began to find groups I felt more comfortable in. I hung out with people who made me laugh (also, I only watch movies that make me laugh, prefer books that make me laugh, work with people who make me laugh and I married someone who makes me laugh). The funnier they got, the funnier I got.

So when people tell me that I’m funny, I think about the people I hang with and how funny they’ve made me. After all, I am who I hang with.

So dramatic

People (mostly Donnie) have told me “you’re so dramatic.”

It could be that I involve myself in matters and get really worked up about when it’s really none of my business (hey, I’m just trying to help).

It could also be that I over-celebrate life events; sometimes I do it for fun, sometimes I do it for a good story and sometimes I do it just for my own selfish pleasure. But most of the time, it’s really not that big of a deal.

Let’s take Cookie Day at work for example. Cookie Day is no big deal. I can go buy a cookie right now. In fact, I just may. But, my (some may call “unhealthy”) excitement for Cookie Day is that I get overly ecstatic about something that means nothing. To me, it’s fun. And believe it or not, it changes the course of my day. Maybe I’m faking it ’till I make it? But that chocolate chip doesn’t taste fake to me, no sir!

It’s the same reason I tell all my friends about the AMAZING sushi I ate.

Why I scream in my car when I have a bad day at work.

Why I sing in the car when I have a good day at work.

Why I pick Logan up and throw him in the air because he finally wrote his name.

Why I am nearly moved to tears when I see Anya do something nice for someone (I was pregnant at the time, but still).

I guess what I’m trying to say is I discovered that I don’t have to have the most exciting life ever to become a better writer and storyteller. In fact, it’s more challenging to write about life when it’s a little mundane. Not only am I over-exaggerating the small, boring stuff, but I also try to experience typical, daily events more completely.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt add a little drama here and there.

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What I didn’t know I wanted to be

Last night Anya helped me write a super awesome version of a Shel Silverstein poem. You can read it here.

As I was explaining iambic pentameter to Anya (we just tried to match syllables and rhyming words), I could see a teeny, tiny little spark in her otherwise dirt-brown eyes. She smiled. “I’ll make my own poems! I’ll put them on my blog!”

Suddenly, I remembered my first writing experiences. I’d written poems day in and day out. I forgot about that! I wanted to be a poet! I actually had a poem published in a book when I was 8 or 9, I think. I also wrote short stories and illustrated them in my private journal.

I specifically remember thinking I wasn’t good enough at writing poems and short stories. It was probably due a bad grade (bad being not an A). So I forgot that dream and wandered around clueless about what I wanted to be when I grew up. All that wandering lasted years, decades even. I kept switching and settling on more “general paths.” Surely I’d be good at something eventually.

And eventually I discovered my passion (and knack) for writing. Or rediscovered I guess. Here I always thought I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but really, I knew all along. I was just afraid to go after it.

Excuses

“I cannot write on my blog tonight,”
I said after an internal fight.
I have allergies; a sore throat,
An ache, a rash and stomach bloat.
I shouldn’t have eaten that last french fry,
That burnt bacon smoke is stinging my eye.
My skin feels incredibly tight,
I’ve counted seventeen bug bites!
And there’s one more–that’s eighteen,
Today someone said I was mean.
My legs are sore–my feet are raw–
I just got scratched by a paw!
I cough and sneeze, my eyes are tearing
The kids are doing too much cheering.
My back hurts when the phone rings,
And yes, my right eye still stings!
I’m dehydrated.
It’s overrated.
I ate too much at dinnertime.
I think I want some more key lime.
I lost my password, my fingers hurt,
My finger nails are chock full of dirt.
I’m locked out of my house,
I spilled tea on my blouse.
I got stung by a bee,
Hey, my time is not free.
I have nothing to write, my life is boring, no motivation
I have a hangnail and I’m pretty sure it’s a staph infection.
Wait-what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say this blog post is pretty good?
K… I’ll go watch Boys in the Hood

This poem is a tribute to Shel Silverstein. I memorized his poem Sick for my first public speaking engagement in fourth grade. He was my favorite poet at the time (maybe the only poet I’d heard of) and I wanted to be just like him.

T25: The T stands for “F you”

After a successful stint with INSANITY, Donnie and I started doing to T25 a few weeks ago. We decided it was too difficult to do 50 minutes of insane cardio every day, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” If you’re not familiar with INSANITY, it’s basically a workout for college sprinters/basketball/football players. Luckily Shaun T (creator of INSANITY) made a shorter, more convenient workout called Focus T25. I’m not sure what we’re focusing on, but if I had to guess, I’d say hamstrings because that is what hurts the most right now.

Focus-T251

T25 is 10 weeks, 5 days a week, 25 minutes a day of nonstop cardio, lunges, pushups, burpees, squats, planks, jabs, etc. No breaks. Basically, it’s a hellacious 25 minutes of torture that seems to last at least an hour.

At first we thought it’d be easier because it was shorter than INSANITY. Nope! It’s just as hard. It might even be harder. Either that, or I’m super out of shape. It takes me a while to warmup and about halfway through I’m dripping in sweat and wishing it was over.

Week 1 we did workouts on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday were busy nights and then Friday came and we thought, “Let’s not workout tonight and start over again on Monday.” So we did.

Week 1: Part 2 was more successful. We made it all the way through, with burning calves and aching hammies.

Week 2 was alright. I skipped one day because I played volleyball all night and by the time I got home at 10 pm, I was not feeling like doing a 25-minute workout.

Week 3: I did the workout Monday and Tuesday. Went on a bike ride Wednesday and justified no workout. Played volleyball Thursday, no need to workout. Walked 3-ish miles on Friday (75% humidity) with the kids (which felt like 10 miles)… no workout.

Week 4 starts today. I’m really feeling guilty so I’m going to force myself to do the workout.

It’s a lot of work staying in shape, but there are results to be had so I can’t quit now!

 

My friend’s dad

I have a friend. My friend has never had a good relationship with her dad. Growing up, he was really strict. She felt she couldn’t talk to him at all, about anything. He gave away very little in the way of affection. She still tried her best to impress him; trying to go above and beyond anything he’d ever expected from her. But how was she to know? He never told her what he expected from her. Other than quiet in the backseat.

As she got older, she still tried to please her dad. Telling him about her goals met and achievements earned. He’d shrug, “So you graduated Cum Laude? You know your cousin graduated Magna Cum Laude, right?”

Now that she’s an adult, she doesn’t even bother sharing anything with him. Well, sometimes. Other times (when she’s feeling extra proud of something), she’ll say “Check out this height ruler I made for the kids!” Then he’ll respond with something like, “You know people sell those at our craft shows.” Then she’ll wink and say something like, “Mine’s better though, right dad?” Confused, he’ll say, “Why is yours better?” Still undeterred, she’ll respond with, “You know? Because I made it.” He says matter-of-factly, “Those people make theirs too and theirs are good enough to sell.”

Then, she’ll say she’s never sharing anything with him again, ever. Then, she may drink her dinner and angrily vent to her husband, who’s come to expect it.

After all the drinking, and all the venting, and all the anger, she’ll get over it. And she’ll probably try again, relentlessly chasing the “I’m proud of you” she’s been looking for, for 31 years.

Editing; it’s all in my head.

The other day I was texting someone. One of her texts contained a misspelling. She sent the corrected version of the word with “I wanted to correct this word before you did.” I had no intention of correcting the misspelling. In fact, I don’t think I have EVER corrected her spelling or grammar.

I NEVER correct anyone’s grammar. (Except at work where editing is totally my job.)

This is not the first time someone has said that. People always think I’m going to correct them. Just because I write and edit for a living doesn’t mean I’m going to edit daily conversations. It’s rude. And I prefer not to be rude. To me, offering unwanted grammar advice is belittling. It makes people feel stupid. I don’t like making people feel stupid (unless they wage grammar wars, then it’s game on).

I’m not that person who says, “Don’t you mean you’re doing WELL?” after asking someone how she is and she says, “Good.” I’m not even the person who answers with “well” when people ask me how I am. I think it sounds pretentious. I know it’s right. They know it’s right. But I just don’t like it and I feel awkward saying it.

So then, why do people always think I will correct their grammar? Just because I enjoy editing does not mean I’m going to go around correcting everyone’s grammar so they don’t annoy me with their poor grasp of syntax. I have manners.

Of course, I can’t say the same for what’s going on in my head.