Saturday, August 31, 2013

Meet Stella: How Panic Led Me Through a 24-Hour Car Buying Period

“Only 8% of our worry will come to pass. 92% of our worry is wasted. DON'T PANIC”
                                                                 ― Mark Gorman

Thursday, around 5:10 p.m.
Car dies on the way home.  Kind gentleman stops and helps me get it started again.  Sputter, clunk and hesitate all the way home.  It had died a couple weeks earlier with the kids in the car while exiting onto the highway.  Not a good trend.

Thursday, 5:10 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Ponder buying new car.  Do extensive research into new cars vs. used.  Come up with a price I can live with (well, at least one that doesn't actually make my heart stop in my chest). 

Friday, 7:50 a.m.
Car starts and runs fine.  Question sanity.

Friday, around 8:00 a.m.
Email two local dealers to begin the "let's buy a car" dance.

Friday, 8:30-5:00 p.m.
Work to forget about the pain of buying new car.  At various intervals, decide NOT to buy car.  Change mind.  Change mind again.  Curse womanhood.

Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Make appointments at dealers for Saturday.

Friday, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Clean current car for the first time in approximately two years.  Find loads of things that were "missing," including an iPod Touch ("I thought you KNEW it was missing!").  Throw away bags of receipts, straws, old gum, papers, the matches to earrings long ago discarded, Hot Tamales, broken CDs, and cracked reading glasses.  Enlist the aid of Thing 1 and Thing 2 who are truly astounded by the volume removed from the vehicle.

Friday, 9:00 p.m. to midnight
Research tactics on car buying negotiation.  Return a couple of dealer emails.  Rock back and forth, wondering if I know what in the hell I'm doing.

Saturday, 6:00 a.m.
Wide awake.  Rock back and forth, wondering if I know what the hell I'm doing.

Saturday, 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
Pace back and forth through the kitchen, drinking coffee.  Create list of pros and cons in my head.  Talk to myself.  Argue with myself.  Counter-argue.

Saturday, 9:00 a.m.
Phone call with dealer B to discuss financing options, etc.  Sweating begins.

Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Present myself to dealer A armed with an entire folder of information, including what NOT to do.  Loaded with negotiation tactics and a list of things that I am not to pay for under any circumstances.

Saturday, 10:45 a.m. until 12:15 p.m.
Examine. Discuss.  Ride.  Try not to be nauseated...not from motion sickness but from the idea of spending ridiculous amounts of money on what amounts to a TOOL.

Saturday, 12:20 p.m.
Make a decision.  Talk myself into more features than I had initially settled on before arriving.  Of course.  Because I'm a sucker.  Negotiations begin.  At one point, the finance guy (a.k.a. "the Bad Guy" 'cause the salesperson was playing the role of "the Good Guy") gives me a bottom line figure on the car I've upgraded myself to.  He asks me what it will take to make me happy.  I telll him if he gives it to me for free I wouldn't complain at ALL.  He laughs (without much humor).  He gives me his bottom line price.  I say "no."  He looks at me, aghast.  "No?"  "Well," I say, "I just don't want to pay that. It doesn't make me HAPPY."  He laughs.  Hard this time.

Saturday, 1:15 p.m.
It becomes evident that we are at an impasse with the car I've settled on.  I pick up my things to leave.  "Wait!" says my salesperson, somewhat in a panic having spent ALL DAY with me at this point.  "What about...THIS option?"  I am presented with a (slightly) used Nissan Pathfinder with almost no miles.  They both look at me expectantly.  We sat back down.  We whittle, cajole and hammer away once again.

Saturday, 1:35 p.m.
The salesperson looks a little rough around the edges and the finance guy smiles.  We shake.  The deal is done.  After they leave the table, panic begins in earnest.

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
I turn down all the added protections, the gap insurance, the extended warranties, etc. etc. etc.  just as my research advised.  Feeling nauseated, I accept my completed paperwork with trembling hands and climb into my new mammoth (comparatively) vehicle.

Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
My breath comes back a little.  I realize I haven't eaten ALL DAY.

Saturday, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
I pace. I wring my hands.  I down a shot of tequila and the feeling comes back into my legs and arms.  I name the vehicle "Stella" in honor of my very good friend who, when she heard that the mileage on the vehicle was so low said, "Who's been driving that car?  Grandma Stella?"  Stella it is.  Stella is a good name for a car her age.

Present time
Things 1 and 2 are happy.  Thing 1 has banished Thing 2 to the outer realm of row 3 so they can have as much personal space as necessary. They've figured out where Sparky and Mr. McDougal will rest.  It's all good.  Really.  It's all just a part of life.  :)  And life is good.  And we are blessed....every one.

Drive on.


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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

She Let Go

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've probably figured out that I'm a HUGE fan of quotations.  Sometimes other people say so succinctly what's in our hearts.  I read this poem last night and it absolutely took my breath away.   I've never read it before but couldn't help but share it...I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I have.  It has been attributed to several authors, including Rev. Safire Rose, Ernest Holmes and Jennifer Eckert Bernau.

She Let Go
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments. 
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, 
without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a 
book on how to let go… She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back. 
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. 
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go. 
She didn’t journal about it. 
She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. 
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. 
She just let go.
She didn’t analyse whether she should let go. 
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. 
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. 
She didn’t call the prayer line. 
She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.
No one was around when it happened. 
There was no applause or congratulations. 
No one thanked her or praised her. 
No one noticed a thing. 
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle. 
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. 
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be. 
A small smile came over her face. 
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.


 
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

How I Learned to Live Frugally Under Protest

“I think the key indicator for wealth is not good grades, work ethic, or IQ. I believe it's relationships. Ask yourself two questions: How many people do I know, and how much ransom money could I get for each one?”
― Jarod Kintz

Money is a tool.  It's an AWESOME tool and I wish I had gobs and gobs of it.  If I did, though, I'd probably give it all away anyway and then I would have to start again from scratch.  It's probably best that I just deal with what I have.

As a single parent, I have to be cautious and careful with my cash flow.  This is in stark contrast to my natural personality.  I am something of a free spirit and, for a while, after my divorce, I continued to live in my free spirit style and found myself with some nasty ol' debt.  I got serious then and changed my spendthrift ways.  I got rid of my debt and started living COMPLETELY within my means.  There is nothing that makes you feel MORE POOR than living within your means, let me tell you.  I don't spend more than I have...ever.  I'm thinking about buying a car...and part of me is thinking about saving all the money to buy it and paying cash.  (That is gonna take a while...but it's on my mind as a goal right now.  Of course, my current car MAY fall apart before I get there...but...)

I've cut my household expenses significantly over the last couple of years and, quite honestly, am still very happy.  I'm just spending less money and living JUST AS HAPPILY.  WHO KNEW??

Here are some things I've done to begin living frugally:

  1. I cut the cable cord.  I was spending close to $200 per month for cable, tv and phone.  I decided it was ridiculous to spend that kind of money for something I don't even really like all that much, so I found a deal with another company and currently spend $63 per month for internet and phone.  I spend another $16 for Netflix and HuluPlus so we have MOST of the shows we always watched without the expense.  AND, most of what we watch is in HD...I didn't have HD cable.  I don't miss cable and I REALLY don't miss the cable bill.
  2. I started clipping coupons.  I use coupons all the time.  I use them for lunches/dinners out.  I use them when I do online shopping.  It's pretty easy to search for "LandsEnd promo code" before you check out.  Often I end up saving anywhere from 10-25% online JUST by searching for a promo code before I check out.  In the grocery store, I take advantage of stores that offer double coupons.  Locally, Harris Teeter doubles everything up to $0.99.  Every now and then, they offer super double coupons which means they double everything up to $2.00.  Yesterday, I bought deodorant priced at $4.99 for $0.99.  I cut 71% off my grocery bill on that shopping trip by buying things on sale that I had big coupons for.  A friend of mine buys 5 or more Sunday papers every week JUST for the coupons.  She saves RIDICULOUS amounts at the grocery store.
  3. I shop for reduced price meats.  Grocery stores slash meat prices significantly if they're getting close to the expiration date.  In the early evening, my local Harris Teeter starts marking prices down.  I buy meats often at 50% or more off, take them home and freeze them for later use.  
  4. I shop at discount stores.  ALDI is my favorite grocery store for low prices.  I can get a three-pack of red and yellow peppers for around $2.00.  They are $2.50 each when they're on SALE at the grocery store.  I'm easing into the ALDI brands.  You can buy your "traditional" brands there on occasion but most everything is the ALDI brand.  And it's GOOD.  I usually end up spending25-50% less at ALDI than shopping even at WalMart.  
  5. I buy store brands.  Frosted Mini Wheats are almost $4.00 per box.  Sometimes you can get a coupon or get them for 2 for $4.  But if you need mini wheats and they're not on sale, you can buy the store brand for about half the cost.  AND, usually the store brands are made by the same company but you're not saddled with paying for the marketing costs.  Sometimes I get stuck on a name brand, like Bounty paper towels or Tide, so I buy them when they're on sale with a coupon.  
  6. I shop at consignment sales or at gently used clothing stores.  My kids need clothes all the time.  I often find their clothes at a local consignment store or I use coupons and sales at places like Old Navy, Gap and (now) Aeropostale.  I go to Goodwill and see what's on the racks. I rarely spend more than $10 for a piece of clothing for the kids.  I hate shopping for myself but when I do, I often use TJ Maxx, Marshall's or Ross where I can find brands I like at about half the cost...or more.
  7. We go to $1.50 movies or to the drive-in.  I used to spend $40 or more almost every weekend taking the kids to movies.  We LOVE movies at my house.  Now, it's a treat to go to the "regular" movie theater and we only do it when there is something new out that we HAVE to see.  Now, we can wait a little while and see movies at the $1.50 theater.  Including popcorn and drinks, I spend about $20.  That's 50% less than I used to spend.  OR, in the summer we go to the drive-in.  I bring pizza and drinks in and we only pay $6 for Thing 1 and I and $3 for Thing 2.  For TWO movies.  And it's super fun.  
  8. We use Redbox.  Redbox texts coupons to my phone or I Google promo codes when I rent from Redbox online.  So I usually get our family movies for less than $1 or sometimes free.  
  9. When traveling, I often use Hotwire.  Whenever we travel, I check hotel prices on Hotwire.  Sometimes I have gotten 4 star hotels for less than $60 per night.  The only snafu is that you can't see the hotel name or the exact location until after you've bought it.  You can only see the star rating.  I'm pretty flexible and I view it as a surprise...but a lot of people can't handle not knowing the brand name.  The up side is that my kids get to travel in style and I don't have to shell out $200 per night.
I've cut costs.  But I haven't cut the fun.  Because it's all about fun, right?  I could still live even MORE frugally than I do if I put more time and energy into it.  I approach the whole thing as a fun kind of puzzle:  How can I do this and STILL save money? 

How do YOU save money for your family?  Or are you a spendthrift and proud of it?  :)

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Lies Moms Tell

“The truth is messy. It's raw and uncomfortable. You can't blame people for preferring lies.”
                                                                                          ― Holly Black

The school year begins on Monday.  It's time for that Mom flurry of activity.  We buy the school clothes and all the supplies according to the list.  We ensure that healthy snacks are stocked in the pantry and that bedtimes are adhered to.  Hair is shorn and shoes are purchased.

Well, MOST moms are doing that.  I'm currently THINKING about purchasing supplies.  I think we have some pencils stuffed into the junk drawer in the kitchen.  And I'm almost positive there is some non-wrinkled notebook paper under the used gift bags in the hall closet.  They had haircuts a few weeks ago and I'm pretty sure they still fit the shoes on their feet.

Backpack for back to school
A backpack from Landsend.com
There was a time when I was a really good mom.  I purchased EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM. on the school approved supply list at least two weeks prior to the start of school.  I was careful that Things 1 and Things 2 received the American Pediatric Association's recommended daily allowance of sleep after scarfing their vitamins.  I woke them early and ensured they had a hearty breakfast before I drove them to school.  I looked at the teacher wish lists and purchased items for the classroom.  I signed up for volunteer work where and when I could and I was sure to email teachers prior to the beginning of school to let them know some of the quirks they would be dealing with for Things 1 and 2.

And then I got tired.  Thing 1 is 13 years old.  Crikey, that's a long time to be on your toes.  And I'm sure some moms can still do it but, for me, 13 years is a really long stretch to be a high achiever.  I'm more of a coaster these days.

Truth be told, I think more moms than you realize are coasting behind the scenes.  Oh, they may LOOK like they have it together with their Lilly Pulitzer hand bags and their shiny minivans.  But, I'll bet they have gum wrappers and grocery store receipts stuffed inside their purses and week-old french fries under the seats of the Town and Country just like yours truly.

And I won't say they (we?) LIE outright.  And I won't say that they (we?) don't have good intentions.  But, oh yes, they're tired just like me.  Here are the things moms say that you might want to watch out for:

  1. We always have a healthy family dinner.  Riiiight.  You're telling me that you don't pull out the corn dogs and mac n cheese every now and again?  'Cause I have to tell you, it takes 30 SECONDS to nuke a corn dog.  And you can make mac n cheese in under 10 minutes while you're nuking the corn dogs and mixing up some frozen lemonade.  For color, I throw a few spinach leaves on a plate.  BAM!  Dinner is served in less than 15 minutes. You know what's even FASTER?  McDonald's drive-thru.  Can I get an amen?
  2. My son/daughter finishes homework immediately after school.  Uh huh.  You're telling me that they NEVER say (conveniently at bedtime), "Oh, Mom, I forgot that I have to research the entire course of the Cold War AND write a 5 page report AND do a Powerpoint presentation and it's due tomorrow"?  That never happens in YOUR house, right?  My foot.
  3. We don't watch TV during the week.  I try this one a LOT.  And it does HAPPEN a lot.  But there are days when I don't think I can STAND to listen to any more bickering.  There are times when I really just don't want to DEAL with anyone while I figure out how to cobble together a dinner without having been to the grocery store in two weeks.  The TV can be MAGIC.  If you turn it on, minds turn to mush and they just SIT there, staring raptly.  It's a freakin' GIFT.
  4. I don't yell.  OK, I try REALLY REALLY hard not to yell.  And most of the time I don't even have the desire to.  But HERE'S how I get around it:  when they're upstairs, I yell.  "BOYS, I HOPE YOU'RE UP THERE DOING YOUR HOMEWORK!"  or "DO YOU WANT ME TO COME UP THERE?"  When they're in front of me, I get super quiet.  That's when their eyes get all round and scared.  "Huh oh.  Is THIS the time she's gonna snap?"
  5. We're just so busy. Don't get me started on busy.  We MAKE busy.  We're busy because we CHOOSE to be.  Life isn't busy.  It's that we schedule and book and sign up and volunteer and practice and play and we try to do everything.  And then we brag to other people about how busy we are.  Because THAT is the contest.  The busiest family wins, right?  Nah, I'm not buyin' it.
I realize that all moms are in competition.  It's just the way we're built.  When a mom walks in the room, we size her up and categorize her.  I've been there.  Work-outside-the-home moms huddle together, guiltily and miserably, because they don't remember anyone's name and they haven't been to a class party in six months while stay-at-home moms seem to make a point to greet each other warmly, "Why, SALLY, I haven't seen you since TUESDAY when we volunteered to staple leaves all over the halls!" Both groups circle each other, neither feeling accepted by the other.  And that's when the lies start.

But there's no need for us to make each other feel worse than we already do.  We all want the best for our families.  And most of us are out there doing the very best we can.  And, sometimes?  The best I can do is the bare minimum.

And that's all there is to it.  Let's get this 2013-2014 party started.

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A Girl's Guide to Buying a Car

“Sneaky would be a lime-green Volkswagen. Nobody would suspect the assassins in the lime-green Volkswagen.”
                                                                                                ― Adam Rex

It's time for me to get kinda serious about buying a car.  Well, I need to at least start thinking about getting kinda serious about buying a car.  Don't get me wrong.  I L-U-V my current vehicle.  You wouldn't necessarily be able to tell how much I love it by its condition.  It's pretty filthy. But I do love it.  It's zippy.  And I get this really STEADY feeling steering it.  And I pretty much beat most cars off the line.  Well, in my mind I'm beating them.  I don't think they actually know we're racing.

But, here's the thing:  the maintenance costs on a BMW are RIDICULOUS.  And, at this point, I'm going to need to invest some serious jack to keep it going smoothly at 287,000 miles.  I'm looking at replacing the fuel pump, the clutch, and, heck, probably the ENGINE fairly soon. And the cigarette lighter (which I need for charging the plethora of electronic devices we own) keeps shorting out so it's virtually unusable. All I see are dollar signs.  On the FLIP side, it was paid off long ago.  I don't have a monthly car payment.  And THAT is a beautiful thing.

But, I've got to start thinking about it.  I now have new car fever.  I've never, EVER owned a new car but I'm starting to think it might make sense to buy one.  Not a new BMW...I'm a freakin' single mom now, I can't afford THAT.  I also need a car that's big enough to fit two growing boys, one really big dog and a little dog and ALL our camping equipment for a weekend.  I'd like something rugged enough to strap a canoe to the top but classy enough that I don't feel like a big ol' redneck behind the wheel.  So many criteria, so little time.

What I really need is to focus on the top ten things a woman like me needs in a car:

  1. Chick-cute.  I like FUN things in a car.  I love the VW Beetle touch with the little flower vase.  I like neat accessories like a USB port to plug in my phone while I drive.  Fashion colors are a must...a RED car would be perfect (bright red, not burgundy).  I want a CUTE car.  Preferably one that cleans itself.
  2. Man-tough.  I also want a rugged car that fits my adventurous personality.  I like to do guy things.  I like camping and backpacking and canoeing and whitewater rafting. It needs to be able to hold ALL my gear AND the fun people/animals I drag along.
  3. Gas to spare.  I put a LOT of miles on cars.  I am always on the go hither and yon.  I need something that's fuel efficient.  And, if Thing 1 has his way, I would prefer something environmentally friendly.
  4. Low maintenance costs.  WHO KNEW this should be a factor in car buying?  I need a car that doesn't require the selling of a kidney to fix.  Actually, I would like a car that never needs to be fixed.  Which brings me to...
  5. Dependable.  I'd like something that gets me from Point A to Point B.  I drive at all hours in all conditions.  Thumbing my way home beside a steaming, sputtering heap of junk is not my idea of a fun Saturday night.
  6. Intuitive.  Lights that tell me my tire pressure is low or that my brakes are getting worn or that my door is ajar are almost a requirement.  I am not an exceptionally observant person (usually my head is firmly planted in the clouds) so it would be nice if my car does a little "thinking" for me.
  7. Inexpensive.  OK, that's relative, I realize.  I don't want to forego travel and...food...for the next five years while I pay off some extravagant hunk of metal and plastic.  I want my next car to be affordable...on all levels.
  8. Fun to drive. I don't mind a stick shift.  I like something with firm steering and a little get-up-and-go.  
  9. Personality.  I don't want boring.  I don't want "I'm a sedan" and I REALLY don't want something that screams "I'm a mom" (no offense intended, minivan drivers).  I just want something with a little panache. I want something I can give a name to.
  10. Staying power.  I'd like something I can drive for more than five years without wanting to shoot myself every time I get in the car.  I've had my current car for years and I still love getting behind the wheel.  
 I know what you're probably thinking: Is that ALL you want, you little diva?  Oh, satisfying THAT list won't be tough...

I know it's a lot to ask. And I realize that I'm going to have to sacrifice one or two or five things. And I also know that it probably WON'T be a new car (because I just can't get past the fact that new cars are STUPID EXPENSIVE).  But I'm excited about the process.  This will be the very first time I've ever bought a car without a man's help.  It's all me.  I know it means there will be no one to BLAME if something goes wrong...but it's also kinda cool to think that I can do this research, come up with a plan and buy this car on my own.  I'm feelin' all like an independent woman with REAL grown-up lady panties.

Drive on.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Should we seek perfection?

“If you look for perfection, you'll never be content.”
― Leo Tolstoy

I received a few texts from a friend today pointing out some flaws in a recent blog post.  He noted the "disconnected rambling" and the fact that I had alluded to having a private conversation with the glassware.  There were a couple of other points he made and then let me know that I could use an editor.  After he had made a few statements, I let him know that my feelings were hurt.  (Which is SO HUGE for me...normally I would have been passive-aggressively bitchy back...I am growing UP!)

OK, here's the thing about me and blogging:  I do it for the therapeutic value it provides and because, on occasion, something I say resonates with SOMEONE.  I REALIZE that I mix my tenses.  I have typos.  I do.  Sometimes my grammar is out of whack.  And I appreciate it when people send me a note to let me know I've misspelled something...but, please believe me:  I am hard ENOUGH on MYSELF.  While I know that feedback helps me to grow, I would prefer that it be a piece here and there and maybe not a whole list of things I'm doing wrong.  Now, if another (wildly successful) blogger I admire gave me a big giant list of ways to improve I would be super stoked about that because a) they've been in my shoes and have worked hard on their craft, and b) it would mean that a wildly successful blogger I admire is READING MY STUFF.

This process is allowing me to freely create.  Everything you read is the result of about a 15-25 minute stream of consciousness.  I don't plan.  I don't agonize.  I just write.  I do it because it makes me FEEL better.  I do it because I have this overwhelming need to put words down in some semblance of order.  I do it because I love the process of writing.

Would I LOVE to be a "real writer?"  Of course I would.  But, for now, I'm not.  I don't have an editor.  I don't WANT one right now.  I do understand that I NEED one because a lot of what I do IS rambling.  It's inconsistent.  And a lot of it isn't very good.  But SOME of it is.  And...the bottom line is:  It makes me HAPPY.

My friend and I worked it out.  He claimed he loves me AND my blog (although I have my doubts, believe me).  I love him, too.  And I respect his criticism and his (often ignored) advice.  Hopefully next time he will offer up ONE criticism or, at most, TWO instead of a laundry list of imperfections. 

I am really at peace with my flaws on AND off the blogosphere.  Here's hoping that everyone else can just accept me, too.  Everyone's a critic.  Sheesh.  :)  Be sure to read the fine print at the bottom of every blog post I write.

“Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.”
― Salvador DalĂ­
If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

    

  

Reframing the Problem

“Every problem is a gift - without problems we would not grow.”
                                         ― Anthony Robbins

If you were in a locked room with no windows, how would you get out?

At first, the answer may be that you COULDN'T get out.  I mean, how on earth could you manage to escape a locked room with no windows?  Do you imagine an empty room?  Do you imagine that you are alone? 

At second glance, however, there are a myriad of possibilities.  I didn't say that no one else ever entered the room, did I?  I didn't say that there wasn't a trap door that you could use to escape from below.  Or perhaps there's a ceiling above with removable tiles and you could stack books or blocks or bedding to reach it. 

I don't believe in insurmountable problems.  I believe that we can always re-frame the problem and search for the creative solution.  I faced one of these problems over the last year that really had blown my mind for quite a while. 

I had an issue with my Ex-Boyfriend.  (We'll just go ahead and call him "Ex" because there is no real chance of reconciliation and, thus, the name "Off Again" no longer applies.)  I believe he is of the mind that I am a lunatic.  Granted, he is the recipient of about 1,000 texts over the course of several years (1,000 MIGHT be an exaggeration) with me ranting LIKE a lunatic.  He is also the beneficiary of calls where I say "I am on my way to see you to discuss [insert A, B, or C]..."  I have wept and gnashed my teeth on more than one occasion. At first glance, it would appear that I am, indeed, a lunatic.

But, when you look around at ALL the facts, you will see that I was under undue strain during the course of our relationship. There are many intensely personal reasons behind my unraveling in this relationship that I won't share publicly but I think you get my meaning that there are multiple arguments I can use against the idea that I am a lunatic.  I don't know that he would accept any of them.  I don't know that he should because, quite honestly, there were times when I did BEHAVE very much like a crazy person.  Hint:   If you are behaving like a bonafide nut job in any relationship, you should probably go ahead and realize that relationship probably isn't healthy.  You should go ahead and end it.  If you find yourself hanging out a window and biting soap you MIGHT have a bit of a problem (I couldn't resist throwing that in...I have a friend who's going to LOVE that! And, to be clear, I have never hung out a window nor have I bitten soap.).  Just a little tip.

I have, however, re-framed this problem.   Around other people, I do NOT behave like a lunatic.  Oh, sure, I act silly sometimes and I'm a little (maybe a lot) on the bitchy side sometimes but I can say honestly that most people do not believe that my marbles are rolling around loosely in my head.  This is because I don't send other people 1,000 texts.  I am not constantly trying to figure out if other people are lying to me.  I don't weep around other people and apologize constantly and profusely for every real and imagined transgression.  I don't beg other people to love me (yes, literally...not figuratively...beg). I tend to trust other people and acknowledge that they enjoy my company and, therefore, I am at my sane best with them.  In short, with other people I am my authentic self and not some shell-shocked unrecognizable version of me. 

The problem, in this instance, lies in the relationship OR, if you want to be honest, the lack thereof.  See, I THOUGHT what we had was a real honest-to-goodness relationship.  But we didn't.  There was no foundation...no solid ground.  And when solid ground does not exist, structures built tend to be a little shaky.  Or, in this case,  A LOT shaky.  The problem wasn't ME...and it wasn't HIM.  The problem was US.  Co-dependent much? 

I am seriously gun-shy after this relationship.  I don't trust myself to make good choices and I don't trust anyone else not to hurt an already bruised and battered heart.  I think it will be a while before I hit the ground running.

But by looking at the problem in a different light, I can at least acknowledge what I'm not looking for.  And I know how I shouldn't feel in a relationship.  The creative solution in this instance was NOT to try to patch up the plethora of holes.  The creative solution was for both of us to run in opposite directions from each other.  Being away from that relationship helps me to sleep easier and feel more like myself.  And I know that if I have the urge to send 1,000 texts, I should probably run as fast as I can in the other direction...or at least be sure that I have unlimited texting on my phone plan.

So, here are a few hints that you might need to re-frame your relationship issues (and when I say "re-frame," what I really mean is "get the hell out"):

  • If your partner ever uses the phrase "I don't really CARE how you feel."
  • If you ever find yourself misspelling texts because you are crying so hard you can't see.
  • If you feel the need to send more than 3 texts in one minute that include the words "a--hole," "WHY?" and/or more than one "please."
  • If you ever feel the need to ask your partner if they really love you.  Daily.
  • If you automatically assume that your partner is lying.
  • If you ever withhold thoughts and/or feelings from your partner because you're afraid of how they'll react.
  • If your partner controls when, how long and where you see each other.
  • If you ever spend more than 5 days not talking to your partner.  (For me, this is one day.  I really need communication..)
  • If you ever question the fact that you might actually be losing your sanity.
If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.     

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Crack Pipes, Spaghetti Tongs and Dirty Feet

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
                        ― William Shakespeare
WARNING:  THIS post contains bad language and some pretty adult concepts.  I am WARNING you now that you may not want to read this.  Seriously.  If you're the kind of person who never slips up and uses the "f-word" (I admit, I do sometimes use it...because sometimes it's fun to say) then you probably want to shy away from this post.  Seriously.  Try this one instead:  My Ex-Husband is So Lucky to Have Me . Or you could try THIS one (it's so much kinder, gentler):  Best Day Ever. But DON'T read this and then tell me that you're horrified by what I said because, while I think it's very, very funny, it's not for everyone.  You've been warned.

I was in a group of people the other day (and I am not going to divulge ANY information about the group to protect privacy) and enjoyed myself SO terribly much.  These people were HILARIOUS.  Well, ONE in particular was truly hysterically funny but everyone there put in a quip or two (at JUST THE RIGHT MOMENTS...you know what the key to comedy is?  Timing!) to punctuate her stories.

Let me set the scene.  Seven of us were gathered around the table in a kitchen.  We had finished most of our discussions and were simply chatting with our glasses of wine.  One of the women there works in a field where she has the "opportunity" to come in contact with some pretty shady stuff.   I don't even know HOW the conversation got started but I began writing things down when she talked about viewing criminal evidence laid out on a table.  She said (and I quote):

Please, God, I hope that crack pipe didn't come from someone's vagina.  

And THAT'S when the date got funny.  Nothing gets my attention faster than the words "crack pipe" and "vagina" together in one sentence.  It appears that criminals (well, FEMALE criminals) will often shove crack rocks in various containers into their nether regions to more easily (?) transport and/or hide the aforementioned illegal drugs.

I don't think most of us KNOW these things.  And, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, I was FASCINATED.  I have to tell you, we were ALL pretty aghast when she mentioned that SOMETIMES they use the mini Altoid tins.  Can you say "ouch?"  Somehow, I don't think the Altoid folks are mentioning this use in their marketing collateral.

She then went on to tell a story about one female who had used spaghetti tongs to remove drugs from another female's..uh...hoo hah and the ONE question my new friend had was:  WHAT IN THE F*** HAPPENED TO THE SPAGHETTI TONGS?  The tongs were NOT included in the evidence.  I think the question is totally valid.  I mean, is the XYZ family USING these tongs to actually SERVE SPAGHETTI?  Are these tongs just hanging out in someone's kitchen drawer or are they SPECIALLY marked "vagina tongs" and, therefore, relegated to some other drawer?  How were these tongs CLEANED after use?  All legitimate questions, frankly.

She then went on to tell a (pretty sad if you think about it) story about two men and a woman in a dirty motel room.  I won't add some of the less savory details (believe me when I tell you that THESE details I AM sharing were not even the worst part) for privacy's sake but her comment after seeing the pictures from this motel room didn't involve the ACTS that she saw in the pictures but what she focused on were the FEET.

"There's [this man] laying on the bed and you see nothin' but [this woman] bending over him [performing an action].  And all I could focus on was the fact that his FEET were the COLOR of HER SHIRT [she points to a black shirt].  Now, WHAT'S the FIRST THING that hits a wet shower floor?  That's right...YOUR FEET.  His feet were BLACK.  The COLOR OF THAT SHIRT.  Now if his FEET were THAT DIRTY, can you IMAGINE how dirty THE REST OF HIM was?"
I swear this woman could perform a stand-up act that would have the whole room convulsing in laughter.  Her timing and her perspective on these terrible things that she has seen are phenomenal.  That's probably why she's able to work in her field...because she can look through the horrors and the sadness that she sees and...well...she finds the funny.  And she can help OTHER people find the funny.

And that's the thing: I ADMIRE her sense of humor about these awful things that she sees.  I think we often pretend that life isn't messy.  But, for some especially, life can be downright disgusting.  The things people do to themselves and to each other are reprehensible.  By applying a completely fresh perspective, she takes these terrible things and makes them something she can live with.  In an odd way, she brings a certain grace to it.

I am so happy I met her. 

And I cannot WAIT to hear what she comes up with next...

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dancin' through life

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
                                                         ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Sunday was a really, really bad day.  I didn't feel well.  Nothing was right.  I felt terrible and I cried by myself, alone in my house with only the animals for companionship.

And then came Monday.

Monday isn't usually a day of celebration.  Mondays are the start of our work weeks.  Mondays are just the beginning of a long stretch of gettin' up and gettin' it done.  MY Monday was different, though.  In the midst of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day on Sunday, I realized something: life happens around us in spite of our circumstances.

It doesn't matter if we're sick or tired or crying.  It doesn't matter if we're joyful, ecstatic and overwhelmed by the kindness of our friends.  Some days are up and some days are down but the one truth we can walk away with is that no matter HOW we feel, the clock keeps ticking and the calendar keeps moving us on toward our inevitable fates.

So Monday came early.  I was wide awake at 5:30 a.m.  And, for the first time in recent memory, I woke up dancing.

My dancin' feet
I rolled over and instead of reaching for my television remote to turn on the news of the day, I hit the music button on my iPhone and let fate decide what would play.   To my delight, it was an oft-listened to song by Marie and the redCat called "Beautiful Day."  It's a swingin' kind of happy song.  I collapsed back on my pillows with a huge grin and started moving my feet in time to the music.

I let the dogs out, made my coffee and fed all the animals with a big smile on my face.  Life happens around us.  Even if we're sick.  Even if we're sad.  Even if we think that we are all alone in this world.  Life happens around us.

I went back upstairs and danced through my shower to "Prisoner" by Needtobreathe and then "Little Red Corvette" by Prince.

While I was ironing my clothes, I sang and danced to "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" by Will Smith.  Who WOULDN'T dance to that song?

On your mark ready set let's go
Dance floor pro I know you know
I go psycho when my new joint hit
Just can't sit
Gotta get jiggy wit it
Ooh that's it
Now honey honey come ride
DKNY all up in my eye
You gotta Prada bag with alotta stuff in it
Give it to your friend let's spin

Ironing.  And dancing.  It's a combination that you should definitely try when the mood next strikes.

Life happens.  People leave you.  People misunderstand you.  People can't figure out how to love you the way you need to be loved. And sometimes they don't really care to try.  But life still happens. 

Every day is a new opportunity to live your best life.  Every day is a brand new chance to love like you should, laugh like you love life and tell your truths as you see them.  It doesn't matter how bad Sunday was and it shouldn't matter that Monday is the start of something you'd rather not do.  If you keep letting these moments slip by then your whole life will be over and you'll wonder how you spent your time.  You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And, if I have my druthers, those feet are dancin' feet.  I choose joy.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.     



  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Celebrating Me. And You.

“I will not be "famous," "great." I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one's self: to let it find its dimensions, not be impeded.”
                                                                                               ― Virginia Woolf


Every now and again, I have to remind myself that I'm awesome.  I start feeling "blah" or "you know" and I can't seem to pull myself out of whatever funk I'm in.  But here's the thing:  There's only one of me (can I get an "amen?") in this world.  I carry ALL the weight of "being Kelly."  For all of the eternity, there will only be one of me.  And I only get this ONE CHANCE...this ONE LIFE...to make it count. 


I KNOW I am not the only one out there who fills up the glasses for my one-person pity party.  I put on my own personal self-flagellation frock and begin:  "I'm not thin enough/smart enough/funny enough/calm enough/even-tempered enough.." and it goes on and on until I can't stand the sound of my own thoughts.  You've been there, right? 

So, tonight, I'm celebrating my own awesomeness.  And you can read or you can ignore it.  But I'm gettin' it out there.  And you are free to disagree.  Or, better yet, you can tell me what's awesome about YOU (because, quite honestly, I am ALL ABOUT celebrating other people).

  1. I am not afraid of bugs. Well, mostly.  I don't get all screamy and squeamish when a bug is in the house. I just quietly and expediently usher it outside (because I am also not a murderer, which is kind of a BONUS praise here).
  2. I can laugh about most things.  Except if you're not funny.  (Believe me, it's not that I didn't get your "joke."  It's just that your "joke" wasn't funny.)  But funny things?  I TOTALLY laugh about them.  Sometimes I even inappropriately laugh at things that really shouldn't be funny.
  3. I like dogs.  I don't know why this is a self-esteem booster, but it sure feels like one tonight.  Dogs like me, too.  That's actually a bigger self-esteem booster.  You HAVE to be cool if dogs like you.
  4. I never shoot people.  This is MOSTLY because I don't own a gun.  If I DID own a gun there would probably be quite a few people in danger.  Mostly people who cut in line, who drive too slow in the passing lane and people who call other people "stupid."  (I can call people "stupid" but ONLY internally which is perfectly acceptable.) 
  5. I embrace change.  That's a really good thing because some pretty big changes are on the way.  I read a book last week THREE TIMES that spurred a veritable revolution in my head.  The changes rolled right in.  And I am excited.
  6. I accept my own glorious messiness.  I KNOW I'm a train wreck. I don't hide it.  It's all over me...and my car...and my clothes...and perhaps YOUR clothes. Internally AND externally I am profoundly, beautifully flawed.
  7. I only double-dip when I'm alone.  When I'm out in public, I use my very best manners.  This includes using my internal voice most of the time.  If you've heard some of the things I actually SAY (out loud) then you would be horrified at the things I'm THINKING.  Therefore, I leave double-dipping and stream-of-consciousness talking to my solitary evenings.
  8. I view my life as a movie.  I often drive around narrating my own day in my head (or, sometimes I do it out loud...depends on the day).  "She drove slowly through the crowded street, wishing that she could see inside the heads of the people gathered to see the parade..."  I have no idea why I do this but it's a totally fun thing to do.  You should try it if you don't do it already.
  9. I sing and dance in my house.  All the time.  The singing isn't always melodic and the dancing is almost never graceful but the FEELING that I get from it carries me through every single day.
  10. I believe in feelings.  I am an intensely emotional person.  I blame it on my Irish lineage.  Or the wine.  (Can you have one without the other?)  I cry almost every day.  And I laugh even more than I cry.  It's a roller coaster...but I sure do love the ride.

Go on.  You can tell me.  Why are YOU awesome?

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.   

Monday, August 12, 2013

Crazy New Technology in Our Classrooms

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
― Arthur C. Clarke

Ya'll, it's gettin' CRAZY up in here!

I went to an information session for parents today at the middle school where Thing 1 will spend his final year in middle school as an eighth grader and Thing 2 will begin his middle school years as a sixth grader.  Our county received a technology grant to purchase tablets for every middle school student.  These tablets will be incorporated into the classrooms to give teachers real-time feedback on how well their students understand the material, allow students to explore information in greater detail using a variety of pre-loaded apps, and to give students, teachers and parents the ability to review what went on in the classroom each day using the Class Feed feature.

I have two words for all of this:  WAY COOL!  What an excellent way to incorporate the technology that our kids have already ingrained into their systems (they're calling them "digital natives") into the classroom environment.  And they've moved beyond the almost-antiquated laptop environment straight into the tablet world.  I am truly excited about the educational possibilities this presents to our students and cannot wait to see what thresholds they'll be crossing in the coming years.

  • The teacher can pause a lesson to ask the class if they're getting it.  The students then magically receive three icons:  a green smiley face (I get it!), a yellow blank face (I sorta get it) and a red frowney face (I'm confused).  The kid can THEN hit the icon of their choice and the teacher has instant feedback from the class about where the class is on the spectrum.

  • The teacher can also ask a question with A/B, A/B/C or A/B/C/D responses and ask the students to respond.  The teacher IMMEDIATELY receives feedback on their screen about who answered what and which students are getting it right or wrong.
  •  The teacher has the ability to lead discussion groups within the classroom virtual environment.  He or she can include the whole classroom or small groups of students.  
  • If a child must stay home sick, they can "check in" to their virtual classroom and participate with the class for any tablet-fueled lessons going on that day.  They will receive the same push notifications of homework assignments and in-class work their peers receive when they log in.

I cannot possibly begin to imagine how much teacher brains are going to ache during these first few weeks of school.  At the same time, I am thrilled at the possibilities this brings into the classroom!  They can pull Group A to the side to continue to work on a concept, direct Group B to look into the concept further and tell Group C to go home and sleep off whatever funk they're in.

Also, if the teacher wants everyone to pay attention to something they're doing, they can lock the kids OUT of their tablets with this message:

ALL EYES ON THE TEACHER

This effectively forces the kids to look away from their screens and to the front of the classroom.  HOW DO I GET THIS FEATURE AT HOME?  I would love to be able to push a button and have:

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER 

flash across every technological device in my home.  Sweet.

THEN (listen to THIS one!), the teacher can decide to virtually "call on" a student to answer a question.  So, the kid's tablet starts flashing:

THE TEACHER IS CALLING ON YOU TO ANSWER

and all the other tablets in the classroom start flashing

THE TEACHER HAS CALLED ON THING 1 TO ANSWER.

Using screen time to educate may very well make a world of difference for my introverted genius.  He DEFINITELY responds to indicators on a screen whereas he often tends to ignore "real world"  stimuli.

I will also NOW have a record of what goes on in the classroom.  I can visualize it now:

Me:  Do you have homework?

Thing 1/Thing 2:  I don't think so.

Me: Well, did the teacher give an assignment?

Thing 1/Thing 2:  I don't remember.

Me:  Please pull out your TABLET AND FIGURE IT OUT.  

The conversation will cease immediately.  It won't be the 20-minute run-around I used to get.  We will have DIGITAL PROOF to answer the question of: homework or no homework? 

You can't see me, but I'm totally doing the Cabbage Patch right now...

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Coming of Age

“The years went by, and Mary Alice and I grew up, Slower than we wanted to, faster than we realized.”
― Richard Peck

Thing 2 is actually The Thing in this Halloween photo of old.
Tomorrow, Thing 2 will celebrate his 11th birthday.  I bought him his first cell phone for his birthday and he's thrilled.  I think it would be a safe bet if I said he is the biggest extrovert in our family.  I gave it to him last night and I think he's already called more people than Thing 1 has called in the last year with HIS cell phone. Heck, he may have called more people than I have called in the last year.

His dad mentioned that he might have this phone number forever since area codes don't mean anything anymore and he can just transfer the number along the way to new carriers during new phases of life.  That was a little mind-blowing to consider.  Your phone number might as well be the equivalent of your social security number in today's world.  As long as he doesn't gain a stalker some point along the way, he's probably got this number for life.

He has a phone now.  He's growing up so fast.

Man, I love this kid.  

Thing 2, here are my birthday wishes for you:

  1. Keep that smile.  It's a zillion-megawatt smile.  It suits you.  It makes me happy...happier than anything I've ever seen or done or read or experienced in my life.  Your smile is IT for me.
  2. Stay kind.  You're the kid who stands up for other people.  You're the kind of kid whose heart is about five times the size of your own body.  Keep that kindness.  Don't let the world make you hard.
  3. Love your brother.  You are two very different people.  But he's the one who'll be there for you when the chips are down.  What do I always, always tell you?  Brothers love each other.  Love him...actively...even when you think he might not deserve it.  That's when we need love the most.
  4. Remember your awesomeness.  You don't need anyone to tell you that you're smart or hilarious or fun to hang around.  You wear your awesomeness like you wear your skin.  Don't change that.
  5. Practice.  You're figuring out the benefits of practice in baseball, in guitar playing and in juggling.  Practicing things makes you better.  But I want you to remember the other things that people forget about:  practice communicating, sharing your feelings and being present in the moment.  You don't understand why I tell you this now...but someday it will come in handy.  I promise.
  6. Keep telling the truth.  I love it when you tell me the truth even when you know you're in trouble for it.  Your heart is good, kid. The truth matters.  Even when it hurts.
  7. Do your best.  Sometimes you slack off because you can get away with it.  Stop doing that.  You're only hurting yourself when you don't put forth your best effort.  Trust me, your best will make you shine.
  8. Love can wait.  Little girls are often drawn to you.  You have a zest for life and, like I said, that big giant smile that lights up the room.  Don't get started on all that madness yet.  Learn about you.  Live your life first.  Crushes and drama and love can all wait until you're ready for it.  I know, I know. You're totally rolling your eyes at me right now.
  9. Live a life of learning.  You love to learn right now.  At some point, a lot of people become complacent and they stop challenging their minds.  Don't do that.  Keep reaching for new ideas and new experiences.  It will keep you young.
  10. Remember where home is.  You're my hugger.  You're the softie with the big giant heart.  I will always be the place you can come to rest when the world seems too big or too cold or too hard.  Your home and your safe place will always be in my heart.
Happy birthday, son.



If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Driving: A Daily Exercise in Road Rage

“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.”
― Dave Barry

I have a problem.  It's deep.  And it's dark.  And it's not resolvable.  My problem is this:  all other drivers are idiots.  They're hoohahs.  They're dingleslammers.  They're poopsters, schluckymongers, ragatoopies, and lillenhammers.

Today, I was driving along, minding my own business, and happily humming to my favorite tune.  I was approaching an intersection that looked like this:





As I pulled into the left lane that was NOT a turn lane, the car in front of me did THIS number:

The light in MY lane turned green.  The light in the lane that they WANTED to be in was still red.  Now, they were hopelessly wedged in, effectively blocking ALL of the traffic in my lane while I waited behind them, seething, watching all of the traffic in the far right lane move alone merrily.

I felt my pulse accelerate.  I am positive my face turned an angry shade of eggplant because I could FEEL the blood pounding in my cheeks and in my temples.  I glared at them angrily.  But what did THEY care?  THEY were getting what they wanted...everyone else on the road be damned.  WHEN did it become OK to screw everyone else because you changed your mind at the last minute?  Why couldn't you have just sucked it up and gone straight and inconvenienced YOURSELF instead of me and the FIFTEEN OTHER DRIVERS BEHIND ME?  ARE YOU THAT IMPORTANT?  

(See how irritated I get?  I can actually feel my blood pressure rising as I type this...)

And do you want to know what I did??

I HONKED MY HORN!

OK, I know for some of you, this is no big deal.  People in other parts of the country honk their horns all the time to let other drivers know that they are idiots.  But here, in the south, we do NOT honk our horns unless there is imminent danger.  It's acceptable to honk your horn if someone is pulling into your lane and, well, you're already IN your lane.  It's acceptable to honk (briefly and politely) at someone to tell them they have something hanging out of their trunk.  But it's really frowned upon to just lay on your horn.  But that's what I did.  I blew my horn.  TWICE.  That's how outraged I was.  The other driver looked up in her rear view mirror, horrified.  I nodded.  Oh, yes...I DID.  She inched forward slowly.  The cars in front of HER inched forward (they'd all heard the horn, I imagine) and finally I was able to JUSTSQUEEZE past her on the right.  And don't think I didn't glare as I passed by.  I did.

I have a few tips for all the idiots on the road (OK, yes, I'm using the term "idiots" now.  I realize that this term does not apply to anyone reading this blog because the people who read THIS blog are SMART and SENSITIVE and CARING and, most importantly, NOT IDIOTS.  But, as a public service, you should share this blog and post it where those idiots can read it.  OR make a recording of it, because I'm not sure they can read.).

  1. Other drivers do not care if you're late.  We don't care if you decided to catch the rest of Duck Dynasty before you hopped into the car ten minutes late to pick up your kid from soccer practice.  We do NOT have to accommodate YOUR sloppy driving habits because of YOUR own procrastination/ineptitude/inability to tell time.  Trust me when I say this:  I WILL RAM YOU.  Stop cutting corners that endanger other drivers and inconvenience people who did NOT procrastinate or mix up the big hand and the little hand.
  2. If you miss a turn, MISS THE TURN.  Do not slam on your brakes in front of me when you miss your turn.  Do not wedge your car into the turn lane from the straight lane.  KEEP GOING.  Do not inconvenience me and the rest of the drivers on the road because YOU are not aware of where you are going.  Suck it up, make the NEXT turn and get yourself back on track without letting us all know how terribly important you are.
  3. Those big thick white lines are there to tell you where to stop.  Do NOT ease over the white line or, even better, put two car lengths between you and where you were supposed to stop.  If your car is that far over the white line, I WILL HIT YOU.  And no one can blame me.  Because if you pull over that white line, you are directly in the line of fire (a.k.a. the path of my vehicle).  Pay attention!
  4. Hanging out a foot behind my bumper is not going to get you anywhere faster.  As a matter of fact, it might get you there SLOWER because I guarantee I will drive EXACTLY THE SPEED LIMIT if you're feeling like you need to be all up close and personal with me.  Stop it.  Move back.  Catch your breath.  Take a Xanax if you have to.
  5. You are never going to be a NASCAR driver.  I realize that you want to get your speed on.  I know my car may be hindering your progress.  Bobbing and weaving behind me and around me is only going to cause an accident.  It may not be today.  But it will happen.  And it will be your fault, Mario.  We don't need to know what's under your hood.  We see the shiny package it's wrapped in, OK?  Take your toy to the track and let THOSE people emasculate you.  Trust me when I say you don't want it to be ME who does it.
 OK.  I think my pulse rate has returned to normal.  Thanks for allowing me to rant.  What's your favorite "idiots on the road" story? 

Now, back to the wheel.  Where DID I put my mascara??? 

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

What is Your Perfect Job?

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
― Confucius

While scarfing gazpacho a few minutes ago, I decided to let fate decide what my perfect job should be since I obviously don't have a firm grasp on it.  I went to indeed.com and punched in "My perfect job" and then selected Greensboro, NC.

My first result looked promising:  Evaluations Coordinator.  Since I am ALL ABOUT telling people what they're doing wrong and how to fix it, I thought this might actually be it.  At first glance, I was everything they were looking for: engaged (well, I'm SINGLE...but you know...surely they won't discriminate); motivated (if there's chocolate, I will come!); team oriented (I am all about others); and, finally, cool and calm.  They mentioned putting out fires and bailing water under the cool and calm section, so...that's when the date started going bad.  I mean, do I want to be a firefighter or a sailor? No, probably not for me.  They did NOT want someone with a propensity for stating "That's not my job," so, I really was a perfect fit there because I am NOTHING if not a "yes man" or "yes woman" (whatever floats your boat).

Moving on.  I searched in Winston-Salem and found this sketchy listing:  Overnite Sitter.  Dude?  Really?  You want me to come sleep in your house and watch your kid while you "work" overnight?  How is this my perfect job?  You want a WIFE, not me.

Since my "perfect job" is obviously not anywhere near my area, I opened it up to all of the US.  I think I may have found some terrific opportunities for a chick like me:

  • Reliable transcribers with perfect English.  My English is pretty good but my sarcasm MIGHT get in the way.
  • Someone in Portland is looking for a Perfect House Cleaner and Helper. Perfect?  Nothin' like high expectations...you are OBVIOUSLY going to be a gem to work for.
  • I loved this one:  How are you with a light saber?  You could be a perfect fit for our family!  Unfortunately, it's in CA but I have to tell you I am bangin' with a light saber.  I even do the sound effects.  Are relocation costs included?
  • Perfect Nanny Needed.  Try looking for a listing under "Mary Poppins."  I hear she's practically perfect in every way.  Again.  Perfect?  Really?
  • This is from a REAL planner and optimist:  Amazing Dog Walker Needed for my Future Dog.  WHAT?  Dude, you don't even HAVE A DOG YET and you're looking for a dog walker?  You're akin to the women who buy their wedding dresses with no groom in sight and the people who purchase their burial plots at 25.  There IS such a thing as being too prepared.  I am so not the right one for this job because I would mock you to your face.  And you need that, sir.  You really do.
  • This one is from a real positive thinker:  Customer Engagement Specialist.  Please note that the same ad was listed under Food Cart Specialist so they totally put a positive spin on the whole schlepping hot dogs and roasted peanuts gig.  They're located in Seattle and want someone to help them "spread health and happiness."  Since they're "uber-committed" they don't want just any old schmo.  I really want to call these people and find out just how much caffeine they're snorting (yes, snorting...it has to be going straight to their bloodstream).
  • Someone in Woodstock, GA is looking for a Lead Collision Technician.  Does this mean they want someone to CRASH STUFF?  'Cause I could be SO into that...
None of the above seemed really RIGHT for me.  I finally found it, though, buried several pages into my search.

Do you dream of a job with a flexible schedule, fun co-workers, a healthy environment and products you can be proud of? 

Yes, yes, yes and YES!

They then listed testimonials from their employees about all the fun they have at work.  They talked about zero stress levels and how EVEN the TAP WATER was delicious.  I was practically salivating.  And then I saw the name:  Kick Butt Coffee Music & Booze.  
WHERE IS MY APPLICATION?  

I've found it.  My perfect job.  Until someone comes along with a travel writer position, it looks like I'm moving to Austin.

What is YOUR perfect job?

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Improvise Your Life: Finding the Funny

"More of me comes out when I improvise."
--- Edward Hopper 

I love, love, love, love finding the funny.  I can take some pretty seriously horrible scenarios and pull out the funny like you can't imagine.  Finding the funny, I believe, can save your life.  When I was sitting in an oncologist's office discussing my youngest son's adrenal tumor when he was seven weeks old, I started cracking jokes.  "So, doc, he's gonna be TOTALLY laid back, right?  This missing adrenal gland will make him the Spiccoli of his generation?"  Pulling the humor out of a situation keeps everything in perspective for me.

Our SUPER FUNNY Harold team.  See me in the red?
A few years ago, I took improv classes at this amazing theater in Carrboro, NC called the Dirty South Comedy Theater.  I was looking for something new to stretch my mind and, let me tell you, THIS was IT.  I ended up taking a series of classes, becoming a member of the company for a brief time and performed on a Harold team in the Del Close Marathon in New York City.  Have I mentioned I'm a bit of an extremist?

If you've never taken time to see a comedy improv show OR take an improv class, you should RUN to your nearest comedy theater to try it.  (HIGHLY recommend DSI if you are in NC.  Highly.  They have tons of classes..and they're so not even paying me to say that so that means it's true. I drove over an hour at least once a week for two years to take classes and perform there.)  Here's the basic gist:  the performers take a suggestion (or two or three or more!) from the audience and then they perform funny (hopefully) skits that are made up totally on the spot for your amusement.  That's breaking it down to a very base level...what the performers actually do is SO MUCH MORE than that.

But the performances are not what changed me.  I'm talking change at a BASE LEVEL.  What happened during my experience with improv is that my whole mindset...shifted.  I took the concepts we learned in class and on the stage and I started applying them to my LIFE.  And it worked beautifully.

All I ever needed to know in life, I learned in improv.  

  • Yes, and.  This is a basic principle of improv.  You have to AGREE with whatever your scene partner says (that's the "yes" part) and then you have to ADD something to move the scene along (which is, obviously, where the "and" comes in).  Here's an example:  Say, your partner holds out his empty hand and says "Here is your trophy for winning the Nobel Peace Prize."  If you looked at it his outstretched hand and said, "That's not a trophy, it's NOTHING, you idiot," then the scene would be over and no fun would be had.   BUT, if you agreed that it was a trophy and then added your on idea, magical things can happen.  "I'm thrilled to win this trophy.  (Take a bite and chew solemnly.)  WHO KNEW these things were made of chocolate?  I LOVE the Swedes!" then you might have the start of a scene.  If you apply this principle to your LIFE, you might be amazed at what happens.  Try it today.  Seriously.  Next time someone comes up to you with an idea, don't shoot holes in it (like you usually do, right?).  When your colleague comes up and says "We should have Mexican for lunch today," you don't have to respond with "No, I hate you."  Nothing funny can come of that.  Instead you can say, "Yes, Mexican sounds great....and we should drive separately."  Then you can go back to your desk in amusement while he scurries off to find his car keys.  See?  Totally works!
  • Support your scene partners.  This kind of carries "Yes and" a little further.  If you're on stage with someone and they're trying their damnedest to make some stuff up on the fly and you shoot down every idea they have, they are a) not going to like you very much and b) might actually wet themselves from crashing and burning in front of a live audience.  If someone I was in a scene with said they were a purple gorilla, by golly I offered them a banana.  They were grateful for the banana and it left them free to grunt wildly and leap across the stage to fulfill some unmet childhood need.  Same principle in life again:  support the people on your team.  Lend your spouse a hand.  Talk to your kids.  REALLY listen to your friends.  Be present.  Ask the people you care about what they need...and then give it to them.
  • Don't be afraid.  OK, I can't remember if this is the EXACT concept I learned in improv, but it's what I carried with me.  You're out there making stuff up in front of a whole bunch of strangers.  Take a deep breath and just go for it.  Relax.  Let your imagination take you somewhere.  You don't need to know where it ends when you start....but GET STARTED.  Life is like this.  I don't know about you, but no one handed me a script when I was born and said, "Kel, learn these lines."  Every day of your life is improv.  You're just making stuff up.  Keep it fresh, OK?  
I loved my days in improv.  I may try my hand at it again at some point.  Or not.  Life is full of so many awesome things to learn from, isn't it?  I've been thinking of fly fishing...and learning to play the piano...Until I decide what my next Great Adventure will be, however, I'll still be here finding the funny.

Seriously.  Go find an improv class today.  Yes!  (And we'll just see what happens, won't we?)

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.