Saints and Spaghetti Throwers

No one knows you quite like your sister does. Especially if she’s the big sis’ and you’re the lil’ one. Older sisters not only know you but with their level-headed sensibility, they somehow manage to love you despite all of your crazy-little-sister, attention-seeking idiosyncrasies anyway.

My sister and I could not be more different. She is only three years my senior but the age gap may as well be 30. She is far more mature and “grown-up” than I am. She is raising seven children and acting out the part of the dutiful, loving wife and little-league-wrestling-basketball-band-choir-soccer-mom like a champ.

My sister is also a saint. She assists in the day-to-day operation of my brother-in-law’s business, works a part-time job, does the laundry, cooks the meals, drives random neighborhood kids (as well as her own) all over God’s green earth, does the household shopping, plants flowers in her yard, hangs little, cutesy, seasonal, artsy-craftsy things on her front door and runs the church nursery. I honestly do not know how she does it. As far as I know… she does not take drugs… So I’m just assuming that she is some sort of non-human, pod-person. It’s either that or she never sleeps.

I, on the other hand, am a spoiled brat. I become completely overwhelmed at the thought of feeding myself, emptying the dishwasher and doing laundry in the same evening. When I’m not at the office, I like to sleep or lounge around watching countless hours of Seinfeld re-runs, Hoarders, cheesy rom-coms or mafia movies while eating food that I did not make.

I enjoy being “Crazy and Fun Aunt JoJo” to my nieces and nephews, getting HER kids so riled up that she has trouble getting them to go to bed. They are teenagers… yes, I said teenagersS-E-V-E-N of them. In fact, she has more kids than there are letters in the WORD “seven.” I know. It is mind-blowing. And I—having no children of my own and even less responsibility—love to teach them things that will annoy her.

Once when she and my brother-in-law were going out for the evening and she asked me to come by and “help” the kids with their dinner, I thought it would be much more fun to teach them how to tell when the spaghetti was done by throwing it against the walls of her kitchen. We had a blast. And the kids, in turn, thought it would be fun to teach me the “Target Denim Song” in order to further irritate their mother because they of course knew that I would sing it… incessantly. You know the song… the one that goes: Denim. Graphic Tees, leggings and tunics. Well denim, backpacks, headphones, hair-ge-e-el. Denim. Shaun White hoodies and denim… Something like that anyway.

Good times.

But here’s the kicker… I am the one who is an emotional mess. I am the nervous wreck. I always have been. I am the one with all kinds of time and freedom and zero tax-deductions and I’m the one taking meds! It boggles the mind how two people, born of the same parents and raised under the very same roof could wind up so completely different. But what I love, what I LOVE about my sister more than anything is that even though we could not be more different… she GETS me. She gets me and she loves me anyway.

The sign hanging above my stove is a recent gift from my sister “just because.” Does she know me or what?

Road Rage, Invisible Groundhogs and Hypocrisy

I am a self-professed tailgater. And I’m not referring to the tailgating that occurs before football games around here. I am referring to the riding-other-drivers-asses variety of tailgater.

My dad and Lee both get after me about this A LOT. As well they should. Tailgating is rude and obnoxious, not to mention dangerous. But being the extremely impatient narcissist that I am… I just can’t seem to help myself. I can start out on a trip with the best of intentions and before I know it, I’ve memorized every scratch, dent and ding on the bumper in front of me… and I’ve probably fantasized about ramming into it too.

Yesterday on the way to work I got “brake-checked” by the guy in front of me (YES, an individual I happened to be tailgating at the time) and I had to slam on my brakes because he literally STOPPED in the middle of the road. He didn’t just tap his breaks to warn me that I was beginning to annoy him… He STOPPED… In the middle of a 55 MPH zone! Now, unless he was stopping for a squirrel, cat or groundhog—that I for one did not see—he was clearly sending me the “get-off-my-ass-NOW!” message.

I am well acquainted with this form of non-verbal, vehicular communication because I am not just your garden-variety tailgater. I am what you might call a “hypocritical tailgater.” I WILL tailgate you… but don’t you DARE tailgate me… or I WILL brake-check you until you get the message.

I feel it also worth mentioning that the guy who brake-checked me today was also a hypocritical tailgater because after he slammed on his brakes for me and resumed his speed… he practically crawled up the tailpipe of the guy in front of him. I must have been in a fairly decent mood because after re-securing all of my belongings back into the passenger seat from the floor to which they had fallen at the time of the aforementioned brake-check incident… I laughed. HARD.

I just laughed and laughed and backed the hell off. I got his message LOUD AND CLEAR. And maybe, just maybe, I secretly hoped that the driver whose tailpipe the break-checking-hypocritical-tailgater was currently sucking on would also stop suddenly in the middle of the road for an invisible squirrel, cat or groundhog… and well, you know the rest.

Some Truth About Honesty

I have never regretted anything I have not said.

Words to live by. As a talker, this mantra has proved invaluable to me… and would be even MORE beneficial if only I practiced it all the time… every single day of my life.

We are raised on the principle that honesty is the best policy. That damage can be minimized—if not altogether avoided—by simply telling the truth… all the time… to everyone… about everything. If we would just tell the truth, everything will be better.

The truth shall set you free. Right? Another popular one. We are taught to believe that shining the light of truth on things will invariably and inevitably fix them. However, I am learning that this “honesty policy,” so deeply ingrained in us, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Trust me. I know. I have told the truth… the whole truth… and nothing but the truth many times in my life operating under the false assumption that it will make everything better, only to discover—through devastation of epic proportion—that I should have kept my damn mouth shut.

Now, before you go on thinking that this is an endorsement for lying and dishonesty, let me clarify. I am referring to the things that we DO NOT NEED TO SAY, rather than saying false things. There is a big difference. As a compulsive talker and an obsessive clearer-of-the-air, I cannot begin to tell you how many times telling someone exactly what is on my mind has come back to bite me in the ass.

I have done it in all areas of my life, and in all areas of my life it has—on more than one occasion—backfired. Big time. Just because it pops into my head or is nagging at me or causing me to toss and turn at night, doesn’t mean that I must spew forth the thoughts (no matter how true) like word vomit all over the intended target or anyone who will listen.

Sometimes “holding your cards close to the vest” or “not revealing your hand” or practicing the “silence is golden” rule really is the better option, even if it means that you are occasionally guilty of the sin of lying by omission.

Think before you speak… because on now and then… honesty is not always the best policy.

An Honor Just Being Nominated…

Although it’s not a Pulitzer, I was honored yesterday when a fellow blogger nominated me for WordPress’s “Versatile Blogger Award.”  There is no trophy, cash prize or trip to Hawaii attached to the privilege. The only honor is that of the proverbial, but reassuring pat on the back from a fellow would-be writer. And I’ll take it. Happily. It is such a thrill to know that other people, many of whom I have never and will never meet, actually ENJOY reading the thoughts that I key in day after day after day! At times, when my creative juices are running on empty, it is the only thing that keeps me coming back to the cursor.

The first order of business is to thank the individual who thought my musings worthy of such mention. I “met” her not long ago when she dropped by Woman in Thrisis and left a comment. Commenters are usually the blogs that I tend to visit most often. I found her blog to be witty, fun and unique. Be sure to check out her writing at Becoming Cliche and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The second order of business required of all nominees is to list seven random/fascinating/weird or odd things about themselves that their readers most likely do not know. So here goes…

  1. I am insanely fearful of ALL insects. Even gnats. In fact, I conduct my day-to-day life in such a way as to fully AVOID anything (living or dead) that exists in the insect realm.
  2. I am, however, completely cool with snakes, lizards and rodents. Once, on a trip to the beach, I carried a python around on the boardwalk by wearing it around my neck because I thought I looked totally cool. That is, until it started to wrap itself around my neck… and I decided our little bonding session was over.
  3. My cat is named Stanley, though he isn’t just ANY Stanley. His full, given name (the one on the microchip between his shoulder blades) is Stanley Kubrick… In honor of my favorite filmmaker. In case you’re unfamiliar with Kubrick’s work, think A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Full Metal Jacket. He was a cinematic genius. The filmmaker, not the cat. AND Stanley is completely mute. The cat, not the filmmaker.
  4. Though deathly afraid of insects, I will try just about anything for the sake of adventure… Scuba diving, mountain climbing and herding cattle on horseback to name a few. I know, I am acutely aware of the contradiction.
  5. At 5’2” and barely 120 lbs., I once won a grape-stomping contest at a New Mexico vineyard by producing the largest amount of juice in the least amount of time.
  6. As a small child, I had an intense obsession with stuffed bunny rabbits that I carried around in my mouth by the ears and then rubbed said soppy, wet bunny ears constantly beneath my nose until it was chapped beyond recognition. Suffice it to say… cautionary measures were taken.
  7. In addition to insects, I am disproportionately afraid of nutcrackers, marionettes, puppets and claymation. They scare the bejezzus out of me. Because of this fear… Christmas is a difficult holiday. My father likes to hide wooden nutcrackers all over my house in random places continually finding sadistic delight in his cruel little prank until ALL of the aforementioned creepy puppets have been located and properly disposed of. Oddest place he ever hid one: in my freezer.

And now for the third and final order of business to fulfill my duty as a nominee… naming OTHER fellow bloggers for whom I feel deserving of the same award… I hope you will take the time to pay them a visit as well. I promise you will laugh, ponder and find inspiration in their words.

I’ll be waiting / with a gun and a pack of sandwiches  The name alone is worthy of checking it out. Variety, truth and humor all rolled into one. Everyone will find something they can relate to.

My One Precious Life  Honesty. Sincerity. And adventure all rolled into one.

Storytelling Nomad  Travel and Literature. If either of these are YOUR things, you’ll really enjoy this one.

The Great Balancing Act  Health and wellness, recipes and great getaways in this blog. But also the incredible and transparent account of a young woman’s day to day battle with leukemia. Very informative and extremely inspiring.

The wuc  Simply HILARIOUS. Enough said.

Where Pleasant Fountains Lie  Beautiful poetry and well-written words of wisdom and self-awareness.

Side of the Leaf  Real and entertaining stories about life set to music

Craves Adventure Fun travel tips and beautiful photography. If you want to take a trip in just 10 minutes, give it a read.

Food4ThoughtFood4Life  Insightful, humorous and reflective… A one stop shop.

I have several other faves. Those are just to name a few. I’m sorry if I left anyone out. I’m sure I did. Please don’t hold it against me. Happy reading friends. Pour yourselves a cup of coffee and take a walk in someone else’s very unique shoes.

Colorful Despite the Clouds

In late September, there isn’t much light outside at 7 in the morning on a clear day… let alone a cloudy one. So on a dreary morning, you might imagine my surprise when I noticed a vibrant orange tree just a few blocks away from my house.

Cars still had their headlights on and the streetlights burned brightly as the shrouded sun was barely peeking out of the east… Yet there stood this tree, practically glowing by the side of the road, not even partially illuminated by the assistance of a street lamp. Still you could see that its color was magnificent.

Wow! I thought to myself. How amazing that the luminous fall colors of that tree are still noticeable and even radiant despite the darkness!

And then I considered how the same could be said of people too. Just like the brilliance of that tree, the gathering clouds and darkness of tragedy, illness, abuse, loss or depression that sometimes surround us do NOT diminish our colors. We may believe we’ve lost our luster when we’re hidden beneath the heavy grey fabric of our circumstance. We may feel drab and ineffectual. We may think we go unnoticed by most. We may even seem completely invisible. But do any of these conditions actually have the ability to change the design of who we really ARE?

Our unique and vivid colors exist whether we are able to see them or not.

If I say, Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. ~ Psalm 139: 11-12 

5 Signs I Should Have Had Decaf

Standing in the long line at Subway for lunch yesterday it began to dawn on me that perhaps decaf would have been the wiser choice of java that morning… Why did I suspect this? 

  1. The man immediately in front of me, pacing, dancing around and grabbing / eating bags of chips from the front of the counter—that he hadn’t even paid for yet—was so jumpy and jittery that he began to make me nervous.
  2. The man standing in front of him had a tag sticking out of the back of his shirt and I had an overwhelming compulsion to violently rip it from his collar.
  3. The woman seated to my left was laughing so loudly and so obnoxiously that her shrill joviality made the concept of chewing glass an attractive option.
  4. The couple standing in the middle of the restaurant yelling to an acquaintance (who was standing RIGHT BESIDE THEM by the way) about their newly-rented, 10-bedroom condo in the Outer Banks incited such extreme annoyance that I felt the sudden urge to throw my purse at them while simultaneously yelling: “NOBODY IN THIS RESTAURANT CARES HOW MANY BATHROOMS IT HAS!”
  5. I honest-to-goodness imagined yanking the cell phone from the hands of the girl behind me and tossing it into the cucumber bin simply because I hated her ring tone.

Somehow, while all of these crazy imaginings and urges were flashing across my mind, I managed to look calmly out the window and settle my gaze upon a lovely maple tree that was just beginning to blush with the colors of fall. That is until my attention was diverted from the tree to the photograph hanging on my right. It was of a local high-school cheerleader—whose big hair and ridiculously-happy smile—made me want to slap her.

See, I told you… decaf.

Vices

So I’m beginning to wonder how healthy my occasional formula for surviving-a-busy-day-while-still-being-able-to-enjoy-the-evening really is. Let’s see… I roll out of bed (usually exhausted), and drag my ass through the early morning routine of showering, eating, facebooking, blog-posting, news-watching, makeup, hair, heels, commute. And by the time I sit down in my office chair, I’m even more exhausted.

I reach for the faithful friend that is a big, fat, coffee mug and I head across the hall toward the office fuel pump… Or rather, the Keurig coffee maker in the break room. One cup starts to perk me up and makes me feel like perhaps I will NOT flop my forehead onto the keyboard and drool all over the space bar as initially feared.

Two cups make me feel like I can begin to pick up the pace. I can actually comprehend my email and voicemail messages. I can focus long enough on my tasks at hand and begin to feel like I am climbing on top of the To-Do list, rather than lying prostrate beneath the weight of it.

Three cups enable me to operate under the assumption that I can take on the world! I am returning emails, answering the phone and taking notes while performing Photoshop miracles. I can whip out an ad layout standing on my head with my hands tied behind my back. And I am greeting everyone who walks into my office with the loudest, cheeriest and most hyper “HELLO!” that they run scared in the opposite direction.

However, by the time I get home and it is finally time to unwind and relax… I wonder why I am so keyed up. Perhaps a nice glass of wine will calm me down and ease me into the evening so that I can eventually drift off to dreamland peacefully and soundly.

So… I reach for the faithful friend that is the corkscrew. I nearly shatter my sparkling-clean wine glasses as I reach for one since my hands are shaking like mad from all the caffeine I’ve ingested throughout the course of the day. One glass starts to enable me to take deeper breaths as warmth and calm gradually spread through my limbs. I think that perhaps I will NOT bite the head off of the first person that speaks to me as initially feared.

Two glasses allow me to feel like I can begin to cope with the reality that I will have to do this all over again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. I can relax and focus long enough on an exchange with my boyfriend / mother / father / sister / niece / nephew / neighbor / friend so that they will believe I am happy, engaged and perfectly willing to handle whatever it is they say to or ask of me without “losing it” because I am “overwhelmed” or “stressed.”

Three glasses enable me to operate under the assumption that I can take on the world! And just as I attempt to take on the world… my forehead flops onto the keyboard of my laptop and I begin to drool all over the space bar.

Addicted to Drama

At the advent of reality TV, I thought myself better than everyone else because I refused to watch shows like The Bachelor, The Bachelorette or any of those other programs showcasing cheesy, forced romance and contrived drama.

I did not count my personal favorites—Survivor and The Amazing Race—in the ridiculously-fake-reality-TV category. I told myself (and everyone else) that I enjoyed those shows because they highlighted adventure in exotic, faraway lands.

Was I at all addicted to the “drama” that took place on beaches and jungles on the opposite side of the globe? Maybe. Because now there is a wee bit of evidence supporting the theory that I, just like everyone else, most likely was.

I have recently developed a slight addiction to a certain show that has made me question my self-proclaimed exemption from the desire for drama-on-display. The show is Hoarders. And I am actually rather obsessed with it. Like a horrific car crash by the side of the road or gruesome crime scene photos shown on Dateline, I cannot seem to look away. I find myself consistently drawn in by the ewwww-factor and the UGH-factor and the oh-this-is-so-absolutely-sad-and-disgusting-and-unbelievable factor.

I have long been fascinated by the inner workings of the human psyche. And based on ratings alone, I am not the only one. Let’s be honest… you’re Norman Rockwell neighbors, working 8 to 5 and grilling out on the weekends don’t exactly make for an interesting case study. But your crazy lady-next-door-with-a-million-cats-and-60-tons-of-trash-on-her-front-lawn kinda does.

Questions spring to mind such as: Why is he or she like that? What is wrong with them that they feel the need to cling to dead squirrels, pre-WWII cans of tuna or rotted jars of peanut butter? When are they going to tire of climbing over laundry, furniture and pizza boxes to get to their toothbrush? How are they OK with rats and roaches running rampant over heaps and piles of junk collecting in every nook and cranny of their living spaces?

I’m not sure if it is a form of escapism, or a way for us to affirm our own “normalness” as we watch others so tragically struggle just to keep both feet on the ground. Perhaps it is nothing more than our innate voyeuristic nature at work. But one thing is for sure… As long as there are humans on this planet and television cameras rolling, we will tune in and watch other people’s drama (be it real or fabricated) while it unfolds before us in our living rooms, with the curtains drawn and a bowl of popcorn in our lap.

The Disease That is the Need To Please

Recently, I was inspired by a fellow blogger’s post about an annoying co-worker that she had begun to avoid. The offending employee was new to this blogger’s office and the annoying behavior of which I am about to address was something we’ve all had a little experience with… no matter which side of the fence we’re on. I am talking about the need to please.

In case you are curious, the entry—cleverly titled “Killing Me With Kindness”—that inspired THIS entry can be found here: http://hvoorhees.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/killing-me-with-kindness/

See, while my blogging buddy writes from the perspective of the person who finds “people-pleasing” behavior to be quite vexing… I, on the other hand, am The Pleaser. So you can imagine why I found her post to be so insightful. This was, for me, a view from the other side of the fence.

So inspired was I by her view of things that I posted the following comment below her entry: “I am so glad you wrote this post. Because, let me tell you, although I’ve been on BOTH the giving and receiving end of your co-worker’s obnoxious chipper-ness… MORE of me definitely falls into her camp. And I wrestle with it. Constantly. See, at 36, I have become more aware that I am “that” person to some people and it is a HUGE struggle. Honestly… I am being serious… I have asked my therapist about it. I told my therapist that I feel I should just shut the hell up and not talk to anyone and that perhaps that would make everyone happier. (See… ever always TRYING to PLEASE) But then she tells me that I shouldn’t deny being myself around others. It is a tough one. I must admit that even with her advice in tow… I probably have been TRYING (at least mentally) to be more of the “shut-the-hell-up” person anyway. And it’s hard.”

People-pleasing is a horrible and (I’m not being melodramatic here) destructive trait to have. If I were to serendipitously cross paths with a genie in a bottle, and he granted me just one wish—I honestly think I would ask him to change this manner in me.

It is downright crippling at times, not to mention it causes you to constantly cast aside your very own identity and wellbeing in order to make others happy or more comfortable. And here’s the kicker: Most of the time… they don’t care that you’ve done it. They might not even notice that you’ve done it. It is a lost cause, wasted energy, and an exercise in futility. It is a sickness. A disease. The Disease That is the Need to Please. So… if anyone has been successful in finding the cure—or happens to know the whereabouts of a certain genie in a bottle—you can see why I, for one, would REALLY like to know.

The Ugly Cloak

There’s this certain shirt hanging in my closet that I hate. No, I’m not talking about the type of hatred that is you-hate-it-so-much-you-never-wear-it-so-it-just-hangs-there hatred. I mean, I have tons of clothes in closets, drawers and storage boxes that fall into that category. This is a unique sort of hatred. The dysfunctional relationship that I have with this particular shirt is like no other relationship I have ever had with any other garment… ever.

You see… I hate this shirt… and YET I continue to wear it every few weeks or so. Does anyone else have a clothing item like this in their possession? I don’t know what is the matter with me, but I never seem to remember how much I dislike it until it’s too late. I keep thinking that I will like it. Why do I keep thinking that I will like it? I keep giving it one more chance, and one more chance, and one more chance and it keeps right on letting me down… every… single… time.

There’s comes a time each evening that I go to my closet and select whatever it is I plan on wearing the following day. Inevitably I will stand there, staring at my clothes and feeling like I “haven’t a thing to wear” like most women do. I flip through the pants and skirts, blouses, cotton tops and sweaters until I find something that will do. And every so often, I come across this collared, grey, stretch-cotton, button-down, three-quarter-length-sleeve blouse. And it’s almost as if I’ve never seen it before. I pull it off the rack and look it over. It seems fine. It’s really basic and goes with just about anything.

The funny thing is… I bought it specifically for a meeting once, and I even hated it on the very first day that I wore it… which, I have to tell you, is highly unusual because you ALWAYS love something the first time you wear it. It’s not until after at least 3 to 4 wearings that it ends up getting shoved further down in the fashion rotation.

Holding it in my hand, I realize that if I NEVER wear this shirt… then there has to be a reason. Therefore, I carefully look it over a second time and ask myself the question: WHY do I never wear this blouse? It isn’t stained. It isn’t torn. It isn’t see-through. It isn’t missing any buttons. It isn’t too tight, too short, too long, too low or too revealing. So WHAT the hell is the problem!?!?

Then I usually think back to whatever “bottoms” I wore with it on the previous occasion. Ahhh… that must be it, I tell myself. It’s because I didn’t wear the proper pants or skirt in which to compliment the grey shirt. The brick-red skirt was too wrinkled and didn’t create good overall lines. When paired with the darker-grey slacks, I just ended up looking like a giant pidgeon. The shirt’s seams hit me in all the wrong places the time I wore it with the denim trousers. So perhaps if I combine it with something other than the brick red skirt, charcoal slacks OR the denim trousers, it may actually be possible to make the shirt work for me.

So I try about the only option I have left available to me… and that is to match it up with a pair of black slacks. WRONG again! Like Harry Potter and his Invisibility Cloak… I have decided that this shirt is my Ugly Cloak. Every time I wear it I feel absolutely hideous. How is it that I can so easily forget just how ugly this shirt makes me look and feel? Sure… there is nothing OUTWARDLY wrong with the item, which must be why I continually pull it off the hanger and choose to drape myself in it for 10+ hours a day! However, it is uncomfortable to wear, and the color makes me look as though I have just contracted the H1N1 virus. It is shapeless and makes ME look like I am shapeless underneath of it. It rides up in the chest, neck and shoulders causing me to constantly TUG at the hem in order to keep it from eventually floating up and completely over my head. Oh yeah… and it wrinkles if you so much as look at it wrong.

And the only reason I am able to recall all of this information now with such passion and clarity, remembering enough detail to get it all down in writing, is because right now… even as I type this… I am wearing the blasted grey shirt. That’s right folks, I gave The Ugly Cloak yet another chance… and once again… it has deeply disappointed me.

Damn Grey Shirt… I swear… you have screwed me over for the last time! I am NEVER, I repeat NEVER wearing you again!!! That is, until three weeks from now… when I find you there, hanging in my closet… looking oh so innocent… and I’ve somehow managed to completely forget ONCE AGAIN how you truly make me feel.