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Letting It Go: A Birthday Bash Tale

18 Aug
olaf

Olaf is property of the Disney folks. This image can be found over at LetsPartyShop’s Etsy page. Click to check ’em out. 

On Sunday, August 14th, 2016, a bathing suit was yanked up my torso, giving a slight smooth to my otherwise blatant belly bulge, yanked over my shoulders to pancake my mediocre breasts within, and waddled out with my gelatinous, thundering thighs below into a community pool. It had been five years since I’d been in a body of water, but it was my niece’s fifth birthday, dammit, and I wasn’t going to infest her precious little baby brain with self-consciousness and terms like “body positivity,” “goal weight” and “thigh gap.”

This was a big win for me.

I hated the idea of a pool party. Really – why, OH GOD WHY, did that have to be the location? My aversion to watery outings isn’t just due to the need to sport a swimsuit; it’s compounded by a host of other awful traits that recreational water activities feature: hordes of people, gaggles of children, metric tons of sand, wide open spaces, bright blazing sunlight, and a general lack of cats, video games, and pillows. To add pain to pressure, she had chosen the most obvious of themes: Frozen. How, after three complete rotations of the earth, little nuggets across the country are still holding on to Elsa and Olaf with their tiny, grabby hands, is beyond me.

Back in the day I recall many a family outing where I didn’t care how much grease slathering I had to do to get out in the water – and no amount of sand in my danger zones could stop me from burying my entire self on the shore. We used to have regular family outings at a local dam and I would get so excited I would nearly vomit before we even got to the car to leave. (I didn’t get out much as a child.) But now, every element of the pastime annoys me and I’ve actively and successfully avoided beaches, pools, lakes, and ponds. I will, from time to time, indulge in kayaking on a river. Because it is a solo activity, void of sand, and can be done in shorts and a t-shirt. If a child approaches me, I can swiftly paddle away.

Alas, when my niece looked up at me with her big, brown eyes and curls to match and asked me if I would come to her birthday party, I knew my days of comfort and curmudgeonry were at an end.

I considered just staying out of the water all day. There are pavilions and grass patches, and a variety of perimeter sections at a pool, and on the right day with only a slight amount of people, I imagined that curling up on a bench and reading a book would be kind of nice. I might even feel a little outdoorsy. But this was a birthday party for a five-year-old. There would be no reading, no sitting, and no relaxation of any kind. We had dibs on the giant, central water slide and I knew I would have two choices: go down it twenty-two times in a row, or go down in her memory as the worst of all the aunts.

Having chosen the former, I found myself in the bathing suit section of Target at 10pm the night prior, picking over the clearance section of the suits that were left behind. Mid-August is a beach-shopper’s wasteland, with mismatched and poorly-sized two-pieces, one-pieces in animal prints, and a handful of misshapen cover ups.

I had twenty dollars, a black tank top at home I wasn’t sure even fit me, and a modicum of chutzpah.

I also had the Dave, who found me picking over the beachgoers’ desert with my grumplepuss face on. I had acquired two bottoms I was sure wouldn’t fit me, and a cover-up I was secretly hoping I could pair with jean shorts for the day if it seemed my niece was suddenly lukewarm about my presence and I could cut out pool time. I knew that was unlikely.

Dave was lovely, as Daves are, and encouraged me to go try things on. It made a lot more sense than my approach, which was to stare at things and pull on them until I gleaned whether a six dollar piece of fabric would really make my ass virtually unnoticeable. The first piece was an absolute no. It had this extra band of fabric above the top line of the bottoms that was an attempt at some style, but it was made of elastic and only served to divide my singular fat roll into two distinct, smaller rolls. That was, perhaps, a bonus, as it made the second pair I tried on appear almost flattering – returning my belly bulge to its original full glory.

I stared at my too-large hind-end in the too-small bottoms and told myself that this was the year of #selflove. That lighting at department stores was less flattering than sunlight. That my tank top at home would help cover up some of what was now flailing about in the fitting room where I only had my t-shirt bra for coverage. That five-year-olds don’t see fat. Try as I might to believe the pick-me-ups, I really couldn’t fathom walking around in those bottoms. They left very little to the imagination, and I prefer people to imagine me majestic.

I must admit that a portion of my hesitation was due to the superior genetic makeup of my sister-in-law’s family. She is one of twelve, and the parents who spawned them created a unique and superior mix of genes that led to tan skin, fantastic hair, high percentages of muscle composition, and a disposition for sportiness that hatched a litter of chiseled beasts. It’s a genetic unfairness that is to blame for my five-year-old niece’s washboard abs. The niece for whom I would have to hope beyond hope that when I woke up, I would get the gumption to squeeze my pasty, puckered behind into a too-small budget bikini bottom.

It was 9am when I rolled out of bed, threw on the suit, stood in the mirror at various angles while repeating body positive mantras, and hopped in the family wagon to meet my niece’s pool posse. I told myself I would find the magic on the way. I have a theater degree, for Pete’s sake, and I was going to use it to play the part of someone who gave no damns.

We pulled into the parking lot at exactly the same time as my brother, and the excitement coming from the vehicle was palpable. It was stacked from front to back with all the trappings for a Frozen-themed birthday pool party, and somewhere smushed between were my nephew, the birthday girl, and my little baby pudding niece. I went right for Pudding Niece. We were as one this day – our thighs were glorious, we needed to be near food at all times, and we probably should have stayed out of the water.

It took all of five minutes after getting my wristband on and pushing the stroller inside before Birthday Niece requested my presence at the water slide. It was time.

I cued up some motivational 80’s pop for my own personal montage in my mind, and shut down the give-a-damns. I greased up in SPF 50, got any trace of makeup off my face, smoothed down my peach fuzz legs, and chub rubbed my way out to a terribly exciting looking slide. Birthday niece’s grandmother was poolside – one half of the dynamic gene duo that led to the long-legged hatchlings scattered about the pool. She was a wondrous gazelle. I carried on.

I could feel my butt jiggling. I feared my cheeks would shimmy their ways to each opposite side and my too-small bottoms would remain lodged in the in-between. I thought about how my top was pulled down slightly too far in order to eliminate the possibility of midriff; I wondered if my unsupported breasts would rip free of their burden at the bottom of the slide. I remembered my mantras. I climbed the slide. Birthday Niece and Smiley Nephew were in tow. They were awful thrilled that I was joining them and their little wobbly friends. I coached them through the launch procedure, as it seemed the unenthusiastic high schooler’s barely-muttered “…go…” didn’t quite to the trick. They took off, grins blazing. They reached the bottom with splashes much greater than their sizes. They were slowly brought to the top thanks to their arm floaties and life vests. They waited for Aunt Jackie to descend.

In that moment I didn’t think about how anyone else perceived me but them. It didn’t even matter what I thought. All that mattered was that I be there, and that I enjoy myself with them – and there wasn’t any room for my adult, media-contrived misgivings. I thought about my nephew’s big, bright smile and how he needed a little scoot to get down the tunnel. And Birthday Niece, who left her tiara poolside so she could have maximum funtimes. And Pudding Niece, who had big, beautiful thighs, and dimples on her shoulders, and was a glorious little creature who would grow up to be beautiful not because of her superior genes, but because every family member she has is going to affirm for her that however which way she grows, she is majestic.

And I launched and splashed.

And I launched and splashed again.

And I launched and splashed twenty more times, with Birthday Niece in tow.

Surprisingly enough, it was a big bucket of fun. As with most things I do, it was a reminder that just because I hate something at first doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. After all, I hate almost everything at first. And it reminded me that sometimes you’ve just gotta let all the stupid, silly hangups go for something bigger than yourself.

Or in my case – three smaller things. 

How I Almost Engulfed My Father in Merciless Hellflames

13 Aug

Last night marked the single, most epic baking disaster of my life.

It is a rare and sad occasion when I set out to produce a batch of wholesome chocolate chip cookies and instead almost produce a body count.  I was a victim of my environment, really.

Having received an early morning phone call that my sister-in-law was having contractions, my family packed up and drove to my brother’s  house for the weekend to wait on the arrival of a soon-to-be-bundle of girly joy and sunshine sparkles.  But the labor was long and slow so instead of waiting it out at the hospital, my parents and I slept over at my brother’s house and anxiously awaited the real action.  

Long and late into the evening, my sister-in-law had not yet been officially admitted and my old folks (being old folks, after all), passed out.  My mother made it a conscious choice and retired in the upstairs bedroom.  My father, however, fought the urge and failed, passing out on the couch to a rerun of “Cow and Chicken”. 

Being designated the main line of communication for my brother’s updates and having a sudden urge to prove a wonderful aunt, I went about baking up a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  Entirely out of my element, I gathered all the necessary accoutrements and began relishing in my domestic prowess.   Halfway through, I realized I forgot to make sure my brother had baking soda and resorted instead to baking powder, which Google assured me was just as good as its soda-y counterpart so long as I tripled the measurement.

Lies.

As I repeated batch after batch of terribly flat, terribly depressing excuses for cookies, I started to lose hope.  The only solace I found was in my sister-in-law’s well-equipped kitchen, bursting with Pampered Chef delights.  I remembered earlier in the day my mother had found a square, rubber nondescript and wasn’t sure where to put it when we were cleaning.  Assuming it was a pot holder of some sort, I placed it in the appropriate drawer and went about the rest of my business.   And since said rubber nondescript was in the pot holder drawer, my brain later reminded me of it and I used it to house the baking pan as the cookies cooled between batches.  

When I was on my fourth batch of tears and resentment, I made my way over to the oven to pull out the disappointing fruits of my labor.  Before opening the oven, I shot a glance over to the counter to make sure the rubber-nondescript-assumed-potholder was still there, ready for cookie landing.  

It was not.

Knowing there could be no other answer, I jumped to the oven to confirm my fears: the rubber had stuck to the bottom of the baking pan and it was now a melty, smoky mess in the heart of the oven.  With the rubber dripping everywhere, my mother sound asleep upstairs, smoke filling the house quickly, and my father passed out on the couch, I had some quick decisions to make.  Unsure of the best solution, I instantly went to wake my father for his assistance.

But it occurred to me that I wasn’t sure how to wake him in the middle of a smoke-filled room without instilling a sense of panic.  

I stood over him, playing with the phrasing, wrapping my head around the syntax, and measuring which part of the explanation should come first.  What does one say when bringing another out of deep sleep for assistance in a fire?  Figuring there was no good way to do it, I resolved to let him sleep (and perhaps die a firey death) while I went solo.

I yoinked the rack out of the oven and put it in the sink, where the maroon rubber nondescript melted into the basin, serving a grueling death for being mistaken for a worthy potholder only hours before.  With the entire living room smelling like burnt rubber and smoke billowing from the oven, I ran around the house with real potholders in my hand, fanning the smoke away from my father’s head and the smoke alarm simultaneously.

I was a penguin, flapping silently and violently in an attempt to not disturb him.

After five minutes of pure freaking out, I was a sweating, heart-racing mess and thankful to the good Lord in Heaven for sparing me the lifelong burden of murdering my family.  I cleaned the oven, tossed the cursed cookies into the trash, and put my feet up to bask in my narrow victory.

Interrupted by his overwhelming urge to take a leak, my father stirred on the couch and rose slowly.  I calmly confirmed that my sister-in-law had officially been admitted to the hospital and he smiled.  Thinking this was as good a time as ever to drop the bomb of his almost-death, I casually mentioned that I almost burned the house down because I didn’t know what to say if I tried to wake him in the middle of a smoke-filled room.

He sleepily replied: “You say ‘Dad, don’t worry – we’re okay – but the house is burning down and I need your help'” – and chuckled on his way to the bathroom.

Surprisingly lighthearted reply from a man who narrowly avoided engulfment in cookie and rubber hellfire.

Only You Can Save This Blog.

13 May

I have gone to bed so late, so many weeks in a row that I might just start skipping sleep altogether in order to avoid the awful process of waking up.  I keep telling myself I’m going to go to bed early on a weeknight or sleep in late on a weekday to hit the reset button but I never do.  I tried it a few nights ago but couldn’t get to sleep (very unfunny) and I ended up wasting 3 hours of my night just lying awake in bed.

So I just stay up doing frivolous things, trying to make my day last longer so that I feel like I work and have a life.  I don’t – it’s a facade.    I don’t stay up doing anything important; I just stay up.  I eat peanut butter toast and watch entire seasons of shows on Netflix and spend an hour on StumbleUpon and read people’s Facebook updates.  I’m so lame that it’s becoming painful.  

I have gone so many weeks on four hours of sleep a night that I have to peel myself out of bed in the morning.  There has never been a better display of man’s willpower than my waking up each day.  I set three alarms – each 15 minute apart from each other.  The first is the time that I would like to wake up.  It’s my ideal.  If I get out of bed at the first ring, I’ll be 5 minutes early for work, freshly showered,  have eaten breakfast, will have an outfit I’m not miserable in, and will be sporting a fine face of work-appropriate makeup. If I get out of bed at the second alarm, I will have to choose 3 out of 5 of those options.   If I get out of bed at the third, I will have to forfeit all but one.  

But lately I’ve been so tired and miserable that when the third alarm goes off, I snooze it for another 15 minutes.   When I wake I will accomplish none of the above tasks, but the jump start I get from knowing I will be late for work if I don’t wake up immediately and bolt out the door in 10 minutes or less is the only thing that will get me up.

I’ve been doing this over and over again.  Yesterday it got so bad that I couldn’t possibly leave for work unshowered again so I still slept in and resolved to be late.

This has to stop.

I’m a good worker.  I really am.  I usually work right through my lunch break and stay late and break lots of labor laws and things.  But lately I’ve been so absolutely zombie-like that I can’t bring myself to get up and at ’em in a timely manner.  I recall having to peel my eyes apart and splash my face with freezing cold water a few days ago just so that I could see straight enough to put my clothes on.   Once I get there I only make it to 11:30 before I need to go order the the tallest, tastiest, non-coffee but coffee-like drink I can stomach in order to get myself to have enough energy to type an email.

I look like death.

When I go outside, I’m as a member of the underworld visiting the surface for the first time.  The light disgusts me, the bird chirping echoes through my weak, soggy brain, and my limbs are all worn and jagged from being jolted into performance from a dead sleep.   I suddenly find myself absolutely incapable of effective communication.   If I attempt to string more than two sentences together, my brain goes into a total meltdown and my eyes travel up and to the left, where they sift through the soft, gooey, deteriorating pockets of my mind for the right word.

It’s usually a simple one.  Like “pants”.

I only have two options from here.  I can either find a way to restore sleep to my body by effectively going to sleep earlier, sleeping in later, or just giving in to my urge to conk out at my desk instead of guzzling caffeine.   Or I can keep going on as I am and become a fully-fledged, certifiable whack job.  Unable to find the words for anything at all, my sentences will deconstruct themselves into incoherent babblings.  My eyelids will sink down to allow only a sliver of light into my eyes.  My face will become pasty, droopy, and inspire fear.  No longer able to force my body to function without allowing it to recharge, I will ooze from place to place on the floor like a slug.

A decomposing, incoherent zombie slug.

I will be unable to keep my promise to write a blog every day because I will no longer be able to comprehend language.  Already, I find myself staring at my screen wondering what to write.   Not because I have no idea, but because I cannot navigate the idea.  I compose entire paragraphs that seem to be written by a 3rd grader who speaks English as a second language, delete them, and upgrade them to that of a 6th grader who speaks English as a second language.  I stare at commonplace words for several minutes, suddenly questioning if they’re really words at all.

My lack of sleep is threatening thejackieblog.

If I don’t post tomorrow, come to Pittsburgh and search the streets.  You’ll find me there, oozing my way through the masses and hissing at daylight.

If you spot me, stick me with a bear tranquilizer, put me on a park bench, and force the regeneration to begin. 

The High Hurdles in Slug World

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Fear Mongering

3 Jan

Listen, let’s set up some ground rules.  You know, like kickball.

You’re excited, yes.  I understand.  There are few things more thrilling in life than hulking over someone else’s, mouthbreathing loudly.  Personally, I think it’s the bee’s knees – but you’re going to have to control yourselves.   Texting me at 2pm asking me where my blog update is when I don’t even get off work for 3 more hours is borderline terrorism.   Well, if we’re in the Bush era, anyway.  In the Bush era, Tide commercials were terrorism.

I’m sensing that my 365 project is setting a precedent for fear mongering, not only from you to me, but from me to you.  That’s right: I propose that I am scaring you.

I say this because blogging used to mean that I waited around until something interesting or maddening enough happened so that I had material.  But now… now I’m making things happen so that I have something to blog about.   Friends are wondering if I’ll use them as subjects, my cats don’t lick themselves in front of me anymore, and my coworkers are huddled under their cubicles with the phone already dialed to Corporate waiting for me to blog about work.  One even timidly asked if he was “allowed” to read it.   

Let’s be clear about something: I can be an asshole, but I’m an asshole who needs to pay bills.  Catch my drift?   Besides, when brainstorming today about what I might feature for my first of the Lollipop Tuesdays series (see below), a friend suggested I set up a hot dog cart on the Executive Floor.  How could I possibly stoop to blogging about office politics when I could blog about slingin’ weiners to top execs? Furthermore, my own boyfriend was scared out of his wits before he left that I would make my entire post about his newfound desire to attain a man purse.   Which, I’ll admit, is very appetizing.  Really.  Even just typing the words now has gotten my carpal tunnel all hot and bothered. 

So listen: everything is going to be okay.  Say it with me: “Everything is going to be okay.”

Yes, I have to blog about my life because though I’m inspired to try this project, I’m not inspired to focus it on food or movies or baby animals wearing turtlenecks and eating pasta.  But I’m not out to get anyone and chances are that of all the absolutely moronic people I talk to each day, you’ve got some tough competition to make top rank.  That’s a heartfelt compliment.

All right – so we’re clear now.  I won’t attack you intentionally, and you won’t text, email, call and harrass me if I don’t post before 6pm.  And for the record, my deadline is actually 23:59:59. ♣

Today: We had a little blog therapy together.  Don’t you feel better now? I know I do.

Tomorrow: Lollipop Tuesday.  There’s only one way to find out what that means.  Stop by- it could be kinky.

*Keep an eye out for updates and reveals as Twist365  trudges onward.  With an artist for a father and a software engineer for a brother, I have to be able to pull off something cool eventually, right?*
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