Tag Archives: life

A Prison of My Own Device

20 Apr
hamster

Jess Bradley – Hamster Prison (check out her flickr for some great little cartoons)

Let me just bring you up to date real quick here on how my last few weeks have gone since I started to post again.

Week 1: Jackie announces that she hasn’t posted for a long time because there’s been this difficulty in reconciling cartoon-like Jackie from blogland with real-life Jackie from actual-job-I-like land now that her personal and digital circles have intertwined. She declares it a challenge and commits to post every single week in spite of it to see if it kicks it back up.

Week 2: Jackie posts a recent and deeply embarrassing chronicle of how her inability to find the bathroom in a local restaurant lead her on a journey of the spirit (she edited out the part where she shame cried). The same day, her workplace announces on social media that she has been promoted. A surprising amount of people read it and are supportive. They come to her personal page. They see her blog. They wonder how someone who cannot find a public restroom is responsible for running an organization. They make this joke to her in person. She is deeply uncomfortable.

Week 3:

That’s where we are. We’re on week three: deeply uncomfortable. As in, I announced why this was weird now, I wrote a post to follow that up anyway, and it immediately became extra weird.

awkward giraffe

This is how I feel inside when someone mentions the blog. If you look closely, you can really see the struggle. (photo: Thomas Hawk on flickr)

But I mean, it would be SUPER awkward if I stopped writing now because a few posts ago I was all “Challenge Jackie to the charge!” and three weeks later I’d be like “nah, jk it’s hard and stuff.”

I wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t make those sections on Lollipop Tuesdays and 365 and 30 Day Challenges all over the page.

Dammit.

So here we are, friends. I’m stuck in a prison of my own device, and you’re watching it because Netflix and HBO have taught you that you can actually watch a lot of truly disturbing things and still be kind of okay on the inside. So, welcome to whatever panic train this is all about to be. Thank you for your fascination. ♣ 

This post was brought to you by Halo Top Ice Cream. Perhaps I’ll begin to allow the foods that drive my posts to publish phase to underwrite my blog. Is that how I can get free snacks? Snack sponsors. Yes. For my sorrows. Halo Top Ice Cream: more expensive than Ben & Jerry’s for half the creamy taste and one fifth the post-pint guilt.

I’ll probably have to give a better endorsement than that if I want free snacks, huh?

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. 

Prepare the Goat Altar

3 May

It’s May.

The entire first quarter of the year is over, folks. Eddie Izzard ran 27 marathons in 27 days, Franky Zapata flew a Marty McFlyish hoverboard for over a mile, and Donald Trump has risen to become the harbinger of the Apocalypse.  How’s it going for you?

I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing: sucking. Just sucking really hard.

Last we left off, I set out to make this year count by incorporating a variety of daily habits into my life until magically, by the end of the year, I would rise to the status of casual superhuman. Thus, I embarked on my annual self throwdown: this time to see whether it was possible to develop a host of superpowered daily habits like getting a good night’s sleep, waking up early, reading the news, drinking something hot, and thinking about my day.

Basically, my 2016 challenge is to become the dad in a nuclear family Sunday comic strip.

I’m not entirely sure those people actually exist – the ones who plan their slumbers, rise early like Ben Franklin, make themselves breakfast, plan out their day, send up a prayer of gratitude, and sacrifice a baby goat all before lunch. Maybe Michelle Obama or Beyoncé, but they probably have a staff aide for the baby goat thing.

All that bleating.

As for me, at this point I’ve picked up a good breakfast habit and everything else is a bit shaky. At one point I’d worked up to four habits simultaneously but I had to think and plan and work to incorporate them, and once I got truly busy they got packed right back into my knapsack of good intentions.

I don’t like to fail at things.

So it’s quarter two and I’m running this ship like a business; it’s time to change strategies and dive in.

Now this next part is going to sound like I’m selling something. You know, like when you’re cruising through your news feed and a friend posts a picture of themselves looking fabulous and you go to click that new, awkward “heart” reaction until you take a closer look at the tags and realize it’s a plug for a body sculpting system that ships green goop to your door for a low monthly fee.

You know what I’m talking about, yes? If not, all you really need to know is that one of the names of such hawked product is called Soylent. It markets itself as an affordable, complete nutrition meal replacement. SOYLENT.

 

I would tag the product here so you could know I wasn’t kidding, but I’d rather plug Heston’s public service announcement about it.

 

Anyway this isn’t one of those. That was the point before I got all Charlton Heston on you.

My quarter two challenge is going to be something called the Whole Life Challenge (note to self: such a better title than One Good Thing). It’s basically everything I set out to do this year with my white boards and my tracking systems and my gamification of challenge attempts, but it costs fifty American dollars to do.

“But why would you do it if it’s basically the same, Jackie? Why would you give away your hard-earned nonprofit admin dollars? 

Because I failed quarter one. And it looks like this whole “add a habit at a time and mark it on your white board before bed” thing isn’t working. I have the undereye bags of a woman twice my age. I’m starting to google neck exercises. I’ve even done some of them. It’s time.

Every day I’ll try to earn points by performing basic human functions. I will do this for 56 days. I’m not really sure what happens on Day 56. I’ll probably write a blog post because that seems to be in line with my 2016 consistency.

Sucking. Just sucking so hard.

I could also tend to these daily habits by joining the Amish (#backtothehomeland), but I’m probably going to need somewhere for this to go in quarter three and it’s been some time since I busted out a Lollipop Tuesday.

But let’s focus on the positives, shall we? I’ve begun to regularly eat a healthy breakfast. I’ll have eggs or cereal or toast instead of, you know, whatever strangely-shaped, dusty M&Ms I can find on the bottom of my purse on the way to work.

Four months to remember how to regularly eat breakfast. I had that down at age 6.

Of course back then it was a bowl of regular Cheerios with a mountain of white sugar I spooned on top.

So maybe I didn’t have that down at 6.

Twenty-nine years to get the breakfast thing down. Okay. That’s fine.

I’m going to go get my badass back. It all goes down on Saturday. I’m gonna throw down five Alexander Hamiltons, and maybe one more to snag myself a new set of aviators so I can feel like a boss while I’m drinking water and reading the daily news.

Quarter two. Let’s roll.

The Death of Jabba

1 Feb

I’m christening February with a brand new shiny post. Since that’s the most I’ve written in 3 months, I’m going to go buy and eat an entire pack of Oreos in celebration.

Now – last month I threw down (as I often do) and made much of my obsession with resolutions and goal-setting. It left some folks wondering what exactly I was going to do for the year if I was parading around trying to get everyone else do to things. Behold: the plan.

When I took a nice hard look at my current life approach, I observed some great attempts at superhumanism (Post-a-Day Challenge, Lollipop Tuesdays, Project Fat Ass 365, Completing a half marathon) juxtaposed almost immediately by Jabba The Hut-like life halts. I come, I conquer, I shut it all down. Way down.

It’s all here on this blog – it’s chronicled. Extreme highs and lows. I lose 30 pounds and am fitter than I’ve ever been in my life then I’m half naked on my couch buried in Skittles. I’m a human machine, then I have to attach fly papers throughout my apartment because I haven’t cleaned in so long that my potatoes are self-imploding in the kitchen. I don’t post for three months, I post twice in a row and eat a whole pack of Oreos. For all my self-discipline, I’m unbelievably undisciplined.

Now, granted, I have made some meaningful and real change in my life as a result of sharing my degradation and my paralyzing, anxiety-filled monologue with you all. But in the midst of all these highs and lows and personal achievements, I’ve continually wondered what a well-balanced life looks like.

Are there people who actually meditate every day? Who manage to eat breakfast every day without counting M&Ms? Somewhere out there, are there humans who have drawers of clean underwear and can touch their toes all year? Can balance be learned?

Let’s face it folks – if I can’t do it before the babies start falling out of my body then it will never happen. Because you know what my babies will want to do? Sit around half naked and eat Skittles. I’ll be doomed to live this way forever and to create an entire line of humans who do the same. 

So that’s the ultimate goal for the year: to experience a well-balanced life in order to save myself from sending my defective seed into the future thereby dooming my entire lineage. Now, as you studious jackieblog pupils will recall, that’s not really an actionable goal. We need specifics- things that I can concretely accomplish on a daily basis. Numbers. Expectations. Measurable outcomes. It’s sciencey and stuff.

(You can hop on board if you want. It’s never too late. That’s a rule here. There aren’t many but the few we have are legit. In fact, check out this rock star over at FattieGettingFit who began her journey on Jan. 27th. It’s not too late in the year, and it’s definitely never too late in your life.)

So here’s the plan.

The “One Good Thing” Challenge

  • Make a list of habits you wish you had or believe that you would have if you were your best self. Make them reasonable and beneficial long-term.
  • Hold each habit at least 7 days. You can’t move on unless you can envision adding a new habit without being overwhelmed.
  • You cannot move on early and all habits must be additive, not subtractive. Not doing something is not a habit. (that’s a good thing to remember for life in general.)
  • Reward yourself along the way at whatever intervals you please and with whatever rewards you find meaningful.

That’s it. Seems like it should work, right?

Here are a few examples of good things I personally think that doing every single day would help make me a more balanced, healthy version of myself:

  • Eating breakfast
  • Flossing
  • Prayer/Meditation
  • Exercise/Stretching
  • Sleep for 8 hours (this is the most unfathomable for me)
  • Moisturize
  • Sending a note to someone I care about
  • Doing something creative

My list goes on. It’s big. I don’t even brush my hair every day.

My rewards list is also big because I plan to kick this squarely in the ass.

I started by picking one and doing it every day, no excuses. The deal is that I have to maintain it for 7 days straight. If I make it to day 6 and miss a day, I start again as if it’s my first day trying to do that habit. It’s okay if I spend half the year making an effort to eat breakfast every day. At least after 6 months I’ll be eating breakfast every day. Once I get two habits in the bucket, I cash in on a reward.

I started at the beginning of January and I’m 3 habits deep.  I’ve eaten breakfast every single day (perhaps a lifetime record at this point), worked out/stretched for at least 5 minutes first thing in the morning, and moisturized every day. I’m working on adding prayer/mediation. So far I’ve discovered the seemingly obvious: that the easier I make it for these things to happen naturally, the more likely they are to happen. I have a yoga mat and weights right beside my bed ready to go so that in the morning all I have to do is convince myself to roll over and start stretching. That usually leads to a little exercise. And that usually leads to me wanting breakfast. Sure – it’s just 5 minutes of movement and a breakfast sandwich now, but by the end of the year, who knows? I could be going for a long morning stroll to see the sun rise, get a cup of coffee and a newspaper (which I’ll presumably make time to read), and make myself Eggs Benedict before work. It will be a page straight out of Real Simple magazine.

I’ve been able to manage all right thus far, but I have to admit I’m having a hard time imagining getting too much farther. Sleeping eight hours every single night hasn’t happened since 3rd grade. That’s on the list. And sooner or later I’m going to have to come to terms with how to make it happen. I’m afraid I’m going to have to let some things go. I do a lot of my work while everyone else is sleeping. Like this blog post which I’m writing at 1AM and auto-scheduling for the following morning. 

So that’s the plan, folks. 2016 is the year I figure out what balance looks like so that in 2017 I can determine whether or not it’s all just a load of horse manure and go back to my night owlish, junk food injecting, willy-nilly ways with no regrets. I’ve got 11 months to go in my next human self-experiment. Yeeeeehaw. 

Psst:  I have a long list of ideas for daily habits, but I could use more.  What do you think is a daily habit of a well-balanced person? Let me know in the comments and help me to abandon my Jabba the Hut-like ways. 

Please Don’t Make Me, It Hurts

31 Aug

It has been one great rotation of the earth since I have posted.  Where in the holy hellballs did I go?

No, really. The last time I posted was last September,  wherein I said I was “back,” whatever that meant. Apparently it meant that I had sincere plans to dive nose-deep into the pale, sweaty armpits of the Internether and perhaps never return.

I’ve come ever so briefly out of my little dark whole with the cockroaches and video games – out from the muck and the mire and all off the rolls of fat and shame that have accumulated since my last post. I’ve brought new toons as penance. Once, many moons ago, I asked Sir John Michnya to draw some for me hoping that by the time they were finished, the desire to update would stick my finger into the part of my brain that publicizes my thoughts and pull something gooey out.  Four months later, here it is.

The reality, my friends, is that life has been hard. Like, real hard. Like, “hey, I heard 2014 was pretty nice for you and got you a nice job and appreciation for family and stuff so HEY LET’S THROW DEATH AND CANCER AND HEARTACHE AND AWFUL IN YOUR FACE TO MAKE UP FOR THOSE GLORIOUS GIFTS ISN’T LIFE SO FUNNY!”

It’s all about balance. Seems fair.

All is well enough in Jackieland, have no fear. As well as it can be, given that I haven’t yet been transported to live my real, true life as a night elf in Azeroth. Someday, ducklings. …Someday. In the meantime I need something to make me feel like I don’t suck as much.  So I picked a half marathon.

You may recall that in 2013, my 365 challenge was to work out every day and culminated in a 10K. You may also recall my near-death in that experience, the amount of increase in my tendency to cuss, and a beneficial thinning of my thighs coupled with a promise that I would never, ever put my genetically underdeveloped body in that position again.

But I have a good friend who did the 10K with me and was happy to shame me into running an ungodly amount of miles, despite it being over twice what nearly killed me. The texts he sent me thereafter helped me to envision a dull, dark world where I had walked away from a challenge. They were almost Shakespearean.

This talk of half marathon is not an empty promise, friends. I’m in week nineteen of half marathon training. I can slowly jog more than eight miles in an ugly and haggard fashion.  I have my motivation board up and active, I have enlisted a personal shamer, a personal coach, and a personal cheerleader. The trifecta is in place.

The truth is I don’t really know what else to do. I don’t want to stop trying new things, I don’t want to have a tumbleweed blog, and I don’t want to have space in my brain for all the awful that this year has brought so far. So a really long and painful run is all I’ve got.

I sucked. Life is ebbs and flows of suck.  But what else can be done with it but to put it out there and look it in the face. It just gets bigger and fatter the longer I wait.

The older I get, the more I think that we’re all just flailing in suckery. The good eggs try to correct course. The bad eggs, for some reason that will forever dog them, don’t try. The glory is in the trying, I think.

Here’s to the good eggs. 

Shout out to a fan from the nether who greased up the ol’ contact form and told me to get back at it so that she could have a brief respite from her soul-sucking state job. I’d tell you her name but then the government would assign her a drone. Thanks for turning on the skillet.

The Myth of Balance

4 Sep

You might be wondering how my vegan adventure went and you might be wondering what has brought me to the surface. The answer to the former is that it was easier than I thought and the answer to the latter is that things are pretty bad and this is a cry for help.

I fell off the wagon a bit after the vegan thing. During it I was grand. I had an abundance of friends with diet restrictions and advice to share and an enthusiastic housemate who was so supportive that he actually got excited about Vegenaise. (Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.)

The biggest problem I faced with veganism began when I exchanged my penchant for junk food for a penchant with beer, which was one of my only remaining legal vices. Unfortunately after I finished the veganism, I decided to celebrate with my favorite non-veganism indulgences and didn’t drop the penchant for beer. From the time I set out to be vegan, did an bang-up job, wrapped it up, and returned to unvegan, I gained 15 pounds – a feat that genuinely surprises me.

I felt pretty bad about myself and tried to jump start things with a ride-my-bike-to-work-every-day challenge. It lasted zero days.

Ouch.

I started to revert to pre-blog Jackie. Do you remember pre-blog Jackie? She was a hermity old coot who got winded on the way to the bus stop, left every social engagement early and miserable, and who hated going clothes shopping because she stressed too much over all the unknowns associated with dressing room processes. We were pathetically fond of her for a time but we don’t miss her.

…Do we?

Today's illustration is brought to you by the Dave.

Today’s illustration is brought to you by the Dave.

At times like this it feels like I’m always just trying to get away from that default setting of being out of control. I’m not sure what balance is; when you strip away all the aphorisms we hang around our house and pinterest boards, it appears to mean being fit, seeing people you love often enough, being financially stable, knowing generally where you’re going, having something you’re looking forward to, getting plenty of sleep, and staying well educated and adaptable while somehow also finding time to do absolutely nothing.

You know: that’s all.

I thought the whole thing about balance was that there was a point when it happened – when the energy of a thing transcends its individual parts and achieves a central harmony. There is a certain ease and weightlessness in balance. Grace.

I’ve never once even felt close to this. Has anyone? Is there really someone who feels like there was a time when you were spending exactly enough time doing everything there was to do? Why does it even feel like this magical land of bull hockey should exist? What in the holy hellballs are we thinking?  

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by all these things that I become tired and a little scared and have to muster up the musteriness to keep on. Honestly, it’s just a lot easier and more natural for me to sit on the couch, keep to myself, and try to be occasionally clever. I can do that.That sounds doable and the longer I do it the easier it is to maintain.

This all started to feel familiar. Surely I’ve been here before.  I went hunting through my archives because I thought I remembered a time akin to this where I felt like I was slowly losing control of things in my life. Alas, I unearthed “The Great Filth Festering,” a post in two parts.

An excerpt from Jackie Blog Historical Histories:

“I’ve deteriorated again. I kind of have gotten into the habit of building a domicile of stench and humiliation. I guess that’s just how I operate lately. I’m busy and I’ve determined that one of the first things that can go is my sense of cleanliness and dignity.
 
I was swimming in my stench pool of an apartment this past weekend when I reached a new low in the land of Jackie: I invested in my first roll of fly tape. I almost felt bad about dooming the fools to a sticky, static death by goo but I was trying to take a nap between shifts the other day and they proceeded to swirl and flit and then procreate on me. 
 
You heard me correctly. I was attempting to nap on my couch and was frequently woken by the slight itch that accompanies two flies landing on your kneecap and fornicating. If you ever need a confirmation that your life is spiraling out of control and you need to get your act together, let flies bumping uglies on you in the festering filth of your stench cocoon seal the deal.”

I don’t know why it soothes me to read of similar moments of my failure. Perhaps it’s because my apartment is relatively clean right now so it highlights an area where I’m performing well at the moment. Perhaps it’s because I can say with certainty that I got past this particular scenario and it inspires hope. Perhaps it’s just because we don’t talk about it enough and it’s kind of liberating to just admit that I have a hard time keeping up with everything and having clean underwear at the same time.

I kind of wish we would all do it more.

Anyway, here I am. I would like to believe that a status update is the next step in propelling me back into the ring.

So humor me: in celebration of my exodus from the cocoon and in the name of the holy hellballs conjured earlier in this post, tell me a fond moment of failure. What’s your fly tape moment? Hook a sister up with some fellow failures.

You’re all swell. It’s nice to see you up here on the surface. Let me just clear some of the boxes of Cheez Its out of the way for us. 

Vegan Jackie, Reporting for Duty

1 May

Hello lovelies! It’s the first day of a shiny, new month and that means it’s time for me to fire up another 30 Day Challenge. It’s month 5, and so far I’ve tackled Jillian Michaels, an hour of reading every night (readers’ choice), cutting sugar, and keeping a detailed daily food and exercise journal.

Cutting sugar has by far been my least favorite. I don’t like it when my food is messed with. Particularly my sugar food.

I also like to eat animals. I do. I went vegetarian a long time ago after reading Skinny Bitch (I’m sorry, I wish it were more academic, but we do truth tellin’ here), and I only made it eight months. It was a gradual decline. I started sneaking ham sandwiches when my friends weren’t around and told myself they were a one-time thing and then before I knew it, it was Thanksgiving and I might as well have shoved my head directly up that turkey butt (Exhibit 1).

In all sincerity I’ve become much more cognizant over the years about what I put in my mouth (stop it), partly due to my effort to get fit in my 365 Day Challenge, version 2013, and partly because I became aware of how terrible the food industry is to animals, which I love and adore in an Elmyra Duff fashion. I’ve learned to vote with my money and though it has been a difficult budget adjustment for me, I buy grass fed beef, free range chickens, and try to make environmentally- and ethically-conscious choices.

But now it’s time to go hard. Trying to read more and eat less sugar and work out are good and dandy 30 Day attempts, but I can’t imagine any 30 Day Challenge I would hate more than going vegan and that makes it real juicy. I owe a few readers this challenge as well – some of whom have even offered to help me along the way. 

This strapping young lad is Alex Etling, aka @vegantweeter and the host of the posts at iChewsVegan. I’ll be dropping in on him for some veggie-filled truths this month and he’s been kind enough to offer himself as lifeline during my animal-craving fits of rage. (photo credit: Lauren Morrison Photography)

I’m not even sure what I can eat today. I mean, I know what I can’t eat. I grabbed a banana and a granola bar this morning and I’m going to have to read a lot of vegan food blogs very quickly because for a long time my major food groups were Cheez Its, Pizza, Hoagies, Macaroni and Cheese, and Ice Cream.

Those all sound delicious and they’re all off-limits. This is going to be an actual challenge.

There are lots of reasons that this is both the perfect and the worst time to do this. It’s the next natural step in my increasingly healthy lifestyle adjustments, and it doesn’t hurt that a powerful dose of nutrients and body love will help an upcoming photo shoot and summer season look more appealing… but it’s also a month full of food celebrations thanks to a recent job change, and several business meetings at restaurants that will simultaneously test my willpower and my knowledge of what’s safe to put in my piehole. 

The truth is that there is never a “good” time to start anything. There are always challenges. Change, even if temporary, is not easy. For 30 days in a row, I have to do this regardless of guilt I may feel for not eating something homemade, the waste I might incur by not partaking in unexpected and generous food gifts, and the overwhelming cravings I’ll battle when one of my aforementioned major food groups comes sexily whispering into my ear.

I’ll admit that I’m really clinging to two things for panic relief: there’s a kick-butt veggie stir fry offered at the joint down the street, and I know an ice cream shop that pushes vegan offerings.

The premise of Lollipop Tuesdays, 30 Day Challenges, and 365 Projects is to do something that you aren’t sure you can do, that you don’t necessarily want to do, and from which you might learn a great deal. For me, this definitely fits the bill. The timing is terrible, the excitement is difficult to muster, and the reward might be incredible. If you want to hop on board, you can start with your very next meal and count forward thirty days.

I’ll see you on the other side. 

Vegan Jackie, out. 

 

Pasties Make Me Squeamish

16 Apr

Where in the hell have I been?

That’s a great question. I’ve been lots of places. I’ve been to a burlesque show, to Montreal, to court for jury duty, and to market to snag a new job. That’s a lot of things to do and none of them really have anything to do with my absence. It was moreso that I stumbled upon an unintended spring break. As I went longer and longer without posting, the part of my brain that has the ability to write things and push the ‘post’ button began to deteriorate. After a few weeks I was consumed with shame and harbored a modicum of fear that I would be unable to write anything worthy of being posted and thus, failed to post. Week after week after week.

Then I remembered that’s not what we’re about here. If I refrained from posting when I had nothing worthy to say, there would have been about 360 less posts in the year of 2011 and 14 in total in 2012 and 2013. You know this. I know this. And so we will all press on together – worthy or not.

I owe you a post about titties and so you shall have it. Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ladies and gents.

I know it’s Wednesday today but dammit, I can’t make excuses anymore. Just pretend this posted on a Tuesday so I can keep the whole bit going.

I went to a burlesque show. I didn’t want to go. But I have a friend with whom I have been quite enamored since middle school and she busies herself with a smorgasbord of ever-changing performance gigs. At the moment, the gig is singing and removing clothes.

There’s more to it than that. I’m obligated to say something or other about how burlesque is rooted in vaudeville and is less a stripping-for-money thing than it is a singing-and-empowering-art-of-costuming-and-teasing thing. 

Frankly, I don’t care about any of that. I hated it.

I came prepared to like it. I have a few lady friends who frequent burlesque shows and told me they can be empowering and lovely. I’ll admit that initially, there was a part of me that was a little inspired by seeing so many unique female bodies. It reminded me that beauty takes many forms and that there is no need to be ashamed of all things that jiggle and are not magazine-esque.

That was where the magic ended.

First, for those of you who have yet to attend a fancy titty dance, let me give you the lay of the land for this particular event. There was a stage, there were seats, there were two male emcees that said silly and distasteful things between acts and sometimes participated, and there were lots of beautiful, bendy, talented women who would either dance together in a group piece that stripped down to pasties or a solo act that stripped down to pasties. 

Pasties are the goal line, it seems. 

Once upon a time I thought myself the kind of gal who would be able to go out with the guys to a strip joint, laugh, put some singles in some panties, and have a great ironic time. I don’t know why I thought that. That person was stupid. I don’t like seeing women take their clothes off, by their own choice or not, while people hoot and holler at them. It makes me feel gross. Maybe that makes me a prude. I’ve been known to be prudish and I’m okay with it I guess because there’s no denying something deep and animalistic was fighting against the experience the entire time my cheeks were in the seat.

Admittedly, I may have made a few choice errors. Firstly, that I sat in the front. But with Lollipop Tuesdays, you go big or go home, kids, and so I took the front seat and prepared to be dazzled. Dave offered me a drink (because one must try to bring a Dave to a Lollipop Tuesday when one can) but I refused. I wanted to see the glory stone-cold sober.

Front row, sober. Mistakes perhaps. 

Back in the day, I would go so out of my way to save myself from discomfort that eventually I stopped doing uncomfortable things altogether and just flatly rejected any situation or potential for a situation where I might not be at ease. Now that I’m a seasoned veteran of Lollipop Tuesdays, I actively seek out those very situations so that I am forced to either change my perspective on them or to decline from somewhere other than a place of ignorance.

I was once the queen of comfortable ignorance. But no more. Now, I dislike burlesque because I went and I saw and I squirmed. I am now an educated objector.

I suspect the second piece of the show was what did me in.

The premise of the first piece was that a man had found an island of she-beasts who prepared to cook him up and eat him while he unknowingly delighted in the view. Yadda, yadda, pasties.

The second piece, however, was a line of women from one side of the stage to the other and one of the male emcees moving from right to left, asphyxiating, smothering, or otherwise incapacitating each of them and then proceeding to take advantage of their lifeless bodies.

That one didn’t end in pasties. Or maybe it did but I was just blinded by rage. 

This particular piece may have changed the way I saw the ones that followed it. I had a lot of conflicting feelings during the time I served as audience and many of them would have led me out the back of the theater if I hadn’t been bound by the honor system I so rigorously enforce on myself for this very blog. 

It was like this except there wasn't any fire. See those pasties that give you an experience not unlike seeing her actual breasts? That part makes me real squirmy.

It was like this except there wasn’t any fire. And don’t worry – those are pasties, not nipples. I’ve been told it’s a notable difference.

 

During intermission, Dave bought me a drink. It was a wise choice; he’s a good man. In the future, I shall view objectified women in pasties only when tipsy. There is no other way.

So maybe it’s fair to say that I could have entered this show, sat in the middle three sheets to the wind and I might have enjoyed it. Probably not. I suspect that the feministy things that stew in my belly cannot be removed by sheer force of alcohol. No, I suspect that would just exaggerate things for me. But there’s my disclaimer.

I was a good sport and bought a key chain and waxed academic with the dancers after the show. They were all lovely and part of me admires the courage, physical strength, choreography, and costuming artistry of what they do because they are fellow performers and the work should not go unnoticed. They are thoroughly impressive ladies. But beyond that I’m girdled with the belief that people should be nude behind closed doors. Blame Baptist school if it pleases you, but I’ll stay home next time.

Whew. There we are. That’s a whole post right there. Now I just have tales of Canada, jury duty, and the regular drum of my exaggerated life experiences to go. I’m back on the wagon, ducklings. Happy Spring. 

By the way, I’m still doing 30 Day Challenges all year for 2014. So far I’ve conquered the ever-present Jillian Michaels, forced daily reading, and sugar restriction. This month, I’m keeping a food journal. Perhaps it will help me identify all the things I will miss when I attempt to go vegan later this year. You can join me any time by doing anything at all for 30 Days. Click here to learn more about the beauty of self-torture and sweet release.

Boobs! Canadians! Patriotism!

12 Mar

This week I’m dropping in to announce two super important things. 

One: the little boxes under “How to Suck Less” ——> over there

have been updated to take you to an actual “how to.” So if you’d like to grow a pair and try something new, do something for 30 days, or go all in and try a 365 Project, there you go. And if you don’t want to, let those little boxes be a constant nagging reminder of the human you could be.

No pressure.

As promised, I’m working on a little hall of fame for the folks who have tried and completed a Lollipop Tuesday, 30 Day Challenge, or 365 Project. I can’t do everything, people. Not all at once, anyway.

The second announcement is that I realize it’s been quite some time since I’ve regaled you with stories of my attempts at conquering fear in my Lollipop Tuesday series. But I’ve got ’em in the queue. There’s all sorts of newness happening – a burlesque show (watched, didn’t perform thankyouverymuch), a trip to Canada, and if I prove myself to be a worthy enough patriot, even jury duty. Boobs! Canadians! Patriotism!

I’m struggling with my feministy feels on that burlesque one. Maybe I shouldn’t have sat in the front row. 

So! Good things are here, and good, potentially distasteful things are coming.

Glory, hallelujah. 

Death Is a Pink-Faced Fat Man

20 Feb

I have seen death, and it’s a pink-faced fat man.

megabus man

It was approximately 10:00pm on Monday, February 17th when it first occurred to me that perhaps I frequent the Megabus too often to be able to statistically avoid certain death. I was on a return-trip from Harrisburg where I had spent a long weekend with my niece and nephew and I was slated to arrive in Pittsburgh at 11:30pm but thanks to relentless white sheets of snow and wind, would perhaps never arrive at all. It was late, I was worn, and I was very aware that I did not want to die under my current circumstances.

It isn’t until you’re in white out conditions late at night uncomfortably squished beside sweaty frat boys and no working seat belts that you realize maybe a ten dollar ticket to go across the state  really has some obvious weaknesses. On that particular evening, I was aware of them all.

It began when I noticed that what used to be a 4 hour trip from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg for less than the cost of a turnpike toll has now been converted to a 5+ hour trip from Pittsburgh to State College to Harrisburg (and then on to Philadelphia). This may seem a minor change, but I assure you that when you’re crunched up against a girl who brought a life-sized pink teddy bear on the bus because her boyfriend gave it to her over the weekend and she could only check one thing, every hour counts. It also means that instead of stopping at a reasonable rest stop on a major interstate featuring several restaurants for dinner, we stop at a convenience store named “Tom’s”, which results in meal arrangements including but not limited to Cheez Its, a family size bag of fruit snacks, and a king sized Kit Kat bar.

It was not my finest hour.

As if my experience at the shining American establishment that was Tom’s was not enough, my bus driver was kind enough to note that we should all return to the bus at 8:15pm and did not himself return to the bus until 8:30pm. I’m not one to get in a mess about a 15 minute delay, but given my proximity to pink bear girl, the bathroom door, and the (open) door to the outside, I was keenly aware of every extra minute needlessly spent in a three-layer sandwich of teddy bear stuffing and cold and poo.

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time, only months ago, when my trip from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg was a cost-savings stroke of convenient genius. I’ve frequented the Megabus so often that I’ve pinned it down to a beautiful science. I arrive exactly at the right time to be the first in line so that I get the absolute best position on the bus, I nest in my seat of choice with a pashmina and a Netflix binge, and I check out until I fall asleep.

There are a variety of typical concerns when traveling via Megabus. One of the most pressing is that if you get on at a pick-up point, you’re going to have a terrible time. That’s because everyone at the starting point has formed a nest already and is asleep by the time the pickup point is reached. Many seats are full and the spaces that are vacant of people are instead consumed by bags, legs, and teddy bears of various unreasonable sizes.

I am convinced that the true test of whether one is an asshole or not is how they handle the pickup point transition on a Megabus. It can be tantalizing to pay only a few bucks for a ticket across the state that affords you power outlets, comparatively decent leg room, a panoramic double-decker top view if you’re first in line, and, if you play your cards right, two seats to yourself.

There are a variety of tactics one can employ to ensure they get to enjoy their seat in solitude. The most common one is to sleep or feign sleep at a pickup point and to have a back or a body part across the adjacent seat so that someone will have to wake you from slumber to sit down. Others will just put on headphones and put a bag there to help deter people from asking while saving themselves from guilt by being polite and lovely if they do.

My preferred method is to leave the seat empty but to get out a bottle of lotion and obsessively rub my hands until all passengers are seated. It’s a perfectly innocent act, but when done with the right amount of intensity, is incredibly effective at inspiring strangers to wake up a sleeper rather than sit with me.

Over time, however, I have experienced pick up points with enough frequency that I ditched the lotion bit altogether and simply open the seat and take my chances. I’ve been that poor, wandering soul too often, and the choice between a 3-hour seat partner who is mad that I woke them up, annoyed that they have to ride with their bag on their lap, or showing indicators of homicidal tendencies is one I wish I didn’t have to make.

But those days are long over. I’m not afforded choice in my return trip anymore, my dinner is at a gas station, and my ticket time has increased. Especially in light of the insta-blizzard.

I remember texting Dave around 11:00 to let him know my bus would be late and that the weather was bad. He asked me how bad, and I said I was worried enough to move to a seat with a working seat belt. The snow was coming down so quickly and the wind so harsh that, looking out the windshield, I was fairly certain the bus driver was just hoping he was still on the road. I didn’t see how he could possibly know for sure.

I told myself to just go to sleep and that when I woke up I would be home, but it’s nearly impossible to sleep through the possibility of death. Having viewed the safety video no less than forty times, I thought it prudent to locate my emergency exits since at first glance I looked like the only human capable of assisting during a crash. To be fair, the teddy bear may have been able to also lend a hand.

From time to time I can harbor some Nervous Nelly tendencies so I tried to calm myself in spite of our crawling down the road like a half-squished slug and to watch House of Cards. That was when the Jesus music came.

Apparently our bus driver had concerns too, because just two hours after instructing us to relax and sleep until Pittsburgh, he put on his finest Jesus album to get him through the storm. Though artistic liberties beg me to say it was “Jesus Take the Wheel”, I am disappointed to admit that it was far worse than that. It was the repetitive kind that even born-and-bred-Baptist folk like me get grumpy over. One of those ones with a repeating chorus that goes on for 10 minutes in various iterations of someone speak-singing over a gospel choir and then riffing on a plethora of glory notes.

There’s nothing like waking up to a blizzard of snow and a choir of people yelling for Jesus to draw them close to really scare the daylights out of you.

I took to Facebook to announce my perhaps-impending doom and asked that instead of dying-by-Megabus, I would prefer my story be adjusted to something more eventful like “death by honey badger joust.” And just then, the storm cleared, the white curtains were parted, and the gospel choir was silenced. 

We were cresting the summit that reveals the Pittsburgh skyline at 1:30am and it was a glorious sight to behold. I hugged the life sized bear beside me in jubilant relief. It was a 7+ hour trip from a snowy day in hell and I was pleased to not have to leave my obituary to those who survive me. 

Take note: should I find myself in similar circumstances again, you can just go ahead and let this serve as it instead. Until then, I’ll be looking into planes, trains, and a new automobile. ♣

PS – My 30 Day Challenge for February is well underway. Thank you to everyone who voted for me to read books and not for me to have to hang out with humans every day for a month. Going vegan was a close second but is still certainly a contender for the coming months. In the meantime, my biggest struggle is in finding an hour to focus where I don’t fall asleep. Maybe my next challenge can be 30 days of real sleep? 

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