Tag Archives: longreads

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.

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? 

I’m Failing the Digital Revolution

29 Jan

 

frus1

I’m failing the digital revolution.

I tried; I really did. But I just can’t adjust to a world without paper.

When I entered boldly into this, the 2014th year of our Lord, I realized that for the first year since I’ve been paying my own bills, I was not gifted a planner or calendar of any kind for the holidays. I don’t need much – just a thin booklet sort of job that gives me a 2-page spread of each month, with room to write notes. Every four weeks the spread becomes a snapshot of madness, with post its and inserts and appointment blocks color coded according to my area of life focus *pushes up nerd glasses.*  But since I was already without, and because some of the hippies at work have been giving me a hard time about my physical files, I figured I’d save myself the twenty bucks and the earth a tree and finally utilize the built-in calendar on my phone.

I began to store notes and appointments and reminders on the unassuming digital square and to ignore concerns about trusting my life over to something I could not touch or feel. All along, there was a disconcerting voice in the back of my head that asked me how it was that I couldn’t manage to maintain a steady supply of clean underwear but would manage to keep my phone fully charged, defended from tragic demise, and available at all hours of the day for reference. Nonetheless, I stayed the course.

It was January 25th when I first felt the heart-seizing effects of my paperless existence. I had spent the last month carefully selecting and preparing a monologue for my first audition of the year, which I scheduled online. I had a choice of Saturday or Sunday and carefully chose the time 4:15pm on Sunday based on what I knew would best set me up for success. With such a packed schedule laid down for January, I was careful to do what I could each day and to then portion off the entire Saturday evening before the audition to drill and workshop my piece to completion. The plan was simple: Dave had a radio gig in the afternoon that I would accompany him to, we would have a celebratory lunch, and then we would go home and put the final and necessary touches on my audition. Then on Sunday: magic sparkle dust.

We radio-ed, we lunched, we went home. Dave took a cat nap and I sat on the couch working. It was 3:15pm and I was getting the nagging feeling one gets when one  is at the checkout at the grocery store and doesn’t have the item they came for in their basket. It was so distracting I couldn’t work so I logged into my email and ran down my to-dos. That’s when I laid eyes on the confirmation email for my audition that I’d flagged and highlighted and left there to nag me to get ‘er done ever since I scheduled it: and it was a confirmation for Saturday – that day – at 4:15pm.

I had to be there in one hour.

To date, there has not been an act of losing one’s shit quite so monumental as how I lost my shit in that moment.

I sprinted to Dave, yelled him out of a dead slumber, grabbed my monologue, whipped the paper at him, rattled off the situation with a  mix of disbelief and terror, and told him to drill me on the piece until we had to go, which was in twenty minutes. My hair undone, my makeup a snowball’s chance in hell, and my hopes of a callback shriveling before me, all I could aspire to was to not go up on my lines, to sound somewhat British, and to get out of the room without going into cardiac arrest from stress and humiliation.

I went. I was uninspiring. I was grateful to avoid a hospital stay.

There was no magic sparkle dust.

It was the very next day when my heart experienced the glorious rapture of a second full stop. It was 8:00am and my subconscious began to stir at the sound of footsteps throughout the apartment. As my groggy, grumpy morning self lay in half-sleep, I realized that Dave was up and getting ready for work and that I, on the contrary, was in bed. Sleeping. Through everything.

I shot up with a start, checked my phone (read: alarm/clock/terrible excuse for a planner), cursed myself for forgetting that I had an uncharacteristically early work meeting that morning, swore in ways that shamed my Baptist rearing, and launched my pajama-clad self into the bathroom. As my electric toothbrush knocked around my mouth (the result of a brain woken with shock and appendages late to the party), I yelled through a foam of toothpaste to Dave that I couldn’t believe that I forgot about my meeting, that I needed to leave right away, and could he take me somehow on his way to work. My mind spun with reminders that I still needed to check my email for any last-minute additions to the agenda so that I could adjust the materials, and hopes for a long-fought promotion began to fade as a cog in my brain suddenly clicked into place.

I stopped cold, my toothbrush no longer rotating. With my face remaining toward the mirror, my right eyeball slowly pulled to my peripheral to see a bewildered Dave standing, staring, waiting.

There was a long pause as I realized my self-spun tragedy. Foaming at the mouth, I lowered my toothbrush and uttered,

“It’s…

it’s Sunday. Isn’t it.”

Dave tried to hold back a sympathetic chuckle to spare me what little embarrassment was left to be spared. He made a conscious effort to close his gaping mouth (It’s rare to see me move so quickly in the morning – like a sloth snorting a coke line):

“Yeah. Yes. It is.”

He gave me a hug goodbye as he left for his regular Sunday shift, and when his mouth was next to my ear he told me to get a planner. A real one made out of real paper.

And so I did. I can’t go on like this. I can’t operate in a world of intangibles. There comes a time when we must accept our limitations, and I now know mine. I made a living as a receptionist, office manager, and executive assistant for several years. Managing calendars, goals, and strategies is what I do. I like my ducks in a row. I paid my bills by putting other people’s ducks in rows. But alas, I now know that there are no ducks and no rows when there is no planner.

It shipped today. Only a few days to go.

Speaking of which…note to self: when new 2014 planner arrives in the mail, immediately open to December 1st and write “buy new planner.”

Psst! Hey! You! I’m about to finish my first 30 Day Challenge of the year and in February it’s on to the next. So here’s your chance to tell me what to do. Whichever has the most cheerleaders by February 1st is full speed ahead; I’ll even mark it in my new planner. You can read more about my penchant for 365s here, about my challenge for 2014 here, and you can boss me around in the poll below. If you’re new, you should know: I’m a hermit; I adore meat and dairy; a brief canvassing stint has been the extent of my political involvement; and I’ve only finished one book in the last five years. Enjoy.
 
                                                               

 

The Next 365

2 Jan

Okay. It’s January 2nd, 2014 and I have a 365 to account for.

For those of you just tuning in, it’s been exactly three years to the day since I wrote my very first post in my very first 365 Challenge: to fire up a blog I once adored and let sit dormant for years with one post every day for 365 days. It was far more successful and fulfilling than I could have imagined and I’ve become an advocate for 365 Projects ever since, much to the irritation of my friends and family.

In 2012, what I now refer to as The Dark Days, I didn’t complete a 365. In 2013, I enacted Project Fat Ass. To quote myself: “…before I give up all hope of ever being the kind of person who can run for 6+miles and/or fit into single-digit clothing, I’d like to give myself a fair shot by forcing myself to face my fat every single day for 365 days.  And then of course running a 10K so I can be sure something tangible came out of it: a certificate and a t-shirt.”

I did. I did all of that except get in the single digits (they’re a terrible myth, I’m sure of it). I exercised every day and ran a 5K and then exercised every day and ran a 10K and I got a shirt and a finisher’s medal. I took shots of myself every month and tracked my progress . At my least fit, I was 189. At my fittest, I was 155. It was really hard and it was completely worth it.

Originally I placed the 10K at the end of September because I thought it would give me an extra few months to harden up my body post-6-miles before reporting my progress. I thought about all the extra motivation I’d have thinking about how awesome it was that I finally ran that far and that long.

In reality I kind of blew it.

I mean, I walked for 20 minutes most days and sometimes I’d even do something pretty taxing but post-10K Jackie was nothing like pre-10K Jackie.  I should have gone harder. I won’t say I failed because hot damn I completed a 10K but I also won’t say that I was a warrior those last three months. If pre-10K Jackie were around, she’d be pretty upset. I’ve gotten pretty soft.

It’s all good though. Not only because I spent all year understanding my body and my motivations and what does and doesn’t work (and how disgusting my habits used to be), but because it’s January 2nd and it’s time for a new 365.

I was thinking about my big accomplishment this year and celebrating my new improved self with a bag of Skittles and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food (which I now eat in two days, not one), when I really struggled to think of something I wanted to do every day for a year.  I also thought about how many of you have talked about doing smaller daily challenges (30 Days) and how many of you took me up on my Gauntlet challenge earlier this year.

I can do lots of things better or differently than I’m doing them now. I had a whole list of ideas – I could spend all my free time only reading books, I could be vegan, I could go carless for a year, I could cook from scratch every single night, I could say yes to everything for a month – there are many possibilities I could dabble in daily that would seriously affect the kind of person I am and the effectiveness of my personhood a year from now.

It’s kind of hard to choose.

So this year my 365 is actually a series of 30 Day Challenges. I have twelve chances to adopt a new habit within thirty days. Some of them might stick, some of them surely won’t – but every single month I get to focus intently on something I want to be better at and share my failures with you all.

I’ve already picked the first month. As penance for the last three months of slacking, I’ll whip out my tried and true Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred so that I can stop hating on my soft self for the pathetic walks in October and November and the shameless cookie munching through December. That should also give you all ample time to tell me what you want me to do for 30 Days.

That’s right: I’m taking reader suggestions. I’d love to hear from you. Some of my best Lollipop Tuesdays have come from you guys. Heck, we can do one together or you can try to live vicariously through me or you can just suggest something you think I suck at so that you can point and laugh while I struggle.

In 2012 I wanted to be the kind of person who was fit. I wanted to be able to jog and maybe even run a race. It seemed completely out of my territory and I was so scared leading up to the 10K that I wanted any possible way to get out. Because deep down I’m a little whiny bitch and a bit of a pussy.

That’s truth right there. I know that it’s vulgar and I don’t usually do vulgar but that’s truth. And it’s probably true about all of us, really.

Let’s do 2014 correctly, shall we? We’ll live with intent, try new things, and laugh at ourselves. Of course you’re always welcome to just laugh at me, but I do hope that at some point this year you’ll consider joining me. If you aren’t sure what the rules are for a 30 Day Challenge, you can review my recommendations in numbers 1, 2, and 3 here. Eventually I might even put it all in one convenient location because I love you so hard.

Oh, and thank you. Whether you’ve been here since the first post or just got on the train, there is absolutely no doubt I would be a fat, motivationless pile of self-produced oils and cheetoh dust if you didn’t support me and ignore my frequent cat, unicorn, and World of Warcraft references. You’re swell. Thanks. As a token of my gratitude, here’s an oldie but a goodie: a large cat either being offered up to a nation or getting a breast exam in front of one.

cat feel up

Thank you and Happy New Year, all. The suggestion box is open. 

Smuggle Me to Canada

11 Dec

My Canadian voyage draws nearer.

It’s difficult. Gas money to the north is tight, it’s going to be cold, and I have questions.

Normally I wouldn’t fret over questions. I would take comfort in the fact that two heads are better than one and that when Dave and I are together he will take care of the things I openly struggle with on this blog, like navigation…and a steady supply of clean pants…and managing my Skittles intake.

Do they have Skittles in Canada? Are they weird Canadian Skittles or like, regular Skittles? I want American Skittles. I’m a patriot.

Regardless of the Skittles situation, I don’t have Dave’s help on this one because I’m flying solo. What are the roads like? What if I don’t understand the signs? What if there are lots of assumed Canadian normalcies that I don’t know about and what if I don’t answer the questions at the border correctly and what if the states won’t let me back across the border because they don’t believe that a young healthy American woman would launch herself across the border at a prime stage of life or that she would choose Canada as her first international adventure and what if they interrogate me?

I remember when my family once went to Niagara Falls they asked my mother her nationality at the border. She answered “Pennsylvanian.” I don’t think I’m really set of up success here.

Can I bring my cats? Can I take cats across the border? I have a complimentary pass for two to the Museum-of-Something-Kind-of-French-Sounding. Could I redeem that pass for say, my cat? Because it’s unlikely I’m going to befriend a Canadian in less than a day in a way that says “Hey, I’m totally normal and safe and I know this is fast but you should totally go to this museum. Which one? I don’t really know. Where? I’m not sure – can you tell me? Here’s my American coupon for your Canadian land attractions. Show me to this so-called ‘museum.'”

I might be able to use my extra pass to try to pick up a male specimen. I could pretend to be a mysterious American who is looking for adventure in Vancouver and just happens to have a pass for two to the Museum-of-Something-Kind-of-French-Sounding and see if my quirky American wiles are successful across the border. I guess that’s not really pretending because I actually am all of those things except looking for a Canadian male.

That might also be a classic serial killer tale. I’m not sure which. The differences between the serial killer tales and the best friends forever tales can be quite minor.

I have dreams that in Canada they find my squinty right eye and half-hunch appealing. Those maple leaf lovers might hop on this in a hot second. Especially if I bring my cat.

By the way, Dave doesn’t read my blog. I discourage it. So if I disappear someone is going to have to alert him that I could be trapped in Canada with a perhaps-serial-killer.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 1.25.08 PM

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pull off this “go to a new country” resolution before the end of the year. I have the passport and I have the voucher that’s redeemable for a place to put my head and a place to go when my head wakes up. As long as I eat something in the midst of all that, I’ll have a full-fledged whirlwind tourist experience in only 24 hours. I just need to get the money to eat. And to drive there.

The voucher includes valet parking. I like the idea of my tired little car going all the way to Canada and then getting to sleep with all the fancier cars. That’s if my little car doesn’t tire out on the way. It’s used. Very used.

My whole adventure is littered with tiny problems. Mostly they’re financial but I figure I’m two complete steps closer to crossing a border than I was this time last year. A tax return or an unexpected ebay sale or a few laborious babysitting stints and I’m on my way to The Great North. I briefly considered a little online fundraiser to see if people would fund a 20-something white female shut-in getting some culture, but I can’t imagine that resounds loudly with a large population of crowdfunders.

That, and I might need to call on that one for my potential 2014 365 Project, wherein I try to save $10,000 in a year or have to donate an egg.

I haven’t had a 365 with an ultimatum before, but I figure hey: let’s go right for drastic. I’m going to need that crowdsourcing card when I’m faced with two months left on my ultimatum without meeting my goal and I’m starting to reeducate myself on the effects of being hopped up on hyper estrogen.

That’s unofficial, by the way. I still have 20 days to finalize the plan. There are a lot of things I suck at so there are a lot of things to consider conquering, not just being poor. While I’m at it, I encourage you to consider taking up a 365 as well. I’ve pulled this soapbox out a lot of times so you can read more about why that’s the best decision you’ll ever make in your life here or here or here.

Or here.

Or here.

Just, you know, think about it. You have 20 days. And maybe after enough of my readers have tried it (like this one), I can finally convince Dave to do it too. I’m like Oprah but instead of giving away cars and books and flights with John Travolta, I’m giving away hesitant year-long commitments.

Seriously though it’s awesome and every year of your life you don’t do a 365 is basically a waste, as proven by myself in the dull, dark year of 2012.

So here’s the plan: I’m going to continue to find ways to scavenge for dollars to fuel my car to Canada to complete my 2013 resolution, I’m going to work on a post that sums up my 365 for 2013 (dubbed Project Fatass 365) I’m going to figure out the details of my 2014 365 Project, and you’re going to consider slightly the possibility of completing a 365 Project as well.

It seems I have a lot more to do than you. Maybe you could do more than “consider slightly.” Perhaps we can upgrade to “consider moderately.”

We’re running out of time, people. Twenty days until the end of the year. Get your goals together and let’s debrief after I conjure creative ways to raise money in ten days or less.

Canada, I’m sorry for the delay; I’m coming. I’ll figure it out.

It might be time to put smuggling on the table. 

All I Want for Christmas Is Fewer Office Parties

5 Dec

We’re less than one week into December and my calendar is already chock full of miserable holiday parties.

I don’t mean regular holiday parties. Those can be kind of nice when I’m able to kick the hermit in me and focus on good ol’ holiday cheer wine. I mean work parties. 

I’m sorry: work “parties”.

I’m quite certain that I have more interaction with other humans per diem in December than the rest of the other months combined. Unfortunately, most of those interactions are the result of mandatory work fun. 

As many of you know, I harbor a deep disdain for a variety of workplace traditions. Maybe all of them, actually. I hate the obligatory signing of a non-descript birthday card that some poor, abused office worker had to spend their lunch hurriedly retrieving and wondering if they would be able to be reimbursed for it. I hate the staff meetings where we act like the stale chips we found in the office closet will make our review of redundant agenda items more palatable. And above all, my beautiful butterflies, I hate mandatory work fun.

You know: mandatory work fun. It’s when your boss thinks it will help with “teambuilding” if you can all go do something fun outside the office together. Or worse: when your boss thinks it will help if you can do something fun inside the office together.

I have found this to be absolutely never true. Not once in my entire work experience have I been willing to pitch in more to lend Steve a hand with any of his tasks because I learned to respect and understand him more fully as a result of the way he handles himself after three tequila shots. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s just never happened for Steve and me that way.

Steve, just two tequilas in.

Steve, just two tequilas in.

That’s, of course, if Steve can even bring himself to drink in the first place. Mandatory work fun, in my experience, has meant happy hours where no one can actually drink because your boss is right there. And they’re usually talking about something horrible. Last Christmas, for example, my boss was actually doling out task items from the head of the table after pretending we were there for festivities; people had to get out notebooks or write on cocktail napkins. The Christmas before I distinctly recall a very vivid regaling by my boss of a stomach bug they got while traveling and the flurry of details that followed their plane ride back to the States.

I believe it wrapped up at about the same time our food arrived.

To add insult to injury, your boss won’t go where the office wants to go. In fact, they won’t even ask. They’ll just pick a place that matches their sentiments, which, as a rule, are almost never on par with everyone else’s sentiments. It will be a place where you can’t quite get comfortable with anything on the menu and even if you just do drinks you’ll be dishing out twice as much per beer as you would at your favorite joint down the street. Deep down, you’ll wonder if your boss will let the light of holiday joy infect their heart with the gift of giving by picking up the tab for the group or doing a round on them.

They won’t.

I’m barely a week into December and my planner is so rampant with mandatory work fun that even a frugal selection and a free parking spot each time will munch away a decent portion of my paycheck. Heck, my calendar is so rampant with required fake festivities that I can’t even get the time off I need for real festivities. Honest to all holy things the other day I was denied a day off the week of Christmas because I was told I have to be at work celebrating it with work folk.

For now, at least, I’m trying to find solace in the fact that there have not yet been plans announced for secret Santa-ing: my least favorite Christmas workplace experience. Perhaps this year I can be spared the terrible task of pretending to know someone well enough to purchase something they won’t regift while also not spending so much they think I make more than them or so little that they think I’m a cheapskate.

Why can’t we all just agree to keep the good parts about December in the office (the time off) and get rid of the bad parts about December in the office (everything else)?

Maybe unions should focus on these sorts of things. After all, these are the items that make a big difference in my daily life. Do you have any idea how much I would pay for a membership to a group that protects me from awkward office Secret Santas, terrible mandatory happy hours and required work festivities that override actual real non-work festivities? A lot. I would pay a lot. At least as much as the tab for my cheap beer and appetizers at mandatory work fun outings.

Unfortunately I’m not sure anti-work-festivities unions exist. At least, not yet.

It’s Christmastime, after all, and I do have a list to write.

Adventures in Backsliding

6 Nov

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted, my Jillian Michaels and running-infused workout plan has deteriorated into frequent light walking and lifting (cereal boxes), and as I write this, I’m stuffing my face with fifteen American dollars worth of beef fried rice. There is also an egg roll. And some Scotch, because I like to marry my trash with class.

In short, this:

Image

I ran a 10K about a month ago and in the time that’s passed it appears I’ve become a bit of a loser. Perhaps loser is a strong term. I can be hard on myself when I’m shame-slamming takeout.

This happens. I’m trying to find a way to get it to stop, but it is a pattern I can’t deny. Sometimes I like to project my own personal trends onto the general human population, and I think that’s actually kind of a fair thing to do because I do represent a small percentage of the human population – the people who avoid laundering underwear until they’ve exhausted their emergency underwear and swimsuit bottoms – the people who find it difficult to stay in little boxes in big towers, jabbering about minutia that determines whether an enormous corporation gives money to another enormous corporation – the people who sometimes want to look at their student loan debt and then look at their empty cupboards and make the former feel better by ordering beef fried rice so that they can immediately alleviate at least one of their issues at hand. Deliciously. While simultaneously rocking a huge hole in the crotch of their jeans.

So that’s me. I’m America. A fraction of America, anyway, and I’m a pretty serious backslider.

I frequently, on occasion, find myself in quite a schlump after quite a bit of gained ground. It’s a bummer. One likes to think that one has learned a lesson and is forever freed from it, but the fact of the matter is that after I go crazy for months at a time trying to conquer everything at hand, I will reward myself the best way I know how: sitting on my couch in unclean clothes and eating food that probably isn’t what it was marketed to me as. And then I will feel so ashamed by this that I will continue to self-soothe in a similar regressive pattern until I rebel against myself and go back into months on conquistador setting.  

It’s frustrating. Mostly because I spit my brains into a public forum where it appears the subjects are cats, food, discomfort in a variety of social situations, gaining ground, and losing ground. After a while of writing about these things, you start to notice yourself.

But it’s okay. I’ve got moxie. And I’m still a young whippersnapper but I’ve been around long enough to realize that there are two  Jackies on the spectrum of Jackiedom – the one that’s a pile of cheesy poof eating, unshowered slop that plays Warcraft all day and has literally no human interaction, and the one that’s in magazines and giving speeches and leading a very happy group of folks in doing whatever they all happily want to do, and that every day is a choice to continue the struggle against the former and to get closer to the latter. If I ever get to the latter and am asked how I got there by young hopefuls, I hope I have the courage to admit that it was a series of backsliding and pounding theater-style boxes of Milk Duds.

 I did achieve some things, though, in my time away from general live achievements. For example, while I was lounging in my pajamas using my sickness as an excuse to drink Scotch and split-screen watch Netflix and browse useless Internet musings, I learned that Chinese takeout containers are designed to conveniently unfold into a sort of semi-normal plate, and that has really served me well in the 30 minutes. So that’s nice. Payoff is nice.

I guess it’s that time again. That time where I look at every single thing in my life and scrutinize it relentlessly until I’m so disgusted that I spit shine my entire house, go for a 3 mile run, register for a race, organize my to-do list in terms of 1-week, 3-month, and 1-year goals, and thoroughly groom my cats for good measure.

I suppose that as long as I backslide only a little less than the amount of ground that I cover in my motivated periods, I’ll always be moving forward. So there’s that. I’m on the move. I’m getting things done, one overhauling/backsliding segment at a time.

Resolution reevaluation time is approaching quickly, however, so I really have to get my sloth gremlins at bay. I’m supposed to be in the best shape of my life by the end of December and I was doing pretty well there until I convinced myself that 20 minutes of light walking per day still met my exercise quota. Which, technically, it does – but light walking isn’t going to burn off this Chinese. Or yesterday’s. Or last week’s. My vagina doctor said so.

That, and I told myself I’d travel outside the country this year for a resolution. Last year I got a passport, and this year I’m supposed to use it. So far, the closest I’ve gotten to international travel is ordering contacts from the United Kingdom.

Time to get on the ball. And since I’m pretty broke, I guess that means I’m going to have to just make it work. Looks like I’m hopping a Megabus to Canada.

Conquistador setting, commence. 

I Beat the Blerch

1 Oct

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ladies and gentlemen.

I hope that by my classic opening sentence for a Lollipop Tuesday post, you’ll recognize that I’m alive and well after attempting my first 10K this past weekend, but I suppose that the first thing a ghost writer would do is study my recurring themes and voice and copy it for the sake of consistency so I guess you’ll just never really know if the person blogging from now on is the real Jackie or not. I can’t make that decision for you.

I can, however, tell you that on Sunday morning at approximately 10:30am, my butt cheeks coordinated in perfect and opposing harmony to power me across the finish line of my very first 10K race.

In retrospect, there are a few things wrong with that sentence. Particularly the part about it being a race. I’m sure it was for some people, but the only person I was competing with that morning was the fat girl inside me, telling me to just stop and take a bus to the end. I was prepared for that, which is why I had two shortbread cookies in a tiny plastic baggie in the cup holder of the car, which was parked back at the start line. And since I knew fat Jackie was going to kick in around mile 3, I outsmarted her. She could either walk more than three miles back to the car in shame, or she could finish the less than three miles ahead of her, and then take a complimentary shuttle back to her well-deserved bag of cookies.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: being an adult is all about properly leveraging your motivators.

That would be me, pre-race. And Dave. And the friend who challenged me in January to make my 5K resolution into a 10K instead. Let's call him Lord Pickles.

That would be me, pre-race. And Dave. And the friend who challenged me in January to make my 5K resolution into a 10K instead. Let’s call him Skeeter.

 

Let’s move on to the second inaccuracy in my former sentence: the use of the word “first”. While it’s true that it was my first 10K, I feel uncomfortable about calling it out like that because seriously, I doubt that there will be another. Let’s face it guys: I suck at running. I bitch and I moan and I’m uncomfortable and the only way to get me to do it, really, is to either bully myself into it with embarrassment and fear tactics, or to promise myself some pastries I squirreled away for myself.  There’s a chance that I’ll revisit a 5K now so that I can work on having a less embarrassing pace, but it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to endure this particular kind of pain and suffering again.

What pain and suffering, you say?

At the beginning of a race, I scan the thousands of participants for whom I anticipate will be the weakest in the pack.  These include but are not limited to the old and feeble, the fat and frumpy, and (of course) the children. I then proceed to watch every single person I pegged out for losers pass me as I huff and puff and consider blowing the whole thing off. I spent the entire race alternating between trying to pass a father-son team who ran ahead and then walked until I passed them and then ran ahead again, and an old lady with a fanny pack and a serious hunch who did the same. I very keenly remember trying to chug up a hill in the very first mile and reminding myself to breathe and relax because it was just the beginning as a woman with enormous haunches harnessed her ass power and soared uphill without effort.

They all beat me. Every single one. And in case that wasn’t bad enough, at mile 2.5, I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked to see my boss smiling and leaping ahead. I could have tried to keep pace to rescue what remained of my dignity, but let’s be honest: there was no guaranteeing I was going to make it to the end and it wasn’t a time to get cocky.

So that. That pain and suffering.

The third and final issue I take with the sentence I was too lazy to delete is that it contained the term “opposing harmony”, which I’m pretty sure can’t be a thing. I’ve tried to justify it many times and I suppose there can be an opposing harmony that exists, perhaps, among counterweights, for example, and Paula Abdul and the cartoon cat in Opposites Attract, but there is a better way to describe the way one’s butt cheeks work together than “opposing harmony”.  I’ll blame the ghost writer for that lack of inventiveness…and basically everything terrible written from now until this blog dies a hard and humiliating death, just like the real Jackie did at the 10K on Sunday.

Just kidding.

Maybe.

Seriously though, thanks to everyone who has followed me from the couch to the 5K to the 10K. If you’ve been reading, you know this transition has been far from natural for me but I’m 30 pounds lighter than when some of you first started reading, I’m not out of breath when I walk to the bus stop, and sometimes I’ll even walk to get groceries instead of taking the car. When I was having a really hard time pounding the pavement to a decent pace around the 4.5 mile mark, I thought lovingly of you all and how incredibly humiliated I’d be if I went so public with this and failed horribly.

Which is why the real Jackie couldn’t bear to tell you the truth and instead hired someone to carry the torch of her blog in a sort of veiled semi-serious voice regarding her passing.

Regardless, whatever Jackie is left may have completed her New Year’s Resolution but still has three months left in her Project Fat Ass 365. That’s 90 more days of huffing and puffing and seeing if I can really realize my true goal for the year: to be in the best shape of my life before the late 20’s swallows me in its beefy jowls of doom.

Hey: if I pop in Jillian Michaels now, I might have enough time to burn off all the motivation cookies it took me to train for the 10K. 

By the way, if you’re wondering where the title came from, please go here and read everything on the site. Or maybe don’t because then you’ll never come back to me. It’s okay. I’ll understand.

Save the Panda

25 Sep

It started the day I ran out of eyeliner.

Not the first time. The first time I scrounged together five dollars that I didn’t really have to spend and I went to Rite Aid on my lunch break and I bought eyeliner and applied it with my iPhone in between the set of doors that pretend to let you in and the set of doors that actually do.

This happened the second time. When I seriously couldn’t afford any more because the only five dollars I could have gathered was laundry money and without the ability to purchase more underwear when others need laundering, I had to face the music: I needed clean underwear more than I needed eyeliner.

For some reason I convinced myself a long time ago that my eyes were best viewed when outlined with a thick black crayon. It might be because when I was 16 there was a girl who worked the register beside me at Kmart who showed me that in the world of eye makeup, too much can never be enough. It could also be that I’m hyperaware that my right eye is smaller than my left and I think that somehow I’m fooling everyone by distracting them with panda eyes. Probably, though, I’m a creature of habit since I’m used to seeing myself like this:

 panda

It’s kind of jarring to look in the mirror and instead see this:

 naked panda

And then I realized: this is beginning of a slow and steady decline into poverty-induced unattractiveness.

This has been going on for quite some time. The eyeliner was really the last thing to go. A few weeks ago I ran out of new contacts and found myself without funds to replace them. That means I’m back in geek glasses. That’s right: geek glasses. The glasses I left on my desk at recess because I would have rather been half-blind for kickball than have to wear them in front of people.

Let’s be honest: I was terrible at kickball regardless.

Anyway, as those of you following for any extended period of time know, I’ve descended the stairs from full-time corporate America to part-time nonprofit land and have had to adjust accordingly.

This has led me on all sorts of adventures. Last week, for example, my fridge was completely naked of offerings. It also happened to be the 60th birthday of a dear friend who thought that if 100 people RSVP on Facebook for a party, they should buy 100 hot dogs and 100 hamburgers. That worked out really well for me because they’re supremely generous and lovely and now my freezer and fridge are full of everything I could possibly need to celebrate Labor Day every single day from now until Christmas.

And I have.

Please note that this means I’m on a diet comprised almost entirely of hot dogs and hamburgers. While without contacts. And eyeliner. And other various first-world comforts.  I have a hole in the crotch of one of my pairs of jeans that I’ve become very strategic about keeping hidden while I walk or sit so that I can still pass them off as one of my two pairs of jeans.

I’m going downhill, guys. Way downhill.

There are some things that naturally work out to balance these inconveniences I suppose. Like the fact that I’m walking to work now because I can’t afford to reload my bus card so I’ll stay fit. Or that my hair is down to my butt because paying for someone to cut my hair seems like an absurd waste of fistfuls of cash. Perhaps these required inconveniences that will keep me fit and long-haired will help balance out the required inconveniences that keep be dangerously close to no clean laundry and no shaving.

The good news is that this Sunday I conquer the beast that’s been chasing me since January: the 10K. Longtime readers will recall that 2011 was the year I wrote a post every day for my 365, 2012 was the year I missed having a 365, and 2013 is the year of a fitness 365 culminating in a 10K at the end of September. We’ve arrived. On Sunday, it’s do or die. If it’s the latter, I’ve already appointed a ghost writer to finish up the blog. If it’s the former, I can ride out fitness through the rest of 2013 and look long and hard down the barrel of 2014’s 365.

From the look of my fridge and eyes, I’m leaning toward a financial one. I could make it a campaign. Something like Save $10,000 in a Year or I Have to Donate an Egg.

Or maybe just Save the Panda. 

naked panda

Wherein I Pass On My Legacy

17 Sep

Holy crap it’s a Lollipop Tuesday.

I know this might strike you as stroke-worthy, given my more-than-brief leave of absence, but here I am on a Tuesday, regaling you with adventures of the once-hermity Jackie.

Still hermity, but forced into new and often social situations, thus making me less hermity over time. That’s the goal anyway. You can read all about it up top where it says “What’s Lollipop Tuesday?” I like appropriately-labeled headers.

Onward!

This week I responded to a posting searching for mentors. It was a 90-minute workshop after which I would supposedly be qualified to influence the young and malleable minds of the next generation with my half-baked understanding of adulthood (struggle, cry, call home, struggle, find distraction, struggle, cry, call home). I didn’t really want to sit in a workshop on an otherwise perfect Thursday evening and I didn’t really want to be forced to be nice to children who aren’t somehow related to me, but my feelings don’t get a seat at the table for Lollipop Tuesdays so I strapped on my big girl boots and told myself it’d all be okay in two hours.

I brought Dave, as I tend to do from time to time. He thought beer would make things better so we stopped off for a pint before the workshop. I just happened to have some points to redeem for free beer from rocking the National Bike Challenge at a local bike-themed café (real thing, sweartojeebus), and though I don’t typically care for beer, I care for it more than I care for children.

After swishing the last of my pumpkin-themed-something-or-other down the gullet, it occurred to me that showing up to a mentoring workshop with alcohol on my breath probably wasn’t the best choice. But I’m not really me when I’m doing these adventures. If folks want the real Jackie, she’s at home playing video games with a belly full of Swedish Fish and food-induced regret. They’re getting blog Jackie. Blog Jackie has balls. And drinks beer before working with children.

Actually there were no children to be found. Well, there was one but it was still a fetus and sleeping in the womb of the instructor. She was a perfectly friendly looking woman but she looked young and fragile – perhaps younger than I. There was a lot of judging going on internally for me.

Image

This is how I hoped my future would look post-mentor workshop. This is not an accurate representation of my experience.

Perhaps I’m getting closer to a true understanding of old and crotchety (as has been my hunch for several years). Now that I’m old enough to enter into situations where people younger than I are trying to teach me things, I have a lot of feedback. Mostly negative. And mostly centering on confusion as to what these young whippersnappers could possibly have to teach me if I’m older and wiser and even I don’t know what the hell is going on.

I’m ready for retirement, a porch, and a big pitcher of ice tea.

So there I was, squashed up against a bunch of other folks who want to invest in the future of the world and grumpily analyzing a poor pregnant woman on her presentation skills.

Seriously though, she was pretty bad. She started off by reviewing the plan for the evening (here’s what public schools require to graduate, here are resources, here’s how to navigate conversations, etc) and then swiftly noted that she was by no means an expert. At which point everyone in the room proceeded to treat her like an expert.

It was painful to watch, mostly because her discomfort and degree of BSing her way through an answer was made obvious by the fine upstanding citizen sitting in front of me who happened to be on some sort of education committee. We walked through an enormous book that was outlined like a football play-by-play on how to graduate high school, we role played some mentor/mentee scenarios, and then everyone got a t-shirt and a pin.

You might think I’m skipping the part where we were assigned a mentee but I’m not. That didn’t happen. In fact, when I signed in, the sheet asked me for the name and age of my mentee and I left it blank. Was I supposed to have found a child? Because I hadn’t. I could go attain one, I suppose, but I don’t think last-moment desperation kidnapping would have helped the beer on the breath thing.

We got feedback forms afterward asking if we had any comments. I had a lot. I tried to ignore the things that make my eye twitch, like the images not being aligned for each PowerPoint slide, revealing that they were copying and pasting their template instead of actually creating one, or even the fact that the person training us didn’t really know anything about her subject. I even overlooked that they emphasized kids dropping out of school due to low grades too much and didn’t talk about them getting pregnant, being abused, not being able to eat, being bullied, or a host of other real issues that plague students who slip through the cracks. My feedback was simply that if you’re going to train people to be mentors, you should follow the training up with providing them with a list of organizations that can assign them a mentee.

Crazy, I know.

Of course, if I’d gotten the t-shirt before I filled out the form and not after, I’d also ask them why it is that everyone who orders crappy t-shirts only orders them in XL and larger, but I missed the boat on that one.

So here I am, a fully qualified coach. I have a pin and everything. It confirms that I read a book and then sat in a workshop where I had a PowerPoint explained to me that summarized key points from said book. Now I need to go find myself some children to influence. If you know of any, feel free to send them my way so that I can mold their minds. I’m hoping to connect mostly via email so I don’t actually have to go anywhere or do anything. That would be ideal.

Hey, you know what’s crazy? The next time you read a Lollipop Tuesday, it will be because I’ve completed a 10K. That’s right: it’s September and way back in the beginning of the year I committed to doing running a 10K this month. In two weeks, I’ll meet my fate and I’ll either live to tell you about it or Dave will ghost write the experience for me. “Jackie’s Death by 10K” it will be titled and appropriately also be the last Lollipop Tuesday in the books. Forever.

Just promise me something: if I don’t live to pass on my story, promise me you’ll tell the next generation about proper use of PowerPoint templates, how to effectively run a workshop, and how to anticipate appropriate sizing choices for bulk clothing orders.

These are areas of impact that I feel my presence will be truly felt in the next generation.

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