Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rebel Without a Clue





I pulled up in front of the cafe with minutes to spare, jumping from my ride and racing into the arms of my old friend.

"OK, enough of this hugging shit,"  he grinned, holding me at arms length.  "Let me see the rock!"

Beaming, I thrust my left hand at his face so hard I almost ruptured his cornea.  Jon squealed with joy and kissed my cheek with an audible 'smack'.  "I can't believe it!"  he cried.  "So wild!  So whirlwind!  So perfect!  And YOU look amazing!"

"Why thank you, kind Sir."  I stated, dropping a delicate curtsy.  "That's what happens when you're funemployed for three months and do nothing but be in love and go to the gym.  You get all 'glowy'."

"Well, glowy looks good on you."  Jon concluded, holding open the cafe door for me.  "But what's this I hear about you being on the wrong side of the law?"

"Pfft!"  I dismissed with a wave of my hand.  "Order a bitch some coffee and I shall regale you with the tale of my social deviance."

As Jon is both a prudent and giving man, he immediately ordered us a carafe of French Roast and I proceeded with my narrative.

"OK, so a couple of weeks ago, I'm dropping the short people off at day camp. . ."  I began.

"Wait,"  Jon interrupted.  "I thought you weren't working last week.  Why were the boys at camp?"

"Because,"  I explained sweetly, "I have been home with them for three months. . .Three.  Months.  And trust me, that much family unity would make Mother Teresa stabbier than a Manson youth.  Anywhoo, I dropped them off at camp and pulled out onto Country Club Road."

Jon frowned.  "Where on Country Club?  Was it that street by the place. . ."

"With the thing?"  I acknowledged.  "No, not that one.  It was the other place with the stuff. . ."

"Ooh!  Yeah!"  He nodded.  "The one with the thing-a-ma-jig out front."

"Exactly!"  I cried.*


*This is the type of conversation one has with someone they've known since they were 13.   


"So," I continued.  "I pulled out, and like, five seconds later this dude is tearing up behind me, laying on his horn and screaming.  I tried to flag him around me, but he just started tailgating me; flashing his lights and honking his horn."

"What the ACTUAL fuck?"  Jon gasped, signalling the waitress for two of our usual orders.*


*Being a 'regular' at a Portland brunch spot is some serious gangsta shit.  Belee' dat.


"I KNOW!"  I yelled, throwing my hands up in astonishment.  "I mean, I pulled out in front of this guy but there were about eleventy-jillion car lengths between us, so no need to go all Fast And Furious on my ass, Vin Diesel!"

Jon took a swig of his coffee and stared in amazement.  "How far did he follow you?"

"All the way to Lewis and Clark College!"  I told him.  "I even took a bunch of detours and side roads to see if he truly was going all Stalky McStalkerson on me, and: yup.  Sure 'nuff."

"You've gotta be shitting me."  Jon said with a roll of his blue eyes.

"Oh, I shit you not."  I averred, smiling as the waitress set our breakfasts before us.  "So, I pull into the student lot at Lewis and Clark because I saw some hipster undergrads there who I thought could either protect me through brute force or by reading  Nietzsche and offering him a kombucha.  I ran over and told them this giant bag of crazy was following me, and...umm...help?  Just then, Tailgunner Joe jumps out of his car, runs over to us and starts jamming his camera phone in my face!"

"Shut your whore mouth!"  Jon screeched, slamming a hand on the table and sloshing coffee onto the pristine white cloth.*


*For the record:  shouting the word "whore" in a crowded upscale restaurant?  Ill-advised.

I nodded my head somberly.  "true story.  Then he starts screaming 'You almost killed me, Bitch!' and jams his camera in my face AGAIN!  So, one of the students tries to go all passive-resistance on him and steps between me and the camera.  So, American Psycho here GRABS this college kid and THROWS him to the side!"  

"Oh no he, DI'INT!"  Jon cried.

"Oh, yes he Di'ID!"  I replied.  "Then the whack job starts yelling 'I'm a lawyer!  I'm a lawyer!'  and one of the other students says 'Yeah, well, I'm only a first year law student and even I know that what you just did constitutes assault.  So, the next thing you know, I'm calling 911 to report this dude who takes a bunch of pics of my car on the way out of the lot."

Jon chewed his eggs thoughtfully.  "Could they do anything?"

"Not really."  I shrugged, reaching for the sriracha sauce.  "The kid didn't want to press charges, and apparently being a peckerhead isn't against the law, so I figured that was the last we'd hear from the guy."

Jon raised his eyebrows.  "Why do I sense a 'but' coming up soon. . ."

I smiled benevolently.  "Ah, my dear friend; for you know my life too well to think the story would end without at least a modicum of drama.  So, a few days later Norm is working in the yard when one of P-Town's finest rolls up at our house in his black and white to issue a citizen's arrest against me for making an illegal right hand turn."

Jon did a spit take with his water.  "Wait. . .what?  You can seriously DO that?  What did Norm say?"

"I believe his exact words to the officer were 'Is this about that dickhead in the Studebaker who harassed my wife?'"  I said, smiling fondly.  "Suffice to say, the cop apologized that everyone's time had been wasted, he and Norm discussed motorcycles and firearms, and we all agreed that the indignant attorney can go pound sand."

"That is truly magical."  He mused, giving me a s-l-o-w c-l-a-p.  "You're a scofflaw!"

"I AM a scofflaw!"  I laughed.  "I scoff at the law!"

"Did you at least save the arrest warrant?  You know, for posterity?"

"Are you kidding?"  I snorted.  "The guy described me as '5'6, 120 pounds'; I'm having that motherfucker FRAMED!"  Jon gave me a fist bump, then, without ceremony, slid a thin folder from his briefcase and set it next to my plate.  I pulled a face and glowered at the folder with obvious distaste.

"You suck,"  I glowered.  "with your MOUTH."

Jon snickered smugly.  "I told you we were going to discuss your house today, Jen.  It's my obligation as your realtor, not just your friend, to make sure you're up to date on all of the economic fluctuations in the market and making the best fiscal choices."  His eyes pored into mine briefly. "You've already totally tuned me out, haven't you?"

Jon is a dear friend, and God love him he is patient as an ever-loving saint, but there are times I catch him gazing at me like one would a mentally-challenged toddler.  There is little doubt in my mind that he doesn't occasionally question whether the amount of Hood River vodka I ingested in the mid-90's didn't atrophy my cerebellum in some manner because no matter how many times he tries to explain things like interest rates and principal payments, invariably my eyes start to cross and all I hear in my head is "Oooooour house, in the middle of our street, ooouuur house. . .hey, remember that shitty Shannen Doherty show 'Our House' with the chick from 'Days Of Our Lives'?. . .is 'Days Of Our Lives' still on the air?. . .hey, look!  A squirrel!"

Jon shook his head sadly.  "Jen, seriously?  How long have we known each other?"

"Umm, I believe it was the first year of that international frat party known as the Clinton Administration."  I mused, sipping my coffee thoughtfully.

"Exactly."  Jon sighed.  We've known each other for thirty years.  And in TWENTY of those, I've been working in real estate.  I can't believe that I've been a realtor for twenty years and you've managed to learn NOTHING about real estate."

I sputtered indignantly.  "Yeah. . .well. . .I've been a writer for twenty years and I can't believe you aren't more witty and loquacious.  Ha!  Howda ya like them apples, House Boy?"

Jon dropped his face into his palms. . .*


*I get this reaction from people occasionally.  And by 'occasionally', I of course mean. . .OK, shut up.  Don't judge.


"Would you like me to explain principle payments to you one more time?"  He said with a strained smile.

I shook my head affably.  "Nope.  There's no point.  You see, my brain is a little like a computer; there's only a finite amount of RAM space and at the moment it's filled with Shark Week, Gordon Ramsay, and the names of all nineteen Duggar children in birth order.   I can't just delete those files from the desktop, and I don't want to allocate any 'real estate' space that the Kardashians might need later."

Jon chuckled, pushing his fork through the remains of his omelet.  "Fair enough."  he concluded wryly.  "But can I at least send you some literature that explains the terms?"

"You're wasting your time, Son."  I intoned gravely.  "Unless that literature involves wrestling a Great White, voting someone off the island, or marrying Kanye West, I'm probably not going to read it.  Unless there's pictures. . .are there pictures?"

Jon gazed at me in awe. . .or disgust. . .not sure which, so I'm going to go with awe.  "I don't get it."  he laughed.  "You're one of the smartest people I know.  I can't even read a text from you without consulting a thesaurus and yet you are physically incapable of digesting any information I give you regarding your finances."

"Fine."  I sighed, slipping the folder into my tote bag.  "I'll read it later.  This will be great for when I run out of Ambien."

Jon amiably flipped me off and signaled for the check.  "Just trust me, Kiddo.  You'll thank me later. Have I ever steered you wrong?"

I leveled him with my steeliest glare.  "Two words:  Murder House."

He tilted his head quizzically.  "Was that the house I showed you that had the used condoms floating in the toilet?"

"Ha!"  I cried.  "That place was Barbie's Dream House compared to the Murder House!"

"Was it the one with the creepy Coen Brothers wood chipper in the garage?"  Jon asked.

I shook my head.  "Keep guessing."

"Was it the one with the video camera mounted on the bedroom wall?"

"Dude, I BOUGHT that house."

Jon continued to ponder silently.  Finally, I decided to pull him from his reverie.

"House was owned by a single man in his 60's.  Master bedroom was filled with dolls.  Bookshelf had nothing but true crime.  Guest bedroom had a Dora the Explorer bedspread.  Basement had a spot on the concrete floor. . ."

". . .shaped like a coffin!"  Joe recalled, slapping a hand to his perfectly coiffed head.  "Fuck me running, how could I forget that?"

I snorted derisively.  "I don't have a clue, because that Amityville shit STILL haunts my dreams."

Jon laughed.  "OK, so I owe you.  But didn't I find you a good place in the end?"

"That you did."  I admitted with a benevolent smile.  "That you did."


COST OF A THREE BEDROOM HOUSE:  $300,000-$500,000

COST OF BRUNCH:  $26.50

FRIENDS WHO LOVE YOU IN SPITE OF YOURSELF:  Priceless.


XOXO,

Jen









Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't Quit Before The Miracle




She finished cleaning up the last of the dinner dishes; scraping plates into the sink and wrapping the leftovers as she shook her head over what was left on the table.  Why do kids go from eating everything in sight to picking at their food like supermodels during Fashion week?  Her husband puttered about the house, unwinding from another busy day at work, and inquired about her head.  In the last few weeks she'd complained of headaches...stress-related, most likely, as a result of being a stay-at-home mom of two active little boys, ages 6 and 2.  She also hadn't been sleeping well, but what mom of little boys does?  She finished cleaning the kitchen, then grabbed her car keys, giving a quick goodbye to her husband and children as she popped out to run some evening errands.  Climbing behind the seat of her SUV she glanced in the rear view mirror to see a tired but beautiful face.  Brushing her blond hair away from her eyes, she drove to the gas station where she fueled up and quickly called her mother to say hello and tell of the children's latest escapades.  She then headed to a nearby RiteAid pharmacy where she purchased some trail mix, a bottle of Gatorade, and a package of over-the-counter sleeping pills, no doubt to help with her latest bout of insomnia. Returning to her car, she then shut off her cellphone and perhaps sat for a while...or perhaps not.  Perhaps, at that moment, there was no further need for introspection.  Pulling out of the RiteAid lot, she proceeded down the road -- a road she'd no doubt traveled countless times to soccer games, PTA meetings, pediatrician's appointments -- except, this time, she drove on.  She drove past the schools and the shops and the homes. . .she drove to a wooded area, not far from a local park.  She parked in a secluded area.  And then, as her husband and two small children waited at home, she went to the trunk of her car, pulled out a rope, and hung herself.

Her name was Jennifer Huston.  She was 37-years-old.

For the last week, the city of Portland, and -- I dare say -- the country as a whole has been wondering 'why?'. Why would a beautiful, loving, seemingly happy wife and mother choose to end her life?  But for a small percentage of us. . .we understand.  We nod our heads and say 'Of course.  It's only logical'.  Because we know.  We know what it's like to be held in the clenching jaws of depression and feel that the only way out is. . .out.  I know.  I've been there.  I've walked through the aisles of Target, eyeing the sleeping pills like a desperate lover; I've googled ways to hook a hose into my car to asphyxiate myself in the garage; I've driven over myriad bridges in the Portland metro area thinking 'Just a turn of my wheel...that's all it would take'.  And it isn't just me.  I know others.

*The corporate attorney who spent hours writing and rewriting her will while popping Ativan.

*The stay-at-home mother of three who cut herself silently in the school bathroom during PTA meetings; silently praying she'd hit an artery and bleed out.

*The ultrasound tech and triathlete who stockpiled her daughter's ADHD medication thinking 'Just in case...'

*The elementary school teacher who sat awake for hours with her son's Cub Scout manual, practicing noose tying and testing the tree limbs in the back yard for strength.

*The dear friend who woke up with a bottle in his hand and a pistol in his mouth, not giving a shit which one killed him first.

We no longer cared.  Like Jennifer Huston, we all fell silently into depression's waiting arms and said 'F#$% It. . .I'm done'.

But then. . .we didn't.

For some of us, we found sobriety.

For some of us, we were found out in the nick of time and taken to a safe place by loved ones.

And for some of us. . .well, some of us. . .we just thought. . .'but maybe'.  Maybe if we just wait one more minute, one more hour, one more day, we might just make it.

In A.A. we have a saying. . .*

*Well, actually, we have a shit-ton of sayings, but this one isn't so cheesy it makes you want to stab kittens.

. . .we say:  "DON'T QUIT BEFORE THE MIRACLE".  And that. . .that is the hardest thing of all to believe. . .that there is a miracle.  Because oftentimes the miracle is disguised as something seemingly horrible like divorce or illness or job loss or a DUI or a bad haircut, or whatever.  But that's just it. . .it's the "whatever" that makes you stop.  It's the "pause and ponder" moment in your life where you reevaluate, regroup, and reassess where you're headed.  But it's there.  The miracle is there.  

I wish the best for Jennifer's family, but most of all, I wish that Jennifer knew that I was with her at the end.  I was there.  My friend who hoarded her daughter's medication was there.  The women at my A.A. meeting were there.  My many friends who stood at the edge of the chasm were there.  Because we all survived.  We all stuck out for the miracle.  And even though Jennifer did not find her miracle, and even though she probably felt hopeless and alone that day, she was not alone.  We were there.  We were holding her hand and saying "I get it. . .I hear you. . .please find peace".  We may not have been able to save her, but I hope she felt our spirits guiding her home.

You are not alone.

You are never alone.

Don't say "F@#$ it", say "I choose to live".

Please, please, PLEASE, don't quit before the miracle.



PS:  There is help.  Please, if you are feeling like you're at the end of your rope, contact one of these agencies below.  Or contact me.  I'm here.

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE:  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/  
1 (800) 237-8255

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS:  http://www.aa.org/

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES:  http://www.mentalhealth.gov/

PARENTAL STRESS HOTLINE: 1 (800)-632-8188

NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE:  1 (800) 799-SAFE

S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends):  1 (800) DONT-CUT



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Road Not Taken



For most of my life, I've been afraid to fly.  

I had no trouble clambering aboard airplanes and soaring off to exotic destinations, and it was never a question of heights as I am the first to scale a rock wall or dangle precariously from the tallest tree limbs, but I was always terrified of letting myself fly.

For most of my life, I did what I was supposed to do.*


*Although my parents may beg to differ.

I stayed out of trouble, got respectable grades, went to college, got married, and had 2 beautiful children.  I furthered my education, was never fired from a job, and I made sure that, like footprints in the sand, I did everything in my power to live a life that wouldn't inconvenience anyone, and was easily washed away and forgotten.

I still live that way.

Sure, I have the periodic shenanigans, and odd run-ins with random hilarity, but by and large I live a life of little significance.  My children. . .I am significant to them.  My family and a few choice loved ones. . .sure.  But I am one in a million other divorced single mothers; interchangeable, and easily replaced.  And that's not who I want to be.

Life is filled with responsibilities and expectations.  But life is also like a Jersey tollbooth. . .it demands change.  And I am ready for change. My life cries out for change.

We are all born with a wild spirit, and over the years that spirit gets. . .tamed.  Our dreams shrink and our desire to shine is dulled.    For years, I dulled my shine with self-loathing and alcohol.  Then eventually,  I threw myself into sobriety with as much zeal as I did drinking, and it wasn't long until my desire to stay astride the proverbial wagon was as much an obsession as my previous urge to dive headlong off of it like a Mardi Gras Bacchus King with an inner ear infection.  'Half measures' are not a part of my vernacular, and the mere concept of 'moderation' has me tilting my head in confusion like a beagle during an air raid.  So, rather than seek moderation in life, it was far more expedient to just put my head down and follow the common roads of life.

Not any more.

I'm tired.

I'm tired of being safe.

I'm tired of doubting myself.

I'm tired of always placing other people's happiness before my own.

I'm tired of hanging my head and quieting my voice to avoid upsetting others.

We spend most of our lives like Mormon girls, crossing our arms over our chests and telling Life: "Pull the car over, Mister.  I'm walking!" rather than throwing caution to the wind and going all 'Girls Gone Wild' on the freeway.

We are constantly in a desperate scramble toward the next purchase, the next diversion, the next bauble; spitting vitriol about the shackles of our jobs while clinging to them with a blind devotion that can only be described as Stockholm Syndrome.

We are constantly trying to make everyone else happy to the point of our own misery.

We are so busy living for other things, other pursuits, other people, that we don't even recognize the sound of Death banging on the door like a Jehovah's Witness on crystal meth until it's too late.

I don't want that life any more.  Because that life isn't really. . .living.

I want to jump on the back of a Harley and ride off where the day takes me.

I want to stroll, laughing, on a nude beach.

I want to eat ice cream for breakfast and make nachos at 3:00am.

I want to make love in the middle of the day, then lie in bed laughing so hard that my stomach hurts.

I want to take my heart out of its gilded cage and place it, trusting, into someone's hands.

I want to fly.

I met someone a few months ago that encourages me to unfurl my wings.  He makes no false promises, speaks with unflinching honesty, and loves me with a purity and intelligence that I never dreamed possible.  We know that nothing is 100% sure in life, but we also know that this life is the only one we have, and we are living every second of it with an intensity that would eclipse the brightest star.

Together, he and I are veering off the common road and soaring headlong into the unknown.

Sometimes, I get scared.  I still hold back and second-guess myself, and see every quiet moment or tense disagreement as 'goodbye', but I'm learning. . .I'm understanding. . .I'm flying.  And I'm trusting that every time I take that leap of faith and soar, my wings are growing stronger and stronger.

Fly.

Do it now.  Try it now.  Live NOW!  Because before you know it, you're going to be sitting in a pair of Depends, gumming your 4:00 Early Bird supper, tapping your toe to a Musak version of Mr. Mister's 'Broken Wings', and wondering what the fuck happened to your life.

Your dreams were not meant to be stifled, and your heart was not meant to be cloistered.

Fly.

Just. . .fly.





Thursday, July 10, 2014

"If You Don't Like My Gate, You Don't Have To Swing On It"

My relationship history has not been great.

OK, it's been less than "not great". . .

OK, fine.  It's been a fucking train wreck that has involved more alcohol and verbal abuse than the first three seasons of 'American Idol' combined.*


*Much love, Simon and Paula.


The point is, I have every reason to be jaded and disillusioned; but oddly, I'm not.  Despite a string of liars, cheaters, drinkers, and players, I held out hope that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  And there was. . .there is.  Now, it's just up to me to not let my past bullshit screw it up.

Yesterday I had a moment. . .a flash of insecurity and mistrust that had nothing to do with my amazing boyfriend, but everything to do with my own insecurities.  Someone once told me: "You attract the love you think you deserve", and it's true.  Even though I have this man in my life who loves and accepts me, I still struggle to love and accept myself.  And yesterday morning that came to a head and I had a meltdown over something I created in my mind based on past experiences.  In short, I punished Norm for the sins of those who'd gone before him.

As usual, Norm called me on my shit. . .not gently, but gentle was not what I needed.  He refused to accept my paranoia and forced me to look inside myself to see from where this false fear was emanating.  He held me accountable for the demons in my head and basically told me to quit feeding them and start looking at what IS instead of what WAS.  And he was right.*


*As usual. . .damn it. . .


So often I get plagued by death echoes -- flashes of past insecurities and mendacity that poison my present-day thinking, and for an overthinker, that's about all it takes to quickly drive myself batshit crazy.  You see, all I've ever had in my life is what Norm calls "bacon and egg" relationships.*


*Hold on, because this analogy is magical. . .


A bacon and egg relationship is ultimately doomed from the start because of the gross imbalance of emotion and commitment.  In a bacon and egg relationship, the chicken provides the egg and the pig provides the bacon.  So, basically, the chicken is mildly inconvenienced, while the pig gives everything he has.*


*See what I mean?  Magical.


All my life I've been makin' bacon; desperately attempting to make a breakfast buffet while the chickens wandered by idly, dropping the occasional egg, then sauntering off to the next blonde sow that wandered by. And I allowed myself to be OK with that because I didn't believe I deserved any better.  But I do.  I deserve more than the occasional egg.  I deserve a freaking Grand Slam Breakfast and I have it now so I need to sucker punch my past demons and just enjoy the feast.

My problem (Well, one of them, anyway) is that I've spent so many years being who I thought people wanted me to be that I lost sight of who I am.  But she's coming back. . .more and more each day.  And I'm finding it easier each day to remember the three greatest tenets of self-love.

1.  We don't all have to agree.  I have my views, you have yours.  You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to.  You say po-tay-to, I say this song is stupid so lets shut up and watch '19 Kids And Counting'.  Whatever.  We don't always have to see eye-to-eye.  We don't always have to agree.  The last time an entire nation agreed on anything it was Germany, circa-1933 and as I recall, that didn't end well.  So, if someone drops their pants and tries to get into a pissing contest with you over who was the better Darren Stevens: Dick York or Dick Sargeant, just channel your inner Elsa and 'let it go, let it gooooo...'

2.  Laugh more.  At yourself, at others, at the world at large...and stop giving a flying fart if anyone laughs with you.  A sense of humor is exactly that -- a SENSE; an involuntary mental reaction to whatever it is that YOU find funny.  There is no comedic Rosetta Stone that clearly delineates 'Seinfeld' or 'SNL' at the top of the humor totem pole.  So, if you lose your shit every time one of the Stooges takes a 2x4 to the nutsack then yuk it up!  Humor is relative.  One man's Harpo is another man's Kramer.

3.  Norm's grandmother had a phrase she liked to say: "If you don't like my gate, you don't have to swing on it".  She understood what so many of us don't, and that is: your self worth is just that -- your SELF worth...as in YOURS...as in, YOU determine your opinion of yourself, no one else.  So, regardless of how others perceive your looks, your words, or your actions, this is not 'Survivor'; no one else gets to cast their vote and kick you off of the island.  The polls are closed, and at the end of the day the only two people who can determine how you feel about yourself are the Man Upstairs and the Man In The Mirror.  Everyone else can pack up their stones and start lobbing them at the next glass house.  Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

Norm appears to have forgiven me for the giant bag of crazy I lobbed at him yesterday, but I know it made us both stop to pause and ponder.  Not about our feelings for one another, but about how I feel about myself, and how I allow my past relationships to color my present ones.

I'm trying.

I'm learning.

And every day, I'm liking myself just a little bit more and more.  And Norm is helping me with that exponentially.  Not by building me up with cheesy platitudes and false compliments; but by reminding me that even when I am completely jacked up and emotional and more neurotic than Crispin Glover on windowpane acid, I'm still worth loving.  At my very worst. . .I am still .  Worth.  Loving.

So put that on your gate and swing it.

xoxo,

Jen

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gym Etiquette 101

I spent the majority of my youth being extremely involved in sports.  As a child, I played T-ball, softball, basketball, and volleyball, and I started dance and gymnastics at around age 6 which parleyed itself into a pretty hardcore cheerleading "career" in my teens.*



*Of course, there are those who claim that cheerleading is not a real sport, but these are generally the same people who spend hours watching golf on ESPN.  To them, I say this: the day Peter Jacobson or Phil Mickelson set down their gin and tonics and clamber out of their motorized golf carts to perform a full-up liberty heel-stretch with a double-down cradle dismount then I will gladly welcome the comparison.



Bam.  You're welcome.


But I digress. . .

My point is (and, yes, I do have one): I have always been athletic.  Unfortunately, when I got to college, my primary form of exercise became running my mouth, doing diddly squats and jogging my memory as to why I woke up on the floor smelling like Jager bombs.  So, in a valiant attempt to stave off a life of hoovering Moon Pies on my way to the cardiac unit, I became a runner and a gym rat and I can truly say that today I am one of those widely vilified miscreants who honestly LOVES to work out.*


*Which is not to say that I don't also honestly LOVE to sit on the couch watching 'Hoarders' and eating Wheat Thins...It's all about balance, y'all.


For me, there is no greater joy than lacing up my kicks, popping in my earbuds, and stepping through the doors of my local 24 Hour Fitness.  But for all the endorphin-laced bliss my gym provides, there is the inevitable glitch.  That being, of course, other people.  Don't get me wrong, I am not completely xenophobic; but, when I am in the exercise "zone", I am about as socially interactive as Boo Radley on lithium and the sad fact of the matter is that gyms are a breeding ground for a lack of civility.  Believe me, I know from experience.  I worked at an upscale fitness club for almost seven years and during that time I came in touch with more a@@holes than a six-fingered proctologist.  So, it is of no great surprise that when I enter my gym, my force field goes up and I become more inpenetrable than a Duggar daughter.  Most of your garden-variety gym goers are relatively harmless, and their minor breaches of etiquette can be considered a victimless crime.  But there are a few. . .those select denizens that lurk like snipers on the "crassy" knoll whose sheer douchebaggery will have me running for the locker room faster than Michael Vick on PETA Night at MetLife Stadium.  So, for their own edification, I would like to issue the following commandments. . .

I.  THOU SHALT NOT MARK THY TERRITORY

Throwing your sweat-soaked towel over a piece of equipment while you're between reps does not hold your place in perpetuity.  This is not the Oklahoma Land Rush; it takes more than a white, terry-cloth flag and some gumption to stake your claim on the lat pulldown machine.  If you pulled this shit in 1883, do you really think your chosen territory would have been protected by a 4"x 6" piece of cloth?  Hell, no.  Some vaquero would have rode up, stolen your land, nailed your wife, and wiped his sack with your towel while you were at Oleson's Mercantile buying gunpowder and molasses.  And the same goes for those of you who feel that sweating all over the bench is tantamount to licking all of the doughnuts at the breakfast table:  "As long as they're coated in my bodily fluids, these babies are all MINE!" Nice try, Thunderdome, but if I toddle up to do some bench presses and find so much of your DNA on the equipment that Gil Grissom is swabbing it down, then I reserve the right to bludgeon you with a bottle of hand sanitizer.

II.  THOU SHALT NOT BE CREEPY

Yes, I know the sight of me red-faced and wheezing in my sweat-soaked Seattle Seahawks jersey is enough to whip any heterosexual man into a frenzy of desire, but I assure you that my poses in yoga class are not some live-action Kama Sutra designed to "nab me a fella".  And I get it. . .it's a jungle out there; and in the daily maelstrom of speed-dating, fix-ups, and the pseudo-prostitution ring known as Match.com, finding "The One" can be an elusive quest.  But I assure you, looking for true love at the gym is a little like looking to a Kardashian for marital advice: an exercise in futility.  So, the next time you approach my weight bench, grabbing your crotch like Bryce Harper in Game 5 of the World Series, please. . .for the sake of our mutual dignity. . .pack up your copies of 'Watchtower' and go banging on the next front door, 'kay?

III.  THOU SHALT NOT TREAT THE LOCKER ROOM AS YOUR PRIVATE BOUDOIR

I understand that the $29.99 we pay per month allows one a certain sense of entitlement, but I assure you: the locker room is not your inner sanctum.  The popcorn ceiling and phalanx of dun-colored lockers are not a force field, shielding you from the rest of existence.  So, when I emerge from the shower and do a three-point landing after tripping over the contents of your Lululemon gym bag that has burst open like the bomb-bay doors on a Boeing B-29, I reserve the right to be a tad put out.  And for the love of all that is good and holy, can I just once squat down to tie my shoes without having someone's chocolate starfish winking in my face after they've decided to do some naked hamstring stretches?  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude.  I am all about body-acceptance and embracing the naked, but last week I saw a woman with one foot on the counter, blow drying her pubes and. . .no. Just. . .no.  This is not a solipsistic society, ladies.  And as proud as you may be of your well-manicured lady gardens, the sight of your bleached bungholes and the smell of your freshly-dried cooters just makes me profoundly sad, so please. . .save that level of intimacy for your gynecologist.

IV.  THOU SHALT SILENCE THY CELL PHONE

OMG, I know that Katie is being SUCH a skank, and can you BELIEVE what Travis was wearing last night?  I know you can hardly contain your ebullience over last night's kegger/Arbonne party/gangbang but here's an Amber Alert:  We.  Don't.  Care.  I am as guilty as the next person of checking my cell phone like I'm on an organ transplant list, but people who take their private conversations into the public sector?  Well, you can file that shit under the Jeopardy category of "Things That Make Me Want To Stab Kittens".*


*"I'll take Kristen Stewart for $500, Alex".


I'm sure you have a fascinating social life.  And I'm sure you are a truly complex individual with more personal baggage than Paris Hilton on a Trans-Atlantic flight, but unless Dr. Drew is pumping away on the Stairmaster next to you, murmuring "I feel your pain" then this is neither the time, nor the place to be discussing your latest pregnancy scare, or reliving your childhood trauma de jour.  As my gym does not (sadly) have a hard/fast corporal punishment clause for cell phone offenders, I like to kick it old school and go all Code of Hammurabi on these bastards.   Start blathering into your Samsung Galaxy about that odd rash on your ass and I will begin singing aloud from the cringe-worthy playlist on my iPod. Let's see how your verbal vomit weighs up against a few choruses of the Selfie song.  Check and mate, suckahs.

V. THOU SHALT TREAT STAFF WITH RESPECT

This is a personal favorite of mine as I was that "gal behind the counter" for almost seven years.  And here's a valuable little nugget of information to file away for future reference:  I had feelings.  I had emotions.  I had hopes and dreams and a family and friends and a functional human existence.  And so do each and every person working at your gym, from the Zumba instructor, to the hapless night cleaning staff who spend the wee hours of the night swabbing your ball sweat off of the leg-press machine.  So, here's some free advice: you are not special.  You are not privileged simply because you shell out $200 a month to say that you belong to 'Club ___' and flash your fancy key fob at parties.  You are not a unique snowflake.  You are made up of the same blood and guts as the kid with the name tag handing you your towel so SHOW A LITTLE FREAKING RESPECT.  Put away your cell phone when ordering at the juice bar, show your card at check in instead of breezing by with a "Don't you KNOW who I AM!?!?" mentality. . .*


*News flash: Yes, we do know who you are.  And we hate you.


. . .and once; just ONCE, when handed a locker key, shown a difficult yoga pose, or given a friendly 'good-bye', say 'thank you'.  It may seem awkward at first, but once you get past the initial cramping and twitching, you'll find that not being a self-entitled dillhole is relatively painless.

I realize that, for many, the gym is a place of escape; a place where one can let down their guard and release their days frustrations.  And that's all well and good, except. . .people. There are other PEOPLE.  And in a world where common courtesy is dying off faster than the cast of 'Diff'rent Strokes', can't we all agree to at least make an effort to peacefully coexist with our fellow carbon-based life forms?

Feel the burn, party people.

xoxo,

Jen














Friday, June 20, 2014

"Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma, Chameleon"


Historically, I have always been your typical Republican; that is to say, there was nothing passive about my aggression.  However; as I've aged and accumulated a few years of maturity and sobriety under my belt, I've gotten a lot more "zen" and, when wronged, I have learned to adopt a more "WWGMD?" stance. . .*

*"What Would General McArthur Do?"


. . .in order to keep me from going all "Hulk, SMASH!" on the general population.  So, when faced with an injustice or difference of opinion, I simply ask myself, "Is this the hill you want to die on, Soldier?"  And nine times out of ten, it's not, so I let that shit go. Because despite my puerile sense of humor and ability to curse like a stevedore with Tourette's, I am, in fact, a Christian.  And therefore I believe in the basic tenet that if you live your life in a manner that is pleasing to both the Man Upstairs and the Man In The Mirror, you are golden.  But if you live a life of chicanery and mendacity, you will most likely wind up spending eternity spinning on Satan's rotisserie next to Casey Anthony and the dude who invented Spandex.*


*Joseph P. Shivers.  Don't ask me how I know this, but my point is that judgment is nigh, Mr. Shivers. . .judgment is nigh.


Don't get me wrong, in a perfect world, there would be no lying. . .there would be no extortion. . .there would be no injustice. In a perfect world we'd hold hands across America, buy the world a Coke, and if I had a hammer I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters.*


*Actually, if I had a hammer I probably wouldn't be hanging pictures using the heel of my Tory Burch flats. . .sometime I'll regale you with the tale of how I McGuyver-ed an IKEA coffee table using only a bread knife and a pair of nail clippers.  It was magical.


But the world is not perfect, and there are people lurking around every corner just waiting for the perfect opportunity to screw you over like a whore when the rent is due. And as simply KNOWING that fact makes me quiver with righteous fervor like Jerry Falwell judging a wet T-shirt contest, imagine how I react when such deception is thrown at me harder than Nolan Ryan after a quad-shot of 'gym juice'.

It all started about two weeks ago.  I backed my car out of the garage and looked up to see my boyfriend standing in the doorway, eyebrows raised.

I poked my head out of the driver's side window; brow furrowed in confusion. "Que pasa, Babe?"  I asked, as he pointed somberly at the floor of the garage.

"Did you know that you're car is leaking oil?"  he queried, pointing at a dark stain on the garage floor.

"Oh, for CRAP'S sake!"  I cried, shutting off the engine and climbing out.  Norm shrugged.

"No big deal,"  he smiled with his usual calm.  "when was the last time you had your oil changed?"

I thought quickly.  "Umm. . .about a month ago?"

"OK," he nodded.  "When was the last time you checked your oil?"

"Umm. . ." I calculated again, "that would be 'never'."  Norm stared at me quizzically.

"Do you know HOW to check your oil?"  

I shook my head.  "Not a clue."

Norm tilted his head in concern.  "Do you know what kind of oil your car takes?"  

"Umm. . .the dark kind?"  I guessed.

Norm sighed and kissed the top of my head.  "No offense, Kid, and I don't mean to offend your feminist sensibilities or anything; but you REALLY need a husband."

Valid point.  But in an attempt to be all 'I am woman, hear me roar' I went to the gas station, bought the necessary oil. . .*

*Did you know that the type of oil your vehicle requires is actually printed on the oil tank?  Yeah, you probably already knew that.  Don't judge.  In my defense, 99.9% of my brain's capacity is filled with hummus recipes and the ability to name every Duggar child in birth order.  Once those mental files have been downloaded they can't be deleted. . .my hard drive has no room for such vaguaries as automotive repair and a working knowledge of mathematics.



. . .and topped off my oil tank.  Huzzah!  That afternoon I picked up the short people from school and as it was uncharacteristically sunny for a spring day in Oregon (two snaps up for global warming, y'all! Glad to know that asshat, Al Gore was right about something), we headed to the local skate park for some fun and frolic among the knife-weilding youth of Northeast Portland.  Not twenty minutes into our Tony Hawk inspired outing did my phone begin to chirp with an urgent text message.



For those of you not from the Pacific Northwest who are unaware of the wonder and glory that is Les Schwab, let me simply state that they are the all-seeing, all-knowing, grand Poobahs of everything automotive.  I may be slightly obsessed with them.  I may, in fact, have even written a rather effusive blog post a year ago extolling their virtues (http://portlandiamom.blogspot.com/2012/02/omg-free-beef.html).  Me love you loooooong time, Les Schwab.

So, just before this post hangs a hard Roscoe and I start pissing angrily like an alley cat with a UTI, please know that it was born in love.  Love for my car.  Love for the man who pointed out the Rorschach blot it left on the garage floor.  And, most especially, mad love for my peeps at Les Schwab, who knew not what they were about to do. . .

Pulling into Les Schwab, I leapt from my ride and bounded cheerily through the door, secure in the knowledge that I would soon be on my way: leak free, with a bag of complimentary popcorn clutched in my eager hands.  "Hi!"  I cheerily chirped at the cherubic young man behind the counter.  "I seem to have a leak in my transmission."

The young man frowned.  "I'm so sorry, ma'am,"  he apologized with gravity. "but we don't service transmissions.  I'll have to refer you elsewhere."

Wait. . .wha-what?  No. . .Les Schwab?  I suddenly felt subjugated and crestfallen, like a Make-A-Wish kid who'd been told that Disneyland was closed.  "B-but," I stammered impotently, like Scarlett O'Hara being thrown from the gates of Tara, "where do I go?"

He smiled sweetly.  "No problem, ma'am.  We work with some great guys up the street. '____ ______ Transmission', right next to the car wash and the Sprint mobile store.  Tell them we sent you and they'll fix you right up."

OK.  So. . .good.  If Les Schwab is recommending them, I know I'm golden.  So I toddled up the road to ____ ______ Transmission, only to find a sign in the window stating that they were no longer in business, and all transmission repairs are referred to a place around the corner.  OK.  Well. . .fine.  Granted, the Heironymous Bosch-like odyssey to get my transmission fixed was becoming a bit tedious; but again, my faith in Les Schwab spurred me ever onward and upward, and I proceeded to my final destination.

Aaaaaand, this is when the post takes a hairpin turn and screeches to a halt on the corner of Douchebaggery and Righteous Indignation.  For I arrived at my final destination.  And unbeknownst to me, I was about to get my ass reamed out like a 90-pond inmate on Valentine's Day at San Quentin.

I was greeted at the door by a smiling, effusively friendly gentleman that I'll call. . .ummm. . .oh, let's just call him 'T*dd'.*

*Because that's his actual name.


In fact, let's just call the establishment itself, oh. . .I don't know. . .something 'vague' like. . .T*dd's 'Sch-import Blah-tomotive' in Lake O_ _ _go.

So, I told Smiling T*dd about my plight and explained that my transmission was leaking faster than Betty White's Depends. I further explained that I'd been funemployed for the better part of two months so anything other than basic repairs that will keep me from careening headlong into an I-5 guardrail were probably not in the cards for today.  He assured me that he'd "take that into consideration" and promised to call me back with an estimate.

"Oh!"  I called over my shoulder before I left. "And you can ignore the tire pressure warning light.  Les Schwab just checked the tires; they're fine, it's just a faulty sensor that I can't shell out $85 to fix right now."

"Not a problem! I'll make a note of that!"  T*dd reassured me with a bedimpled grin and a comforting wave.  OK.  So. . .good.  I headed home, and eagerly awaited T*dd's estimate.  I did not have to wait long.  That evening he called me and. . .good news bad news.  The good news?  It wasn't transmission fluid that had leaked in my garage.  (Yippee?)  It was, however, power steering fluid.  (Not so 'yippee')  T*dd further informed me that my front brakes were "dangerously in need of upkeep".  OK. . .so. . .brakes are kinda important; I get that, but since Les Schwab had just serviced them last year I was a bit skeptical.

"Tell him to hold off on the brakes," Norm advised.  "If Les Schwab serviced them last year they're probably still under warranty.  Tell Todd to just worry about the power steering and we'll take care of the rest later."

I relayed this message to T*dd who made it abundantly clear that I was taking my life into my own hands, but he again calmed me with his soothing tones and promises of power steering and discount prices.  Bless you T*dd.

All right then.  This is where I take you on one of those Nicholas Sparks-esque leaps in time where I fast forward to the following Friday, when my friend Christian takes me to pick up my ride, I hand T*dd my credit card, and return home with the bill.

"This is almost eight hundred dollars!"  Norm sputtered in disbelief.  "Did he rebuild the engine or find Jimmy Hoffa in the trunk?"

"I. . .it was the power steering."  I cried in confusion.  "That's, like, a big thing, right?"*


*OK.  I feel I must pause here briefly to point out the fact that I am neither brain damaged nor functionally incapacitated.  I have a Master's Degree and a 156 IQ, but when you discuss cars or finances with me, my neural cortex goes into lockdown and I find myself drooling and humming 'I'm a Pepper, you're a Pepper...' Don't judge.


Norm shook his head in anger.  "it's a big deal if you're rebuilding it from scratch."  he said, poring over the bill, "but all T*dd did was replace a hose.  A hose that costs about $50.  He charged you $250 for the hose, $200 for installation, and another $100 to test it."

"Well, you have to test it. . .right?"  I posited lamely.

Norm gazed at me seriously.  "Do you know how you 'test' if a power steering hose is installed properly, Jace?  You start the car and see if it leaks.  He charged you $100 to start your car.  And here. . .$50 to 'clean the fluids'?  That means he wiped off the area.  He charged you $50 to swipe the hose with a rag."

"Son of a bitch. . ."  I muttered furiously.  Norm continued to peruse the bill.

"What's this?"  he asked. "$99 to assess a tire pressure light?"

"Wait, WHAT!?"  I cried, grabbing the bill.  "No!  He didn't 'assess' the tire pressure light; I TOLD him about it!  He charged me $99 to smile and nod at something I FREAKING TOLD HIM!"

"Calm down, Jace," Norm said with his usual Zen-like countenance.*


*Norm's ex wife was also named Jen, so in order to avoid any residual weirdness, he and his kids call me Jace, as my middle initial is 'C', so. . .J.C. = Jacey = Jace. . .well, you get the picture. . .


"But he screwed me over!"  I said with tears in my eyes. "Do I just let him get away with it?"

Norm smiled gently and wrapped his arms around me "Let's sleep on it."  he whispered. "Take some time to 'pause and ponder' and we'll figure it out in the morning."*


*Reason #573 why I love this man.  


The next day came, and after some pausing and pondering, Norm gave T*dd a call.  I shan't regale you with every detail, but suffice to say, Norm gave T*dd ample opportunity to explain his chicanery, assured him that we would never again return to his establishment, and made it clear under no uncertain terms that T*dd's mendacity and manipulation had not gone unnoticed. 

"That was wonderful, Babe."  I stated in awe.  "You were so calm and respectful. . .and the word 'motherfucker' never once left your mouth.  Teach me your ways, Yoda."

Norm shrugged.  "Karma will get him in the end,"  he smirked.  "no point in damaging my spirit and feeding into anger.  He'll have to answer to look at him self in the mirror every day and know what kind of person he is. . .that's punishment enough."

And I agree.  Money is money, and while being taken advantage of sucks harder than a United Airlines toilet, being bitter and vindictive is more damaging in the long run.  So. . .I learned something.  Most importantly, who I can trust.  A lesson that was driven home just three days ago.

Leaving the gym after a particularly grueling workout, Norm glanced down at the back of my car and frowned.  "Umm. . .Honey?" he said in that 'I'm-about-to-tell-you-something-unpleasant-so-please-don't-stab-me' tone.  "Did you know that your back tire is flat?"

Of course it is.

Of.  Course.  It.  Is.

So, we did what we do in such cases.  We limped it up the road to none other than Les Schwab.  

"Do you know how long this will take?"  I asked the young attendant.  "I need to get dinner started...should we just walk home and come back later?"

"Oh, gosh no!"  the young man smiled.  "I'll have you done and on your way in ten minutes!"

Norm and I stood outside and chatted with the young man while he pulled my flat from the car and wheeled it off to check for holes.  "Hey!"  Norm called out with his usual cheer. "Just for grins and giggles, would you mind checking the brakes; we heard they might be in need of upkeep."

"No problem!"  the young man affirmed, and gave my ride a quick once-over.  "You know," he finally concluded, "I'm not sure who told you the brakes were faulty, because they look just fine; have you had them serviced here?"

"About a year ago,"  I replied, "but I'm not sure I still have the receipt."

"No worries," the attendant reassured me, "we'll have you in the system, and if anything DOES go wrong, you're still under warranty."

So. . .no actual brake problem.  Interesting.  Thanks for that little moment of gut-wrenching panic, T*dd.

"OK, you guys are good to go!"  the young attendant said with a grin and a salutatory slap on the hood.

"Wow!  That was fast!"  I cried.  "Do we pay inside?"

The young man tilted his head and regarded us with mock seriousness.  "Well, that depends."  he stated gravely.  "Do you intend to get your next set of tires at Les Schwab?"

Norm chuckled, "I've bought every set of tires here since my first kid turned sixteen."

"Me too!"  I chuckled.  "We're Les Schwab customers for life."

"Well, then,"  the attendant smiled, extending his hand to shake, "no charge.  You guys have a great day."

Driving home, I thought about the situation.  A year ago, I would likely have been furious at T*dd. . .so furious that I would have unloaded my vitriol at him, bemoaned my plight to the good people of Les Schwab, and worked myself into a gut-roiling cocktail of bitterness and self-loathing for having been hoodwinked. But now. . .not so much.  Norm is right.  Getting all worked up would have led to. . .what?  Me being upset, the staff of Les Schwab being upset, Norm and the short people (by virtue of living with me when I have a bug up my ass about something) would have been upset, and T*dd?  He would have been completely unaffected.  So, I channeled my inner Elsa and let it go, let it goooooo. . .

Norm is right.  Ultimately, T*dd will have to answer to a higher power for the things he's done and the choices he's made in life.

I just hope it's sooner rather than later.

And I kinda hope I'm still around to see it when it happens.

And I'm really hopeful that this post makes other unsuspecting parties think twice before getting their cars repaired by that douchecanoe.

Because, while I do believe in karma, I also think she could use a nudge from time to time.

Drive carefully!

xoxo,
Jen








Thursday, June 12, 2014

"Helloooooo Out There!"

Sorry for the lack of bloggage as of late, but I have recently been doing the Texas Two-Step with Satan's minion (aka. Comcast cable) and have henceforth been without internet at home for almost two weeks.

"But, Jen!" I hear you cry.  "Couldn't you blog from your phone?"  To that I say "Why, aren't you PRECIOUS?"  and shake my head in bewilderment, as you are obviously unaware that I text like a 75-year-old man with Parkinson's and therefore an actual, legible blog post would take longer to conceive than Betty White on Yasmin.

I have been attempting to write from the library, but as the woman to my left is flanked by no less than three screeching carpet-hobbits precious children of God, and the man to my right smells of Boones Farm and humanity, I am calling it good and heading home to eat Wheat Thins and watch '19 Kids And Counting'.

I should be internet-friendly again by next Wednesday.  In the interim, please know that all is well, and that the short people and I are happy.

In fact, we're more than happy.

In fact, life is pretty ridiculously awesome.

In fact, I may just be sitting here grinning like Lindsay Lohan on dollar beer night.

But more on that later.  :)

xoxo,

Jen