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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My New Normal




While I have been "funemployed" for the last two months, I have had ample time to assess my priorities in life, tackle those tedious home projects, and really use my time wisely to work on my character and. . .


Yeah, no, I'm just shitting you; unless you consider vacuuming UNDER the coffee table, I've been about as productive as Lindsay Lohan on Nyquil.  But I HAVE had the opportunity to mooch an unholy amount of free meals from my employed friends, which brought me to Gina's office yesterday at noon.


Walking through the lobby of her posh law office, I waved cheerfully at the receptionist and entered Gina's inner sanctum.  She was busily tying on her iPad and gave me the index finger straight up and then tapped her Bluetooth so I'd know to remain silent while she was being all lawyer-y.  Wrapping up the call with a terse "We'll see" she sighed and plucked the earpiece from her shiny black hair and tossed it on the stack of case files before her.  I shook my head and gave her a s-l-o-w c-l-a-p.



"What?"  she asked.



"Wow."  I stared at her incredulously.  "A Bluetooth AND an iPad with video capacity.  Now, if you could just find a way to make your Pandora station pound out some teeth-chattering bass you may just complete the trifecta of douche."



Flipping me off amiably, Gina leaned forward on her desk.  "So, where are we going for lunch?"


"I don't really care."  I shrugged.  "As long as I eat.  My fridge is emptier than a Jenny Craig on Fat Tuesday."


Gina sighed.  "You know, they have these things called 'grocery stores'; they're really quite useful.  And when Children's Services comes a-knockin' it might be a good idea to actually have food in the house."


"Oh, there's food!"  I argued.  "However, you could harvest stem cells from what I saw growing on most of it."


Gina crinkled her perfect nose in disgust.  "Do we need to have the discussion about adequate food storage again?"


I shook my head vehemently.  "No!  It's perfect!  I don't have health insurance right now, so if I get sick I can just open the fridge and, BAM!  Free penicillin!"


"Did your mother drink when she was pregnant?"  Gina asked in awe.  "C'mon,"  she said, standing and grabbing her jacket. "I'm feeding you before your blood sugar gets low and the crazy shows up."


Following her out of her office, I glanced at the business cards on the table near the door.  "Wait a minute,"  I said, plucking one from the pile.  "Does this seriously say 'Follow _____ Law Offices on Twitter'?"


"Yeah.  So?"  Gina asked, pulling her sleek hair into a ponytail.


"So, isn't social media for a law office a little. . .weird?"



Gina shrugged again.  "Everything's on Twitter now, Jen.  Hell, YOU'RE on Twitter."



"Well. . .yeah."  I agreed.  "I mean, I'm technically on it, but I never actually use it.  For me, tweeting is like masturbating: a lot of mindless fingering and you're really only satisfying yourself."


Gina stared at me in stunned silence.  "That may be the most magical analogy you've ever made.  You have officially out-Dennis Miller-ed yourself."



"Why thank you, milady!"  I cooed, dropping a benevolent curtsy.  "Now take me out and feed my broke ass."


Making our way through the streets of downtown Portland, Gina pulled out her iPhone and began chuckling.


"What is it?"  I said, craning my neck to see.


Gina held up the phone.  "It's today's 'Dear Abby',"  she chuckled.  "Abby totally NAILED this guy!"


"Wait a minute,"  I shook my head in confusion.  "I thought 'Dear Abby' was dead."


Gina nodded.  "She is. . .technically.  But someone else writes it now and just kept the name."


I made a face in horror.  "Isn't that a little effed-up and creepy?"


Gina tilted her head in thought.  "I dunno. . .maybe.  Anyway the column was really funny today; do you want to hear it?"


"No thanks!"  I deferred.  "If I want a dead person's opinion, I'll listen to Larry King."

Shaking her head in annoyance (I get that a lot), Gina pulled open the glass doors to our favorite downtown bistro.  As if on cue, our ebullient waitress appeared with glasses of water and asked if we would like some bread to start.

"Oh, yes, please!"  Gina beamed.  "And could you bring a side of gub'ment cheese for my friend here?  She's on the dole."  I glared daggers at Gina's cherubic face as she slowly began whistling Elvis Presley's 'In The Ghetto'.

"Dicks."  I stated firmly.  "You can eat a steaming bowl of dicks."

"Speaking of dicks,"  Gina deftly segued, "talk to me about this new guy you're dating.  He's obviously serious if you made him 'Facebook Official'." 

I grinned at my menu.  "Yeah. . .he's pretty special.  I just need to stop overthinking everything and slow my roll a little."

"How's that workin' for you?" Gina asked, arching her perfect brows.

"Baby steps."  I admitted.  "Fortunately he's an overthinker too so he calls me on my shit when I start getting all obsess-y.  I just tend to. . .live inside my head and read into things that aren't there."

"With good reason!"  Gina cried.  "You have 15 years of conditioning of being abused, lied to, cheated on, and thrown aside.  It's hard to NOT look for those markers in any relationship.  But you ARE doing so much better.  You don't cry all the time and constantly 'worst case scenario' everything like you used to."

I nodded.  "I'm really trying hard not to.  He's an amazing man and I always know where I stand with him.  I just need to back off and trust the process."

"Hmmm."  Gina nodded sagely, chewing her bread.  "So, what's his glitch?"

I tilted my head in confusion.  "His glitch?"

"Yeah,"  she shrugged.  "every guy you've dated has had at least one major red flag waving over his head like the Sword of freaking Damocles, so what's his?"

I threw my hands up in frustration.  "Not EVERY guy has had a 'glitch'."

Gina set down her bread and leaned forward.  "OK.  So, is this guy still secretly married?"

"Euw, like Tim?  No.  Divorced. . .very divorced."  I replied with a shudder of disgust.

"Does he have a secret Facebook girlfriend on the East Coast?"

"No.  But in his defense, Dylan and Miss North Carolina are very happily married now."

"Was he recently fired for sexual harassment?"

"I thought we agreed to never again speak of THAT debacle."

Gina smirked.  "OK, you get a mulligan on that one.  Is he in a cult?"

"Wait. . .what?  I never dated anybody in a cult."

"Tyler."

I rolled my eyes. "Geen, Tyler was Mormon, that's not a cult."

She snorted derisively. "Yeah, you just keep telling yourself that, Katie Holmes."

"No, he's never been arrested for harassment, no he isn't in a cult, yes, he has a job."

"So far so good,"  Gina concluded, "sounds like the real deal."

I leaned forward and went nose to nose with my inquisitive friend.  "Gina, he is a man.  A real, true, respectful and respectable grown-ass man."

"Wow."  Gina leaned back in wonder.  "He sounds almost. . .dare I say. . .normal!"

"I know!"  I cried, almost knocking over my water glass.  "Now if I could just stop overthinking everything and enjoy the normal I'll be fine."

"But that's hard for you, Jen."  Gina said with a soothing pat on my arm.  "The last couple of guys you were with lied to your face on numerous occasions and fed you and your kids a lot of false future promises.  You've got years of conditioning to overcome.  But you're getting there.  Your hands don't shake any more, have you noticed that?  And when you call me now you're laughing instead of crying.  And your eyes. . .they look. . ."

"Softer?"  I smiled.  "Yeah, that's what Christian said too."

Gina smiled.  "He's good for you.  NORMAL is good for you, Jen.  You deserve to be in a relationship with someone who is honest with you and treats you well, and he does. . .I can tell.  Just don't freak out at every little thing; I know you -- you are so used to being rejected that you look for it at every turn, but a real man, a NORMAL man won't just do the 'slow fade' on you or boot you into the FriendZone overnight because that is some cowardly douchebag shizz right there.  With a normal guy, you'll always know where you stand because he'll actually man up and TELL you."

I nodded.  "I know this. . .rationally.  And I'm getting better at understanding it each day and just living in the moment without future-tripping but old habits die hard.  I've never dated a 'normy' before and it feels. . .different."

"Different bad or different good?"  Gina posited.

"Different good."  I said with a smile.  "I feel like I'm at peace now; not just with him but even when we're apart.  I trust him.  He may not tell me what I want to hear, but he will always tell me the truth.  And he never makes a promise he doesn't fully intend to keep.  This is virgin territory for me."

Gina grinned.  "So, when do I get to meet 'Normy'?"

"You will meet Norm soon," I promised, raising my glass in a toast.  "Because if he can survive meeting all of my friends that will be the true test of how much crazy he can handle."

Gina laughed.  "I'd say we'll behave, but I think we all know that's not going to happen."

I scowled.  "Can we leave Alex at home?"

"Nope."

"How about Jamie and Shellie?"

"Trial by fire, Babe."

I sighed deeply and took a long swig of my water.  Be afraid, Norm. . .be very, very afraid.

xoxo

Jen





































Monday, May 5, 2014

From C+ To Shining C-




Ah, springtime in Portland, Oregon.  A time when the hipsters change from plaid flannel button-ups to iconic 80's tees; a time when the housing prices act like Robert Downey Jr.: getting irrationally high, then crashing and regrouping; and a time when the homeless citizens on Rosa Parks Way remove the rain covers from their shopping carts.*


*Ironically enough, there are no bus lines that run on Rosa Parks Way.  You would think the city planners would have wiki-ed Rosa's name and been all over that shit.
 
 
 
And springtime is also when the public school system in Oregon touts out a series of standardized testing designed to pigeonhole assess each child's progress under No Child Left Behind. 
 
 
I'm sure most of you are familiar with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), but for those of you who may have missed the memo due to a challenging career, active social life, or having neglected to use birth control a couple of times in the 90's, here's a recap:
 
 
No Child Left Behind requires all public schools receiving federal funding to administer a state-wide standardized test annually to all students. This means that all students take the same test under the same conditions. Schools that receive Title I funding must make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in test scores (e.g. each year, fifth graders must do better on standardized tests than the previous year's fifth graders).
 
 
Seems pretty straight forward, right?  Higher scores = more funding.  So, why would anyone have a problem with it?  Gee, glad you asked.  For me, it started when my son, M. came home in tears two weeks ago.  I asked him what was wrong and he told me that he "flunked" his OAKS (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test and that he'd have to take it again.  Now, I found this a little disconcerting, as M. is an exceptionally bright little boy, but I understand that his autism brings along with it some learning challenges.  So, I did what any pushy interested parent would do and I contacted the school to ask how the test was administered.
 
 
"Oh, all of the OAKS testing is done on the computer."  the teacher told me with a smile.
 
I stared at her incredulously.  "You have M's IEP."  I said calmly.  "You know that he can't have screens: TV, computer, iPads at school because he will just fixate on them and lose focus on the materials being taught."
 
She shrugged affably.  "There's no choice.  Every child has to take the test the exact same way for total accuracy."
 
"But it's NOT accurate!"  I cried.  "M. can't learn that way and he certainly can't be tested that way.  If you give him the test in written form or orally, he'll ace it."
 
She shook her head solemnly.  "We can't."  Then she sighed and threw her hands up in frustration.  "Look, I know it's stupid.  I know it's not indicative of individual learning styles.  But it's the law, and our hands are tied."
 
So, in summation:  my son was given a test that pigeonholes him as a challenged learner because the law of No Child Left Behind somehow supercedes his right for appropriate modifications to the curriculum under the Individuals With Disabilities Act.  I'm sorry, but this is some bullshit right there.  You can't just force these children to take the test again and again until they get the score YOU want.  It isn't poker; you can't just keep tossing the low cards and fishing for a better hand.  And these test scores say nothing about the individual learner nor do they even go on their academic record.  The scores are a little like Sarah Palin: annoying, meaningless, and easily forgotten.  All they are meant to do is drum up revenue for the school.
 
 
Now, God knows I am a devout Republican.  I loves me some Ronald Reagan, and have secret fantasies about partying with the Bush twins.  I even love ol' George Dubya with his faux Texas drawl and inability to pronounce 'nuclear'.*
 
 
*Although, you have to wonder if his brother hates him a little.  I can just picture Jeb Bush shaking his head, thinking "I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, for fuck's sake.  What in hell am I doing stuck in goddamned Florida while my brother is off doing shots with the prime minister of Israel?"  Your time is nigh, Jeb.
 
 
But although I am pro-Bush Administration, a tiny part of my soul dies when NCLB enters the picture.  Et tu, Dubya?  I'm sure he meant well when he signed off on that little governmental document (or maybe he was drunk), but somewhere along the line, the whole concept went seriously awry.  Now the test scores aren't just being used to drum up school funding, they are leading to massive teacher layoffs, and children being forced out of school when they don't adhere to the high standards of the test.  NCLB even has a name for it: "pushouts"; as in 'we're pushing you out of school because you don't measure up'.  And it's not just Oregon; every state has it's own series of standardized testing designed to assess student progress.  Standardized testing has become as de rigueur as a pretentious blogger who peppers her writing with random French bon mots in an attempt to appear intellectual.*
 
 
*La haine du jeu, pas de lecteur.
 
 
So, what happens if your child -- like mine -- doesn't "measure up".  Well, generally one of two things.  They either start disappearing faster than a 'Teen Mom' baby daddy, or they are categorized as "challenged learners" and expectations are lowered.  "I'm going to be a doctor some day!"  Well. . .not according to your test scores, Billy.  From what we see, you're going to be over here in group B with Jen, blogging, eating Funyans, and collecting unemployment.*
 
 
*"U-S-A!  U-S-A!"
 
 
I don't think it's fair. . .any of it.  No Child Left Behind?  Why not?  What's wrong with leaving them behind?  I say leave them behind until they've freaking LEARNED something, no matter how long that takes!  We don't all blossom in our youth.  Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa when he was 76, Julia Child didn't start cooking until her mid-40's, and Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was 75.  There is no timeline for greatness and some kids just need that extra time to discover theirs.  And, in truth, does standardized testing really answer the question "are the children learning?", or rather "are the teachers teaching?"  Actually, I guess the better question is, "are the teachers being allowed to teach to the best of their abilities or are they being forced to 'teach to the test' in fear of losing their jobs if their students don't curry a high score?"  It is this circle-jerk mentality that drives me batshit crazy and whenever you get me fired up about some governmental issue, it's a little like asking R. Kelly to babysit your 14-year-old daughter -- you know somebody's gonna get pissed.
 
 
My son M. took the OAKS tests a second time. . .and received even lower scores.  Yesterday I received a notice that he would be required to take them a third time; I will be taking that notice to the superintendent of special education this afternoon.  Hell hath no fury like the mother of a special needs child, y'all.  This is one little boy that will most certainly NOT be left behind.
 
xoxo,
 
Jen