#Throwback Thursday: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Originally published 11/18/14


“There were times in my life when I had one thing to do all day, but I still couldn’t get to it. I gotta go to the post office, but I’d probably have to put on pants. And they’re only open till five. Looks like I’m going to have to do that next week.” —Jim Gaffigan

People think when you’re laid off that you have all the time in the world to accomplish all kinds of cool stuff. And, theoretically, you do. King of Queens’ Carrie thought she was going to read the Great Gatsby and catch up on assembling all of her photo albums. Turns out she mostly just played chopsticks on the piano and watched Dr. Phil.

Yeah. That’s reality.

I have all kinds of ambitious plans, but a few minor roadblocks.

#1 You’re supposed to be looking for a job. Time spent doing anything else seems complacent. You want to be able to tell people you have leads when they ask. And they will. Repeatedly.

#2 Or at least be worrying about looking for a job. You can’t really enjoy anything else you’re doing because you keep remembering you have no job. Images of Hannah and I living in a cardboard box flash through my mind as pages on my mental calendar fly off at an unstoppable pace.

#3 You can’t spend any money. Catching up with friends for lunch, taking care of long put off home improvement projects, working on your crafts, getting ahead on Christmas shopping—all cost money and can hardly be justified when mama ain’t workin.

#4 Turns out exercising isn’t any more fun now than it was when I was employed. I still hate it only now I can feel twice as guilty for not doing it when, clearly, I have plenty of time!

#5 Some days depression = frittering = nothing accomplished = compounding feelings of uselessness. I really wish I could go back to work just so I wouldn’t have to feel bad about not using my time off wisely.

I was going to add the events of a typical day of a laid off person, but eh. I don’t feel like it. Friends is on.

photo by memecenter.com

In The History Of Politics, Has Anyone Everrrrr Changed Their Mind?

I’m terrible at discussing politics. I get flustered and can never remember statistics or acronyms or what happened when. The opposition will pull elusive facts (?) I have never heard of out of a hat and me with no chance to google them. Under pressure, everything I know goes out the window and muttering, “I just feel like I’m right and you’re wrong” doesn’t really cut it.

So I avoid it.

But sometimes I will make an exception and talk to my dad about politics because a) I really want to know what he and his side are thinking and b) I know he won’t attack me. Unlike some people I know who feel that loud + rudeness = correct.

The other night we went a few rounds about Trump. Finally I had to just stop and say, “You think you’re right. I think I’m right. Everyone thinks they’re right. And everyone just wants the best outcome. Doesn’t mean anyone is evil.” Ok some are evil. But most are not. The opposition is made up of our friends, our family, our spouses and our co-workers. People we like and respect in our day-to-day.

As he was leaving, he said, “I respect your opinion. But you’ll see as you get get older. Most democrats are young.”

(In case you missed that, he’s saying democrats are naive, emotional, idealist do-gooders.)

I smiled. Challenge accepted.

Have you ever tried to change someone’s mind? If you have succeeded, I definitely want to know in the comments!

photo credit: no need to argue via photopin (license)

#Throwback Thursday: Once Upon A Time, We Went To See Oprah

Originally published 10/28/14….I love remembering this trip…

For as long as I can remember, my mom and I had always wanted to attend an Oprah show taping. So this summer when I saw tickets to her “Live Your Best Life Weekend” go on sale, I had to snag some. Sure they were expensive. Sure it was a 6 hour drive to Atlanta. Sure we’d miss work and school. But hey. It’s Oprah. I booked the adventure.

After we arrived and checked into our fancy Oprah weekend hotel, Hannah and I headed over to O-Town. O-Town was a little neighborhood of tents and booths filled with all things Oprah. Everything from her OWN network to O Magazine to activities promoting all of the Oprah teachings was showcased. We saw a very long line to register for a Wells Fargo VIP package to the show. It was super hot and we were sweating up a storm.

Hannah said, “Let’s register”. I replied, “It’s toooooo hot and the line is toooooo long and the chances of us winning are one in a million.” We declined to enter.

That night Oprah spoke of trials and tribulations she’s experienced in her life. It was so exciting to watch Hannah as Oprah spoke about intention, gratitude, surrender and the golden rule because I could see it all clicking with her. She was the only kid I saw in the entire stadium.

The next morning we dined on fancy Oprah weekend french toast room service and headed off for day two. In a stadium that seats 18,000 people, our seats weren’t the worst and they weren’t the best, but they were ours and we were excited. Suddenly a woman’s voice over the loud speaker.

“And the winner of the Wells Fargo VIP package is Jennifer ***** and guest!”

Huh? A light shined on us and people around us were shouting “Congratulations!” as one of Oprah’s producers whisked us away. We walked the long walk down to the floor and were stopped in front of two seats that said “RESERVED”. They were reserved for us! Necklaces with “VIP” on them were put around our necks. We kept looking at eachother in disbelief. It was like we had won the lottery.

When Oprah came out on stage, we could just about touch her. I could not believe that we had won this contest (we’d somehow entered unbeknownst to me) and were sitting in front of someone I had watched on my TV screen for over 20 years.

When we broke for lunch, the loud speaker lady came on again instructing those with VIP Saturday tags to stay put. Oprah’s producer appeared again and asked us how we were enjoying the seats. I took that opportunity to ask him what we were waiting on. He pointed us in the direction of a small group of people who were heading upstairs and told us to follow. By the time we caught up with them, the group of people were standing at the elevators waiting for the next one to arrive.

Everyone was quiet as I asked the lady next to us, “Where we were going?”

She replied, “To meet Oprah!”

“Get out!” I exclaimed not fully believing her.

The elevator transported us upstairs and behind a velvet curtain was a beautiful world of yummy buffet food, free drinks and beautiful centerpieces on white linen table cloths. After we ate and took many pictures of ourselves, it was time to get pictures with Oprah.

As our turn came up, one of the producers asked me if we were the mom and daughter who won the VIP package. I said yes as she relayed the info to Oprah. Hannah walked up to her first and said, “Thank you for inspiring me” to which Oprah replied, “Awwwww thank you for inspiring me” and gave her a big hug. They let us each have a photo alone and then one with the three of us. I couldn’t even think of a single thing to say.

As we walked around the stadium, it was like we were famous. Everywhere we went people were congratulating us. On the way to the car, a lady yelled across the parking lot, “Are you the mom and daughter who won the VIP tickets?” Yep, that’s us. And life is amazing.

We Are Family, I Got All My Sisters With Me (Plus My Ex, His Wife & Their Kids)

Hannah’s stepmom and I have always had a pretty good relationship. I’d have her little girl over to bake cookies, she’d cut my hair. I’d do crafty projects for her, she’d cook for me. Hannah’s dad could have chosen anyone, but he ended up choosing a good person who treats Hannah really well.

That being said, stepmom has a habit of letting things fester until she can’t hold it in any longer and then releases her frustrations in a super passive aggressive way. I then have to realize this and try to talk to her frankly about the problem. This works pretty well. Except this last time.

Hannah was struggling toward the end of this school year with several things and I asked if we could adjust her schedule with her dad and stepmom. Dad was fine with it, but stepmom got very upset. The change was small and temporary, so I just kinda figured she’d get over it. But she didn’t. And she texted me about it. A lot. Real long scathing texts. The kind that make you want to go to the person’s house and ask “Are you alright?”

So I called her hoping we could turn things around and get back to normal. But things didn’t really improve and, in fact, became even more infuriating. We hung up in a so-so place and later that evening she texted me letting me know she wasn’t going to answer my texts going forward, only phone calls. Obviously, I didn’t reply. Since that would be texting.

I was really hurt because I had always made a big effort to be appreciative and to make things comfortable and mutually supportive between our blended family members. Some of that hurt turned into anger as I thought of ways I could avoid dealing with her.

Weeks go by with no communication between the two of us. Spite had forced me to begin coordinating plans through her dad, the not-as-effective communicator. By the Fourth of July, I decided I would offer an olive branch when I picked up Hannah. So I made a cupcake run and headed on over.

On my way, I reasoned that stepmom’s bad reaction weeks earlier was probably just her feeling insecure about Hannah’s time with them. Maybe she took my schedule change to mean that Hannah didn’t want to be at their house. So once I arrived, we all exchanged pleasantries and chit chatted as if nothing had happened.

I deemed the mission successful until stepmom text me the next day. It was a nice text about picking Hannah up and taking her this place and that place. Normal. But I couldn’t bring myself to respond. I remembered her message of forbidden texting and a mixture of hurt and stubbornness washed over me as I turned into Scarlett O’Hara:

As God is my witness, I will never text you again!

But the cupcakes were nice, right? Baby steps.


The Grass Is Always Greener In The Other Decade

When I was 16, I had a sizable crush on a boy I went to school with and worked alongside at our neighborhood grocery store in Texas. He worked in the produce department shuffling tomatoes and I was in the floral department arranging the flowers. He was loud and goofy but, as teenage girls tend to do, I saw a different side to him. We talked and flirted and he took me to prom, but it never really evolved beyond friendship. I never quite understood why and was pretty hurt by it.

Then one day after graduation, he pranced into the store with his tiny girlfriend and her fluffy blonde hair. In my teenage eyes, he had paraded her in front of me to purposely hurting my feelings. He denied that was his intention.

Either way, I was crushed…and we weren’t so friendly after that. We fought over small things as the gulf between us grew along with of layers of animosity until I couldn’t stand the sight of him. Which worked out fine because he went to another store and my family moved back to Florida.

Fast forward 20 years to Facebook and the connecting of many friends from the past. We got in touch and he called me one night unexpectedly. I could tell right away he was calling for more than just a hello. He had something to unload.

He said how sorry he was for how he treated me and that he regretted decisions he had made. I told him we were just kids and that I didn’t hold any of it against him. He was very remorseful and I could tell he had thought about this more than once. I assured him everything was fine and we moved on.

We began speaking and texting after that and I even went back to visit friends in Texas, including him. It was a lot of fun. I felt 16 again and everyone else was just the same. There’s comfort in the presence of people who knew you when you were young. That, and the fact that I was on vacation, made the trips magical.

Over the next couple of years, we had many conversations about what-ifs and could-have-beens…us. These conversations become especially frequent if one of us was having a hard time, I noticed. We are an escape for one another. He imagines what would have been if he’d made a different choice and I think about what it would have been like if fluffy hair had never existed. We tend to think things would be better when, truthfully, they probably would be about the same.

We have stayed in touch and continue to get together from time to time, but I have to keep reminding myself it’s all a fantasy. And that’s why it’s so appealing.

“Let’s meet up in Hawaii next year with Mutual Friend,” he said the other night.

I sighed. “That is really fun to think about, but it’s never going to happen,” I replied. Just like that high school crush—a fun fantasy, but not to be.

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Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures Television

Another Interesting, But Unfruitful Procedure

I went for another “let’s see if this works” headache procedure yesterday. It’s called a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block and it’s disgusting.

As I waited for the nurse to do her paperwork, I gazed at the only piece of artwork in the exam room.


Weird choice for an exam room. Wondered if all of the exam rooms contained senior stock photos.  I’m used to seeing pictures of egrets or sand dunes.

“Is that the doctor?” I asked the nurse, half joking.

“No,” said the nurse chuckling.

I imagine it must be some famous geriatric surfer. I don’t travel in surfing circles, but I’m sure he’s probably an important part of that community.

Doctor has me lay down on the exam table while he and I begin a dance called The Approach and Pull Away. Very popular dance in doctors’ offices, I suspect. He approaches my nose with the liquid, I turn my head. He approaches, I turn. Cha cha cha. I finally get ahold of myself and let him pour the bitter water DOWN MY NOSTRILS.

<gag, choke, cough sniff, almost barf>

Now the Q-tips.

“Close your eyes,” he said. In regular life, those words are usually followed by some awesome surprise. In medical life, it’s never good. He had obviously wised up since the liquid. He didn’t want me to see the gigantic size of the Q-tips he was about to shove DOWN MY NOSTRILS. I didn’t want to see them either, so I happily complied. He inserted one Q-tip into each of my nostrils and pushed them in until they touched the back of my throat. Yeah. Picture it. It’s as unpleasant as it sounds.

“Ok just lay there and I’ll be back in 15 minutes,” said the doctor.

“Ok but DON’T FORGET TO COME BACK!” I said nervously. Doc laughs. No, but for real, I thought, don’t forget!

So I laid on the table, Q-tips sticking out like walrus tusks. I stared at geriatric surfer. He was my only friend.

Doc came back, as promised, and removed the Q-tips. “See how your headache is tonight,” he said.

“Ok,” I humored him, too familiar with this drill. “I will.”

I felt dollar signs exploding from the top of my head as I left. Another bundle of money for another procedure. And today I still feel the same. Next!

Photo courtesy of Wikepedia


I Think It’s Not Really About The Guns

“Guns don’t kill, people do.”

Okay, but that’s still a really big problem.

Each time an act of gun violence occurs, I feel like we try to treat the symptoms but not the disease. Gun violence is a symptom of a much larger problem. Gun control is a band-aid and not a cure.

Like when Hannah and I get home from a long day, it’s a million degrees out, I have a headache and I trip over her backpack and yell, “WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR BACKPACK HERE! I’VE TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES TO TAKE IT TO YOUR ROOM! YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!” Hannah stares at me for a moment and then says, “Ok this obviously isn’t about the backpack. What’s the real issue?”

It’s like that.

She could move her backpack, but that’s not really what has me pissed. And even if she hadn’t left her backpack there, I’d find another dumb reason to explode. So what really needs attention is the root of my anger, not the location of the backpack.

I’m not a gun person. Like most Americans, I support common sense gun legislation. Yes! Good. Do it. That’s an appropriate reaction. Lock all that shit down! Especially the ridiculous automatic weapons. That’s a no-brainer for anyone, you’d think.

But also…negative emotions stem from fear …and violence is a symptom of fear. Fear is the real disease and it’s spreading. It’s becoming accepted as part of our culture (I’m looking at you and your fence, Donald Trump). It’s a spiritual problem that needs our attention.

“There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.” —Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

What do you think? I would love to hear. Please feel free to comment!

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