Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yearly recap

Good one, Christmas 2009. You almost had us fooled into thinking this would be the year that we could enjoy our family, friends, food and gifts with no disaster or drama. The drive to Yakima went smoothly. We were in great spirits when we arrived and miraculously, so was my mother. We had a great evening with Yennifer, who made me the most beautiful picture frame. Eccentric Grandma T was downright pleasant and the Christmas Eve bash at my uncle’s was fun and full of delicious food. On Christmas Day, everyone seemed to genuinely love their gifts and we enjoyed brunch with crazy Grandma B. And let’s not forget the amazing dinner cooked by my mom’s brother and sister-in-law. We left Yakima fat, but happy. It was all smiles. We really thought we were home free.

When we walked into our house and it was just as cold inside as it was outside, we were both genuinely shocked. The Christmas curse had followed us home and, as usual, gotten us when we’d least expected it! Long story short, between the service call to get the furnace fixed and the pizza we had to order since our food wasn’t edible, we spent every dime of the Christmas money we had just received within an hour of arriving home. We enjoyed daydreaming about what we’d do with that money. That was a low blow.
Still, the most important lesson I’ve learned this year is that no matter how bad things seem, you’ve got to look on the bright side. I had a package waiting on my doorstep from my California girl… a package she had mentioned sending me and that I was worried would be stolen. I opened it up to find the softest, prettiest, warmest blanket ever that she made me herself. As my eyes filled with tears, I realized that it was the best timing ever to receive such a thing and how lucky I am to have her in my life. I also realized that it could’ve been a lot worse. Our house could’ve burned down or been robbed. We could’ve had to replace the entire heating system. At least it had been fixable. At least, technically, we had the money.

Though the last two months haven’t been so great, overall, 2009 has been the best year of my entire life. I look back on all that happened to me and I honestly cannot believe how lucky I am. Now we’re at the end. 2010 is staring us right in the face and I admit I’m somewhat sad to see 2009 go.

Last New Year’s Eve, as I sat in our basement at our annual party, I told my friends that 2009 was going to be MY year. It was the year I’d quit my ridiculous commission-based sales job I wasn’t passionate about and plunge into freelance writing full-time. It was the year I was going to make it happen. I didn’t know what “it” was, but it was happening. So just why was this year so great?

In January, I began practicing daily meditation by doing something called Winter Feast for the Soul. I’ll do a write-up on that soon as I hope the spiritually inclined on PNN will join me in 2010. Meditating gave me a better ability to focus on my goals as well as excellent relaxation techniques. I admit I’ve fallen out of that practice, and believe me, I’m working to fix it. Meditation is awesome. Doing Winter Feast for the Soul allowed me to feel more connected to a higher power than I ever had and filled my heart with hope and joy.

What else have I done in this beautiful, wonderful year of 2009?

I turned 27 and, I thought, handled it rather well. The delicious authentic Italian food and organic wine at Angelo’s helped.

I went to Las Vegas twice in two months, once with Yennifer and our crazy group of drunken friends, once with my friend M. They were two very different and very awesome trips. I absolutely love Las Vegas and it seems to love me, too.

I spent some quality time with G in Portland. G makes me happy beyond measure.

I went to two writers’ conferences, both teaching me a lot about my craft and opening a lot of doors.

I threw my best friend a wonderful bachelorette party and bridal shower. Then I had the pleasure of marrying her and her husband. The night before her wedding, I stayed at the Edgewater Hotel and watched the most beautiful sunset with the most delicious glass of wine in my hand and reflected on how far we’ve both come and how far we have yet to go.

I went hiking a lot with Mr. W and my poor out-of-shape dog this summer in the beautiful mountains that surround Coeur d’Alene. We’re usually gone for much of the summer, so it was nice to really enjoy our city.

I threw an epic Fourth of July party complete with a cake that said, “America… Fuck yeah!”

I saw my childhood favorite, Bryan Adams, in an intimate acoustic performance where I was so close, we could (and did) look each other in the eyes. I still think he’s one of the most talented musicians of our time and can sing a love song like no other. Thanks so much, Canada, for birthing him.

I had Sydney over for a weekend and not only did we have a great time, we learned that she was pregnant!

I returned to New York City, something I’ve wanted to do for seven years. It was even better than I imagined. I fell deeply in love with Manhattan and all its craziness and delicious food.

I met Rob Thomas!!!! Actually, I met him in 2003, so I re- met Rob Thomas. Everyone has that band or songwriter that seems to crawl right into their brain and sing their life, and for me, that’s Rob. It was an awesome concert and I had a beautiful date.

I spent a relaxing weekend in Leavenworth with the love of my life that was the perfect blend of relaxing and crazy.

I went to LA and met the soap stars who have been a part of my life since I was 11 years old (and met my California girl)! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I will never forget it. I did not think I could ever love a city like I loved Vegas or New York, but LA stole my heart and I can’t wait to return when I have more time to explore beautiful Southern California.

I’ve learned more about myself and come to feel comfortable in my own skin. I’ve forgiven myself for some of the mistakes I’ve made in the past and hope that time will heal the rest. I’ve also slowly begun to learn who my real friends actually are. You know the saying that the Eskimos have 47 words for snow and we should have as many for love? I think we should have that many words for friends. I’m learning who I can count on and who I can’t. For those in the second category, I’m learning to love them as they are and accept that, while I will never be able to count on them for anything, they still have things to offer me (like their company and a listening ear) and I shouldn’t cut them out of my life.

I made less money than I ever have in my adult life, but I’ve learned invaluable lessons and have grown wealthy in many ways (and of course am hoping for a lot more cash now that I know more about writing).

Do you see now why, even though time is just an illusion and all that, I’m a little sad I’m about to lose 2009? It may have been the worst year ever for celebrities, but it was pretty awesome to me. With 2010 upon us, I can see that I’ve got to get back on track. I have pounds to lose, goals to strive for. I’ve got to figure out how to make an actual living writing before I am writing out of a cardboard box. I’ve got to organize my entire house, one drawer and closet at a time. Can I do it all? Probably. Will I do my absolute best to make it so? You can count on it.

Thank you for sharing in my journey. Bless us all with health and happiness in 2010 and always.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Adventure

Every year, I get excited for Christmas. And every year, it ends up being a huge pain in my ass. Usually, I get post-traumatic amnesia and by the time December rolls around again, I've forgotten what a pain in the ass it is and get all excited again until the cycle repeats itself and crushes my soul. But last year's journey home was so exceptionally ridiculous, I haven't forgotten. I anticipate this Christmas with a mixture of excitement, fear, trepidation and an overwhelming need for wine. Last year, as the fuckery was raining down on me, I took a journal and documented every humorous, tragic and ridiculous moment. Here is how my Christmas 2008 began...and here's hoping for better luck in 2009:

The Holiday Meltdown: Diary of a Weary Traveler

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

4:20 AM: My eyes flutter and open slowly to the sound of my old, blue, reliable alarm clock. I roll over in my warm, soft bed with its down comforter and snoring dog. A wave of excitement passes through me. I am going home!
I crawl out of bed slowly, trying not to wake Mr. W or the dog.

4:35 AM: As I get dressed, my thoughts wander to the wonderful holiday moments that lay before me. After a short flight to Seattle, I will enjoy breakfast and Starbucks coffee before hopping a flight to Yakima. Once there, I have so much to look forward to. There will be Christmas Eve at my uncle and aunt’s house, a beautiful sunrise Christmas church service with my mother, gifts, cookies, get-togethers with friends, family memories made.
I am attending an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party tonight. It won’t fit into my carry on, so I throw on the black, snowflaked monstrosity. Who cares if a few people on the plane see it? I’m going home!

5:40 AM: Mr. W and I have nearly reached the airport when we encounter our first snow-related car accident. After a few minutes of panic, I relax. It hasn’t delayed us in our journey. I’m going home!

5:50 AM: Mr. W. drops me off at my gate and I kiss him goodbye. He is driving our present-filled car home tomorrow after work.

6:04 AM:
I sit at my departure gate, sipping bottled water and feeling rather smug. I’ve already checked in, made it through security, and am ready for my 7 am departure. I packed all my necessities into my cute new Betsey Johnson carry on bag. I mentally pat myself on the back. What a smart idea, flying instead of driving! This way, I won’t miss any of the festivities due to Mr. W’s work schedule or the awful weather.

6:10 AM: There is a woman next to me with three very young kids. They are obviously preparing to welcome their father home from wherever the military has stationed him. The woman is doing her best to keep them controlled. I admire her efforts. The kids are talking loudly, expressing their amazement at the snow and planes. How cute.

6:40 AM: We were supposed to have begun boarding ten minutes ago. There have been no announcements yet. Fortunately, I have plenty of time to catch my next flight, so I’m not concerned. I’m going home!

6:50 AM: Judging from the smell radiating from my left, I would guess that all three of the adorable young children have soiled themselves simultaneously. Although I know their mother is doing her best, I do wish she would encourage her little darlings to use their inside voices. I haven’t had my coffee yet. I am saving it for Seattle, where the Starbucks coffee doesn’t have the moldy excrement flavor of the Spokane International Airport lattes.

6:59 AM:
I hear an announcement, miraculously, over the screeching of what I have now dubbed The Shit Family. Our plane is still being warmed up and there appears to be a mechanical issue.
I walk away from The Shit Family and get a cup of moldy excrement coffee, which isn’t half bad with multiple pumps of various syrups. I remind myself not to be annoyed. It’s snowing, after all. They’re doing their best. These things happen.

7:20 AM: Apparently, our plane flew into Spokane last night, where it remained untouched for seven hours. The mechanical problem turns out to be a cold airplane.

I am surprised that people intelligent enough to fly an aircraft have just now realized that said aircraft will be a little cold after spending a night in sub zero temperatures.

7:30 AM: The flight begins boarding rows 20 and higher. I am in row 20 so I make my way through the crowd of pushy travelers who seem to think that they must board immediately or the plane will leave without them.
The lady checking the boarding passes asks a couple to give me room and they grunt angrily at me. I do not hit them over the head with my Betsey Johnson bag because it’s Christmas. And, at last, I’m going home!

7:55 AM: I’m still waiting on that “going home” thing. Apparently, warming up a plane takes longer than just driving to Yakima.

8:08 AM:
I receive a text message from Alaska Airlines that my 7 am flight has been delayed. Gosh, thanks so much, Alaska. That must be why I’m still sitting on the ground nursing my moldy excrement coffee.

8:11 AM: I am wedged between an older man in a suit with severe morning breath and a college-aged kid. The Shit Family, judging from the smell, is in front of me, to my left. The old woman directly in front of me clearly has advanced pneumonia. She coughs her germs repeatedly into the recycled air. What a bitch.

8:21 AM: Just as our plane begins to taxi and I am being told by Olga, the stewardess, to shut my phone off to prepare for take off, I received another text from Alaska Airlines. My flight to Yakima has been canceled.
That figures. Alaska/Horizon has handled the snow situation like a bunch of pussies. They’ve canceled every flight to Yakima since Saturday. Why not throw in another for good measure, despite the fact that it isn’t even snowing and the weather girl on the news dubbed this a good day to fly?
I have a back up plan. There is an airport shuttle service from Seattle to Yakima. I text Mr. W, who will get online and reserve me a spot. I also text my dear friend Sydney who is driving from Seattle to Yakima today letting her know I might need a ride.
Olga glares at me. I shut my phone off like I was told.
9:47 AM: We arrive in Seattle. I have two texts. The first is from Sydney. There is no room in her car. The second is from Mr. W. The shuttles from Seattle to Yakima are all full.

10:05 AM: I attempt, in vain, to get another flight to Yakima. There is only one more flight scheduled today, and it is, of course, full. The woman at the ticket counter tells me I can fly home on December 27th or “may want to consider renting a car.” Gee, thanks.

10:55 AM:
I have spent $15 in internet fees attempting to schedule myself a shuttle. At last, I find an open spot…. Departing at 11:30 PM, scheduled to reach Yakima at 2:45 am. This is not what I had in mind when I pictured a relaxing trip home for the holidays.

11:05 AM:
I just realized I’ve been wandering the SeaTac airport in a hideous Christmas sweater. That explains the strange looks. I was beginning to wonder if people could read my evil thoughts. The sweater attracts an ungodly amount of static. My hair stands on end and I continue to pace the airport like a crazed Medusa, shocking myself every time I touch something.

11:15 AM: Every single person in the universe that I have ever called attempts to get back to me simultaneously. My cell phone battery is somewhat low from all the desperate texts and calls I’ve made trying to get home. Apparently, every person urgently needs to speak to me RIGHT NOW or they will die. Attempts to warn them of my dead battery fall on deaf ears.

11:20 AM: Sydney tells me that she and her fiancé will make room in their car for me. It appears I will make it home for Christmas after all. She tells me to be at the Westlake Starbucks by 12:30.

11:49 AM: I haul ass across SeaTac one last time amidst a sea of angry, tired travelers and their snot-nosed spawn. I manage to hail a taxi almost immediately.

11:55 AM:
The taxi driver is attempting to talk to me. I need a translator. Is he speaking English?
I catch a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror. I look like I have not showered or applied make up since last Christmas. My sweater reeks of sweat and desperation.

12:02 PM: Seattle has received a record snowfall this year, the most in 30 years. It is quite apparent that none of its residents have ever driven in snow. We are stopped in our second traffic jam.

12:16 PM: I reach my destination. The cab driver can’t get up the steep hill in the Starbucks parking lot. I pay him the $60 I owe for the cab ride (ouch), get out of the cab, and begin to ascend the hill.
The bay looks beautiful, even on this freezing December day. I have never seen the city dusted with snow. I admire the view as I walk, beginning to laugh about my adventures for the first time and finally feeling a sense of peace. I will make it home. Everything will be ok.

12:17 PM: Both of my feet simultaneously fly out from under me as I hit a huge patch of ice. My tailbone hits the ground first, and somehow I manage to punch myself in the face with my Betsey Johnson bag.
I lie on the ground for a moment, staring at the sky, cursing everything I can think of from Seattle to snow to global warming. I stand up slowly and am relieved to discover that, other than the few people sitting inside Starbucks, no one witnessed my epic fall.

12:29 PM: The smell of delicious food leads me out of Starbucks, down the hall of the building to McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant. I order a bowl of seafood chowder and a side salad with mixed greens, gorgonzola cheese and amazing vinaigrette. Perhaps this day hasn’t been a waste after all. The server is kind to me though I look like a crazed Medusa and smell like yesterday’s garbage.

12:49 PM: As I pay for my expensive but delicious lunch, severe pain in my lower abdomen hits me. I know exactly what it is. I rush to the ladies’’ room and dig through my Betsey Johnson bag for a tampon. Why does this always happen at the worst times?

12:50 PM: I’m still digging desperately. I do not find what I am looking for. I do, however, find my Chapstick shimmer, which is only my favorite beauty product of 2008. Applying it to my dry, chapped lips is like putting a Band Aid on a broken leg. I begrudgingly purchase a feminine item, wrapped in cold, hard cardboard.

1:15 PM: Sydney and her fiancé arrive! I have never been more excited to see two people in my life. I buy a round of caffeine and, at last, I am really, truly going home. They have even cleared out a corner big enough for me and the Betsey bag. I jump into their backseat amidst gifts and suitcases.

2:00 PM: It strikes me that I have the Christmas gift I bought for Sydney in my bag. As I dig through my things to find it for her, I find the elusive tampon almost instantly. *&$#!

2:01 PM: Sydney tells me a sweet and hilarious story of her fiancé, their gift exchange, and a hair straightener. The story involves crying, and as Sydney tells me about it, she tears up again. At this point, everything is funny, and soon we are laughing so hard that we are both crying. Sydney’s fiancé remains polite but it is apparent he’s thinking of jumping out of the window.

As I continue to dig for the gift in the back of a crammed car that I never should have been in, I realize that life truly is unpredictable. Even when you have everything planned down to the last detail, you can end up somewhere you thought you’d never be.

But, had I not gotten myself into yet another predicament, I wouldn’t have had all that time with Sydney during the crazy holiday season. She and I can tell the story for years to come and hopefully one day her fiancé can laugh about it as well. Moments like this make life what it is…. an unscripted, unplanned series of events that never cease to amaze us.

2:15 PM: Sydney loves her gift, a couple of Juicy Couture items that I felt were made for her. She presents me with the most perfect gift I ever could’ve asked for: a designer handbag containing a fashion emergency kit. It has everything I could’ve used a few hours ago, like a ponytail holder, Anti Static spray, and, of course, a tampon. For some reason I find this extremely humorous.

4:20 PM: I stumble inside through my parents’ sliding glass door. I am exhausted, cranky and in desperate need of a shower. It has been twelve hours since I woke up, ready for my short, peaceful journey that turned into a nightmare. But I am home. Let the festivities begin.

*2009 Edit: for the most part, the festivities sucked ass. And yet, here I go, about to begin them all again!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Awful Christmas Gifts for your Enemies

Every year, you spend a lot of time and money finding the perfect gifts for those you love. You want to get them something they will love because you want to make them as happy as their presence in your life has made you.
But what about those people in your inner circle that, honestly, you don’t really care for? From that “frenemy” in your office to your bitchy whore of a sister-in-law, sometimes you’re forced to buy gifts for people you’d rather see jump off a cliff than make happy. Thanks to family politics and the ways of the world, you’re obligated to give them a Christmas gift. But you’re not about to spend time and money getting them something awesome. The following are excellent gifts to get that send a message of “Merry Christmas… P.S., you’re a dick.”


10. Commemorative Plates Seriously, have you ever seen those anywhere but trailer parks and your grandmother’s china hutch? I can’t think of a worse way to commemorate anything than a plate. The asshole on your list will be forced to display these monstrosities whenever you’re around. After you leave, the plates will be down faster than Obama’s approval rating. Either way, they’ll have to hold on to your thoughtful gift for awhile to spare your feelings. Little do they know those feelings are, “Fuck you, douche bagel!”


9) “Hung for the Holidays” Poor little William Hung. Did he even know that the entire country was making fun of him when he got a record deal? Oh, well. He probably made a pretty decent sum of money, so who’s laughing now? He also made the perfect gift for your enemy: “Hung for the Holidays.” This shit is still available at Amazon.com. You can even preview the songs... but please don't.


8) Processed Meat By now, even most people that know jack shit about nutrition know that high amounts of meat aren’t good for you and that processed meat is the worst offender of them all. So say “happy holidays” with a box of chemicals and hormones from Hickory Farms or bacon wrapped filet mignon from the Omaha Steak Company. If the asshole on your list is nutritionally enlightened, they’ll understand why the gift of processed meat is a snub. If they still enjoy a diet chock full of meat, they’ll think you just got them the greatest gift of all time and devour their way into hypertension. Either way, you win.


7) A ferret Ferrets look like weasels. They act like weasels. Worst of all, they smell like weasels. *Edit* I just Googled it and turns out they ARE a form of weasel. That explains it! They’ve got to be the most vile animal on the planet. It has already been established in this blog that the worst possible gift to get after cheating on your significant other is a ferret. I have to say it’s one of the worst Christmas gifts, too. You can act like you’re giving them a sweet, cuddly animal as a kind gesture. Every time it bites them, you will laugh on the inside. Win!


6) “Bump It” I can see the appeal of most of these crazy infomercial gadgets. Hell, I personally admit to owning a Snuggie. But this thing makes women look like they have alien heads. Even the most perfectly placed Bump It becomes terrifying when the hair becomes dislodged in any way. This year, give the bitch on your list the gift of having to sit perfectly still for hours looking like an alien. She’ll love it… actually, better yet, you will.


5) A creepy doll If the asshole on your list also has an asshole child, make sure and give her an extra special doll. Bonus points if you make it a talking doll. Extra bonus points if you can figure out how to get it to talk at random in the middle of the night.


4) "Going Rogue" If you want to be a Republican, be a Republican. They’ve had some good ideas before and to each their own. I certainly won’t judge you. But if you actually believe Sarah Palin is an intelligent woman and a good role model for anyone, I’m going to judge the shit out of you. Say what you want about the “liberal media” giving her a bad image and the public being too hard on her (which I agree, they've been harsh), but when you take all that away, you’re still left with an idiot. All the ghostwriters in the world couldn’t make this read worthwhile. Still, technically, it’s on the Best Seller list, so giving this gift might make it appear as if you’re just trying to keep up with current trends… current trends with multiple Ronald Reagan references.


3) Fetus Cookie Cutters For the hated relative on your list who constantly bugs you and your mate to procreate (and who also likes to bake)… give the bitch the babies she wants. Yum, fetus cookies!


2) Cell Mate If you really, truly hate someone in your life… give them a brain tumor by forcing them to hold their cell phone, radiation and all, to their head while they drive!







1) A Ralphie light switch plate If you want a perfect example of the Worst Christmas Gift of All Time, watch the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story.” All that poor kid, Ralphie, wants is a damn Red Ryder air rifle. Before he can get it, he has to model the gift from his crazy bitch aunt: a pink bunny suit. When I searched Google Images for a picture of the bunny suit, I found this! Apparently it is possible to re-live Ralphie’s pain every time you flip a light switch. By giving the gift of this light switch, you are on the same level as the crazy bitch aunt. And when you're dealing with an enemy, that's the level of crazy you want to be.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Under the Weight of Life....


…things look brighter on the other side.

I met him in the third grade. Boys were still yucky then. We had assigned seats, otherwise I would’ve surrounded myself with females.
Back then, of course, he annoyed me. He used to squish flies with his ruler and flick them onto my desk, laughing as I shrieked in horror. He’d tease me relentlessly, but in his defense, he always knew when to back off. By the end of the year, despite my best efforts, I liked him. He was a boy, but he was funny.

As he grew older, the humor grew along with him. We had Geometry together. I hated Math enough anyway, but with him next to me, there was no way in hell I was paying attention. He’d draw me pornographic pictures of Sesame Street characters (his favorites were Burt and Ernie) doing unspeakable things to each other and silly pictures of our friends. We wrote notes back and forth… I don’t remember that, but I found them a few years ago when I was attempting to de-clutter my house. They were funny and filled with all the teenage drama that was our lives.

He belonged to a group of friends I wanted desperately to fit in with but never truly did. It wasn’t their fault, really… I was an odd one. I still am. I just grew up and found people as weird as myself. I honestly couldn’t care less about things like that now but at the time, the rejection hurt. But when others in the group ignored me, he was kind. He always tried to make me feel included. Once, I heard him defend me to someone when neither of them thought I could hear. I never thanked him for that.

He loved skiing, gymnastics, his guitar, his family, his friends and music… especially The Dave Matthews Band. He was a wonderful friend and he was a terrible driver. Once you rode in a car with him once, you tried your best not to make the same mistake again. Eventually, his parents took his car away until we graduated for the safety of drivers everywhere.

High school ended (thank God). I detached myself from “The Group” and made real friends. He and I chatted online from time to time (this was when everyone had AOL). His obsession for the Dave Matthews Band continued. He didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. I always figured he’d end up being that really funny, cool teacher that gets through to the students. But really, he could have been anything he wanted.

When I was 20, as I was leaving my college town to go home for Winter Break, I got my first speeding ticket. Of all the times I had been guilty of speeding (and there were many), this was the lamest time for me to get a ticket because I actually hadn’t realized I was speeding. The signs were very confusing. The cop, of course, was a complete tool despite my best effort to be nice. Seething, I made my way home, stopping to see some friends and do some last-minute Christmas shopping before finally arriving at my parents’ house.
My father answered the door. He looked somber. He told me to sit down. My mother was white as a ghost.

I just knew that somehow they’d found out about my speeding ticket… or, worse, that the night before was the one and only time I’d used my fake ID to get into a bar. I hadn’t even ordered a drink, I’d been so scared. I wondered how in the hell they found out so fast. I immediately started apologizing for the afore-mentioned things as well as every other sin I could think of.

I wish it had been my ticket or the fake ID they were so upset about. It wasn’t. They’d just heard the news that my friend… my wonderful, funny friend… was dead.

He was on his mission when it happened. Yes, he was about the least likely Mormon on the planet (and rumor has it that, though God was surely in his heart, he wasn’t really Mormon after all) and had headed down to Argentina for two years of missionary and service work. To this day, none of us know the details for sure. There are rumors of an aneurism, of parasites and unknown medical conditions. None of that really matters, I guess. All that mattered that night was that I learned he wasn’t coming back.

I was completely shattered. This wasn’t the first friend I had lost or even the first from our class. A classmate had taken his own life the year before which was extremely devastating. But this time my heart didn’t only break for myself. It broke for every single person who knew him. I knew they were all coming home for the holidays and were learning the news. More than anything, my heart broke for his parents, older sister and little brother who had just learned their family would never be whole again.

I’m ashamed at some of the thoughts I had at his funeral. I was angry that the affair was formal, religious, none of the things he was. We couldn’t feel his presence at all. It was like mourning a stranger.  I know it was my grief. I’m not proud of those thoughts, but I was only 20 and didn’t know how to handle it. I’ve always had the gift of empathy but that was the first time I really felt it. It hurt.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that everything really does happen for a reason. I will always be so sad that he was taken from the world so young. But even though he only got to be here for 20 years, he touched more lives than some ever will. His memories are so vibrant because that’s the kind of person he was. I’ll never forget his kindness or the way he made me laugh- and he and I weren’t even that close. I can’t imagine the ways he enriched the lives of his best friends and family. And as for the funeral, I know that this boy’s mother meant more to him than anyone in the world. I know he’d want her to have the kind of closure that she wanted, even if it meant a formal, religious affair that would have bored him to tears in life. We all have the privilege of knowing who he really was; no memorial service is needed to reflect that.

I’ve been to the cemetery a few times, though not recently. There are always flowers. Even though it has been seven years, I think of him often, especially this time of year. I think of him every time I hear a Dave Matthews Band song and he is a part of most of my few good memories from my teenage years. The rest of us grow older, but he remains eternally 20 in our hearts. Memories of him always end the same way… a smile, a laugh, then a hint of a tear.

No matter how much time passes or where we are in our lives, we will always love and miss you, Jason.

Big Eyed Fish

Dave Matthews
Look at this big - eyed fish swimming in the sea oh
How it dreams to be a bird swoop and diving through the breeze
So one day caught a big old wave up on to the beach
Now he’s dead you see beneath the sea is where a fish should be

But oh God
Under the weight of life
Things seem brighter on the other side
You see this crazy man decided not to breathe
He turned red and blue - purple, colorful indeed
No matter how his friends begged and pleaded the man would not concede
And now he’s dead you see the silly man should know you got to breathe

Story of a man,
Who decided not to breathe.
Turned red, purple, then blue.
Colorful indeed.
No matter how his friends begged,
Well, he would not concede,
And now he's dead.
You see, cause everybody knows,
You got to breathe.

But, oh God,
Under the weight of life,
Things seem brighter on the other side...
Lighter on the other side...

Another one: See this monkey sitting on a tree,
One day, decided to climb down,
And run off to the city.
Look at him now, Tired and drunk
And living on the street.
As good as dead.
You see, a monkey should know,
Stay up your tree.

But, oh God,
Under the weight of life,
Things seem brighter on the other side.
Oh, God,
But under the weight of life,
Things seem much brighter on the other side.

No way, no way, no way.... out... of here...

Another one: A big eyed fish,
Yeah, swimming in the sea,
Oh, how he dreamed.
He wants to be a bird,
Swooping, diving through the breeze.
One day, he caught a big blue wave,
Up onto the beach,
And now he's dead.
You see, a fish's dream,
Should stay in the sea.

But, oh God,
Under the weight of life,
Things seem brighter on the other side.

No way... no way...no way...out... of here...

No way out of life.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Where Does Your Focus Lie?



Many years ago, while riding in the car with my mother, I noticed she always swerved to avoid any trash blowing in the street. One day, I asked her why.
“I don’t want it to get sucked up into the exhaust!” she exclaimed. “I always worry about that happening.”
Even very young me knew that this was highly unlikely to happen. I couldn’t believe the lengths she went to avoid driving over things. She kept insisting that she was very worried that it would happen. I just knew she was crazy and that it wasn’t going to happen.
But then one day, it did. We were driving through town and a truck drove by us, sending a plastic grocery bag directly into our path. With no time to move, my mother drove right over the bag… which got sucked up into the exhaust and proceeded to melt before we could do anything. I could not believe it. For a week, we drove around with the unpleasant smell of melting plastic. My poor mother’s fear had become a reality.
As we go through life, it is easy to think about what we don’t want. After all, there are a million things nobody wants to happen to them: disease, divorce, and bankruptcy to name a few. On a smaller scale, we hope little things don’t go wrong. We hope traffic isn’t too heavy and we won’t run out of time to get things done. We hope we’ll have enough money to pay the bills and worry that we won’t. Worst of all, we worry that other people won’t like us instead of doing our best to be likeable and letting them think what they will.
Stressing over everything is an energy suck. Instead, we’re encouraged to focus on what we do want. Whether it is a promotion, a raise, a better marriage or even just physical health, focusing on what we want makes it so much easier to take the steps to obtain it. It’s a little more complicated than “wish, and make it so.” The concept is this: if your energy is focused on what you want to happen, you’re much more likely to find the necessary steps to reach your goals. If you want to stay healthy during cold and flu season, for example, you’re probably going to make more of an effort to get plenty of rest and vitamins.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t all be prepared. Unexpected things happen every day. If they didn’t, no one would need savings accounts or insurance. Definitely have a plan, but don’t worry excessively about something happening. If you spend all your time worrying about something unlikely to happen, you waste time you could spend on making your dreams come true. Above all else, thinking about what you do want is infinitely more fun than thinking about what you don’t.
Every time I see a plastic grocery bag blowing across a street, I watch. Not once have I ever seen a bag get sucked into a car’s exhaust again. Personally, I make an effort to get out of the way if I can. After all, I’ll never forget the awful smell of plastic and my poor mother’s plight. Then I laugh and think about something awesome.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Best Friend's Big Badass Birthday



I put my best friend's birthdays at the top of my priority list for two reasons: 1. I love her and 2. They're always so entertaining. So as soon as I slept off my Thanksgiving food hangover, I rushed home so that I wouldn’t miss Yennifer’s 28th birthday celebration. Mr. W and I headed into Spokane and met Yennifer, her sister, her mother, her boyfriend and numerous friends. One of those friends was Ann, one of my favorite people of all time who happens to have an odd relationship with booze (it makes her a little crazy). No best friend of mine would ever have a birthday sober, so we started off with dinner and flavored martinis at a local bar and grill. Afterward, it was off to our favorite new nightclub, Emperor.

Always the responsible one, Mr. W stopped drinking once the raspberry kamikaze shots began to flow at Emperor and Yennifer, her sister, Ann and I rocked out to “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Baby Got Back” out on the dance floor. Yennifer and I kept it together pretty well and had a great time. Eventually, though, I noticed we hadn’t seen Ann in nearly two hours. Shortly before the club closed, I found her in the bathroom, shaking her ass to the music in her head.

“I….can’t….find….Yennifer,” she slurred.

“That’s because we’ve all been hanging out in the balcony VIP while you continued to drink, silly,” I said, guiding her back to our group, who was closing their tabs in preparation for the end of the evening. A quick survey of the situation revealed that everyone but the designated drivers were three sheets to the wind. I was just sober enough to realize that, if Mr. W and I didn’t help Ann get home, she’d be found wandering the streets of Spokane or end up on a milk carton… or worse, the bed of the lecherous dude who was eyeing her. Not on my watch!

Mr. W and I each grabbed Ann by an arm and helped her walk the numerous blocks to our car, during which time she began to serenade us with Bryan Adams tunes and tell us how much she loved us. If we could just get her to her car, she said as she fell down with her legs over her head for the 3rd time, she’d be fine driving home. I politely told her that wasn’t happening as Mr. W helped her into the backseat. As Ann lectured us about “intercourse” and began to refer to everything as a vagina, Mr. W and I realized two things: we had no idea where Ann lived and no idea how to get her there even if we did. Fortunately, she was able to recite her address, so I mapped it out on my Blackberry and we were off. Thank heaven for technology.

After Ann spent the duration of the ten minute drive rambling and emptying the contents of my backseat into her purse, we finally found her apartment complex. As she wobbled out of the backseat, Ann took out her keys and attempted to lock my car for me. Mr. W and I helped her inside where I took off her heels so she wouldn’t trip and break her neck. Ann hugged me, told me that we were going to meet Bryan Adams one day, gave Mr. W the smooch of his life, and we were off. One hour, two turkey sandwiches and a lot of water later, we were looking at pictures and laughing hysterically. Finally, at four AM, roughly five hours after our normal bedtime, we passed out.

I woke up to a real-life version of textsfromlastnight.com on my phone. “How did I get home? Where is my car?” “Why is there biscotti in my purse?” “Tap dancing Christ. I’ve lost my sister.” The last one was from Yennifer. Her sister had hitched a ride home with Yennifer’s roommate and was safely asleep in her bed, but Yennifer had no idea and assumed she’d wandered off. Fortunately, by morning all was well aside from our epic hangovers. One more birthday with my best friend, one more hilarious, amazing, fuzzy memory. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Women I Admire II: The Health Edition

It’s no secret that I am appalled and disgusted by the fact that America is such a fat, unhealthy nation. Don’t get me wrong, I love food and rarely turn down a piece of chocolate or a dish of creamy pasta. But I also eat lots of fruits and veggies and exercise four to six times per week. I am a reformed lazy slob junk food addict with asthma, so I know how difficult it is to change a lifestyle. I also know that once the commitment is made, you never want to go back to the way you were. Being healthy just feels too good.

Looking at my “Women I Admire” list, I realize that I may have composed it prematurely. I still admire all those women now more than ever before. But I didn’t acknowledge some women that I personally believe are contributing greatly to combating the country’s problems with obesity. These women have overcome personal obstacles to get where they are and now they’re on top of their game and living awesome lives. They’re driven, beautiful, healthy, and best of all, happy. And all but one are part of my favorite show at the moment. They are:

Alison Sweeney Most people know Alison as the awesome host of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. For 16 years, I’ve known her as the devious Sami Brady on Days of our Lives. I haven’t always been a Sami fan (though I am now), but I have always been an Ali fan. Her acting is incredible! She’s just a few years older than me and I’ve been watching her so long, I feel as if we’ve grown up together.
As I watched Alison grow from a teenager into a beautiful wife and mother, I also watched her waistline shrink. Ali was certainly never obese, but she was a chubby teenager even by non-Hollywood standards. She openly admits to having struggled with her weight and feeling the pressure to be thin, which she talks about in her book, All The Days of my Life… So Far. She lost weight and got healthy simply by changing her diet and exercising. These days, anyone who follows Ali on Twitter knows she’s a fitness fanatic.
My admiration for Ali goes beyond her commitment to health. She’s an amazing actress, a wonderful mother and obviously cares about the contestants on The Biggest Loser. Recently, I had the great honor of meeting her and interviewing her and was pleased to realize she’s also a genuinely nice person. Talking to Ali was, without a doubt, one of the best days of my life so far.

Jillian Michaels Looking at the gorgeous, perfectly svelte, tough as nails Jillian Michaels, it’s almost impossible to believe that she was ever anything but a fitness addict. But she admits to being overweight as a child and teenager, crediting a martial arts class for her initial weight loss. Some people think she’s too tough on the contestants on The Biggest Loser. But the people on that show have spent years, if not their entire lives, saying the words “I can’t.” Jillian pushes them far beyond their limits and makes them realize they’re capable of so much more than they ever give themselves credit for.
With supplements, exercise videos, books and (soon) her own show, Jillian is definitely busy promoting a healthy lifestyle. I admire her take-charge attitude and love the fact that she’s so into animals. I even adore her harmless little crush on fellow trainer Bob Harper (I share her feelings). My favorite Jillian quote: “Fitness to me isn’t about a crunch or a push-up. It’s about taking your power back.”

Abby Rike They say everyone has a story that will break your heart. Abby has one that will simply rip your heart out. A few years ago, Abby had everything: a loving husband, a young daughter and an infant son. In October of 2006, all three of them were killed in a head-on collision. My husband and I are already total saps when it comes to The Biggest Loser, but we couldn’t even look at Abby without crying.
Always a big girl, Abby vowed to lose weight and get her life back. In a cast of very nice people, she was the nicest of them all. I watched her encourage others while fighting her own battle. Even her own elimination in week 8 was her idea. She felt she was ready to leave the ranch and that others needed to be there more than her. Though Abby lost her kids, she showed the world that she still thinks like a mother. Despite fracturing her knee, Abby is down from 247 pounds to 165 and is a motivational speaker who bravely tells her story to large groups of people. She is a hero and an inspiration to us all. On days where I feel like life is too hard and I should just give up on chasing my dreams, I remember this woman and how she has come back from the worst possible tragedy and it helps me keep going.

Tara Costa This girl, a contestant on The Biggest Loser Season 7, impressed me from Day 1. A plus-sized model at the age of 13, Tara was eventually dropped from the agency in her twenties when she gained weight. She admits to being out of control and weighed a whopping 294 pounds when she joined the cast of The Biggest Loser. But immediately, Tara admitted that she was responsible for her actions and got to work. She won challenge after challenge, even pulling a car full of weights in a race when her fellow cast members conspired against her. There was nothing Tara couldn’t do and by the finale, she was down to 139 pounds.
Now, Tara runs marathons. I have never weighed 294 pounds and have been working out regularly for seven years, and I get tired just watching marathons. Her competitive attitude and her motivation make me wonder how she was ever overweight in the first place. Tara clearly had an inner athlete dying to be let out. Her story makes me wonder, how many others have an inner athlete inside them? How great would it be if people realized, and lived up to, their full potential?

Michelle Obama My admiration for this woman has absolutely nothing to do with politics or who her husband is. Perhaps I am a bit biased as I tend to always like the First Ladies of the United States, dating all the way back to Nancy Reagan (despite her bullshit factually inaccurate war on drugs). Each first lady tends to pick a cause and promote that. Michelle has chosen to promote healthy eating and fitness, something our country definitely needs help with.
When I heard Michelle Obama had decided to plant an organic garden on the White House Lawn, I was ecstatic. Say what you want about the Obama family, but doing this sets a good example for the rest of the nation. Planting a garden is surprisingly low in cost, especially if you have a small family. My husband started one this year, which I stayed far away from due to my inability to keep plants alive. I was surprised at how cheap it was and how easy it was to keep the veggies pesticide-free.
Of course, much like all the First Families before them, if the Obamas so much as sneeze someone will have something to say about it. The MidAmerica CropLife Association sent Michelle a letter encouraging her to use poison… sorry, I mean pesticides… in her crops. But Michelle stood her ground and the Obamas continue to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor. Of course, not everyone has time, room or money to plant a garden. But everyone should eat more produce and, if possible, make it organic. Yes, organic fruits and vegetables cost more, but studies have shown that eating these whole foods actually save you money in the long run because you’re less likely to develop serious health problems that will cost you thousands even with health coverage (that’s another blog post). Michelle and I may not see eye to eye on every issue, but I certainly admire the example she’s setting for her children and for the nation.
 
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