Staying home on Black Friday: Better than free unicorns

Here’s a little-known fact about me: Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. But immediately following a lovely day of gorging myself into a coma is my least favorite day—Black Friday.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas shopping. Leisurely strolling through stores, sipping on my Starbucks Peppermint Mocha,  hand-in-hand with The Hubs, finding the perfect gift for my loved ones… that’s what I like.

I know. We're adorable.
I know. We’re adorable.

Black Friday is pretty much the opposite of that. As much as I enjoy a good bargain, I’m not willing to sacrifice sleep, family and my sanity to get it. (Notice I put sleep first? Not an accident.)

And the people who set up camp at midnight or whatever… all for a cheap Christmas present? Are you kidding me? They could be giving away free unicorns, you guys. And that still wouldn’t convince me to give up my nice comfy bed and 8+ hours of sleep I so rightfully deserve. (I NEED MY SLEEP, PEOPLE.)

Yawn.
Yawn.

But I get that for some people, the bargain-getting part is fun for them… or, more likely, gives them a high that nothing else (legally, that is) can compare. I’m convinced that for some, searching for a good bargain is like a drug addict looking to score. And once they find it, it’s like the euphoria of the first… snort? Smoke?  Whatever the kids do nowadays.

Something with eggs? That's a thing, right?
Something with eggs? That’s a thing, right?

Think I’m exaggerating? Have you seen people on Black Friday? Compare them to a crazy-eyed drug addict and tell me what the difference is. I dare you.

This is actually a picture of a drug dealer's house.
This is actually a picture of a drug deal.

But for me, everything about it just turns me off to the point that I refuse to even leave my house on Black Friday.  Since my husband and I host Thanksgiving, I use that day to recover from my hostess duties, aka lie on the couch so long that we weld together and create a human/couch hybrid. This year my cat joined us and we created a never-seen-before human/couch/feline hybrid. I expect a call from National Geographic any day now.

Take that, free unicorns.

The Fun Continues: His ’n Her Heart Attacks!

This has been an interesting six weeks, folks. You may remember that at the end of September my dad had a heart attack. Not to be outdone, a few weeks later my mom had her own heart attack. Because in case you haven’t heard, society, women can do anything men can do.

We_Can_Do_It!
“Um… this isn’t what I had in mind.”

Yes, both my parents had heart attacks within a few weeks of each other. After approximately 150 years of marriage, my parents do everything together and that includes His ’n Her heart attacks. Now that’s romance.

The medicine-pushers (or “doctors,” if you’re a non-believer in conspiracy theories) think her heart attack was brought on by stress. A lot of women don’t have pain with heart attacks and she probably would have never known she even had one. But she was in the hospital for bronchitis when it happened, which was… lucky, I guess?

"Thanks, bronchitis!"
“Thanks, bronchitis!”

After I heard the news, I rushed in to see Mom only to find her sitting up in the hospital bed eating lunch and lecturing Dad to take his cough medicine. (Dad had bronchitis at the same time, because of course he did.)

Let me tell you, people do not have heart attacks in real life like they do on TV. There was no dramatic chest-clutching or yelling at dead relatives in the sky.  But there was Jell-O, so that’s something. What is it with hospitals and Jell-O, anyway? Are they being blackmailed by Bill Cosby?

640px-BillCosby
“There’s always room for Jell-O. Or else.”

The doctors declared Mom good to go and released her the next day. And, just this morning, Dad had the second stent put in to fix his other blocked artery and was sitting up and eating (Jell-O obviously, eh, Bill?) a couple hours later.

So the Heart Attack Twins are doing well. Hopefully they will follow doctor’s orders and take it easy. Next time, let’s try doing less heart attacky activities. Flying over the Bermuda Triangle, perhaps?  Or how about standing in the front row of a black cat parade?

"Yeah. Like you could get us to participate in a parade."
“That doesn’t even make sense. Cats HATE parades.”

Cooking Without Salt Is Apparently A Thing

For those who don’t personally know me, a couple weeks ago my dad had a heart attack. Well, actually THREE heart attacks, because my dad is nothing if not thorough. He’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. It’s called work ethic, guys.

"Only one heart attack? That's not the kind of ethic we look for at THIS company."
“Only one heart attack? That kind of half-assery has no place in THIS company.”

Hopefully you can tell by my jocular tone that he is fine. Or maybe you just think I’m an awful person. Well, either way you’re in luck because both those things are true: My dad is doing fine and yes, I can be pretty awful. Not like, Internet awful. Just normal awful.

Like one time I made a joke to my mom on the phone about drowning in paperwork by saying, “I’m like Natalie Wood over here!” She was not amused.

What was I talking about? Oh, my dad! Yes, he’s good but getting really tired of grilled chicken.

Because, you see, after a heart attack you have to change your diet, if your diet is the thing that caused your heart attack. And he’s 100% German, which means it’s not a meal if there’s no red meat and potatoes. And salt. Lots of salt.

"Is this all the salt we have?"
“Is this all the salt we have?”

Because I am awful yet also a wonderful daughter, I’m trying to think of meals I can make him that are German-approved and heart-healthy. To the Googles!

*cue hold music*
*cue hold music*

Okay, I found “7 Festive German Recipes” on a website called LifeScript. Not only German but festive German? Things are about to get wild, y’all.

Fotothek_df_roe-neg_0002478_002_Jugendliche_beim_Musizieren
If it’s not a German party with accordions, then it’s not a party AT ALL.

Now all I need to do is go to the store, buy all the stuff, find time to cook… Huh. These recipes call for a LOT of ingredients.

“Reduced-sodium chicken broth?” Is that even a thing? “No-salt-added tomato sauce?” That sounds gro… I mean delicious, Dad! It sounds delicious.  What does salt even do, really? Clogs arteries, that’s what. And, you know, adds flavor. But I’m sure it will be fi… chicken sausage? Now they’re just screwing with me, right?

And fennel? What’s a fennel? It sounds like a Dr. Suess character. I’m not feeding my father a beloved cartoon creation, no matter how delicious, Mr. LifeScript! What kind of monster do you think I… wait. Oh. Apparently a fennel is in the celery family. I didn’t know celery HAD a family.

Why did I volunteer for this again?

IMG_1302

Oh, yeah. I love my dad. Guten tag, everyone.

Ends, beginnings & throat-punching

Well, you guys, a lot has happened since I last posted. The first and most important (to me, anyway) is my decision to discontinue grad school.

I feel many things as a result of this decision: disappointment, guilt, anger, frustration… but the overarching emotion is relief. When I say I had no free time between work and grad school, I literally mean I had literally zero minutes free to myself. Literally.

SAY LITERALLY AGAIN.
SAY LITERALLY AGAIN.

It was awful, stressful and—ultimately—not worth it.

As much as I enjoyed the classes and material, the work involved was just too much with my already stressful job. Although writing about bras and panties may seem like a cakewalk  (I assume this is a sidewalk made of cake, yes?) think of it this way: I work in the marketing department for one of the biggest brands in the world. For those who don’t know/care what marketing is, let me sum it up in one sentence. My department is responsible for making sure ladies keep buying the aforementioned bras and panties. Millions of dollars are spent enticing ladies to spend their dollars on our sexy wares.

"I suddenly feel the desire to buy ALL THE LINGERIE."
My job. Don’t mock my man-hands.

In short, it’s stressful as hell.

So. Yeah. Grad school had to go bye-bye.

But, as someone who always has to be doing something (ADD, anyone?) I had to figure out what my next goal should be. So I’ve decided to focus on my freelance writing career. Again.

skeptical_dog1-180hprn
NO ONE ASKED YOU, DOG.

This means (for me) pitching ideas to magazines and online publications, as well as finallyyyyyy finishing my book.

The problem with this plan is that while grad school was super-stressful, at least it had established deadlines. Because, believe it or not, I am not the best at self-motivation.

shocked-baby-face

I apologize for your broken jaw, as I’m sure the velocity at which your jaw hit the floor after reading that statement was quite jarring.

So I need y’all to motivate me. Just constantly be like, “How’s your book coming?” and “So, have you been published yet?” or “I’ve been looking for your book on Kindle. What do you do all day, anyway?”

I’m not going to sugarcoat it:  you may get punched in the throat. But you will motivate me to stop watching reruns of The Simpsons and write. So really, everyone wins.

"Get ready to win!"
“Get ready to win!”

I was attacked!*

Well, I had quite the harrowing experience today. Or something that could have been harrowing, had it actually happened. So I guess it wasn’t really an “experience” in the traditional sense. Basically nothing happened today. But if you didn’t want to read about a non-event written in an overly dramatic fashion, then you came to the wrong place, my friend.

Okay, here’s what happened.

I was enjoying the beautiful morning on my front porch, because apparently I am eighty years old. I had a full cup of coffee in my hand and a nice fat book on my lap and was all set to enjoy both.

I looked across the cul-de-sac to see my cat Emo trotting at a brisk pace toward me. I greeted her cordially; pleased she took a break from her fight club or breakdancing competition or whatever she does when she’s out and about.

I'm guessing cat cosplay.
I’m guessing cat cosplay.

She came up on the front porch and that’s when I realized she was making weird meowy noises and her tail was all puffed out.

It was at this point that something made me look over and I froze. Standing in my driveway, appearing like some sort of mythical creature from hell, was a giant German Shepard. Well, probably a normal-sized German Shepard but I was extremely startled, so he may have appeared larger to me.

“Uh,” I said. “Whatcha doing there, buddy?” Possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever said to a dog. The dog was not impressed, baring his teeth and growling.

Let me just pause here and emphasize that I love dogs, especially big dogs. I like a dog to have some girth, you know? However, as he continued to growl and show me his large white pointy teeth, I had a feeling that this dog and I would not be strolling through farmer’s markets anytime soon.

THIS COULD'VE BEEN US.
THIS COULD’VE BEEN US, DOG.

Luckily, he decided I wasn’t worth attacking and ran off. Or maybe disappeared in a puff of smoke, I didn’t really pay attention. I immediately called the dog warden since I didn’t want another unsuspecting porch-sitter to suffer the same fate. Because I am a good neighbor.

But as soon as I relaxed with Emo on my lap the Hound of Calico Court appeared again, moving a little too close for comfort. I stood up quickly and carried Emo in the house.

I want to pause here again to note that Emo is our outside cat and hasn’t been inside in a while. Sabian, her kitten, is now 2 years old and quite the little princess. I set Emo down and peered out the window to keep watch for the dog. Emo looked confused that she was inside but wandered down the hall, probably to see if we redecorated since she was there last.

"You somehow made this room MORE boring."
“Wow, guys, you somehow made this room MORE boring.”

I couldn’t see where the dog was, so I poked my head out the front door. His enormous head popped up and he started toward me, so I let out a very un-brave squeal and slammed the door shut. Looking out the window, I saw him poke his nose around where I had been sitting; my coffee, book and iPhone still outside, abandoned like the less-attractive extras in a disaster movie.

I then remembered in the midst of the chaos that Sabian hadn’t seen her mother in quite a while and was probably not going to be receptive to a pop-in. I walked in the kitchen just in time to witness Sabian giving Emo what I can only describe as an “Oh, I don’t THINK so” look. Here, this cat meme can show you what I mean:

God bless the Internet.
God bless the Internet.

Sabian hissed when she saw her mama, at which point Emo decided she’d rather deal with the Dog of Satan than her ungrateful daughter.

Thankfully,  whoever owned (served?) the demon dog came home and presumably put him back in the Lucifer Suite. Get it? They call it that because that’s where Lucifer stays when he’s in town for… the Hell Festival?

"Please stop."
“Please stop.”

Mind you, this all happened in the span of maybe five minutes, if that. My coffee was still hot when I sat back down. Luckily, Emo and I enjoyed the rest of our morning with no other mythical creatures appearing.

Except for our next-door neighbors, the Vampire Family. But that’s a story for another day.

NO, NOT THAT KIND OF VAMPIRE.
No. Not that kind of vampire.

*Almost

My annoying sidekicks: Depression & Anxiety

The challenge, sometimes, of being a humor writer is that life is rarely hold-your-ribs funny. And sometimes even when things are going okay, your mind goes on the fritz, kind of like a temperamental refrigerator. Except instead of spoiled meat and brown vegetables, you have crying fits and suicidal thoughts.

 

I’ll try to make it funny, I promise. Here’s a picture of a kitten.
I’ll try to make it funny, I promise. Look, kittens!

 

Like, 80% of the time I feel fine. I’m outgoing, folksy, creative, funny and energetic. Maybe with a little dorky and awkward thrown in.

 

Define “a little”…

So it comes as quite an unpleasant surprise when my depression swoops down on me like the anti-Mary Poppins. Instead of a spoonful of sugar I get a headful of crazy. It’s the kind of thing people who have had no history of depression never understand.

I was diagnosed several years ago with depression. I am on medication. A year or so ago my doctor had to up my dosage because my mind started taking me to dark, terrible places that frightened me. I was afraid I would hurt myself. I started having crippling anxiety along with panic attacks.

 

Sorry. Here’s another kitten... in a box!
Sorry. Here’s another kitten… in a box!

 

The comedienne Maria Bamford  talks about her own anxiety and depression issues, which caused her to drop out of the public eye and put her career on hold. She asked the rhetorical question, “Would anyone tell a cancer patient to just “get over it?’” Depression and anxiety are real illnesses, caused by imbalanced neurotransmitters.  That’s right. I know science-y stuff.

 

I have a PhD in Wikipedia Studies.
I have a PhD in Wikipedia Studies.

I can’t control it any more than I could will myself to mend a broken leg. I take meds because I need them to function on a daily basis. Apparently this is very common amongst us “creative types.” Besides the usual artists and writers, great political leaders such as former Prime Minister Winston Churchill openly wrote about his depression, calling it “the black dog.” (Also check out 50 Famous Artists and Thinkers Who Have Struggled With Depression.)

So the thing that makes my brain the special lil’ guy we all know and love is also the thing that causes it turn against me. Living in my head is basically like being chained to a toddler 24/7. You never know what will set it off.

 

Pictured: my brain.
Pictured: my brain.

What is so, so frustrating about this is that it’s still not considered a valid reason to say, call in sick. How do you call in depressed? Literally everyone asks: “What’s wrong?” or “What happened?”

I WAS BORN WITH A CHEMICAL IMBALANCE, THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED. Now can I get back to hiding under my covers until the urge to fling myself out the window goes away? Thanks.

It’s bad enough that I feel “crazy” or “not normal.” The fact that I have to justify how my brain works makes it a million times worse.

 

Literally a million. I’ve done the math.
Literally a million. I’ve done the math.

Because then on top of the anxiety, the depression, the feeling of unworthiness… I feel guilty. And, not only that, but the general opinion (even from friends and family) is that depression is something to be ashamed of. Or, worse, that it’s not “real.” And then I feel alone on top of the top of… it sucks, is what I’m saying. Would I be embarrassed to call in sick because of bronchitis or something… else?

 

"You had your appendix removed? Big woop. Check out what they removed from my colon!"
“Why was I out yesterday? Check out what they removed from my colon!”

So why do I feel the need to make up some phantom illness when I feel this way? So it doesn’t affect my job? So people won’t look at me different? Why should I have to worry about this?

So many questions, it's formed into ONE GIANT QUESTION.
So many questions, it’s formed into ONE GIANT QUESTION.

The answer, of course, is that I shouldn’t. And I’ve decided that I won’t. I’m sick of being unable to talk about it. Also, I’m a really bad liar, you guys. Anytime I’ve had to “make up” an illness, it’s always something totally ridiculous.

 

I have… squishy eyeball disease?
I have… squishy eyeball disease?

I mean, look what hiding from mental illness has done to some truly talented people. We laughed at “train wrecks” like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, but it doesn’t seem so funny now, does it? Sorry, that went to a dark place again.

 

Awww… sleepy kitty!

So, no, I can’t “force myself” to feel better. If I make plans but then am hit with depression and/or anxiety, I’m not going to invent illnesses just so I don’t make people uncomfortable.

 

I’ve come down with oversized cartoon foot disease.
I’ve come down with oversized cartoon foot. But I’m surprisingly okay with it.

 

If I can deal with my depression, then people can deal with hearing about it. (Just to be clear, I’m not going to Ancient Mariner-er people to death about how the brain works, okay?) Nor will I go on and on about my symptoms, like that one old relative we all have who starts talking about her bowel movements as soon as there’s a lull in the conversation.

No, I will just be the eccentric, creative girl who has a deeper side she dared not reveal to the public… until now. Kind of like a funnier version of Sylvia Plath, only less suicide-y.

Too far, Jessie. Too far.
Tsk, tsk. Too far, Jessie. Too far.

I’m back, kind of!

I decided to take a break from grad school for the summer, so I’m all yours until August, when I start back up again.

I’ve really enjoyed my time off so far: soaking up the sun, reading a lot of books, going to the gym (for most people, that’s not “fun,” but I’m kind of a weirdo, in case you haven’t noticed), enjoying a nice glass of wine after work instead of the usual “coffee and a crap-ton of homework.”

My goal before August is to work on my own writing, instead of grad school papers. I’m so sick of APA style, you don’t even know. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW. References, citations, the whole lot of ‘em. Awful. I’m a creative writer, dammit.

So I’m temporarily back on my blog. I’ve missed you guys! I hope you’ve missed me… ? Tell me this isn’t one of those one-sided relationships. Am I the clingy girlfriend? Is this blog like my way of calling and hanging up when you answer and driving past your house? Is it?

Whatever. I’m totally over it.

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Back to Grad School (aka Goodbye, Life!)

Well, this blog thing has been fun, you guys.

Alas, the siren song of grad school has once again lured me into the comfort of its academic bosom.  Did I say comfort? I meant “stranglehold.”

Nonetheless, going back to school and also working full time means I have to give up a few things, like sleep and seeing my family. I read through my first week of assignments in preparation, and as a final farewell I invite you into the out-of-control train that was my thought process upon reading it:

“Wow, that’s a lot of reading.”

“This is all for one week?”

“Ugh, I forgot that writing papers means like, research and stuff.”

“Citing references? Ughhhhh.”

“AND use outside resources besides my textbook? What do I look like, a journalist? I’m a creative writer.

“Well, at least I use APA style at work… the bibliography has to be in APA style, too?! Dammit.”

“WHY DIDN’T I DO GRAD SCHOOL IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING UNDERGRAD? Past Jessie was the worst person ever.” 

“How am I still hungry when I just ate a donut?”

“I really should have gone to the gym today.”

From there my thoughts slowed down in confusion until they screeched to a halt completely. Probably some kind of defense mechanism. My brain, slowly turning to mush on my long sabbatical from school, just had a lot of words to compute. And words are hard. Yes, I’m a writer, why do you ask?

I’d love to tell you that I’ll be back on my break, but I’m afraid that would be like telling your ex-coworker you’re totally going to keep in touch. It probably won’t happen. But I’ll call you, okay? (I’m not going to call you.)

Winter: 1, Me: 0

If I had to describe this weekend, I would call it the Jabba the Hutt of weekends. Just a disgusting, unmotivated blob.

It’s too cold. Too snowy. Too February. 

Every time I attempted to accomplish something this weekend,  my body led me, zombie-like, toward my couch with mindless repetition.

“Maybe I’ll go to the gym,” I thought. My husband then came in the door, letting in frigid cold air.  My body shriveled in protest, gluing me to the couch. So I took a nap instead.

“Maybe I’ll go to the store,” I tried again later. Just then a Friends marathon came on. “Or… not,” I said lamely, settling in once more.

“Maybe I should clean, or something.”  This was really reaching. Needless to say, my cats decided at that exact moment to curl up on my lap, pinning me to the couch with their plushy, purry adorableness .

Okay, February. I shall fight you no longer. I surrender.

Even this blog post is lazy, right? But I just can’t. My brain has turned to bland mush, like oatmeal with no sugar. I need sun. I need to wear shoes that aren’t boots. I miss frying my skin with delicious UV rays. Oh, Creator of Fine Lines and Abnormal Moles, why hast thou forsaken us?

I’m tired of driving home from work in the dark. I’m starting to loathe my winter coat (even if it is bright cherry red and makes me feel like Mary Tyler Moore).  I should be oozing lotion from applying it so much but, ignoring the laws of dermatology, my hands are still dry as sand. Dammit…  I miss sand! I want to sit on a beach with a never-ending supply of margaritas yet never have to pee. (Hey, if I’m dreaming, I’m going all the way, baby!)

While I’m at it, I want to eat all the cheese but have no cellulite. I want to turn into Sofia Vergara, basically. Although that’s not just because of winter. Because, seriously?! Look at her!

HOW IS SHE A REAL PERSON?
HOW IS SHE A REAL PERSON?

That’s all I got, folks. Back to burrowing on my couch until spring. Which, in Ohio, is like a week long, so don’t let me miss it, okay?

Needed: Functioning Adult for Tax Season

Ah, tax time. It’s the time of year that never fails to remind me I have the organizational skills of a 3-month old golden retriever. You know how most normal, functioning adults have some kind of filing system (I assume)? Probably something involving drawers and files and tabs and labels and other things I don’t own. You want to know what my system is? “Throw Everything In a Box and Promptly Forget About It.”

As you can see, I have extensive box experience.
As you can see, I have extensive box experience.

This usually works for me… except once a year, when the dreaded envelope arrives in the mail, bold type ominously proclaiming, “Federal tax information enclosed.”

Noooooooo! Not my W-2’s! That means I have to drag out The Box and sift through a year’s worth of receipts, bills and other paper miscellanea. It might as well be called Box O’Ambien.

This is a different box. GET OUT OF MY STUFF.
This is a different box. GET OUT OF MY STUFF.

Since my husband handles the tax appointment, a horrifying expedition that literally takes half a work day, the responsibility of getting all those nasty papers together falls to me. As awful as it is, it’s a way lesser evil than sitting in Tax Lady’s house for hours, listening to her conspiracy theories and slowly suffocating from cigarette fumes and dog fur. While doing taxes. That’s what hell is, you know that, right? Okay, maybe not the dog fur part. Because all dogs go to heaven, duh. Everyone knows that.

So I was filling out my 2014-2015 FASFA for grad school (my life is full of fun right now) and realized I needed my 2012 taxes as a reference. To The Box! No taxes. A pile of birthday cards? Check. Grocery receipt from an ice cream run? Check. Empty container with no clues to what it formerly contained (possibly ice cream)? Check plus! This is what I’m talking about, folks. How am I allowed to function in society if this is how I run my life? I’m like a kid who constantly spins around in circles, runs into a wall, then gets up and start spinning again.  My entire financial history can be summed up in one word: Derp!

"Where should I file these super-important papers? Derp!"
Me doing taxes. Weeee!

And my husband is worse at this stuff than me, if that’s even possible. How we found each other and what cosmic joke brought our dysfunctional brains together in marriage is something humankind may never know. Instead of balancing each other out, we’re knocking each other down, like a never-ending game of chicken.

Marriage!
Marriage!

My new plan is to place an ad on LinkedIn for a self-loathing, down-on-their-luck and (preferably) desperate accountant-type person to transform our finances into a mecca of organization.  I don’t know what that would look like. A really fancy box?

Or a VINTAGE PICNIC BASKET.
Or a VINTAGE PICNIC BASKET.

Make this happen, someone.