I take awkward to a new level of awkward

I have woefully neglected my blog this Christmas season. Even my last post was a rerun. What sucks is that I’ve had so many ideas for blog posts but have been too busy to write them down. Which means that my brain is overstuffed, filled to way beyond capacity and due for a meltdown any minute. So really, I’m writing this for my own safety.

How my brain could have exploded, probably.
How my brain would have exploded, probably.

I’ve had several people recently compliment me on my writing and tell me how funny they think I am—which is awesome. I love it. It gives me a warm glow similar to taking that first sip of wine. It makes me feel that all my nitpicky editing and agonizing over the perfect word has actually been worth it.

But then I remember how awkward and weird I am in person and that glow quickly turns to paranoia and self-consciousness. I do that thing where you just say words that don’t make sense just so you’re not standing in silence. But then you realize that what you’re saying is gibberish mixed with gobbly-gook and you say even more stupid things. Until your brain is screaming at you to SHUT UP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD but you can’t. So you finally stop talking but then laugh at things that aren’t funny until eventually whoever you’re talking to backs away, smiling nervously and probably blocking you from all social media like a digital restraining order.

"Maybe if I can't see or hear her she'll actually disappear."
“Maybe if I can’t see or hear her I can pretend this never happened.”

It makes me really wish I could just carry around my laptop so that when people talk to me, I’d write the perfect thing to say and then let them read it. And we’d all have a nice, unawkward chuckle because I’m wayyy better in written form than in actual human form.

I think this is why I love fashion and makeup and all that girly stuff so much. Like a magician, I dazzle with my finery so they won’t notice my maniacal jibberjabber. Or people may just think I’m a vacant airhead. Which is a much preferable option than causing them to lock their car doors when they see me in the parking lot, I gotta say.

So my point is, I suppose, that if you ever meet me in person and find yourself wanting to wrap my face in duct tape, don’t worry. I carry an emergency stash just for that purpose. I’ll even help you!

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Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thanksgiving Leftovers

This is an old blog post from fall of ’09. Leftovers from an old blog, if you will. See what I did there? Okay, fine—I’m in the middle of a turkey hangover and didn’t feel like writing a new blog post. Anyway, enjoy.

 This is a tale of the day I decided to take a walk and the disturbing events that transpired as a result. It was a beautiful late afternoon. I walked down down the main road, swinging my arms merrily, with no premonition of what horror would soon befall me. I was ready to turn left at the corner when a neighbor’s bulldog, which had been wandering aimlessly in the yard, saw me and started doing that growly barking thing that dogs do. Still staring at me, he then left the yard and trotted purposefully to where I had stopped short.

I sensed this wasn’t going to be a neighborly chat.  Maybe because his flat eyes had no expression and he was squinting at me like a mob character.

"You disappoint me, my friend."
“I’ll make ya an offer you can’t refuse.”

So I’m standing there, more irritated than afraid, even though at this point the dog is right in front of me and growling.  Every time I’ve been by this house there were always twenty people lounging on the front porch but of course that day there was no one.

I finally spotted movement in the garage and called out impatiently, “Uh, could you call off your dog?”

When I said that, the dog began inching closer to me.  (Still growling, by the way.  When you picture this scene, just picture the dog constantly growling.)

The guy heard me, but took his sweet time until I started getting seriously ticked off. What kind of person just lets their dog accost innocent exercisers?

The dog, probably sensing his owner wasn’t quite done scratching his head over this puzzling conundrum, chose that moment to lunge at my leg.  Luckily, I have long legs and the reflexes of a ninja.  Or maybe I just have long legs and it had the stumpy legs of a bulldog.  Whatever. Luckily, I was able to dance away before any damage was done.  Although it did leave doggy saliva on my cute workout pants.

Unforgivable. Now I’m really steamed. “It just tried to bite me!”

Finally, finally, the owner lopes over and ineffectually makes a grab for the dog.  Oh, and by the way? IT’S NOT EVEN WEARING A COLLAR. Do you know how hard it is to grab a dog that’s not wearing a collar? You could almost see it sneering as it easily backed away out of the owner’s reach.  All it needed was a wife-beater and a cigarette dangling from its jowls.

"Maybe you didn't hear me the first time. I ain't goin' nowheres."
“Maybe you didn’t hear me the first time. I ain’t goin’ nowheres.”

And what do I get from the esteemed owner by way of an apology? This:

DOG OWNER: Huh huh huh. [long pause] Sorry.

Um. What? Your freaking dog just tried to maul me and that’s all I get? Although I think it was really more of an angry hump attempt rather than an attack but still. My leg almost got raped by your dog, pal. And that is NOTHING TO LAUGH ABOUT.

But this was not over, my friend. Not by a long shot.

The next morning I called the county dog warden where I reached an improbably cheerful woman and told her that a neighbor’s uncollared, unleashed dog tried to bite me. (I figured an attempted angry hump wouldn’t impress her so I left that part out.) She said they’d send someone to the house.

I pictured some 7 foot, 300 pound guy coming to the owner’s door and  removing the dog from the house in disgrace. Maybe in handcuffs, with all the other dogs in the neighborhood pointing and laughing. The idea gave me great pleasure.

So after work Eric informs me that the dog warden left a note on our door. What? Did they mix up the address or something? He then says in horror, “You didn’t give them our address, did you?” Like the dude would go up to the owner’s house, point and say, “Hey, the lady who lives in that house said your dog tried to molest her so he must be destroyed. Preferably in front of your children. And I heard her husband say you walk like a woman.” Because dog wardens are troublemaking pot-stirrers, I guess.

How my husband pictured the dog warden. In Eric's defense, this guy is clearly up to no good.
How my husband pictured the dog warden. In Eric’s defense, this guy is clearly up to no good.

Even though I was sure he was just being a paranoid, I called  the dog warden again and was informed they check on both the complainer and the complainee. Okay, whatever. So what happened to the dog? I ask. Waterboarding? A non-stop marathon of The AristicatsWhat?

"NOOOOOOO! I'll be a good dog, I swear!"
“NOOOOOOO! I’ll be a good dog, I swear!”

Do you want to know what happened? The dog warden went by a couple times when no one was home, then when he showed up again a kid answered the door. A kid who claimed he didn’t “know anything about a dog.”

"What dog? I don't know nuthin' about no dog."
“What dog? I don’t know nuthin’ about no dog.”

What kind of kid denies the existence of his own dog?! Let me get a hold of that kid—then we’ll see if his memory improves.  (cracks knuckles) But apparently there’s some law against that or something. Stupid hippies are ruining this country.

Anyway, they can’t give a citation to a minor so that’s it. A crazed dog tries to molest me and gets away with it. This is the direction America is going, people.

However, the kid must have said something to his parents, because while looking out the window one day (not spying on the neighbors), I noticed the Bulldog from Hell on a leash as a woman followed behind picking up doggie poo.  Although I think she should make the dog pick up his own poop as punishment. But one step at a time, my friends. For now, I guess that’s good enough.

When Everyone is Weird, You Become Normal.

It’s so gratifying to finally work in a place where you’re not the only weird one. A place where weird is normal. Ergo, I’m finally normal.

"You can't argue with ergo" ~ this guy
“You can’t argue with ergo.” ~ this guy

Believe it or not, this was not always the case. To make a long, painfully boring story short—but no less painful—my creativeness was once caged up during the workday hours, much like an accident-prone puppy.

My creativity is the CUTEST!
Aww, my creativity is the CUTEST!

I worked okay jobs, it wasn’t like I was a coal miner or anything. Although I did work retail during Christmas season, which is essentially the same thing. But my poor, sad creativity! Whiling away the days staring mournfully out the window and peeing on itself. My creativity is gross sometimes. 

I could only let my creativity roam free when I was off work. Which was really hard for me, as I’ve always been a writer, just like I’ve always been female and super-hot.

Mmm hmmm.
It’s a curse, really.

But girlfriend can’t live on her sweet Dorothy Hamill haircut forever, right? She gots to get paid. And the tiny percentage of my life allotted to writing  just wasn’t doing it for me.

So I finally broke out of the cage, free to pee wherever I wanted. STOP WITH THE PUPPY METAPHOR, JESSIE.

"I'm freeeeee!" ~ my creativity.
“I’m free to peeeee!” ~ my creativity, apparently.

A fellow Ohio University graduate let me know about an open copywriter position, after which I wowed them with my sick writing skillz and sparkling personality. Soon after: boo-ya! I’m a professional writer. (Do people still say “boo-ya?”If I have to ask, then probably not. Moving on.)

I’ve been at my job for two-and-a-half years now (three years in May) and I’m still getting used to my weird ways being the normal way in my department.

It really hits me when we talk to normal people outside our department—people who are not scared of business-y things like percentages, columns and… some other business terminology. Profit margins are a thing, right?

Anyway, we were in this meeting recently where they passed out spreadsheets with the aforementioned business mumbo-jumbo and we all recoiled like they just handed us a basket of snakes.

"Nooooooooooo... anything but Excel!"
“Nooooooooooo… anything but Excel!”

And this was when I had a minor epiphany. I had found my people. For once, it wasn’t just me backing away in horror at the sight of those damn grids, waving my hands and shaking my head as if warding off an evil spirit (which Excel totally is). We did it as a team, gosh darn it. “We’re creatives, don’t show us numbers!”

Numbers are DISGUSTING.
Numbers are DISGUSTING.

The moral of this post, I guess, is that everyone should find their people. Whether you are a numbers person (and therefore in league with the Devil himself) or an artsy person—FIND YOUR PEOPLE. Your work life will improve about a thousand percent.

But don’t quote me on that percentage, because… you know. Numbers.

AHHHHH! It's like looking into hell!
AHHHHH! It’s like looking into hell!

To the woman who did not say thank you when I held the door for her:

Really? Really. REALLY?

You know I saw you see me, right? I saw you see me.

I drew a quick sketch of my facial expression. Why did I draw myself carrying beakers?
Here’s a quick sketch of my baffled disapproval. Although I don’t remember carrying beakers.

In case the incident wasn’t as memorable to you as it was to me, here’s how it went down:

I opened the bathroom door. You were wiping your hands on a paper towel, getting ready to use said paper towel as to not taint your delicate hands on the germy door. To save you the small yet significant inconvenience of opening the door, I held it open for you.

And here is where society as we know it fell apart.

Your eyes slid over in my general direction. I held the door, smiling and waiting. Waiting in vain for a THANK YOU THAT NEVER APPEARED. Because you sailed out the door without so much as a nod.

There I was, smiling like a fool with my folksy, corn-fed Midwestern manners. Wasting valuable face muscles. Face muscles that I could have used to do other things, like chew corn and yell at the Buckeyes.

Corn_3different_types
Because as we all know, us Ohioans eat corn and love OSU football. At the SAME TIME.

And it’s not like the bathroom was wall-to-wall women, bustling with feminine chatter and chaos, and in all the confusion you forgot to say thank you.

No. It was just the two of us, wasn’t it? Two women in an almost empty building, drawn together by biology. We should have been comrades, you and I.  At the very least we should have given each other the “office greeting.” You know what I mean. The generic things you say to an office coworker you don’t know. “Is it Friday yet?” is a popular example.

I literally Googled "Office workers is it Friday yet" and got HUNDREDS of similar images. That's kind of depressing.
I literally Googled “office workers is it Friday yet” and got HUNDREDS of similar images. That’s kind of depressing.

But no. No acknowledgment of the extra seconds and mouth muscles I set aside just so your precious fingers wouldn’t touch the bathroom door. Nothing.

Just the breeze as you kept walking, right past my arm—the arm supporting the door that allowed you to leave the bathroom. Taking with you the tiny, sad remains of polite society and leaving the extinction of human decency in your wake. That’s all.

Oh, and by the way? Those pants were NOT FLATTERING on you.

Pingle out.

320px-SennMicrophone

Writing about writing

You guys, I’m starting grad school in two weeks. Two weeks. Where has this summer gone? I should have my book finished by now… it was on my summer checklist and everything. Well, less a checklist and more a note to myself that read, “Finish your book, idiot.”

Also, the entire point of birthing this website was so I would have a full-grown freelance career. But what did I end up with? A blog that spends the entire day picking its nose, taking up Internet space and contributing nothing to the household.

Get a job, blog.
Get a job, blog.

Maybe if I actually, you know, looked for freelance work, this blog would get up off the couch and do something for me. I have a couple articles I began writing that I could pitch… but have I completed those either? I think we all know the answer to that.

SIGH. Will I have time to keep up this blog? I hope so. The thing is, my “writing brain” is always on. I basically have a whirring disco ball full of bumbling characters that have no idea how to function in this imaginary world I’ve stuck them in. Ideas from my blog run into magazine article ideas and later meet up for drinks with movie ideas and then maybe hook up later with book ideas. It’s like an orgy in my head, man. And it never shuts off. It’s like the all-orgy channel.

Okay, that metaphor just went to a weird place. The point I’m laboring to make is if I don’t get those ideas out, they stay stuck in my brain. That’s how people go crazy, probably.

Wait, what am I doing? Dammit, I’m a writer, not a doctor!
Wait, what am I doing? Dammit, I’m a writer, not a doctor!

So for my own safety, I should probably keep writing. That’s a tagline for writers, right?

Writing: It gets the crazy out.

Screen shot 2013-08-08 at 10.26.27 PM

Well… mostly.

Anything goes… as long as it’s funny

It’s very strange having two kids who are teenagers. When my husband and I got married and I officially became a stepmom, the boys were only four and seven. They were adorable and innocent and now I wish I had started this blog back then so I had a record of all the cute things they used to say.

For instance, whenever they broke something they would say plaintively, “It was on an accident” instead of “It was an accident,” which we always found funny. (They did not, because even though they were cute, they would still get in trouble. Parents are jerks, right?)

Once Gunnar found a stray cat outside our apartment (that he named “Sprinkles” even though it was tiger-striped) and when Eric wouldn’t let him bring the cat inside, Gunnar cried, “You hate God’s creatures!” (Eric countered with, “I don’t hate them; I  just find them filthy and dirty.” Gunnar was not appeased.)

When Gunnar experienced the dreaded “special” health class in fifth grade, he came home and said, “I know all about how babies are made.” Then, with a meaningful look at us: “It’s disgusting.” (“Don’t look at me,” I protested. “I’ve never made babies.”)

At our old apartment, our bedroom’s vent connected with the boys’ vent. So whenever they needed us they would just holler through the vent like it was an intercom: “Dadddyyyyyyy… Jesssssieeeee… we’re hungryyyyyyy.”

Of course, this meant they could also hear us. Whether we wanted them to or not, ifyouknowwhatImean. I still remember Caleb saying to us disapprovingly over breakfast, “I could hear you guys kissing.”

And sometimes we’d watch movies that were funny but probably not age-appropriate. For instance, one night when Eric wasn’t home, the boys and I watched “Dodgeball.” Fairly harmless, but I forgot about the ending when Christine Taylor’s character kisses another girl and says, “I’m not a lesbian, I’m bisexual!” and then proceeds to make out with Vince Vaughn’s character. Not exactly pearl-clutching dialogue, but at the time both boys said, “Ewww!”

Then came the inevitable question: “What’s bisexual?” Gunnar asked.

Oh, dear.  But, amazingly, I came up with a diplomatic answer: “It’s when you like both boys and girls.”

“Oh,” they said solemnly. Then, “Ewww.” (This was in the good old days when the thought of anyone kissing anyone was gross and hilarious.)

Blondie- Gunnar Thug stance- Caleb Grinning fool- me.
Blondie: Gunnar. Thug stance: Caleb. Grinning fool: me.

Now, if we were to watch it and that scene came on, they’d both be like, “All right!” Then they’d probably rewind it and watch the scene again. Ugh.

I think that’s what bothers me most: not that it’s awkward to watch that stuff with the kids, but now there’s no need to explain/avoid explaining what it means.

The other night we all watched Louis CK perform stand-up. My rule has always been: If it’s funny and not tooooo inappropriate, then it’s okay to watch. Since I’m a comedy writer, I try not to censor too much when it comes to comedies.

For example, Tosh.0 gets on all of my nerves, but I don’t forbid the boys to watch it; I just don’t want to be around when they do. (Although Eric claims he’s heard me laughing while it was on. Filthy lies.) But on the other hand, a few years ago I watched one of Dane Cook’s stand-up routines and not only was it incredibly vulgar, it wasn’t even funny. Unforgivable. So I banned them from watching that.

I have weird rules, you guys. Deal with it.

For some reason that night Caleb was being all grumpy and teenagery. The whole time Louis CK was on he kept interrupting and saying things like, “Oh, it’s funny when he says the “F” word…”

After he had interrupted approximately five million times, Gunnar  hit “pause” with pointed emphasis, looked over at Caleb and said sarcastically, “Anything else you’d like to say? Any other comments? Come on! Get ‘em out now!” which for some reason I thought was just as funny as the comedian. It’s hard to convey in blog form how funny Gunnar is because it’s all in his expression and the way he says things. I’d post a picture of him but I think he’d literally kill me. So just trust me… it was funny.

Everyone quieted down and, after glaring at all of us, Gunnar hit “play.” And we watched a brilliant comedian and laughed our butts off… as a family.  Anything we can all enjoy together is a rare and precious gift during these dark teenaged times.

So if I have to watch a guy tell hilariously inappropriate jokes just to hang out with my boys… I’ll take it. Even if now the boys insist on explaining the jokes to me. 

Ewww.

Present day. (Well, 6 months ago.)
Present day. (Well, 6 months ago.) *Still* thrilled to have their picture taken, clearly.

And this is why candy is bad for you

So a few nights ago, Caleb decided he wanted to make eggs. At 10:30 at night. For a “snack.”

“You are NOT making eggs for a snack!” Eric and I said.

Caleb was indignant. “Why not?”

“Well, for starters, you had a double Baconator and fries for dinner,” I said.

Caleb waved his hands dismissively. “That was hours ago.”

“No,” I repeated.

“But there’s nothing here to eat for a snack!” said Caleb in the same tone one might say, “But there’s no ammunition left and we’re surrounded by zombies!”

“And,” he went on triumphantly, “it’s too late! I already broke the eggs and put milk in the bowl.”

“Oh, no,” I said in mock horror. “There’s no turning back now!”  I jabbed a pointed finger at the bowl. “Just wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator. You can eat them in the morning.”

Gunnar chimed in from across the room. “Won’t that cause problems? I mean, what if he wakes up in the morning and it’s like a mutated chicken?”

“I don’t think you understand how eggs work,” I said.

“Wait a minute,” Eric said suddenly. “Why don’t we have any snack food? Didn’t we have like three containers of ice cream?”

“That was from a week ago,” Caleb claimed.

“No, it wasn’t!” we both exclaimed.

“Caleb, that was Saturday.” I counted on my fingers. “Four days ago!”

Eric’s face turned deadly. “My Reese’s cups better still be in the freezer,” he said threateningly.

Let me pause to explain something here. My 40-year old husband has the sweet tooth of all the children in Willy Wonka combined.  Ever since I’ve known him, he has guarded his “snacky treats” with the vigilance of the Lucky Charms leprechaun. His sister loves telling the story of the time she babysat for the boys and Eric forbade her to eat any of his Oreos. He will count them, you guys. And woe to the hapless child (or wife)  who eats them without his knowledge. “There were twelve Oreos in here and now there are only eight. Who ate four Oreos?” I’m surprised he doesn’t have a security camera set up in front of our pantry, maybe with an electrified net to catch nefarious cookie-snatchers.

My husband's worst nightmare.
My husband’s worst nightmare.

Okay, so back to the story.

“Oh, I ate one, honey,” I said.

“WHAT?!?”

There are not enough punctuation marks in the English language to convey how angry he sounded in that moment. But luckily I was able to draw a quick sketch:

July23
Uncanny likeness, right?

I stiffened at his tone and turned around. “What?”

He ignored me. “Well, how many are left?!?”

“There are three left. It was a king-sized.” I glared at him. “Are you yelling at me about candy?”

He huffed and puffed. “Well…” he started.

Oh, I don’t think so, mister.  “You know that thing you wanted to do tonight?” I asked. “Not happening.” I made a sassy “Nu-UH, honey!” gesture and flounced out of the room.

Gunnar and Caleb looked horrified.

“I don’t think I want a snack after hearing that,” Caleb said.

Okay, I lied. I’m back.

This was supposed to be a non-working blog. A place where I display my wares and walk away, like those kiosks in the mall that sell stuff like soap made with salt from the Dead Sea. Then when you pause for a nano-second, because you have an eyelash in your contact or something, they appear from nowhere with a charming yet purposeful air. “May I help you?”

THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ME. I’m creepy sea salt lady.

But I couldn’t stay away! You know how hard it is for a writer to have an audience at her very fingertips and not write?

Clearly impossible.

I have too much on my mind to not write. Let me take you on a tour through my thoughts. Watch your step, it’s sticky.

I got into grad school and start in August which is like a FEW MONTHS away and I’m freaking out.

I loved college. Loved it. But I also worked part time on the weekends, lived at home, and graduated over ten years ago. My brain has got a lot slower since then, I work full-time, I have a house, a husband, a family… ahhhhh! What was I thinking? How am I going to do this? What if I fail? What if I’m the class dummy? What if everyone gets it but me????

See above re: freaking out.

I’m trying to write a book and I can’t find the time/energy to work on it.

I wanted to finish my book before I went back to school. I had a plan. I was going to write such-and-such words a day—not an unreasonable amount, either. A totally doable amount. But I haven’t done it. I was on fire for a few weeks, then pffft. I wrote a book in a freaking month for NaNoWriMo, so I know it can be done. So what’s my problem? Blaaaaarg.

Lastly, the whole point of this blog was to garner some freelance work.

I’ve garnered exactly two things:  1) A woman asking if there are any job openings at my place of employment (there aren’t) and 2) another woman who wrote to me for marriage advice after reading one of my xojane articles. Do I look like f%^&ing Dear Abby? Go see a marriage counselor!

WHAT THE CRAP, Y’ALL.