Pantyless in the Street

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On a warm summer evening during college, my best friend Kim and I headed for a park to engage in our favorite ritual: chowing down on ice cream while watching people jog.

It’s pretty much the most evil thing a person can do.

We sat down on a bench near the running paths, and I smoothed out the skirt of my short sundress. Kim and I most often engaged in this voyeuristic activity when one of us had something to talk about, and this time was no different. She began discussing something I no longer remember the details of, but was probably hugely important and serious to us at the time.

As she talked, I soon started to feel a strange sensation coming from my legs – it was sort of tingly, almost like tiny, tiny people were poking me with tiny, tiny pitchforks. Not really painful, but definitely noticeable. Taking another bite of my ice cream, I tried to shake off the odd feeling and shifted my focus back to Kim.

A couple minutes later, the sensation began spreading upward toward my…. nether regions.

I sat up ramrod straight, extremely aware of the not-okay feeling coming from my crotch, but still trying to listen to my friend. Her story was heartfelt and serious, and it seemed rude to interrupt her with off-topic updates of my lady garden.

A couple moments later, I had drastically changed my mind about trying to be polite. It now felt as though the tiny people poking me had replaced their pitchforks with big, fiery torches. With blades coming out of them. The sensation was quickly growing more and more intense.

I put down my ice cream. Something was very wrong.

“SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG!” I blurted out to Kim, no longer able to focus on her tale.

Being the incredibly sweet person she is, she immediately abandoned her story and looked at me with alarm and concern, asking if I was okay.

I don’t remember what my exact response was. I probably gave her a wide-eyed, panic-stricken look and yell-whispered that my delicate bits were on fire and we needed to leave immediately. My confused-but-always-loyal best friend threw away the rest of our ice cream (which should show you how serious this situation was), and we sprinted to my car.

Just like that, we’d gone from watching runners to being runners. I mean, sort of. Most runners probably don’t get their motivation from having fiery switchblades in their underwear. They also probably don’t have to use all their willpower to keep from frantically pawing at themselves.

I was convinced I was dying. I imagined what my headstone would say, and hoped it wouldn’t be something like: “Died from Spontaneous Crotch Combustion.”

Once we were in my car, I recklessly reversed out of the parking spot and began speeding down the street. The feeling grew even more painful.

“SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG WITH ME!” I repeatedly screamed at Kim. For some reason, it was important to me to make her understand just how freaked out I was. I think she got it.

Unfortunately for her, trying to drive a car while you’re in pain and panicking is not a great plan. There was a lot of harsh braking and swerving.

“Just stop the car!” She eventually yelled, wildly waving her arms at me.

And I did – right in the middle of the street. There was no time to pull to the curb. I scrambled out of the car and reached up my dress for my underwear, mentally grateful that I hadn’t worn pants. Easy access, indeed.

Standing there in the public street, in my cute little sundress, I pulled off my underwear.

And I found fucking FIRE ANTS crawling around in them. My mother doesn’t like it when I curse in my writing, but I think even she’d agree it’s warranted here.

Apparently, they’d been all over the park bench, and because it was dark out, neither of us had noticed them. It appeared that the ants were angry with us for showing up uninvited and crushing a few of their friends. Lucky-ass Kim had been in jeans, and was protected from the ants’ wrath.

I screeched with both disgust and righteous fury as I violently flicked the ants from my underwear. Kim discovered more in my driver’s seat, and set about systematically killing them.

Finally, I was able to return to my car, still sans underwear, and still throbbing. Only now, I also felt somewhat emotionally traumatized. The literal ants in my pants had beaten me.

The night ended with the two of us holed up in Kim’s bathroom – me pitifully spreading cortisone cream on my horrifically-located ant bites, while Kim made soothing noises at me.

Anyone else gotten into battles with mother nature? Or perhaps found themselves unwittingly sans panties in public? If there are enough of us, we could start a support group.

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Letter to My Cantankerous Computer

Dear Laptop,

As we approach our TEN-YEAR anniversary, I’ve been looking back over our time together. We’ve been through so much, haven’t we? High school, college, and grad school assignments, infinite Google searches (which you’ve never judged), and lots of illegal downloads of poor-quality Limewire music. (Sorry about all the viruses.)

You’ve truly done many amazing things for me.

However, there’s a lot wrong with you.

Your battery died a long time ago, and I not only have to keep you plugged in at all times, I also have to keep your cord in the exact correct position. You’re irrationally fussy about that, so I’ve had to TAPE your cord to keep it in place. For the record, that’s not normal. If it’s jostled even the tiniest bit, you instantly shut down.

That is immature, controlling behavior that marriage therapists would call “stonewalling.”

Further, do you know what you’ve put me through each time you’ve randomly shut off? Whenever you did this during my work on research papers, I got pretty angry with you. I considered setting you on fire more than once. When you’d take your precious time turning back on, my anger would turn to anxiety that maybe this was it – maybe you really were dead this time. Anguish would set in. I’d contemplate throwing myself on you and sobbing. And then finally, your screen would glow bright with technological health, and I’d feel a rush of relief.

You manipulative bastard.

Speaking of death, you’ve also completely crashed and died, and then been brought back to life – TWICE. I admit, I wasn’t innocent in that situation – because I didn’t use the right protection, you got some pretty serious viruses. But that was so long ago, and let’s keep in mind that my behavior was accidental. Can you say the same for yours?

Honestly, I’m not sure whether to be pissed at your flair for drama, or impressed by your ability to resurrect.

The most baffling is when you allow your “on” button to fall inside of the computer, and then I have to fish it out with a straightened paper clip. Why do you do this, laptop? Do you realize that this is a quick ticket to electrocution for me? I can’t unplug you during the procedure, because I need the on button to stay lit up so I can find it.

If you ask me, you’re just doing this shit for attention.

My feelings about you have followed the same predictable pattern found in human relationships. I was thrilled when we first met! We were both so young back then, weren’t we? Then after a little time together, once I learned all the great things about you, I was in love. Now, after years of your bad behavior and my shouting obscenities at you, our relationship feels a bit rocky.

But despite the tension, I recognize that you really have done a lot for me. You continue to store every picture I’ve taken and every song I’ve downloaded since I was seventeen. You helped me obsessively scour the Internet for jobs when I finished grad school. You’ve kept me entertained with games like FreeCell and Snake, and you’ve supported me through all that Facebook stalking.

So maybe, just maybe, I can overlook the fact that you won’t let me download the latest version of iTunes. You’re incredibly old (in technology years), and clearly, there are some things you just can’t do anymore.

Others see you, with your taped cord, and fragile “on” button, and they just don’t understand you. They want me to leave you for a newer model. But we’ve been together for 10 years – which, let’s face it, is probably longer than the average REAL marriage. You don’t end a relationship like that without good reason.

No, I could never just leave you, dear laptop.

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Unless your quirks start to outweigh your usefulness – then I probably will.

Sincerely yours,
Amanda

Queso Critique: Jack Allen’s Kitchen

Jack Allen’s Kitchen (Austin)

Sometimes, it’s nice to take an entire week off of work and go to the beach. But when that’s not possible, it’s still pretty good to take half a day off and try a new queso.

For this occasion, it was Amanda’s restaurant of choice, and she selected Jack Allen’s Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant in southwest Austin. We elected to sit on the patio, which was enclosed and heated to protect us from the harsh, harsh winters of central Texas. It was all toasty and cozy out there, like being back in the womb.

Or something less creepy.

As a side note, we decided that our waitress, with her curly red hair and light eyes, looked like a real-life version of Merida from Brave. She should definitely put aside whatever respectable career/vocational goals she has and just be a Disney princess. Livin’ the dream.

Anyway, after taking our drink order, “Merida” (because we can’t remember her real name) brought us a complimentary sample of the house-made pimiento cheese with crackers. I wish I could say we were given free food because we’re world-famous queso critics, but that’d be a lie: they give samples to all restaurant peasants… er, patrons.

Regardless, it was BONUS CHEESE. And was very good.

I was strangely surprised that the menu only offers one type of queso – we’ve definitely been spoiled by so many restaurants offering multiple variants of the spicey cheese. Nevertheless, the Carl Miller’s Layered Chunky Queso came with guacamole and green chile pork, which made us happy ladies.

You might say that meat-filled quesos have become quite imporktant to us. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Similar to the Smoked Pork Queso at the River City Grille, this queso had a thinner-than-usual consistency, most likely from the meat juices, but was fortunately not dripping-down-your-chin liquidy. There wasn’t a lot of spice, but enough was there to give it a nice flavor.

The crème de la crème of this dish was easily the pork. Much of it was so finely shredded and cooked down that you couldn’t really taste it separately from the cheese – BUT the bigger pieces, the “chunky” aspect of the dish’s name, were wonderfully tender and flavorful. Admittedly, it was a little challenging to scoop the pieces up with the chips, but sometimes, you just have to be willing to put in some work. We gave the Layered Chunky Queso an honorable 8.5 out of 10! (Revised score: 3.5).

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Carl Miller’s Layered Chunky Queso from Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Austin

Queso Criteria

website for Jack Allen’s Kitchen

E.T. No Phone Home

It seems as though everybody has one simple, daily task that they absolutely loathe. Chores like paying bills, or vacuuming: easy, straightforward things that are mundane to 99% of the population, but manage to trip up and befuddle a small faction of people.

Hands down, my dreaded duty is making phone calls.

It’s a task that requires very little to no skill, and yet, I’m terrible at it. In person, I can interact with you like a somewhat-well-functioning human being. I can listen to what you say, provide clues to let you know I’ve understood you (or not), and then reply in an appropriate manner.

I’m a communicating champion.

Sort of.

But get me on the phone, and I turn into a total friggin’ weirdo. Imagine the rigidity of a robot combined with the wide eyes and manic behavior of a hyper Chihuahua, and you have an idea of what I’m like.

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Talking on the phone causes me to instantly develop a disability that I’ll call “Impaired Phone Hearing” – meaning I have totally normal hearing in everyday life, but on the phone, I inexplicably cannot hear or understand half of what people say.

Also, after asking them to repeat themselves 2-3 times, I get worried that I’m bothering them, so I’ll pretend to understand them, even when I don’t.

Grandparent: “Amanda, I need a new kidney and you’re a match. Can I have yours?”

Me (not understanding): “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

Grandparent: “Can I have your kidney? Mine’s not working.”

Me (still not understanding): “Sorry, still didn’t quite catch that.”

Grandparent: “Gimme your kidney.”

Me (giving up): “Erm…alrighty then! Sounds good!”

Note: the above conversation didn’t actually happen. Probably.

Another issue is the lack of nonverbal cues. Facial expressions are an important part of communication, and without them, I’m apparently a social skills disaster. When I can’t see the other person’s reaction, I become paranoid that the mild, harmless joke I just made may have gravely disturbed them, so I back-pedal in an atrociously graceless way.

Parent of child client: “I tried to call you yesterday, but the lady who answered said no one was in the office.”

Me: “Yes, we all decided to just leave and go home for the day!” (Laughs jovially).

Parent is silent for less than half a second. Panic sets in.

Me: “JUST KIDDING! We were off for the holiday!” (Makes loud noise that is half-laugh, half-whimper)

Note: the above conversation actually did happen.

The absence of nonverbal cues mingles together with my Impaired Phone Hearing disability to create a perfect storm of phone awkwardness.

The worst of the stories comes from when I worked at a rehabilitation center, where my entire job involved calling people. All day long, I phoned former clients of the rehab and asked them overly personal questions about their sobriety and employment.

The following is a cringe-worthy phone conversation catastrophe that actually took place:

Me: “Hi, this is Amanda with Such-and-Such Rehab. Is this a good time to answer a few questions?”

Guy: “Uh, how long will it take?”

Me: “Only about five minutes!”

Guy: “Well, actually, this isn’t a good time. My son is dying.”

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Gulp.

His devastating statement kicked the perky attitude right out of me. Based on the information I had about this client, I knew he was young, and therefore, must have had a very young child. I genuinely felt shocked and sad on his behalf.

Me: “Oh, my God. I am so sorry, sir.”

Guy: “Eh, it’s fine.”

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Hmm. Guy on phone sounded remarkably relaxed about his dying child, which only increased my shock and discomfort. I know people grieve in different ways, but who feels “meh” about their kid dying? Several painful seconds passed before I was able to form a polite and professional response.

Me: “Why don’t I just call back at another time. Do you think a month from now would be okay?”

Guy: “Uhhh, you can just call me tomorrow…”

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Confusion riddled my brain. His son was dying today, but tomorrow would be a better time to talk? What could he possibly mean by that? And why did he sound confused, too? What the hell was the matter with this dude? I struggled to come up with a reply.

Me: “Uhh….Nah. It’s… uh, cool if we put the follow-up off for a while. I’ll just call you back in about a month, okay?” Please let this conversation be over now.

Guy: “Seriously, it’s fine. I’ll just charge it tonight and it’ll be good to go tomorrow.”

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…WHAT?!

Oh.

OH.

Turns out, his phone was dying. Not his son. He didn’t even HAVE a son.

The man simply declined the follow-up interview because his battery was going out, and I responded with over-the-top sympathy and offers to give him space.

Please sir, take thirty days to mourn your dying phone. No, no – I insist.

Is anyone else strangely inept on the phone? Please tell me there are more of “me” out there.

We May Not be Fancy, but We’re Fun

My mom arrived in town tonight for a weekend of shopping, eating, and other mother-daughter shenanigans.

With nothing on T.V., we decided to watch a movie, and Mom picked A Perfect Murder, a dark and twisty 1998 film with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s a great watch, if you’ve never seen it. But you probably won’t want to see it, because I’m about to ruin a huge aspect of the plot: Emily doesn’t die, you guys.

Paltrow’s character, Emily, comes from a very affluent family. After surviving her own attempted murder (and killing her attacker in self-defense), she goes to stay with her mother in a huge-ass mansion. And then the mother and daughter team put on their finest cardigans and headbands, and sit down to a comforting dinner – complete with fine china and silver serving dishes.

Because that’s what you do for someone who was nearly murdered. Obviously.

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A PERFECT MURDER, Gwyneth Paltrow, Constance Towers, 1998, (c)Warner Bros.

Taking in this scene with more than a little judgment, I turn to my Mom.

“Can you imagine you and I having a casual mother-daughter dinner where we eat off silver and china?” (And discuss the guy I just killed.)

Mom didn’t hesitate to answer. “Nope. No, I can’t.”

“We’re more of the eating-pizza-on-the-couch-in-our-yoga-pants variety of people, aren’t we?”

Mom nodded. “And the pizza came from Walmart.”

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Cake It Up, part 2: The Music Video

Soon after writing the carb-loving song featured in part 1 of  Cake It Up, I quickly and irrationally developed a dream of turning it into a music video. I pictured humans dressed as various food items, merrily singing the lyrics in unison.

While also performing some choreographed dance moves. Or maybe break-dancing.

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Just look at these people. Look how happy they are.

I’m so grateful to have friends who not only share my enthusiasm for food, but also indulge me in my odd daydreams by volunteering to be the dancing foods.

Now that’s friendship.

And as we all know, jokingly offering to do something is legally binding in the state of Texas. Which means I’m holding you to this, people.

Therefore, WHEN (not if) this song becomes a music video, you will see these fine people portraying these fine foods:

Kim – a frighteningly large piece of chocolate cake – not because Kim is large, but because the cakes we devour are. If possible, her costume would involve a scoop of ice cream as well, because we like to combine multiple desserts into one. We’re efficient that way.

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This one is way cuter than I envisioned it.

Amanda: Not surprisingly, I see my fellow cheese-judger dressed as a bowl of queso, perhaps surrounded by tortilla chips. I’m a little concerned that this costume might be a bit cumbersome to walk in, let alone dance in, but Amanda’s mostly coordinated, so I’m sure she’ll do fine! Or she won’t. But either way it’s okay, because seeing a falling bowl of human queso would be entertaining all on its own.

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Haylee – a roll of raw cookie dough, plain and simple. Maybe with a chocolate chip hat. We’re courageous souls, unfazed by fears of salmonella.

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Heather – definitely a bowl of macaroni and cheese, in honor of our favorite (okay, only) dorm meal in college. Preferably, she’d be of the Velveeta Shells & Cheese variety. Only the finest of brands for my friends!

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I’m not quite sure yet how any of these costumes will get created. I’m pretty crafty, but I have next to no sewing skills. If you have expert sewing ability and would like to get involved in a weird project for no pay, you know who to contact!

…Actually, if you know anything about choreography or filming music videos, that’d be helpful, too.

I’ll even put your name in the credits of my music video.

 

Cake It Up

One day at work, I took a seat at the table in our staff kitchen and pulled out my sad-looking lunch of apple slices and a turkey sandwich. A few other coworkers took seats around me and set about fixing their own meals. Everyone chatted politely about how their days were going so far, and then the conversation gradually drifted onto the subject of dieting.

I’m sure you know what conversation I’m talking about. Everyone goes around the table and lists the various foods they’re currently depriving themselves of in the never-ending pursuit to be slimmer. On this particular day, some were denouncing the evils of carbs, some were avoiding dairy, and others were giving the stink-eye to any non-lettuce food item whatsoever.

Usually, when it’s my turn to “share,” I simply shrug off the questions by making a joke (deflecting with humor? So unlike me), and then continue to cheerfully munch on my delicious-tasting carbs and dairy products.

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This time was different, however. Maybe I was having a rough day, and my defenses were already down. Maybe after weeks of hearing this lunchtime ritual repeated over and over, it was finally getting to me a little. Either way, I found myself looking down at my sandwich and apple… and getting really frustrated.

Was my sandwich, consisting of turkey, mustard, spinach, and cheese really THAT unhealthy? Should I start eating more salads, and less bread? Should I give up fruit, since it has sugar? But wait – I thought the sugar in fruit was okay for you. Now you’re saying any and ALL sugar is bad?

My confusion continued to grow, fueled by a feeling of indignation. I sat there at the table, steaming inside, while my face pretended to be enthralled in a discussion about the merits of Kale vs. Spinach.

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Get it? I was STEAMING over kale and spinach. Okay, I’ll stop.

From my irritation, I reached a conclusion that brought me an ounce of satisfaction:

I can choose to eat bread and not feel guilty about it.

I will do my best to eat a variety of things to keep my body and mind healthy, but I will not mentally punish myself if I eat a cupcake. I will not let others’ negative comments about the wickedness of dairy enter my brain when I’m drinking a glass of milk. I will continue to prepare my meals as I see fit, and try really hard to not be so influenced by others.

I’m young, healthy, and this is the only life I’m going to get, so I’m going to choose to eat some fucking carbs.

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As I picked up my sandwich (my new symbol of defiance) and chewed with vigor, Taylor Swift’s song “Shake it Off” suddenly popped in my head. Her lyrics were already somewhat relevant to my situation, but as some sort of odd coping mechanism, I started channeling my thoughts and aggravation into a song of my own.

I wound up with this rebellious little ditty. Read it to the tune of Swift’s “Shake it Off:”

I eat too many carbs
They’re not good for my heart
that’s what people say, mm mm
That’s what people say, mm mm

I should eat some more protein
Maybe that would make me lean
At least that’s what people say, mm mm
But I just want more cake, mm mm

Oh, all that pasta
Pizza, cookies, chocolate
It’s like I’ve got this tempting in my mind,
saying, “just one more little bite.”

‘Cause Atkins gonna hate hate hate hate hate
Say, ‘you gotta lose some weight weight weight weight’
Baby, I’m just going to cake cake cake cake cake – cake it up! Cake it up!
Well, the experts they all fight fight fight fight fight
About which foods are right right right right right
Baby, I’m just gonna nom all night night night – nom all night! Nom all night!

What kind of diet hates on fruit?
Oh, that is just no good
I gotta have my grapes, mm mm
Don’t care that I’m no waif, mm mm

I think I could give up some meats
Oh, it wouldn’t be easy
But as long as I have cheese, mm mm
It’s all better with some cheese, mm mm

Oh, all that pasta
Pizza, cookies, chocolate
It’s like I’ve got this tempting in my mind
saying, “just one more little bite.”

‘Cause Atkins gonna hate hate hate hate hate
Say, ‘u gotta lose some weight weight weight weight’
Baby, I’m just going to cake cake cake cake cake – cake it up! Cake it up!
Well, the experts they all fight fight fight fight fight
About which foods are right right right right right
Baby, I’m just gonna nom all night night night – nom all night! Nom all night!

What’s the Opposite of Decorating?

Today, I forced myself to do something that was necessary, but completely awful. Torturous, even.

I finally put away Christmas decorations and took down my tree.

…Am I the only one who finds this task incredibly depressing?

In late November, like many others, I so look forward to dragging out the torn and tattered boxes of decorations. I listen to Christmas music and sip hot chocolate while lovingly finding homes for each little trinket. It’s a comforting ritual.

And the best part is, for over a month, I get to enjoy the sight of my lit-up tree with presents underneath, in all of their glistening and glittery glory. Nothing gets me in the holiday mood faster.

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Unfortunately, while getting the ornaments out is loads of fun, putting them away comes with no fanfare. You spend all that time and effort, neatly balling up the lights, re-wrapping ornaments in tissue paper, and what do you get?

A home that looks way less festive than it did an hour ago, and a reminder that the next Christmas is a super long time away.

And that’s just sad.

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I almost feel sorry for the process of putting away decorations, because it’s gotten a pretty bad rap and clearly no one likes it that much. What do you even call this procedure? Is there an antonym for “decorating”? Undecorating? Anti-decorating?

Since it’s such a melancholy task, I came up with some ideas for making this ritual a little less soul-crushing, and a little more interesting.

Ways to Make the Undecorating Process More Fun:

• Do everything blindfolded!
Blindly fumbling around for the ornaments is bound to be entertaining for all involved. However, you’re disqualified if you break that extremely fragile one that your grandma gave you when you were a baby. That’s not cool.

• Put things away without using your hands!
Pretend that you lost your hands to a rare flesh-eating bacteria, or some other horrific event, and you’re now forced to use other body parts for tasks. Imagine reaching for a delicate ornament with your toes, or removing a string of lights with your elbows. Hilarity ensues.

• Turn it into a drinking game!

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• Leave the tree out, and decorate it with non-Christmas items!
Personally, I like the idea of finding old pictures of past presidents and sticking them all over the tree. Voila! Early President’s Day décor! Bonus points if you sing “O President’s Tree” while doing this.

Maybe one of these suggestions will become the next big holiday tradition! (Much like the Santa Gremlin.) Or perhaps you and your family will come up with your very own little ritual. Either way, It’s about time that we make “undecorating” just as fun as decorating!

Okay, maybe not as fun, but at least not as terrible.

Side Note: Out of curiosity, I googled, “Antonyms of decoration” and one of the results was “Eyesore.” Seems fitting.

 

Maybe I Don’t Want Kids

I decided I wanted to do something a bit different for this post, so it’s both longer and seriouser than what I usually write. Fair warning.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m really not sure that I ever want to have kids.

I have liked children and enjoyed being around them pretty much my entire life. I was still in elementary school when I started baby-sitting younger children in my neighborhood, and by middle school, I was watching babies.

(Now that I’m an adult, I seriously question the sanity of any parent who would leave an infant with an untrained eleven-year-old, but that’s beside the point.)

For a few summers in a row, I even held “mini camps,” where all the children in my neighborhood could descend on my house for a few hours for snacks, art projects, and outdoor activities.

The camps were lots of fun – and also probably illegal, once you took the child-to-caregiver ratio into account.

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It’s a bit tricky to explain my line of thinking in regards to having kids. I think most people hear about others not wanting children, and assume it’s because they either dislike them, or because they have circumstances that get in the way of child-rearing, such as fancy, high-powered jobs.

Neither of those is true for me. I have worked at daycares, I have worked in foster care, and I currently work as a child and adolescent counselor. I’m also quite close with my niece and nephew. I very much do like children.

But I still don’t know that I want my kids of my own.

Through all the baby-sitting, child care, and counseling, I have experienced many amazing moments with kids. I have rocked sleepy babies, I have witnessed toddlers’ awe at discovering new things, I have giggled with preschoolers, and I have had fascinating conversations with older children and teens.

I have felt total elation at being a part of so many “firsts” – first steps, first days of school, first time swimming without floaties. I have played dress-up, acted as a tickle monster, made up songs, painted tiny fingernails, and cooked pancakes in the shape of hearts – all while genuinely enjoying myself.

However, I have also experienced what it’s like to hold a screaming baby in one arm, stir dinner with the other, and shout at the toddlers in the next room to share their toys. I have changed diapers, only for them to be dirtied again with seconds. I have been in public with bloodshot eyes, a pale face, uncombed hair, and spit-up on my shoulder.

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I have known the bewilderment and frustration of having a child throw a temper tantrum for reasons I don’t understand, and can therefore do nothing about. And I have, at times, dare I say, been annoyed by the antics of overexcited kids.

Gasp. Better notify the church elders.

If you’re a parent, or have provided childcare in some way, you’re probably thinking, “But everyone gets annoyed with kids sometimes! Everyone has days where they want to pull their hair out!”And you would be absolutely right.

But the difference is, on the days that I feel annoyed and stressed out, I am still being PAID for my services. Big difference.

Also, at the end of a long day, I can go home to a quiet apartment, take a hot shower without little hands banging on the door, and go to sleep in a bed not covered in cheerios. Parents don’t have those luxuries.

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Maybe this is selfish, but I find the idea of having to cater to a tiny person’s needs, 24/7, with NO time for myself, terrifying. Props to all of you who do it.

One thing I’ve learned through countless discussions with parents, whether in my role as a children’s counselor, or simply with friends and family, is this:

Parenting is hard, y’all.

It is a never-ending job in a company that you have no hope of moving “up” in. There are no lunch breaks, no sick days, and the boss is not at all understanding if you find the work overwhelming. There are many, many “thankless” jobs out there, where employees don’t receive much positive feedback from customers (or employers) – but parents have it way worse.

Children actually don’t say things like, “Thank you for prohibiting me from skateboarding in the street, Mommy. I understand now you were trying to protect me from being run over and killed, and I appreciate your concern for my safety, and your desire to see me live. Let’s have some tea.”

Paradoxically, even though everyone seems to understand and agree that parenting is difficult, everyone on the planet LOVES to criticize parents – especially other parents!

We shake our fingers at those who we perceive as being too harsh, and roll our eyes at those we see as being too lenient. We turn up our noses at the sight of toddlers tantruming at Walmart, disregarding the times that our own children (or baby-sitting charges) did the same thing.

We conveniently forget what it feels like to be that stressed, confused, embarrassed parent, in favor of judging them so we can feel better about our own skills.

 

Is it really so odd that I might want to spare myself from these types of challenges?

For me, the advantages of having children are about equal with the disadvantages. The one thing that may very well push me over the edge is fear – if I don’t have kids, I think there’s a very real possibility of reaching old age and regretting my decision. To be fair, it’s also possible that I’d reach old age and feel perfectly content with my choices, but the fear of maybe being regretful and sad just might be enough to convince me.

We’ll see what happens.

Bar Chart (2)

Zero Shades of Gray

So many issues in life are not simply black and white.

 

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Our society is incredibly and beautifully complex, and it’s not always possible, or even preferable, to divide things into two clean columns. Whether you’re deciding on the moral decency of the death penalty, debating nature vs. nurture, or ranking the deliciousness level of a queso, the truth is almost always broader, richer, and “grayer” than we give it credit for.

On the other hand, a lot of things in life really are dichotomous.

Call me divisive, but I do think that some issues can be split into black/white, either/or categories, and there’s simply no room for “happy mediums” or shades of gray.

Things such as:

• The Friendliness of Squirrels  
All squirrels are either lovely woodland creatures straight from Snow White who come up to you with their tiny little squirrel faces, and are so cute that you just want to put a couple of them in the pocket of your sweatshirt and take them home and make them your babies and live happily ever after, and they’re totally worth writing a rambling run-on sentence for because they’re just THAT adorable,

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The squirrels at the Austin state capitol are especially charming.

 or they’re mutant beasts who block your path and glare at you with murder in their eyes. There is no in-between.

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• My Manners at Walmart
I dread ALL trips to the grocery store, but my ability to conceal this feeling varies from trip to trip. Sometimes, I am the epitome of grocery store etiquette: I smile at everyone, I offer to reach things that the height-challenged folks can’t get to, and I graciously allow others to go by when it’s really my right of way.

If I’m feeling jazzy, I’ll even throw in an “after you, fine sir!” for good measure.

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Other times, my grocery cart becomes a weapon that I use during a fit of road rage. I dash down the aisles like a madwoman, and obnoxiously careen around people who dare get in front of me on my way to the lunchmeat. If I come close to genuinely running someone over, I shoot them semi-apologetic eyes. But I don’t slow down.

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• People’s Opinions about Cilantro  
No other herb is as polarizing as cilantro. Hell, possibly no other thing on Earth is as polarizing. I’m in the camp of people who love it and gleefully add it to tacos and other dishes, but lots and lots of people seem to really, really HATE it. They loathe the stuff with a passion that is almost admirable.

No one, no one, feels just “meh” about cilantro.

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• People’s Opinions about Texas
There are some strong feelings out there about the good ol’ Lone Star State. Find any Internet article about anything happening in Texas, and scroll down to the comments section to feast your eyes on the contrasting opinions. People either express great fondness and pride for the food, friendliness, and fun…

 

 

…or they absolutely detest what they perceive as a lack of education and open-mindedness. And/or they hate the gun culture. And the unpredictable weather. And the fact that other people love it so much.

People in this group are basically crossing their fingers that the entire state will just fall into the Gulf.

• All Things Australian
One thing I’ve learned through reading countless Reddit discussions and Buzzfeed articles is that the world really doesn’t like the Kardashians. But on a more relevant note, I’ve also learned that that every single thing in Australia is either amazingly wondrous…

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… or it wants to kill you in a slow, torturous, painful way. There is no gray area in that place.

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And the last true black and white issue:

• The Accuracy of Those “Psychological Facts” that Circulate the Internet
We’ve all seen them. Those colorful squares that display sweet and interesting statements about the human brain, feelings, and relationships. Their messages vary, but they almost always include the words “science” or “psychologists” or “fact,” as though that automatically validates their accuracy.

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Nothing says “fact” like an error in grammar!

Even people who are usually skilled at thinking and discerning get sucked into the heart-tugging statements, because they so badly want them to be true.

To be fair, some of those “facts” really are accurate, as they come from ACTUAL research studies that have been replicated a zillion times.

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I’m a little bugged by the use of “happy chemicals” in this one, but at least the idea behind it is true. Source

Unfortunately, most of the statements are wildly and bewilderingly false.

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You know facts are true when they’re spelled with a Z.
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Seriously, how did someone get the idea that human dreams are all interconnected somehow?
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You just can’t make this crap up. Oh wait – apparently, you can.
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This one MUST be true, because it’s written in such a serious-looking font. But seriously – how did this one even come to be? Maybe my eye is tearing up because I have something in it. You don’t know my life!

I may have gotten a bit carried away with the  examples, but that’s okay, because it’s a scientific fact that getting carried away on projects is a sign of genius-level intelligence. See what I did there?

Anyway, where do YOU stand on these controversial issues? Have you actually come across a squirrel that was neither friendly nor terrifying? Or perhaps you don’t have strong feelings (good or bad) about cilantro?

What issues are black and white for you?