Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Five: Best Things About Summer

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. I've already got a BBQ to attend this weekend, and new bathing suits are arriving via UPS any day now. It's the most wonderful time of the year, as far as I'm concerned. The big fat man in the red suit's got nothin' on summer.

1. Summer Concerts: Summer brings more concerts, particularly outdoor festival-type shows with several bands, tailgating, and lots of shirtless guys with badass tattoos. It is far more satisfying to leave a venue sweaty and grimy after a full day and night of rocking out than walking out of an area after a mere few hours. Plus, I get to wear my signature cowboy hat. No one appreciates it indoors.

2. BBQs/Pool Parties: It's not even so much about the food. By the time September rolls around, I couldn't be more sick of macaroni salad. It's the social atmosphere. Everyone's chill, having a good time, drinking fun and fruity drinks. Evening swimming is always a blast. No matter how old you are, it feels like a special grown-up treat to swim at night. Little kids don't get to do that.

3. The Beach: Two summers ago, I had Fridays off. For the first time in my life, I went to the beach alone. And though it wasn't a long stay, it was one of the highlights of that summer. I find the beach to be incredibly spiritual, especially when it's quiet (which is hard to find in the summer), when the only things that seem alive are you and the ocean. The ocean is powerful and mysterious and to be revered and respected. I adore the beach, even on crowded days. Even with the stupid seagulls. And the people-watching. Ohhh, the people-watching on the Jersey Shore is top notch!

4. General attitude: People are happier in the summer. There's a more laid-back collective, traffic is lighter, the kids are out of school, schedules loosen up a bit. Everything flows a little more smoothly when people aren't rushing through their days Monday - Friday. People are more pleasant. Maybe it's the Vitamin D.

5. "Solar" Energy: Summer makes me want to get out there and do stuff, see things, go places. The days are too beautiful to waste on the couch, the choices are plentiful, and before you know it, we'll be back to stuffing ourselves into jeans and sweaters and thinking about Christmas. Farmer's markets, street fairs, the Boardwalk, the park... It's hard to take advantage of the summer when you work the 9-5, but I'm far more ambitious (and poor) during the summer months.

So, a virtual "toast" to the arrival of summer. May your grills burn hot, your drinks stay cold, and your tan lines be minimal. Happy Summer!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Five: Reasons Why Team Tigerlily Is Awesome

Monday 5/21 marks a year to the day I met this pretty terrific guy thanks to and a lazy editor's eye (read about it here). This year has been remarkable in terms of happiness in this aspect of my life, and while I'd like to say it's all his fault, well... I want some credit, too. And so, I present to you five reasons why Team Tigerlily is positioned for world domination.

SIDEBAR: Year of the Tiger (his Chinese zodiac and part of his tattoo work) + Lily (my favorite flower) = Tigerlily. Shut up. We like it.

1. There is no "I" in T-E-A-M: Cooperation keeps Camp Tigerlily at full operation. We both cook, we both clean, we both handle chores, we both care for the dog... In short, we help each other out. All the time, at first request, with no balking. And if one of us needs something and the other can't accommodate, an alternative is always offered.

One of my favorite teamwork moments came pretty early on when I discovered something horrifying in my kitchen. We were eating breakfast on a Saturday morning when I dropped something on the floor. I bent down to pick it up and discover that my kitchen floor was littered with what appeared to be maggots. He actually tried to lie to me about what they were (I believe the word was "mealworm"), and quickly sprung into action to help me clean up the mess. He prevented me from destroying the vacuum cleaner out of frustration. While I bleached my floor and ranted incessantly about how I could not understand where they came from, he indulged me with "it's ok" and "it happens sometimes." We got the issue resolved and I can honestly say I would not have handled it so gracefully if he hadn't been there.

Why this is important: To be perfectly blunt, sometimes bad shit happens. And there's nothing more comforting than knowing that you can be there to help each other out, physically and emotionally. It's easy to love someone when things are good. But when the shit hits the fan, it's nice to know that someone will get down on his hands and knees and bleach your maggoty floors with you. And not throw it in your face sometime down the road.

2. Laughter is the best medicine: We laugh every day. This is not an exaggeration. From the first email exchange until this very morning, we have laughed every single day. Even on days when we've had a fight, either before that fight or after, there was a chuckle, a guffaw, or a side-splitting, tear inducing belly laugh. We also experience a phenomenon called Sunday Night Giggles. For some reason, every Sunday night, when the house is quiet and we are starting to doze off, one of us will burst into uncontrollable giggles.

Why this is important: Humor is a very personal, very subjective thing. If you aren't on the same page when it comes to senses of humor, a lot of miscommunication can happen. He is a ball-buster. I am sarcastic. And if we didn't love and understand that about one another, we'd never have gotten this far. Because we can laugh. And we absolutely do laugh AT each other. Because we can both be ridiculous. And witty. And gross.

Also, laughing is really, really fun.

3. I and Me come before You and Us: Most people view this idea as a selfish one, that you aren't supposed to put yourself first, but let me clarify. We both agree that you cannot make another person happy if you aren't happy with yourself, if you aren't a happy individual. There are many things that go into being a happy, well-rounded person, and they cannot possibly all come from your romantic relationship. We understand the need for and absolutely give one another "alone" time. If I want to go out with my girlfriends, I go. If he wants to go play with the boys, he goes. Sometimes, he doesn't want to talk. Or I feel like reading, while he does something else. In plain language, we are not up each other's butts all the time.

Why this is important: The afore-mentioned individual is important, but also... its really nice to miss each other sometimes. Even if it's just for a few hours, it's important to us to not grow complacent. Plus, it gives you stuff to talk about when you do get home and see each other.

4. Honesty is the best policy: At the inception of TT, we made a deal. The truth: ALWAYS. No matter how ugly, no matter how big or small. NEVER lie. And it has not steered us wrong. Not even when the truth was the reason for the biggest fight we've had...of the two fights we've had. In a year.

Why this is important: The truth will NEVER EVER EVER lead you in the wrong direction. It's that simple. If you are lying about something, you are already admitting guilt. Even if you have done something wrong or stupid, chances are telling the truth is going to resolve that issue long before lying will. And you're going to learn something about each other, even when the truth is ugly. Learning who you are as opposed to pretending who you aren't is our preference. We've already been married to pretend people.

5.Try a little tenderness: I'm not going to get detailed here. My mom reads this stuff. So, I'll say this. We're affectionate. And not when one of us wants something, not when we're trying to get out of trouble, not for any other reason than he's the bees knees and I'm the cat's pajamas. We are drawn to each other. And while no one will ever tell us to "get a room" (because we're not 17 and we know how to behave in public) no one will ever mistake us for "just friends."

Why this is important: Everyone loves to say that it's so important to be friends. And that a lot of great relationships start out as friendships. True, true, true. But here's the thing... Physical contact is what separates lovers from friends, and it's a really important distinction. Is he my friend? YES. Is he a great friend? YES. Is he my best friend? No. Someone already has that role. But when I'm hanging out with her, I don't have an urge to bite her hiney. Well, there was that once, but...

My point: The physical aspect of the relationship is critical to reminding each other of why your particular union is special. Why you are together. Why you aren't just pals.

And so, today, I honor the other half of Team Tigerlily. Virtual high five for us, Babe. WE. Are. Awesome. Every single day of this past year has been a joy. Even in the Dutch oven. Even driving to Manhattan at 4am. Even at the ugliest, most embarrassing, most vulnerable times. You stink sometimes. You're an annoying boy sometimes. But I love you all times.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"When you start thinking of pressure, it's because you've started to think of failure." ~Tommy Lasorda

There's been a black cloud following me around the past few days, and I've identified it as my own sense of struggle and failure. Purely self-imposed? Yes. Mostly irrational?  Probably. Nevertheless, it is here, and it's dribbling all over my energy, motivation, and mood. The reasons why I feel this way are mostly irrelevant, and I don't want to invite a chorus of awkward compliments. I know you all love me and support me, and believe me, I love you all so much for it, and I recognize the value of your support.

I'm more interested in why I am doing this to myself. The things that I am pressuring myself over, and the things I am accusing myself of failing at are all things to which I normally would be impervious. I'm hammering away at my confidence, my productivity, my ambition, my accomplishments... since when did I aspire to be a super hero?

It's seems as though what I think I want and what I expect of myself are not in line with what is realistic. But I don't see that as a fact of life. I see it as falling short. Why isn't it realistic? Sometimes the idea that "anything is possible" is a poisonous one. It can lead us down destructive paths that are doomed to failure.

I was talking with a friend yesterday, and I was expressing some of these things, and she empathized with me. She said that if she listed all the things she was dissatisfied with, rather than be reasonable about her expectations, she'd see it as a list of all the things she has to be better at. YES. YES. A thousand times YES.

She asked me where I thought this came from. I think it's a really bad product of perfectionist + over-achiever. I've was always taught to push harder, work harder, think harder. Eventually I took these habits on and my adult-self governs them. But I'm not doing a very good job of managing it. I don't know how to balance it. I don't know how to be reasonable. My boyfriend said I have two settings: 0 mph and 100 mph. I don't know 55. And to some extent, he's right. I totally suck at moderation. But I don't think it's all about moderation. Moderation is a component to this, in the sense that I have to be more realistic about what can be accomplished in a certain time frame. But I think there's more to it. Acceptance? Realism? Practicality?

I fear these things lead to complacency. I see it as settling for less. When you set a certain standard or goal, anything beneath that is falling short, isn't it? Is the answer lowering my standards or my expectations of myself? I've never been good at accepting that I couldn't do or accomplish something.  And then the flipside of that is "You can do anything you set your mind to."

No. I can't.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Five: Why I Will Never Be a Mom

It seems everyone around me is either starting or expanding their families, and so babies are an ever-present topic these days. My best friend is about to have her first child, while another dear friend is trying to find a good preschool for her first daughter, and has a set a of twins about to celebrate their first birthday. Whenever it comes up, people ask me if I want kids, and I say no. They typically respond with "no?" when what they really want to say is "Why?"

This is always such a touchy subject, so let's start off with two points:
1. I do not hate babies. I'm not one of these "babies are gross and icky" people. Babies are adorable and funny. 
2. I do not scoff at parents/parenthood. What you guys do is outright amazing. By no means am I making fun of or downplaying what you do every single day of your life. I'm merely pointing out why I can't do what you do.

1. Domestic delinquent: Back in the 1980s, Roseanne Barr coined the phrase "domestic goddess" to celebrate the moms and housewives and women who toil away in the home.

I am not one of these.

I can cook. I can clean. But as of late, my house looks like 12 boys and 14 dogs live here. There are always dishes in the sink, there's almost nothing in the fridge, and last night the big decision was whether to order onion rings or zucchini sticks with dinner.

We chose both.

My boyfriend left garbage on the stove because there was no bag in the trash can and you know what? I'd probably have done the same.

The point is, when it comes to chores, I do them, but I'm damn lazy sometimes. You can't do that with a baby around. You can't be lazy about these things. And you can't feed a baby onion rings.

2. Mobility: If I have to run an errand, all I do is wash my face, brush my teeth, throw my hair in a ponytail, and I go. I can be public-presentable in 10 minutes. Apparently, this ability goes away when you have a child. When my friends tell me what they go through just to get out of the house to go food shopping or to a doctor's appointment, I find it terrifying. I realize that as the children get older, this is obviously easier, but you're talking several years of these struggles.

3. "Tell me about your mother..." I am a perfectionist. Sometimes this is a virtue. Often, it is a flaw. I am absolutely certain that I would project that onto my child, and create such a maladjusted individual in the process, that college tuition would be replaced with psychotherapy bills. I know what it's like out there. I know what I see in my classroom. And I would be so worried that my kid would be that dumb. And you can all say that I wouldn't do that, and that everyone worries about this, but... I know me. I feel physical pain when my DOG misbehaves at the vet. He's "that dog." What if I had a problem kid? Or created one? No way, man. And to be responsible for another human being's well-being for the rest of my life? No. And don't tell me it's only until 18. My mother still worries about my well-being. I'm 34. My grandmother still worried about my mother's well-being. She was 90 and my mother...well, you get the idea. She'll punish me if I finish that sentence.

4. The force is not strong in this one: Ladies, you know how when you hold a baby, you get some sort of weird urge in your belly, your heart swells with an overwhelming emotion to create one of your own?

Yeah, me neither.

I don't get that urge or what they call maternal instinct. In fact, I'm 99 percent sure my ovaries literally shut down and steel barriers form in my uterus. I go into total lockdown. Whatever the opposite of maternal instinct is, that's what I have.

5. Me me me me meeeeeee: I really like my lifestyle. I don't want it to change. I have the freedom to not clean my house, to eat take out every night, to sleep late on my days off, to stay up and out all night, to go on vacation on a whim. It's as simple as that. I've done the domestic thing. I was married. I kept a house, I had matching curtains, and china, and all that stuff. It didn't fit right. I learned that the hard way. But the thing is, you can go to court and get rid of a husband pretty easily. I don't think it really works the same way with a kid.

And so, to all you parents out there, my own included: You are amazing people. What you endure the day you find out you're going to be parents until your last day is absolutely admirable. It goes above and beyond anything else I can think of. No other challenge of this magnitude is as permanent as parenthood. All others are likely temporary, and probably have far fewer consequences if you screw up. I appreciate all that you do share with those of us who are not parents. I've learned a great deal from you, and it's taught me that I absolutely never want to be in your shoes. That's not an insult. It's probably one of the best lessons I've ever learned.