recent awesomeness

1. We sold our old house, baller-style. Got a cash offer the week it was listed and closed eight business days later, thus becoming the smoothest outcome to an anxiety-invoking situation in the history of the world.

2. I went to Chicago for 18 hours to attend a panel discussion at a conference. A tiring journey, but an energizing disruption to the week.

3. It did not reach 100 degrees in Phoenix all week. Decorative gourd season UP IN HERE.

4. I saw a license plate with my grandfather’s name just as I was thinking about him.

5. I found an awesome new gym and did a handstand for the first time since childhood.

6. I wrote a letter to a stranger on an airplane and hid it in her bag when she wasn’t looking. I could tell she was going through a hard time and wanted to offer encouragement. I proceeded to panic and sweat profusely until we were safely off the plane, hoping she didn’t discover it prematurely.

7. I had my first pumpkin beer of the season.

8. I paid off my car. Ahem, after six years, I PAID OFF MY CAR.

9. Some girlfriends and I planned a trip to the Grand Canyon and a spa day for next month.

10. I discovered the most endearing labels on the shelves in our garage. ‘Picnic’ and ‘Dollhouse’ are my favorites. Pretty sure the former owners were good folks.

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the jerk in the airport foodcourt

To the jerk in the airport food court:

I’m not a parent, and I won’t pretend to know how hard it is to travel with kids, but I cannot believe the way you just yelled at your daughter for spilling a smoothie. An hour later, I’m still in a foul mood and feeling guilty for not standing up to you. The fact is, I was intimidated by you and the way you behaved and you’re a complete stranger; I can only imagine how your little girl feels right now.

What is she? Three or four? She’s adorable. And I think that you forgot that when you screamed at her in a way no one in my life has ever addressed me. You forgot that you brought this child into the world and that she depends on you for everything, most importantly her sense of self worth. You forgot that she didn’t do it on purpose, and that all children spill things. And you forgot that life has far more serious problems than having to wait in line for five minutes for another smoothie.

She spilled a smoothie, you know; she didn’t shoplift or shout or act inappropriately. She’s likely tired too, and didn’t need to be shamed in front of a bunch of strangers for an accident. You yelled so loudly that everyone, even the food court employees, paused to stare.

I get it, you’re overwhelmed and exhausted and this was the last straw. THE LAST STRAW in the never-ending odyssey that is child-rearing. But you need to chill out. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Do whatever you’d want someone to do to you in a similar set of circumstances. Do what you’d teach a child to do when she feels upset, because that’s how you acted.

A little girl gains a sense of what is ok, what isn’t, and how a man can treat her from the men she interacts with as a child. At the center of all of that is her father.

I presume you’ll calm down later and apologize, and when you do, you’ll be setting an example that it’s ok for a man to get mad and react inappropriately, in a way that borders on abusive, as long as he makes up for it later. This will impact her for years to come as she enters relationships with men. Her sense of what’s right and wrong comes from you, first, so be careful.

Again, I’m not a parent. I can’t tell you I’ve been through a similar situation, but I know that my parents never would dream of addressing me that way, even as an adult or for a serious offense. One day, when my future kids spill all over a public place I’ll likely want to yell and flip out…but I won’t. I won’t because I know better, and because I saw the look on your daughter’s face just now.

I’ll never see you again and that’s ok. I just hope you get a grip on what really matters in life, and what’s worth getting upset over, and that spilled beverages don’t make the cut. Be happy, dude. You have great kids.

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Grocery stores are funny. And lettuce wraps are delicious.

Sometimes when I’m grocery shopping I get a sinking suspicion that I’m being secretly videotaped. This is because several years ago, I was secretly videotaped at the grocery store.

Nothing too creepy–get your mind out of the e-gutter–it was for a VH1 reality show called The Pickup Artist. They were filming at Sunflower Market in Tempe and requested every shopper sign a waiver giving permission to be filmed.

I was working for an elected official at the time, and this broke all kinds of rules, so I opted not to sign a waiver and instead was given a colored wristband to alert the crew I was off-limits footage. Clearly the system failed, as ingenious as it was, and I ended up front-and-center in several gratuitous cameos. My phone blew up with calls and texts from friends who’d seen the episode.

I learned three important things from this experience: 1) Don’t run errands after working out because if a television crew happens to film you, you’ll look terrible; 2) Many of my friends at the time had very poor taste in television programming; and 3) Weird things happen in grocery stores.

I remembered this story last night when a stranger approached me at Sprouts to ask my opinion on lettuce leaves.

Stranger: “Hi. Excuse me, can I ask you a question; have you ever had lettuce wraps?”

Me: “Yes, last night actually.”

Stranger: “Oh! Ok good. Well I’m making them with ground turkey, and the recipe said to use butter lettuce, but do you think I could use romaine?”

At this point I stopped to look around and make sure there were no hidden cameras capturing this bizarre exchange. I also made sure that no one was working in cahoots with this woman, poised to grab my purse as  I became distractingly engaged in a conversation about appetizers.

Me: “Well, I think I’d use iceberg. Iceberg lettuce gets a bad wrap but I really enjoy it. It’s crisp.”

Stranger (completely missing my pun): “ICEBERG! I DIDN’T EVEN CONSIDER THAT! I can do that. I’ll use ICEBERG. Thanks so much, I just needed a woman’s opinion.”

I’m all for talking to strangers–I think it’s entertaining–but this was so peculiar. It was 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening and I feel that if I hadn’t happened upon this woman in distress, she could have lost her mind.

It’s interesting where we feel comfortable engaging with strangers and where it feels uncomfortable. Would this woman have asked the same question of a fellow shopper if we hadn’t been in Paradise Valley, or if I was dressed differently? What if it was 2 a.m. on a Wednesday?

It’s also remarkable to consider the decisions we struggle with versus those we make in an instant. An adult who presumably was able to drive herself to the store and plan a meal was entirely stumped by subtle variances among lettuce leaves.

People are funny. Grocery stores are funny. And lettuce wraps are delicious.

In other news, I have a fanny pack.

Against my better judgment, I shed the final remnants of my youthful dignity and went running with a fanny pack tonight. It’s purple, and I purchased it last week in a moment that can only be explained as Being 30.

Running while holding keys, a phone and a dog leash is a recipe for disaster; I have the scars to prove it. My magical pack o’ goodness has given me new hope though, and I’ve spent the better part of the evening envisioning all the activities I can now engage in hands-free. This is the cardio version of switching from dial-up to DSL. Everything is faster and easier and better.

But back to the run, let me tell you, it was a most FREEING experience. I may have been striding down a hot asphalt road, but for all I knew, it was a serene, dewy meadow.

These things could make a wild comeback at any moment (along with everything else from the 80s) and I would totally vouch for them. So handy, so fanny.

 

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It’s impossible to ignore the levity that undoubtedly permeates the stress.

I work in what can be a fairly stressful environment, mostly because of the pace of change and nature of the business. I love my job though, and the people I get to work with everyday. When things get especially challenging, I try to remind myself of the lighter aspects of what I do, and the funny things I’m privy to each week. I should write them down more often, and then use them as blackmail save them for my memoirs.

I’m acutely aware that if my work life was recorded on video it could quite easily be cut and spliced together to create a fantastic reality show. My job is neither glamorous nor wildly exciting, but without fail, one or two hysterical, awkward and ridiculous things happen on a weekly basis. Things that usually make me, at later points in the day, collapse into solitary fits of laughter.

Sometimes, it’s little moments or interactions that make me wonder, what on earth am I doing, and how did I get here? Take this afternoon for instance, I was walking out of the building with an enormous computer monitor in an even more enormous cardboard box. It’s another story altogether why I was was taking it with me, but the better part was watching various people on my floor try to help me carry it, while I stubbornly insisted I was fine.

Let’s be clear – I was not fine. It was a box the size of a Mini Cooper and I was also shlepping a laptop bag and my purse. One particularly intrigued executive insisted somewhat forcefully that he should help me carry it to my car, yet instead of graciously accepting his help, I repeatedly rejected it. Looking back, perhaps it would have been ok to let the person who controls the majority of the corporation do me a solid. You know, out of common courtesy and SANITY. Nah, I’ll just awkwardly assure him that I’m fine and lug my mammoth carton along side me with an idiotic facade of confidence.

There was the day I got scolded by a leader I work with because the temperature in a room where he was presenting was too warm. I don’t respond well when yelled at, and at this moment, I was so taken by the absurdity of the situation that I just went silent – muted by an invisible remote control and unable to speak or yell back. I just stood there thinking about how comical the entire moment was, how badly I wanted to laugh uncontrollably, and that no part of my my MBA program prepared me to handle temperature control issues in conference rooms.

The time a female leader called me “Babe,” and I was incapable of making eye contact with her for the rest of the conversation because I would laugh…The evening I had an hour-long email exchange with a leader about chia seeds…The day a leader mispronounced the name of the organization on a podcast recording so that it sounded like an inappropriate part of the anatomy.

There are so many entertaining times, days, weeks and months that it’s impossible to ignore the levity that undoubtedly permeates the stress. And it reaches a while new extreme when travel is involved.

Last year, I spent a few weeks traveling with some of our execs while they presented to groups of employees across the country. So many awesome moments. Like, when we travelled across Colorado at night and I sat in the back middle seat, surrounded by three executives on three separate conference calls. I felt somewhat like a schizophrenic because I could hear only one side of three discussions and had absolutely no idea what was going on. It was also tremendously difficult to not ram onto the others because we were in some sort of car with a bench seat and I had no seat-traction or apparatus to keep myself grounded on sharp turns. It was very difficult not to yell, “Sandwich” with my hands in the air as I flew violently into those next to me. Oh, and they all fly business class, and I fly coach. So walking off the jetway to meet them always became an amusing reunion. “What took you so long? Welcome back! What, were you in the last seat on the plane?”

In Chicago, I forgot to order airport transportation for me and the leader I was accompanying to a media taping, so we walked through the snow together until we could flag a taxi. In San Francisco, my boss and I came face to face with an Occupy-Something-or-Other parade that blocked us from our hotel for a solid hour. In Philadelphia, I convinced a colleague I’d just met to walk three miles with me in pouring rain to see the Liberty Bell. And in Tulsa…wait, nothing happened in Tulsa.

The personal and family stories I get are some of the best moments. Watching leaders with oodles of money and power pause in the middle of a one-on-one meeting to Skype their kids or rave about their pets (whose names and snack of choice I know, of course). The banter about sports teams, the vacation photos that subject you to shirtless images of those you really should only see in suits, and the debates about whether to attend shul for the high holidays.

There are so many different experiences that have made me laugh, learn and reflect. They aren’t all good, but the good ones are what seem to stick in my head over time as the less favorable ones are filtered out. I’d never be able to remember or record all of them, but the feeling I get just remembering these few is a trip.

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My Not-to-do List

1. Schedule a meeting over lunch. Unless you’re going to feed me, don’t take lunch time away. It’s the one sliver of a work day we have to decompress and when it’s spent on a conference call, nobody wins. I sense the beginnings of a country song here.

2. Leave a sweaty mess at the gym. Stranger danger applies to bodily fluids, and there are paper towels and disinfectant everywhere. If you don’t wipe down the machines, I have to, while stifling a gag reflex, groaning and awkwardly hopping around like a disgruntled leprechaun in capri pants.

3. Ignore when your dog poops on a walk. It’s POOP! Poop is gross. If you don’t pick it up, there is an extremely high likelihood that it will end up on my shoe and it’s all downhill from there. Have you ever tried to get poop off your own shoe? It’s humbling, to say the least–a stinky game of hopscotch that no one can win.

4. Park in more than one space. Parking a car is not a skill that came naturally to me, but I make the effort to take up only one space at a time. Failure to do this can result in a dramatic emotional roller coaster for anyone who spies the empty space you’re using eight percent of, only to realize it was a ruse. Parking jerks = dream shatterers.

5. Be a litter bug. Littering makes me so sad. It’s like giving a little tiny middle finger to the rest of the world who has to stare at it. I am the one percent that loves the fact that law enforcement can issue fines for this. There are, like, 10 million garbage cans in the world, so not using them just makes you look lazy.

fin.

 

Going out with a passive-aggressive bang!

For the past year, I’ve done some mindless freelance writing for extra money. I’ve been debating the value of this for months, and today, I quit.

email from project manager:

Good Morning,

Last Wednesday I sent out an email with the subject line “Quality of Content.” This was an important email, and towards the end I asked all of you to reply, confirming that you read and understand the email. You are receiving this email because you did not reply to that email.

I am giving everyone to the end of the workday today to reply to that email (do not respond to this email), and tomorrow I will be giving the list of names to my department manager. If you no longer write for us, I would appreciate a quick reply letting me know you should be taken off of the writers list.

-Brandon

my response:

Brandon,

Thanks for the reminder email, and sorry for not responding sooner. I recognize your frustration in managing a remote workforce of freelancers–I have no idea how you do it–sounds like it’s as enjoyable as wrangling stray, deranged cats.

For the past few months, I’ve tried to assume positive intent with the company’s repeated emails, the tech issues with Process Maker and the overall disorganization in all processes. That being said, it was your last note that’s ultimately pushing me to cease my working relationship with [company name deleted, I’m not a total jerk].

I’m going to make like Jerry Maguire and take off with my fishbowl in tow. I’d love to shout, “Who’s coming with me?” as I virtually stomp out, but it lacks emphasis over email.

All kidding aside, you guys are growing quickly doing great work for clients, and I hope to return to writing for you at some point. Right now, however, I’ve decided life’s too short to deal with the added work and worries. Maybe it’s because it’s a national day of remembrance, and the timing of your message was unfortunate. Or maybe it’s because I doubt that on my deathbed I ever would lament not writing enough press releases. Either way, you and I have never met, likely never will, and this is entirely too lengthy of an email for its purposes. Even as I’m writing this, I’m still not sure why I feel compelled to share any of this with a stranger, other than the fact that it will make an entertaining post on my blog tonight.

I have a journalism degree from a prestigious j-school and an MBA, and I’ve worked in communications for government agencies, elected officials and Fortune-500 companies. I’ve had my writing published in lots of national websites, even the holy grail of Huff Post. Nevertheless, I had some absurd urge to cross a self-imposed paid-freelance-writer barrier. I’m not sure what I was trying to prove, or if I succeeded, but the process has shown me that paychecks don’t equate to quality writing, and that writing for pleasure will always trump assignments. Frankly, even writing this email has been more fun than any of the PR content I generated over the past year.

I engaged in this venture for a new step in personal growth (and some extra cash), but it’s slowly become something I dread. Like homework. Or a dentist appointment. Something that’s important and beneficial but far from enjoyable. I thank you for the opportunity and wish you luck with future writer wrangling.

Please accept this as my formal peacing out. Hope the subtle humor at least made you smile and not want to slam your head into your desk. If you even read this far.

-Jessica

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