Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On the Road... Again?

I've never traveled quite so much as I have in the past two and a half years, not even back when I went to college in Chicago or when I had in-laws in a different state.

At first, it was all about traveling for fun.  (You know, not just to visit people.)  

There was my girls-only trip to House on the Rock/Wisconsin Dells, followed by a week-long cruise with my parents, and several trips to Alexis' dad's house  out in Carthage for Passover and summer pool fun.  Then there was my Mexico trip this past January.

Lately, however, I haven't been traveling as much for fun.  More for... Fish Eye Fun.

I've been to Kansas City, Chicago, and now to Lake of the Ozarks and Springfield, MO for the past two weekends.  (The greatest hits of the Midwest, as it were.)

I even drug Mark along with me the past two weekends.  Poor guy.  

It wasn't all work and no play, at least.  We managed to stop in at Lambert's Cafe (Home of the Throwed Rolls) on Sunday morning, since Mark had never been there, and made our first trip to Uranus Fudge Factory on the way home.  Honestly, I was pretty disappointed in Uranus.  (Pun so very definitely intended.)  For a place that's a self-titled "fudge factory," both Ozarkland and Meramac Caverns both have a wider selection of fudge. But at least I can say I've officially been to Uranus.

And now?  Now I'm back to traveling for fun, at least for a little bit.  Mark and I have our first official "vacation" together this weekend and are headed to Chicago for a long weekend.  

The thought of going out of town again after two weekends on the road has actually been more than a little daunting.  It's not that I don't want to go.  But we are both, after all, very much homebodies who like our alone time and like working on our own projects.  When we originally planned this trip, my out-of-town jobs weren't scheduled, so it didn't seem like such an ordeal back then.

I'm not used to being on the road so much, away from my own place so much.  And there's really nothing like a hotel room to make you realize how much you really, really like your own stuff.  As nice as it is to spread out on a cushy king-sized bed, I love my own bed.  I love the new mattress we bought.  I love my pillow and our smart lights that help me wake up and go to sleep.  And as great as water pressure can be in a hotel, I love my own towels, my Doctor Who shower curtain, my bathmats, and my mirror covered with notes that Mark and I write each other.

I'm obviously not used to traveling as much as I have been.  I still can hardly believe all the places I've gone in the past few years after how little I traveled through most of my twenties.  Hell, I'm barely used to being as busy as I am in St. Louis, much less the rest of the world.  It seems like not so long ago when I would spend almost every night sitting at home by myself, watching movies, reading, and drinking too much.  Now I feel like Mark and I are coming and going constantly, and I find myself almost missing my lonely nights of nothing better to do than sit at home.

Don't get me wrong, there's no way I'm trading my current freedom just for some quality time with my messy apartment, but I still think that Dorothy said it best when she said, "There's no place like home."

However, as nice as my stuff is and as many projects as Mark and I might like to work on right now, our train tickets have been bought and we leave bright and early on Friday! After spending over 16 hours in the work van the past two weekends, I'm so very glad we're not driving.  Instead, we have at least 10 hours round trip to relax, read, and hang out.

And so, after a momentary freakout, we're both back to looking forward to the trip.  I want to show Mark the places I used to frequent.  I want him to meet my friends I haven't seen in years.  I want to be shameless tourists for a bit.  

And I really, really want to eat Giordano's pizza.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

What's the best way to finish that phrase?

My personal favorite way to finish it is "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me."  I fully admit to occasionally (or more than occasionally) being a bit of a catty gossip.  I feel that I get this honestly from my mother, who has been known to say something catty (usually about my ex) and then slap her own mouth and say she shouldn't be that way.  She also quite regularly fills me on on all the latest scandals that go on in the lives of her friends and our relatives and obviously has no intentions of stopping.

She's clearly a far cry from Thumper's mother, who reminds him of his father's advice, the other (less-than-fun) way to finish that phrase:

So really, it's not my fault that I enjoy a bit of gossip.  I was raised to be this way, forged in the fires of morbid curiosity and born with an ear perfectly made for listening.

And I can't say that I believe that gossip is all bad.  It's true that it can be false and hurtful and damaging.  I don't go in for gossip like that.  But, it is a great means of effectively spreading news.  Word of my getting divorced two years ago spread mainly through word of mouth, which freed me up from needing to send out some kind of anti-save-the-date notices.  I knew all I had to do was to tell a few select people and soon everyone would know.  Easy as that.

Gossip is also a strange binder of people.  Sharing is caring, after all.  If you feel confident in sharing some juicy piece of gossip with someone, it usually means you trust them (at least a little bit).  You're inviting them into a confidence, into a secret club of those in-the-know.  The relationship between two people changes as soon as reasonably private information begins changing hands.

There are limits.

There are always limits.

No one likes anyone who's negative all the time.  No one likes someone who never has anything nice to say about anyone or anything.

And sometimes?  Sometimes if you don't have something nice to say, you really shouldn't say anything at all (damn you, Thumper's dad).  Because it's unprofessional.  Because it's just plain mean.  Because it would hurt feelings.

I can't say that I haven't been given quite a great deal of topics lately that I'd love to blog about.  Because Lord, there's a lot I have to say.  Of all the daunting thoughts that come with writing a weekly blog, no one ever warned me about the vast number of amazing topics that would float into my life that I simply cannot talk about for professional and personal reasons.

And so I will not be a catty bitch this week.  At least not here.  But feel free to come sit next to me the next time you don't have anything nice to say.  I'm genetically predispositioned to listen, after all, and I don't want to waste my talents.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My Uniquely Common Life

We are all special little snowflakes.

Or are we?

I'm bringing this up because I just finished reading Judy Blume's Wifey two days ago.  It's been sitting on my shelf for years after I bought it on impulse at a used book store.  For some reason, I picked it up for a quick read on Sunday.  It obviously was a quick read, as I finished it Monday.  Besides being far dirtier of a book than I ever imagined, it also was another in a long list of books that I can relate to a little too much.  Believe me, I didn't expect this summer fluff of a book to hit me the way it did.

In Wifey, main character Sandy is exactly what the title says: the perfect little 1960s housewife.  She makes the same thing for dinner every week, has sex with her husband on Saturdays whether she wants to or not, is desperately unhappy, and has a very dirty mind.  She feels trapped in a marriage to a man she's not sure she ever loved and who doesn't understand her unhappiness or care to change anything about their marriage.  Her husband can't cook for himself, dictates how she should dress, is disappointed when she doesn't live up to his standards, and uses the phrase "wifely duties" quite seriously.

Basically, she was me, pre-divorce.  I found myself exceedingly grateful that I hadn't read Wifey while I was still married.  It would have been far too depressing.

But it's not the first time I've found myself reading a book that hit close to home in all the wrong ways, a book that gave voice to my very private despairs and desires.

Obviously, unhappy marriages are far from unique.  Even though Leo Tolstoy wrote that "happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," I'm not really sure he was correct.  Still, I'm continually amazed when a book (or song or movie) perfectly echoes something I've already thought or said.  Shouldn't I at least have my own unique thoughts about what I've been through, about my own unique experiences?

Apparently not.

The longer I live and the more I see, the more convinced I am that there truly is nothing new under the sun.  There are only seven different plotlines.  There are no original ideas.  Think you've done something unique?  Think again.  Someone is amazed by your brand new thought?  Don't get too excited; someone else already thought of it years ago.  Someone is shocked and appalled by something you did?  Don't feel so bad; someone else has already been there and done that long before you had the idea.

Songs, movies, and books all resonate with us because they speak to our own personal experience.  We relate to these things on deep, intimate levels.  But these things also speak to hundreds and thousands of other people's own personal, intimate experiences.  Look around at a wedding, or a show, or a concert, or a bookstore.  You're not the only one singing along, or crying, or laughing, or reaching that book.

We all live some form or another of the "human experience," after all.  We have all loved and have all lost.  We've been overjoyed and we've been inconsolable.  It's what helps bring us together, recognize each other as human.  We may be different, but we are also recognizably the same.  I can talk to someone who has lived an entirely different life from me, who believes and values different things, and still relate to them, still find common ground.  I can read a book written over 30 years ago and feel like I'm quite possibly reading my own diary.  I can share some of my darkest secrets and have someone unexpectedly and shyly admit, "Me too."

I think it is the inability to see others as human, to actively share in that human experience, that leads to much of life's tragedies and pain.  It leads to the desire to control others, or to hurt others.  I know from experience that it's much easier to hate someone when you can solidly deny that you could possibly have anything in common with them.

Of course, we are not all cookie cutter copies of each other.   Not by a long shot. What fun would that be?  There would be no need for thousands of different books and movies and songs.  We are uniquely individual, in spite of our similarities.  We can experience the same events and feelings, true, but in different orders, with different people, in different places, with different consequences.  The things we create are different, even if not necessarily new or revolutionary.  And so we can keep telling the same stories over and over, the same seven plot lines.  People will keep reading.  Or watching.  Or listening.

Because we can keep relating to each other, story after story.  We're not alone.  We've been there, in one way or another, even when that means being able to relate far too much to an incredibly dirty Judy Blume book.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

2 AM Crisis: A Comprehensive Guide

How do you act in a crisis?

Most people respond differently to sudden threats or perceived threats.  There's that "fight or flight" instinct.  There are the people who run towards the danger, and those that run away.

Luckily for me, I don't face a lot of imminent threat anymore.  My ex lives in a different state, I'm a compulsive door-locker, I know a decent amount of self-defense, and if all else fails?  I'm really, really good at running in heels.

Sometimes, though, there are unexpected bumps in the night.  Or, as the case was two nights ago, a loud crash at 2 AM.

There were three of us home: me, Mark, and the dog.  And each of us responded in very drastically different ways.

First, there was Thunder, the ever-cowardly dog, who could be heard immediately after the crash running away.  (Excellent in a crisis, that one.)

Second, there was me.  I jerked awake immediately, senses on automatic alert for potential murderers breaking in.   In my half-asleep state, I realized that the dog had most likely knocked something over.  But, being me, I also knew full well that I wouldn't be going back to sleep until I made sure Mark and I weren't about to be murdered.  Did I have a plan for what I would do if we were about to be murdered?  No, but I'd at least like to know it was coming.  I am, and always have been, a "I have to check it out" girl.  I had childhood (and, okay, some adulthood) compulsions for looking in the basement and behind the shower curtain after getting home to make sure no one was hiding in there.

Then there was Mark.  He didn't move when I jerked awake.  I wasn't even certain he'd woken up.  He had, apparently, already done the mental calculations of time elapsed during crash-vs-skittering dog toenails and come to the (admittedly correct) conclusion that Thunder had knocked something over and then run from the scene of the crime.

Well.  I wasn't having any of that, and I obviously needed a backup noise investigator, so I made him come check it out with me.  Sure enough, Thunder had caught his harness on a drawer in the bathroom, panicked, and yanked the entire drawer out, spilling the contents.  With the 2 AM crisis averted, we went back to sleep, and I was ready to let that be the end of it.

Mark, however, was not.

Yesterday, I came home to find he had bought and set up a system so that we can turn the lights on and off through our phones.  The previous night's experience with bumps in the night made him realize that there is currently at least one night a week where I'm home by myself with only a giant cowardly dog for backup.

With this new setup, I can make sure there are lights on when I come home alone from working late, and I can also turn all the lights on from the bedroom the next time there's a 2 AM crisis and my noise investigator isn't around.  So far?  I'm a pretty big fan.  We've already been enjoying turning the lights on and off (particularly on each other) and setting different "scenes" for which lights come on when.

Even if my boyfriend isn't always the first out of bed to check out a noise, he's the first to care about me enough to make the life we have better, even if it takes time, effort, and money on his part.  He's the first to think of a way to improve on a situation I was content to just deal with.  And he's the first to worry about me and my safety and do all he can to look out for me even when he's not around.

I know that he has my back always, even in the middle of the night, and even when he's 100% certain that the bump in the night is the dog and definitely not a murderer.

Personally, that's the best response to a crisis that I could ever hope for.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hazards of Love

As it turns out, love isn't always all it's cracked up to be.

Wait a minute.  Are you reading the right blog?  Me? Saying love isn't always amazing and wonderful and hearts and rainbows and puppy dogs?  What?

That's right, ladies and gentlemen.  I said it.  Why?  Because I've realized that there are unforeseen consequences to not being single.  Sure, it's wonderful to have someone around to spend time with, to share your day with, blah, blah blah.  But sometimes?  Sometimes, it's fairly inconvenient, for entirely unexpected reasons.

This past Sunday was a kindof a Bring Your Boyfriend to Work Day.  The wedding I worked had an onsite scrapbook, which requires an additional assistant.  Mark had worked with me on New Year's Eve for another wedding with a scrapbook, so I brought him along again and thought nothing of it.

Some background first. In the almost two years I've worked for Fish Eye Fun, I've become very accustomed to loading into venues and being offered help of one kind or another.  Furthermore, I fully realize that this help is usually offered because I'm a girl.  Valets offer to help me load or unload my car, or to push the cart, or to even take the cart from me entirely.  I usually decline the offer, since I have a particular order for loading and unloading my car, and am stubborn enough that I'm used to doing things myself.

While I've blogged before about the bad things that have happened or been said to me because I'm a woman, there are a lot of upsides to my gender.  These offers of help are one benefit, in spite of how many times I say, "No, thanks."  I appreciate that someone is more likely to hold the door for me or try to help, even if it's just because I'm a girl.  I really do.  Being nice and helpful is something I will almost always appreciate, regardless of the reason.  And rarely have I appreciated past so-called chivalry more so than this last weekend.

I was loading into a venue that I've loaded into several times before, always with absolutely no issue.  I've always been met at the entrance, accompanied to where I'm setting up, and escorted back at the end of the night.  I even told Mark that this was one of my favorite places to load into.


That night, nothing much went right in general (outside of having a fantastic picture night).  I wasn't helpfully accompanied to where I needed to go, and I definitely wasn't escorted back out at the end of the night like usual.  Which lead to several increasingly ridiculous elevator issues and just being frustrated in general.

I didn't understand.  What had happened?  Where was my usual lovely experience?  Where were the usually helpful people?  I told Mark I just didn't know why everything was so different, and he gave me a look and stated the obvious reason: I had a man with me.

And he was right.

I had brought my boyfriend, essentially bringing along my own help in the eyes of everyone else.  Men don't usually offer to help women who already have a man with them.  Even though I recognize that I get offers of help because I'm a girl, I never stopped to consider what would happen if and when I wasn't just a girl by myself.

Well, now I know.

It wasn't malicious treatment by any means.  I'm sure it wasn't even a conscious decision.  I don't need to complain to a manager, and, honestly, I can't really say I'm that shocked.  To a girl who prefers doing it all herself if possible, it's just all the more reason to continue doing it all myself and not to fall into the ease of being a damsel in distress.

So it's not like I'll never bring my boyfriend along to an event ever again.  But at least next time I'll know what to expect.  (Or, as the case may be, what not to expect.)

If these are the consequences of not being single, well... I guess I can handle it if I have to.