Power up.

The other day a good friend reminded me that my best today may not be the same as my best yesterday. Some days I’m just not as strong as I know I’m capable of being. That thing that’s wearing on me is kicking my ass and it’s taking everything in me not to wave the white flag.

Days like those I usually wake up late and debate leaving work early, or at the very least, consider finding a quiet room to hide for a few hours. In my mind, I keep saying, “Please, let me just lie down and stay here a while.” Those are the days when I’ve got to “power up.”

If you’ve played old school video games like Super Mario Bros., you probably have an idea what I’m talking about. A power-up is something that gives you extra strength or abilities. It could be a mushroom, a flower, a heart, whatever – what matters is that when you need a boost, it’s always got your back.

Since I don’t live in a magical game world, I’ve got to chase my everyday power-ups. When I need a little help, these are my go-tos:

  • Episodes of The Golden Girls
  • Cuddling with my dog
  • Sunlight
  • A really good book
  • My Top Played music playlist
  • Getting fly
  • Tree pose
  • Power naps
  • Meditation
  • Affirmations
  • Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Nuggets
  • Memes, Gifs, and Videos
  • Quality time with the family
  • God (obviously)

Now these are just mine, and they work wonders for a not-so-awesome day, but what I hope you’ll do is go and get your own. You probably already have some, you’ve just gotta figure out what they are. What gives you strength? Looking at your baby? Making money? Long walks on the beach? It could be anything that takes you from Mario to Super Mario with the fireballs. You’ll have to do a tiny bit of work to power-up, but once you do, it’ll change your whole day for the better.

” No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” – Isaiah 54:17

The Cinderella Deal.

Romance novels are like Hallmark channel movies with an extra dose of sexual tension, double the stakes, and three times the talent. So, the next time you’re considering watching the same tired Christmas movie, consider reading a romance novel, or better, listening to one. Why watch the same actors make the same piss poor facial expressions, when you can listen to one person flawlessly act as narrator, female lead, male lead, and every other character in the novel? It’s a no brained.

This week I read The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie, because I felt like romance, I needed to multi-task, and the audiobook was available free from my library. What ensued was six hours of rom-com magic and introspection. Would you marry a man in exchange for a year of financial freedom? If at first your answer is no, consider the added possibility that you’re 35 and flat broke. If you still say no, you’re either lying to yourself or have no imagination.

In The Cinderella Deal, Daisy falls in love with her neighbor Linc. Obviously. But only after Linc pays her $1000 to pretend to be his fiancée so he can get a teaching job. Linc is the most qualified person for the job, but the Dean of the University thinks a wife is a primary qualification and Linc is desperate.

Meanwhile, Daisy is behind on her rent, her art isn’t selling like she’d hoped, and she has no other steady income. How serendipitous! Besides, she’s known for telling “stories.” Daisy ditches her rags (aka strange blue hat and oversized clothing) and becomes to the belle of the ball to secure Linc’s job offer.

Up until this point, both characters completely disregard the problem of what to do after Linc gets the job. After the offer, they just part ways as if that was going to be totally fine. Hint: it wasn’t. As soon as Linc starts talking about life without Daisy, the university folks start telling him he needs to get his girl back. They even book his flight out and return flight, with two seats instead of one. I found this hilarious.

Long story short, Daisy has nothing better to do so she marries and moves in with the guy. Even though her relationship with Linc starts as mostly contentious, she easily charms everyone else: the faculty, the neighbors, his students, the vet, his mother…I don’t know what Linc’s problem is.

The first time they kiss is at their wedding and the first time they do the dirty is at the very, very end of the story. I thought Susan Elizabeth Phillips was a safe romance author, but this book is so smut free, I managed to listen to most of it on speaker. At the end of the day I was glad for having read it. I lived vicariously in the world of the madly in love, a world where there’s always happy endings.

July 28, 2017.

This week’s Friday Top Five is less a list of things I’ve learned, and more a list of things I wish friends of mine would instantly know about me.  More specifically, things they should know about how I am socially. Let’s begin.

  1. I’m absolutely what they would describe as selectively social. I don’t know how people do activities back to back because 9 times out of 10, I don’t want to have any plans with anyone. You may not realize this because when I choose to be social, I’m all in. I’m getting cute, I’m blowing your phone up, I’m making friends with strangers, and trying to stay up all night. And then the next day, I say, “Cool, don’t have to do that again for another two months.” The same applies to choosing who I hang with. If I make plans with someone and they invite someone else, I immediately start considering the excuses I could give for backing out. Hanging with one person is one thing, hanging with two people is a completely different thing.
  2. In fact, I’m very particular about what friends I interact with and when. I remember – and you should know by now that it’s significant when I actually remember something – when I was ten, I struggled with the concept of having a birthday party because I couldn’t imagine all of my friends being in one place at one time. I had the same issue at 16 and again at 26. Every time I decided I wanted to see all my favorite people at one time, I cringed thinking about how incompatible my groups of friends are with each other. I have friends that I kick it with, friends I have deep convos with, friends I talk about nothing with, friends who like baseball, friends who like girls, and for some reason, I have a hard time trusting that they’ll get along. Nothing bad has ever come of putting them in one place, I think I just fear the trauma of juggling all of my personalities at once. Of acting too basic with my lit friends or too ratchet with my chill friends.
  3. Hanging with anyone requires some level of effort so I say, the best plans are no plans. If I do make plans, I prefer to do it at the last minute, when I’m certain that my mood is conducive to social interaction. You know what’s stressful? Deciding whether or not you’re going to cancel plans and how you can do so politely. Or deciding to follow through with said plans and sitting in the sunken place watching yourself become a horrible, grumpy person not fit for friends. It’s safest to just play things by ear.
  4. Along those same lines, I find that group chats are the bane of my existence. I’m in group chats with at least four different groups of people and it’s all good until people start treating them like a news feed. I don’t watch the news because I specifically don’t want to be accosted with crappy, inane bullshit. (I’m sorry, this is sounding really mean, but I’m also not sorry.) I don’t like opening my messages and getting smacked with tales of tragic death. I don’t like daily, unwarranted messages about that thing you hate that you choose to do nothing about. I don’t like watching A and B have a conversation about X who I don’t care about. I love you guys, but you’re killing my high! You know what group chats should be for? Laughter only.
  5. There are some times, though, when I absolutely adore group chats (live and digital). I especially enjoy being social when it’s effortless. For example, Thursday I planned to have lunch by myself, but my friend invited me to eat with her and I said yeah. Then, another guy asked to sit with us and I said yeah again. Why? Because I knew these two people could hold a conversation about anything and everything. We talked about dating, getting married, Game of Thrones, nerd stereotypes, and it didn’t feel like work. It was dope. My only other favorite type of people to interact with are those that I don’t have to talk to about anything. We can just sit and keep each other company without having to fill the air. For me, that’s fun, that’s easy.

I honestly could’ve just called this post, “Reasons I consider myself an introvert,” but I figured there were enough posts like that to go around, so just consider it “B. things: why B.J.S is a one of kind friend.”

I Am Not A Cat Lady: Paws-itively Hilarious.

Despite being subjected to a pair of fur-covered roommates who generally took advantage of my high-strung nature, my life with Henry and Albie wasn’t all bad. In fact, they actually contributed to some legitimate chuckles over the course their stay.

For example, this exchange took place during a phone call with my father, who’s clearly great at names:
Me: One of the dumb cats is chasing his own tail.
Dad: Is it Herman?
Me: DAD there is no cat named Herman.
Dad: Ah, what is it…Harold?
Me: Hahahahaha NO.
Dad: Uh…[voices in background, obviously my mom helping him out while also mocking him] ohhh, Henry! Oh, I knew that.
Me: *eyeroll* Okay, Dad.

Then there was the realization that even in my sleep, there was no getting away from the cats: when I wake up each morning, I don’t typically recall the content of my dreams—or whether I dreamed at all, for that matter. Every now and then, though, I’ll remember a pretty vivid nightmare, most of which include guns or weird scenarios of violence. Interestingly, the scariest nightmare I’ve had since the cats moved in involved Henry creeping into an inaccessible cranny between two pieces of furniture so he could pee on my carpet but I couldn’t reach him to pull him out. I woke up from that one with beads of sweat forming on my forehead as I anxiously scanned my apartment until I located both cats. Thankfully, neither of them was using my carpet as a litter box.

While I never had an interest in owning cats, some tiny part of me has always liked the idea of becoming a dog owner. One day, that part of me decided to find out how dog-like these felines could become: I was going to train them to do tricks! My plan was to start by getting Henry and Albie to high-five me with their front paws, then progress to walking on leashes so we could take regular strolls around the neighborhood. While this may not come as a shock, my plan fizzled before we even progressed to the leash stage. At their best, my attempts to get high-fived by cats ended with me lifting the judgmental-looking felines’ front paws into the air; at their worst, they resulted in some minor scratches on my hand for making the cats move without rewarding them with treats. Looking back at that brief period of ambition, I’m not sure why I expected so much of the boys. Shoot, Albie doesn’t even respond to his own name.

Finally, there was a single evening during my period of cat ownership when I felt inclined to actually curl up on my couch with them. Embracing that unusually-cuddly instinct, I picked up Henry and plopped him onto my lap so I could pet him. Henry responded to my affection by stabbing me in the thigh with his claws until I let go and he could sprint away. Thanks for putting me in my place, sir.

Eat that frog.

They say you only retain about 25% of what you’re taught. If you’re lucky though, the crap you retain will actually be meaningful in your life. I got lucky at least once in my professional development life, and I’m here to tell you all about it.

Once upon a time I attended a project management workshop, and all I remember is the phrase “eat that frog.” Eat that nasty, gross, icky frog that I know you don’t want to eat, just to get it out the way.

It turns on that term was totally plagiarized and there’s a whole book dedicated to the topic (google “Eat That Frog”). The general idea is that you should do your most difficult tasks first thing in the morning. Nobody wants to eat a frog, but if you go ahead and devour that sucker, the rest of the day looks a lot easier. They could have just said that, but I’m pretty positive I wouldn’t have remembered it (that’s marketing for ya).

I tell you, the phrase actually conquers procrastination. My frogs are exercising, writing, and completing work projects with hard deadlines. Whether or not I “eat that frog” determines how my day goes.

I’m not the type of person who gets more productive as the day goes by. Nope, I’m the type to gradually get more enamored by my bed as the hours pass. I’m the type to start planning my margarita flavor at 2 pm. I’m the type who can work on a low priority task for hours and convince myself that I’ve done enough.

Today I ate that frog before 10 am and it was awesome. I started the morning dreading this one project. I resented that I had to do it in the first place, and the fact that it was challenging didn’t help. But before I got into anything else, I sat down and did it. It ended up taking me about an hour (a 1/3 of the time it would’ve taken after 1pm) and after that I celebrate appropriately because I had done that which needed to be done. Everything else I accomplished after that was just a bonus.

Amazingly, the high from being so awesome first thing in the morning lasted for several hours…until it was replaced by a desire to read books in a hammock. The point is, I actually deserved that hammock, because I already ate that frog.

Eat that frog first thing in the day. You’ll thank yourself later.

Why I…

Disclaimer: This post was written at two completely different times of day and under two different mindsets.

AM: Why I workout.

  1. I don’t feel like the same person when I miss a workout. I feel incomplete, depressed even. My workout is like waking up on the right side of the bed. It’s how I get my day right.
  2. Even seven minutes counts. There’s not really any excuse not to get any exercise in at all. Sometimes it’s a short walk, sometimes it’s a seven minute workout, and sometimes it’s 45 minutes of cardio or weight lifting. All that matters is that I do something. 
  3. I want to live as long as possible. My goal is to be as strong as Ernestine Shepherd. I had to look up “strongest oldest woman” to figure out her name just now, but she’s known for being old and ripped. I assume she’s gonna set a Guiness record for longevity.
  4. I’m vain. Every morning…after I workout…I take a selfie. And sometimes I check that selfie throughout the day just to remind myself how awesome I am. I want a body issue of Sports Illustrated dedicated to me. Or at the least, to look so bomb at the beach that folks let all of their ice cream melt while they stare in awe.
  5. It’s easier to stay fit than to work your way back. I’ve always been “a little person” and I count my blessings because I know it can’t be easy to lose weight. Almost every day my evil coworkers distribute dangerous delectables and almost as often I fail. I eat. I hate myself. And then I bounce back. It must be horrible having to cut out all the wonderful things in life just to maintain your weight!

PM: Why I love alcohol. (Bet you didn’t see that coming.)

  1. It makes me feel awesome. A glass of wine will have me feeling like the wisest, happiest, funniest person on earth. And I probably am, until I wake up the next morning.
  2. Variety is the spice of life. Too many years were spent drinking lemonade and orange juice. You need to try lemonade with something blue, orange juice with some tequila, and a drink that tastes like cinnamon.
  3. It’s just expensive enough to keep you from overdoing it. Unless you have no concept of a budget, there will be a part of you that says, “No I can’t drink until I get a hangover, because I can’t afford it.” And you’ll stop, and you’ll stay lit instead of fried.
  4. It helps you realize what’s important. Having a drink changes my priorities. I stop worrying about how forward I am, how I shouldn’t dance to the music, and what’s happening at work, and just focus on what’s important – sleep. Yep, alcohol makes me want to take a nap, and naps are what matter.
  5. There’s a chance it prevents heart attacks. At least if you drink red wine. Either way, that’s a chance I’d like to take.

I share these things to say, a balanced life is the only life to live. Chase what matters and forget the rest.

Final disclaimer: drinking in moderation is awesome. Binge and underage drinking are not. Stay thirsty my friends.

Laughter.

In the darkest times, laughter can be the best, most important thing. If you have a choice, always choose laughter.

I was sitting at home Saturday morning, about to feel all sad because I didn’t have anything to do for hours besides watch the rain fall, when I made a smart decision. I decided to watch the movie Fist Fight. I’ve been meaning to watch this movie since I first heard about it, but I screwed up and forgot about it.

But Saturday, Saturday was made awesome by Ice Cube and Charlie Day. That movie was hilarious and boy did I laugh. I laughed so hard I forgot about everything. I laughed so hard I felt warm and fuzzy inside. I laughed so hard I forgot what I was missing and remembered everything I had. Then I went out and conquered the day.

For the same reason, I watch The Golden Girls every opportunity I get. Nothing heals faster and stronger than laughter. So when things feel a bit overwhelming, or a bit too sad, think of that thing that makes you laugh. Laugh at TV, laugh at life, laugh at yourself. It will be like purifying yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

Yes, I laughed while writing this post. Have a great week!

The Shack.

For years, folks have been telling me “You gotta read The Shack. You gotta read The Shack!” The reviews were overwhelmingly positive. I would just mention it and folks would leap into, “this book is amazing,” “it changed my life,” “I’ve read it 100 times…” After I finally read the book I’ve become those people–I can finally say, “I get it.”

I’m the type of person that attempts to read every book before it becomes a movie because I’m afraid that I’ll accidentally end up watching the movie, and it will never live up to the book. So, when they announced The Shack movie, I remembered my friends’ advice, took my ass to the bookstore, and bought the book. I ended up at one of my favorite used bookstores, and the nice copies were all sold out. All that was left was a tattered copy with highlights and writing in it. The cover had a long ass note to some young lady going to college who probably should’ve kept the book, but dumped it anyways. Shame on her. I bought it anyways.

This book, to me, is like the new, new testament. It was so refreshing, so relevant, so powerful, it’s up there with the Bible in terms of books you oughta refer back to. Except it wasn’t like the Bible at all. It was so good, I really don’t want to spoil it. I’ll give you some highlights though to get you salivating.

  • This book had so many quotes to live by. If you just google “The Shack quotes” I promise your life will be blessed. I already posted one of my favorites on social media. It’s about what God wants:

“All I want from you is to trust me with what little you can, and grow in loving people around you with the same love I share with you. It’s not your job to change them, or to convince them. You are free to love without an agenda.”

  • Based on that quote, you can probably tell that God is a primary character in this book. It won’t spoil the story if I tell you that God is black woman. It spoils the story for some people, which I find terribly amusing, but I rock with it really hard. What rule says God is male or female? So many made-up rules…
  • Despite all this, The Shack is not a Christian book. It’s a book about spirituality, kinda like The Alchemist. It takes you on one man’s journey and shows you how faith and love can get you through anything.
  • If you’ve ever dealt with serious loss, you need this book. If you question your faith, you need this book. If you’re angry at God/the Universe/whomever, you need this book. If you think you’ll never make it through whatever you’re going through, you need this book.
  • Most importantly, if you ask me, I’ll probably buy you a copy of this book. I might become the aunt or cousin or friend writing letters at the front of the book telling you that it’s about to change your life. That’s how much I need you to read. This. Book.

I think you guys get the picture.

July 21, 2017.

Today’s Friday Top Five is dedicated to finance, more specifically retirement. Disclaimer: this post is for information purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. I’m no expert, I’m just a listener, and this week I had the opportunity to listen to an actual financial advisor, so I’m giving you the scoop.

  1. 50/15/5. They start with the meat, so here it is. Fidelity Investments recommends that 50% of your paycheck goes toward essential expenses (rent, utilities, transportation, groceries), 15% goes toward your retirement (401K or Roth), and 5% goes toward your short term savings. Great, right? I thought I was being pretty zealous about my 401K contributions, but I guess not…Apparently, you can work your way up to 15% by upping your contribution 1% every year. It seems legit to me though because we can’t count on social security in this day and age and because of #2.
  2. “The first person who will live to be 150 has already been born.” Check out this article. It never occurred to me that our life expectancy would be going up over time. People are still being taken out the game left and right, and I think most folks today assume they’ll go about the same time their parents did. If what they say is true, you’re gonna may a lot more money in your retirement account. But that’s somewhat okay because #3.
  3. Your retirement account can still grow in your retirement. For some reason this never crossed my mind. I imagined that the thousands I’d accrued at 65 would be all I had, but false! At retirement, you’ll just need enough to live to be 66 and then so on and so on. That means whatever you don’t spend immediately can still grow. That’s a relief!
  4. There’s good debt and bad debt. Attack the bad debt faster. Good debt is an investment in anything that appreciates in value. Generally, mortgages and student loans are considered good debt. Bad debt is anything that loses its value from the moment you spend it. This includes credit card debt and auto loans. Unfortunately, the bad debt often comes with ridiculous interest rates, so you end up paying an solid chunk of change in addition to what was originally charged. Be smart about your bad debt and get rid of it. Get rid of it all if you can.
  5. Update your beneficiaries. When I was talking to the lady about retirement she made me stop what I was doing to add a beneficiary. I honestly thought I had already done it since so many places require it, but my sizable 401K had been blank until this week. I finally started to think about who I wanted to be sure I pass my money on to, and having been in a situation where things weren’t outlined as clearly, I get the importance of following through here. Make sure your money is going to the people you care about, or at least people who can make financial decisions that aren’t gonna drive your entire family crazy.

 

I Am Not A Cat Lady: Bathroom Buddies.

Aren’t cats supposed to be afraid of water? Maybe “afraid” is a bit much, but at the very least, I thought that all members of the breed were water-averse. Either that’s true and my sister’s are broken, or that’s a lie and cats have been fooling the better part of society for quite a while. They would.

In any event, that non-fear of water meant that Henry and Albie were eager to join me whenever I entered my bathroom. While it wasn’t a major inconvenience, their presence added a few logistical challenges to my daily routine:

  • Showering: I typically tried to keep the cats out of the bathroom while I showered by hanging a towel over the door and wedging the door partially shut.* When executed correctly, the cats couldn’t force their way in, but I could still escape with ease. When it failed, I found myself in a bizarre, Psycho-esque scenario where cat silhouettes were descending on me at knee height. Not quite Hitchcock-level suspense, but close.
  • Contacts: My fellow contact lens-wearers, I’m sure you understand why this one caused me the most stress. For one thing, I hardly wanted cat hair anywhere near my lenses—it’s bad enough when a rogue eyelash slips in, so a bit of cat hair getting stuck to a contact lens would’ve be an optical emergency of the highest magnitude. Next, there was the risk of losing a lens because of a cat misstep. These things are expensive, so if the cats joined me to wander aimlessly on my bathroom counter as I prepared to put my contacts in, my blood pressure rose as soon as they got within a few feet of the open case. Finally, contact solution: I remember being awestruck as a high school sophomore when a senior told me that adding contact solution to an enemy’s drink could result in some reeeally unpleasant digestive issues for said enemy (we truly do learn some of life’s most important lessons in high school). Knowing how much Henry and Albie didn’t not like water, I was extra paranoid that they’d try to lap up the liquid contents of my contact case when I looked away. In my mind, the result would absolutely have been sick cats and an incredibly messy litter box.
  • Hair straightener: I was convinced that if I left an unplugged-but-still-warm hair straightener on the bathroom counter, Henry or Albie (definitely Albie) would get burned while trying to play with it. As it turned out, I underestimated the boys and quickly found that they knew better than to poke the hot object…but not until I was late for work one morning because I stayed in my apartment for 20 extra minutes to make sure the straightener was 100% cooled down before I left.
  • Mascara: Each morning, I stared into the mirror and assumed the classic mascara-applying position (arm raised to face, eyes widened, mouth agape). In response to this pose, Albie would slide under my armpit as if I was raising my arm to welcome him into a designated petting spot. The result was usually my arm being bumped, a splotch of mascara being unintentionally applied to my forehead or cheekbone, and Albie receiving a few reluctant pats.
  • Teeth brushing: Albie enjoyed pacing back and forth at the front of my sink whenever I brushed my teeth—I could access the sink by leaning over him, so no problem there. He also enjoyed coming to an abrupt stop, sticking his head into the sink, and peering down the drain in an attempt to figure out where all that wonderful water was going. Whenever he conducted one of these surprise inspections, I may or may not have accidentally spit on him and left his back smelling minty fresh.

*Wait, why not just close the bathroom door to keep the cats out? Backstory time: a couple years ago, I found that I couldn’t open the door one night when I tried to leave my bathroom after taking a shower; no matter how hard I tugged at the handle, the top third of the door was jammed in the doorframe. I assumed that it had swelled due to the humidity and that if I just gave it a few minutes, the door would go back to functioning normally. After spending the next ten minutes completing the rest of my pre-sleep routine (hair combing, teeth brushing, changing into the clothes that I thankfully had carried into the room with me), I tried to open the door again…and was still unsuccessful.

That’s when I went into problem-solving mode: what creative method could I use to open that sucker? A towel seemed like my most useful tool, so I tried things like wedging one in between the door and the frame so that I could quickly yank the towel back towards me, as well as tying one around the doorknob so I could put a little more muscle into tugging the handle. Not surprisingly, neither idea was successful.

At that point, it was around 12:30 in the morning (in a move that probably cost me my Millennial Card, I had my watch with me, but not my cell phone), and I was out of ideas. I started to get a little nutty, as was evidenced by my next several minutes being spent laughing hysterically at my situation, deciding that I should just sleep in my bathroom for the night, and beginning to cry as I curled up on the floor and realized that I really, really didn’t want to sleep in my bathroom.

Once several tears were shed and 1am arrived, I realized there was only one thing left to do: swallow my pride and start banging on my mirror in the hopes that my neighbor would hear me and call the building’s security guard to come help me. It took several minutes of knocking and announcing, “Hi, this is your neighbor, Becki, and I’m trapped in my bathroom,” but—in one of the greatest moments of my adult life—I finally heard a startled “Ohh!!” and confirmation that my neighbor was, in fact, calling security for me! (By the way, that was the first interaction I ever had with the quiet but lovely woman in her 70s who lives next door to me; I slipped a thank you note under her door later that week, and she wrote a note in reply that implored me to “please be careful”). Sure enough, our building’s guard was knocking at my apartment and ramming my bathroom door open in no time.

So yeah. That’s why the cats didn’t get locked out of the bathroom.