I was let go from my past job.
Before you get all excited looking to eat up the latest gossip, you won’t find it here. I’m not writing to dump on my previous employer. I’m not posting this to get sympathy or rectify anything. This blog isn’t about forgiveness, throwing punches, or anything of the sort.
Even so, I have spent a good amount of time debating whether to keep my story private, sharing only with family and friends, or announce my vulnerabilities and victories to anyone who stumbles upon this blog. Well, you know my approach on things, so here I go.
I relate my past job to an unhealthy relationship. I poured a lot of energy into it, but it just wasn’t the right fit. Just like a relationship, you try, you fight for it, but ultimately, there are too many ups and downs. Too much struggle. Too many bruises.
The day I was asked to leave the company, I packed up my things and checked my burdens at the door. Driving out of the parking lot, I realized this situation would send most people into cardiac arrest. I knew I should feel the same, but simply didn’t. That day, my priorities shifted from the daily rat race to paying my mortgage and feeding my four-legged companion.
Doing some (very limited) number crunching in my mind on my drive home, I was going to be fine. I had a growing photography business to keep a bit of cash rolling in and had enough saved up to get by comfortably for at least six months. At the very worst, my wealthy sister lives two miles away. Making a mental note to remain in good standing with her, I was thankful for the freedom to spend a few days, weeks, even months away from the working world to explore where I fit in.
I pulled into my driveway and began unloading the casual collection my desk had accumulated over the past three years. My plant, décor, lamp, computer bag, favorite pens and pencils, notes from some astounding coworkers. I brought it all into the house and piled it on my kitchen counter. My dog knew something was up. I usually didn’t bring that much baggage home from work.
As with any tweak in my life, I called and gave my sister a report, who sounded genuinely happy for me. We hung up and I looked around.
The emotions were revving up. Sheer joy. Incredible relief. Deep sorrow. Complete amusement. It was a mixture so scattered and so strong my heart felt like it might explode. At the same time, a sense of complete indifference washed over me. I stared at my junk collection and reasoned with myself. I was no longer an employee of anyone but myself. It was time to de-brand. I put away, hid, donated or tossed anything that I associated with my old company. Out of sight, out of mind, which was easier to do than I thought.
But I didn’t want to give myself too much credit. It was Friday, and I was sure to have a good weekend. But come Monday, who would I be? In a world where jobs define people, would I be okay watching the weekday morning hustle bustle from my window as I sat sipping coffee in my pajamas with my dog?
The answer is yes. Definitely.
There begun my venture with self/un-employment. And I’ve lost track of how many times people asked, burning with curiosity, what I spent my time on. Well, the first weekend was spent rehashing the scenario and making fun of myself at every opportunity. Seriously. Me, without a job because I got “let go”… Pretty comical.
The next week, I hopped into a car with my dad and drove to Pittsburgh to visit my 95-year-old grandma. Her health is fading and she isn’t super responsive, but the 1,100-mile drive was all worth it to see her react to the words “hi grandma.” I was also able to exchange those three little words with her, ones I may never hear her speak again. Totally worth it.
After that trip, I experienced – for the first time since pre-school – living life with no structure. Nobody and nothing to report to. Just me and my desires to get caught up on personal stuff. To stay in my pajamas until 4 p.m. To go entire days without putting on a bra. To stay up way too late and sleep in because there was no plan other than being me the next day.
I reconnected with a high school friend (who reminded me not to “should” on myself), amped up my dating life (still unsuccessful), and began networking (something I formerly hated). I organized all the closets in my home, a project I’ve wanted to do since I closed on my house five years ago, and donated about 10 bags of stuff I no longer wanted or needed. Hopefully someone finds something they love from it.
I spent a few afternoons hanging out with Harold’s Photo Experts, learning more about photography (and spending a lot of money). I mastered the lighting in my studio, upgraded my lens and learned the ins and outs of my camera. I also started a “People of Fargo” blog series to exercise my passions for photography and journalism. I ran a caption contest that I had horrible fears nobody would respond to (but they did!!), and found a perfect senior citizen to talk to and take photos of – something I had wanted to do for months. I also tried to implement a new business idea, which failed. Thankfully, it cost me nothing and was worth some hard laughs. Now I know why nobody else has done it.
I sweat my way through a trial week at a yoga studio and frequented the 10:00 a.m. Pilates class I had been dying to go to for the past three years but lacked the freedom. I spent several mornings in Beans Coffee Bar and enjoyed smelling like a doughnut for the remainder of the day.
I wrote the script for the ADDY’s, which consumed more time than I ever expected, but had a hugely satisfying end result. I got every pain-in-the-butt, renew-your-license, rotate-your-tires, file-your-taxes errand done that I could possibly think of. I visited a friend on maternity leave, began attending a Bible study and bought an executive desk for my home office, mainly because I deserve it. I also compiled my lists in Excel. So now I have a list of lists. Watch. Out.
I learned a lot about myself, too.
I learned that I was exhausted – physically and emotionally. I normally never nap, but I curled up for a snooze with my dog often on my practically unused couch. I slept in – a joy I used to deprive myself of. My body obviously needed rest. And, for the first time in a long, long time, I listened to it.
I also realized I was equipped for a yearlong grocery store strike. So, I temporarily banned buying groceries. This meant drinking the rice milk I had bought a while back (gross) and eating canned fruit and veggies rather than the fresh stuff. There was also a freezer burnt pizza or two in there – the ones with about a half inch of ice on the top of it.
I forced myself to cook from my cupboard and freezer, rather than jet off to the grocery store to stock up on more stuff I didn’t have room for. I reduced my trips to the grocery store from 2-3 times per week to about once per month for the essentials (milk, bread, men and Sharks fruit snacks). My grocery store ban led to crossing item #17 off my bucket list – make my own jars of jam – when I ran out and made my own from a Jello packet and a few cups of frozen rhubarb.
Basically, I embraced my desires for life and went after a few things. I spent some time recuperating. I took a break from the coffee-guzzling-induced excessive work weeks and stopped stuffing my own desires down a hole.
So what’s my point? Maybe I don’t know a lot. I’m just a baby in the working world. But I learned not to hide behind a paycheck. Shoulders back, chin up. It if doesn’t feel right, it’s not. If you have to pretend, it’s not you and it’s not for you. Be real. Get real and find the courage to do what you love. Then own it.
You deserve it.
Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.
I grew up playing The Game of Life with my family. Dad would grease the spinner (seriously), and the six of us would gather around the living room coffee table, spread out the board and fight over what color car was ours.
It generally took two nights to finish the game, but there was no opting out. We all had a spot in the game. Dad was always the banker, which was perfect. I hated math and keeping track of stuff.
Honestly, all I cared about was getting a good spin (think momentum, not landing on a good square) and trying to dodge having more than two stick people in my car (keeping them in the car was a hindrance). Naturally, top priority rested with collecting a very large stack of money and cashing it in for bigger bills. I would then spend downtime admiring it and imagining what I’d do if I had a million dollars in real life. All I remember is that it involved dresses, cameras and horses. Apparently a lot of them.
Anyway, during the game I remember being asked frequently whether I wanted to insure my house, my car, my kids, my business, my aunt, my farm… everything.
The answer was obvious.
I wasn’t an idiot. I knew the more money I had in my hand, the better off I was. Why whyyy would I waste my hard earned G’s on something that would only come in handy for, like, one square of the game?
Being uninsured was my strategy for the game. Minimal risk and 100 percent chance of surviving – similar to the option to caulk the wagon and float across in Oregon Trail. If you had a half a brain, you risked it. Every time. Who cares if you lost Sally? The funerals were brief and face it, you didn’t even know she was there for the most part.
Anyway, my sister and I were recently hashing over the ins and outs of insurance (our lives aren’t that exciting). Our conclusion? Real life is a helluva lot like The Game of Life.
I mean, as a kid, you just have a riot playing the game. Then you grow up and realize it’s an exact replica of what happens in life itself, only without the “Share the Wealth” cards and “Lucky Days,” which is kind of completely annoying. My parents were forcing me to make adult decisions and I didn’t even know. And clearly I did a bad job.
Maybe this is why I struggle so much with decisions. I chose bad options without any repercussions as a young child. Now, when asked to insure everything in real life, I have the same tendencies. I turn down as much insurance as I possibly can without totally jinxing myself and going bankrupt. For example, given my current circumstances, flood insurance is a joke (I hope). Same goes for life insurance. It’s just not for me…. obviously. Dog insurance? He’s a brick wall. You don’t need to insure a brick wall.
Or do you?
Truth is, most people aren’t able to glide through actual life averting all disasters. There seems to be at least one horrific thing that goes wrong that makes you either a.) wish you had bought insurance or b.) wish you hadn’t blown money on insurance.
So when I found myself with a month-long gap in health insurance and needing some type of short-term (immediate!) coverage, I had a decision to make. “Ford the river” and (very carefully) live with the gap, or buy something temporary.
The first was option was ultra-tempting. But, keeping in mind most of my walking is done with my arm entangled in a leash with an excitable 110-pound dog on the other end, I signed up for some really terrible, super cheap temporary insurance with an unfamiliar company just in case I slipped on the ice, shattered a few crucial bones and dislocated my face. The insurance very well could have been a scam. Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out. Хорошая интернет аптека красноярск с низкими ценами на лекарства.
My sister shared a story of her own. Her and her husband noticed a “homeowners extra” addition on their policy this year. When she inquired, she was told it covered things like furs, pewterware, manuscripts and precious stones.
“In case things go wrong at the trading post?” I asked. Oregon Trail meets The Game of Life, perhaps?
My sister opted out of insuring her non-existent furs and manuscripts, but, as an attorney, took particular interest in the section of the homeowners extra policy that discussed slander and libel.
I’m not sure of the exact details, but what I heard was this insurance essentially covers the overly chit-chatty. The type who consistently tells bad jokes. The masters of offending people. Those with un-agreeable opinions who think their thoughts are worth publishing. AKA the freedom to run your mouth with no repercussions. All for the low cost of just $18 a year!
This insurance seems very worth it. Someone sign me up! Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s get that old Game of Life insured. The whole greasing of the wheel couldn’t have been safe.
Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.
I had an interesting conversation last night. A relatively deep, caring dialogue with the produce guy at Hornbacher’s pills online.
He’s a real peach.
(Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
But, seriously let me first explain where this is stemming from (whoops! There I go again.)
“How are you?”
“Sure is windy.”
Or, in produce man’s case, “Finding everything okay?”
“Sure am! Thanks.”
Barf. We’ve got more than that, don’t we? We aren’t robots yet, right?
I’ve been voicing concerns on the issue to my sister, who thinks it’s ridiculous that I’m bothered that nobody talks to each other. I mean, really talk. Mind you, I’m a self-proclaimed introvert (I test an extrovert), yet I’m bothered every day by the dumbfounded looks after offering words to a stranger.
Allllllrighty then. Bury yourself in your phone. Look at your feet. Stare at me until I look at you, and then look away. Isn’t our normal routine kind of… abnormal? A comment to a nearby stranger shouldn’t catch them so off guard.
Same goes for people you actually know. Don’t you just want to “trim the fat” on conversations? Skim it, skip it and get to the stuff that matters. Like, how do you really feel, because we all know “good” is the B.S. auto-answer. Is it really that great to see me, and why? And, hey, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you, and I don’t really know how to say it, but here’s my best shot.
Which brings me to last night’s conversation. I’d had a helluva week and the last thing I wanted to do on Friday was stay late at work, which I did. The next to last thing I wanted to do was the pain-in-the-butt chore called getting gas, which I also did. I really didn’t want to get groceries, so I got that over with too.
Big Friday night, here.
I grabbed my cart and started (quickly) maneuvering through the store, strategizing how I could get this done as fast as possible. That’s when I saw produce man. Head down, stacking fruit, hard at work in the middle of everyone’s grocery-getting, me!me!me!me!me! shuffle.
I had encountered this 60-something man about a year ago after noticing the organization of the oranges. I should have taken a picture. It looked like Mr. Hornbacher had contracted an architect who subcontracted a brick layer to be sure the orange display was a 10.
It was perfect.
Anyway, turns out this man was responsible, so back then I told him his work made my all-too-frequent trips to the store a pleasantry. (Have I mentioned I’m kind of a grandma?)
We’ve had a few run-ins since. One in particular was an evening last summer. The man was walking home from his shift and got stopped by my dog.
We talked. He seemed tired. I was too. Unlike other similar conversations of this sort, I asked his name with the intention of actually remembering it.
Easy. I have an uncle named Jim.
So when I saw him in the grocery store last night, I debated whether it was worth saying hi. He looked busy and probably didn’t remember me. But, what the hell, I was walking right by, and while my outrageously flashy night was on the verge of capping out, there was still room for a little more pizzazz.
I double checked his name tag and called out over the avocados, “Hey Jim!”
It was clear he was happy to see me.
“Hey!” he said, pointing at me. “Ah, how are you doing… (pause), Laura right?”
Huh. He remembered my name, too.
“I’m alright,” I responded with a smile.
He shook his head, like a father would, crossed his arms and said, “Eh… What’s going on?”
So I opened up about a few of life’s current stresses and joys. He was definitely engaged, offering advice, again, like a parent would, listening to me, encouraging me, happy for me. Then it was his turn.
It didn’t take much prying and he was revealing how much he disliked this time of year. The darkness. The cold, and, sadly, the people. Specifically the abundance of grumpy people (yes, even in our “North Dakota Nice” little corner of the world). He shared stories of folks fighting over parking spots, ungratefully rude customers (my words, not his), and people who let the stress of the holiday season get to them. And then pass it on.
“Thank God for you,” he said, with a look that said it all. I had made his day. “You and your bright smile. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t see that all day.”
Oof. That’s some harsh reality.
He shared his winter travel plans. I tried to encourage him and he did the same for me. Finally, we agreed to have a beer on my deck this summer when I catch him walking by again. A few jokes about spring and summer being “right around the corner,” (it’s not even officially winter yet) and we were on with our nights.
But the conversation rang in my ears the rest of the evening. I’m not a terrible person, but to think that I’m a shining light in our community is alarming.
To me, joy isn’t about putting coins in a bucket out of guilt. It’s not about shopping to show someone you care, or hosting a Martha Stewart-approved Christmas. It’s about reaching out a hand, encouraging someone, even if you don’t know them. Pointing something out that’s funny just to get a smile and spread some cheer. Making even the smallest attempt to be a bright spot in someone else’s day.
I wanted to share the story in hopes that readers would think about this as they’re out and about this holiday season.
But it shouldn’t just be seasonal. It should be a year-long attempt to squeeze out as many corny jokes as possible. That being said, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a New Year that overflows with aisle 5 interactions.
See? Orange you glad…
Alright, I’ll stop.
Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.
This weekend marks the 5-year anniversary of putting down my favorite childhood dog, Bullet.
I know I’ve written about this black lab before, but I was telling a friend the other day that Hines has some of the same characteristics that Bullet did, and in fact, I’ve always believed that maybe – maybe – Hines has Bullet’s spirit. Maybe God knew I loved Bullet so much that he put a piece of his personality into Hines. And then coincidentally placed Hines at the Fargo-Moorhead Humane Society (Now Homeward Animal Shelter) on a day I happened to visit, and then had him miraculously return again four months later after I was too skittish to take him away at our initial meeting.
Is that a crazy thought? It probably is, but I get great satisfaction out of believing in things that can’t be disproven (I still believe in Santa), and this is one of my favorite beliefs.
Anyway, they have similar mannerisms, like that look between sheer desperation and total willingness to eat whenever and whatever I’m eating. That full-body excitement when I lace up my shoes, and that willing attitude to deal with my antics just to make me happy. You know, things like letting me dress them up in old lady dresses, laughing as I flick marshmallows all over the kitchen floor as they desperately try to track them down, making them “pose” in the studio so I can
practice my photography, and, embarrassingly, putting up with the overly-abrupt jerk of a leash when in fact, I’m the one having a bad day.
Anyway, we dog lovers know what it’s like to lose one, and if you haven’t experienced it yet, be prepared. It’s
much more difficult than you’d expect. It will leave you awkwardly sobbing for an hour too long after watching Marley & Me. You’ll long to touch their soft fur again, miss their window art and the daily laughter they provide all at the low cost of a 40-pound bag of dog acheter cialis france food every month.
But it’s all worth it. Our 4-legged friends are only meant to be with us for a limited amount of time. Maybe it’s so it doesn’t feel like a dragged out marriage, or because too much of a good thing isn’t good anymore. I don’t know, but let’s be thankful for the times we do have, raise our glasses and celebrate the pups chasing rabbits in heaven right now. We’ll cheers to the cats tomorrow.
To my avid readers:
Many of you made it known that you were anxiously awaiting a follow-up post to Going off the Grid Attempt #2. Well, here she be.
I’m not sure what you’re expecting. I suppose by the sound of my previous post about a 5-day adventure to to the Boundary Waters, you’d think I would have come back a new woman. Let me start by saying I was sore for several days and was definitely relieved to return. I don’t have rave reviews, nor do I have nightmare stories, but there were definite good and bad parts of the haul.
The trip was kind of bipolar, to say the least, there really wasn’t much middle ground. Let me take that back. There was a LOT of middle ground. All of which we had to paddle and portage, which was definitely the one of the worst parts of
the trip. But before I break down the good and bad, let me first explain the dynamics of the campers.
Camper #2: Robert Stoneburner, my dad. Hated camping as a kid. Had never previously gone camping voluntarily. Packed his stuff in four separate bags and brought a straw hat large enough to provide shade for the entire campsite.
Camper #3: Lynn Mesteth, my sister. Wanted nothing to do with camping. Ever. Only went to please her husband. Packed her favorite shoes.
Camper #4: Robert Mesteth, my brother-in-law. Leader of the pack. So excited about camping that he couldn’t sleep for days prior to the trip or concentrate on anything other than camping.
Camper #5: Laura Stoneburner, me. History of bad camp outings. Hates bugs more than she is able to articulate. Made certain the group had enough toilet paper and fruit and vegetables.
Anyway, I’ll start with the bad.
1.) I confirmed that still don’t enjoy camping and the puzzle is yet to be solved for how anyone can find it “fun.”
This was NOT a vacation. It was a lot of work. It was frustrating. It was tiring. The general concept: portage and canoe all your stuff (that you regret packing) to a dirty site where the bugs flow like beer at a college party. Unpack, boil drinking water, eat food stirred with a stick found on the ground that you and a hundred other people peed on. Then paddle more, then hike more, then pack and unpack. Throughout all this, apply and re-apply sunscreen and bug spray until the film on your skin is so substantial that it makes jumping into a cold lake sound like a treat. Pray no bears or skunks discover you as you curl up for sleep on a lumpy ground. Then, wake up and do it all again the next day.
It’s truly exhausting. It wasn’t my typical vacation, which usually includes more showers, wine and shopping and fewer basic survival skills.
2.) My fear of bugs was really a trouble. I’ve never felt so paranoid in my life.
“Is there something on my back?”
“Okay. How about now?”
I even ripped off my pants in front of Camper #1 because there was a bug biting my leg. I stood in my skivvies in front of my fellow campers and stared at my pants on the ground to discover it was “just” a horse fly.
3.) Returning to “real life” was a rough transition. I got so used to peeing wherever, whenever, that it was tough to resist dropping my pants and taking a leak in the middle of town when we returned to civilization.
And for the good?
1.) We had great weather the entire time. In fact, the night after our departure, emergency calls were made for several campers who were injured due to falling trees during a bad storm, so I wasn’t so pre-occupied with scratching my mosquito bites that I failed to appreciate what we were blessed with.
2.) Family time. As I grow older, time together seems more and more sparse and I’ve learned to appreciate it to a whole new level. Sharing camping stories and working together to set up and tear down camp was the perfect time to throw jabs at each other (literally and figuratively), talk about the latest happenings in life and visit about future plans. All without being interrupted by a phone call, email, text message, Facebook invite…
3.) Fishing. As explained in the previous article, I hadn’t fished for at least a decade – maybe two. On this trip, fishing served three purposes, which in itself was a hit, as I love multitasking. First, fishing meant dinner not from a box. Second, fishing meant time away from bugs. A HUGE bonus. And third, it was top-shelf entertainment for the trip. I did discover fishing is a passion of mine. It only “hid” from my life since I was 10. In fact, I’ve had a tough time getting my mind off of fishing. I even dream about it. I am happy to have rediscovered the hobby. So is Fleet Farm.
4.) I crossed item #16, “learn to fillet a fish” off the bucket list. Sadly not with a fish I caught. Rather, I was robbed a handful of times by near
catches, but my line snapped and now I need to replenish my brother-in-law’s tackle box. Along with this “first,” I learned how to chop wood, which I watched my dad and brothers do growing up but never tried out of fear of splitting my entire leg in half. I also tried Ramen for the first time, which was surprisingly very good.
5.) Returning home and having a new appreciation for everything – even the basics like chairs, a table and cold water. I love my bed more than ever and have newfound respect for Fargo’s water treatment facility, plumbing and the bug free zone I call my home. It’s all truly wonderful.
So. Would I go again? No, probably not. Am I glad I went? Yes, I am. So where does that leave me? Floating somewhere in the middle, fishing rod in one hand, beer in the other, enjoying life for the day. Then returning home to a shower and my bed at night. Compromise. It’s all about compromise.
Here’s to another adventure!
I’m going to the Boundary Waters.
Yes, me. The girl who sat in the woods and cried with her friend during church wilderness camp because it “wasn’t fun,” “felt like abuse” and all we wanted was to get home. Susie and I sat on a trail together, scratching our mosquito bites and soaking up our tears with toilet paper. We agreed that camping “felt like the military”… because as eighth graders, we understood what that was like. We simply hadn’t known what we were in for.
But it’s been a few years. I’ve learned a couple of things. I’ve grown stronger, and my entire life has changed since our little meltdown in the deep woods.
And so, I’m going off the grid again, but this time it’s not out of boredom, stupidity or parental pressure. It’s not because I have to, or because I’m dating some insane outdoorsman. Rather, this was something I elected to do because I feel like I need it.
Yes, pretty desperately. Trust me, I’d prefer a trip out to Maine where I could eat fresh seafood every day and stay in decent, comfortable hotels. You know… ones with flushing toilets, WIFI and pillows and blankets that you don’t have to carry for miles.
But I got to thinking, I spend upwards of eight hours per day in front of a computer – probably closer to 10 with work, photo editing, ‘Wit writing, feeding my Facebook addiction, checking email, and staring at the hourly forecast to see how it will dictate the hours I’m not on my electronic devices. I try to limit it (there’s a reason I don’t have a Smartphone), but the times I’m not on my computer, my iPad and phone are nearby, so I can follow up on messages from friends, who are usually upset that I didn’t answer and/or took too long to respond.
This disconnect with nature spreads to other areas of my life, too. Before I run, I shove ear buds in my ears. Every night, I fall asleep to the soothing sound of traffic. During my morning drive to work, I waste an annoying amount of time sitting at the two stoplights I am forced to go through – just enough to get on my nerves.
I’ve also begun to take for granted living 100 yards away from a grocery store, flipping a switch to light up a room, having ice in my water. I’ve also grown increasingly fond of my bed, running water and fresh laundry and towels. And I’ve fallen in love with the privacy four walls and a sturdy, locked door provide.
But I’ve taken these things so far for granted and gotten so used to everything being automatic, that it has begun to put a bit of a damper on my life. My iPad has replaced stepping out to examine the night sky. I swim in a pool instead of a lake, and run on a treadmill instead of exploring new outdoor trails. I commonly eat dinner in front of my computer. I’ve become a bit captive of my amenities. I’ve been living it up within my little comfort zone and, quite honestly, I’m annoyed with myself.
It has gotten out of hand. It’s way too much. I need to disconnect and get away.
So, despite my previous bad experience, I’m packing one very small bag, leaving my electronics, eyeliner and comforting “stuff” at home, and roughing it.
I try to do things that scare me every chance I get, but this trip makes me nervous to say the least.
For starters, it will put my comfort zone out of sight for five days, with no option to turn around and back out.
I’ll also need to completely trust my brother-in-law’s compass and map-reading skills to get us out and back safely and on time. Though, I admit, any guy who made his way into my sister’s heart probably has infallible navigation.
There’s the usual fear of creatures with more than four legs, running out of toilet paper, getting swallowed by a bear, falling into a poison ivy bush, getting rained on for five consecutive days and getting separated from the group and having to fend for myself. But all in all, I recognize the incredible amount of opportunity in this vacation.
For the first time in 10 years, I’ll cast a line in hopes to catch my dinner. Then, if I can find it in me to cut up Nemo and eat him, I’ll happily cross Bucket List Item #16 off my list (learn to fillet a fish). The best part about it? I’ll be learning first hand from my Dad. I even have a chance at crossing off Bucket List Item #17—sleep in a tree fort or igloo — if I can convince my brother-in-law to build me one (a tree fort, in this case, not the igloo).
I’m excited to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of a crackling campfire. To spend entire days under the sun watching birds and catching fish, then watching the moon wane a little more each night. I’m looking forward to pan frying fresh fish over a fire, curling up in a sleeping bag, swimming in a lake, having good ole fashioned conversation 100% free of the distraction of phones, and who knows – maybe facing my fear of spiders at last.
Though the last one is highly doubtful, maybe I should be concerned with how I’ll get back into the grind and “up to speed” when I get back home.
If I were on top of things, this blog would have been posted on (or before) Father’s Day. But, I am my father’s daughter and dad has never been on time for anything his entire life. Not church. Not graduations. Not flights. Not my high school prom. It’s just how he is.
So… in honor of Father’s Day I wanted to write about how my dad has shaped my life, even if I’m a little late.
There are a million things I have to thank Dad for, and trust me, I’ve tried. But my rave reviews generally either get brushed off or are followed up with a list of things he feels he could have, would have, should have done better.
Despite what he thinks, Dad taught me some of the most important life lessons that I still apply to my adult life. Here are just a few.
“Life Ain’t a Bowl of Cherries”
This was possibly the toughest lesson Dad tried to instill. I wanted to whine. Complain. I wanted things to be different. Better. Heck, even reversed. Things weren’t fair and I wanted them to be. You know… typical teenage concerns. He’d remind me that “Life ain’t a bowl of cherries,” which annoyed me further but ultimately got me to shut up about my first-world problems. I still chuckle when things don’t line up quite perfectly and imagine him reminding me…. “Life ain’t a bowl of cherries…”
Quitting is not an Option
There were a few things I wanted to give up on back in the day. I had played softball for a number of years and just really didn’t love it. Some days the ladies’ requests at the café I worked at were enough to make me want to throw a dried-out doughnut in my boss’ face and stomp outta there. And I came to the conclusion my junior year that choir wasn’t going to make me a rock star. But Dad encouraged me to stick with it, “do your best,” and see what came of it. I applied this to other areas of my life and now have a hard time coming up with more than about three things I’ve ever quit in my life. Off the top of my head I can think of one – golf, which I don’t feel deserves an explanation. After all, I stuck with softball. You can’t do both. I was proof.
Don’t bother keeping up with the Jones’
Dad taught me a lot about financial responsibility. Not through endless lectures or PowerPoint presentations. Rather, by his own lifestyle. A successful attorney, Dad could afford a lot of things. He could afford to buy an Escalade, but he drove an older Jeep instead. He could afford a brand new ski boat, but he settled for a 1979 Grady-White that worked… most of the time. He could afford to buy his kids the camera they begged endlessly for, but instead encouraged us to “save up you shekels” so we could buy it ourselves some day.
We were blessed, not spoiled. We had everything we needed, but weren’t handed everything we wanted. I will forever be grateful for him teaching me that conformity wasn’t the best route, that saving money was important, and that having the “latest and greatest” was almost always meaningless.
Look Before You Leap
Oh, the times I heard this one. Dad would plead with me to fully understand something before I dove in. To think before I acted, make sure the rewards outweighed the risks and move ahead cautiously if there were any risks involved. And for the most part, I listened. And the times I didn’t…. I tried my best to keep it a secret from Dad. Which oddly never worked.
Don’t dress, act like or be a bimbo.
Seriously. Not an option. Embarrassingly enough, I tried. At about 10 years old, I recall trying to say the words “cross country” in an adult conversation. Not complicated, but I couldn’t get it out right.
I began to giggle, thinking, of course, that it was hilarious.
It was the first and only time I was ever sent to my room. Dad felt I was messing up on purpose and was frustrated that I was being a goofball and making a spectacle of my stupidity.
Other times, when Dad would catch me wearing something slightly skimpy, a modest 2-piece swim suit for example, he’d ask one simple question that had me beelining it for my bedroom to find something a bit more… bulky.
“Nice swimsuit. Where’s the rest of it?”
Like I said, not an option.
Good Enough Usually Isn’t
I absolutely dreaded asking Dad for help. Whether it was practicing my saxophone or doing math problems, he was my absolute last resort, mainly because a 30-minute task would stretch out to 3 hours, making sure I had it down pat, that it was perfect and that I understood fully.
It was terrible. I would get to bed entirely too late and then when he sent me off to school the next day, he’d yell after me “work hard!”
“I will Dad. I will.”
And, because of him, I did… and still do.
Commitment is hard. Like really hard. So when my brother and his dog moved out a few years ago, I was faced with a difficult decision.
Buy my own dog or live peacefully ever after?
I already knew dogs were a complete and total pain in the butt from my years of living with my bro and his pup. I even had all the joys of dog ownership – a running partner and a scare tactic when the Arm & Hammer reps came to the door – without any of the responsibilities – vet appointments, buying food. I only had to endure damage to my home – broken deck spindles, stained carpet, ruined couches, a yard caked with yellow grass marks… you get the idea.
But for as much as I complained about it, I found myself missing puppy companionship once my bro and his dog high-tailed it out of here. The home felt empty without paws dragging mud in, without slobber on my lap and without a dog curled up under the clothes in my closet.
To fill the void, I took a few trips to the humane society and fell in love with a new best friend. He was just a little pup. He was missing a canine, had a googly eye and, when he was really excited, he’d pee when he walked.
I had to have him.
Unfortunately, he was adopted before I had a chance to nab him, but he miraculously returned four months later (behavioral issues were with the owner, not the dog). It was meant to be. A match made in heaven. He was mine.
I grew up with family dogs, but this is the first time I’ve experienced having my very own pet that I got to name without arm wrestling siblings. I named him Hines, after the greatest receiver of all time, Hines Ward.
Now don’t be fooled. Hines has a lot of great talents. He can chew bones like a champ, he’s super protective and he can spend a crazy amount of time in a deep slumber. But he can’t catch. He can’t even snag a full tortilla when it’s tossed directly at him.
Anyway, we recently celebrated our one year anniversary and not a day has gone by where I don’t find little blonde hairs poking out of my shirt. My patio door is caked with a film that resembles stained glass in a way. The back seat of my car is full of dog hair, and little rivers of drool stream down the rear windows from when he sticks his head out the windows. And the nose prints on my full-length mirror make me chuckle. It’s a sure sign he’s intimidated by his own reflection.
“Whatchoo lookin’ at?”
“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
He hates baths, which of course I think is hilarious. And, as you might gather, he really hates the car wash. Any time we go through a drive-thru, its drool galore, even if we’re at the bank or getting coffee. Turns out that Pavlov guy was pretty spot on.
He follows me everywhere. He lies on my yoga mat when I curse Jillian and her fat-blasting techniques. The few times he’s allowed in my bed, it’s like he was designed to be tucked next to me. He stares at me while I’m on my computer. Eating. Getting dressed. Going to the bathroom. Showering. Cooking. Brushing my teeth. Clipping coupons. Putting my coat on. He is always there. And honestly, when he’s not, it’s really weird.
He gives me sad eyes when I leave for work. And the funny thing is, I actually feel guilty leaving. The poor guy has to lay on his cushy bed all day in peace and quiet and take a nap. He even helps himself to my couch, even though it’s forbidden. (I swear he has learned to avoid it at times I may return home). And he only gets about a third of his body weight in treats each month. He’s 90 pounds.
Anyone who has a dog understands. I have absolutely fallen in love, and the paw print on my heart so deep, it’s hard to imagine my life without him.
My parents are getting a divorce.
There. I said it.
It’s out in the open. The world knows our family is crumbling. And really, it’s okay. It’s probably for the better. Why polar opposites would ever join in holy matrimony is a total mystery anyway – or how they raised four very normal children for that matter. Maybe “normal” is a stretch but we’re decent. We’re like other people, until you realize most of the world is a little psychotic. So yes, we’ll just go with “normal” for now.
I’m in my late 20s so you’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal. And honestly, it’s not. And honestly, I’m lying. The process has barely begun and I’m learning a lot about myself, how much I value things I didn’t realize held a sacred place in my heart, and how deep tradition runs in my veins. I suppose it does with everyone – only I’ve been too ignorant to realize it. I’ve more so taken every single thing in my life for granted, believed I deserved it and had full faith it would all continue on forever and nothing would ever change.
I even had a perception that everyone had what I had – a really great, tightly knit, near-perfect family – and shared my same feelings toward it. I mean, its family. It doesn’t get any better. But oddly, when I start opening up to people, everyone had a story of their own: a crazy uncle, a brother in jail, severe problems with bipolar disorder, alcoholism, divorce, schizophrenia – and I wasn’t even hanging out at a psych ward. These are coworkers, friends, and extended family. By the sounds of it, my family’s situation is not rare. We’re not even the exception. We’re the rule, and there are millions right alongside us, looking us in the eye, shrugging their shoulders and saying “it’ll all be okay.”
And it will, because it has to. But it doesn’t stop me from staring at the train wreck and the path it bulldozes in its derailment as I numbly stand in the wake and nauseously stare at its effects in shock. In pain. In absolute confusion.
I think through this all, the toughest thing is breaking traditions. Until this year, I had done the same thing every holiday for the last 28 years. We always always always have a family celebration, where we do family things, talk about family stuff, drink family drinks, spend family time together and exchange laughter… with family. The whole family.
Well, turns out that got torn apart pretty hard this year, and I’m dumbfounded every time someone asks me what my plan is.
“So what are your plans for Thanksgiving?”
[Blank Stare] “Um, not sure,” I say like a bonehead.
Plan? Let’s put it this way, even if I had two stoves, my plans would still all be on the back burners. When you start having to “plan” events that have been automatic your entire life, it’s perplexing. It’s something I’ve never experienced and I feel like a pre-schooler trying to give directions to her own home.
And again, a few weeks later.
“What are you doing for Christmas?”
Shit, I don’t know. Is often my first thought, though I feel like it wouldn’t be very festive to vocalize. So I don’t. Instead, I fumble through and change the subject, which I hear I’ve gotten pretty good at.
I guess this is that plot-altering chapter in my life, the point where I spend the rest of the book trying to figure out a way for it all to make sense. And I’m sure one day it will. I suppose – as with anything – the change, the adjustment period, is probably the most difficult. And I’ve learned that change can be a good thing.
Realistically, this isn’t a tragic novel. It’s a non-fiction lesson. Maybe the true tragedy would have been watching Mom and Dad continue on with a loveless marriage that was draining the life out of each of them. And, in all honesty, I’m looking forward to hearing about their future ventures separately. My parents. Dating. Now that will be interesting.
I sent my mother off to WE Fest last night. I instructed her to be careful, warning that people die there every year. I also requested she not take drinks from strangers — an act that’s right up her alley.
They peeled off, headed for the country fest and I smiled. Me, advising my mother, to be careful. Similar to Toby Keith song, “I should have been a cowboy,” I’m feeling like I should have been a grandma.
What other 20-something gets a hoot out of knitting, loves baking pies with homemade crust, and has formed a club to play cards the same night each week?
No, I’m not feeling old. I’m nowhere near retirement, I don’t attend SilverSneakers and I haven’t been looking into what an AARP membership can do for me. I haven’t resorted to dentures, and while my knees still hurt from the marathon I ran in May, my hips still seem to be holding up okay.
But it occurred to me the other week, when sending a few songs to a wise-crack co-worker of mine, that I think I was born in the wrong decade. Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” – is it not a classic? And, because she’s going to see her family in September, the Happenings’ “I’ll See You in September.”
Hey, it seemed pertinent.
She had never heard it.
“You listen to older music than my parents,” she remarked. There it was again – one more person pointing to the fact that I’m a matured woman in a young person’s body.
I wasn’t offended. This was not the first time I had been called a grandma. When I turned down an evening of “clubbing it up” to go bowling, I was called a grandma. When I showed up to a potluck with the best molasses cookies anyone has ever tasted, I was called a grandma.
I don’t deny that performing a single download on my Mac is a struggle, or that I have very little interest in getting a smart phone. In fact, I’ve debated going back in time to a landline and would probably have a rotary phone, just for the hell of it. Quiz me on anything pop culture – I promise I won’t know a single answer. The funny thing is, it upsets the people around me much more than it upsets me.
And now, as I seriously consider purchasing a Buick Regal, people are laughing directly to my face and have been calling me “Grandma Stoneburner”. The odd thing is, I think it fits me well. Deal with it, you little rascals!
Bye bye, so long, farewell….