I have a confession. I love to travel. I love to travel for business, I love to travel for pleasure. I love being gone for weeks on end or just a quick weekend heading out for an adventure somewhere else. I have another confession. I love throwing parties. People in my house, eating good food, listening to great music, chatting up a storm and having a good time is my version of a good time. And for reasons I cannot quite explain, I have not indulged in either for a really long time. Granted, until recently I haven’t really had an opportunity to travel for business. Additionally, when I travel for fun, I like bringing my kid along because, well, she’s a lot of fun to have around. Her recent homeschool schedule makes travel difficult during the school year. And I know parents who elect to educate their children in a public or private school setting run into this all the time. But one HUGE attraction of homeschooling Drue was having the freedom to go where we wanted, when we wanted. And sometimes that works – we are heading to South America in December by way of Mexico and the Panama Canal in a few weeks – and sometimes it doesn’t.
As for the lack of parties, my primary issue is the size of my postage stamp home in Palo Alto. I have a huge backyard (that is a PITA to maintain and keep nice enough to have folks out there) but if it is cold or if it rains, that puts everyone in my house and the house itself is not very party friendly. It’s a narrow U shape and the majority of the square footage is bedroom space. And while it’s fun to type “party in my bedroom”, the reality is that I really don’t want 20 people hanging out in my private space. You know? I haven’t been very motivated to do much with this house since our plan since two summers ago is to move out of this house and somewhere else as soon as we can. That date – next summer – is quickly approaching but not being able to host has left me feeling that something is lacking in my life and has made my home a less enjoyable place for me to be. It’s a nice retreat from the traveling and the parties and fun at other people’s houses but not really a place where I can invite more than say 10 people at a time and feel relatively assured that we won’t be breathing in each other’s stink
The third thing that makes me very happy is feeling organized. I know this is my OCD but it really does help me structure my days and make long term goals that are feasible. And, as crazy as this sounds, having my life organized allows me to be more spontaneous. I know I’m about to sound like a project manager here but when my life is scoped out appropriately, I can identify gaps in my time where I can afford to drop everything and go do wild, fun, unplanned things. Additionally by knowing when things are due, and having a list of personal and professional milestone and deliverables list, I know when I can throw caution to the wind and do wild, fun, unplanned things. So then when someone says, “let’s go to Europe for five days” (and by someone I may be referring to that little voice in my head), I can look at my life project plan and say, “Yes, I can totally do that!! Let me shuffle these three things, send two emails and deliver one thing early and then let’s totally GO to EUROPE for five days. Hell, let’s make it SIX!” See! Spontaneous!
2013 is gearing up to be a crazy, fantastic, amazing year and I am really looking forward to it for a plethora of reasons that I will get into at a later date. And to prepare for that I’m looking at my personal goals, professional deliverables and a long list of “want to do’s” and figuring out when to do what. And I’ll be bringing in as many fun, awesome, wonderful people into the fun as possible (and will let me). So let the planning begin!!!
To say I haven’t taken a moment’s pause since my birthday would be a GRAND understatement. My work and my social life have taken on, well, lives of their own so to speak. And usually this would be a great justification to neglect my own personal health and wellbeing but this time around, I’m struggling to set realistic boundaries for myself and work on my own personal health and to follow my own personal list of Do’s and Don’ts. I also gave myself permission (again) to put off my 101 things list. However, I decided to set a date in the near future to begin them so I merely moved the start date from my birthday to December 1st. I’ve been traveling a bit for work (PA last week, Vancouver next week) and am hosting a little get-together at the beach this week. Add in Thanksgiving, getting the house ready for Christmas, Jason leaving for Austria for seven days, making homemade Christmas cards, making Drue write her annual newsletter and quitting coffee and all soda, it’s been a busy time.
Yes, you read that correctly. I quit coffee and all soda… Again. For those in the know, I attempted this a few years back. My first attempt had limited success and after three months I was sneaking soda in the car (doesn’t count), in other people’s homes (doesn’t count) and as a mixer with alcohol (really doesn’t count). When I realized I was drinking soda at least three or four times a week (none of which counted, mind you), I figured it was time to just bring it back in the house and have it when it did count. Because unless you bring it into the house, it totally doesn’t count. I don’t remember if I felt awful or not when I quit caffeine the first time around but this time leaving caffeine felt akin to leaving an abusive relationship. While downing 2 bowls of coffee per day (have you seen the size of my coffee cup?) and two to three diet sodas a day, I felt awful. It was like being on a mental and emotional roller coaster. I was fine during the act of caffeine consumption, I felt great for 20-30 minutes after and then my mood and ability to focus took a nose dive. Lather, rinse, repeat over and over all day long. Nights were difficult as well. Around 10 PM I’d get that second burst of something – certainly not energy – that would ensure I could neither sleep nor focus. So I’d vegetate in front of my iPad or television until I was ready to pass out sometime between midnight and 2 AM only to wake around 5 in order to attend a series of meetings starting at 5:30. Insert bowl of coffee where applicable…
So I gave it up. Day one was okay. I was tired. No, I lie. I was exhausted and all I could think was “x” more hours until I can take a nap. Unfortunately, that nap never actually happened but I did pass out a little earlier that night. The next morning was sheer, unmitigated hell on earth. My head hurt like it has never hurt before. For the first time ever, I understood what my mom goes through when she has one of her migraines that causes her to retreat to her dark room and just shut out the world. Unfortunately, that day Drue had surfing, I had meetings and deliverables and I had a social engagement I’d put off a few times already so I popped two Advil, drank a ton of water and prayed the next day would be better. It wasn’t. Nor was the next day. But the day after that, the headache began to dissipate and by the end of week one, I was headache free and completely exhausted. I called my doctor who reminded me I was due for a myriad of blood tests including checking my Vitamin D and my thyroid so I popped into the lab and had the technician take as many vials of blood as she wanted. Then I called my tea dude in Chinatown and went on a tea cleanse for a few days which gave me a small boost of caffeine and helped cleanse my system and restore hydration. By day three I felt so much better, I cannot even begin to describe it.
Luckily that good feeling carried me through my trip to PA. However, I am still pretty tired and after tracking my sleep for the past month, realize I only average about six hours of sleep a night. That simply has to change as I really do so much better with 7 and 1/2 to eight hours per night. Additionally, this week I received the news that my Vitamin D level is incredibly low – it’s 13 when it should be between 30 and 100 – which also contributes to my general exhaustion. So I am on a new vitamin D treatment for the next ten weeks whereupon we’ll reevaluate where I am and see what our next steps are. Now that I’ve tackled caffeine my next goal is to get my roughly eight hours of sleep per night, a task that is incredibly difficult because a) I don’t like missing ANYTHING and b) am a night owl but c) am now getting up at 5 AM most mornings due to early meetings and/or surfing. So yeah… if you know of a way to convert from a night owl to a morning person, please let me know. To further that goal (aka wear me out every day), Drue and I are going to hit the gym or do something that forces us to break into a nice, big sweat daily. Not only does it help her stay in shape for tackling the waves but it wears me out enough that an earlier bedtime is slightly more attractive than usual. And by slightly I mean I am starting to recognize that passing out upright or at an uncomfortable angle on the couch is not nearly as awesome as falling asleep in my own bed.
So yeah, busy, busy. And, really, life is just so darn enjoyable at the moment that even with my malaise, I am still excited to go to work every day. I’m excited to hang out with friends and I look forward to tackling the 101 in a better state of mind and health than I was at even a month ago.
Roughly a month ago, I saw a great post on MightyGirlabout Maggie’s list of personal do’s and don’ts. I loved the idea of actually writing down a list for myself and, in doing so, realize that I carry a lot of hidden anger and latent resentment towards certain situations and occasionally even some really awesome people in my life because of my inability to maintain personal boundaries and to say no. The (sad? funny? insane?) thing is that this is not the first time I have put together a list of things I need to do to maintain Jeri optimal health As I read through my past list(s), I realized a startling pattern. Every time I’ve sat down and stated that I need to do certain, specific things to get healthy, keep myself sane and find balance in my life, within a week or two I take on new challenges or tasks that guarantee I won’t have the time, energy or fortitude to set myself on a path for personal success regarding my own wellbeing.
For example, in 2007, it was not enough that I was working 60-70 hour weeks, I had to take on running Drue’s school Talent Show. In 2008, when work slacked off a little after my promotion I took on Drue’s school’s Drama Club. In 2009, I quit my job and started running my own company and took the school Drama Club to the next level. 2010 was a good year – I finally stopped saying yes to other people and identified where I wanted to live (California) and who I wanted as clients (companies as opposed to the government) and took huge, all-consuming steps to make that happen by August. Then, in January of 2011 when life got on an even keel and I determined I needed to spend some time and energy on myself and my own personal interests, I then disrupted the balance by bringing in eight puppies and their mother into our home for four months, homeschooling Drue, and expanding my business by hiring employees and taking on additional contracts. And the list keeps going…
While I don’t regret any of these actions and have met wonderful people, learned a lot about myself and others and had a great time doing almost all of them, I’ve spent the last few days asking myself why I constantly commit 110% of myself to everything else thereby guaranteeing I have very little left for myself. Last week I stumbled across Stephanie Zamora’s site on personal development and purposeful living and read her post on How to Embrace the Void so You Can Live a Life of Passion, Joy and Fulfillment. Reading this post was the emotional equivalence to being hit with a Mack truck. I realized that instead of owning my emotions and allowing myself to feel what I feel, I stuff them down using anything and everything I can find to distract me or that allows me to hide whatever disappointments, hurts or other negative emotions I might be feeling. All of that type-A, work-a-holic, robotic type behavior is not because this is who I am but rather what I am hiding behind. And rather than say, “I am feeling _________________” or “I need ___________________”, I take on a new challenge or say yes to something when I really want to say no. And then the resentment begins, and it becomes someone else’s fault.
A most recent example of this is the almost martyr-like attitude I’ve taken with Drue’s homeschooling. Any issue Drue has with her own schooling must be MY fault because I am her mom and her teacher; therefore, I should read more books, revamp her work schedule, sign her up for a new class or two or three, make those extra drives down to San Jose so she can be with her friends, etc. etc. etc. Rather than let her take some accountability and fail (OHMILORD – does that reflect on me as her parent and teacher?) or succeed on her own merit and hard work, something she should be allowed to do, I become resentful of the time homeschooling takes away from other areas of my life and she becomes resentful of me treating her as a problem to solve. And really she’s not a problem to solve – this was just one more way for me to focus on something other than the truth of how I feel the disruption in my day, my work and my creative process that comes with having her home, the constant interruptions, driving her to programs, and all the other challenges that come with homeschooling. And that truth is coming out slowly as I allow myself to admit it to myself and remind myself constantly that not liking certain things and not wanting to do certain things does not make me a bad parent or a bad person.
Growing up, my birthday was not exactly a celebrated event and by the time I was in my 20s just accepted that awesome birthdays were something that happened to other people. Last year I decided to stop moping about not getting the kind of birthdays I wanted and take charge of this (to me) all-important annual event. As luck would have it, this year the Austin City Limits Music Festival was occurring on the same weekend as my birthday so I promptly ordered a 3-day wristband, booked five days in the Omni downtown and bought the cheapest plane ticket I could find. The plan was to go out to Austin early to check on colo space in one of the many local data centers, spend some time with friends and then attend the festival as one of the press corps working the weekend, attending the festival and after parties and interviewing some great local bands. I even scheduled a massage for Monday prior to flying back to San Francisco and my flights were picked to ensure I could work on Wednesday, Thursday and Monday for whichever client needed my time and attention thereby ensuring I only had to take one day off and could write off most of my trip as a business expense. Win-win-win, right? Sadly, Robert Burns said it best…
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
For those of you who are scratching your head, wondering what that means let me translate for you (the original quote is Scottish, you see)… “The best laid plans of Mice and Men oft go awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!”
In a nutshell, no, I did not go to Austin, I did not get to tour my new data center and I definitely did not spend three days of musical bliss listening to bands whose music I love, running between stages, then running backstage for interviews, heading over to the press area to file and then rushing from club to club to attend after parties and get more interviews. Instead, I ended up rushing from the San Francisco International airport a mere thirty minutes before I was due to board my plane, to meet up with IT to deal with a client-issued laptop emergency that was in no way my fault but could not be fixed remotely. Don’t you LOVE it when that happens? And honestly, as tempted as I was to say screw it, board the plane and deal with the client fallout when I got back, all the while stressing all weekend over whether I had violated some term of my contract that would have me fired at best or sued at worst (an action I would have taken as recently as last year), I am finally at the point where I prefer choosing the path of least stress where I make good on my commitments and do the right thing by me and by my clients. Beyond that, I like this particular client and really want to do the right thing by them because they have certainly done the right thing by me over the last few months since I started working with them. And while it could have been fine, who wants to spend five days stressing over what could happen instead of enjoying the moment, the experience of where I am and what I am doing in that moment? Not me, not anymore.
I did call my media distributor and let them know what happened. Luckily I am only a second this year for ACL meaning I am there to cover anything their first slate of reporters don’t. That means interviewing local bands as opposed to say, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, taking filler pictures of the crowd as opposed to close ups of the bands, and filing personal interest stories from the backstage crews, concert goers and anyone else I can get on record to chat about the ACL experience. Needless to say they had a nice list of locals happy to fill my slot and pick up my press pass and take advantage of my misfortune. And honestly, I hope they had a blast. I don’t begrudge them a moment of the crazy, insane fun I wanted to have because ultimately I feel I did the right thing. And I impressed my contact when I explained the situation. This is not the first time this has happened to them where someone had to cancel last minute… this is one of the first times he had enough notice to provide coverage, get new bona fides over to the press office and get a new pass issued ahead of time which hopefully means I won’t be out of the running to cover ACL, Coachella or any other festival I’ve asked to work next year.
So Thursday morning, my laptop was fixed and all my data restored. I made my presentation on time which was fantastic. I was able to complete the work requested by my client by Friday (granted I did not get a lot of sleep on Thursday night to make that happen, but whatever) which was awesome. Friday, my actual birthday, is a pleasant blur of data, meetings, well wishes on Facebook, and a lovely dinner of fresh bread, cheese, and wine with friends before finally sleeping sometime in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Saturday and Sunday, I took advantage of Drue’s attendance at a church retreat and ripped apart my room, cleaning as I went, until everything was organized and my private space felt like mine again. I got a lot of sleep as well, something I haven’t had in a few weeks. And, I gave myself permission to do a few things for myself and figured out a few things I need to stop doing in the short term and long term to maintain some balance in my life. Drue got back from her retreat last night and the three of us went out to dinner to just celebrate being together as a family and that was okay by me. So while it wasn’t a weekend of big celebrations and lots of gifts, I realized that while all of that sounds appealing, it’s not really me. I don’t need anything and can easily buy anything I want. I don’t really want the attention of a big celebration otherwise why would the perfect weekend entail me flying to another city and hanging out with thousands of strangers? I think really what has been missing from most of my birthdays was a lack of control, an inability to do what I wanted or needed to do. Last year, a good friend broke that mold when he declared I needed a mental health day, and we took our kids to the beach for the day on my birthday. There was no great celebration, I don’t think my birthday even came up… but it was a moment where I could just have some good, old fashioned fun and get a day of rest away from the craziness of work and life. It was a good lesson for me. And it lead to a bit of an epiphany. I realized I was not only allowed mental health days but that I needed them. Rather than deny myself the simple pleasures that come with recharging my own batteries, and resenting others who DID maintain that balance in their lives, wasn’t it easier and better to just take that time out and come back from it renewed? That lightbulb moment lead to a week-long cruise last January, taking off early on Fridays as needed, and taking two weeks off between contracts this past July to recharge and enjoy some fun family time. It also gave me the strength and courage to refuse an additional client this year, knowing it would wreck the balance I need in my own life.
This year for my birthday, I gave up control and lost the weekend I wanted. But in the end, I think I got the weekend I needed and today, I feel rested, pensive and ready to take some necessary next steps. I’m not sure I could say that if I was flying in from three days of hard work on my client’s migration, three days running at ACL and two flights to and from Austin. Does this mean I’ll be skipping ACL next year? Heck, no man! I am even more resolved to attend after watching the podcasts and hearing all the great music I missed live. But it does mean I’ll plan better and ensure I have the days before and after the festival off to recharge my batteries after three days of awesome, musical insanity. Sometimes things do happen for a reason and after the crazy of the last few months, I finally feel like I’m in the right place mentally, physically and emotionally, and ready to tackle another year of fun, wonderful, balanced living. So Happy 38th birthday, to me! My birthday weekend may be over but I suspect the fun is just beginning…
I think part of my dislike of the DMV is a bit self-fulfilling. For example, my original appointment was Wednesday and I had every document I needed except my birth certificate and marriage license. I remembered my divorce decree but the identification proving I was a citizen of the good ole USA and the one document I own showing why my name has changed (as opposed to the cool made-up reason which is that I am actually wanted in 11 states for snatching candy from babies but more on that later) were not on my person. Jays, bless his heart, ran from the DMV to the house and back again. Unfortunately we were one hour past our designated appointment time. So we had two choices. We could wait in the no-appointment line which was already at a 2 hour plus wait just to get a number to get the entire process started (NOT) or we could come back on Thursday at 8:30 in the morning and start the process anew. We’ll take door B, thank you very much. So home we went and up at the ungodly hour of 5 AM on the day of our second appointment. I’d like to say I was up that early to fluff and blow out my hair but I was actually up to take a few calls from the east coast for work. However, I did manage to do something with my hair and even slap on a little make-up before we rushed out the door to make our 8:30 appointment. We walked in five minutes early, and were promptly sent off to have the car checked to get the paperwork for registering the vehicle in California. I think the guy who inspected my car has seen it all because he did not blink at my circa 2006 North Carolina registered license plate. He checked the VIN, put some information into his iPhone, signed a few things, grunted a few times and sent us back in 9 minutes after we pulled my car into the inspection line.
Once back inline, I quickly received my number and sat for a mere 11 minutes before being called to complete the documentation portion and to get my registration. DMV had upgraded their system a week prior and the poor lady I was working with had to redo my information three times. First she typed the wrong address. Then she used my maiden name on the registration. Then she could not cancel out the license with my maiden name and had to enter my name as an AKA which would have me flagged at every airport security desk across the nation. We finally got it straightened out only to find out that my copy of the title would not get me registered in California. I called my bank and it seems they sent my title to North Carolina to the address my car was registered in (insert Homer-like D’oh!) and would have to reissue my title to me in California. This process would take oh… maybe 30 to 45 days. Sigh. Usually I would not qualify for a temporary tag but after the license fiasco she went to her supervisor and was granted approval to issue a 3 month temp tag. Woot! From this line I moved to the picture line and then picked up my test. I had to wait for a cubby to open so I had a moment to flip through the California drivers manual which later benefited me immensely. Finally a cubby was available and I moved over to take my drivers written test.
The first thing I noticed is that we have WAY cooler driving tests in the South. For example, do you know what the required mileage is if you must pass a tractor who is approaching you on a two lane, unmarked dirt road? It’s 15 miles per hour UNLESS there are cows present in an unfenced pasture approaching the road whereupon you pull to the side and allow the cow AND the tractor to pass before proceeding down the road at 25 miles per hour. Thank you, Texas Driving School for that bit of knowledge. And did you know that if you are driving within 3 miles of pig farm in North Carolina, you should slow to 35 miles per hour to ensure proper stopping distance in case one of those smelly critters gets loose? Well, now you do. But alas, California did not have any random questions like that. They did ask when it is acceptable to smoke in a car when a child is present and the answer is never (as opposed to when it’s your child which is what I originally thought the right answer would be). However, there were no questions about driving in or around pot farms or what is the acceptable amount of medical marijuana you can carry around with you while operating a motor vehicle. Some people, and by some I mean Jason, did not get a perfect score on their written driving test. I, however, did and I was very sad when I did not receive a gold star or some other commendation for basically taking a picture of 37 pages of the California drivers manual and then applying those mad photographic memory skills towards acing my test. Errrr, I mean, I studied hard and of course I did well. Either way, I just wanted a little something that showed, say the police officer who might one day pull me for driving 85 on 280 that I am actually an EXCEPTIONAL driver. You can tell by the gold star on my license that shows I aced my test. See?!?! However, the lady grading my test at the DMV was having none of that and answered “No” in a monotone when I asked for some physical proof that I had, in fact, blown my test out of the water with my amazing written driving skills smarts. Or something. I am not sure if I looked disappointed or if she just wanted me to shut up, but she did grab a yellow highlighter and draw a star on the front page of my test before handing it over and barking NEXT to the person behind me in line.
Finally, I was in the last line at the DMV and so darn grateful even though the entire experience was relatively painless and quick. As I stood in my last line at the DMV, a small child caught my eye as he smooshed handfuls of Reece’s Pieces in his grubby little mouth at the grand ole hour of 9:15 in the morning. He was not the only child in the DMV to be bribed with sugar. In fact, part of my anxiety that morning stemmed from waiting to see which little sugar filled child beast was going to go off first in a sugar fueled rage. I admit it, I held my breath and cursed that mother, the entire line in front of me, the state of California and the DMV when I realized he was at the end of his bag right about the same time he started shaking it upside down to figure out why more candy wasn’t magically appearing. After a few moments, he threw the bag down, looked up at his mother and said, “Canny?” His mother, arguing with some poor DMV official, ignored him. So he got a little louder. “CAN-ny!” When that didn’t work, he started tugging on her shirt singing, “CAN-NY, CAN-NEE, CAAAANEEEEEE, CANNNNNEEEEEEEEEE!” By this point half the DMV was paying attention to him, except his own mother. Realizing he had an audience, albeit not the audience he wanted, he immediately stopped shrieking and looked around at all of us. When he realized that none of us were rushing to feed his sugar fix, he carefully aligned himself between the rail and the counter, looked around to make sure he wouldn’t hit anything on the way down and then promptly threw his body down onto the concrete floor screaming “CAAAANNNNNNNNNEEEEEEYYY” until he hit the floor. It is one of those times in your life when everything slows waaayyyy dooowwnnn because I swear it took 5 minutes for this child to hit the ground from barely 2 feet above. And where the shrieking did not work, the smack to the ground sure did. That women shrieked, threw her bag at the poor DMV official and flopped down on the ground next to her child providing something akin to comfort through hugs, and the promise of “Mamadidnothearyoubaby! Mamagetyoumorecandy!” She then leaped up, circled around and started eying all of us to see who she could possible beat up and steal candy from for her precious weeble wobble, now sitting up on the floor snuffling, huge crocodile tears rolling down his fat cheeks gasping out the occasional sad “cannnyyyy” from his chubby bunny lips. The woman finally spotted some poor man sitting down on a chair holding a Snickers bar, snatched up her purse, left her child lying on the floor and propelled herself in a few steps over to see what she could do about acquiring this man’s candy bar. I am not sure what she said to him to get him to release that candy into her custody but I suspect the bill she handed him helped. She leaped back to her child, handed him the candy, got him up and turned back to the DMV official to begin arguing again as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Because I guess in her world, nothing did.
The rest of us were standing around a bit shell shocked and it took a few yells of “NEXT” from the DMV officials to get the line moving again. Ten minutes later I was walking out of the DMV, temporary registration and license in hand and I realized something. I had learned a great lesson that day. And no, it’s not that doing the right thing and renewing your license and registration take little time and/or pain (especially now that I can renew online). The lesson learned is that I am in the wrong business! Yes, you read that correctly. Why the hell do I work 50 hour weeks and run my own business when I could sit outside of the DMV each day, Costco candy box in hand and earn a small fortune sugaring up these children waiting inside the DMV? Because even if I only charged a dollar for each candy bar (btw a box of 35 bars cost $9 at Costco, you do the math), I’d come out ahead and for little stress and minimal effort. I walked back in to the DMV and spent a moment counting. At that moment, there were 26 kids in the DMV and of those 26 kids, 11 were screaming because they had finished their candy, 9 still had their candy and were waiting in long lines and 7 had mean parents like me who would not give their child candy to bribe them if life on EARTH depended on them mowing down on that sucker at 9 AM on a Thursday.
I’m telling you. Put your entrepreneur’s caps on, hit Costco and I’ll see you at the local DMV. We’ll make a fortune and since it was my idea, don’t forget my 8% off the top.
I have a confession to make. I hate going to the DMV. I know, I know. You’re shocked right, because guess what? YOU TOO hate going to the DMV. And while I am sure our dislike of standing in line for hours and forking over hundreds of dollars to get a piece of plastic to carry around in our wallet and a plate of metal to attach to our car is mutual, I am sure that you have never gone to the great lengths I have to avoid the Department of Motor Vehicles. So since I’ve already made one confession – and was assured by the nice lady on the DMV 866 number that no one reading this post could knock in the door to my house and seize my new California license and registration – I have a few more confessions to make to you that go a little something like this. Before my recent foray into DMV purgatory to obtain my California license, registration and license plate, the following statements were 100% true:
1. I’ve lived in five states and only had drivers licenses from 2 of them since the age of oh… 17.
2. I’ve driven actively in every state I’ve lived in using those two drivers licenses since the age of 17.
3. I only switched my drivers license from the state of North Carolina to one issued in Virginia because my old drivers license was about to expire and I was going on a trip where I needed to obtain a rental car.
4. I’ve only renewed my registration once on one vehicle.
5. I’ve owned six vehicles in my 20 years of driving.
Now before you go crazy counting on your fingers and toes (and given how small these numbers are, aren’t the toes a bit excessive?), let’s just go ahead and put it out there. While I was technically driving somewhat legally for the past 17 years, I was actually only literally driving legally for maybe 2 or 3 of those years. I know, shame on me. While we could focus on this one little naughtiness in a life time of being a relatively good person, I think we can just sum this up in a few words.
Kids, don’t try this at home. And yes, I was DAMN lucky.
Did I mention that California DMV assured me not once but four times that posting all of this would NOT, in fact, lead to my new and very legal license and registration being confiscated? ‘Cause they did. And I checked… nowhere on any form did they ask me any question where I would have had to confess all that I am sharing here. Therefore I was completely and totally honest and non-fraudulent and what more could a state government agency want? Right?
Now why, you might ask, would you not update your license and registration on a regular basis. Well, I might reply, for one the license only expired once so I really only felt legally obligated to renew it once and since I was holding a North Carolina license and living in Virginia it made perfect sense to go ahead and get a Virginia one. As for the lack of appropriate car registration and plates, I really have no excuse other than I meant to renew my registration at first and then never got around to it in North Carolina. And then when I finally felt motivated to do something – say hypothetically because I was stopped by a police officer and the ticket he wrote compelled me to go to the DMV – something would miraculously happen to the car and I would just go buy another. And with a new car comes a temporary tag, a new registration card and a notification that your permanent plate is in the mail. For someone like me that’s fantastic because in the time I would have spent at the DMV, I not only have all the documentation that state requires but I have a shiny new car, too! WIN!
My little Vibe has moved from North Carolina to Virginia and now to California with me and maintained her awesome “First in Flight” plates from the moment they arrived in the mail that humid July day back in 2005 until today when a lovely DMV inspector checked the plate, sighed in exasperation and completed the form to start the process down the road towards receiving my shiny, new California plate. Now don’t get me wrong – I meant to register my car in Virginia and even went to the DMV and everything! I took the day off work, stood in line patiently, and filled out my forms. Wait no, I lie. I was there to renew my soon-to-expire drivers license… you know, the one I needed to renew because I needed a rental car, remember? So I figured, hell, I’m here already… might as well, right? So I moved from the drivers license line to the registration line, waited (and waited…) and finally got to the desk to find out that the Commonwealth of Virginia does not just require fees to register your vehicle but the right arm of your first born as well! Given I like Drue with two arms (you reading this all you sharks in the ocean? TWO ARMS on that kid!), I decided to do the Mom thing and not let them take one off. Well okay maybe it was the fact my car had not depreciated much in value and Virginia wanted 8% of the value of the car in that year’s fees. Yes, you read correctly. 8%! And this was at a time when I was pulling in $1300 every two weeks and my rent was $1500 a month. Now’s when you should bring out those toes and do your counting.
So knowing Virginia was a pit stop in the life that is mine, I decided to wait until I moved to renew my car’s registration. And secretly I hoped I would sell the car before that day arrived. Or that it would get stolen… or smashed by a runaway Virginia snowplow. Sadly, none of these things happened. So off I went to the DMV yet again compelled by something other than the really, really, really expired plates living on the boot of my car. But well, we’ll get into all of that tomorrow…
Alexandra Cousteau, Current Explorer, with Drue Gloege, Future Explorer
So after stressing myself out in August to complete Drue’s curriculum, write lesson plans, manage a difficult client and have fun, I realized that having fun under stress was no fun at all. So after six days of stressful, guilt-filled fun (you know, along the lines of “this is fun but I should be doing the 153 things on my to-do list”), I gave up on an entire thirty days of fun until the new year. Upon considering my calendar a few weeks ago, I realized that fun happens to find me thanks to an increase in social activity which will have to be enough for right now. October is a pretty fun month anyway. My birthday aside, there is apple picking, local fairs, long hikes in cool weather and the biggest holiday of the year for the Gloege family, Halloween! This weekend, however, our fun focused around the Marine Science Institute‘s Big Blue Benefit. As you may know – or not depending on how much you read this blog and/or pay attention to my posts on Drue – Drue loves marine life. She adores sharks, finds them beautiful and amazing and wants to save them. Part of MSI’s benefit was a chance to meet Alexandra Cousteau and Drue was over the moon with the idea of it. She was so excited, in fact, she wouldn’t really talk about it just in case she did not get the chance to actively discourse with one of her role models, so we didn’t make a big deal of it either. We also had the opportunity to attend the California Academy of Sciences’ Penguins and Pajamas sleepover and I thought that would be a nice two day celebration of science and the animals we love and are passionate about. California Academy of Science has a lot of information on my favorite animals, birds, as well as a fantastic aquarium so it felt like a nice cap on an exciting day and a nice lead-in into day 2 of our fun.
Two boys fascinated by the leopard shark at MSI
We arrived at MSI early on Saturday so I could attend my first board meeting. It is very exciting being a part of such an amazing organization and the entire day was a learning experience in seeing how MSI started, what it’s been doing over the last 40 years and what it has the potential to continue doing for the next 40. What an honor and privilege to be invited to serve on its board! Drue skipped volleyball to volunteer with setting up for the benefit. Usually we don’t allow Drue to shirk her responsibilities that way (I confess I skipped her volleyball as well even though I serve as Site Director); however, we spoke to the Clinician who runs things and he assured us that we were fine to miss a single game given the circumstances. At 12:30, I was left waiting for the photographer I hired – who never showed but that’s a subject for an online review about their lack of professionalism and not something to muddy this recap of our fantastic weekend – and at 12:50, finally gave up and boarded the boat. MSI’s boat, the R/V Robert G. Brownlee is a 90-foot research vessel and floating classroom and we enjoyed a 2-hour eco-tour of the bay. MSI’s founder, Bob Rutherford, was on the boat with his family and it was a pleasure to hear the history as well as meet the family who is responsible for bringing hands-on science education that focuses specifically on the environmental conservation of our own local bay to local children.
R/V Robert G. Brownlee
After a lively discussion led by one of MSI’s amazing staff that engaged the kids and got them excited about the day’s activities, we stepped out into the bow and watched the kids help the staff drop the seine into the water. Drue was tracking Ms. Cousteau with her eyes but was struggling to find the nerve to go say hello and ask for her autograph. After 10 minutes of brow-wrinkling anxiety, I decided to step in and do what I do best – embarrass myself and potentially Drue – in the hopes that it would create a conversational moment and provide Drue the opportunity to say hi and get the autograph she so desperately wanted. I did my thing (and became the “woman who embarrassed her child” to anyone who witness or heard about the exchange for the rest of the day), and even went so far as to use the wrong word when discussing shark fin legislature – what? she’s Alexandra Cousteau! I was completely tongue-tied! – but Drue was a champ and immediately began discussing what she knows best, sharks. And it seems that Ms. Cousteau also loves sharks and has a similar deep and profound respect for them and quickly they engaged in conversation. After taking a few pictures, I backed off and just enjoyed the day and the quiet joy on my child’s face as she talked about the marine animals she loves most with a woman we all admire and respect. I can totally take the label of woman who embarrassed her child square on the forehead to ensure Drue did not miss this amazing opportunity. Once on land we had a chance to meet her husband and daughter and we really enjoyed our time with this very kind and gracious family who not only spent their time to come to MSI and talk about conservation and urge people to become explorers of our own planet (and our own backyard), but took the time to engage in delightful conversation with us. It was definitely one of those “life moment” experiences we won’t forget.
Leopard Shark swims in a tank on the R.G. Brownless
After indulging in some very blue, very sugary food and bidding (and winning!) the Tidepool backpack and the opportunity to go explore tidepools and collect animals with MSI, Drue and I drove north to the California Academy of Sciences where we had a delightful dinner at The Moss Room and then changed into our daily uniform of yoga pants and pull overs and went exploring. We saw the famous Lemondrop, a lavender albino python, and Claude, the albino American Alligator. We stretched out on the walkway, something we could never do during normal museum hours, and hovered mere feet from black tip reef sharks, cow nose rays, and horseshoe rays and talked about how amazing it would be to swim with them. We watched a show, Cosmic Collisions, in the planetarium, walked along the skywalk looking at amazing pictures of turkey vultures, goshawks and other birds of prey, and checked out the science exhibits on the Galapagos Islands, global warming and ocean acidification. At 11, we rolled out our sleeping bags in a prime spot, next to the reef exhibit, and fell asleep watching fish swim overhead and next to us. Wake up was much too early at 6:15 the next morning but managed to stumble out of our sleeping bags, get packed up and get to breakfast in short order. Once my obligatory cup of coffee was consumed, we walked over to the gift shop, greeting Lemondrop and Claude on the way as they were both active and moving. Once there in the gift shop, we bought a few kits (yay! lab time!), a book on ocean conservation, a t-shirt for Drue and the rest of my Mom’s birthday present. We left the museum as the sun was rising over the eastern foothills and quietly watched the fog roll back over the Santa Cruz mountains towards the ocean as we drove south on 280 to home.
View from Sleeping Bag
After all the excitement of the past 24 hours, Drue and I decided a quiet Sunday was better than fighting traffic to attend the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. Jays and I took the puppies for an hour long romp at the dog park, brunch was consumed and around 1:00 everyone collapsed and took long naps. We completed day two of fun with back to back horror films (what? it is leading up to Halloween after all!), an early dinner and then an evening of laundry and puppy clean-up. It may be day two of thirty days of fun but life’s chores don’t go away while all the fun is being had! *grin* After meeting Ms. Cousteau, Drue is even more on fire to make a difference, to clean up the oceans, to teach people about water conservation and to dominate in her school work so she has time to spend on and in the water with the animals she loves. The amazing gift of her time really meant so much to Drue and to all of us and that is, hopefully what Drue will take away from her experience on Saturday. You know, as opposed to her bumbling Mom embarrassing her by forcing an introduction with this amazing woman whom Drue so admires and looks up to. And I know I’ll take away two amazing days filled with science and time with my amazing kid watching her become even more impassioned about her life’s mission. How much more fun could a person have, I ask you? Guess we’ll find out in the next 28 days!
P.S. For those of you who didn’t get the musical reference in the title, I’mma help you out!
Wow, I cannot believe I’m 37 today! I mean, technically I’m 36 until 3:37 this afternoon but for the sake of semantics, we’ll go ahead and refer to me as being the big 3-7! I swear there are moments when I feel what 16 was supposed to feel like (you know, world is full of promise, a box of chocolates and all that jazz) but didn’t when I actually was 16. I certainly don’t feel 37 and I really, really hope I don’t look 37. If I do, lie to me and do the whole “Wow you don’t look a DAY over 32! bit. It can be your birthday present to me. As much as I mock the whole, “40 is the new 30″, I think 37 feels like the new 25 except you’re actually a fully formed person and have the cash to do all the things you wanted to do at 25! Also, the last few years have been really good to me and mine. I live in a nice home in a beautiful area. My company is doing well and I have fantastic coworkers and team mates at FM and on client sites to share the stress, insanity and yes, FUN! of working with some of the industry leaders in corporate America and the government. I have amazing friends who are true and loyal and wonderful and accept all of my quirks. And most importantly, I have my family whom I love and who love me in spite of myself. I have a healthy, happy, amazing daughter and a good egg of an ex-husband who remains active and involved in both of our lives and a hey dude do list (cause a honey-do list would be too weird, ya know?) to prove it. Every once in awhile, I fall into this little whiny, complaining mode but luckily have great people in my life who let me vent and then gently smack me upside the head and remind me that, compared to most, I’m living the dream. So, to celebrate all that goodness, happiness and joy in my life what better way to say Happy birthday to myself than by giving YOU a gift.
So where do we begin? Oh, I know… let’s start with the goodies! Now there is just one giveaway (sorry, y’all) but I think it’s pretty good for the first of many giveaways coming soon on Lifeinflux.
First, let’s start with a bag… but not just any bag. Let’s start with a bag that truly represents my OCD (and the OCD YOU should have, and you. Well maybe not you.), the brand new Lyric, from Epiphanie! The exterior is water-resistant, high quality synthetic leather and the interior is crafted with extra padding for maximum protection of your stuff with three Velcro panels that can be adjusted and moved to any position for maximum customization and flexibility. It has two removable straps (including 1 cross-body with padding for extra support), three exterior pockets (including one to accomodate an iPad) and one interior pocket with zipper. So now that we have a swank bag, let’s fill it with stuff shall we?
So how do you win this wonderful swag?
1. It’s easy! Comment on this post telling me about YOUR favorite birthday memory. This gets you one entry.
2. Over the next 30 days, pay it forward and email me a picture or video of you in action at jeri at lifeinflux dot com! This gets you a SECOND entry.
3. Do as many wonderful, pay it forward type things as you want but only enter ONCE! Multiple entries will disqualify you.
Feel free to be as creative as you’d like. Paying it forward doesn’t need to cost a lot or be a huge, grandiose gesture. It can be the smallest of actions that turn any normal day into another person’s special day!
All valid entries must be submitted via comment and/or email no later than 30 days from today. The contest CLOSES on November 12th at 11:59 PM Pacific. All entries will be reviewed and I’ll use random.org to select a winner! I’ll announce the winner along with the photo and/or video of them in action if applicable on Lifeinflux on November 15th! The winner will then pick whatever color Lyric bag they want and provide me a t-shirt size whereupon all this great loot will be delivered to their home in the US or Canada (sorry other countries, this contest is only eligible for folks residing in the US or Canada) shortly after. Good luck and feel free to email me with any questions!
As a self-diagnosed Gleek, I confess I awaited this year’s season premiere with baited breath. I was eager to see how they would handle Quinn’s transformation, I’ve been wanting Will and Emma together since Teri flashed her fake baby bump and while the Finn/Rachel relationship causes me to go into a diabetic coma (no, I don’t have diabetes), I love the Kurt/Blaine, Kurt/Kurt’s dad relationships and was wondering how Glee would get Darrin Criss and Mike O’Mally more on-screen face time. After watching the first episode, I can absolutely, 100%, without a doubt tell you I have no idea exactly what happened during those 42 minutes of prime time Glee T.V. because all I’ve heard about, thought about and wrapped my brain about was the character of Sugar Motta. And the thing is, the episode was going so well (momentary flashbacks hint at burning pianos, Santana getting kicked out and Quinn with bright pink hair hanging with a Mercedes twin and calling herself a skank – am I on the right page?) until Sugar Motta came in and introduced herself to the Glee Club and to us, the viewers, as having “self-diagnosed Aspergers” so she could pretty much say whatever she wants. And that’s when things got really complicated for me. Granted, it was not complicated then. When I was watching the train wreck that is Sugar Motta, I was laughing. And when she got to the part about being “like a diplomat’s daughter”, I was howling. Until Drue wanted to know what was so funny and why I was laughing at the girl with Aspergers. Then everything got complex and it’s only become worse since.
You see, one could accuse me – and some have – of having self-diagnosed Aspergers. While every doctor and therapist I’ve ever seen agrees I’m firmly on the spectrum and have a whopping case of ADD, they are split right down the middle about the Aspergers diagnosis. It seems I am too functional, too social, and/or too successful to truly have Aspergers according to some. And others don’t feel any of that is indicative of anything other than my ability to adapt to a point. My reality is that a lot of my “adaptation” is because I learned, over time, to surround myself with people who find my Aspergers amusing, endearing, tolerable or even occasionally refreshing. That last group typically suffers from Aspergers themselves, *GRIN*. That said, like many people with Aspergers, daily life can be exhausting and overwhelming and very hard and way too social. Fortunately, I now work from home a LOT which allows me to hide in my Girl Cave and avoid the world as I need and when I need to do so. My daughter, who spends the bulk of each day with me, is amazingly understanding and when I start to show “the signs”, will wander off to do her own thing and leave me to escape into work, or my art, or my music or a book or whatever it is I need to escape into. And fortunately, I have wonderful friends and family who understand or try to understand when I say something that is hurtful, logical, and insensitively true. The reality is that Aspergers, like so many other things, affects different people differently. So while I can now tolerate and even welcome being touched, I still have issues focusing my eyes on yours for long periods of time. I worry a lot about social situations with people I don’t know well and sometimes avoid them if I’ve had a stressful day to ensure I don’t say or do something that could damage new friendships. Small talk plagues me. I have no idea how people can stand around for hours and make idle conversation about absolutely nothing. But, I love games and if there is a specific topic I can focus on, I might bore you to tears before I stop talking about it. However, as I’ve gotten older I’m much better at catching you looking away, eyes glazed over, searching for someone to save you from the conversation I think we’re having. If I like you, I’ll do the proper thing and release you so you can escape. If you’re an ass or I don’t care about you at all, sometimes I’ll keep you trapped in the conversation just to mess with you. Or maybe I didn’t notice because you’re responding and I think you’re as into the conversation as I am, in which case your being stuck there is just as much your fault as mine. Maybe… I love routine, except when I don’t… but trust that the backpack always in my car or on my person has everything we need in case the worst happens. Or as Drue puts it, “Mom can find water, purify it, catch food, cook it and dig you a place to poop and that stuff is just in ONE pocket of her backpack!” And everything is solar or wind up (no batteries) since last I checked the sun is not scheduled to blow up or burn out for another what? 5 billion years?
I’d like to say that I understand why the Aspergers community is up in arms over this episode of Glee and the Sugar Motta character, but frankly, I don’t. There are three pages alone on the Glee Community boards accusing the writers of everything from insensitivity to bullying kids with Aspergers on national television to abuse because of the way Aspergers was portrayed on the show. In my opinion, this has little to nothing to do with Glee and everything to do with the parents freaking out and creating an issue where there really isn’t one. I wonder how many of the kids or teens with Aspergers got upset by what Sugar Motta said and did as opposed to feeding off the reactions of their parents? You see, people with Aspergers have emotions. They are not robots, a word that’s been flung at me by ex-boyfriends, former bosses and people I say no to and then logically explain why they might be acting like dunderheaded idiots, time and time again. However, a person with Aspergers’ expression of emotion usually does not match up with the way they feel inside. For example, I learned at an early age that one should not display inappropriate bursts of negative emotion (crying, being sad, whining, anger, etc). For a child who, when overwhelmed socially, often retreated behind a wall of inappropriate negative outbursts, I had to find another avenue of expression so I learned to make jokes. This works well in many situations but not so much at a funeral. The last funeral I attended I saw everyone upset and sad and I was sad too. I was also incredibly uncomfortable, out of my element and had asked to be left at home but well, the proper thing MUST be done. So I told a funny story about my last memory of the person playing with Drue and, in the retelling laughed because it was a funny moment. I was gently guided out of the viewing area and away from the family. It took me months to figure out what exactly I did wrong. Because I knew something was wrong, knew I contributed, had all the right emotions going, thought I was contributing and failed to respond appropriately until enough visual clues (that entire family glaring at me was a good indicator) keyed me in that I had done something. That family STILL does not speak to me today because OHMIGOD that freak laughed at our family members funeral! And I felt bad because I was supposed to, but logically, it is not in my interest to give a crap, so I don’t. See how this works? So the thought of a kid or teen or adult bursting into tears over a minor character – who is rude, yes and a terrible singer – while having flashbacks of the time they were removed from choir for an inappropriate outburst due to their Aspergers DOES NOT COMPUTE. However, I can totally see someone with Aspergers sitting there, seeing their parents lose their minds over the perceived slight and reacting in kind because if Mom and/or Dad is wigging out, MY APPROPRIATE RESPONSE is to lose my mind TOO! And without even realizing it, I have added fuel to their perceived slight, fanned the flames of their self-righteous indignation on my behalf and now, NOW they are going to rally the community, demand everyone bans the show and give them something to complain about for the next six months of their lives!!
I seem to remember this kind of uproar when Glee introduced the character of Becky. If memory serves – and it does – when Becky was introduced on Glee she was portrayed as a bit of a social outcast. Sue brings her on the Cheerios after having it out with Will over the need and expense for a bus that would accommodate Artie’s disability and allow him to go to sectionals on the same mode of transportation as the rest of the Glee Club. Will immediately questions her motives… and so did everyone who knew of, had or was associated in some way with a person with downs syndrome. The boards went WILD at first about how insensitive Glee was for putting the character of Becky into a situation where she was obviously being used and misused by Sue… until all of a sudden, the show flashed on a scene where Sue is reading to her sister who has Down’s Syndrome. And then the boards went crazy again with how sensitive the writers are, what a fantastic lesson the show provides, how wonderful it is that Becky made the Cheerios, and how uplifting it is for kids with downs to see such a positive message. Except is it? Do you actually know of a single high school ANYWHERE that would put Becky on a nationally award winning cheerleading squad? But hey, give you people a touchy-feely, it all works out at the end of the day moment and you’re happy and then off you go to find something else to rant about. And Glee gave it to you when Becky tried out for the Glee Club and did not make it… because she cannot hold a tune to save her life. And believe me was that mentioned on the Glee boards… I believe the exact words were “Glee discriminates against the disabled by not allowing them on the Glee Club!” Well I think first you need to make up your mind. Becky did not make the cut for the McKinley High Glee Club because she played pick a pitch and hit notes only small animals with big ears can hear. And last I checked, everyone was in an uproar because Sugar Motta does NOT have Aspergers… therefore the only reason she was rejected was for her singing. And this is why Aspergers can be very useful – I can parse the logic of the situation and recognize you are being illogical, dramatic and emotive and not making ANY sense whatsoever. But I guess that’s what you normal people do and that’s okay. I accept you.
Glee is a comedy, people. It is incredibly written, sensitive to touchy subjects and does a fine job portraying complex, drama-filled teenagers and the adults around them in ways many if not most people can relate to in ourselves or in others in our lives. Some of the characters are over the top and funny (Sue and Brittany being two of them) and some are over the top and annoying (Finn and Rachel) and some are just over the top (Emma). Pushing off your own issues and lack of understanding on to what was really a very funny moment is not fair, especially when this character was just introduced and not yet developed. An article from the Child Mind Institute sums it up best: “Glee is an irreverent, sometimes edgy show that has made fun of just about everyone: football players, cheerleaders, gays, straights, fat people, skinny people, people with OCD. But since there are so few characters who have Asperger’s on television, people in the autism community are looking for real, sensitive depictions that offer teaching opportunities—something Glee is also known for. This entitled, obnoxious girl who uses Asperger’s as her shtick doesn’t disrupt any stereotypes or offer any new information. So far, she isn’t a character who has Asperger’s—just a character who is uninformed and manipulative.” And as for you parents out there defending, and potentially upsetting, your children who happen to have Aspergers know this. You have NO IDEA what it is like to live with Aspergers or on the spectrum. You cannot POSSIBLY relate to how we think or react or emote because you are “normal” (which by the way is a really boring thing to be). By foisting YOUR issues with Aspergers off on others you are doing more damage to me and others who live our lives on the spectrum than any television show could do.
So get over yourself. And Sugar, ROCK ON with your foul-mouthed, self-diagnosed Aspergers, tone deaf singing self!