Not a real post, Yet it’s posted

This isn’t a real post, yet it’s posted.

I recently had a super fun experience with an oil furnace that involved the infamous Dave from the infamous “Dave’s Not Here, Man” post. Perhaps I should do a 2.0 version on that blog? Consider it… pending. Just waiting for the final furnace chapter that will hopefully happen tomorrow.

In other news, Lauren, aka Bub, does her live AGT audition in less than a week, at which point I’m no longer able to talk about the show due to the impending NDA which has not yet been required. Very fun stuff… even if it ends at this level it’s still seriously surreal and very cool.

Three things:

1- As soon as the furnace is done, my drum kit gets set up in the new basement SCORE. It’s been a while and it’s time. #MommaNeedsHerDrums

2- I’m going to learn 2 songs to support the Bub… “What About Us” by Pink and “Creep” by Radiohead. I technically already know the latter but I need to bring it back back out of my 28 year old brain and insert it into my, now, 45 year old brain. Can I get a vote on which we/she should do first? We also want to do Sweet Child ‘O Mind by GNR so why not right?????  Ok so 3 songs. Thoughts/suggestions/Comments welcomed. She’s great on acoustic but for some songs you need a rock band. #IWannaRock #GetItDone #IGaveBirthToASinger

3- Linking to a sample of what she’s planning to do for her Live AGT audition, which is in less than a week. She has a front-of-line pass to the NYC audition, which means she gets to skip the lines and go straight to the stage. How cool is that? Even if it ends there it’s cool. Check out this video from our garage today. Done in one take, while freezing, waiting on day 2 with no furnace in a nice cold, New England snowy day. #BubRules #LABRocks #CoolestKidAward #15YearsOld

Click Here for Bub’s Dry Run for AGT Next Week

Bub front and center. Momma/MarieChristine hiding in the back right corner. #Subscribe #ThankYou! Youtube: LAB Rocks #YesShesOnly15

 

Free Lunch

There’s a saying that we all know about, but we never follow.  “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”. We are human beings, we ALWAYS judge a book by its cover. If we are good people, we stay open minded to changing our assessment once we read the book. We also don’t act on our original judgment and we don’t ignore new information.

The first half of my life my book was judged by its cover negatively. In the second half of my life my book is judged by its cover in a positive way. Both scenarios are interesting and bizarre at the same time.

Early in life I experienced this a lot. It sometimes made me angry and most times I morphed that anger into motivation. Let’s skip the younger years of my life so I don’t bring you to tears and/or outrage against my 4th grade teacher and people you’ve never met. But I’ll share one very vivid memory from elementary school about lunch time and the free lunch program.

You may be familiar with the program where children who can’t afford lunch are given free lunch. Almost every day I would go through the lunch line, and the cashier would say “free” when I walked up with my tray. I had my money ready to pay for lunch, but she assumed I was in the “free” category. I would insist on paying, at which time she would look at me with a scrunchy forehead and say something like “Hun it’s ok, free, go ahead”. I wasn’t on the free lunch program and this was confusing and a bit humiliating. To this day I don’t know if this lunch lady was being helpful or if she was a complete bitch. Judging a 7 year old based on appearance, real nice lunch lady. The free lunch program is amazing, but that lunch lady can go fuck herself, amirite?

lunch dont like you

Dear lunch lady…

Let’s get real. Skip ahead to age 16 for Marie Christine in Small town USA. I’m in a working class family and am very motivated. I watch the news every day. I work after school. I get great grades. I get my junior year class schedule and it says that I am assigned to level 2 classes.  Level 1 is for college bound students. Level 3 is for people who can’t keep up. Level 2 is for average students. If you’ve met me, you guessed it, I flipped my shit.

I go into my guidance counselor’s office to discuss this. At this age with very little resources, the one place you have to go for help is your guidance counselor. I was very excited for this meeting. I would explain my situation, he would move me to the level 1 classes so I could get into college, we would resolve this obvious misunderstanding. So… it didn’t quite go that way.

I walk into the appointment determined and hopeful. I sit across from Mr. Judgmental assuming he would be understanding and helpful. I present my case to him, discuss my aspirational goals, discuss the proof of my work ethic and references from my other teachers and my employers. He smirks and shakes his head. I remember this conversation like it was yesterday. Wait for it… I will reveal his actual identity in this blog.

He proceeds to tell me that I should consider one of two options based on my “obvious situation” that I’m “Clearly not ready to accept”. My first option, according to Bloated Face McGee, was to forget about college because this was a “ridiculous pipe dream” and accept that I need to learn a trade. He suggested hair dressing school. This is a perfect fit for some people, but those of you who know me, this is not a fit for me.

My second option was to yellow slip.  Yellow slip meant that you ask your parents to sign a form saying that you don’t need to continue high school and you basically leave and join the workforce immediately. Hey Mr. Inflated Ego, I will spend the rest of my life proving that you are a classist, biased asshole who has no business counseling children. But I digress. I left his office in shock, disappointed, and more motivated to succeed than I ever had been. I moved myself into level 1 classes without permission. #FTW

lunch waiting

Me waiting patiently for the universe to catch up with this guy … payback. 

His assessment was based solely on factors that had nothing to do with who I really am. He was, and likely still is, a class A douche bag. Do you want to punch this jack ass in the face? Don’t worry, you don’t need to. His life did not turn out well. As it turns out, his judgment wasn’t just bad when it came to my future, it was bad in general. He lost his job after changing the grades of his daughter, and changing the grades of a student who was better than his daughter, in order to make his daughter valedictorian. Here are links to the stories if you want to see how his life turned out. Who’s laughing now, Charlie? I am, and my blog readers are. Sweet sweet revenge. I had always planned on sending him a copy of my masters degree diploma, but I didn’t need to. Living well is the best revenge.

Link to the Mass.Gov Case Against DBag McGee

Link to: It took 7 years but it was worth every minute plus FTW

lunch scorpion

Hey buddy, remember me? I’m gainfully employed. How’s your stuff going? 

Fast forward to college at UMASS Amherst. I loved that place. It was a difficult journey. I worked a lot and it was hard to keep up with my studies but I persevered. While I was in college my cousin was in prison for a non-violent crime. When I was back in my hometown on various breaks from college, I would visit him. He is, and was, a good person. He made a mistake. Period. I digress… One time I was in the waiting room, where you sign in and they search your bags and body before you can enter the visitation room. I was happy to go through this process in order to see him and remind him that he would be ok, that I was thinking about him, and that he could get through this.

As I sat there waiting to enter, one of the prison guards approached me and pulled me aside. He said “Good luck with your life. Wasting your time visiting your boyfriend in jail, you’re nothing but a drain on society and a useless waste of space.” First, this was not my boyfriend it was my cousin. Second, this is absolutely none of this guys business. Third, he obviously has not had sex in a loooooooong time, just saying. Dude needs to get some, or something. I digress, again.

At the time I was studying Sociology and was considering getting an MBA so I could run either a social program or a probation program. Rather than telling him off I just let it go, knowing that he was clearly a sad person with a sad life. I secretly wondered if I should work toward running that prison so I could be his boss, and fire him in a humiliating way. That was the actual moment I decided not to work in the prison or probation system. I knew that I didn’t want to be in a constant state of judgment from the likes of this un-self-aware neanderthal. If it makes you feel better, as he walked away from me after he insulted me I laughed and gave him my serious look, which confused and concerned him. #winningALittleBit  I can only assume he lived a lonely life disappointing himself and everyone around him. Judge not lest ye be judged. Remember that.

lunch judgmental

There are SO many instances like this, I would list them all but you’d get exhausted with the length of the blog…. ha! This one time when I lived in Virginia Beach around age 21, I pulled out in front of someone in traffic. Plenty of room. My car was ok but not impressive. The guy I pulled out in front of ran me off he road. He forced me out of the car and berated me telling me I was white trash and threatened to call my parents and tell them that their daughter was a disappointment who couldn’t drive for shit. Road rage much? I’m not good at everything but comebacks are my specialty. I told him that my parents died in a car accident when I was a baby (sorry guys, not true!) but that if he has a direct connection to god he was more than welcome to call them. He apologized and started backpedaling. I got in my car, flipped him off out the window and drove away. Parents are alive and well 23 years later. I’m not white trash, and you have anger management issues.

Now the script has flipped. People assume the opposite of me, which is both bizarre and hilarious. If I go to a restaurant with a group of people, the hostess will always ask me “How many? Where would you like to sit?” I don’t know lady ask one of the other 10 people here I’m just along for the ride. People assume I know what to do in a myriad of situations ranging from post-car accident management to deciding where to have a baby shower. I’m the same person I was in the prison waiting room and in the guidance counselors office, yet I get a different response from the world because of a change in clothing quality and demeanor.

A friend and I witnessed a major car accident about 7 years ago. The driver two cars behind us was texting and driving and didn’t see that traffic was stopped in front of her. She hit the car behind us and her car propelled over our car and flipped onto its roof. This was in the city so there were at least 30 people there. I swear all 30 were looking at me for guidance. I went into the car, realized the driver was likely paralyzed. I called her father on her cell and beckoned him to the scene. I held her hand and kept her calm until the fire fighters came. Meanwhile everyone else stood around in shock.

lunch boss

When you’re a 45 year old woman and the fictional character you relate to most is Don Draper. #NotNormal

When did I cross the line from assumed yellow slip jailhouse girlfriend to crisis manager? I didn’t. I’ve been the same person this entire time. It’s ok to judge a book by it’s cover at first, but keep it to yourself and STFU until you figure out who the person really is. The person you think is a jailhouse girlfriend might just be holding your newly paralyzed daughters hand while she waits for you to arrive.

all in

 

 

 

 

 

Day Trading Drug Dealers

How to use hillbilly skills to explain to people that you aren’t a day trading drug dealer…

Click Here to see the blog that inspired this post by the interesting and dynamic Jeff Cann. Thanks Jeff!

In one of Jeff’s recent posts he talked about a family in his neighborhood that people didn’t know well. What they did know was that they didn’t leave the house for work every day, and that they gave out full sized candy bars for Halloween. The neighborhood consensus was that there were two, apparently employable, adults living with a couple of kids in this home. Neither adult left for a 9-5 work schedule, or any regular schedule for that matter.  So… they must be either Day Traders or Drug Dealers. That’s when I realized that I’m in the same situation.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ve probably figured out that I work… A LOT. My daytime job is in strategy for a large insurance carrier. My part-time night job is working as an Economics teacher at a local private college. Not-Tom-Brady is a stay at home dad, or “Mr. Mom” as he calls it… as well as the Keeper of Family Sanity. He does every single thing you all hate doing on your time off so that I don’t have to do it… and I stay sane for my two jobs. I have literally never used my washer or dryer. Enough said.

This picture is totally unrelated I just love it so much. 

What I haven’t told you is that I only go into the office a couple of times a month. The rest of the time I work from home. Our new home in Anytown USA has a finished basement, which is my domain during work hours. For school, about 1/3 of my classes are in person and the rest are online.

We just moved from a city to a small town. This is the first time I’ve lived in a neighborhood setting since the 1980’s. In the city, my neighbors were just happy that I wasn’t leaving garbage in their yard or assaulting them. They probably never even noticed that I didn’t leave home for work. In Anytown… not so much. Not-Tom-Brady leaves several times a day, delivering children to school in 2 different school districts, music lessons, football games, sleepovers, dog walks, picking up items from the store 10x a week, dry cleaning, post office, liquor store (jager!) and other things I have no idea about because it’s been about 6 years since I had to worry about things like this.

I think Jeff is right, the neighborhood has obviously decided that we are either day traders or drug dealers. Let’s face it, we have a decent house and decent cars. We have a package delivered from Amazon pretty much ever hour on the hour. We have no apparent set schedule. Are the neighbors peeking through the blinds whenever we leave the house to catch a glimpse of a scrap of evidence that we have gainful employment? Jeff thinks this is a yes. He’s probably right.

We met one of our neighbors on day 2. They seemed very nice. They seem understanding, but it’s hard enough (sadly) for people to understand a Mr. Mom household, but in combo with remote work for the wife, it seems to melt brains. There are two houses across the street. One is a family who appears to have a regular family schedule going on. The other house has at least 6 cars in the driveway at all times, with no sign of a normal schedule. These are either “our people” OR they are day trading drug dealers. My neighbor that I met asked me if I thought it was a boarding house. What I didn’t say out loud, but was thinking, is that it’s probably a meth lab. I imagine them at the dinner table tonight asking themselves if WE have the meth lab. I’m not that interesting… are they?

 

The people across the street? 

We are in a small town. People talk in small towns. I’m just getting to know a very small handful of people but I’m getting there. We went to the local Chinese food restaurant last weekend. We walked in to pick up our order and the owner said “Marie”? Clearly very obvious I’m the only person who has a name he didn’t recognize or a face he didn’t recognize. I tried to have a “productive member of society” look on my face. I’m not sure if I accomplished that.

I recently met a woman in town who fixed my shoulder and also has a super positive smart-person-in-a-small-town vibe that we will call J-Healer. She is amazeballs and she reminds me that I made the right decision moving here. I’m also going to also try to do something I’ve never done before. I am going to a board meeting at a non-profit 4H camp in town to see if I might become a board member. Fun, good for the community, making friends, and also spreading the word that I’m not a day trading drug dealer. Hey guys I can totally save your non-profit with this new finance strategy in exchange for you telling all of the life long residents of Anytown that I’m not a day trading drug dealer. #TheMoreYouKnow

So, line of defense #1 is to just be a good person and spread the word that you are a productive member of society. Line of defense #2 is to let go and let your hillbilly reflexes kick back in. Again I’m not sure if the correct term is hillbilly, redneck, working class or just regular person. Either way after living in two cities for decades I’m going zen and bringing back the hillbilly street cred.

Using Hillbillly street cred from my real, original life, to inform people that I’m not a day trading drug dealer: (And if I was, which I’m not because I’m not that interesting, they wouldn’t care):

  • Say “Mornin!'”.
  • Just order “tea” instead of “Earl Grey” or any other such nonsense. Tea is fucking tea, end of story. You get what you get when you order.
  • Eat fried hot dogs (Disclosure: I fry turkey hotdogs now which is only half hillbilly)
  • Say “How’s it going?” to at least 50% of the people you see.
  • Give a half-head-nod to people you know from town but don’t know well enough to approach.
  • When you don’t have to ask why there is a fan next to a bucket of ice at the convenience store.
  • Jager: Enough said, this is the tie that binds. (Jager post pending I swear. There’s a lot of material here but I’m trying to find a way to present it that won’t make me seem like a raging alcoholic. Good luck me!)
  • I learned to drive a standard transmission in a corn field.
  • My high school boyfriend was arrested because his father had 2 acres of weed growing in their back yard.
  • My 15 year old daughter recently asked if I could show her how to open her orange soda with a lighter. NO. A good redneck has a bottle opener on their keychain. Jesus christ kid get with the program. Kids these days! (Side note: Remind me to post later about not getting a social work job once because I had a bottle opener on my keychain when I was 22).
  • High school friends had nicknames like Beaver, Fish Bowl and Puddles. In case you’re intrigued: Buck Teeth, Bad Breath and what you’d turn into if he started punching you.
  • You might be a redneck if you’ve ever been in a car on a frozen pond (Lauren, do NOT do this… )
  • 9 year old smoking and drinking… normal
  • Ever have massive credit card debt just to be alive?
  • You can identify rashes without ever seeing them. Yup, it’s impetigo so you don’t need  doctor just some dial soap and warm water.
  • You’re constantly preparing for winter, and talking about preparing for winter. Never. Enough. Firewood. Is the generator working? Just a little more firewood. Venison. Meat freezer.
  • We can’t tell you were Idaho is on a map (geography: Nope: Fail) but we know the spectrum for alcohol content without google. The chart goes from Coors Light to Grain Alcohol. It’s a special, and useful, skill.
  • Even if you’ve never smoked pot you can offer suggestions for something to smoke out of as if you’re a pot-Macgyver. I’ve seen everything from a tampon case to an apple. #OhThe1980s  I don’t smoke but I wish I did/could #LegalInMass
  • If you need to start a literal fire you came to the right place. Not only can we start a fire anytime and anyplace but we can keep it going as long as you need it.
  • Know what doesn’t scare us? Blood. If you want to eat, you’re going to have to kill it, skin it, cut it up and cook it.
  • We can let rich people patronize us and pity us so we can take advantage of them in some way. I don’t do this anymore because I live a double life. Not day trader / drug dealer but redneck / non-redneck simultaneously.
  • Food has three categories: Killed, Grown and Grocery Store. The less you rely on the last they more you’re winning. When you’re 9 years old and your favorite food is trout. #RealTalk

I’ll leave you with one of my fondest hillbilly cred stories. I was working out of a gift shop in a small town as the box office manager for the Big Apple Circus. I was literally in a closet at the gift shop it was pretty sweet. This was in the early 1990’s so I had a computer but it wasn’t linked to anything (ie. No internet). I took reservations via phone or people walking up to an external facing window at the “box office” aka the closet. I had  a boom box from which I played the Eagles and The Guru almost all day because they were the only cds I had that weren’t metal or hard rock.

As the circus came close, the carnies arrived. They set up trailers and tents on the property next to the gift shop. It was really cool. The trailers had awnings and window boxes of flowers. These guys were very used to this. They had the complete set up it was awesome. They were also true carnies. Some were acrobats, clowns, elephant trainers and the set up crew.

Some of the younger guys approached me and asked me what people did in town for fun. Of course I laughed. There was no where to go and nothing to do. I told them the truth that we survived by spending time with friends and laughing. One of them noticed I was reading Dennis Leary’s book “No Cure For Cancer”. I LOVED this book. It was a great escape for comedy and reality. Irony: I moved to Dennis Leary’s home town and lived there from 2006-2017.

Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant READ THIS BOOK. Stands the test of time. My friend Lisa met him once and said he smelled amazing. #TrueDennis

He asked me if I would come to their pop up village and read them the book that night. I did. This was my first official public speaking appearance. We had strange soup that someone had cooked that I think was soba noodles and miso. We had some kind of wine that in hindsight I think might have been plum wine. I’m not sure who was cooking but there were people from at least 10 different countries of national origin present. I read page after page and chapter after chapter of Dennis Leary’s brilliance as a crowd of carnies.. men/women/children…  laughed hysterically and stared at me in eager anticipation for more. Smoking cigarettes, drinking wine out of styrofoam cups, enjoying a united moment in time… before snapchat, iPhones or anyone even considering documenting the moment other than in our memories.

In an interview 20 years after that a hiring manager once asked me “Have you ever done any successful public speaking?”. I said yes, and told him about the time I conducted a training class at my first insurance job. What I really wanted to say was… there was this one time… with this bunch of carnies….

The Achiever

I work too much. Period.

At least twice a week someone says to me, “How do you find the time?” or “Where do you find the energy?”. My token answer consists of “This is just how I am…” or similar responses. I decided that this year I would investigate what that really means and decide if this can, and/or should, continue.

At my day job I work in strategy for a large insurance company. In the evenings I teach at a local private college. Let’s face it, I also do both on the weekend. EVERY weekend. Is it worth it? Why do I do it? Both of these questions are really complicated. I won’t get into the childhood stuff because no one wants to open that can of worms. But as I see my youngest daughter exhibiting similar behaviors, I now find the motivation to figure out the why. I’ve also logged 124.5 volunteer hours Jan – Nov 2017… partial humble brag but also something I feel incredibly guilty if I cut back on … ya know?

In the 5th grade my teacher had a board for successful students called the “Laurel Wreaths”. You basically had to get every single thing on earth correct to earn this title. He would call students to the front of the class each month who achieved this status and would praise them in front of the class. The peer pressure was actually to make fun of the “Laurel Wreaths” but I was never one to care about peer pressure. This was a reward for excelling, so I made sure I got it every month.

Another memory I have is working as a waitress at Friendly’s Restaurant. This is a family style restaurant serving burgers, ice cream and other 1950’s-esque specials. We had about 10 tables on each side of the restaurant and 5 in the back. I insisted that I handle the number of tables that were normally assigned to 2 waitresses, because that would maximize my tips. And… let’s face it… it wasn’t a hard job. If you hustled, you made money. This is my sweet spot. At my request, they gave me a double set almost every night so I made double cash. My peers thought this was stupid, and meanwhile I thought my peers were stupid.

I think we’ve established a tendency to over-work my self from an early age and also a lack of understanding for those who didn’t. This is not a compliment to myself, it’s an insult to myself. That said… How could you not want to maximize your potential praise and/or income? That was insane… amirite?

Another problem with Achievers is that we feel like failures if we don’t accomplish something every day. This is a REALLY hard concept for others (aka happy, normal people) to understand and even for us to understand. So… about 6 months ago I was trained to teach an agile mindset/self-awareness type orientation course at the college I work for. I’ve subsequently become quite bored and exhausted with the class-set, but that’s a story for another day. As a part of the class, each of the professors was required to take 3 psych assessment tests. We received the results and we had to review them with our peer group. The person who found the results to be most helpful was… Not-Tom-Brady.


The Results

So… I showed these results to Not-Tom-Brady. He laughed, he cried, he sat in the fetal position for a while… I digress. It was actually interesting. As crazy as this sounds, it helped our relationship a lot. I almost wish he had access to these tests so I could read HIS outcome so I could understand him a little bit better. He no longer says “Why can’t you relax?” or asks why I’m completing some random task(s) on my only day off. Now he knows, this is something I’m required to do in order to be sane. It could be researching how to become a board member of a non-profit organization or it could be hanging a painting that’s been sitting there unhung, or practicing a new recipe for a future potluck dinner. I set the achievement(s) for the day and they have to be completed. End. Of. Story. What I need to get better at, is understanding that not everyone has this need, and understanding that their needs are just as important as mine. The need to unplug, and relax, for example. Which idiots like me view as a waste of time. The fact that I’m Gen X is clearly not helping either.

This is all well and good, right? I support my family of 4. I feel a sense of achievement. Life is good! The problem is that there is no gauge for people like me of when we’ve gone too far. How is it possible to achieve too much? I’m always in a pretty consistent state of discontent, and constantly disappointed in my lack of progress. This is a motivator, but also makes it so people like me Never Stop. Ever. Never. Ever. Never. I’ll sleep when I’m dead, right?

When I was at UMASS in 19-ought-6, I started out just focusing on my studies. Then I decided to tutor athletes in the mornings from 5:30 – 7:30am. (Some of them are now in the NBA… but that probably had nothing to do with me, or did it? haha) Then I got a work-study job at the Dining Commons washing dishes during the lunch shift every day. Of course (shocking) I always did my homework as soon as I got home from class every day. But how about all of this “down time” between finishing homework and sleep? I opted, of course, to work delivering grinders (aka sandwiches to non-Mass people) and cigarettes from 8pm – 1am, 5-6 days a week.

Wasting time is the work of the devil and shit needs to get done right? So alas, my college years are a blur of working, studying, chain smoking and falling asleep in random places due to lack of any attention to my health whatsoever.  “Wasn’t UMASS fun?” … Me” “Define fun”.  I once woke up in a pool of blood on the 22nd floor of the library, in a bathroom stall. It turned out to be an intestinal issue that I still deal with today. I have a feeling that the girl who found me is probably still waking up in the middle of the night wondering why/how/what? and also what the fuck?!!!!

At UMASS I worked about 42 hours a week and went to school full time. This is healthy, right? Oh I forgot, I also type 125 WPM without errors (Not a typo: ACHIEVER MF!) so I typed papers anywhere from 1-4 hours a day depending on the time of year. Most people back then had typewriters. I had a word processor. The primary difference between the two machines was that I could type an entire line THEN hit enter and it typed it. It gave me the option of correcting errors BEFORE they were typed. It was brilliant. Remind me later to tell you the story about the time the typing test company came to my office because they didn’t think my typing speed, without errors, was possible at the time. Achiever MF’ers.

What have I learned since those days? How have I changed based on my 27 years of corporate experience and knowledge? Up until now I haven’t learned SHIT. I think I’m so fucking smart but I’m actually a complete idiot. I’ve been a complete maniac focused only on attempting to move past discontent and achieving as much as possible in every category. Failure, and having a life, are not an option.  I may be the most boring person on the face of the earth. Does playing drums and having super interesting friends help? Dear god, I hope so. I have some very interesting friends… they keep me in touch with reality.

My life now. I’ve learned nothing… essentially.

So, I love teaching. It’s so so so rewarding. BUT I’ve taken on classes I don’t enjoy simply because I need the money. I say “yes” to everything they ask me to do because of a stupid fear that they may offer me less classes if I turn one down. This is all in my head, of course. I work about 50 hours a week at my day job, which is my absolute priority. If I teach one class on top of that, it’s doable. It’s almost enjoyable. Since I’m so busy, teaching is pretty much my hobby and that’s ok. But this semester has pushed me to reconsider my choices. I’m teaching 3 classes at one time. Think about it.. I just recently expanded my role at my day/real job, and am teaching THREE FUCKING COLLEGE CLASSES at the same time.

Here’s where I’m at this year: When someone asks me what grade my youngest daughter is in, I’m honestly not 100% sure when I answer 4th or 5th grade. I am just not sure. I have cancelled my last 4 mammograms because they have been at times where I felt one, or more, of my bosses may be disappointed if I was not available. I still have not rescheduled this. 2 weeks ago I woke up at about 3:30am on the stairs of my sunken living room. Granted it’s only 4 stairs, but I have no recollection of even sitting on the stairs. I have almost no time for the gym (which I TOTALLY need in order to control anxiety). I’ve been eating terrible food just to stay low calorie. That’s NOT me. But here we are right? When you work 50+ hours then add in THREE classes… what options do you have?

I work in a finished basement at my home and sometimes go down there when it’s dark and come upstairs when it’s dark. I generally don’t even have natural light anymore. I started wondering if I should get one of those lights people in Alaska use so they don’t lose their fucking minds due to lack of sunlight. So where I was at is that my plan A is ordering a light instead of finding a way to see actual light. This is not normal. Achiever.

Years ago I tore a muscle behind my shoulder blade putting a suitcase in my trunk on a work trip. I mildly re-tore this muscle this week after another business trip. As someone who drives a manual transmission and takes boxing lessons, I can tell you that having a tear in your right shoulder blade is not good. I can tell you for sure that this would not have happened if I was getting enough sleep, if I was eating the right foods, if I was paying attention to my health and my body and my life. But yet, here we are. Achiever.

I made a commitment this semester to my family, to my friends and to myself that I will never do 3 classes again. I have a strong commitment to my day job and that will continue, but I have to let go of the “extreme teaching” as a friend called it this week. Why can’t I just do 3 classes a year? For context, most adjuncts do 2 classes a year. This year I will do 19 plus writing 5 classes. This is not normal. Achiever. NINETEEN teaching and FIVE writing… plus real job = unrealistic bullshit.

As a start, I’ve told my boss at school that I no longer want to teach orientation classes. They bore me to tears, the students aren’t invested, I’m unchallenged and TBH it’s killing me slowly. Just saying this out loud has helped. Second, I’ve said I can only do one, face to face, class per semester. My life, my marriage, my sanity, my relationship with my children and friends, my day job, and most importantly, my HEALTH depends on it.

So, it appears that as of 1/1 I’ll only be working a 50+ hour a week day job plus teaching one class a semester. Feel free to yell “SLACKER!!!!” at me as you drive by my house. While I will secretly be disappointed in my need to scale back to 175% instead of the 250% – dead by 60 plan, it’s a baby step toward doing what I need to do to be a human being that lives past age 60 and has something to show for it.

Lesson for me this year and commitment to my friends, family and co-workers for 2018: Without my health I can’t provide you with the things you need from me. I will still be an Achiever, but a 60 hour a week achiever, not a sleeping on the stairs and forgetting what grade my daughter is in achiever. I commit to being a better employee, a better wife, a better friend and a better mother. And one thing we all know about Achievers… when we say we will do something, we do it.

I quit smoking (just under 5 years ago) cold turkey after 25 years of smoking over a pack a day just because fuck cigarettes… so this should be a fucking breeze compared to that shit show. Stay tuned.

Real Talk

 

 

 

 

 

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades

You may realize by now that I’m not really a fan of being runner up. I’m not so competitive that I freak out about winning or losing, but getting “close” to an achievement gives me no satisfaction. I’m a 1 or a 0 type person… not .5.  I suppose I do act like being close is a good thing when giving pep talks or advice, but that’s what we HAVE to do right?

Oh you almost passed your CPA exam? Well hey with a little more studying you might pass it next time, keep it up champ! (.5) The real me is saying well you wanted to be a CPA and now you aren’t one. (0).

So let me tell you about my .5 moment were I was almost the 2015-2016 spokes-model for Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty campaign.  For those that are unfamiliar, Cindy Crawford has a beauty line called Meaningful Beauty. It’s really great, high end, stuff that consists mostly of magic lotions and serums that make you stay young-looking slightly longer than you normally would have. If you use these products and generally stay out of the sun, you could add a bit of pretty-time to your face. Being the vain lady that I am, I’ve used these products for about 7 years and am a big fan.

I don’t get crazy and use the whole “system”. I stick to the few items I believe work best for me. If I’m being honest I also buy them on eBay to save some money. I love paying less than full price, it’s like a drug for me. Sorry Cindy, but $57 for 1oz of serum is too much. I’m going to pay $32 on eBay (which is also too much).

close discounts

Never pay full price. (Trying to prove that open minded democrats are also not PC… is it working? p.s. In case you’re intellectually impaired, this is sarcasm. You’re welcome.)

We could get into this whole debate of inner beauty and appearance not being the most important thing blah blah blah I agree. But I still prefer being pretty over not being pretty, so if that’s anti-feminist then I’ll own that.

Back when I was still on Facebook the Meaningful Beauty page posted something where if you comment with your favorite product they would put you in a drawing to win it. I can’t remember the details but that’s the basic gist. I normally don’t do stuff like that but I have a strange habit of winning things. That’s probably another blog. If I play a game of chance, not a competition, I win more often than not. Strange, but true. I digress. I didn’t win the beauty product, but I did get a message from Cindy’s marketing manager.

She asked me to FaceTime with her to talk about possibility being the spokesperson in their next round of infomercials.  Some of you know these things play for HOURS on end in the early morning on certain channels like Lifetime for Women, etc. I was like wow ok why not? She said she would send me $300 worth of free products just for talking to her, and she did! Free stuff = S C O R E.

close free stuff

Eventually we go back and forth discussing my age, my recent marriage, situations where people may have thought I am younger than I am, and her generally figuring out if I am presentable enough for television and not prone to dramatic outbursts or inappropriate behavior (hehe). She, for some reason, decides that yes, I am that person.

I end up doing maybe 10 of these interviews, which she records, and plays for their marketing team. Cindy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pretty cool. Meanwhile, they keep sending me these giant kits of free products. I could have started a Meaningful Beauty store at that point.

close wedding

This was the cover photo they were going to use.  Awwwww Not-Tom-Brady and his never receding hairline (thank you hair gods). And yes, we look alike, which is weird and we all know it. 

I then get this very bland, info-less, email basically saying that while I was originally their first choice, they ended up going another way. Another way? What other way? There’s only ONE other way, right? Someone prettier than me. Damn you prettier than me person! Now to be honest, I don’t care much about being on TV. I was actually a bit reluctant. What I DID want quite a lot was to meet Cindy Crawford and to work with her. It would have been a dream come true. But alas, Cindy decided to “go another way”.

About 6-7 months later the new set of infomercials was about to debut. I stayed up late and prepared myself to see who this horrible, sneaky, Cindy-stealing shrew would be. Instead I found a beautiful, well-spoken woman, the same age as me, but prettier.  Dang! She looked like a combination of Whitney Houston and Diana Ross, except more beautiful and more interesting. Hey Marie Christine, Welcome to .5.

close cindy!

Cindy!!!!!! Why Cindy Why?????!!!!!!!!!

If you think that’s a bad .5 story, I think my mother has one that wins the Pulitzer F#cking Prize of .5’s.

Jill Meets The Beatles…

On August 15th, 1965, my mother got to do one of the coolest things a person could do in their lifetime. She saw The Beatles play in front of 56,000 people at Shea Stadium. Journalists said that at time you couldn’t even hear the music over the screams of the crowd. This is one of the most famous gigs in history, right up there with Woodstock. There are countless articles, movies, documentaries etc. about this epic moment in time.

My mother, Susan, had entered into a contest to meet the Beatles backstage at the show. This, of course, was an obvious long shot. As the day of the concert arrived, she and her brother had all but forgotten about the contest. They went and enjoyed the concert, returning home with unparalleled stories and memories. The MF’ING BEATLES!!!!!!

A few months later, she received a package in the mail addressed to her. She opened the package and saw a book titled “Jill Meets the Beatles”.  Huh… Along with the book was a note explaining that she had originally won the contest to meet the Beatles. They called her home several times to confirm, but no one answered so they moved on to the next contestant. They were sorry that she was unable to meet the Beatles, but here was a book describing Jill’s experience meeting the Beatles, as a consolation prize. Sincerely, Bearer of the Worst News a Teenage Girl in 1965 could possibly hear.

close dayum

What kind of evil devil incarnate thinks that sending this note and consolation prize is helpful in any way! Well, I suppose it gave her daughter some interesting blog material 52 years later…..   Jill can suck it…

Is that or is that not the most bullshit .5 story you’ve ever heard? Horseshoes and hand grenades my friends.

Futuristic cyborg warriors communicating

#GoldIsFromAliens

 

Shameless… when it comes to Bub

Shameless plug for my 15 year old daughter’s America’s Got Talent song.  Let me know what you think… and please subscribe if you like it!  The more subscribers the more seriously they take her.

As promised, no more than 2 shameless plugs per year.  She auditions on 12/17… wish this sweet soul good luck y’all.

Link to Bub’s AGT Audition Song

 

Thanks to my precious readers.  More comedy/reality to come. Peace to all.

Gold is From Aliens

yea

 

Quittin’ Time

 

*Disclaimer: “F Word” is used in this blog, only because it was necessary to tell the story* Disney will likely not be sponsoring my blog at any point anyway…

As an adult, I think one of the worst feelings is looking for work.  If you’re looking for work, this often means you’re suffering in silence at a terrible job. Conversely, one of the best feelings as an adult, is getting a new job offer, and being able to resign the position that has been giving you agita for the past 239872073 days. Yea, agita is spelled with a “t”, learn something new every day…

I have a decent amount of years in the workforce.  I’m a loyal employee when working for the right place.  I worked at one employer for 10 years and I’m about to celebrate my 8 year anniversary at my current employer.  These days that’s a pretty solid loyalty track record. I’ve also had some doozies and have been on the job-hunt-job-offer-resign roller coaster a few times. I actually have 4 really good quittin’ time stories, but the blogiverse doesn’t usually tolerate stories that long, so today I’ll tell you about 2 of my favorites.

There was this one time, at band camp… just kidding… sorry folks no one but Not-Tom-Brady gets to hear that story.

There was this one time in Jacksonville, NC…  Never heard of it?  Neither has anyone else, other than every single Marine Corp employee in the entire world. Semper Fi.  If you read my Redneck Police blog post, you’ll remember Morgan Freeman’s doppelganger telling me to leave Virginia and get the frig out of Morrison’s Cafeteria.  I listened, but the transition wasn’t quite as well executed as it could have been.

Remember life before the internet and smartphones?  I do.  Back in the old timey days you moved to a town, got an apartment, bought a newspaper and read the classified section.  By the end of my Jacksonville stint I had worked three different jobs.  The third was working as a paralegal, which eventually led me down a path into the insurance industry.  The two jobs before that, not so much.

Jacksonville Job #1: Check Cashing Place.  If you’ve never been to a check cashing place, you’re missing out on a truly magical experience.  These are high revenue generators set up to rip off people who can’t afford bank accounts.  Basically they found yet another vulnerability of impoverished people and exploited it.  #Murica. So… if you receive a check from a job or your grandma and you don’t have a bank account, you can bring it to a check cashing facility.  They will be so kind as to cash your check for a small fee of about 15%, depending on the reliability of the issuer.  For example, if it’s a tax return check from the US Treasury, the fee might be 5%.  If it’s from Sally-No-Name with a check from bank-of-nowhere-Alabama, the fee might be 30%.  Alas, I needed a “job” until I found a job.

quitting exploitation

It wasn’t terrible at first, although we did have a shotgun under the counter and bullet proof glass.  There were a jillion Marines so the majority of checks were military paychecks.  I got in trouble one time for explaining to a customer that he could afford a bank account and keep his entire check. Yea.  Then we would have wide range of crazies. Everything from people trying to pass off pretend checks as real (some of them were sooooooooooo bad it was a joke) and lots of people who would bring in bad checks one day then come in and try again over and over.  I once had to turn a fine gentleman away because I couldn’t read the routing number on his check since it was covered in too much vomit.  I was living the dream folks.

I read the classifieds daily, sent out paper resumes and waited.  I would go to my apartment at night and check my answering machine (yup!) and wait.  And wait.  Finally one day I walked into work and my boss was there.  He had just started a small chain of pizza places that eventually went national.  It never occurred to me that men get plastic surgery until I started seeing his commercials about 10 years ago.  He still looks the same, his face just has a puffy, stretched out shine too it.  Good pizza, horrible boss.  So if you want pizza built on the exploitation of impoverished youth, I’ve given you enough info to begin your search. I digress…

quitting quote 1

I asked Mr-Pizza-Slum-Lord if he felt that, sociologically speaking, this business was hurting people rather than helping.  I expected him to say something like “Hey it’s just business”… or “It helps them because they would have nowhere to go without it”. Instead he said “Fuck em” and laughed with his beady little pizza-slum-lord eyes.  So I said, “No, Fuck You” and left.  Oh to be young again…  Whenever I see his commercials I say “You SUCK” at the TV. It’s oddly satisfying.

quitting fu

Jacksonville Job #2: Sewing hems at a sewing factory.  I walk into the interview and the hiring manager laughs and says “You’re hired” after I say “Hello, great to meet you.”.  Shortest interview ever.  After I met my coworkers I realized I basically just needed a pulse and functioning eyes/hands to do the job so she was probably amused by the fact that I even had a resume to hand her.  Functioning eyes… CHECK.

I’m seated next to “Tanya” whose boyfriend was in the Marine Corp (shocker!) but she was from Jacksonville originally.  It takes me about 2 weeks to realize the following things:

  • Her boyfriend is stringing her along and will never marry her.
  • Canned Vienna sausages aren’t half bad.
  • If I hadn’t sat next Tanya, I would have walked out on my first day.
  • Tanya was eventually going to have a terrible, terrible life.
  • Sewing factories suck.
  • The allowed breaks were less than the legal requirement.
  • There were no visible sprinklers or marked fire exits.
  • The boss was a fat, bigot with an inflated sense of authority.
  • Almost everyone working around me was going to be doing this for life.
  • They were not paying overtime when they were supposed to.
  • The air conditioner was always broken, but was conveniently operational in Boss-Hog’s office.
  • Sarcasm was a foreign language and was usually taken literally.
  • The payroll lady had never had anyone question her before.
  • The boxes of flannel shirts I hemmed had tags from as many as 4 different retailers sewn into the exact same shirts.
  • It smelled like Boss-Hog’s trailer park’s dumpster in that place.
  • This was a temporary situation for me.
  • The level of acceptance of the conditions would not be a match for my Yankee upbringing or my Italian attitude.
  • Swearing in the factory was forbidden.  FORBIDDEN.  If you can’t swear in that shit-ville, where can you?
  • This was hourly work, not “piece work”, so if you were going to slow, Boss-Hog and his Douche-Hog-Brigade would tap a ruler on your sewing machine then wave it at you with “tisk tisk tisk”.

quitting vienna sausage

Hello old friend

I know what you’re thinking… what happened that made you leave?  Well one day, Boss-Hog was busy tisk-tisking the lady to my left. She was maybe early 60’s and had worked there for her entire life.  This lady sewed the shit out of every box of flannels she got.  She was a machine.  He was clearly just taunting her.  Gross.  I thought about tripping him when he walked by, but I refrained.  Then he tisk tisked me, which was deserved because I was barely sewing and was dying in the 5th circle of humidity-stench-hell and because F-That place.  As he walked behind me he took the ruler and ran it gently through my hair. 

I. LOST. MY. SHIT.

Those of you who know me know that I have a very long fuse.  The problem is that at the end of that fuse is decade’s worth of pent up Italian Rage with a deliberate sense of execution.  This did not end well…

I stood up and turned around and grabbed the ruler from Boss-Hog.  Since he is who he is he laughed and grabbed it back… because of course I will sit down and know my place.  The women around me stop sewing and wait to see what’s next.  I grab it back from him but he’s holding it really tightly so the metal edges cut my hand a bit. The fact that this doesn’t faze me has made an impression on him.  Oh now it’s about to get good!!!!!

quitting srsly

I stand up on my sewing chair and throw the ruler to the ground.  He takes a small step back. Now EVERYONE stops sewing and this is A LOT of people y’all.  I yell “ENOUGH!” Then I yell off a list of work violations that I believe are unacceptable.  I follow with a few humiliating statements about, what I assume to be, the smallest set of genitals any man has ever had, as evidenced by his need to make others feels powerless around him.  He was not laughing anymore.  I said that he would die fat, powerless and alone.  A stunned crowd was part entertained; part petrified and part wondering if they should keep sewing.  I said I know some of you love sewing and need this job, and that’s ok. But I know some of you have had enough.  I’m leaving now, you can leave with me and I will help you find work.  About 5 girls walked out with me, including Tanya.

We all went back to my apartment.  The girls went through phases of disbelief, shock, fear, exhilaration and anxiety.  We smoked, what seemed like, 15 packs of cigarettes. We talked until 2am while drinking Crazy Horse beer out of 40oz bottles.  Ironically we got slum-lord pizza and it was amazing. The next day we all started looking for work, and we all found it.  I assume that Boss-Hog’s story ended as I predicted, but I DO wish I could somehow confirm that… for the sake of all the women that he caused to suffer. Sadly, it’s likely that Tanya and the other girls never got out of Jacksonville, and probably had pretty hard lives.  Unfortunately, we lost touch so I’ll never know.

quitting pizza

Thanks for the Pizza P.J. … with your weird face and negative impact on humanity and good pizza and  whatnot…

Summary of what we’ve learned:

  • Your pizza could be tainted with the souls of the impoverished (wow that came out much more dramatic than it needed to).
  • If you’re going to make a scene you might as well go big.
  • Get a bank account, it’s not that expensive.
  • Men who get face lifts look weird to me.
  • Don’t vomit on paper checks, or allow them to be vomited on by others.
  • It’s really easy to get a job at a sewing factory if you have functioning eyes.
  • If you are a single woman and you need a date, go to Jacksonville, NC where the male/female ratio appeared to be about 250:1.
  • If you’re female and don’t like being hit on 24 hours 7 days a week, do NOT go to Jacksonville, NC… unless you’re enlisted in the Marine Corp and get orders to go… then totally go or you will be arrested and whatnot.
  • Rage against the machine.
  • If you see something, say something.
  • Inciting a one-woman protest without planning might work out but might not. You may want to actually have a plan.     
  • Slum-Lord pizza is delicious.
  • Complacency is a disease only cured by inspiration.

quitting complacency

Don’t be a deer in the sewing factory.  Be the lion.  

 

Straight Outta Woo-Town

 

If you read my last blog post, you know that I recently moved.  I’ve moved many, many, MANY times, but this time was the most drastic change and the hardest worked for.

After 10 years and about a hundred thousand dollars in expenses and mortgage payments, I was able to sell this June. YAY!  I was even able to make some money on the sale (Thanks Dave! Sorry I panicked and tried to convince you to lower the price.  You were right, I was wrong… you are smart and I’m stupid.)

We ended up having to replace the entire sewer line.  It was incredibly expensive and stressful… after our 2nd sewage back up in 2 weeks of purchase. Thanks to Dave we were able to use the proceeds to pay for it. I never realized how exhilarating flushing a toilet without fear could be. Who knew?

straight lawn 1

Nothing to see here.  This is all totally normal. 

We moved from Worcester to a country town about a half hour outside the city. I wouldn’t call it a suburb.  It’s a working class area that has been hard hit by the continuous loss of working class jobs.  I like to think we are doing our part for the community having immediately injected about 30K into the local economy through our many post-move catastrophes.  You’re welcome!

straight money

Makin’ it Rain!  Until the money is gone… so… now.

Worcester is the 2nd largest city in New England. It’s known for its booming restaurant and art scenes, and also for a lot of crime and deteriorating schools.  I always liked the city, and I will continue to visit often.

New-Town is different.  I told a friend before we left that we were moving with the hillbillies, but that’s ok because I’m a former hillbilly and still speak fluent hillbilly. He responded “It’s Massachusetts hillbillies, so…”.  True.  Massachusetts hillbillies are… different. I’ve also noticed that the distinction between a hillbilly and a redneck appears to have disappeared post-Trump Presidency.  Or maybe it was before and I just wasn’t paying close enough attention? At this point I’m unable to self-describe.  Am I a current or former hillbilly? Current or former redneck? I’m just going to check off all of the boxes and call it a day.  TBH that’s probably accurate.

straight thinking

Immediately I noticed that everyone here is wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  Seriously, almost every single person. Other options appear to be gym shorts that basketball players wear and pajamas.  As people came to the house to help us with various service needs, I tried to wear the jeans and t-shirt uniform, so as not to be discovered as a city slicker who’s too big for my britches.    It seemed to work!  Mostly.

Things NOT to do if you want to go undetected:

  • Wear all black
  • Wear $400 Burberry Sunglasses (even if you bought them at a silent auction for charity. That actually makes it worse)
  • Take down the American flag the prior owner left on the house
  • Go for walks wearing matching fitness clothing
  • Carry Trader Joe’s Bags into the house during daylight hours
  • Resting Bitch Face
  • Mention politics, even in passing
  • Read a book in public (unless it’s to children)
  • Ask what kind of bourbon/wine a restaurant has, just order Makers’ Mark/House Merlot
  • Do not blare “Straight Outta Compton” because you love it or because it’s ironic
  • Tell the sewer line replacement guy “fine whatever it costs” after getting a $10,700 quote.
  • Complain about only having 25K in your 401k at age 45 (Hint: A lot of people have NONE, k miss fancy pants city slicker?!)

Things TO do if you want to go undetected:

  • Forget you have bed slippers on when you go to pick up Applebee’s take out and go in anyway
  • Be very clear that you have dogs and love all dogs
  • Ask people about their lives even if they are cleaning sewage from your basement
  • Smile when people walk by
  • Don’t cover up your tattoo(s)
  • Sigh really loudly when you say you left Worcester to point out how relieved you are
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower
  • Wait a year to buy a snow blower. Not just because you’re out of money but as further evidence that you aren’t a damn fat cat city slicker
  • Get supplies at Walmart.  It’s cheap. It’s 5 minutes away. Target is an hour away, get over it.
  • Hide your mosquito magnet, even though you want to tell everyone about it.
  • Eat all of your DQ fries before you even get back home (less than a 2 minute drive)
  • Stare at your garbage disposal in wonder every time you use it… this thing is magical!

straight mosquito

Dear mosquito magnet. I love you so…

There are awesome things here like tons of farms where you can buy fresh food.  We went grocery shopping last night and couldn’t bring ourselves to buy tomatoes and eggs at Big Y (no offense Big Y you’re awesome buddy!) because we knew we could get them fresh from a local farm.  We also found a farm that has milk and a bunch of pre-made stuff right from their place like shepards pie, pulled pork and chicken pot pie.  Take that Worcester!

I will admit that when I take my daughter into the city for her voice lessons we stock pile Chinese take-out to bring back to our hillbilly Shangri-La.

straight chinese

When the take out lady at Nancy Chang asks if you’re having a party because your order is for like 20 people and there are only 2 of you standing there…

So far we are happy here.  I feel most comfortable living in a working class community.  That’s not a huge surprise considering that’s how I grew up.  I feel like I can be myself… even with the Burberry Sunglasses.  I can adjust to wearing all black only SOME of the time and can definitely get used to DQ fries and fresh eggs. Resting bitch face may be harder to let go since it’s… well…. My face.

One thing though…. Is it me or is this landscaping at the local cemetery WAYYYY too creepy.  What the frig is happening with the corpses in that cemetery? What is happening to them that would make them cry out for help in this insanely disturbing way?

straight pray

Nothing creepier than all hell going on here. 

Dear readers… have I waited long enough to post about politics or are we ready for some real talk?

straight kermit

Dave’s Not Here, Man

If this title doesn’t mean anything to you, I suggest you hit up Google, YouTube or Siri then come back (although technically you can still follow along unaware).

You might be thinking to yourself, Marie Christine, where the heck have you been? OR you might be thinking… hey Marie Christine, I didn’t even notice you were gone so get over yourself.  Either way, here’s the story of the long strange trip that was the last 7-ish weeks.

A very intuitive person told me that this entire process would be a flume ride… with anxiety inducing moments weekly, sometimes daily.  He was right.   Here is the story of my flume ride.

I put my house up for sale. Not-Tom-Brady and I are very different people.  I handle moving by putting everything I haven’t touched in the last six months out on the sidewalk for anyone who wants it to take…. I’m surprised I moved with anything at all.  I even sold our living room furniture on Craigslist before we even sold our house. When they showed up to pick it up I just started handing them random items like a serving tray and an ottoman… everything must go!!!!

house 5

This is where most of my stuff went… gone within hours.

Not-Tom-Brady, on the other hand, sifted through what seemed like hundreds of boxes of odds and ends, cherishing the memory attached to each one.  The process took a long time.  Being the anti-clutter queen of the universe, the process almost drove me over the edge.  But for Not-Tom-Brady, I stayed strong. Number of my “boxes of memories” = 1.  Number of Not-Tom-Brady’s boxes of memories = I have no idea.. a LOT y’all… a lot.

 Ohhhh Not-Tom-Brady!

We also handle stress in very different ways.  Not-Tom-Brady is an optimist with an everything-will-work-out-like-it’s-supposed-to attitude. Not fair. With the knowledge that a flume ride could be imminent, I turned to my 2 saving graces in times of high-stress… productivity and booze.  Yes, these two options can happily co-exist.

house 6Jager Nips I packed for my business trip to San Diego.  This is about 20% of what I packed.  Airlines allow these in carry on AND checked bags, especially if you have TSA pre-check.  For those of you that were unaware of this, you’re welcome. 

Stay busy, stay productive, then drink…. and repeat.  My realtor, and friend, is Dave. During these 7-ish weeks Dave has been reassuring and always available. I, on the other hand, have been overwhelmed, busy and moderately drunk.

house 11

Me overwhelmed, busy and moderately drunk when Dave would stop by…

I have two jobs, so staying busy usually isn’t a problem.  Between the two I work anywhere from 40-70 hours a week.  BUT during this time I pretty much needed to be busy 24/7 to avoid having a complete nervous breakdown.  I was living in a difficult-to-sell home.  We had 13 showings and NO offers.  During the 14th showing we got bored and decided to go to an open house for a small ranch that didn’t appear to be a good fit for us.  We opened the door and saw a sprawling open floor plan with a SUNKEN LIVING ROOM.  I LOVE SUNKEN LIVING ROOMS!  Then there was a finished basement.  A partially fenced yard.  Privacy.  A two car garage and landscaping like I’ve never seen. We all knew… THIS IS OUR HOME.

As it would turn out, the 14th showing was the charm and an offer was made on our house the same day as we made an offer on the new home.  Let the joy (I mean flume ride) begin!

First, our buyers were first time home buyers.  No problem!  Except that their realtor was also a first time realtor.  Awesome!  She can’t fill out basic forms and asks ridiculous questions like.. Can the buyers come in and clean the week before they buy the house? Um no, it’s not their house so… no.

house 444

We decided on closing dates. My purchase the day before my sale.. easy peasy! NOPE.

I did a home inspection on the new house, the seller refused to make any of the updates I requested, basically stating that they didn’t need to be done.  One was replacing a cable leading into the circuit breaker box (I’m using the wrong lingo I’m sure)… I won’t spoil the surprise on how this turned out, we will get there.  Fine asshole.. have it your way… don’t make the repairs.

Then, I realize that we are only a week away from closing and the seller still hasn’t signed the P&S agreement.  It turns out he was on vacation and didn’t think it was a big deal.  Guess who DID think it was a big deal? My mortgage company.  He ended up going into the lawyer’s office on a Saturday and we got it signed within about 4 hours of the timeframe necessary to close on our closing date. Awesome!

As I’m reading the P&S, when it’s eventually sent to me, I notice that it’s missing an entire parcel of land attached to the property… yep… true story.  At least we have 3 whole hours to fix it… lucky us!

house 16

Thanks to a very cool cast of characters on my end (Dave, Mortgage-Guy and Lawyer-Lady) they got shit done.  Literally at the 11th hour.  High five team-Dave.

Finally my title is clear and the P&S is good.  Just call Fidelity to get the 401K loan right? NOPE, I need the money for the mortgage within 7 days and the best they can do is get it in 14 days in the form of a check, and it will take 7 days to clear.  Perfect!  I spent 7 hours on the phone with Fidelity.  Eventually they agreed to wire me the money.  I can’t even tell you how I did it. Let’s just say manipulation and negotiation skills are key in life, and I probably also owe the director there a kidney, but it was worth it. Jager.

house 7

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, all is peachy keen with the buyer!  Oh wait no that’s the story of another person that I’ve never met.  Since the buyer is inexperienced, and their realtor is new, no one noticed that their mortgage broker went on vacation and forgot to process their paperwork.  The bank appraisal on my sale home was never ordered, and the closing was in 4 days.  But it’s all good right? Nope, it’s not all good.  Even with a rush appraisal the house would not sell/close as planned.  They order a rush appraisal.. I stay busy, and wait, and drink. Oh and I also attend Dead & Company’s show at Fenway Park with Not-Tom-Brady because I got him VIP Tickets for his birthday.

Yea that’s right. When you aren’t sure if you’re about to have a great year, or if you’re about to lose everything, you might as well go big right?

house 10

Dear John, I forgive you for what you did to Taylor Swift and/or Jennifer Love Hewitt. Thank you VIP heaven. 

My appraisal on my purchase comes back $3,800 under the asking price.  We all know that the bank home appraisers have some subjectivity here.  Probably in the 10K range. Mine, nope… she decides to prove some sort of point during my flume ride.  Let’s just say I don’t want her to have any sort of tragic event, but if she were to get the worst sunburn of her entire life this week I would be ok with that. So, I got to pay $3,800 to the buyer that I wasn’t expecting because some lady decided it was her day to shine in I-Have-Self-Declared-Power land.  Perfect!  Why not right?  p.s. My sale is now completely up in the air at this point.

My sale house finally gets appraised and I’m told we will close in about 10 days. Ok scary. I’m going to own 2 homes for at least 10 days and don’t have the resources to support it past that… deep breaths. The house will sell.  We will be ok… it’s all fine. Nothing to see here. Jager.

house 12

I finally close on my new home and move in. YES!  Sunken LIVING ROOM!  The movers are awesome.  Life is good.  Not-Tom-Brady and the kids are thrilled.  There is still drama with the sale but hey at least we are in Shangri-La right?   Waiiiit for it..  wait for it…. What is this water leaking into my finished basement?

I call a long list of plumbers in an unfamiliar town in a house I’ve lived in for just a few hours.  One finally comes over.  I can’t figure out where the water is coming from.  I assume a broken pipe is my worst case scenario.  Ya know what? A broken pipe is NOT a worst case scenario.  It turns out that a sewage drain back up IS.  And you guessed it… it was a sewage drain back up.  There  is a stand up shower in the finished basement, full of…. well full of shit… Literally.  I call a restoration company and a drain specialist.  The next thing I know I’m writing thousands of dollars in checks to get the drain unplugged at the street level and to have my finished basement sanitized.  Yay! Jager.

house 8

Two days later the sewage is removed from the house.  They tell me it was a single paper towel flushed down the toilet that caused the problem. I have no idea if that’s even a thing but it’s all very calming (hint: It’s not).

The very same day I get a call from lawyer-lady.  Great news!  The closing on your sale is going through.  OMG that’s great news wow!  So they pushed it ahead to the day after tomorrow instead of next week isn’t that great?  They will be coming tomorrow night for the walk through. Insert visual of me picturing my old house with a basement full of junk that needs to be hauled away and 11 years of grime in every crevice of the 100 year old house… Remember… at this moment I have sewage in my new home and men wearing masks working. I thought I had at least 7 more days.  No rest for the wicked.  Jager.

The next day Dave swoops in with the number of a cleaning lady that turns out to be some sort of magic sorceress.  I’m so exhausted from the past 7 weeks plus the sewage back up that my 45 year old body can barely manage.  The magical cleaning wizard asks if I want her to start in the downstairs.  I nod.. sure.  15 minutes later I walk downstairs and she has transformed the house of horrors into a beautiful home full of rainbows and glitter happiness.  Meanwhile, Unicus, the Junk Master General, shows up and hauls away every bit of junk from the entire house.  He makes all of the bad disappear. #Unicus The buyers are on their way for the walk through.  We finish with 23 minutes to spare.  They could probably see us driving away.

house 22

Now that things are “calm” I call an electrician. Remember that silly cable that the prior homeowner insisted didn’t need to be replaced? It wasn’t just susceptible to leaking into the circuit box, it has been leaking for a while.  So this Saturday I get to pay to have the entire thing replaced.  Isn’t that exciting? Who doesn’t love an unexpected 2K expense for something you thought you already had (working electricity)?  Side note: I knew this in advance but I also need to replace the furnace.. yea!  Do people still offer money for blood plasma donations?

Did anything go right?  Well, we love the house.  The fence guy showed up on time today to install a fence so that my dogs can run free, unsupervised, for the first time in their entire lives.  My teenager has her own hang-out area for her and her friends in the finished basement. I have a garage.  I don’t have a sidewalk to maintain. I can hear birds outside.  People here smile and say hello. My kids can walk to DQ from the new house. Did I mention the sunken living room?  I have a front porch and neighbors who wave to me.  I have a kitchen with enough counter space to prepare food on without using the stovetop.  My backyard has plants and flowers I’ve never even seen before.  There is a breeze in my back yard 24/7.  The people who bought my old house are over the moon happy to be there. I have EIGHT parking spaces, 2 in a garage.  At my old house I didn’t even have enough room to invite more than one person over at a time… and even with one person one of us would have to move our cars to a side street.  My family is HAPPY.  The redneck police did not show up, they are letting me have this one.  Stay tuned.

E X H A L E

house 17

Gigi dancing in the sunken living room the day we moved in. 

  • house 3

How to handle a flume ride.

 

 

 

Jesus Walks – Top 12 Marie Christine Game Changers

We are all many things.  I’m a strategist, a wife, an ex-wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a homeowner, a professor, a diplomat, a mentor, a humanitarian, a drummer, a blogger, a friend and a pessimist.  My list goes on, as does yours.  I’m having an extremely busy quarter.  Whenever I use the word “quarter” my friend Andrea makes fun of me.   Apparently it’s not a term normally used by the general population to describe time.  Alas, I’m having a busy quarter.

I sold my house!  I also bought a house.  Wow!  Blog posts to follow about city vs. non-city, moving, and the differences between my husband and I when it comes to how we approach(ed) the entire process.  I’m also leaving for a business trip to San Diego in two days (Poor me! I “have to” go to San Diego.  Feel sorry for me.).  I close on the houses in less than 4 weeks.  Not only am I going to San Diego, but I have my day job (strategy), my night job (teaching economics etc), 2 charity events, the Worcester Economic Club annual meeting and I’m taking Not-Tom-Brady to see Dead & Company at Fenway Park in Boston for his birthday.  I’m sure I’m missing something, but there’s a lot going on.

Every single day there is someone at my house.  The handyman fixing my windows.  The electrician covering up exposed wires.  My realtor collecting ANOTHER check (Hey Dave!) The myriads of people buying all of the furniture we’re selling on Craigslist.  Side note: If you have a busted snowblower, it doesn’t matter how bad of shape it’s in…. put it on Craigslist.  We had 48 emails in the first hour!

Looking for a home is awesome, and not awesome, at the same time.

What do I do to get me through busy and/or tough times?  Clarification: These are not tough times, these are awesome times… but still busy and a little overwhelming.  I look to music.  I’m here to share the songs that have meant the most to me in my life, and why.  I hope to hear what you think about these songs, and even better, if you can tell me what songs are meaningful to YOU and why. Side note: there are 27 songs that I struggled with NOT putting on this list. It’s very hard to get down to 10ish… so know that there are an additional 27 deserving songs such as “Hear My Train A Comin’: Jimi Hendrix” that I refuse to live without.  But I don’t think the general blog reading audience is up for a selfish extended blog of 39 songs… I digress…

Disclaimer: I’ve had a bit to drink.  Disclaimer to the disclaimer: I’ve had more than a bit to drink.  …. Note to self for future blog title: “Don’t drink and blog”. Damn you Jager and also bless you at the same time.   Forgive any typos, I blame the Jager. There is also a Jager related future blog post… you will enjoy the context but it’s difficult to explain in one sentence so enjoy the suspense lol.

Songs that have impacted my life the most… in reverse order.  Heads up… these aren’t the song’s you’d expect, I’m just being as honest as I can be:

12. The Chain: Fleetwood Mac.   I simply love this song.  It’s not only technically on point, but it gives me a sense of calm and meaning.  If you haven’t heard this song, you need to listen to it immediately. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love this song.  I’ve seen it performed live once.  It was awesome. My family is always very talkative on car rides.  I notice that we are all silent during this song.  That speaks volumes.

11. Daughter: Pearl Jam.  This song has multiple interpretations.  I recently asked my daughter to teach me to play this on acoustic guitar while she sings it.  Stay tuned for the youTube debut. #LABRocks

10. Beat It: Michael Jackson.  This was one of the first songs that made me feel optimistic and made me want to dance.  It’s also brilliantly written and musically just about perfect. In 2015 we saw a famous Michael Jackson impersonator perform this in Woonsocket, RI… and even the impersonator nailed it.  The song is THAT good.

9. Wanted Dead or Alive: Bon Jovi.  When this music video came out, it was the first glimpse into the life of a musician that may be less than glamorous.  The song is well written, has great hooks and is all around great.  I love playing it on drums.  It’s one of the few songs I can listen to over and over after years of hearing it.  This song was ahead of it’s time and still holds up today. I sometimes wonder if non-musicians love this song as much as musicians do… ?

8. Head Over Heels: The Go-Go’s.  The Go-Go’s changed my life.  As I was trying to figure out how I fit in to the world, Belinda Carlisle helped me get there.  This is one of their lesser known songs, but it’s the one I remember listening to over and over and saying ok… I can see myself in this person.  I have someone to relate to.  Thank you Belinda Carlisle!  She wasn’t all punk, she wasn’t all pop, she wasn’t any category she was all categories, and still is.  I aspired to be like that. I still want Belinda to be my best friend.

Belinda ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

7. Fight For Your Right To Party: The Beastie Boys.  You should know, the Beastie Boys are my favorite band of all time.  They don’t have my top slot in the countdown, but if asked to name my overall favorite band… it’s hands down these guys.  They changed the way I felt about music and felt about life.  They broke barriers. They still break barriers.  I would sit with a friend and memorize the words to Paul Revere and life was good. I couldn’t possibly name all of the songs I love by them, but this was the very first. Plus let’s be serious, before this I had no idea that I had the RIGHT to party 😉

6. Dream On: Aerosmith.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Aerosmith.  Too many to count.  This is partially due to the fact they they are from my home state.  I even settled 2 insurance claims for them in the 1990’s when I was a claims adjuster.  I originally wrote the details in this blog because Jager temporarily made me forget that was inappropriate.  Luckily I remembered before I hit “Publish”.  Let’s say we have a long history. My band did a cover of their cover of “Walking The Dog”.  That said, Dream On has always been an important song to me.  I’m in the process of convincing my daughter to perform this one with me because it’s such an emotional song and has so much meaning to me.  Whenever I hear this song, I feel like a 19 year old drummer at UMASS in a state of Zen once again.  Does it get any better than that?

5. I Know You Won’t: Carrie Underwood.  Best vocals of any song I’ve ever heard.  Also a great emotional message.  Lauren will learn this song when she’s ready.  I’ve heard this performed live twice, and have been speechless every time.  Not only are the vocals better than anything I’ve ever heard… even without production/mixing/blending… but the emotion and meaning is real.  When someone doesn’t keep their promises but you keep hoping they will, this is the song for you. Carrie Underwood can’t dance for $hit but I’ll tell you what, that woman can SING. She doesn’t need studio tricks… this song is the real thing.   Songs I couldn’t include in a short top 10ish list: Someday When I Stop Loving You, The Night Before Life Goes On & Wasted.

4. Ali In The Jungle: The Hours.  I learned about this song last year.  I asked, on social media, for inspiration.  Someone who knows me better than most suggested this song.  The music video is just as good as the song.  A senior leader at my day job recently asked me what I felt my best quality was.  I responded by saying “overcoming adversity”.  I believe that to be true.  When self-doubt creeps in I listen to this song and it tells the self doubt to F-Off and go back to where it came from. If you’ve overcome adversity and struggle with intermittent bouts of self-doubt, this song is a necessity. In my 40’s this song has been a critical reminder that I CAN and I WILL.  Thank you song writers and producers.

3. Ride The Lightening: Metallica.  When I was a Sophomore in high school I experienced a lapse.  I have always been extremely driven.  Focused.  Achieving.  Surviving.  Cutting through red tape with a machete.  In 1985 I experienced a lapse.  I gave up.  I decided the fight wasn’t worth it and almost gave into the dark side.  I started smoking cigarettes.  I stopped caring about my schooling.  I focused on survival but nothing else.  I determined there was no point.  A fellow student gave me a Metallica tape.  One day while mowing the lawn at my house I put the tape in and heard Ride the Lightening.  I have no explanation why, but this was a turning point for me.  It energized me and put me back on track.  I felt a kinship with the meaning of the song. I realized I wasn’t the only person going through something.  I realized I had the power to control my outcomes.  I could ride the lightening.  Thank you Metallica for this turning point. I regained control of my future because of a cassette tape and a lawn mower.

2. When Doves Cry: Prince.  This is one of my favorite songs of all time.  I loved this song at the same time that I loved Metallica.  I wasn’t a metal head. I wasn’t a pop culture buff.  I wasn’t into anything, I was just me and I loved parts of most things.  This song is almost perfect.  I regret that I never heard Prince perform it.  This is my go-to song when I need to forget about something.  I get in my car, I put this song on, and I sing every… single.. word.  I LOVE THIS SONG. Prince had a way of helping you to let go and become a part of the music.  You dance in your car, sitting down, and you don’t care who sees you. We will never hear a song like this again.  People in the next lane over in traffic stare at you like you’re crazy.  Instead of worrying about what they think, you feel sorry for them because they can’t experience the same sense of freedom.  I’m thankful it exists.

  1. Jesus Walks: Kanye West.  If there’s one thing in the world that I CANNOT STAND, it’s Kanye West.  I think he’s one of the biggest narcissistic assholes of our time.  He’s overconfident and often unintelligent.  He puts down others to make himself feel powerful. That’s my least favorite type of person.  That said, he has produced the song that has had the most impact on my life.  I listen to this song several times a week.  This song is my anthem.  This song is my reset. This song is for anyone that has come close to going to the dark side and come back.  This song is for those who have gone to the dark side and come back.  This song is for those who are still on the dark side and still have the opportunity to come back.  This song is brilliantly produced.  It’s motivational and meaningful.  I have listened to this song weekly since it came out over a decade ago.  This song keeps me on track.  This song reminds me to stay the course.  This song has had more of an impact on my life than any other song every has.  My only regret is that it wasn’t released earlier in my life when it would have helped me sooner.  This is the message we need in the struggle.  We are all equal.  We can all rise above evil and do what’s right, even without the resources or means to do so.  Even if we have already gone down the wrong path, there is always still time for course correction. YES WE CAN. We can always come back no matter how far off track we have gone.  #JesusWalks.

 

 

Test Drive Playlist: My Nearly-Victimless Con

Disclaimer: I do not advocate the disrespectful behavior I’m about to describe or the hobby I’m about to elaborate on. It’s not nice… not nice at all. Driving speeds are deliberately omitted from this blog post.

I’ve always loved driving. Every car I’ve ever purchased has had a manual transmission. I learned to drive on a manual transmission truck and have loved them ever since. Every decade that passes it gets harder and harder to find manual transmission vehicles without a special order. With driverless cars on the horizon my relationship with this driving style may be coming to an end.

In the early 1990’s I lived in Jacksonville, NC. I was hired at a law firm as a receptionist, but was quickly moved to a back room position as an insurance claim paralegal because I wasn’t “Southern enough”. I didn’t want to spend the first 2-3 minutes of every call discussing the weather or the blooming flowers. I was the receptionist. Wasn’t it simply my job to receive a call and transfer it to the proper party? Not in the Southern United States it wasn’t. I was too “abrupt” apparently.

Who they thought they hired

Who they actually hired…

One day, one of the partners asked me to take his car to the carwash for him. I wasn’t opposed to menial tasks, and let’s face it getting time out of the office was a bonus. He handed me the keys and I walked out to his spot. Back then it was common for offices to have labeled parking spaces as a sign of prestige, so it was easy for me to identify his car. It was a beautiful new Jaguar. It took me about 2 hours to get his car washed because “the line was busy”. I had never been in such a luxurious vehicle before. I basically melted into the seats. As a reference, I was driving a Dodge Shadow at the time, and proud of it, as my first new car. I had driven plenty of muscle cars in the past (Chevelle…. Favorite car to drive HANDS DOWN). I had never driven a luxury car. How could I NOT take it out on the empty highways of Jacksonville. Everything was awesome, except the music. He had no tape in the car and the radio was nothing but talk shows where churches asked listeners for money or people complained about the heat and general state of the economy.

What his car looked like

What my car looked like

After this experience, I decided that I was going to need to find a way to drive cars outside of my wheelhouse. Hence, a new hobby was born: the test drive hustle… and I’m not talking about a dance, I’m talking about a victimless con. Note my use of the word “victimless” as if any hustle or con could truly be victimless. Let’s say on a scale of 1 – 10 I perceived the negative impact to be a 1… we’ll call it “nearly victimless”.

When I get anxiety or stress, driving helps alleviate it. Driving fast helps even more. Driving fast in a car I’ve never driven is even better. Driving fast in a car I’ve never driven, in an area I’ve never driven in is the best.

I have my flaws, just like everyone does, but one of my better qualities is my credit score. Very sexy, no? I pay my bills ahead of time. When I can’t pay them, I find a way. I’ll rob Peter to pay Paul. I’ll work a second job, or third job. I’ll negotiate with the people billing me. I have never paid a bill late, and I never will. My thought process is that if I have a high credit score, I will always be ok. I set it as my top priority, and everything else falls into its own place beneath it.

One of the cool things about having perfect credit is that anyone will give you a loan, a credit card, anything you want… without collateral and without high interest. The mortgage broker says “I’ll let you know how much the bank approves” and you’re thinking “Whatever I want so…. We’re good”. What does my credit score have to do with my desire to drive fast cars that I’ve never driven? Everything.

Santa Land: Low Credit Score and Good Credit Score.

After my Jaguar experience I became a bit depressed (not in a clinical way, in more of a moping, bitching and complaining way) because I loved the experience so much but didn’t have the means to do it again. *Shrugs shoulders* oh well. Then, one day when driving from North Carolina to Massachusetts, I stopped at a diner to eat. As I was going back to the highway, I saw an Audi dealership. Thoughts of the Jaguar came back into my mind. “I wonder what their highest end Audi is like?”. I pulled in, got out and started looking at the cars. Then came the magical words that would jump start my new hobby “Care to take it for a test drive?”. Well…. Yes actually, yes I do.

They ran my credit… perfect… excited look in car salesman’s eyes. “Let’s go!”. I got into the blue, 1994 Audi A4. “Can we go on the highway?” “Sure, just watch your speed”. “Ok” (Not happening). We got on the highway and made some small talk. I accelerated slowly but steadily hoping he wouldn’t notice how fast we were going… until suddenly he did. He pleaded with me calmly to slow the vehicle down, I responded with short, confident phrases like “It’s ok”. “It’s fine”. “Don’t worry this is no problem”. We eventually drove back to the dealership. I wasn’t sure if he would scold me, or get a manager, etc. The car wasn’t damaged at all. There was no “problem” really. I sensed that, more than anything else, he was embarrassed that he hadn’t been able to control the situation. I told him I’d think about purchasing the car, took his business card, winked, and left… in my 1994 Dodge Shadow (my car should have been a bit of a red flag, no?).

You said it’s fine, but it doesn’t seem fine.

Over the course of the following decades I’ve probably test driven anywhere from 2-4 cars a year that I had no intention of buying. Having people check your credit DOES impact your credit a little, so I figured no more than 4x a year would be a nice boundary. (See, I DO have boundaries after all!) I picture someone at Experian looking at my credit report and thinking… what in the hell does this pattern even mean? Is this the most indecisive car buyer in the entire world? Ha!

Another thing I began to realize is that the radio stations in new cars on the lots are usually programmed to benign talk show stations or easy listening music stations… both of which have their purposes, but clearly don’t meet my particular test drive needs. In the late 1990’s I made a CD titled “Test Drive CD” that had some of my favorite songs to drive fast too. Once in the car with my chaperone, I would wait until we were at a stoplight far enough away from the dealership that turning back for mildly strange behavior was unlikely… and I’d casually say “mind if I pop in a CD?” The answer was always a go. Like any good con, the CD would start with something from Sade or Seal that was very calming. As we’d enter the highway (always against the original plan, they do NOT want you on the highway) my go to line is “Let’s see what this thing can do”. I think the salesman’s reaction to this statement often more fun than driving fast itself. It’s usually a chuckle or assumption that I’m kidding… then the realization that I’m actually getting ON the highway so perhaps I’m not kidding… and if I’m not kidding am I just going to abuse the car or am I going to kidnap them? I’d advance the CD to the next song (proper fast driving music) and proceed to drive at a very unreasonable speed. I would always approach the youngest salesperson and always a young man. I found them the least likely to rat me out, whether due to embarrassment, or wanting to keep their jobs, or wanting to seem cool and go-with-the-flow.

Of course, this doesn’t break any laws. They clearly have my information and have run a credit check. No harm no foul, right?

My Most Recent Test Drive Playlist:

The Prodigy: Smack My Bitch Up (Offensive title but great fast driving song)

Van Halen: Hot for Teacher (Do remember I am a drummer so…)

Motley Crue: Live Wire

Metallica: Shortest Straw

I generally only needed 4 songs because you’ll come close to the kidnapping/car theft perception it of you much longer than that.

Enter the iPod. The era of the iPod opened up an opportunity for me to create a Test Drive Playlist. How delightful!!!! This led to my favorite moment thus far in my unusual part-time hobby. Believe it or not, after years of driving luxury cars, muscle cars, everything under the sun… my all-time favorite has been a Camaro. In 2010 I had a field job that caused me to travel by car around New England almost daily. The 2010 Chevy Camaro was fricking AMAZING. It was beautiful. It was fast. It was a cross between a 1970’s muscle car and a luxury vehicle.

My Precious…

My first obstacle with this test drive is that no salesmen at this particular dealership were under 35 years old. I did the best I could and “Pat”, who appeared to be in his mid-50’s, helped me along. Thanks to my iPod technology, I just clicked on “easy listening playlist”, which Pat reluctantly allowed even though he tells me asking to play music is “unusual”. Oh thanks Pat that’s so sweet! Thank you Carly Simon for getting us to the highway ramp unnoticed.

“Pat, let’s see what this thing can do!” Wink. Pat, Ahhhh let’s take a right here, no right lane… right lane. Wait we…. Ok ok, let’s get off at the next exit. I reach down for the iPod. Pat’s eyes follow my hand. I click on “Test Drive Playlist”. Pat looks at the iPod, sees my playlist selection and says “What the FUC# is a test drive playlist” in a mean dad voice. Clearly he’s not the newbie 23 year old salesman, he knows exactly what test drive playlist means. It means that I test drive cars so often that I need a pre-planned playlist. It means that I didn’t accidentally get on the highway. It means he has no idea what’s going to happen next. Luckily for Pat, it’s just me driving fast, pretending I can’t hear him, and returning to the dealership with an undamaged vehicle. Pat, unlike the skittish young salesman of the past, opens my door and tells me to “Get the Fuc# off his lot”. I say thank you, bow politely, and leave. This was the first time a salesman knew what was coming, before it arrived… thanks to the tattle tale iPod screen.

That was actually the last time I test drove a car I wasn’t planning on buying. I’m honestly not sure why? Maybe I got it out of my system? I do still enjoy driving, and won’t rule out an unnecessary test drive in the future before driving becomes obsolete.

Now my question for my readers is:

 

Christmas in Hollis – Tales of an Italian Superhero

I’m not sure if my grandmother was born on a Sunday, but I know that was her name. Her name was Domenica, which translates to “Sunday” in Italian. Her friends knew her as “Maggie” or “Madge”. I never even thought to ask why. I knew her as “Gram”.

If you ask most people how they remember Maggie, the response is often negative. You’ll hear stories about her being irrational and demanding. You’ll hear about the time my father returned home from the Vietnam War and many of his possessions were missing/sold/gone. You’ll hear about her blind hatred for her step-mother and her apparent inability to relate to her own daughter. You’ll hear about an ungrateful woman full of bitterness and impatience. That is not my story… and most people know better than to argue with me on this subject.

hollis argue italian girls

I’m a worrier. I was born serious. I was a serious child. I’m a serious adult. I’ll be a serious elderly person. The world, if it remembers me, will remember me as… Serious. Maggie was also serious, precise and deliberate. I’ll save the details of the serious child-Marie discussion for a separate blog. Or, let’s face it, a series of blogs. Back to Gram…

Gram listened to me. In a world where people don’t often pay attention to unaffectionate children, she paid attention to me. She made it her mission to embrace my nature and to point me toward a life of self-sufficiency. For those who know me, mission totally accomplished. Probably to an extreme. I tend to be a bit… productive.

hollis productive woman

hollis productive cartoon

Gram would often take us to interesting, out of the way places. She took us to fish hatcheries to learn about fish farming and to learn about forestry. She also took us to “the brook”. I have no idea where this brook is. It’s in Berkshire County, MA, USA somewhere. It was a typical New England Brook. Rocky shore. Clear running water. Minnows. Trees. We ate egg salad sandwiches on the rocks and waded around in the brook.

If there were ever other people around, it was usually another family or a couple of teenagers drinking Genesee Cream Ale listening to the radio. This time, there were two men in their 30’s. No swimming gear. No fishing poles. No picnic baskets. They were staring at me as if they were waiting for something to happen. Gram came over to us and said, “Girls, everything is ok. We might have to leave. If I say something, you obey.” She had never used the word “Obey” before. I noticed she was side eye-ing Beauregard and Jimmy-John (Pretty sure these were totally their names). Something wasn’t right.

About 2 minutes later Gram (who was calm, beautiful and, of course, serious) started walking sideways toward us. She was walking calmly in a way that she could see us, and our unwelcome guests, at the same time. Calmly and deliberately, she stepped into the brook. She picked up Sissy in one arm and me in the other. B and JJ sprang into action.

They were probably 100ft away and started running toward us. “Girls, stay calm and do as I say”.

With two lanky primary school children in her arms, Gram ran at what felt like a gazelle’s pace. At first B and JJ were so close that I could smell them. I could see their calloused hands reaching forward as if they were trying to propel themselves faster. I looked down and saw Gram’s legs outstretched and strong. Huge strides on an uneven terrain of oddly sized rocks. Wet and dry land. Tree limbs and rusty pieces of metal. In her bare feet. “Don’t look back”. I didn’t. She didn’t. Sissy didn’t. I failed to mention that in order to get to the brook you had to walk down a very steep hill with a winding dirt path. So steep that it was hard not to fall forward on your way down, and hard to catch your breath on the way up. No time for the path now. No time to catch your breath now. Like an Italian Superhero she flew up the rocky slope. I could hear rocks falling down the hill behind us.

Hollis Italian Superwoman

We finally reached the road. “Almost there”. I see the blue Dodge Horizon in the distance. Tilted at a right angle half on the paved road and half on the dirt path. I hear her shoes fall from her fingers and hit the ground. I hear panting and footsteps of B & JJ but can’t tell how close they are. I obey and don’t look back. “I’m dropping you now. RUN”. We fall to the ground and run. These were the days of unalarmed, unlocked cars. Her right arm reaches out and grabs sissy by the back of the shirt, shoving her through the open driver side window. I open my door, jump in and curl into a ball. Driver door slammed. Key into the ignition and the car starts. Tires burn out leaving skid marks from the driver’s side tire. The acceleration slams my door shut. I sit up and look out the back window and see B & JJ bending down, hands on knees, exhausted.

Hollis Dodge Horizon

Gram, serious and calm. Her hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles looked like they would pop out of her skin. Her right leg pressing so hard on the gas pedal trying to make the piece of shit engine go faster. “It’s over girls.” Wet bathing suits. No shoes. Calm Gram. Life continues as usual.

I was confused, but not shaken. I wasn’t shaken because she wasn’t shaken. She behaved how I now behave. Behavior that is often mistaken for unemotional or cold. In reality, it’s just serious. We went to the Friendly’s take-out window for ice cream. None of us wearing shoes. Life went on.

hollis italians forgive

Gram in a nutshell:

She took me to see every breakdancing movie that came out. Ever. She was obsessed with gang wars being resolved by dance battles. This knowledge hasn’t come in handy in real life…. Yet… (I’ve got my cardboard slab ready to throw down)

Hollis breakdancing

She felt it was important that I could find my way around by myself. She would tell me our destination and I would have to tell her how to get there. I now have a keen sense of direction and no fear of getting lost.

She knew that I didn’t enjoy life. She knew I was capable but that I just had no desire to enjoy it. I felt it was unproductive. One of the ways she countered this tendency was to bribe me to enjoy myself. I would be allowed to stay up late, or to try on her clothes, or watch soap operas if I would enjoy myself for 30 minutes. She chose to do this by taping songs from the radio and playing them back on a small, portable tape player. She played the music loud. Very loud. No breaks. I had to dance the entire time. Not move my feet around. Not move my hands around. DANCE. I had to dance my ass off for 30 minutes. It was an order. It was also amazing.

I really dislike sports. I refused free Red Sox Tickets so many times when I worked in Boston that my boss asked me if I was crazy. I explained to him that sitting through a sporting event for me was akin to him having a crying baby held in front of his face, and asked if he wanted free tickets to that. No… no he didn’t. Gram was one of the most dedicated NY Yankees fans I’ve ever seen. She took me on a tour bus to the Bronx to see a game once. This was her happy place.

My grandfather was a stone mason by trade by a guitar player by heart. Gram played saxophone. In their basement was an oil tank covered in signatures from people having partied with them over the years. I loved that oil tank and wonder if the current residents have painted over the signatures.

Natale / Ned / Grampa (Added bonus, Natale means Christmas in Italian)

She complained about housework constantly. Her house was spotless. You could eat off the bathroom floor. Her complaints to me weren’t just annoyance or regrets over life choices, they were direction. Don’t be like me. Be something more. Do not do housework. Ask my husband, I don’t do housework. I should, but I don’t. Blame Gram????

Gram loved Bruce Springsteen. She would lecture me on his music with detailed explanations about why he was the best musician, and best human being, on the planet. “The Boss” really understood life, apparently. She was very interested in pop culture and fashion. I knew all about which dresses Nixon’s daughters were wearing and how Nancy Reagan was a fashion nightmare even though she meant well. Poor thing.

She taught me that health is our most important asset. She hiked every day. She also loved to eat (and loved forcing others to eat… a lot… and then eat again). She taught me about balance. Ok Marie you can eat a Jim Dandy for dinner but then the next day you’ll want to just have a salad. Don’t deprive yourself or life isn’t worth living.

Hollis Jim Dandy

For those not from New England, USA.  THIS is a Jim Dandy.  Hellll yea.

Hollis nonna food

She taught me which plants you can eat and which plants could heal you. She taught me how to survive in the woods to the extent that I always felt being stranded in the woods was something inevitable… I’m still basically waiting for it to happen.

Gram learned as much as she could about rap music. She loved Run DMC. She bought me the Christmas in Hollis 45 record. We played it constantly. To me this was all very normal. In hindsight I re-think the scene. Me in my black, leather jacket, red nails and Metallica T-Shirt. Eating piles of pasta with poppy seed rolls. My grandmother in her Madonna-esque, but very appropriate, black outfit and thick silver, short, modern hair. Listening to Christmas in Hollis over, and over and over and over. When RUN DMC and Aerosmith later decided to collaborate, this was basically a national holiday for us. All very normal…

Hollis Album Cover

hollis aerosmith

Yassssssss

She must have told me a THOUSAND times to “Work in Computers”. “Computers are the future”. “You’ll never make it if you don’t know computers”. Yup, she nailed it. In 1981, she knew.

She was a fierce democrat. This isn’t uncommon for Italian immigrants, especially during this time. I would post the photo of us at a Mondale/Ferraro rally but my sister would stop speaking to me. Let’s just say we didn’t look our best that day (or that decade if I’m being honest).

Waste NOTHING. I swear this woman’s garbage on the curb was the size of my fist. She would find a use for everything, and if someone was wasteful I had to assume they were basically going to hell. Quickly. And we would be judging them as the descended.

hollis italian tupperware

She drove fast. She told it like it is. She did not GAF. She really didn’t. Except when she did. And when she did GAF it was about me. So she gets her own blog post, and she gets me punching anyone in the face who tries to tell me she wasn’t amazing. My often irrational, demanding, ungrateful, bitter and extremely loyal Italian Superhero.

Gram / Domenica / Maggie

 

Acoustic or Electric? “The Voice” Auditions.

You should know that once a year-ish I’ll be doing a shameless plug for my 14 year old daughter.  This is no ordinary “my kid is awesome!” post… She is, but this is different. Keep in mind when you watch these videos… She’s FOURTEEN.  We need help deciding which “voice” she goes with for her audition for “The Voice”.

Here are two of her most recent performances, one is VERY electric, a cover of “Zombie” by The Cranberries at a live show (the end is my favorite part).  The other is VERY unplugged and recorded last night in our dining room, a cover of “A Team” with acoustic guitar.  She taught herself to play guitar over the last 3 months.

Auditions for the voice within the next 12 months.

Trying to decide which “voice” to go with for auditions… her acoustic voice or her electric voice…  Which do you prefer?  The first is a link to the Zombie performance because I can’t seem to figure out how to get WordPress to let me embed both.  The acoustic is embedded.  #ISuck

They review her YouTube channel as well, so please subscribe to help her chances!  ❤

Link to LAB Rocks Zombie Electric Cover that her Mother Can’t Figure Out How to Embed Because She’s Incredibly Old and Incompetent

 

The Redneck Police

Let me start off by saying that I have a self-imposed blog rule.  I do not talk about my parents, or childhood, except in passing… on this blog. I don’t say anything good about it that would make my mother (who is reading this right now) feel awkward, and I don’t say anything bad about it that would make her feel regretful or sad.  It’s very unlikely that my father is reading this, but the same rules apply.   

Now let’s begin the story of the ever looming Redneck Police.

When I graduated from college, I moved to Norfolk, VA. I had been to Virginia Beach to visit a boyfriend who was in the Navy at one point, and thought hey… why not?  They have a beach, it’s nowhere near my hometown, and it’s not so far South that I won’t fit in… so I grabbed a college friend, and we went.

I got a job as an underpaid financial products sales-rep during the day, but worked at Morrison’s Cafeteria at night.  Sadly, Morrison’s Cafeteria paid more.  I had waitressed at Friendly’s Restaurant during college.  This was different.  In a cafeteria style setting the customers would get their food, and essentially I would refill their drinks and bring them extra napkins.  There was no assumption that I would receive a tip, so I was forced to get creative and make them feel as though I had earned one.  I’m a hustler, I did well there, but it was not fun.  It was, often times, humiliating.

imposter waitress

One evening, a very Southern man and his family came in for dinner.  I engaged them in conversation and refilled their drinks and napkins quickly, essentially securing at least SOME tip, even if it was just a dollar.  The father asked me if I had considered college, and I replied that I had recently graduated.  I turned and saw a teenager across the room drop her entire tray of half eaten food on the floor, and walk out.  As was required, I went over and started to clean it up.  Beef stew does NOT come out of a carpet easily, Plus, who puts a carpet in a cafeteria?

I felt a tap on my shoulder, looked up and saw the Southern man from earlier.  I stood and asked him what he needed.  He put his hands on my shoulders, paused and stared at me for a moment.  I said, “Are you ok? What can I do for you?”  He said something I will never forget.  He said “Marie.  You don’t belong here.  You need to stop cleaning up after rude customers and start the rest of your life.  Quit this place.  Quit and never look back”.  I looked over his shoulder and saw his wife, nodding in agreement.  He squeezed my shoulders, and walked out of the restaurant.  I still remember exactly what he looked like and what he was wearing that evening.  He also looked and sounded like Morgan Freeman, and somehow that makes the advice much more powerful for real. That is the day I decided to elude the Redneck Police and take control of my professional life.  2 weeks later I moved to North Carolina and got a job as a paralegal.  I’m skipping a short stint at a sewing factory when I first arrived… but trust me, you want that to be its own blog story.

Imposter Over it

Fast forward to the next 20 years of my adult life. In 1997 I started working as a claims adjuster at a Fortune 500 Insurance Company in Warwick, Rhode Island.  Fast forward a few years later and I was managing a team of complex claim adjusters at a Regional Insurance Carrier in Central, Massachusetts.  Fast forward to me running all Claim Management at one of the world’s largest retail companies.  Today I’m an adjunct Economics Professor at a Private College and a Strategy Director at a large insurance carrier.

I hope to be adding to this progression in a couple of years: Assistant Vice President of XYZ.  I feel confident that this is on the horizon.  Yet, I’m still an imposter.

Imposter Syndrome is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.   What does this mean?  How does it apply to me? How might it apply to you?

Impostor Cartoon

There is even a debate on the spelling of “Imposter” vs. “Impostor”.  Both are correct.  “Impostor” is more widely accepted, so I chose to use the underdog.  The imposter of the imposter choices, if you will.

Imposter syndrome is especially prevalent in woman, and even more prevalent when crossing over social classes.  My bosses and colleagues over the years have expressed nothing but confidence and appreciation for my work ethic, work product and friendship.  I have no evidence that I’ve ever disappointed any of them in any professional way.  I would also argue that I’m one of the most confident people you’ll ever meet. Yet I still, at times, feel like an imposter.  Why?

I’m currently surrounded by co-workers who were seemingly born and bred for success.  Their stories are almost identical to each other’s, even though their personalities are very different.  They don’t appear to even realize how similar their backgrounds are.  You’ll often hear them talking about having struggled as children with parents who were perhaps middle or upper-middle class.

I nod in acknowledgement as they re-tell the horrors of only vacationing locally or having a job during high school. They usually have very deliberate, and readily available, examples of not having everything handed to them, even though it essentially was.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t hard workers or good people, but there’s a lack of perspective on the reality of the experience of being in another social class.  Just as other social classes lack the perspective on having resources or proper guidance and what that might be like.  Overall I would say that the middle class and rich can never really understand how the struggle feels and evolves for the working class. The working class can never really understand that the middle class and rich have struggles as well, just different ones.

I avoid talking about myself in most work situations, with the exception of a very select few (who are probably reading this right now). Even then I try to keep it to a minimum whenever possible.  It is what it is… “normal” means something different to everyone,  as does “struggle”.

Impostor Maya Angelou

The vast majority of my friends from childhood did not go to college. I, personally, always assumed that I would go, and I did.  I got a B.A. in Sociology and went on to get an MBA.  I don’t see my high school friends very often, but when I do I try to downplay my job and my education to the point where it’s probably ridiculously obvious that I’m doing so.  I truly care about them and want them to know I’m the same person.  But, it is what it is.  I’ve never believed that you need college to be smart, or successful.  But I always knew that I would go to college, to give myself as many options as possible.

My first day at a real corporation was on January 17th, 1997. I felt very proud wearing my professional dress and heels, walking into the building.  I met my training class and immediately realized I was not with “my” people.  People talked about graduating from Brown University or Salve Regina and their family vacation homes in Newport. They asked questions about being taken off their parents’ health insurance (health insurance?!!!! I get health insurance?!!!!) while I asked questions about how health insurance works.  They lived in condos in the city, and in Westerly near the beach.  I lived in a basement apartment in Pawtucket, in the parking lot of a working factory building, with 2 roommates and a dog that we hid from the landlord.        

I participated but was, for some reason, assuming there would be more people like me there.  There weren’t.  At UMASS there were all kinds of people.  Rich kids who couldn’t get into better colleges, poor kids on scholarships, people from other countries…  A lot of us working toward the same goal, a degree.  Not here.  This was a group of people born with resources.  People born with the assumption of a white collar future, and health insurance! I made friends and did well.  3 friends I made there (Lisa, Stacey & Cyndi) I still speak to today and cherish their friendships and opinions.  One of the 3 is a black woman, which was as close as I could find in the group to another person not from the exact mold. Years later the two of us left on the same day to go to another company together.

20-ish years later I’ve come to understand that being an outsider isn’t a bad thing.  I actually believe that it’s an asset.  That said, it’s VERY hard to find like-experienced people once you’ve crossed a line like that.  Walking into the building with my dress and heels back in 1997 I didn’t realize I was passing through an invisible portal separating one life experience from the other. It’s probably even harder crossing in the opposite direction.

imposter portal

It’s best not to try too hard to find our counterpart portal-jumpers.  We tend to gravitate toward each other seemingly driven by some unknown force.  Once the realization hits that you have this common life experience it does reduce the amount of times a day you question your decision to cross the line.  You create a sort-of secret society of people who have infiltrated the system.  It’s one of the strongest bonds I’ve seen in a professional setting.

Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not one to pretend I’m someone I’m not.  I’m not a new person.  I’m just me.  I’m the same person I was in 1985 in high school as I am in 2017.  I’m the person who drinks cheap beer and smokes generic cigarettes in a 2 bedroom apartment with 9 residents AND am also the person who eats lobster and drinks bloody marys in downtown Boston. I’m both of those people, but also an imposter in both of those situations.

This is a fairly accurate pre and post-portal depiction, sans black hair.

For the most part, both of those groups of people continue to accept me.  I like to think it’s because they recognize that it’s possible to be both of them at the same time.  I think it’s really the assumption by both groups that I’m strictly theirs. I won’t say it’s easy, because honestly it’s not.  You’re in a constant state of feeling like you’re betraying one group or the other just by simply existing. You belong everywhere and you belong nowhere… and there’s no going back. 

I’ll be at a party and feel like people are staring at me because my earrings are expensive or because I’ve had a manicure… or maybe they “KNOW” that I went to grad school. I’m in a conversation thinking “Please don’t ask me what I do for work.” I’m an imposter there.

The elevators of the tower I work in will open and I’ll begin to step off the elevator in my suit, as my co-worker complains about the contractor for her beach house working too slowly or not meeting her expectations.  I’m an imposter there.  I’ll start to feel faint and look to the left and look to the right.  I’m looking for the Redneck Police.  They will tap me on the shoulder and say the same thing the Morgan Freeman doppelganger said at Morrison’s Cafeteria in the summer of 1994.  “You don’t belong here.” … “It’s been a nice ride lady, glad you enjoyed it, but the jig is up.  No time to pack a box, just leave.  We don’t want your non-beach house having a$$ up in here.”

As of today, the Redneck Police haven’t shown up.  I’ve learned that they are a figment of my imagination, and the imagination of those like me… and that there is a real term for this: “Imposter Syndrome”.  As a middle aged woman I tell the women I mentor and the men and women who will follow in similar footsteps… you are not an Imposter. Be strong. Stick together. You belong everywhere. Infiltrate the system, and take it over.  It’s up to you.  If you can’t trust Morgan Freeman’s doppelganger, who CAN you trust?!

I’m Part of the Problem

I’m part of the problem, and you probably are too.

There are an increasing amount of forums available for people to express their opinions.  I stopped using Facebook at the end of 2016 because these opinions became a bit unbearable, but that’s a story for another day.  I’ve been using Twitter, which is much more informative and less pretend-reality, which is nice.  It’s not perfect, but it gets me my info fix for the day and I can move on… without having to see someone’s 15th post about their ambiguous state of mind, or photos from a romantic dinner with two smiling people who can’t actually stand each other.  I don’t miss the “Having a terrible day!” posts, followed by “What’s wrong?”, “Are you ok?”

problem internet

Sharing opinions is good. Sharing opinions is necessary.  How will we ever evolve if we don’t have a diverse input of thoughts and information?  We express our opinions.  We mean it.  We truly mean it.  But then what?  What happens after we express our opinions?  I would argue that we can do better at what comes next… but will we?

Let’s start with some of my basic opinions and then we’ll move to why I’m part of the problem:

  • All human beings have equal value.
  • Basic healthcare is a human right.
  • Red is the best color in the spectrum, hands down!
  • Judge not lest ye be judged.
  • “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” –Madeleine Albright
  • No child should ever go hungry.
  • King crab legs are the best meal on earth.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover.
  • The government has no business making decisions regarding reproduction.  Period. (no pun intended)
  • Six Feet Under had the best series finale I’ve ever seen, or ever will see.
  • No earthly human has the right to sentence someone to death.
  • Police Body Cameras should be mandatory.
  • Corporations should pay a lower tax rate. (Wait, aren’t you a democrat? Yep)
  • Common Core works, whether you understand why or not.
  • Gold is from Aliens (obviously)
  • Brock Turner is not a person, he’s an epidemic.  Parents: don’t raise Brock Turner.
  • The “bailouts” in 2008 were necessary and pretty much saved our economy (Yes, still a democrat).
  • Charter Schools and School Choice represent a gentrification of the public school system, creating an unequal and biased system for public education.
  • If you’re sitting on a bus and there’s an elderly person standing in front of you, give them your seat. (this falls into the “Don’t be an a$$hole” category)   

So, now that I’ve catalogued and declared these opinions as mine…  What do I do?  I FEEL like I do a lot.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a mentor.  I’m an activist.  I’m a parent.  I’m a strategist. I help others. I make sacrifices.  I listen.  I often put others’ needs before my own.  I volunteer.  I treat others as I would like to be treated.  I’m respectful.  I compromise.  I think before I speak. I think before I act. I consider the consequences of my actions.  Wow… I’m pretty amazing! …Or am I?

problem victor medal

This is me and Paralympic Gold Medalist Stefani Victor.  I’m an advocate for people with disabilities.  See!  Here’s sort-of proof that I’m a good person!!!! And yes, that’s totally her gold medal she’s holding and it’s really heavy and shiny (and from Aliens obviously).

I’m still part of the problem.  I write this blog not to punish myself or to implore anyone to live their lives in a particular way.  I write it to remind myself, and perhaps someone else, that we are all part of the problem.  Before we point the finger at someone else, figure out if we need to point it at ourselves first.

problem italian face

Just a few of ways that I’m part of the problem…

I go to a private hospital.  I live in the city.  I live in a part of the country where medical care is readily available.  I would argue that I live in one of the best places in the world if you’re a sick person.   If I get sick… if my family gets sick… we don’t take our health insurance card and go to the state or public hospital and support them and the community.  Nope.  We pull up to the private hospital, park 3 feet from the door in the expensive parking garage, and we walk into the giant atrium.  The atrium greets us with an array of delicious food options, and a tranquil waterfall.  Legit guys there is an actual, huge, real waterfall in the lobby.  Most days there is also some sort of entertainment… perhaps a young man playing acoustic guitar or someone playing piano.

Why do I do this?  Less crowded.  Cleaner.  Shorter wait.  No people asking me for change.  No riff raff.  Right?  No riff raff. But wait, aren’t all humans equal to all other humans?  Shouldn’t we all be at the same hospital?  You’d think so from my opinion list, but when the rubber meets the road, I pay more to avoid things that I don’t want to deal with when I’m sick.  I’m part of the problem.

Problem text and drive

What makes a “bad” person, a “bad” person? Who decides which indiscretion is worse? Who decides what an indiscretion is? (insert flask reminder here)

I go the gym several times a week.  My kids often come with me and use the indoor and outdoor pools.  The gym is also a Tennis center, but we don’t really take advantage of it.  How is this part of the problem?

The gym I go to is expensive.  It’s right outside the city in a fancy-pants suburb. There are at least 5 gyms within 10 minutes of my house. I live in a very populated area.  I pay about double for MY gym even though I don’t play tennis… which is basically what this gym is all about.

Why do I do this?  Less crowded.  Cleaner.  Shorter wait.  No people asking me for change. No riff raff.  Seeing a trend here?  I can tell myself it’s because I have two jobs and very little time, and this is more convenient… or I like the pool, or the family that owns it. All of those things are actually quite true… but at the end of the day… I pay more to avoid things I don’t want to deal with because I’m part of the problem.

problem paxton fitness

See, at least I can watch Tennis while I run. Note the lack of people around. 

IRONY ALERT: If I’m being honest, the people at the gym are super nice, and at the beginning of a class, or when I first step on a treadmill, they smile and make small talk.  We laugh and share stories about past classes or complain about how out of shape we are.  Then, inevitably… and because I absolutely hate sweating, I take off my long sleeved gym shirt and am wearing a fitness tank top… exposing a very pretty, but very gigantic half sleeve tattoo.  At this point, I become the riff raff.   The longer I go to this gym, the more they get used to me… if you will.  But it’s always fun to see their look of confusion.  Wait, isn’t this gym expensive enough to weed out the half-sleeves?  Nope. I thought this half-sleeve was one of us… I’ve been duped! I can only assume that I’m not “that nice lady from the gym”, but rather “That lady with the half sleeve” or “She must be from Worcester”…But I digress.

problem half sleeve

As I mentioned, I live in the city.  I love my city.  We have amazing restaurants and so much to do in the way of entertainment.  We also have a rich history, beautiful architecture and very cool people that I feel I belong with.  It’s one of my favorite places on earth.  I have two daughters.  One is 14 and one is 9.  My 14 year old goes to school in an affluent suburb outside of the city where her father lives.  My 9 year old goes to another suburban public school in a different town, under the city’s school choice program.

Problem diner

Wait, didn’t I just say that school choice is basically the anti-christ of the public school system? Yes, yes I did, and I honestly believe that.  I can tell myself that the suburb she goes to is NOT affluent (it’s most definitely not… working class, diverse, all that), and that she’s a sensitive kid who struggles with being too hard on herself who would not thrive in a school with gang violence.  These are true statements.  That said, what makes HER so special that she should get a pass and contribute to the demise of public schools?  I do, I suppose. Anyone can apply for school choice, but does everyone know they can? Does everyone know how? …This makes me a hypocrite and an opportunist, does it not?  I’m part of the problem.

What to do now that we know we are part of the problem?  Try to be better people?  We like to say that we do “the best we can”.  Do we?  Does anyone really do the BEST they can?

Problem better person

We like Kim Coates… and so should you.

Over the years I’ve crossed paths with celebrities here and there.  Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some interesting celebrities at various conventions.    

Sean Astin was my first real surprise.  Despite his level of fame, he spent a solid 20 minutes talking to my kids about the Lord of the Rings.  He even bowed and kissed my youngest daughter’s hand, and insisted that his friends bow as well.  For the record, we like Sean Astin… and so should you.

Then there was the best day of my life… I mean, ok, after my wedding, the birth of my children… yadda yadda yadda (wink wink).  I MET DIRK BENEDICT.  The Face-Man… Starbuck!

Let’s go back in time 15 minutes…

First, my husband, a.k.a. “Not-Tom-Brady” (See prior post) comes rushing over and tells me that he met Dirk Benedict, and that Dirk was “so cool”.  I was furious that he’d had this random encounter as I stood in line waiting for my formal encounter… grrrrr… damn you Not-Tom-Brady!

FINALLY it was my turn.  An official looking guy with an ear piece opens the curtain and lets me into a secluded area containing Richard Hatch (R.I.P.) and Face-Man himself, Dirk Benedict. They are welcoming and awesome.  JUST as I’m about to get my picture taken, the curtain opens and in blasts Not-Tom-Brady.  Smiling and laughing. I shoo him away with my hand and say “Get out of here you maniac it’s my turn!”

Dirk turns, looks me right in the eye and says “It’s ok! I know him!”…  Calls him by his name and waves him in.  YOU KNOW HIM?!  I said “So do I, that moment-stealer is my husband!”  Queue cast of Battlestar Gallactica, and my husband, laughing and hugging.  Then I asked the assistant to escort Not-Tom-Brady out.  I love it when a plan comes together.  (See what I did there?)

I was last in line for the Dirk photo op, and he ended up hanging out with my family for almost an hour. It was so long that his assistant kept telling him to stop talking and get back to his signature-selling post. He refused, and kept talking to us!  I ended up reading both of his books after we met.  So, we like Dirk Benedict… and so should you.

dirk

DJ Qualls was a nice 2-for-1 since he is in Supernatural (teen daughter swoooon) and also in The Man in the High Castle, which started as a cool sci-fi show and is now sadly looking like a possible future America… but I digress.  He was VERY tall and amazingly sweet.  We like DJ Qualls… and so should you.

dj

Oh… Josh McDermitt (aka Eugene on The Walking Dead).  At first he seemed bored with the constant stream of fans so I wasn’t expecting much other than a quick handshake.  Then he sprung into energy-mode and took (quite literally) 20+ selfies of the two of us, then proceeded to tell me about the details of his day.  Was he high on something? Probably.  Did I care? NOPE.  We like Josh McDermitt… and so should you.

eugene

Then there was the SOA script-flip.

David Labrava…. YASSSSSSSSSSSSS  “Happy” From Sons of Anarchy.  This was one of the few times I PAID to get a ticket to meet someone. As I approached him I realized he was smiling for a camera, not at the fans.  He was creating mini-scenes for his assistant to post online that were meant to appear organic, but were completely planned.  All in all, I wouldn’t say he was rude or mean… but he was NO “Eugene”.  He was enjoying the self-promotion, and I believe if there were a mirror he would have been staring at himself in it the entire time.  Then again, can you blame him? We feel meh about David Labrava…. And so should you.

dl

Then… I look over and see Kim Coates (aka “Tig” from Sons of Anarchy).   For those of you that watched the show, “Tig” was evil and disgusting enough to scare even the biggest of freaks.  He was downright disturbing in a way that would even upset a sociopath.  You often find yourself unable to sleep thinking about the horrible crimes against nature this character had committed.  Happy was a disappointment, so TIG was sure to be a complete downer… but hey… I was already there, so why not?

I approach Kim and he turns and gives me a GIANT smile.  He was legit one of the friendliest people, celebrity or not, that I had ever met.  He told me about his life, and asked me questions about my life.  He took a bunch of selfies of us and just had an awesome time.  I asked him if he was trying to offset the “Tig” perception by being overly nice and he said no, this is just who he is.  He also smelled really good, for the record.  We like Kim Coates… and so should you.

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Some other interesting, and fairly less notable, interactions were had with Ian Zeiring & Tara Reid (Sharknado!), Elvira (the queen of darkness?) and The Greatest American Hero guy…. William Kat. OMG guys I LOVED watching that show it was so great.

The last one I want to share with you isn’t based on level of celebrity, but rather an unexpected fond memory connection… Lewis Smith, who played Bobby Fantana in this obscure 1980’s move called “The Heavenly Kid”.   I’ve always liked movies that depict heaven and hell, as well as the afterlife.  I was sooooooooo into this movie when I was in high school. There is this scene at the end where he is riding up an escalator “to heaven”.

I told Lewis that the escalator scene was my favorite, and that I would rewind it (yes, REWIND it) over and over.  His jaw dropped. He said that the scene wasn’t written into the original script, and that it was HIS idea on the last day of shooting.  He said no friend or fan had ever called out that scene in conversation with him and he was visibly moved by my statement. It was really cool to share this memory that was randomly so important to the both of us…. despite the fact that he now looks like a high school basketball coach.  I refrained from telling him the story of gold coming from aliens, but it wasn’t easy. We like Lewis Smith… and so should you.

Stay tuned for future tales of The Random Fan Experiences of Marie Christine.

I’m not married to Tom Brady

I met my husband online.  On our 3rd or 4th date he told me that people often think he’s Tom Brady.  I laughed…   Loudly.  In my opinion,  he looks nothing like Tom Brady.  I will agree they are the same height and have a similar smile and jawline… but sorry honey, no.  I was thinking to myself, okay, what have I gotten myself into?  Maybe this guy is a little off.

As the weeks and months progressed, to my surprise, there was a fairly constant stream of people actually thinking he MIGHT be Tom Brady.  Everyone from random people on social media, to my daughter’s entire kindergarten class, who actually believed he was trying to avoid the press by using a different name.  This forces him to give me this “Told you so!” look.  I should mention we live not-so-far from the New England Patriots stadium and training camps.  

One time I was in line getting popcorn at the Showcase Cinema as he stood in front of a Lord of The Rings poster getting his picture taken.  The woman behind me in line whispered to her friend “Is that Tom Brady?”… then they slowly made their way toward said picture taking.

The real You’ve-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me moment came when I uploaded my first picture of us onto Facebook.  If you’ve ever used Facebook, you’re familiar with auto-tagging, where Facebook guesses who is in the picture and tries to tag that person for you.  It’s usually your sister or former classmate who is on your friends list or someone you have in common.  You know what’s coming… Facebook auto-tagged my husband as “Tom Brady”.  Despite the fact that Tom Brady is probably 50 lbs heavier than him, I had to give him this one.

I’m ready for Tom Brady to stop being famous now so I can move on with my life.  If you’re wondering why I haven’t included my husband’s picture here, it’s because I just can’t face the “Told you so!” as he reads through your comments confirming the likeness.

Oddly, no one ever thinks I’m Gisele… hmmmm.

I figured we should spend ONE day with ONE blog that doesn’t discuss the details of the country’s impending doom.   Stay tuned… we will be getting real shortly folks.  Gold is From Aliens.

Why is Gold valuable?

As someone who loves economics, I’m not only intrigued by socioeconomic phenomena, but also investigating why certain things have value.  Why do some people desire certain things over others?  Gold is potentially the most intriguing, in that the desire for it is almost universal.

Why is Gold valuable?????

1. The usual go-to explanation is the universal desire for it.  Anything that is this popular, just inherently has value.  (yawn).

2. It reflects infrared radiation.  Huh…. interesting, but not really INTRIGUING.

3. It has many uses in manufacturing,from teeth to towers.  Interesting, yes… thought provoking? Not really.

4. It’s the most malleable (it can be pressed permanently out of shape without breaking or cracking) and ductile (able to be drawn out into a thin wire).  Ok, this is VERY cool.  No wonder everyone loves this stuff.

5. It looks pretty.  Never underestimate the value of beauty.

6. Other than noble gases, this is pretty much the least reactive thing on earth.  Interesting, but not anything to scream from a rooftop.

7. Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  The real reason gold is so valuable.  Gold is…. wait for it…. waaaaiiiit fooor iiiit…  NOT FROM EARTH.  Seriously folks, we have no idea where it’s from but we know it’s not from fricking EARTH.  Clearly, you know where I believe it’s from.  So if you happen to be wearing some gold right now, who knows what someone, or something, was doing with it a bajillion years ago.   Planet Surface - Elements of this Image Furnished by NASA