humor

Dear Life: Now What?

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Now that I’m essentially done with my Masters degree, that dreaded question has reared its ugly head.

You know the one.

NOW WHAT?

I recently listened to a book by Mike Dooley, Leveraging the Universe: 7 Steps to Engaging Life’s Magic, and he repeated this phrase often: Don’t get caught up on the “cursed hows.” (<—Totally worth the 5-minute read.) What he meant by that was: figure out what you want and visualize the end goal, then let the universe decide how it’ll deliver.

If you want to be a published author, for example, spend a few minutes each day picturing your books already on the shelves and, most importantly, feel how it’ll feel when you achieve that goal. Yes, also put some pen to paper today (“do what you can with what you have”), but don’t spin your wheels wondering about how to get a publisher or whether your idea has already been “done before.”

If you want a romantic partner, don’t get hung up on a specific person, just picture the kinds of things you’ll do with your dream mate and how you’ll feel when you’re together. Yes, you can add specific details like what you’re wearing -and please do!- but if you decide it’s got to be Gary from accounting, you might wind up butting heads with the universe, who’s working overtime to get you stuck in an elevator with Pete from payroll, the perfect guy for you.

When I picture where I want to be in a year, I see an active, fit, social butterfly who’s swimming in creative projects and opportunities, brave enough to say “YES!” when it counts – and “NO!” too.

While I’m trying not to get hung up on too many hows, I know it’s important to work with what I’ve got at my disposal today. For starters, I signed up for a half marathon in May, despite it having been two years since my last run. I even recruited two of the most inspiring “accountability partners” I could dream up, spanning New Jersey to Oregon, to help me get in gear:

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Meet East Coast A.P.: Remember Janeen? The one who says yes to everything? I may have used that little fact to my advantage…
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Meet West Coast A.P.: Vegan Retreat Unicorn #2, Dakota, a.k.a. Superhuman Freakazoid and author of the blog that will make you either hide in a corner or decide to start CRUSHING IT!!!!

To show them how compliant I am, I joined a gym…

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“Y” U NO LIKE 2 RUN, JULEZ?

…made Google docs outlining every aspect of my ideal life, started logging daily exercise, water and caloric intake…

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…and shed immediate poundage via purging more joyless belongings from the tiny apartment

I’ve even acquired new confidence-boosting crystals and signed up for a week-long “past life therapy training” with She’s a Maineiac at Omega Institute in July.

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Because I’m crazy now, in case you’ve forgotten.

I’m trying to up the ante in every area I can think of, breathing life into “November 2019 Jules” in ways that feel tangible yet exciting.

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2016 Jules, breathing life into another exciting vision.

As for creative projects, I’ve been keeping a list of fun blog post ideas and researching marketing courses and products. So far I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of top choices:

  1. Campaign Monitor  / My Emma – I think they can help me get my newsletter game straight with their sleek designs and impressive customer roster, plus a really reasonable Basic membership fee ($9/month)

    “Email acquisition best practices”? I’m definitely going to need some help… Photo credit
  2. Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – this one comes recommended by a financial independence blogger I really like, Millennial Boss, but with a $197 price tag, I’ve been hesitant to take the plunge

(If anyone has any recommendations or experience with either, please leave a comment!)

I don’t know about you, but I’m still feeling antsy. Maybe I should stop with the hows and go tinker with my Google doc some more.

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Actual screenshot from my “ideal life” Google doc. …DON’T JUDGE. Okay you can judge. I still love you. …Do you know anyone single?

~*~*~*~*~

Do you believe in the power of creative visualization? Do you get hung up on the “hows”?

~*~*~*~*~

DISCLAIMER: This post contains sponsored links.

Food

Cheap & Easy Vegan Meals: My (Current) Top 3

As the final weeks of my Masters Program commence, I’ve been slacking in other areas…like the kitchen.

The good news?

It means I have some more cheap and easy go-to vegan “recipes” to share! (For more vegan food hacks, click here and here.)

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1. CREAMY PUMPKIN STUFF

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1 can pureed pumpkin + 1 can full fat coconut milk + 1 onion (+ other veggies if you’re feelin’ fancy) = angels singing Justin Timberlake songs

STEP ONE: Sautee a roughly chopped onion (any kind) in a saucepan over medium high heat until the onions are translucent.

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STEP TWO (OPTIONAL): Add your other favorite vegetables like broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and/or baby spinach. I even added black beans to this batch!

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STEP THREE: Dump in your canned pumpkin and coconut milk. Stir and let it simmer for a few minutes (it’ll likely thicken up a bit).

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STEP FOUR: Season to taste. Some of my favorites with this combo include: white pepper, curry powder, garlic salt and nutmeg.

Voila! Now you can: 1) eat as is as a creamy pumpkin soup, 2) pour it over rice, gnocchi or pasta, or, 3) make a potato bowl.

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As a potato bowl – with some cauliflower added.
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Over gnocchi.
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Just make sure to save some pumpkin for the pooch.

2. PESTO-MARINATED…ANYTHING

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1 container of any pesto-like thing + vegan protein (veggies, tofu, tempeh, etc.) = Jason Bateman being Jason Bateman-y

This new Zhoug Sauce from Trader Joe’s (pictured above) is my everything. Basically it’s a cilantro pesto, minus the cheese, with a very respectable zing.

Slather your “pesto” (however much you please!) over your vegan protein and then roast the crap out of it (for vegetables I do up to an hour, for tofu, 30 minutes, both between 350-400F, stirring or flipping halfway). The grill works great, too!

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You can eat this as is…

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…over pasta…

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…or hey, maybe put it on…

3. PITA PIZZAS

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1 pita + your favorite toppings = frolicking baby goats in sweaters

I have so many pictures of pita pizzas, it’s bordering on concerning. (In fact, I’ve already featured them here, but they’re so easy, fun and versatile that I felt they deserved a stand-alone mention.)

My go-to “sauces”:

Some of my favorite toppings include:

Bake directly on the oven rack for 8-10 minutes @ 350F and you’re (literally) golden.

Any kind of pita should work – when I’m feeling healthy, I use whole wheat.

pita-pizza-1Speaking of healthy, for anyone counting calories, even my vegan cheese-a-rific version comes out to less than 500 calories, so it’s a fantastic alternative to any frozen pizza (serving size = 1/3 pizza? Are they kidding?).

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And there you have it! A few recipes you can whip up without breaking a sweat, and still feel like you’re fully adulting!

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Or not.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

HAPPY NOSHING!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Blogging

The Love Letter We All Should Write

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Happy Halloween, Chipmunks!! Do you like my costume? I’m dressed up as a serious writer today.

Terrifying, I know.

And all because I bumped into a certain someone last weekend and suddenly felt 19 again, reeling from that…

…crazy, head-over-heels first love.

…can’t-stop-wondering-what-they’re-doing-right-now-and-how-about-now-and-how-about-now first love.

…overwhelming, exhilarating, exhausting first love.

Almost as exhausting as carving a custom jack-o-lantern seemed to me this year.

When an experience kicks up those old emotions -in my case, heartache, rejection and unworthiness- there’s so much I wish I could tell my younger self.

So I did.

Dear Younger Me,

Your first love has a sacred place in your unfolding. These wounds will heal, though the phantom pain will be, at times, very convincing. What an amazing gift to feel so much for another. Tap into this heartbreak and transmute those tears into the stuff that will fortify your soul. You are full and bright and beautiful.

You have this person to thank for showing you what you need from another: Someone who will be there for you in every moment and honor you as an equal. Someone who will strive to build you up as they build themselves up, too.

This person is an important part in strengthening your spirit, for the love you seek requires a heart that knows itself.

How else will you recognize its reflection?

Love,

Wiser Older Me

~*~*~*~*~*~

What did your first love teach you? What do you wish you could tell your younger self about it? (If this question makes you uncomfortable, please feel free to post pictures of dogs in costume instead.)

~*~*~*~*~*~

Blonde Moments, humor

Would You Like Fries (and a concussion) With That?

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“My father-in-law and I have this friendly banter going,” my friend, Stacey, explained over dinner the other night. “We like to bust each other’s chops.”

“Wait ’til she tells you about the latest,” her wife, Lauren, added. “My dad decided he wanted a new shed, and being the way he is, he had to get all of the measurements–”

“Like, all of the measurements, including the weight, so he’d know the impact on the grass,” Stacey said. “The whole nine.”

“Technically you need a permit,” Lauren explained.

“Hang on,” I replied. “You need a PERMIT to get a SHED? Just a regular SHED?”

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Reason #1,654,923 I’m glad I sold my house. Photo credit

“Yeah,” Stacey nodded. “But no one does it. Including her dad.”

“Wait for it,” Lauren smirked, raising her eyebrows.

“So,” Stacey grinned. “He got his ‘illegal’ shed a couple of weeks ago. And I decided I’d prepare a little letter from the county zoning office. It took me four hours.”

Go-Jules-Go_prank-zoning-letterI stared between Stacey, Lauren, and this magical document, mouth agape.

“No,” I finally managed.

They explained that they had waited until an evening when they knew both of Lauren’s parents would be home. Lauren’s mom was in on the whole thing. On the chosen night, Lauren’s mom got up from watching the evening news and surreptitiously rang the doorbell, pretending someone was there. She returned to the living room, holding the letter out to her unsuspecting husband.

Needless to say, it was a slam dunk.

None of us could have ever predicted that only moments later I would need to recruit Stacey’s letter writing abilities for myself…

In the midst of discussing the many merits of Lasik eye surgery with my friends at the other end of the table, I leaned forward a couple of inches to take a sip of my drink.

“I’d do it again every year if I had t–”

*BAM*

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Photo credit

Everyone turned and looked to see where the alarming *THUD* had come from. My eyes welled with tears.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” our waitress exclaimed while I tried to gather my bearings.

What…Huh…?

I blinked.

It took me several seconds to realize our waitress had snuck up, ninja style, on my right, to clear a very, very pointy plate. Our fates collided the moment I decided I was parched, leaning forward a few millimeters…

*CLUNK*

The corner of my right eye nailed the corner of the plate she had just lifted.

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No one knew what to do. I didn’t have enough wits about me to explain that this was the only manner in which I ever got injured. Randomly. Freakishly. Embarrassingly. (I think it runs in the family. …All of the family.)

  • Age 7: Broken crotch: Balance beam or playground torture device? Jury’s still out
  • Age 15: Left butt cheek scar: Courtesy of a jagged bathtub faucet when I bent to get the soap
  • Age 19: Right eyebrow scar: Eyebrow ring + glitter eyeshadow. ‘Nuff said
  • Age 30: Left wrist scar: Pushing a tray of cookies too far into the oven
  • Age 34: Sprained sesamoid (“Turf toe”): Too-small high heels and an over-caffeinated stride

This time, though, there was clearly someone else at fault. (And yes, the above list is but a mere smattering. You’ll just have to wait for my memoirs.)

Stacey immediately began drafting a letter to the restaurant from my “attorney.” While we awaited her final touches, I answered a text from my new bloggerunicorn-vegan retreat friend:

Outdoorsy-NJ-style

~*~*~*~*~*~

Any other freaky accidents happening out there? No? Just me? …Who are you? Where am I?

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

humor, Uncle Jesse

Caring for My Dog: A Simple 137-Step Guidebook

Dear Reader,

Congratulations! After careful review, you have been selected to oversee my 8-year-old Australian Labradoodle, Uncle Jesse, while I’m away. Given the exceptional taste you’ve demonstrated by reading this blog, I feel marginally concerned certain you’ll be able to accommodate my dog’s daily demands.

Because I’m so confident in your abilities, I’ve attached only the abbreviated version of my 137-step guidebook. If at any time you find yourself doubting your caretaking capacity, please call one of the nineteen numbers I’ve listed in the back of this manual.

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STEP #1 – HYDRATION

It’s imperative that both you and Uncle Jesse remain hydrated at all times during his stay. This includes, but is not limited to: chilled, Brita-filtered water, refreshed 6-30 times per day, washing and drying the bowl after each rotation. In a pinch, you may provide tap water; we strongly discourage the use of bottled water.

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You will know you’ve misstepped if you’re greeted by this pose.

STEP #2 – NUTRITION

Uncle Jesse insists upon an on-demand supply of V-Dog kibble. If any kibble goes uneaten for more than 12 hours, please sample before deciding whether to discard.

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Regarding the placement of his bowls, please select a warm, well-ventilated, cushioned area of the home where he will feel comfortable dining in his preferred reclined position.

Each time Uncle Jesse reenters your home after his mandatory nature bathings (see Step 3), he will expect a “treat” for his willingness to return to your humble dwelling. Acceptable treats include homecooked, plant-based items, arranged on a ceramic plate as follows:

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Should you question your ability to select a permissable food item, I’ve drafted this reference card:

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STEP #3 – EXERCISE

Uncle Jesse has grown accustomed to 5 miles of brisk walking out-of-doors each day; however, this can be broken into 2+ segments as we understand your employer refused to provide a leave of absence for this visit.

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Uncle Jesse prefers the unsullied Maine wilderness, so I’ve emailed you a weekend itinerary that would allow for the 16-hour roundtrip.

As with hydration, stretching is paramount before each session. If you find he is panting for more than three and a half minutes upon returning, please encourage him to lie down and point your fan directly on him:

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STEP #4 – ELIMINATION

Assuming you’ve strictly followed steps 1-3, you can expect an impressive number of bowel movements per day. These occur in varying volume and composition during the aforementioned 5-mile walk, so carrying an array of multi-sized “poop bags” is prudent.

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Please refer to attachment B for a list of defecation coordinates that meet Uncle Jesse’s poop-to-house-distance ratio requirements.

STEP #5 – SLEEP

Uncle Jesse is deeply committed to “total wellness” and therefore insists upon 12+ hours of uninterrupted rest time per day. Please leave your bedroom door ajar at all times. I noticed you had extra pillows on the couch. I suggest moving these to the bed while he adjusts to sleeping in a new location.

Placing towels on the bed to protect your linens will only arouse his rancor.

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STEP #6 – PLAY

You’ve probably heard that most dogs enjoy fetch. Being of a highly sensitive nature, Uncle Jesse would rather remain indoors for playtime, with you sitting on the ground and tossing his toys directly into his mouth while he perches on the couch.

If you fail to amuse him, he will notify you by placing the toy between his chin and the pillows that I’m sure you have remembered to return to the couch before beginning this exercise.

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STEP #7 – INTERACTION WITH LESSER BEINGS

Uncle Jesse and I are still reviewing the finer points related to the presence of any…well. You know.

Sophie

At this stage in our discussions, we would both prefer if you locked any “Others” in the basement for the week as we believe it will reinforce the natural balance of things and keep all parties safe from psychological harm. We’re just looking out for your well-being here.

STEP #8 – EDUCATION

Uncle Jesse has an ever-expanding repertoire, with evidence of his aptitude appearing at 10 weeks old.

To maintain this intellectual agility, we enjoy practicing shake, stretch, sit, lie down, paw, other paw, little speak, big speak and “Watch the hair, huh!” on a daily basis.

Please also feel free to pass by our local Catholic church at 7:00am, 8:00am, 9:00am, 12:00pm and 6:00pm so that he might work on his pitch.

STEP #9 – GROOMING

Do not, under any circumstances, tamper with his hair, nails, ears, or teeth. If he appears standoffish, remember to say “please” before asking to pet him.

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Soooomebody forgot her manners.

STEP #10 – TRAVEL

Should you need to chauffeur Uncle Jesse, please leave the back passenger side seat free (he will not tolerate the other side), and leave the window rolled down fully, provided the speed does not exceed 45 MPH and/or the temperature remains above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

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If you do not excessively stare, he will permit one rearview window photograph per car ride.

And not to worry, dear reader – those new lights in each room are simply CIA-approved surveillance cameras.

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor, Just For Fun

Someone Tried to Steal My Emmy

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“I don’t know how to ‘rate’ how I’m feeling. I don’t even f*@%ing want to be here.”

Seven heads shot up and stared at the redheaded woman in our circle. A few of us giggled nervously.

“You all have these cool projects you’re presenting, and I just don’t know what I’m doing here.”

Alyssa’s eyes watered and inwardly, we all applauded. Finally. An honest answer.

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Usually team-building events go more like this. Or this.

In an uncharacteristically social moment a few months earlier, I had accepted a friend’s invitation to a “Vegan Creatives” 5-day retreat on Cape Cod.

“I want to get a bunch of my vegan artist friends together to talk about our projects and brainstorm,” Shawna, the retreat mastermind, had explained. She and I had met the prior summer at my Masters program residency, where she had graciously overlooked my penchant for public urination.

Much like the cold sweats I experience when interviewing narcissists for school assignments, as the retreat neared, I began to shvitz. What was I thinking? I didn’t know the hostess or anyone going. Sure, I had my thesis project to present, but I was also in the throes of writing said thesis. Could I handle any more stress?

“JUST GO,” I told myself for the 9,000th time. “It’ll be good for you.”

DAY 1

Arrive at guest house. Meet three-legged, one-eyed dog and attractive vegans #1-7. Eat colorful food and receive unicorn name. Grow concerned that I seem to be having…what’s the word…fun. No. That can’t be it.

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DAY 2

Convince Alyssa she too is having, well, whatever these feelings are. Begin stroking each other’s hair. Watch Tracy feed pet bee sugar water. Try to take photo without Dakota wearing a bowl. Unsuccessful.

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DAY 3

Eat more colorful food, voluntarily touch beach garbage, and reevaluate entire existence. Can I vote using new unicorn name?

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DAY 4

Learn that not only do new best friends save animals, sing, write, paint, cook, act, travel, scale mountains, rollerblade with bubbles and have kickass blogs, but the hostess, Allison Argo, has won half a dozen Emmys. Attempt to steal one.

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DAY 5

Say goodbye. Ugly cry.

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Until Alyssa reminds me to snap the f$&@ out of it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tuck my Emmy into bed.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating, humor, PSAs

Can You Get PTSD from Dating?

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Yesterday I had to interview someone for a grad school assignment.

Emphasis on “had” to.

Assignments like this send me, a 36-year-old introvert, into a cold sweat before the semester even begins. Especially when I land an interview with someone who has a very fancy title in a sector with which I am very unfamiliar.

I immediately took to Google. This man and I were from nearby towns and he was, I soon learned, just a few years older. We undoubtedly had acquaintances in common, changing the whole tenor of the interview. I found him on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube…I suddenly knew way too much about him before even meeting, reminiscent of my prolific dating days.

“Just chill out,” I told myself. “At least it’s not a date!”

Except it totally was. Coffee shop, late afternoon, two people with an agenda…

As soon as my interview subject -let’s call him Ted- arrived, he stuck out his hand and said,

“Hi Jessica, nice to meet you.”

Did he just say Jessica? We’d exchanged at least five emails prior to meeting. Perhaps I should rethink my signature.

Go-Jules-Go-new-email-signatureHe had the Book of Mormon-meets-Quasi-Casual-First-Date look down pat: pressed checkered button-down and perfectly coiffed hair, complemented by fitted slacks with matching belt and shoes.

“You know, I just came from the same coffee shop in [a nearby town],” he said, walking towards the counter. “I was meeting Mr. Mucky Pants from the Board. We had so much to discuss, I didn’t even get to have coffee.”

And thus began a 90-minute, name-drop-laden autobiography in which Ted was the unsung hero.

Beginning in 6th grade.

I managed to ask two of my eight questions.

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And here I was worried I didn’t prepare.

Midway through, he veered -unprovoked- into his personal life, detailing his recent divorce.

“I’m a really happy guy,” he said repeatedly, with a razor sharp edge to his voice. “I played the role of the guy who tried to fix everything. I have a really long fuse, you know. But get this…”

Ted went on to describe his ex-wife’s grievances, and then how wonderfully everything worked out for him, because:

“I’m a really likable guy. I mean, really. I’m so easy to like.”

“Jury’s still out,” I replied before I could stop myself.

He plowed ahead, telling me about the amazing woman he’d met shortly thereafter, and I wondered how I’d ever get us back on track. He leaned across the table, his hands dangerously close to my Central Perk-sized latte. I angled back in my chair, legs crossed, my pen hovering over a small notepad. My heart rate picked up. The flashbacks came in nauseating waves.

…The guy who showed me YouTube clips where he surgically removed his big toenails…

…The guy who wanted to hook up because he and his wife were “on a break”…

…The guy who told me he only dated “German girls”…

…The guy who said his mother made him “scared of sex”…

...The guy who sent me acapella sound clips of Seal songs

…The guy who–

STOP!

STOP!

MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!

“So the next day, Ms. Fancy Drawers called and said she RECOMMENDED me to the Board.”

I snapped back into the moment. Ted was still going.

“This woman has met the president and the pope, you know? Yeah so that was exactly 17 years ago today. That’s right. I was sitting in her office, seeing smoke across the Hudson.”

I nodded and scribbled in my notepad while Ted talked about how hard 9/11 had been for him, personally, on the very day of his esteemed new role.

“Do you have kids?”

Wha…did he just ask ME a question?

“No,” I replied, sitting up straight. “But I do have a d–”

“Well, I have two,” he said. “You need to show kids that THEY’RE IN CONTROL of how they react to everything. You know? Shit happens.”

“Thank you again for your time,” I said when he finally paused to take another sip of his artisan cold brew. I also gave silent thanks to the Merciless Parking Meter Gods who brought this interview date torture to a close.

“I just hope I’m always this accessible,” Ted replied.

I hightailed it to my car, and for the next hour, trembled in the corner of my apartment, staring down the Ghost of First Dates Past.

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I think I’ll stick to this.

I shuddered as I thought about how Ted embodied every other horrifying first date I’d had over the past few years. The ones where I’d laugh and nod, asking question after question, arriving home exhausted and disappointed, my vocal chords atrophying from lack of use. I’d take off my make-up and high heels, picking peacock feathers off my dress – the same dress I’d second-guessed every day for a week.

I poured myself a pity glass of wine, just like I did back then, and remembered where I was four years ago.

Newly divorced. Like Ted.

Living alone for the first time in my life. Like Ted.

Starting a new job. Like Ted.

Craaap, I thought. Ted is ME. For a split second, it all came rushing back. I had been so scared. Sad. Self-absorbed. God. I wouldn’t pay to go back there.

And the tremors finally subsided.

So.

~*~*~*~*~

Maybe I’ll give him a pass this time. What do you think?

~*~*~*~*~