Blogging, Lists, PSAs

Staying Power: 6 Tactics for (Y)Our Advocacy Long Game

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Photos: “Wall of Love” by Westfield, NJ residents. Photos taken by me in Feb 2018. 

Like many of you, I’ve been struggling lately with how best to contribute in the march for equality. I thought about skipping this week’s blog post altogether. After all, how could I, a privileged white woman with a blog about her chipmunk fascination, possibly add value?

If I shared good news, I risked gaslighting the very real struggles and heartbreaking treatment of people of color. If I continued to avoid the topic, I seemed tone deaf, or worse, unaffected.

And then it hit me.

My place has never been on the soapbox, but rather by your side, offering encouragement and support. To each of you who has participated in peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations, thoughtfully shared fact-based posts and articles, and stood in solidarity against systemic racism: thank you.

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Turning this ship around, however, will require incredible, consistent, compassionate resolve.

In my years of human rights, environmental protection, and animal rights advocating, bearing witness to unspeakable suffering as I earned my Humane Education Masters degree, I learned a number of strategies that have given me staying power. Perhaps some of them may serve you as you help light the path to peace.

Go Jules Go title graphic Staying Power 10JUN20

Disclaimer: I can only write from a place of white privilege, with the sincerest hope of helping readers in a similarly privileged position. Together, if we can avoid burn out-inspired apathy, we can continue to stand up for love, equality, and chipmunks justice.

1. Advocacy starts at home.

There are emotional stages as you process the kind of horrific information that leads to activism. You may want to yell, fight, and/or tell everyone what you’ve just seen or heard. Remember that being a good advocate means being good to the people within your direct sphere of influence. They didn’t ask for, and likely won’t benefit from, lectures or condemnations. When you feel frustrated by “unwoke” friends or family members, remember that they might just be the perfect practice. First and foremost, model the compassion and change you want to see right where you are. At home.

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2. Consider reframing: what are you fighting against standing for?

Have you ever heard the story about Mother Teresa being asked to march against war? “No,” she allegedly said, “But I WILL march FOR peace.” (Even if the quote isn’t hers [though a number of online sources seem legitimate], my point still stands.) Sometimes this simple reframing can reinvigorate your passion. By moving away from words like “fight” and “battle,” I believe we can achieve the same end (and have a lot more staying power while doing so): peace and equality.

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3. Take a break when you need to.

While this can certainly be considered a privileged tactic, please don’t let anyone, most especially that nagging little voice in your head, tell you that you’re “failing” if you decide to take a break from active campaigning, the news, and social media. If you consider yourself a remotely sensitive person (and I’m willing to bet you do or you wouldn’t be reading this), you WILL NOT survive the long game if you don’t give yourself some time-outs. After all, even while you’re sitting down, you still stand for justice, right? (Sorry. So corny. The chipmunks made me say it.)

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4. Find your happy place.

Related to #3, develop your own personalized self-care strategy. Maybe it’s watching stand-up, funny cat videos, a hike, a bath, or a phone call with a friend. Advocacy burn-out is very real, and the world needs you at your best. Your joyful, laughing, hopeful best.

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5. Choose your words (and shares) wisely.

When you’re fired up, it’s tempting to share, share, share and comment, comment, comment. Sadly, this kind of activism often gets lost in the sauce. Your audience is far more likely to pay attention if you have a proven reputation of speaking and sharing thoughtfully and deliberately. And please, please, pretty please investigate your sources before passing ANYTHING along. (You should have seen me Googling that Mother Teresa quote…)

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6. Choose your company even more wisely.

One of THE MOST effective things you can do for your advocacy staying game is to surround yourself with positive, like-minded activists. The kind of crew whose energy invigorates and inspires you to be and do your best. Not sure if that’s the situation you’re in? Listen to your gut. When you picture a particular person or group, do you feel a tight, heavy feeling? Or a bubbly, effervescent one? …I think you know what to do.

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Whether this is your first or fiftieth time here, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. Now get on out there and BE THE CHANGE.

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Blogging, Lists

LISTEN UP! (Audio) Books for Summer Reading Season

Psst, before we dive in, I just have to let you know how excited I am about my new course with Plant-Based with Robin!

HELP Dinners A Disaster Website Purchase Icon_FINAL_CORRECTED
Let us help. We love you.

Now, where were we?

Ah, yes, books.

Last week, I mentioned how I’d once given up my favorite pastime, reading. By the time I was about 15, I thought I was only allowed to read “smart” books. You know, the books on the 100 Titles to Read Before You Croak list.

Baby-Sitters Club books
Hang on. Are these not on the list?

And just like that, reading went from an exciting adventure to an excruciating chore.

While I’ve since liberated myself from the notion that I had to read anything on any list, I now experience a sort of late onset ADHD whenever I sit down with a book – no matter how fun and indulgent the title. (Weird, huh? I mean, it’s not like anything going on in the world would make someone feel anxious to the point of being unable to focus, right? ha ha…)

scott 12 pack
How many do I have left?! HOW. MANY?!?!

Thankfully, with the advent of library apps like Hoopla and Libby (in which all you need is a valid library ID card to access thousands of free, virtual “borrows”), I’m now able to burn through dozens of audiobooks while I run marathons. I simply download the audiobook on my phone, then set it to airplane mode while I run to ensure I don’t drain the battery or my data plan. When I’m done, I delete it, freeing back up the space on my phone. Boom! (The only downside is that every ten seconds you’ll be forced to debate whether or not it’s worth stopping your running watch and covering your phone in sweat and trail dust to jot down the author’s truth bombs.)

Hoopla-screenshot
A little bit of foreshadowing here…

I’ve read listened to so many books over the past couple of years this way that, as we head into summer reading season, I thought it was high time I gathered my own list of Books to Read Before You Croak!

Side note: If your library offers a choice in apps, I find Hoopla far superior in both selection and number of borrows permitted per month, though the interface is less sleek than Libby.

Let’s do this.

Go Jules Go Title Graphic LISTEN UP Audio Books for Summer Reading Season_3JUN2020

Disclaimer: The below recommendations contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission if you purchase any of the titles, but the recommendations are 100% my own and unsponsored.

To give this some structure, I’m organizing my list in the order in which I enjoyed these books (purposely leaving off the titles that, ah, didn’t speak to me…well, I mean, they spoke to me because they were audiobooks, but, OH MY GOD THIS IS ALREADY MY LONGEST POST OF ALL TIME AND I NEED TO MOVE ON):

2018-2019 Honorable Mentions

Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon by Dr. Joe Dispenza

Right up front, let’s get one thing straight: I’m into the woo-woo. All the woo-woo. And it took 36 years for me to admit that – even to myself. Now, as a gift to disillusioned, 15-year-old Jules, I let myself read alllll of the books that fascinate and delight me, even if others might call them foolish. And it has transformed my life. Becoming Supernatural is right at the top of the list in busting open conventional beliefs about who we are and why we’re here. If you think you can handle it.

Secret Lives of Introverts

The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World by Jenn Granneman

If you’re an introvert, or love an introvert, drop everything and read this. End of story. …Or is it just the beginning?

Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change by Derek Rydall

Based only on hearing that this was written by a former actor turned guru, you’d probably sooner eat wood screws than read this. But wait! I still think of this book regularly. The way Rydall describes human life compared to an acorn becoming an oak is… well, you’ll just have to “hear” for yourself.

The Happiness Project book cover

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Narrated by the very likable author, Rubin’s year-long exploration of what happiness really is -and the daily, tangible ways you can experience it- is funny, moving, and interesting.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Oh, boy, did I ever think this former bestseller would be a clunker. (And sorry, Mr. Chapman, if your love language is also verbal affirmation. I, in fact, think this book is fabulous.) I stand corrected! I felt like Oprah based on the number of “ah hah!” moments this book led to.

Jan 2020

Sorry I'm Late Jessica Pan

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes by Jessica Pan

I’ve already written about how much I f@&$# love this woman and this book, so I’ll keep this short. This book is for everyone – introverted or not. Laugh out loud funny, relatable, and endlessly engaging.

Feb 2020

The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright

Similar to Pan’s memoir, this recounting by Jamie Wright gives you a no holds barred peek into her world – as the very worst missionary. Wright never shies away from telling the truth about what’s really behind some of the so-called “work” done in the Lord’s name, and she does it with the kind of acerbic self-awareness that makes a humor writer like me swoon.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

A cute fiction book about a woman who takes no small delight in her class mom role – emailing parents with often wildly inappropriate comments and suggestions – leading to, as you might imagine, some pretty amusing hi-jinx. This is what I’d call a “classic summer read.”

Furiously Happy Jenny Lawson book cover

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Fellow Blogging sensation Jenny Lawson details her struggles with mental health in a way that makes you laugh and cry – in all the best ways.

The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks

Written by Stanford psychologist Gay Hendricks, this book exposes the many ways in which we put a “ceiling” on our own possibilities – including how happy we’re allowed to be. Even if you’re thinking you’ve heard all of this before, I promise you’ll gain some surprising new insights into why you STILL HAVEN’T FINISHED THAT G.D. NOVEL ALREADY.

Happy Trail: A Trapped Together Forced Proximity Romance by Daisy Prescott

Um… so… if you geek out on through-hiking, lumberjack chic, and lots of wood, go for it. Exactly the kind of romance novel you’d expect from the cover art.

Happy Trail Daisy Prescott book cover

March 2020

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

The way the authors weave research and personal stories through this book is masterful. If you’re a teacher looking to blow your students’ minds, an office worker hoping to transform your organization, or anyone trying to create more meaningful moments with loved ones, I’m confident you’ll walk away moved and empowered by this book.

Normal Sucks Jonathan Mooney book cover

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive Outside the Lines by Jonathan Mooney

OH GOD THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD. In this part memoir, part historical exploration, Mooney (a now-father raised by anything but normal parents) delves into the origins of normalcy in a way that absolutely blew my mind. While the tone is conversational, the content is rich with fascinating data. If you’ve ever felt misunderstood or ‘less than,’ this book will be your new favorite.

April 2020

96 Miles by J.L. Esplin

This is a young adult fiction title recommended to readers who liked Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Um, helloooo, only my second favorite kid’s book of all-time! (Bested only by Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.) It was gripping. I cannot believe it’s meant for 8 to 12-year-olds. It also includes some fantastic education around Type I diabetes if, as a parent or educator, that might come in handy.

Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance by Christopher McDougall

If you loved McDougall’s smash hit Born to Run, or anything by Bill Bryson, you’ll definitely dig this one. A true life historical recount told like an action-packed blockbuster, this book explores the ancient art of human badassery – though I can’t say I agree with all of the dietary recommendations near the end. (Here’s a much happier way to eat .)

When Breath Becomes Air Paul Kalanithi book cover

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Whew. Grab the Kleenex before diving into this memoir by the late neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, who passed away from lung cancer at age 37. He left us not only this beautiful book, but his shining yet realistic example of selflessness. (All the more moving thanks to the absolutely poetic closing chapter by his wife.)

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron

Whether or not you’ve ever heard of the enneagram model, this book is a fantastic read. Exploring the history and details of the nine personality types described by the enneagram, you’ll laugh (and groan) as you gain insight into what makes you, and others, tick.

May 2020

Year of Yes Shonda Rhimes
Photo credit

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

I don’t know how I made it until May 2020 without erecting a shrine to Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and more. This woman OWNS primetime drama and is a beacon of hope for any female writer or introvert with a dream.

Kind is the New Classy: The Power of Living Graciously by Candace Cameron Bure

I know! DJ Tanner writes books (yes, plural)! I didn’t realize this until my friend, Sandy, mentioned it on her blog. Entering in with rock bottom expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. Cameron Bure’s got something. And no one can deny this woman’s work ethic. A little memoir, a little self-help, and a whole lotta Jesus… I’d read more.

The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People by Judith Orloff

If, like me, you’ve ever described yourself as a “sponge person,” absorbing all of the energy and emotions of the people around you, you’ll adore this book. It’s woo-woo all right, and it explains EVERYTHING.

Girl Stop Apologizing Rachel Hollis book cover

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

I was late to the Rachel Hollis game, and apparently this is like her 47th book. Sort of a shrill Tony Robbins, admittedly, there’s no denying that Hollis MAKES SHIT HAPPEN. My inner project manager geeked out on this brutally honest, practical how-to, and I definitely recommend it if you identify as a woman stuck between dreaming and action.

June 2020

Reflections on the Artists Way Julia Cameron cover

Reflections on the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Like many with a creative dream, I’ve been a HUGE fan of The Artist’s Way‘s 12-week program since I was a teenager. In this three-part audio series, Cameron addresses an audience, answers questions, and then faces a one-on-one interview – all in under two hours. I was delighted to find that I still have so much to learn from this prolific, spiritual powerhouse.

NEXT UP: The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

Having just written about anger’s place in our lives, I’m really excited to dig into this. Stay tuned.

Happy reading!

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What are you reading lately?

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humor

“Do I Have to be Angry to be Intelligent?”

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“YES. That’s IT!” I thought, putting down the newspaper clipping.

I gazed around my bedroom, its dusty rose walls matching my new 15-year-old style: shabby chic. My artwork -mostly sketches of my favorite actors- filled the walls, and next to my desk, where I spent long hours writing fan fiction, sat a collection of intensely sincere CDs by singer-songwriters I worshipped.

On top of the stack was Jewel’s Pieces of You, an album I listened, warbled, and cried to for roughly 99.98% of 1997. Which is probably why my dad thought to hand me that particular news clipping, featuring an interview with Jewel herself. The title quote was, “Do I have to be angry to be intelligent?”

Jewel Pieces of You album cover
I can’t for the life of me find evidence of this quote, so you’ll just have to trust me.

I thought back to my 8th grade class, who, at the end of the school year, had voted me “Most Likely to Host QVC.” As a sensitive, straight-A student who’d never once thought about peddling jade brooches while sporting a fake tan, I was flummoxed.

“Why?” I finally worked up the nerve to ask my classmates.

“Because you’re always smiling!” they replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

I inwardly scoffed. I shared a home with not one, but two, bonafide geniuses, and while I never reached their intellectual heights, being smart was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.

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And QVC? Not on the list. Photo credit

By the time Jewel’s quote found its way into my hands a year or two later, I felt completely misunderstood. Just because I was smiling and non-threatening, did that automatically make me clueless and dopey?

“PREACH!” I wanted to cry as I read the article.

Jewel, a fellow blonde who, like me, loved art, animals, nature, and poetry, had had a similar struggle in being taken seriously. And while I use the word “struggle” loosely, fully acknowledging the privileged place from which I write, this issue has resurfaced in my life time and time again.

In fact, by the time I was an adult, I had almost entirely stopped reading -once my favorite pastime- because the books I wanted to read weren’t the “smart” ones.

Harry Potter series
Oh, thank god. Smart people are reading these. Platform 9 3/4, here I come!

After what felt like a brief hall pass to study creative writing in college, I had to choose a career. I wanted to work on screenplays, but was that “smart”?

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Of course not! All smart people know that writers wind up living under bridges and disappointing their parents!

So, naturally I picked a career that looked intelligent, even if it was laughably opposed to the artistic, spiritual, independent person I actually was.

Corporate office
Cue 14 years in Cubicle City. Photo credit

During my 20s and 30s, not a single person genuinely questioned that choice. In fact, it was usually admired and celebrated – or completely ignored because it was sooo obviously the right decision. Just like going to college, having a steady corporate job meant you were smart. And smart, much like extroversion and facial symmetry, wins.

The first time I decided to rebel, I did it right here – by starting this blog!

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(Annnd working on it mostly from the aforementioned cubicle.)

It was 2011, and I was now a married homeowner (more “smart” decisions). I called it “Go Guilty Pleasures!” and aired all of my secrets – all of the embarrassing, ridiculous, wonderful things that I liked just because they made my heart sing. ‘NSync, Glee, reality TV, dogs in costume, slap bracelets… I had a lifetime of skeletons to reveal.

The blog may have seemed over-the-top silly (and, er, probably still does), but that was the point. I was on a mission to prove, if only to myself, that “smart” and “silly” weren’t mutually exclusive. And if they were? Well then, dammit, I was choosing silly.

Jules Brain May 2020

Still, though, a part of me was haunted by this notion that I’d never seem intelligent because I was too busy having fun. In 2016, when I became vegan and enrolled in a Humane Education Masters program (so I could seem smart about my new lifestyle), I spent two and a half years studying the world’s atrocities – from human rights to environmental protection to animal rights.

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Yeah, okay. I see it now. Always smiling.

More often than not, I felt enraged by the suffering of my fellow beings and the planet we shared. I wanted to cry and scream and tell people how their choices were impacting ev-e-ry-thing.

But I didn’t.

In biting my tongue, I felt like a failure. I began to wonder if my entire life philosophy -the Golden Rule- needed revisiting.

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“I don’t care how YOU like being treated! Look how YOU’RE treating animals!!” -Thing I Never Said

“My brother called the other day and, for the first time ever, it’s like he read the news. He was PISSED [about the state of the world],” a friend recently said. “I was like, ‘Finally!'”

I stayed silent, wondering for what felt like the ten thousandth time: Do we have to be angry to be intelligent? By now, my age-old question had grown to include: What role does anger have in our lives and in our advocacy?

Is it okay to allow anger to fuel us? Where is the line? Do we break into animal labs and set executives’ houses on fire? What about lecturing our friends?

Or is anger simply a step on the journey? One we use to help pry open our own eyes so that we can better understand ourselves and the plight of others? If someone chooses to operate -and address others- from a place of anger, is this the easy choice or the hard one?

When does anger stop being inspiration and start becoming toxic?

For instance, how would you have reacted to this post had I come in guns blazing, instead of telling a story and then posing the above series of questions?

I get it. When things are f&#*ed up, anger is the first choice. It’s the natural choice. Sometimes we need to light shit on fire (IN THE METAPHORICAL SENSE, people). Anger can inspire change and the courage to point out injustices. But I’m not convinced that anger is the final stop. After all, anger may help shine a light on society’s faults, but will it fix them?

Again recognizing my limited and wildly privileged perspective, I can tell you that working through and past anger is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – and I do it every. Single. Day. If I can’t? I try to avoid public gatherings and conversation topics entirely.

Because I think you deserve better from me.

Because I think my campaigns deserve better from me.

And because I believe we all deserve to live from a place of peace.

Isn’t that…smart?

Jane Goodall
Photo credit

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How has anger helped or hindered you?

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humor, Just For Fun, Lists

Do You Have the Right Quarantine Skills?

Go Jules Go Do You Have the Right Quarantine Skills Title Graphic 13MAY2020

Recently, my friend Dakota asked, “If you could acquire any two skills during quarantine, what would they be?”

Apparently, running three marathons in nine days didn’t count.

Uncle Jesse double rainbow Maston 2020
It’s okay, Dakota Rainbow Cloudjumper. Uncle Jesse and I forgive you. (In all seriousness, Dakota and his wife, Chelsea, are two of my biggest cheerleaders and I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.)

Based on Dakota’s prompt, I wrote a blog post within minutes. Before I could hit ‘Publish,’ SOMETHING MAGICAL HAPPENED.

A deep-seated wish come true.

A phoenix rising from the ashes!

A…much better version of the post I’d already drafted…what the f#%@?!

After 3+ years of waiting and peer pressuring hoping, my bloggy BFF, sparring partner, and doppleganger, The Byronic Man, HAD A NEW POST.

This is the part where I could have put up photos of B-Man in drag, but I’m a good friend.

And it looked like not much had changed: HE WAS STILL INSIDE MY HEAD. So, I’ll let him cover the quarantine goals category, and I’ll gladly move on, my party hat slap bracelet firmly in place. (Although it’s worth noting that I already had the rest of this post written as part of my original draft, including the retro B-Man shout-out.)

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When bloggy BFFs collide. After a run. In the rain. …Whose idea was this anyway?

Acquiring new skills seems kinda hard, anyway. Besides, if these are end times (and who says they aren’t?), what are the most marketable skills we already possess? How can we prove to our quarantine comrades that they shouldn’t eat us first? I’ll take a crack at it, and then I want to hear from you!

Go Jules Go’s Quarantine Survival Skills

I…

1. …give fantastic compliments. Did you know you’re the only person I write this blog for?

Go Jules Go title graphic In the Middle of the Woods Naked_3JUL2019
And would I ever lie to you?

2. …can make anything out of raw cashews.

3. …can sew. …Assuming you only need cute Christmas ornaments.

GotC-bacon
They’re vegan.

4. …have long arms = strong selfie game.

Babs Jules NYC May 2019
YOU CAN’T EVEN TELL I’M THE ONE TAKING THIS.

5. …will carry 15 extra pounds up a mountain if it means we get to have potato quesadillas in the morning.

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FACT.

6. …know how to say 1,000+ words in French. None of them go together, but never mind that.

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Pain! Chouette! Chapeau! …See?

7. …write excellent thank you notes. This can only help our diplomacy efforts with neighboring communities.

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It’s the thought (and not the penmanship) that counts, right?

8. …know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. Wait, we’re talking about fitted sheets, right?

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It was a whole thing. What? You weren’t here in 2012?

9. …understand the ancient art of numerology. Sort of. I’m pretty sure we can stop worrying about 666.

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Toldja.

10. …am a follower. Even though my head was clearly made for a crown, I’m most comfortable standing in someone else’s shadow and won’t upset the group dynamics.

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We are all in this together.

11. …don’t really understand the ancient art of numerology and think that ending on #11 means we won’t die. (My superstitions could save us all.)

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Then again, maybe don’t rely on me for survival.

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So, what are your top quarantine/end of days skillz?

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humor

Not Your Momma’s Marathon Advice

Last year, I got some really good phenomenal advice – which is generally how I like the transaction to occur. You, Oh Wise One, give advice, and I, inferior and questioning little human, smile and nod.

Jules Valentines Day Feb 2020
Whatever you say, boss. I’m already drunk.

“You have to remember that where you are right now is exactly the right place from which to teach,” this Sage Advice Giver said. “There is someone out there at this very moment, experiencing what you did a few months or years ago, and they need to hear from you, just a step or two ahead.”

“Huh,” I replied, nodding, still not completely convinced.

“Think about it,” Ms. Guru continued. “If you had just held your first basketball and Michael Jordan announced he was your new coach, what would happen? Everything would sail over your head because he’s like 14 feet tall you’d have no idea what he was talking about, you’d be intimidated, and you’d probably throw in the towel thinking how you’d never get to his level.”

Michael Jordan
Jeez Michael, you don’t have to rub it in. Photo credit

“Mmm,” I said, starting to catch on.

“We need coaches and mentors who are still on the same playing field. There are people who need and want to learn from you, right where you are, just as you are, today.”

And there it was.

In that instant, everything changed.

I, Go Jules Go, lover of chipmunks and pouring the last, saltiest, kettle cooked BBQ potato chip crumbs down her pie hole whilst googling Stephen Colbert’s astrological sign, was reborn.

O Magazine Oprah advice
I felt like Oprah.

Fast-forward to present day, when one of my good friends mentioned that she’s toying with the idea of running a marathon in 2021.

“I have no doubt in my mind that you could do it with far more ease than you think,” I texted.

“Well that’s good to hear! My only goals would be to finish and not die,” she replied.

“You have the best attitude and strength, physically and mentally [of anyone I know]. It’d be a done deal,” I went on, feeling only slightly guilty about the blatant peer pressure.

Erin Jules marathon hats FootZone Oct 2019
AND you have the look, EK.

As we went back and forth, I began to think of all of the things I wished I had known about marathon running several years ago, and how great it would have been to have received that advice from, well, someone like me. Someone whose goal was also to “finish and not die.” Someone who didn’t run track growing up, who didn’t (and still doesn’t) understand the phrase “zero drop sneakers,” and whose childhood influences were more, “Let’s watch TGI Friday and order more cheesy breadsticks” than, “What do you want in your green smoothie?”

Jules-green-smoothie
This wouldn’t be half bad with vodka.

When I ran my first two marathons in 2014, my life was a Made for TV Special: divorce, job lay-off, new romance, new failed romance, moving back in with my parents (…at age 32…). I’d never run before and, fueled by chaos and cute men, I went too far, too fast, quickly paying the price with an I.T. band injury.

IT band injury
I.T. Band. The lamest band in the history of time. Photo credit 

While I completed two marathons, it was ultimately painful and punishing.

When I decided to pack up and move across the country in 2019, I knew everything would be different. I would run again, taking advantage of central Oregon’s outdoor splendor, and it would be good.

Jules Crater Lake Aug 2019
So good. Oh crap, is it time to start running?

Last fall, settled in my beautiful new home, I began training in earnest with one simple goal: to make this the most painless experience possible.

Jules half marathon training Sep 2019
Annnnd I definitely didn’t fall twice on this training run. Nope. Not me.

Now, after having just run three marathons in nine days sans injury (chyeah I did just say that), I’m happy to report: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. So let’s do this.

Not Your Mommas Marathon Advice Go Jules Go title graphic 6MAY2020

Expect to have 14 different races in one marathon.

Running 26.2 miles is kind of like watching Tiger King. You are now on an emotional rollercoaster full of ups and downs you simply could never have prepared for.

Tiger King
Would you rather: Bottle feed a full-grown tiger or run a marathon?

SLOW DOWN, Buck-o.

On race day, you’ll be raring to go. Go slower than you can even stand to (and then silently judge all of the jackals who take off like their race bibs are on fire). Your body will thank you later. Like on mile 23 when all you want to do is find a bean bag chair and a box of wine.

bean bag wine chair
Or better yet…

DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.

I’ve been known to eat Nutter Butters and falafel wraps before and during long runs. But please don’t do anything weird on race day. Don’t try new food or compression socks or chaffing sticks or, god forbid, shoes.

tour-de-fail-t-shirt
And please please pretty please don’t wear the unwashed, chemical-laden, ugly-ass race shirt you just received for THE RACE YOU’RE CURRENTLY RUNNING. Sweet baby Jesus, does no one believe in jinxing anymore?! How about rashes? Do we believe in those?

Incorporate as many plant-based meals into your diet as possible.

This will reduce inflammation and help your body recover in ways you can’t begin to imagine. (Don’t believe me? Check out The Game Changers.) I was vegan for almost four years before running three marathons in nine days last month, and that never would have happened without a plant-i-ful diet.

img_20200110_171132
Oh, what’s that? You’re looking for someone who can help you with this? Hmm…

Miles 20 to 26.2 won’t kill you, but you might want them to.

You’ll never hate the fraction 2/10 more in your life. No amount of physical training can prepare you for those final miles. You have to want it, mentally. Unlike U.S. banks, you have to think, “THERE IS NO BAIL OUT PLAN.”

Lori Philly half marathon high five Nov 2014
Also, it is 100% okay to throat punch any person who says, “Almost there!” when you’re anywhere within this mile range. (Photo: My sister gettin’ ‘er done during the 2014 Philly half marathon.)

And most importantly, know…

You don’t have to ‘look’ or ‘feel’ like a runner (whatever the hell that means) to crush a marathon.

Just. Start. Running. You WILL have shitty training runs. You won’t want to leave the house. Do it anyway. Because, often when you least expect it, you will also have AMAZING runs. You will feel highs you didn’t know you could feel without potential jail time.

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Did someone say jail time?

Happy, Injury-Free Running!

~*~*~*~*~*~

How do you feel about giving advice? 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

humor, I'm Going To Chop My Ear Off Any Day Now, PSAs

The Power of Panic

Go Jules Go title graphic The Power of Panic 29APR20

“No, I won’t go! I can’t go! I’ll do anything!”

As we neared the sprawling, single-story, brick building, the butterflies in my stomach morphed into fire-breathing dragons, clawing at my insides, tearing through my heart, desperate to escape. My skin felt clammy and I started to sob.

“Please don’t make me go!”

My mom turned her right blinker on, steering our blue Dodge minivan towards the dead end street just before Terrill Middle School.

Terrill Middle School
That architecture’s enough to scare anyone. Photo credit

“Just calm down. Breathe. We’ll take a minute here.”

We were living in some nightmarish middle school version of Groundhog Day. Each morning was the same. We’d agree to drive through Burger King for an egg and cheese “Croissan’wich,” and as I lost myself in the familiar comfort of melted American cheese and processed pastry, I’d feel certain I could make it to my 6th grade classes without incident.

Burger King Egg_and_Cheese_Croissanwich
Spoiler alert: It didn’t work. Photo credit

I can’t remember what triggered the first panic attack. In fact, I don’t remember anyone even using the phrase “panic attack” to describe what was going on. All I knew was that I was a chubby, sensitive, soccer playing 11-year-old, who, every time she approached her new middle school, succumbed to sheer terror.

Jules-Shadow
Much like my new dog, Shadow, every time I tried to “love” him.

My parents and the well-intentioned administration tried everything to get me to go to class. They sent me, a gold star-covered Honor Roll student, to the principal’s office (where I was both impressed by his en suite bathroom and horrified that he seemed to have used it right before I was sentenced to sit with him). They made me take IQ tests that I was sure I failed, arranging red cubes on a counselor’s tiny desk.

rubix cube wrong
But see, I KNOW that’s wrong. So. Genius! Photo credit

Finally, they made me sit in the guidance counselors’ conference room, where they closed the heavy tweed curtains so I couldn’t look out onto the courtyard at the students passing through windowed corridors, oblivious to the girl trapped by her own fear. I wasn’t allowed to read, write, draw, nap, or do anything except sit in that empty room. They thought if they took away my one true love –books– I might finally relent.

Baby-Sitters Club books
Well, Jules, let’s see how long you’ll last without knowing STACEY’S TRUTH.

“Ha,” I thought. “I’ll sit here until I can vote if it means I don’t have to walk those halls…with those jerks…”

The prior year, I had had my first real encounter with The Mean Girls. The group who’d once been my ride or die squad turned on me for reasons I couldn’t fathom at the time, going so far as to arrange a fake shopping date to buy the latest toy, only to leave me standing in the store, alone, next to an empty shelf where the toys had been (the girls had bought them all before I showed up). Later, I realized my gap-toothed smile, big belly, and questionable fashion choices didn’t jive with their burgeoning popularity.

gojulesgo-kid-Halloween-1993
Huh. I don’t get it.

My parents sent me to therapy, where I also sat silently, daring the therapist to figure out what was wrong with me. How could she know what I didn’t even know? The entire year unfolded like this, and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been on my parents.

“You have to cut this shit out and go to school!” my father, a well-respected educator himself, shouted one night after finally snapping. He threw something down the hall in my general direction while I cowered on the ground. I’d never seen him lose it before. Didn’t they all know that if I could just fix it, I would?

Pop-Jules-Burger-King
Let’s just go back to Burger King and EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY.

My heart goes out to that little girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders. After having several panic attacks in my adult life, I finally realized that the source of my fear was simply the fear itself. Anyone who’s ever had a panic attack knows that you’ll walk through fire before facing the ‘thing’ that triggered the panic in the first place – however irrational that may look to the outside world. Most adults describe the feeling as “being sure [they were] going to die.” How the hell is an 11-year-old supposed to cope with that?

jules-impossible-burger
Well, ha ha. At least none of this led to an unhealthy relationship with food.

That year shaped the rest of my young life. Thanks to those unrelenting panic attacks, I missed most of 6th grade and attended only two hours of high school. When I was 16, I got my GED and started working full-time at a local independent bookstore.

Jenn-bday-Jules-Amelia-Bedelia
Finally! A place that sees how cool I am! Hey, look how cool I am!

Now, as every corner of the world swirls with uncertainty, grief, and fear, my inner 11-year-old nods, holding out her small hand, wanting to offer the only comfort she can.

I know how you feel.

~*~*~*~*~*~

If you’re looking for courage, camaraderie, and/or inspiration during these unprecedented times, I hope you’ll consider joining me live this Friday, May 1, 2020 (5:00-6:00pm PST / 8:00-9:00pm EST) for a free, interactive Zoom seminar!

https://zoom.us/j/96166072219

Save Me From Myself Seminar FB sample ad 3

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

The Secret to Running a Marathon (During a Pandemic…Or Ever)

Go Jules Go How to Run a Marathon Title Graphic 14APR2020

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

Two dozen ice cubes hit the bottom of six water bottles. I paused halfway, switching hands, my left fingers already numb from reaching into the ice bin for the eighth time.

Uncle Jesse’s collar rattled as he pranced from paw to paw, letting out a low whimper every few seconds. His evangelical nature revealed itself every time I began our sacred ritual: Water bottle…yes…backpack…YES…leash…YES!…sneakers…PRAISE JESUS YESSSS!!!!

Uncle Jesse running Lake Michigan
Can I get an “Amen”?!

I wonder if he knows what he’s in for today, I thought, pulling a package of tortillas from the fridge.

With water bottles filled, I turned to sustenance, folding a few falafel balls into a wrap for me, and a sweet potato into one for Uncle Jesse. It was getting harder to believe the entire world was on lockdown, with Mother Nature beginning to show her sweeter side, beckoning restless souls to pack a picnic or meet some friends for happy hour around a sun-soaked table.

OH GOD I MISS THIS.

I checked the weather one last time. High of 60 with “abundant sunshine.” I was still getting used to the latter. Springtime on the east coast usually brought warmer temperatures by mid-April, but also a lot more rain. Bend, Oregon, on the other hand, still saw frigid nights and little precipitation.

Uncle Jesse double rainbow Maston 2020
And when it does rain in central Oregon? This happens.

As I packed my hiking bag, I went the extra mile (pun sooo intended), grabbing an empty shopping sack and stuffing spare socks, a shirt, Band-Aids, an extra hat, and a hand towel into it. I cast a glance at the calendar where I’d been counting down the days until this moment.

8 miles @ Maston

Crazy hilly 13 miles @ ?? Butte

REST

Easy 5 miles @ Shevlin Park

18 Miles @ Tumalo Reserve incl. ?? Butte (seriously does it have a name?)

REST

Every square of 2020 was filled with pencil scribbles tracking my progress, even though the Bend Marathon, originally scheduled for April 19th, had been canceled in March, courtesy of COVID-19.

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As a final step, I put two extra sandwiches, water, and a can of Coke into a cooler bag. I clicked my race belt on, grabbed my hat, and put on my dusty and trusty Altra trail running shoes.

Jules Altras by Deschutes River

“Allons, mon chien!” I declared, tossing Uncle Jesse’s leash and my ear buds into the shopping bag as we headed outside. Neither four months of marathon training nor eighteen months on Duolingo French would be in vain!

Jules Uncle Jesse snowy run by Deschutes River
How do you say, “I run until I cry” in French…?

I took a gamble on a new trailhead about 25 minutes east, near the Badlands, and landed in an empty parking lot just before 10:30am. Scoooooore. It was rare to find an empty trailhead on a Saturday morning, even during a pandemic. While a huge part of me felt guilty every time I got in the car to find a quiet place to run, it still felt safer to pick an open, abandoned trail than play ‘dodge-a-pedestrian’ while running on my neighborhood sidewalks.

Badlands trail sign
Besides, when you’re talking 26.2 miles, you’re eventually going to run out of sidewalk.

Before COVID hit, I’d spent countless hours trying to find the least-used trails in a 30-mile radius – research that now paid off handsomely.

Uncle Jesse on trail in OR
#IntrovertForTheWin

I moseyed over to the trailhead map, popping my ear buds in and snapping my water-filled backpack around my chest. Delighted to find a network of trails long enough to cover 13+ miles (meaning I wouldn’t have to do more than two loops on the same trail), I started my audiobook, locked the car, and began jogging. Uncle Jesse eagerly darted from side to side, making sure no stick went un-sniffed.

Uncle Jesse butt shot sandy trail mountains

The wide, sandy trail was packed down, mostly flat, and totally deserted. A cool breeze wafted by as if I’d placed an order. Wow. Okay. This will work. I’d spent so many training runs trudging through thick sand, narrowly missing mountain bikers, and/or getting snowed on, that this felt like running inside Darren Criss’s smile while petting puppies.

Darren Criss puppies zipper pouch
OH MY GOD HOW DO I NOT HAVE THIS?

The first hour flew by, even if my pace was nothing like flying. I was 6 years older and 20 30 40 (thanks, COVID-15) pounds heavier than the last time I thought I could run marathons.

Jules-Hamptons-Marathon-27Sep2014
Jules’s 2014 marathon recap: “This experience was f&*#$%^ awful!”

But I was also four years plant-powered and properly trained now, with a rock-solid faith in both my legs and my mental fortitude. I was a week ahead of schedule [for the originally scheduled Bend Marathon on April 19th], so if I couldn’t make the six hour cut-off time today, I’d simply try again next weekend, with no one the wiser.

Scott Jurek Badwater finish
So basically I feel like Scott Jurek now. Photo credit

While I may have missed the adrenaline rush of cheering squads, the aid stations, and the course markings of an official race, I didn’t miss the hard pavement, early start time, or collective anxiety, which usually peaked 20-30 minutes before race time in the form of mile-long port-a-potty lines. I especially didn’t miss the well-intentioned, but severely misguided “Good job!” and “You got this!” cries of much faster runners as they whizzed by.

Go Jules Go prep for half marathon Nov 2019
I also didn’t miss doing this the night before.

Hour two was harder than the first, as I began to realize there was no shade whatsoever; parts of the trail grew sandier while my backpack seemed to grow heavier. In hell, a mountain of sand and nothing but warm Gatorade and Donald Trump speeches will await me. Around the same time, I accepted that I would chafe in new, exciting places, despite wearing entirely road-tested gear.

Jules Salt Lake City trying stream water Jun 2019
Well that’s gonna be fun tomorrow.

I stopped just before hour three under a rare, shady tree. Uncle Jesse stared at me with big, questioning brown eyes. I pulled out our wraps and we ate them quickly. The other bonus to jogging vs. running long distances seemed to be that I could eat whatever I wanted without gastrointestinal distress. GU? Electrolyte chews? Energy bars? You can keep ’em! On all of our longer training runs jogs, we had simply stopped at the halfway mark and eaten sandwiches.

Jules Broken Angel burrito
Refried bean burrito for breakfast and falafel wrap for lunch? Don’t mind if I do.

The high desert sun grew more intense, though there was still a strong breeze, and our water grew warmer as we neared hour four, running along a dreary stretch of power lines. I made the executive decision to turn back to the car for more water, cursing inwardly as my toe collided with another lava rock hidden in the thick sand.

Uncle Jesse sandy trail
So…much…sand.

“And the making of a hero…,” the British narrator continued on my audiobook, Natural Born Heroes. Though I’d normally hang on Christopher McDougall’s every word, I tuned in and out, distracted by trying to retrace my steps.

Marathon mountain view Apr 11 2020
I was also distracted by this view.

Just as we neared what I was (…pretty…) sure was the path to my car, I spotted a man and his dog – the first person I’d seen all day. Guhhhhh. I did an about-face and started off in the opposite direction. The unexpected detour meant it was almost five hours in before Uncle Jesse and I reached Suba-Ruby.

Subara car commercial

If we’re not even close to 20 miles, I’m calling it, I thought, defeated. I glanced at my Fitbit. 21.5 miles. I grinned maniacally.

“Oh, less than 5 miles. We are making this happen,” I said aloud. Uncle Jesse tilted his head in response.

Uncle Jesse head tilts on backseat car cover 25Dec2019

I took a few gulps of deliciously frosty water from the cooler pack, quickly refilling Uncle Jesse’s Water Rover and my go-to bottle. I gleefully swapped out my ill-fitting bigger pack for my beloved little Camelback, and we set off to conquer the last few miles.

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200414144512946_cover
Is it legal to marry an inanimate object?

During the final 45 minutes, stiffness settled into my legs and every minute crawled by. I refused to look at my watch until I couldn’t bear it. Knowing I could do all 26.2 miles offered little comfort; I still had to do it. I imagined sitting on the couch with my cheap bottle of Trader Joe’s bubbly, eating whatever the living f#@& I wanted, watching my long-awaited Redbox rental, Little Women – including all of the special features, dammit.

00100sportrait_00100_burst20200214170453363_cover
Nerd alert.

When we finally rounded the bend back into the parking lot, I had to do two more tiny loops before my watch signaled that we’d hit our target distance. I let out a small laugh.

Marathon Fitbit screenshot Apr 11 2020
Booya.

“You’re a marathon man now!” I shouted to Uncle Jesse, 10-year-old Vegan Wonder Dog, who had already climbed into the backseat and was staring at me with tired, but alert, eyes. Par for the course, his expression seemed to say. He hadn’t missed a single training run.

Uncle Jesse snow romp 2 Cascades 2019
Sheer determination.

I poured water on a towel and wiped off my wind and sunburned face, wedging my “2020 Bend Marathon” trucker cap on, having finally earned it. I fed Uncle Jesse another sandwich, snapped a photo for the obligatory social media show-off, and we headed back home, where we sat on the hallway floor and shared a pint of Coconut Bliss ice cream.

Go Jules Go Uncle Jesse post marathon April 11 2020
He hogged it all.

Though I laid low and downed a couple of Aleve the next day -mostly for my back which wasn’t used to carrying such a large, heavy pack during runs- by Monday we were right back at it, running jogging eight miles like it was nothing.

Jules vegan sweatshirt
Plant-powered. For. The. Win.

~*~*~*~*~*~

I’m almost 38, overweight, drink like a [quarantined] fish, and have no business feeling this great after running a marathon – much more than I can say for my younger, thinner, meat-eating self.

Also I love you. And if you’re a nurse, that love is, like, getting weird.

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

I Heard You Had Nothing Better To Do

…What’s that?

…You’re impressed that I tore myself away from the seven pounds of macaroni salad I made last night long enough to write a blog post?

Me too!

Go Jules Go Title Graphic I Heard You Had Nothing Better to Do 8APR20

In between carb orgies and dry heaving every time I check my 401k balance and/or the news (thank god for John Krasinski), I’ve kept my quarantined self busy here in central Oregon by…

…Creating Oregon Trail: The 2020 Edition.

…Trying to convince my friend Sarah to go into the mask-making business (look at this beauty!).

00000img_00000_burst20200407173319804_cover
Sarah and I met wearing even less fabric than this.

…And launching my new humor writing course!

That’s right! You no longer have to weep each Wednesday when you reach the end of my blog posts. Now you can spend SIX WHOLE WEEKS bathing in all things comedy with yours truly. Or maybe you just want to be online BFFs while we ride this ‘rona thing out, and you’re willing to pay for it. That’s cool, too.

I was pretty excited when one of my favorite former professors, Kris Tucker, reached out to ask if I’d be interested in teaching a humor writing course for her Creative Writing with Kris series.

“I’ll have to think about it,” I said.

My only demand? Making the promo code “COVID19.”

If you know anyone who might want to use this unexpected downtime to hone their ha-ha’s, please share!

Gotta run. This macaroni ain’t gonna eat itself.

I love you so much. Please stay safe and healthy.

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200407173449037_cover
And gorgeous.

~*~*~*~*~*~

How are you keeping busy while CRUSHING THAT CURVE?

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor, PSAs

My Quarantine Diary: 26 Days and Counting

Go Jules Go has been social distancing since Saturday, March 7th. What follows is her personal account from inside an unknown bunker in central Oregon. Please disinfect before -and after- reading. 


Day 1

Thank you, Past Jules, for investing in that Scott 12-pack when you normally only buy one roll at a time.

Day 3

Have been introduced to “new” phenomenon called “stress baking.” I contend that I invented stress baking in 1991 when I realized no one could ever love me like peanut butter blossoms could.

No, we love YOU, Jules. Go ‘head. Have another one. You know you want to. Photo credit

Day 6

Local library announced that book return has been closed indefinitely. F$&*. No longer have excuse not to finish, “Memoir Writing for Dummies.”

Oh, you thought I was kidding?

Day 7

Attempted to explain Zoom to Babs (mother). Will to live beginning to wane.

At least these ladies get it.

Day 9

Watched first quarantine episode of “Last Week Tonight.” No live audience. No laugh track. Felt lost.

Day 11

Go Jules Go: Dog Enrichment Toy Inventor and Mastermind. New business venture?

Day 12

Re-watched “Outbreak.” Beginning to worry that all life-long obsessions -chipmunks, beheadings, Patrick Dempsey and pandemics- will prove to be modern society’s downfall.

In my mind, that is 110% Ross’s exact monkey from Friends.

Day 14

Waved to stranger across the street. Was nice.

Day 15

Sweatpants have become stretch pants.

My quarantine wardrobe. In its entirety.

Day 16

Got Cinemax trial subscription just to watch “Contagion.” Key takeaway: Both Matt Damon and I will always find ways to embrace our Dad bods. (See: Day 19.)

Day 19

Can now rest ice cream bowl atop middle stomach layer. Convenient!

Day 21

Re-counted toilet paper rolls. 6. How did this happen?

Day 23

Quarantine in effect until at least April 30th. My birthday. Plans to sleep in Justin Timberlake’s bushes and make day special now thwarted.

I shall comfort myself by wearing favorite shirt. (Photo: ‘NSync concert  circa 2000)

Day 25

Dark days lie ahead. May have to cut Uncle Jesse’s hair myself.

We’ve tried this before. And we don’t like to talk about it.

Day 26

OH MY GOD HOW ARE THEY GOING TO FILM THE “AMERICAN IDOL” LIVE SHOWS?!

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor, PSAs

Meanwhile in Oregon…

Go Jules Go Meanwhile in Oregon title graphic 18MAR20

Hey! What’s up? Oh, me? Nothing much. You know. JUST THE USUAL PANDEMIC / UNPRECEDENTED CRISIS WHERE I PANIC ABOUT TOILET PAPER EVEN MORE THAN USUAL AND WONDER IF I’LL EVER SEE MY PARENTS AGAIN AND WHY GOD WHY DIDN’T I INVEST IN PURELL and… sorry? What was that?

In all seriousness, I hope if you’re reading this, you’re safe and sound AND FLATTENING THE CURVE; DEAR BABY CHIPMUNKS JUST STAY HOME. I’m proud, but not surprised, to say that my adopted central Oregon community is rallying like it’s Black Friday and our favorite child just asked for a Tickle-Me Elmo. Everyone wants to help, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

Speaking of beautiful things to see, here’s a clip from last night, when I shamelessly invented a new “dog enrichment toy” for my Genius Doodle, Uncle Jesse (who turns 10 on Friday!!! and just EASILY ran 20 miles because we thought we were training for a marathon in April, but obviously it was canceled because plague #plantpoweredpooch):

~*~*~*~*~

So…how are you?

~*~*~*~*~