humor, Lists, PSAs

PLEASE STOP SAYING “JOURNEY”

Have you lost weight recently?

Gained weight?

Tried a new wellness product?

Had children?

Sold a house?

Adopted a puppy?

Stopped eating meat?

Farted in the wind?

You have?! That’s wonderful! And? That is NOT A JOURNEY.

You do not need to “curate” (dry heave) the “seasons” (gag) of your life by calling everything a “journey” (help).

The only three times using the word “journey” is acceptable:

1. You have traversed a great distance – literally.

2. You made it into American Idol’s Top 24 and are explaining to Ryan Seacrest that your late/ailing grandmother is the reason you auditioned in the first place.

3. You’re at any Jersey wedding, ever, and someone asks, “Who sings this?”

Still confused? Please review this definition:

Image courtesy of Google

Notice how neither example includes crystals, yoga, or rich white people.

And to my journey-uttering readers: know that there is still hope. Allow me to illustrate through a few recent stories from my life. May this empower (wretch) you to consider (vomit) three alternate suggestions to your favorite word.

#1 – My Dating Journey A Ceaseless Dumpster Fire on the Slow March to Certain Death

DISCLAIMER: Name(s) changed.

“So do you want to meet for a drink…?”

“I don’t think so.”

I stared at my phone in shock. Michael and I had been texting incessantly for the past week after meeting on Hinge, the only dating app with which I seemed to have any luck. (I didn’t say it was good luck.)

“Or coffee…?” I offered. Maybe he doesn’t drink.

It was rare that I’d text someone this much, but he’d been traveling for work over New Years, so we’d had no option to meet in person. Until now. Michael was back in Oregon and I’d assumed he was as eager to go on a real date as I was.

“Nah,” he replied.

“I’m so confused, lol,” I finally replied after several minutes, almost near tears.

“What’s confusing?” he asked.

“I figured you’d want to meet when you got back…”

“Wellll I don’t drink, and coffee dates are so awkward and I always wind up getting ghosted.”

This guy gets ghosted? Nearly 6’4″, 30ish, muscular, with thick hair and kind eyes, Michael’s abs butt face could’ve sold out theaters. He looks like a g.d. Avengers character!

“I have a facial tick,” he explained and I almost audibly sighed in relief. “Sometimes I blink a lot and so coffee dates aren’t good for me. I’m feeling really blinky today.”

“Well I’d just be trying to get to know you better, so I can promise you that that wouldn’t bother me at all,” I replied, my mind racing for alternate options that didn’t involve my apartment.

Michael was a van lifer, so suggesting we meet at his place wasn’t exactly a good choice, either. After going back and forth a little more, I finally caved.

“Okay, why don’t you just come here,” I said. Originally a Jersey girl, my two and a half years in adorable, innocent central Oregon had lowered my defenses. Or maybe it was just those abs that smile.

When Michael arrived and I heard his voice, soft and sweet, I knew I had nothing to fear (at least in the you-want-to-see-my-head-unattached-to-my-body kind of way). I created a distraction that I hoped would put him at ease: dog tricks! I’d filled Uncle Jesse’s puzzle with treats in preparation.

Did I mention he’s pursuing a degree in applied physics in the fall?

“You’ve gotta see this,” I told Michael as he took off his jacket and sneakers. I stared at the giant shoes now sitting by the front door; they somehow managed to dwarf my size 11 sneakers. Though I loved solitude, the sight made me feel warm. Safe.

After Uncle Jesse showed off his puzzle, I got Michael a drink and tried to avoid direct eye contact; I could see he was blinking and didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. He was right. If this had been a coffee date it would have been incredibly awkward.

We eventually sat on the couch and he downed glass after glass of water. I’d been on enough first dates recently to appreciate that there might actually be a universe in which I wasn’t the most nervous person in the room.

After about an hour, Michael made a move, and I wasn’t surprised that he suddenly found his stride. Apparently he was just fine on first dates when they didn’t involve talking.

In a matter of weeks, we were “exclusive” and I texted friends, “I think I have my first boyfriend in four years.”

Fast forward a few more weeks…

“We’re just in different places in life.”

I was the one who sent the text. Michael and I had agreed that we communicated better and more openly via text messaging, so it seemed like the right way to end things. I explained that his lateness, lack of balanced conversation (turns out he liked to talk…a lot), and failure to contribute to anything financially had been part of “a pattern of inconsideration” that I couldn’t ignore.

“I’m truly sorry things didn’t work out,” I ended my lengthy note, my heart in my throat. “And I wish you all the best things that life has to offer.”

And…

…I never heard from him again.

#2 – My Freelancing Journey Toxic People are Everywhere and I’m Very Tired

Dear Toxic Boss,

It is with sadness unadulterated glee that I submit my resignation after just one week of working for you. In our short time together, I experienced a level of unprofessionalism usually reserved for public office.

You may recall that during my interview, you:

  • compared the freelance hiring process to dating
  • told me how much you paid your other freelancer (double what you were willing to pay me)
  • explained how you knew I was motivated to do a good job because you had the power to leave a bad review on a public platform
  • said the word “p***y” when quoting Donald Trump
  • compared giving feedback to employees to “redirecting a child” who’s gone astray

You hired me to help promote a completed product for which you hadn’t “any idea of” the intended buyer. I enjoyed billing you for the hours spent revising the same five paragraphs. When I suggested that it may not be wise to include those 650+ words in 5-point font on a half-page print advertisement, you made it clear that you knew best – despite having had no previous success in selling similar products.

Shoot. Now you’re not gonna finish reading this post because you’re too busy racing to buy this product.

During our initial days together, you asked that we not engage in lengthy email exchanges since you were paying me “by the minute,” then proceeded to send no fewer than five emails per day at a length that would make James Joyce swoon. I appreciated the opportunity to hone my reading comprehension whilst deciphering your unformatted, stream of consciousness, mansplain-y missives.

I wish you nothing but the best in spending your undeserved investment fortune on your passion product that absolutely no one would ever purchase without your monetary incentives.

Warmly Hotly,

Go Jules Go

#3 – My Running Journey Why Privileged White People Should Be Institutionalized: Part #437

I’m currently mentoring a wonderful local running group and we have our big 5k race this weekend. The best part has been that I’m required to email the group once a week. This means that they have had no choice but to admire my cleverness and Uncle Jesse’s head tilts as I’ve assaulted their inboxes with these photos over the past eight weeks.

Last week, I also imparted my pearls of wisdom about “race day mentality.”

HAVE FUN,” I wrote in boldfaced caps. “When you see people on race morning who look like they’re about to go into 17 hours of brain surgery and they’re THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN SAVE LITTLE JOHNNY, enjoy knowing that you have the appropriate mindset. A celebratory one! You’re outside! You’re moving! Encouraging others and making new friends! You’ve already succeeded and this delightful romp in gorgeous Bend, Oregon is just icing on the cake. Mmm. Icing.”

When it comes to formal athletic pursuits, I’ve definitely taken myself WAY too seriously in the past and then had to remember: I’m not curing cancer here! I’m part of a bunch of middle-aged, privileged, white people who pay to get up at 5am, crap our brains out in disgusting port-a-potties, sweat for hours on end, and then get an ugly shirt we’re never going to wear.

Is that brown or gray? Or both?

Tell me we don’t all deserve to be institutionalized.

~*~*~*~*~*~

What are your trigger words (and is “trigger” one of them)?

~*~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, Dating, PSAs

It Was Me All Along

DISCLAIMER: Names changed or omitted.

“The Starfish poem brought you to me. And I think there’s something really important to that. This week, I want you to remember: If nothing matters, it’s just as likely that everything matters.”

The blinds were drawn over the huge corner windows, but even in winter, the high desert sun made the room feel bright and warm. Several starfish paintings dotted the light blue walls.

I nodded, tears pooling in my eyes. I looked at the ceiling to try to keep them from spilling over. The inside of my mask was already wet with an hour’s worth of feelings.

My therapist, Denise, got up from her chair and walked over to her computer, which sat atop a large wooden desk in the far right corner. Our meeting that day had been unlike previous ones. Instead of regaling her with my ridiculous dating stories, as I’d done during the previous two sessions, I had finally caved.

“Sometimes I just don’t see the point of any of it,” I had confessed. “Sometimes I just don’t want to be here anymore.”

Denise promised she would push me harder in future sessions so I wouldn’t avoid the most painful feelings and confessions. I carried her parting words with me as I faced another long week of uncertainty and self-doubt.

Over the past few months, I’d thrown myself back into the dating ring with a fervor usually reserved for boy bands and baked goods. The experiences ranged from barely noteworthy to fascinating to gut wrenching, and my self-esteem wavered at every turn.

Will I ever find my person? I wondered day in and day out. I couldn’t possibly put forth more effort. Between scouting out potential matches on dating apps to getting gussied up every other night to actually going on dates, it was as though I’d taken on another full-time job. Surely it was bound to pay off.

I’ll pray. I’ll light candles. Sweet baby Jesus take the wheel.

As the weeks passed and nothing quite took off, I found myself returning to a well worn narrative: I’m not good enough. I’m too old. Too fat. Too broken. No one wants me. This is impossible. After my divorce and two soul destroying break-ups in 2014, this belief had taken a new, more powerful hold on my heart, and even years later, I struggled to break free of it.

Following my latest therapy session, I suddenly stopped in my tracks. I considered Denise’s parting words, which I’d begun to apply to everything abstract: If you think [x extreme belief] is true, then you have to give equal weight to the possibility that [y exact opposite belief] is true.

If no one wants me, then it’s equally possible that everyone wants me.

I chuckled, and from this new objective standpoint, I reviewed the past three months. There was the adorable Canadian. The 20-something “Darren Criss.” The rock climber. 6-foot-4-four “Brody Jenner.” The engineer. The guitarist. The professor. One of them even gave me a [much-needed] vacuum.

That date didn’t suck. Ba dum tss!

In my mind, they had all been out of my league. And they liked me! They wanted me! By and large, I had turned them down because we just weren’t a good match. As much as I hated the need for external validation, I couldn’t help but marvel at this new, shiny evidence.

For the first time, I saw just how much credence I’d given to untruths. For so many years, I’d taken myself out of the Love Game because I was absolutely and utterly convinced that anyone worth dating would never want to date me.

“How does, ‘I am worthy of love’ sound?” Denise had asked back in October, during one of our initial therapy sessions. She had been helping me uncover my core issue, which appeared to be rooted in worthiness.

I nodded and she handed me a contraption that I jokingly referred to as The Ovaries. One of Denise’s methods was EDMR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), something I’d never heard of or tried before until coming to see her. Supposedly by holding these small, vibrating disks while thinking of a triggering memory and repeating my new mantra, “I am worthy of love,” I could begin to rewire my brain.

For just $457, you too can feel worthy of love! Source

“I’m open to trying anything,” I had assured Denise when we’d first met. Aside from traditional talk therapy, over the years I’d experimented with everything from hypnosis to reiki healing to past life regressions.

As I felt the plastic disks gently vibrate in my palms, tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought of chubby, smart, stubborn grade school Jules, bullied by the girls who used to be her best friends. I am worthy of love. The family and friends who shunned me after my divorce. I am worthy of love. The grown women who bullied me as an adult. I am worthy of love.

“Okay,” Denise said after a few minutes. “Take a deep breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth.”

I obeyed, feeling like I’d just run an emotional marathon. We repeated the exercise a few more times.

“Now how would you rate the emotional charge when you think of [your most recent triggering experience], on a scale of 1 to 7. We started at a 6,” Denise reminded me.

“Um,” I thought for a long moment. “A 2?”

“That’s a big change,” she replied softly, nodding.

“I’m just looking for that feeling again,” I wept later in our session. I had been describing a person I’d met several months earlier who’d completely taken me by surprise. While it ultimately didn’t get off the ground, it had shaken me to the core and opened my eyes to romantic possibility in a way I hadn’t seen since my divorce. “It was effortless and I didn’t question any of it.”

“You know that had everything to do with you and nothing to do with him,” Denise said, a notebook resting on her left knee.

I furrowed my brows and started to protest before going silent. That can’t be right. It was him. He was amazing. He made me feel that way.

The longer I sat with this new, opposite, y-type idea, the more it made sense. As the weeks passed, I thought about the poem that had brought me into that office in the first place. A poem I’d memorized in first grade and that I’d lived by ever since. Two months earlier, I’d spotted that same poem on Denise’s website home page and knew I’d found the right therapist.

I found a tiny starfish

In a tide pool by the sea

I hope whoever finds him next

Will leave him there, like me!

And the gift I’ve saved for you?

The best that I can give:

I found a tiny starfish,

And for you, I let him live.”

Dayle Ann Dodds (excerpt)

Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are always about us. We choose to love or hate, regret or move forward, consider others or turn a blind eye. We can save every starfish or none at all. Each of us has such power and such inherent worthiness.

Why not choose to believe it?

Foster Reservoir, Foster, Oregon. Dec 2021.

~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, PSAs

Progress Doesn’t Have to Taste Like Bird Food

Go Jules Go title graphic_Progress doesn't have to taste like bird food_29JUL20

*beep beep beep beep*

I reached over and silenced my phone’s alarm, Uncle Jesse barely lifting his head in acknowledgment. As soon as I got out of bed, he stood up, stretched, and curled into a ball right on top of my pillow.

00000img_00000_burst20200313132654888_cover

“Not today, Uncle Jesse, you’re coming with me,” I said, shuffling over to my dresser and yanking out a pair of clean black stretch pants.

Hearing the upbeat tone of my voice, he jumped off the bed and eagerly sniffed the clothing in my hand. Deeming the scent what must have been ‘baked-in exercise funk,’ he twirled in a circle and began his stretching routine.

Uncle Jesse gorge 29FEB20
I LOVE YOUR FUNK.

It was 7:15am on a Sunday and Bend, Oregon’s high desert summer sun had finally worn me down. “I WILL go running before it feels like Satan’s belly button,” I had vowed the night before as I’d set my alarm.

When our run was over, I fixed a healthy breakfast and set to work on my latest project – another course with Plant-Based with Robin: “Is that Bird Food?” I was excited about this one.

Is That Bird Food AD - Aug 2020 promo
And not just because Canva graphics make me look like I know what I’m doing.

By the end of the day, I felt proud, strong, and accomplished. …Until about 9pm. When I wanted snacks.

All the snacks.

Instead of putting myself to bed -for an even earlier, harder work-out the next day- I caved.

Toast sounds great. And those peanut butter pretzels… Ooh and that chocolate Kate just sent from Germany!

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200723121533132_cover
I mean gifts don’t have calories, right?

I went to bed full, and full of knowing I’d be unhappy with myself in the morning. On the heels of last week’s shame spiral, I wondered how I could let such a good day slip through my fingers in its final moments.

Was it anxiety? Lack of willpower? Plain ol’ fat-sugar-salt addiction?

Or had I subconsciously decided at some point -based on my unique blend of childhood experiences and genetic make-up- that my ‘ceiling’ was this? Living somewhere halfway between my old life and my new, not quite fully realized, new one?

Go Jules Go: Before & After(ish)

Robin and I have talked a lot about progress vs. perfection as we develop our plant-based living courses.

“I get it. We all have those days,” I said in our first course [about easy meal ideas during quarantine]. “So plan for them. Are you going to be running around all day on Wednesday? Social distance happy hour-ing on Friday? Get the frozen pizza, get the margarita. Plan on it. Work with your schedule and preferences instead of against them.”

It was easy to give this advice, so much harder to swallow it myself.

One thing had changed, though. Instead of thinking that all hope was lost (“what’s the point? Might as well eat nothing but fried Oreos!”), instead of making a series of harsh, empty promises (“tomorrow I’ll eat nothing but lettuce”), I laid my head down on Sunday night and thought, just as I had after last week’s disastrous outing: Tomorrow is a new day.

And isn’t that what progress really looks like?

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Blogging, PSAs

I Cried in a Bar…Twice.

Disclaimer: Names and identifying features changed or omitted. 

Go Jules Go title graphic_I cried in a bar. Twice_21JUL20

Ugh. No.

I pulled off the offending lace tank top and hung it neatly back in the closet, pausing to admire the uniformity of my new wooden hangers. I’d always wanted matching wooden hangers and a closet that looked like a high-end boutique shop. I might not have achieved the latter when I moved to Bend, Oregon last year, but the hangers?

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200719154538586_cover
Flawless.

I tried on two more shirts, holding a small mirror in front of my face and glancing backwards into my full-length mirror.

Go Jules Go Mt Bachelor 2 June 2019

Do my arms really look like that? And my back? Is it the bra? Oh god. I can’t wear my hair up like this. Look at my double chin.

I yanked the bobby pins out of my side bun. Two months of calorie counting, weight lifting, yoga, and running 50 miles a week, and the reflection in the mirror still betrayed me. I settled on a red floral shirt, dark wash jeans, and a low ponytail.

“I’ll be there at 4:30 to pick you up, if that still works,” I texted my friend, Meghan.

“What are you wearing?” she replied.

I snapped a selfie, strategically cutting out my arms, and surrendering to the fact that this was just as good as it was going to get today.

img_20200718_160433

When I pulled into Meghan’s driveway, she stepped outside in a jaw-dropping maroon dress, her hair and make-up perfect. Playboy bunny meets red carpet knock-out.

“You look gorgeous, as always,” I said, popping out of the car to give her a hug (we had decided weeks earlier that we were definitely “COVID family,” thus able to enjoy embraces).

I hoped I sounded sincere, because I was. Even if I suddenly felt even older and haggier than ever before. We spent the late afternoon enjoying outdoor live music at a lake lodge, every head turning as Meghan walked by, two men even stopping to ask if she was staying at the lodge. The afternoon beer eventually turned into an al fresco “frosé” (frozen rosé) at a bar closer to home.

Frose
Okay then. I guess it’s a thing.

“Those guys keep looking over here,” Meghan giggled, her eyes fixed on a few men behind me.

I tried to casually pivot, turning back to Meghan with a grin.

“You can say that again.”

“They’re leaving now,” she whispered a minute later.

One of them paused in front of Meghan, the final traces of daylight catching his rugged stubble.

“I just have to tell you, you look great,” he said earnestly, staring Meghan down.

“Thank you so much,” Meghan replied, her picture-perfect smile and big, bright eyes shining. “Where are you from?”

“Seattle,” he replied. “I’m here for a bachelor party and leaving tomorrow.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Meghan said, a wink in her voice. “What’s your name?”

“Scott,” he answered. After an awkward half beat, he glanced my way.

“I’m Julie,” I heard myself say. “Jules” felt too unfeminine.

Jules COVID mask from Sarah
I’ll just be over here. Behind my mask.

He immediately returned his attention to Meghan and I downed the last of my frosé. After he left, the server started putting up chairs and wiping down tables.

“Want to try The Lot?” Meghan asked, referring to another outdoor bar just two blocks away. “I think they’re open ’til 10.”

It was 9:30pm, which is when most of Bend shuts down on a Saturday night, international pandemic or not. As we headed to The Lot, a young man shouted out his car window to ask where we were going, his gaze fixed firmly on Meghan.

As soon as we reached our destination and approached the bar for a drink, three men descended.

“You have to come sit with us,” they insisted, practically dragging Meghan to their table.

I waited for our drinks and then sat down next to Meghan, tugging my high-waisted jeans over my gurgling stomach. We had skipped dinner and all I could think about was my couch, my dog, and the delicious cauliflower pizza I wished I was eating.

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200719154458421_cover
I’m coming for you, fake pizza.

Within five minutes, the three, scruffy-haired, patchouli-drenched men offered us mushrooms (which we politely declined) and told us about their Pacific Crest Trail through-hiking adventure.

“Because of those six months, we really learned how to read people,” the tallest, and youngest, of the crew said.

The cutest guy in the group had already cornered Meghan, forcing me to face the remaining two intoxicated men on my own. This is so not where I want to be right now.

“For example, I can tell that she,” the scruffiest and oldest one began, nodding towards Meghan, “is way more open and spontaneous than you. You’re really closed off.”

He went on for a minute and now had Meghan’s attention. Is this really happening? Are they going to keep talking about how this bombshell next to me is superior in every way, including her entire essence? 

“That’s no way to live,” they both went on. “You’re clearly so rigid and uptight.”

Meghan took one look at my face and interjected,

“We need more people like Jules. Jules is one of the greatest people I know and I always tell people about the dinner party I invited her to when we first met. She showed up with so much amazing wine and food and even labeled it in case anyone had allergies.”

Soy chorizo roll ups with ingredient card
Yeah. It’s kind of a thing I do.

By then I’d missed my opportunity for a graceful escape to the bathroom. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I am 38 years old, crying in front of strangers. In the middle of a bar. I eventually made it to the bathroom, with Meghan, and found myself saying,

“Yeah, I guess we can go with them to the dive bar downtown.” I can’t ditch you, and maybe I can redeem myself.

An hour later, Meghan was missing and Mushroom Man #3 was two inches from my face, shouting over the blaring music.

“I need you to hug me and prove you can connect on a deep, genuine level with another human being.”

“I’m good, thanks,” I said, staring at the shot of whiskey he had given me.

“Come on,” he persisted, and I wound up with my arms around his short, solid frame. A decision I’d later regret for many reasons, not the least of which involved reeking of incense for the rest of the night.

incense-milada-vigerova-Kfn2n0p6Lgc-unsplash
WHY DO YOU SMELL SO BAD? (Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash)

He wouldn’t let go, so I eventually pulled away, knowing I had -purposely- not given him what he was looking for.

“See, that still wasn’t genuine,” he said. “You’re so closed off. You’re living your life all wrong.”

“I think we’re more alike than you think we are,” I replied, knowing all of the bold, terrifying leaps of faith I’d taken over the past several years.

“No, we’re nothing alike,” he retorted, staring directly into my eyes. “You’re never going to experience what life has to offer if you don’t open up.”

My eyes filled for the second time in as many hours.

What if he’s right? Why can’t I be one of those women who goes on spontaneous camping trips, seduces strange, stubbly men, and embraces her mismatched hangers?

…Why can’t I be a little less me and a little more Meghan?

As I felt the hot tears trickle down my face, Meghan returned.

“He’s being mean again,” I said shakily, reduced to a toddler’s verbal range. “So I’m leaving, and you can come if you want.”

I bolted out the nearest door and pushed through the 20-somethings scattered on the bar’s back deck.

“How the hell did this night happen?” I wondered as I made the long, solo trek back to my car, choking back sobs and grateful that I’d sobered up so I could get home safely.

As I passed through Drake Park, the midnight sprinklers pivoted, drenching me. I almost laughed. Well isn’t this cinematic. I pictured the scene from The Holiday where Kate Winslet bends over her gas stove range, turning on a burner and inhaling deeply. She quickly chokes, running to the window, cracking it open and sighing,

“Low point.”

Kate Winslet The Holiday low point

Low point, Julie Jules, low point.

As soon as I got home and opened my apartment door, Uncle Jesse lavished me with licks and whines, watching curiously as I sat on the couch and wept – as deeply and fully as I’d wanted to all night. When I ran out of tears, I went to the fridge and fixed my long-awaited dinner, surprised that I had no urge to open a bottle of wine.

The cauliflower crust immediately crumbled into 17 pieces as I tried to flip it and I felt like crying all over again. Why does everything always fall apart?

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200714191651803_cover
Holy melodramatic, Mom.

“I’m home, are you okay?” Meghan texted a little after 1am. “I’m so sorry I didn’t leave with you. I came outside, and you were already gone.”

“I’m glad you’re home safely,” was all I could manage.

I collapsed into bed a short while later, clinging to my favorite life line as I drifted into dream land.

Maybe this will all be funny tomorrow.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, PSAs

Calling All Creativity

Go Jules Go title graphic Calling All Creativity_8JUL20

“This is one of the highlights of my week,” I grinned, staring at my laptop camera lens. Does it look creepy when I do that?

“Mine, too,” Karla replied with trademark sincerity.

We said goodnight and each retreated back to our respective lives – mine in central Oregon and Karla’s in central New Jersey.

“The tacos here are amazing,” Karla gushed.

“Oh my god, I love them, too,” I agreed. 

We both spoke loudly over the din of a sprawling Mexican restaurant known for their cheap -but strong- margaritas and piping hot, freshly fried tortilla chips. 

“I used to be a cruise ship director,” Karla began once our food had arrived. 

I nearly dropped my fork. Whenever I was forced to dine dined with my Big Pharm colleagues, stories usually began with, “I majored in biology in college” or, “I first discovered my love of Bunsen burners when…” I would smile and nod and wait for the inevitable confusion when I shared my own background: “Well… I have a degree in creative writing…”

Karla finished her story and I stared at her for a long moment.

“You HAVE to turn this into a memoir.”

“You know, I’ve always thought I might do that,” she said.

And thus, a creative seed was planted.

That was 2011, and it would take nine years, but eventually the universe brought Karla and I together with the joint purpose of nurturing that seedling.

It all happened after I began teaching a creative writing coaching class.

Seriously Funny Blog Widget

When Kris Tucker, an instructor from my Masters program and founder of Creative Writing with Kris, approached me about teaching the class, I felt utterly unqualified and certain it would lead nowhere. But before long, someone signed up. And then Karla signed up.

“Oh my god, is it memoir time?!” I wondered.

Karla cheers
You bet your sweet chipmunks it is.

Suddenly, all of the stories that had peppered our conversations for so long began taking form. Karla was turning out page after page. It was happening.

“That’s the thing about dreams,” I said one evening to Karla during a weekly video chat. “They never go away.”

Dreams will haunt us or heal us, and we have the power to decide which one it’s going to be.

Whether or not your dreams feel “artistic,” rest assured they’re steeped in creativity, and our world would be a little less colorful without them. We need them brought to life just as much as you do.

When I started this blog nine years ago -another small, seemingly insignificant act- I had no idea it would change my entire life. And you don’t have to know either. Just start somewhere. Anywhere.

GoJulesGo first blog post
My very first blog post. Don’t be afraid to leverage pets and/or children.

And speaking of helping each other realize our dreams…

If you’d like to help artists struggling during the COVID-19 crisis, here are a few handpicked places where your generosity will be put to good use:

Artists Relief fundraiser logo

Artist Relief

Endorsed by The New York Times, Artist Relief will distribute $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19; serve as an ongoing informational resource; and co-launch the COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, designed by Americans for the Arts, to better identify and address the needs of artists.

Arts Leaders of Color Emergency Fund

Arts Leaders of Color Emergency Fund

Through their GoFundMe page, you can help the Arts Leaders of Color reach their $100,000 goal in support of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists AND administrators (consultants, facilitators, box office staff, seasonal/temporary employees, etc.) who have been financially impacted due to COVID-19.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund

If you’ve ever experienced the awe of watching the curtains part on a Broadway (or any live) show, you’re probably having trouble imagining a world where all of New York City’s iconic theaters have gone dark. Help shed a little light by donating here. Your support will provide urgent additional resources for the vital social service programs of The Actors Fund, including emergency financial assistance, health insurance, counseling and the operation of The Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts.

For more ideas on ways to help artists, check out this wonderful blog post.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, Lists, PSAs

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

IMG_4884

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.

IMG_4881

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.

IMG_4872

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.

IMG_4882

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.)

IMG_4888

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.

IMG_4874

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…)

IMG_4885

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.

IMG_4873

~*~*~*~*~*~

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.

IMG_4886

~*~*~*~*~*~

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, 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?

~*~*~*~*~