humor

Carving a Way: Lessons Learned from a Lifetime of Pumpkin Carving

Right now I’m staring down a bright orange, symmetrical pumpkin. “CARVE ME,” he’s whispering seductively. As I consider this new blank canvas, I can’t help but think back on all of the carvings I’ve done over the years decades. Sure, there are the actual carvings

But then there’s the other kind, too. The pathways -relationships, careers, goals- we carve out for ourselves one stroke at a time. Wouldn’t it be great if we always knew the outcome when we set out with starry eyes and orange-handled knives? Or if someone gave us a book of patterns and all we had to do was choose our favorite one?

I’ll take option b(utt), please.

What if pumpkin carving lessons were actually life lessons we could learn from? Oh wait…

WARNING: Heavy-handed metaphors ahead.

LESSON #1 – Give Yourself Room to Breathe

Have you ever cut open the top of your pumpkin only to realize you can’t actually fit your hand inside to scoop out the guts? But you keep trying anyway? Several minutes later, with an aching paw, you face the inevitable and carve a larger hole, hoping it doesn’t infringe on your carving territory.

Lately, I’ve realized how often I say ‘yes’ to things only to later have to backpedal with profuse apologies and gut-wrenching guilt. Instead of knowing ahead of time that I need more space -in order to thrive, grow, and create- I dive into commitments and invitations blindly, not wanting to disappoint anyone. In the end, I wind up bruised and frustrated. The beauty of making this mistake so many times, though, is that I’m starting to learn just where the line needs to go.

Sorry. No can do. Working on a masterpiece here.

LESSON #2 – Prepare to Laugh at Yourself

If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin, you’ve probably had that “oh sh*t” moment when a crucial piece falls inside or your crescent moon winds up looking more like a misshapen croissant. Right then, time and effort (and maybe a few bucks) feel wasted.

Much like the $40 you spent on that pet torture device.

I have an independent streak as wide as Bob Ross’s fro, especially when it comes to pumpkin carving. Only a Jules original will do. Which means…my patterns usually suck at least a little. But I don’t care. Because they’re mine.

One of the very best things about having this blog -besides how it connects me to you- is that it allows me to view every experience through a humorist’s lens. Dating, celebrity obsessions, missing thumbs, more dating… it’s all GREAT. The more embarrassing, the better.

LESSON #3 – The Right Tools Will Help You Succeed

Bigger is always better, right? Yeah, maybe when it comes to your Halloween candy haul, but definitely not when it comes to pumpkin carving knives. Those itty, bitty, jagged knives you find inside the $4.99 carving kits are actually the best! They’re sharper than a vampire’s fangs and handle detail really well.

Even in 2011, Uncle Jesse the Doodle Dog knew he’d score some pumpkin guts if he waited long enough.

Last winter, I was extremely depressed. For months. By the time I started to turn a corner, a global pandemic slammed us. This year, I decided to arm myself with a fully loaded toolkit to combat those winter blues. (It also helps that I won’t be kicking off the season by moving during a ridiculous snowstorm.) I’ve got plans to see family for Christmas (unlike last year), a backlog of exciting creative projects, and a car that doesn’t slide down icy hills. Bring it, Winter 2020.

But maybe don’t bring it too much.

LESSON #4 – There’s ALWAYS a Messy Part

Before you can even start carving, there’s the decidedly sticky process of ripping out your pumpkin’s guts. I hate this part. Everyone hates this part.

If you don’t hate this part, I’m very concerned for you and also will you please come over and help me with my pumpkin?

An hour later, though, the gooey gore is a distant memory as you sit cross-legged in your darkened closet, shouting for the nearest family member to come admire your handiwork.

“Guys. GUYS. It’s UNCLE JESSE. *PLAYING UNO.* …Why? I don’t need a ‘why’!!!”

This life lesson is one of the more obvious, but it bears repeating. Just like the old “caterpillar into a butterfly” metaphor, anything beautiful that I have ever carved -in pumpkins or in life- has only come after “the goo stage.”

LESSON #5 – …And There’s ALWAYS a Light at the End Bottom of the Tunnel Jack-o-Lantern

What’s that? You took your lopsided croissant moon and turned it into a full moon? Your one-fanged vampire has decided to embrace his flaws? Your black cat looks creepier without a tail? You did it! You figured out life!

Because your life IS a work of art.

Even when it isn’t.

Very little ever goes according to plan, even when we have the perfect tools, the perfect pattern, the perfect pumpkin. But if you can roll with it? Your (jack-o-lantern) light will shine brighter than them all.

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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humor, tiny living

11 BIG LESSONS from tiny living

11 Big Lessons from tiny living Go Jules Go v2It’s been a little over six months since I downsized from a 1,200 square foot duplex to a 350 square foot apartment. Before that, I lived in a 4-bedroom house on over two acres. I even had a barn, for crying out loud. While I was so excited to walk the talk in living more minimally (shout out to Mother Earth, ya’ll!), not to mention saving a boatload of money, I was also, um, er, what’s the word(s)? Oh, right.

Scared sh*tless.

Third floor walk-up? No yard? No parking? No laundry? No oven?? What was I thinking???

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Was this going to be like the time I put ketchup in my hair?

From my summer-long search I learned that studio apartments in this area, close to a major train line bringing well-dressed commuters into New York City, were in high demand. When I stumbled upon this one after two months of scouring the internet, I knew I had to pounce.

Within an hour of seeing the ad on Craigslist, I met with the landlord, beating out over thirty other interested callers in that first day. (It may have helped that I came equipped with my credit report, five references, my three most recent pay stubs, my dog’s vet records, an irresistible photo of said dog, and my current Masters degree transcript. This project manager don’t play.)

When the landlord confessed she was a dog lover, Uncle Jesse and I had no choice but to sign the deposit check right then and there.

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Finding a pet friendly rental in New Jersey is like finding a full bottle of champagne in my fridge.

Make no mistake about it, this decision wasn’t easy. The down-sizing itself was a down-right pain in the chipmunk tail. I got it in my head that the best way to sell my stuff was to turn my entire apartment into an Amazon warehouse and hold an “estate” sale.

I also thought it made sense to spend hours of time, and $14.00 on glass knobs I just had to have, to makeover old furniture that I’d inherited for free before trying to sell it on Craigslist.

We won’t even talk about the box spring that somehow got into my old apartment, but met an untimely demise trying to come out of the very same apartment.

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Here lies Box Spring. 2006-2017. Rest in peace. (Get it? “Lies”? “Rest” in peace?)

To make things even more exciting, the move coincided with the week I was supposed to cycle up a mountain in Arizona with, um, inadequate training.

And it was no small (heh) feat to turn 350 square feet of this:

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Into this:

Go-Jules-Go-Tiny-Living-AFTER

So by now you must be thinking:

Was it worth it?”

Let’s find out, shall we?

11 Big Lessons from tiny living Go Jules Go v2

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase the linked product, at no additional cost to you. I only ever link to products that I truly love. Like this.

1. I Don’t Miss Any of the Stuff I Got Rid Of

To be fair, there’s still a mountain molehill of boxes and pieces of my dining room table in my parents’ basement, but those 87,000 picture frames? GOOD RIDDANCE.

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Don’t worry. I kept the important things.

2. Now I Wish I Had Even Less Stuff

Do I really need two giant Tupperware containers of gift wrapping supplies? I don’t even give gifts. I just show up and take things from people.

Like the good old days when I took all of your photos of your pets wearing slap bracelets.

3. I Feel (Almost) As Free as a Bird Flying Chipmunk

Whenever I move again, I’m excited to see how fast I can pack up. Could I ever live out of a duffle bag?

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This guy does it. Photo credit

4. Climbing Two Flights Only Sucks if You’re Carrying a Case of Wine #worthit

I wound up finding an old laptop backpack as I went through all of my crap before moving, and have devised a nearly hands-free strategy for getting my work supplies, coffee, water bottle, lunch and dog down the stairs and around the corner holding only a leash. I can park in a reserved spot right by my door on nights and weekends, so I plan my grocery trips around that.

Not paying for that parking spot during the day? = $1,200/year extra to spend on wine. (I’m not making this up. Twelve. Hundred. Dollars!)

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YAAAS.

5. It’s Totally Cool to Wear Those Pants Twice in a Row

I fear this strategy has only worked well because it’s been winter.

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I’m sorry if I’m oversharing. Just kidding. That’s what I do here.

6. You Can Cook an Entire (Vegan) Thanksgiving Dinner with Two Electric Burners, an InstaPot and a Toaster Oven

This might be my proudest accomplishment since running that marathon peeing on that cottage in Maine.

7. People Honk…A LOT

I live on a busy street now, near the center of town, and I can’t believe how often people lay on their horns with the determination of a gaggle of hipsters waiting in line for boozy brunch. I have to shut the windows if I want to ensure I hear every word of John Mulaney’s new Netflix special (OMG WATCH IT).

On the flip side, it means the train, great restaurants, coffee, and Trader Joe’s are all just a few steps away.

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Half of my remaining possessions: Trader Joe’s bags.

8. Living Next Door to a Catholic Church Will Not Make You More Godly

Speaking of unexpected noises, my nearby nuns are still messing with me at all hours, despite the anonymous letter I may or may not have sent a month ago.

Church-bells

9. “Need” and “Want” Are Two Very Different Things

When you don’t have any space to put anything, you’ve gotta decide pretty quickly if it’s a “need” or a “want.” For example, I need to bathe once a month, but I probably just want those pug slippers.

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Photo credit

10. If I Can Do This, I Can Do Anything…Like Cut My Own Hair

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I mean, how hard can it be?

I recently found out that watching six minutes of a YouTube instructional video and then cutting your hair in a mirror using scissors meant for a righty that you found in the back of your dresser was more bold than wise. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my ‘stache, it’s that hair grows back. Often more quickly than you’d like.

11. If I Can Do This, I Can Do Anything…No, Really

Much like those who are bringing water to impoverished communities and winning Olympic gold medals, I too have learned that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it. Hang on. That came out wrong. I know this move wasn’t a missionary trip or a heroic act of strength, but taking this leap into the unknown has really galvanized my belief that most of our limitations are set only by our thoughts. So what if you don’t know what path will appear when you take that first next step? You’ve just got to have faith that the universe has your back.

Huh. Maybe that church is rubbing off.

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I always knew this photo would get a lot of mileage.

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What lifestyle changes have you made that surprised you (for better or worse)?

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