Blogging

Keeping My Chin(s) Up

Go Jules Go Keepig My Chins Up Title Graphic 5JUN2019

“Is that what I look like?” I asked.

Babs tilted her phone towards me so I could take a closer look at the photo she’d just snapped.

“I look cute!” I marveled, grabbing the phone from her hands.

“You are cute,” she replied in typical mom fashion.

I stared at the picture for another moment. Huh. I hadn’t wanted her to take the photo. I was sitting on her back porch in hiking gear, eating snacks, feeling grimy and gross and shiny and pudgy.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when I am Feeling. My. Self. This was not one of them.

The next day, I sat in a plastic chair, sweat starting to pool at the base of my spine. Three fiery orange lights pointed directly at my foil-covered head.

“Just a few more minutes,” a woman in a black smock said with a smile, disappearing to concoct more ammonia-scented tinctures behind closed doors.

What am I doing? Why am I spending 3+ precious hours -not to mention hundreds of dollars- stuck inside on this beautiful June day, covered in chemicals, flipping through a magazine in order to learn more about Mark Hamill’s ill-fated marriage?

Did I think perfect highlights would give me that I Feel Pretty moment?

Amy Schumer I Feel Pretty
Photo credit

What was I really after every time someone snapped a group selfie and I insisted they take it from atop Mount Everest, or I decided to drop half a month’s rent on a universally accepted, if questionable, beauty ritual?

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Does this color bring out the desperation in my eyes?

In two days, I drive 2,780 miles to a new city that I intend to call home – at least for the next year.

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This is exciting. This is terrifying. As someone who, in the span of five years, lost her job, got divorced, moved three times, got dumped twice, started a new job, had a life-changing epiphany and went vegan, enrolled in (and finished) grad school, gave up a kitchen in favor of tiny living, quit her aforementioned new job, and sold all of her stuff, I’m still every bit as scared as ever to try something new.

Much like bravery -that thing you only have because you’re willing to sh*t your pants on a regular basis (…hang on, is that not how the saying goes?)- confidence isn’t an unwavering friend, staring you back in the mirror murmuring, “You got this.”

Confidence skirts behind bullied childhoods and face palm-inducing moments. Confidence comes as quickly as she goes, and holding onto her sometimes feels like reaching for that perfect hair day. There is no perfect hair day.

“See this?” I held up my phone to Babs, having just finished the 3+ hour follicle-torture ritual. “This is all lies.”

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“No, it isn’t! You just took that photo. I was sitting right next you!” she said with a sideways glance.

I snapped another picture, holding it underneath my face, sunlight highlighting every chin and their respective hairs.

“I also just took this one.”

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I don’t have the original photo because I deleted it as quickly as they canceled My So-Called Life. I hope you’ll accept this as a passable reenactment given that it took me four hours to decide I was willing to post it.

Babs looked at my phone and laughed.

In two days, I’m going to remind myself that during every one of those 2,780 miles, I have a choice. I can decide to see myself as the girl with 8,000 chins unforgivable flaws, incapable of making new friends in a new town -or- as the unstoppable girl woman brimming with something even more intoxicating than confidence: self-love.

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How do you keep a brave face?

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Blogging, humor, New Jersey is breathtaking

Home is Where the Start Is

Home is where the start is Go Jules Go title graphic_22MAY2019

“I haven’t gotten to bed at a reasonable hour in at least a week,” my sister, Lori, said, sliding into the driver’s seat of my car.

She pressed the “2” button on the armrest of my car door. After picking her up and explaining the floppiness of my sandals, she offered to drive the rest of the way to dinner where we were meeting a couple of friends.

My certified preowned Acura had proved worth its weight in gold over the past four years. Lori enjoyed the extra leg room her button press provided, using my car’s pre-programable driver’s seat position feature. It only allowed for two pre-programmed seat positions, and, well, I haven’t dated anyone in over two years shut up she was my number two.

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Although Jackson was definitely in the running.

Earlier in the week, one of Lori’s two indoor cats had taken off on an impromptu rumspringa, and between that, raising teenage twins, working as a 6th grade teacher, and recently cutting sugar from her diet, things were looking bleak.

“Well…I still don’t have anything to blog about for tomorrow…,” I offered meekly. “I was thinking about doing something about gratitude… Mostly since Grayson [your spoiled, jerk, OMG-I-love-him-so-much cat] is back!”

Go Jules Go Grayson the cat
“Oh that’s right. A warm bed and regularly timed meals appeal to me.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about all that I’m thankful for because many of those things I’m about to leave behind. I haven’t made any splashy announcements, but in two weeks, I leave the only state I’ve ever really called home.

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Me earlier this year, drunk thrilled to have caught the final train home to New Jersey after a New York City trip to visit a bloggy friend.

At first, signing a lease on an apartment 3,000 miles away felt amazing. I knew that feeling wouldn’t last. Because I love my life. I love my friends. I love my family. I love stupid New Jersey property taxes and stupid good bagels and the stupid feeling that I’m only ever seconds away from SOMETHING.

dear evan hansen
Today’s plans: this Broadway show. I AM SO SPOILED.

Yet at the same time I know -in that way you just DO- that moving cross-country is perfectly, exactly right. Goodbye a-hole adorable cats, goodbye #2 seat, goodbye everything bagels.

Except not really.

If quitting my corporate job in March and traveling for the past three months has taught me anything, it’s this: the world is a small place. And you’ll always have a home in it.

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Also apparently when you tell your friends you’re moving cross-country they just start buying you wine.

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Have you ever made a big move? How did it go?

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Blogging, PSAs

When the Bridge Appears

When the Bridge Appears Go Jules go title graphic_15MAY2019

Ah, crap. If I keep going this way, the sidewalk is going to end, and the cars whip around the next corner like they’ve got a death wish. MY death wish… 

I was on mile nine of one of my daily half marathons -a favorite past-time since resigning from corporate America two months ago– and fretting over the pedestrian “F You” I was about to encounter.

…But if I turn around, I’ve got to go alllll the way back to that other sh*tty spot…

Just at that moment, my most recent audiobook uttered the phrase “addiction to worry.”

…Then when I get home I still have to write a blog post. Ugh. I have nothing to write about. …Is that a rain drop? Not again…

I spotted a worn down gravel path veering away from the main road. What the…? I hadn’t been on this particular road in years, but certainly this path had always been there. It seemed to wind through someone’s front yard, yet was clearly meant for foot traffic. Stepping onto it cautiously, Uncle Jesse and I soon turned a corner and faced a sweet little covered bridge, connecting the gravel path to a cul-de-sac.

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Once again dazzled by the treasures my long walks often gifted me, I stopped to snap a couple of pictures and investigate a nest tucked into one of the supporting beams. This little bridge would ensure that I stayed on safe sidewalks for the next mile or so.

“Worrying is like playing the slots every day,” Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, continued. “Or worrying about the stock market crashing. Eventually, you’ll ‘win’ big. You’ll be right.”

Hendricks described the difference between worrying about things you can actually control -like someone who’s stepping on your foot- versus things you can’t. Most of the things we worry about, he said, are entirely outside of our control – because we make them up (what Brene Brown calls “rehearsing tragedy”). We imagine things going wrong because we all hit a certain happiness level and then subconsciously sabotage ourselves. Something inside of us -picked up from our early years, like most things- believes we’re only allowed a limited level of joy and success. How many times have you felt the high of a healthy lifestyle, only to gorge on potstickers and late-night Fuller House episodes (…just me)?

I thought about how I’d spent the past two months since leaving my full-time job: Ensconced in utter freedom, with plenty of money saved to travel, relax and enjoy my favorite things and people.

But what did I mostly do?

Worry.

How long will my savings really last? What will I do after that? Where am I going to live? What if I’m alone for the rest of my life? What if I wind up right back where I started? Why am I so lazy? 

I recalled countless moments where I’d caught myself having imaginary conversations that ended with me feeling angry, defeated, ‘less than’ or all of the above. When I downloaded this latest audiobook, I knew I needed to revisit some of the lessons I’d learned over the past few years. Gratitude. Visualization. Breathing.

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And a little Zac Efron fantasy never hurt.

It wasn’t hard to think of a million and one reasons to thank my lucky stars. Heck, just thinking of my Netflix queue brought a tear to my eye. The much harder part was believing I was worthy of this delicious slice of life. Was I doing my part for the planet, for society? Was it actually okay to quit a steady job, uproot my entire life, and hike every day? Was I leveraging my gifts and talents in a meaningful way? What I was really asking, of course, was, “Am I good enough?”

I stared at the little red covered bridge a while longer, remembering all of the bridges that had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, over the past year. Some literal, some not. Certainly if those bridges could talk, they would have said:

Duh bridge Go Jules Go Of course we’re all good enough. Why else are we here? As one of my very favorite passages goes, from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, “We did not come all this great distance, and make all this great effort, only to miss the party at the last moment.”

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So let’s party.

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How do you manage the addiction to worry? 

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humor

I Met Slomo!

Go Jules Go I Met Slomo Title Graphic 19MAR2019

I lick my lips for the 47th time in an hour and look around. My mouth is so dry that I’m fantasizing about lip balm pots like they’re purple beads on Mardi Gras. My surroundings do little to distract me.

Girl with feet on back of seat, head on knees, sound asleep. How is that comfortable?

Impossibly tiny child watching Monsters, Inc. on an iPhone. I never knew they made headphones that small. Whenever I get up to pee, she places her doll, Bella, in my chair to “save my seat.”

A clean-shaven man in a crisp white shirt plugging away at his laptop, pausing during each draft email, carefully considering what precedes, “Regards, Bill Baker, CPA.” God, I don’t miss Outlook.

I look at my insulated water bottle, concave from the cabin pressure. If I take another sip, I risk having to use the bathroom. Again. I swallow and look at the top lefthand corner of my phone. Again. Three more hours.

When I booked the “super saver airfare” a month earlier, I had only one thought in mind: getting out of Jersey.

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The face you make when your ride to the airport hands you guilty pleasure reading, and you don’t yet realize you’re holding a memorial tribute.

Now, after six days in San Diego visiting friends and family, I’m just a few hours from home.

Home.

Or… not. If home is the place where you pay rent, then I only have ten days left to call New Jersey my own. After that, I face a knee-wobbling series of unknowns that has me questioning… EVERYTHING.

What if I was wrong? What if I don’t know myself after all? What if, along with every shred of familiarity and security, I’ve also tossed out my sanity? Who does this? Who, at 36, quits her full-time job, sells all of her stuff, and starts over?

I take a deep breath and press my head into the seat, careful not to touch the recline button lest I invade anyone else’s space even more. I think about the words I heard just a few days earlier, southern California sun on my skin, salt air in my lungs, and rollerblades on my feet.

“Love is the most important thing,” a leather-skinned man said in an easy, Southern accent. “And honor is like the knight, protecting it.”

When my friend Tracy and I spotted him on the Pacific Beach boardwalk -as I had shamelessly hoped we would- he immediately beckoned us over.

(I’m not saying you should watch that whole video…but you should watch that whole video.)

“You’re laughing,” Slomo drawled, skipping over any normal introduction or pleasantries and diving right into a line of thought he seemed to have been working on for years. “Having a sense of humor is so important. Always vote for the guy who still has a sense of humor.”

I thought back to another older man who had recently approached my sister and I at a bar.

“Do ya know why I came over here?” he had asked. We had been immediately taken by his twinkling blue eyes and Irish accent. After we’d failed to produce an adequate answer, he had continued, “B’cause you were laughin’.”

I purse my chapped lips and my pulse steadies, reliving both conversations. I close my eyes and breathe in through my nose, letting the air slide back out as smoothly as Tracy’s skates on the San Diego sidewalk.

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Love and laughter. Yes. That’s why I’m doing this.

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Just For Fun, Wipe the Drool

Poking Holes in Fear-Based Living

Go Jules Go Poking Holes in Fear Based Living Title Graphic 6MAR2019

I stared at the form on my lap, heart racing. Was my handwriting even legible?

I hadn’t been planning to fill out such a form so soon, but as had been the case with most things recently, an opportunity had arisen out of the blue. In fact, the minute I had decided to take inspired actions towards my dream life, chance meetings and synchronistic events tumbled forward like coins from a lucky slot machine. The more I acknowledged and embraced them, the more followed – all like little winks from the universe.

Let it be known, however, that stepping down Fate’s path isn’t always easy, even when all of the arrows are neon pink and screaming your name.

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I mean literally. I find things like this all of the time now.

Usually after I acknowledge a coincidental opportunity, panic sets in and I think of all of the seemingly logical reasons to stay firmly planted in The Known. Then, a familiar internal battle begins: C’mon, Jules. This is how this works. If you want a different life, you have to do things differently. DO NOT LET FEAR WIN. This has been on your bucket list for fifteen years!

I took a deep breath and handed in my form to the spiky-haired woman behind the counter.

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With that gesture, my tight, sweaty grip on Control released by another inch, allowing my frenemy, Flow, to take over.

I’m really doing this. At 36 years old, I’m really letting a 5-foot-2 man named “Pop” drive a needle through my nose at 6pm on a Thursday. What are his qualifications? Did he go to school for this? Why does he want to stab women with sharp objects? Wow, he really does seem excited about this…

After marking my nose with a purple pen -twice, to get it juuuust right- Pop told me to close my eyes and take a deep breath.

“Wow, that was a good one!” he said.

“I’ve been doing yoga,” I replied. “Is it in?”

“Well, the needle is.”

I clenched the sides of the chair and decided, for what seemed like the 20th time in two minutes, not to pass out.

Pop deftly finished up and then dabbed a tissue at the corner of my left eye.

“Everyone always sheds a tear. Here, have a look!”

He handed me a mirror and I smiled, surprised.

“It’s hardly even red!”

Normally prone to rashes at the slightest irritant (or out of thin air), it was as though my body had been waiting for this new accessory. Within two hours, it seemed like it had always been there. Every time I glanced in the mirror, I felt like I was seeing the real me.

Go Jules Go nose piercing convo with Jenn
Jenn sings like an angel AND sees inside my soul.

The great part about doing things that scare the pee out of you is that it DOES get easier each time. And I’m now something of an expert at homemade saline solution.

…Oh, what’s that? You wanted to see a picture? I didn’t take any of th—

Next up? Pink highlights. Stay tuned.

(Psssst – I just added a new The Vegan Dollar video featuring my new face jewelry tiny house tour! #shamelesscrosspromotion)

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What bucket list item is FEAR keeping you from?!

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Blogging, tiny living

Tiny Living vs. Living Small

go jules go_tiny living vs living small title graphic 23jan2019

It’s eight steps from my living room loveseat to the bathroom.

Seven steps from the bathroom to my bed.

Twenty-four steps -two flights down- from my kitchenette to the front door.

Over the past fourteen years, since graduating college, I’ve moved five times, had eight jobs, four broken hearts, one marriage, one divorce, run two marathons, lost and gained several hundred pounds, said goodbye to five loved ones (including one dog), written two books and 407 blog posts, gotten two advanced degrees, and traveled to three different continents.

Sometimes when things feel stale or stagnant, I review that list and remember: life is always changing. A notion that used to send me into the fetal position now puts a skip in my step. Thank god things are always changing.

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Otherwise I’d still be dressed like this.

No matter how many things we try to track and count, or how many boxes we tick on the Checklist of Life, we’ll never be able to control that one constant – change. Nor will we ever arrive at some magic moment, proclaiming, “Ah, okay, done now!”

When I moved to my 350-square foot apartment in November 2017, the only thing I was sure of was that one chapter was ending and another was beginning.

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Also, that I’d save a butt-ton of these.

I was terrified, but determined. After all, if I wanted a different sort of life, I was going to need to do things, well, differently. Of course, I still placated myself with thoughts like, “If you hate it, Jules, you can leave whenever you want and go back to living with an actual oven.”

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Totally overrated. Photo credit

I needed to tell myself things like that because I still didn’t trust The Grand Unknown. I still didn’t really believe the old adage, “The path will appear when you take the first step.” I always wanted a Plan B, a back-up, something I could measure and rely on. So often we look for sure things and guarantees, favoring our logical, expensively-educated brains, while missing what I’m starting to believe is the entire reason we’re inhabiting these funny flesh sacks in the first place: to follow our hearts.

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Right, Darren Criss?

Who says our hearts are unreliable, anyway? Have you ever tried tackling a tough question by getting still, taking a few deep breaths, and sinking down into that space within your chest? That space that says: You are enough. You can do anything. Your dreams matter. You are loved.

Isn’t that the voice who should always dictate our next steps?

There are still many days where I straddle the line between my heart and my head. Not sure if that’s you, too? In my experience, it feels a little something like this: Hope vs. desperation. Giddiness vs. dread. Authenticity vs. fraud. Ease vs. restlessness. A life of seeming forward momentum and social media-worthy accomplishment vs. that huge part of you that just wants to scream:

“STOP!”

Do you ever imagine standing up in the middle of a busy day and doing just that?

Then you could walk five steps to the fridge, fill three water bottles, and take your one dog two flights of stairs down to your one car. You could drive hundreds of miles until you reached the infinite woods.

There, you could hike countless miles and relish innumerable sights and sounds. You could consider your endless blessings, remember your boundless spirit, and realize your limitless potential.

Because counting only matters when you’re living small.

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On second thought, the hike might have to wait.

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How do you deal with The Grand Unknown? (Hey, come out of that corner, you. It’s safe over here. I have bean dip!)

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Blogging, tiny living

The In Between

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Oh, Chipmunks. There are going to be some epic adventures to share this year; I can scarcely wait. For starters, I can pretty much guarantee nudity.

Right now, though, as I nurse my 8,000th cold in the past two months, I have that strange feeling… I bet you know the one. I call it “the in-betweens.” Nestled under blankets and a heating pad, with Uncle Jesse curled by my knee, it’s as though some invisible hand has pressed the pause button.

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Or is it the “paws” button?

Scared, exhilarated, exhausted and excited after an epic year of goal-crushing, travel, mind-blowing metaphysical exploration, closure, new and rekindled friendships, I’m sipping lukewarm coffee that I know should be tea, trying to just breathe and be. To see the beauty and blessing in this time out. Not every moment is meant to be go-Jules-go-go. There’s a gift within these gray January months, when signs of spring seem unforgivably absent.

Things are always moving, shifting, growing. Even when we can’t see it.

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Still so much love on my daily walks with UJ.

So in this time of unknowns, limitless possibility and quiet, I thought I’d share something ‘in between’ nothing and my normal blog posts.

Flaw-less

I watched a video last night of an artist sculpting

A face from clay.

She measured down the middle first

and pointed out

where the eyes should go.

Then she measured side to side

and explained the placement of

the nose

Depending on gender.

 

Now I’m watching a film

and

I’m seeing the angles

that should be invisible.

“I must be so smart

to see this,”

I think, patting myself on the back.

I feel my ego stroked

as I touch this back that can be measured

In inches and vertebrae

without ever truly knowing

The space in between.

February 26, 2018

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