humor

The First Damn Page

This is awful, this is awful, this is SO awful…

I adjusted my sports bra and sniffled. Everything hurt. And why was my nose running anyway?

Is this pavement getting HARDER?

I glanced at my watch. Oh, you’ve got to be f!%&@ kidding me. 0.67 miles?!

How did people do this? Why did people do this? Running had to be -positively no way around it abso-freaking-lutely- the worst possible idea since scorpion bowls.

But it seemed like such a good idea at the time…

It was 2014, and, newly divorced and influenced by a number of sporty friends, I’d decided to turn my daily walks into daily jogs. I’d never run more than a mile, and had nothing charitable to say about the “sport.” Psh. Sport. Masochism at its finest.

Despite my entire body screaming at me to come to my senses, I trudged onward. After I passed mile one and closed in on mile two, the strangest, most miraculous, most unexpected thing happened.

It. Stopped. Hurting.

I nearly keeled over from the shock of NOT WANTING TO KEEL OVER. Is this… can this… is this how people do this?!

I stand, er, lie corrected.

Within a few days, I went from never having run more than a mile to running six. In a row. And then a half marathon six weeks after that. And then a full marathon a few months later. I had cracked the code. I had done the thing that only DOING THE THING can show you:

The first mile is the hardest.

Okay so also [cycling] mile 100 is the hardest.

So is the first time you say to someone, “I don’t think this is working out.”

So is the first day on a new job when everyone is using lingo and technology that flies over your head.

So is the first moment you leave the known for the unknown.

In my experience, if I can get past the starting line, I’ve already won the race.

I’ve been thinking a lot about starts and finishes because springtime is so full of contrast, especially in Bend, Oregon. One minute you’re pulling up the zipper on your “puffy” coat (mandatory clothing in the Pacific Northwest), the next you’re sunning your shoulders on a local trail.

Bright, beautiful wildflowers begin to pop up in the most unexpected, seemingly inhospitable places – like between lava rock or thick sand. And even though it happens every year, springtime always feels like something brand new. A birth, rather than a rebirth.

Am I the rock or the flower? OR AM I BOTH? –Deep Thoughts with Go Jules Go

During the long, cold, fallow winter, it’s nearly impossible to remember that in a few months’ time, your neighbor will once again pull out the grill every night, the sound of squeaky wheels on concrete wafting through your open window.

During the lowest lows of heartache, job uncertainty, and loss, you feel like you’ll never begin again. Or perhaps it’s that long-held dream -the kind you’ve had for so long you don’t know who you’d be without it- whose fulfillment seems more unattainable with every passing day.

I’ve wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember. In fact, according to an article in the New York Times, 81% of Americans want to write a book. And almost no one does.

Why?

It’s that first damn page.

Sadly, so many times we never get to mile two and learn this ultimate life hack. Because the best part? Tackling the first mile of any race makes all the other “first miles” easier, too. 

Never in a million years did I envision my first published book being a cookbook. Let alone one that I (co) wrote, photographed, designed, and marketed – despite having zero expertise in any one of those categories.

It’s the hardest project I’ve ever undertaken. Every element involved a first step – something I’d never done before. I doubted myself in almost every moment.

Except when I asked these cuties to be on the cover. Zero doubts there.

Now that copies are about to land in people’s hands, and I experienced the unadulterated horror of seeing that my first news interview added 40 pounds and involved me eating my hair on air in a windy park for 60 seconds (and prompted a whole slew of, er, uncharitable comments from meat-loving locals), I’m battling another first: Putting myself out there – really, really out there. Which of course involves finding the confidence to keep saying, “I made this, it’s good, and I’m proud of it.” Which of course means saying, “I’m worthy.”

Still working on that one.

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

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported BEEFLESS CAKES at every stage. You’ve kept me from setting up permanent residence under a blanket. I love you!

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

humor

The Must Be Nices

It was another bright, sunny day in Bend, Oregon as I cruised down the main drag on my way home after a run. I passed the local elementary school and saw a dozen parents standing outside. I glanced at the clock: 2:30pm.

I came to a slow stop as a man leisurely crossed the street in front of me. Every parent was decked out in expensive, athletic-inspired clothing, and looked about 40 or older. They were all tall, thin, and their skin glowed. Any one of them could have graced the cover of I Ski a Lot, Have a $2,000 Skin Care Routine, and Never Had to Work a Crappy Job and Put My Kids in After School Care magazine.

“Wheeeee! Our parents funded our ‘whimsical taco holder’ start-up and it made millions – both of which we didn’t need in the first place!” (Photo by Eirik Uhlen on Unsplash)

“Must be nice,” I thought. Gah! No!

I stopped my inner monologue dead in its tracks. I had just had a discussion with a friend about the “Must Be Nices.” Those friends or family members who just can’t bear to celebrate other people’s successes. That neighbor or coworker who takes one look at the surface of someone else’s life and assumes that every aspect of it is easy breezy.

Oh really, Claire? Your boyfriend just flew you to Italy so you could stage this photo for InstaChat? (Photo by Kate Hliznitsova on Unsplash)

We all know that person, and we’ve all been that person.

WOW, Chad. I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU. (As seen on Monday at my local market.)

A few weeks later, once again on the way to my go-to running spot, I pulled up to a red light and noticed a man standing on the corner, holding a cardboard sign:

NEED WORK / FOOD / MONEY.

I had seen him before, and many other men holding similar signs, on that same corner. Over the past year, this sight had become more and more commonplace all over town. I felt a pang of shame and guilt every time I drove by or avoided eye contact.

La-la-la, if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

I used to wonder why on earth people would stand on street corners all day when surely there were better, safer methods and resources available. In the past, I’d felt fear, and even resentment, when passing by someone holding a sign asking for help. Why should I have to play by the rules and slog away in Cubicle City just to give my money away to someone who didn’t earn it?

After my jog, I popped into Whole Foods. When I pulled away, a woman was sitting in the grass near the exit, holding a sign that read, “Every bit helps.” I suddenly remembered I was carrying cash – a rarity when I’m out running. I pulled over and quickly jumped out, praying I wouldn’t get rear ended for stopping in such an awkward spot. I handed her what money I had.

Over the next two weeks, I couldn’t get her face out of my mind. Why didn’t I do that more often?

I mean we can’t take it with us.

Why was it so easy to focus on what I lacked instead of what I had? No matter what my circumstances, didn’t I have the power (and arguably, responsibility) to create a more just world through positive thoughts and actions? “A rising tide lifts all boats,” as they say.

In spiritual terms, as in tithing, I’ve often read that benevolent acts are returned tenfold. For every hug, encouraging word, and generous gesture you put out in the world, you get it back times ten.

While I’d hate for that to be my motivation, where else can you get that kind of return on investment?

After I handed the woman outside of Whole Foods money, we smiled at each other. She looked right into my eyes, and with more warmth and sincerity than I can muster when the line at Starbucks is too long, she said,

“May God bless you tenfold.”

What she didn’t say?

“Must be nice.”

humor

Before 40

Last week, I turned 39. So it might seem strange that I’m already thinking about my next birthday.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to age out of childhood. I was always more comfortable around adults, so naturally, I wanted to be one. I fantasized about being one of those cool older women, with gorgeous gray hair, rock climbing into my 60s, kicking ass and taking names.

Never mind that I’m terrified of heights and have never rock climbed a day in my life. IT’S MY FANTASY, OKAY?! (Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash)

What I didn’t anticipate was that I’d start having a midlife crisis in my 20s. By 30, my master plan of aging gracefully came to a screeching halt. I was freaking. The. Freak. Out.

What am I doing with my life? What’s the point of it all? What if I never figured “it” out?

The crisis, in many ways, continues to this day. Perhaps suggesting we have more of an existential, versus midlife, one on our hands. This can’t be it. This can’t be all there is. Accumulating baggage and trying to unload it. Accumulating more baggage, attempting to unload it. Over, and over, and over. An endless series of life lessons, distilled into messages that read like a crappy, floral-covered mug.

Love is the answer. Live in the moment. Breathe.

My 39th birthday was filled to the brim with love and celebration. It always feels deeply humbling and bittersweet to be on the receiving end of so much kindness. Face in the sunshine, puffy white clouds, heart full – full of gratitude, but also the knowing that every puffy white cloud casts a shadow. Darkness and light. Hope and despair. Two sides of the same coin, forced to exist together to hold any value.

And maybe that’s at the root of all of our crises. The idea that there’s anything to hold onto. A certain person. A certain age. A certain weight. A certain feeling. A certain bank balance. A certain outcome. In the quest for certainty, we miss out on so much.

So over the next 11 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, as I wind my way towards my biggest milestone birthday yet, I’m going to try something different. I’m NOT going to sit here and type out a list of all of the things I want to make happen before I turn 40, which was my original plan.

I’ve already checked countless boxes. Hiked/run/biked all the miles. Surpassed my own To Do lists. If any of that held the Key to Existence, Oprah would have interviewed me by now.

Annnnd still waiting.

The coming year will be as likely filled with promise as it is with heartache. There will be picture perfect moments with people who raise my spirits, and lonely nights with a bottle of wine that whispers, “You’re unlovable.” Suns will set and rise, and laughter will come and go, and instead of trying to hold onto any of it, this year, I’m just going to ride the waves.

F&@*. That sounds like a floral-covered mug.
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.

~*~*~*~*~*~

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

What’s the Hardest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

“Sooo, all we have to do is get right up there,” I said, pointing my camera towards the mountain looming in the distance.

“Easy,” Stefanie replied, grinning.

I was already breathing heavily from the first two miles. This central Oregon trail clearly had no intention of showing any mercy.

While the trailhead sign passively proclaimed the summit was six miles away, it didn’t specify the elevation gain during those six miles: 4,900 feet. 490 flights of stairs. Half of which was loose sand and lava rock, meaning you took at least two steps for every one step forward.

Thankfully, I had had several experienced friends and candid AllTrails reviewers warn me:

As Stefanie and I slogged up South Sister mountain this past Saturday, pausing often to catch our breath, I started singing Gnarls Barkley. After that, Maroon 5.

“Songs keep popping in my head,” I explained, realizing that this always happened when I wanted to separate my body from my mind.

Eventually I fell silent, but there was one song that just wouldn’t quit, even after we summited: Justin Timberlake’s “The Hard Stuff.”

Anybody can be in love on a sunny day
Anybody can turn and run when it starts to rain
And everybody wishes all the skies were blue
But that ain’t the kind of love I’m lookin’ to have with you
So give me the hard stuff

The kind that makes you real
I’ll be there when the storm comes
‘Cause I want the hard stuff
When they’re throwin’ sticks and stones
We can cut each other to the bone
I’m never gonna give you up
‘Cause I want the hard stuff (hard stuff)
Yeah I want the hard stuff (hard stuff, yeah)

Sure, my big toenails were currently undergoing a messy divorce with my feet, but you know what was really hard? Actual divorce. Sure, that celebratory beer was now looking to make an encore performance, but you know what was more nauseating? Telling everyone I loved in New Jersey that I was moving 3,000 miles away. Sure, my head was throbbing thanks to a faulty alarm and zero caffeine that morning, but you know what was even more painful? Losing my first real mentor to cancer.

I welcomed pain complemented by sweat, jokes, and lukewarm water. The kind of pain whose reward was almost always immediately apparent.

“I feel so lucky that I have strong enough legs to carry me up a mountain,” Stefanie mused, as if she could hear my thoughts.

I immediately recalled something The Byronic Man had said during last summer’s three day yoga and running retreat (you know, the one with the no clothes or cell service or booze).

“I know it sounds morbid,” he had begun, “But sometimes during a hard run, I’ll think about what it would be like if I couldn’t do this.”

As Stefanie and I slipped and stumbled our way back down the mountain, we gave a breathless hello to a handsome, wiry man perched on a dusty boulder. He, like everyone else, was taking a much-needed break during the final, grueling ascent.

“Not bad for a 45-year-old with two broken hips,” he grimaced.

“Wow,” I replied. I hope he doesn’t mean they’re broken right now. “Yeah, this is probably the hardest hike I’ve ever done!”

“I’ve done harder,” he said.

“Don’t say that!” I teased. “We were feeling really good about ourselves!”

Smuggy McSmuggersons.

As we continued downward, I thought again about the subjectivity of “hard.” As the above AllTrails reviewer so aptly put it, “Super hard for one person might be pretty doable for another.”

“Stef, do you know I’m closer to that guy’s age than I am to yours?”

Stefanie looked confused for a moment.

“Yeah,” I went on. “You’re 30, I’m 38, he’s 45.”

And it doesn’t matter at all, I thought.

Even on a trail notoriously described as, “THE HARDEST F@^*#*@% THING I’VE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE,” there were people of all ages passing us, including mountain goat-like runners shouting gleefully as they slid on piles of lava rock, “This is actually better than if it were all sand!”

So what really makes something hard? Is it simply a matter of perspective?

Because even at 10,000 feet, crossing a slushy glacier is looking, ah, difficult.

And once we achieve that higher perspective, do we always maintain it? Does scaling one mountain mean you’ve, in essence, scaled them all?

Or do we simply return home to a newer, hopefully slightly improved version of ourselves, now ready to find a taller mountain to climb?

If that’s the case, can I at least sit for a while first?

~*~*~*~*~*~

What’s the “hardest” thing you’ve ever done? Would you do it again?

~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating, humor, PSAs

My (Un)Funny Little Valentine

Go Jules Go Unfunny Valentine Title Graphic 12FEB20

“Tee hee!”

I glanced down. A long, white finger pressed into the soft flesh around my stomach.

“You say it!”

After a confused moment, I heard myself utter in a high-pitched voice, “Tee hee…”

My new boyfriend -the first I’d ever had, apart from the man I married (and, ten years later, divorced)- chuckled under his breath.

Frank and I were on our way to Chicago to celebrate my 32nd birthday. Living on opposite sides of the country meant a very creative “second” date, requiring several plane trips between the two of us.

eHarmony-Frank-jet
And when I say plane…

“I’m trying to decide what dress to wear.”

My mind flashed back to a month earlier, when I’d confidently stepped out of the Whidbey Island, Washington hotel bathroom in underwear and pantyhose. I was the thinnest I’d ever been in my adult life, and the future seemed to span before me like the winking promise I’d always heard it could be.

IMG_6127
Whidbey Island or the Isle of Misguided Dreams? You be the judge.

Frank’s eyes swept over me, a frown accentuating his already elongated face. He held up one of the padded bras that had been in my suitcase.

“I think these should be illegal. It’s false advertising.” 

“I just…don’t like having ‘the headlights on,'” I swallowed thickly and retreated into the bathroom, taken aback by the venom in his voice. I stared at my stocking-clad figure. I looked…sexy…right? I suddenly felt ridiculous. Who even wears pantyhose anymore?

On the drive to dinner that night, having decided to don my single-digit-sized new green dress, Frank told me about a recent trip to L.A. with one of his Navy buddies.

“I could never live there. The women at the bars wouldn’t even talk to us. Such snots.”

I stared out of the window.

At dinner, Frank assured me I could “go ahead and order whatever I wanted,” adding, in case I’d missed the inference, “Don’t worry about the cost.” 

eHarmony-Frank-candlelit-dinner

I smiled tightly. I’d recently been laid off from my well-paying corporate job thanks to “merger redundancies.” This was good. A guy like this never would have dated me before. You know, when I was…the F word. I mean, just last week he saw an old picture of me and said exactly that!

“Ouch!” I cried, putting a hand to my face.

“You had a chin hair,” Frank said casually, leaning back into his window seat.

My cheeks burned, the unforgiving sunlight streaming through the airplane window. First I was the Pilsbury dough boy and now I’m Tom Hanks in Castaway? I blinked back tears.

“What’s the big deal?” Frank demanded, seeing my watery eyes.

A month later, he dumped me. Via email.

~*~*~*~*~

This Valentine’s Day, I was going to make light of all of my bad dating experiences in a post entitled, “If My Actual Dating Life Were Valentines.”

I took silly photos and even joked with friends about what a gold mine this was. On Monday night, I sat down to write my brilliant Valentine quips, staring at the crimson hearts on the screen. Before long, my own heart sank. It…wasn’t funny.

Go Jules Go REAL Valentine
…Okay, it’s a little funny.

I imagined all of the other hearts out there, smiling shyly in their stockings, exposed and vulnerable. I thought of every person rationalizing shitty situations because feelings of “less than” ate away their confidence. Smart, funny, kind people who might also entertain the truly insane idea that some jackass in aviator sunglasses was tied to their wellbeing.

eHarmony-Frank-duck-tour
What a quack of sh*t.

Despite what you might believe after reading this, I love Valentine’s Day. I don’t love the commercialization or the temptation to feel lonely, I just love love, and choose to embrace any excuse to celebrate it.

On this Valentine’s Day, in a brand new decade, wherever you are and in whatever circumstances you find yourself, I hope you’ll accept this embarrassingly sincere post as a tiny token of my love for you.

And if anyone so much as lays a g.d. FINGER on your chin hair, so help me baby Jesus Tom Hanks, you have my permission to bludgeon them with a jumbo-sized tube of Pilsbury crescent rolls.

Aunty Go Jules Go Valentine

~*~*~*~*~

Blogging

A Slice of Life Pie

Go Jules Go Title Graphic A Slice of Life Pie_5NOV2019

Oh man, chipmunks.

I am STUFFED.

How long has it been since we talked? …Three weeks?!

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Well, this is awkward…

I’m so sorry. My pie plate hath spilleth over lately.

Go Jules Go Life Pie

Between training for a half marathon, flying to NJ to surprise Babs for her birthday, dating, job interviews (…hang on, are those last two redundant?), helping throw Bend’s first Vegan Holiday Bazaar, filming for The Vegan Dollar, and getting ready to move to a new apartment…

…this poor little blog has been left to collect dust.

And after all we’ve been through…

This flurry of recent activity has me thinking about that third date where, instead of kissing me, he gave me part of a giant zucchini to take home “life’s inflection points,” as one of my friends calls it. Those crossroads we all hit and know -sometimes with certainty, oftentimes not- our next move could change the course of our entire lives.

00100sportrait_00100_burst20191104224408420_cover
Know what I’m saying?

Six years ago, almost exactly, I made the painful decision to get a divorce from the only man I’d ever dated. At the same time, I was laid off and selling my home; everything I thought I wanted dissolved seemingly overnight. What I couldn’t know at the time was that that difficult choice laid the foundation for a life filled with authenticity, genuine connections, and endless compassion.

Doing something that went against the grain awoke the fiercely independent thinker I didn’t realize had been lulled into complacency. Over the following years, I made dozens of other eyebrow-raising decisions, each one uncovering The Real Jules.

Six years ago, I never could have imagined that that one tough decision would ultimately lead to living my dream life – a life designed by listening to that oh-so-quiet, but ever persistent, inner nudging that says, “Remember who you are.”

Now who’s ready for some pie?!

spicy-apple-pie-mad
Just like in life, first you gotta do the dirty work.

~*~*~*~*~*~

What would you consider your “life’s inflection points”? Did you recognize them at the time?

~*~*~*~*~*~

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?

~*~*~*~*~*~

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.

Jules-airport_13MAR2019
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.

Go-Jules-Go_Tracy_Slomo_14MAR2019

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Blogging, PSAs

The Mean Girls are Why I Hate Igloos

DISCLAIMER: I’m on a roll. Let’s change ALL THE NAMES!!!!

Go Jules Go title graphic The mean girls are why I hate igloos_20FEB2019

I was 11 years old when my best friends, Amy and Angie (“The Twins”), befriended a girl outside of our regular social circle, Diane. They must have thought we were in Season 2 of our friendship.

Dawsons Creek Andie McPhee
Oh suuuuure. Just add some random, hot new character to the show and you think I’ll keep my eyes glued to the…yeah. Okay, Dawson’s Creek. I’ll keep watching.

Diane was cool enough, I guess, smart enough, I guess, nice enough, I guess with shiny, straight black hair and almond-shaped eyes. Right off the bat, I felt like I couldn’t trust her. She never said it aloud, but it was obvious she was laying the groundwork for her Popular Crowd Migration to middle school, less than one year away.

During the years leading up to Diane’s initiation, The Twins and I had ridden our bikes to school together, joined the same summer swim team, and created a fantasy baby-sitting business, just like the one in the book series we obsessively read while sitting side-by-side in their shared bedroom.

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Hang on…I don’t remember reading this one. Photo credit (that link is totally worth clicking on)

Soccer, girl scouts, arts and crafts – The Twins and I were inseparable. By 5th grade, though, I was overweight and badly in need of braces; there was no way I was making the cut into Diane’s budding Popular Crowd. The Twins and Diane would still sometimes invite me over, but do their best to exclude me once they did. That winter, when we tried to build an igloo at Diane’s house, they told me they couldn’t make it big enough to fit me.

aca-scuse-me

The following spring, The Twins and Diane invited me to meet them at a drug store in the neighboring town – the town where all the cool kids hung out after school. They wanted to get the latest must-have toy, DIY balloons. By squirting a dollop of liquid plastic on the end of a little red straw, you could blow a hardcore bubble “balloon.” And then you could, ah, well, um. I don’t know. Stuff your training bra with it?

B-loonies
Some B’Sh*t, is what it was.

I couldn’t wait to get there. Babs (Mom) and I pushed the heavy drug store door open, the bells jingling as we looked left and right, trying to spot my crew. We wandered to the toy section…the card section…the toiletries section…back to the toy section. I did a double-take. The huge rack holding the balloon toys was empty. We waited. And waited some more.

I tried to ignore the dread pooling in the pit of my stomach. Eventually I accepted the truth.

They had told me to meet them there late.

On purpose.

I quickly did the math in my head. They each must have bought over a half-dozen balloon packs to clear out the store before I had gotten there. Now that’s commitment. I stopped speaking to them after that, and shortly afterwards, my 5th grade teacher caught me after school.

“Is everything okay?” she asked, her kind face crumpling with concern. I was a straight-A student; I was never held back to talk to the teacher after school, let alone forced to witness her Pity Face. I was mortified.

“Everything’s fine,” I muttered and bolted out the door. Were all the parents talking about me? It was bad enough being in the same classroom with Diane every day.

Angie, The Good Twin, tried and failed to apologize, explaining that she was just going along with the other two. All this did was remind me that their evil plan had been real.

The next year, I started having panic attacks on the way to middle school. I was teased for being heavy and wearing weird quirky clothes, and had the sinking feeling it wasn’t ever going to get any better. The drug store incident had been nothing compared to the bullying some endure, but for a sensitive pre-teen, the moment was life-altering.

That was the moment I could have decided to let them win, to become one of them. To look at the world through the lens of, “How does this make ME feel?” instead of, “How does this make YOU feel?”

The mean girls reminded me exactly how to treat other people.

And by that I mean how NOT to treat other people.

Us mean girl prey know we never want anyone to suffer like we once did. And we love the role they played in our lives. Without their cruelty, we might never have cultivated such huge-ass hearts.

big-heart-igloo
Just try to fit that in your igloo, DIANE.

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What did the mean girls/boys teach you?

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