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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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.

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“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!

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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?

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