humor

I WANT MY MOMMY (Dethroned: Part Two)

(For part one, click here.)

“Hi, can you hear me?”

“Yes! Is everything okay?”

Babs’s voice came through my car’s speakers loud and clear, surprising me. I wasn’t expecting such strong cell service in eastern Oregon.

Hello…?

“Yes, but I’m, ah, driving east because OREGON IS ON FIRE,” I replied.

“Oh my god, Pop and I were watching on the news. It looks awful. Is Bend safe?”

“Yeah, so far, but the smoke reached hazardous levels this morning and I was like, ‘Nope.’ I’ve been driving east for 90 minutes and it’s still smoky. It feels apocolyptic.”

View as I bolted out of Bend on September 11, 2020. Looks like fog, right? Nope. That’s wildfire smoke (on an otherwise sunny day).

“Wow…well, you know, you could always come here.”

I hadn’t dared suggest it. Not only was “here” still 3,000 miles away, in New Jersey, but my parents were firmly situated in the vulnerable population group when it came to COVID-19. Even though I hadn’t seen another soul in over a week, was it too risky?

“Go see Grammy?!?!!?!” -Uncle Jesse (the doodle dog)

“I was thinking about it!” I laughed. “I’m gonna stock up on wine at Trader Joe’s in Boise and keep you posted.”

Priorities.

That night I made it past Salt Lake City and my fate was sealed: New Jersey or bust. Was it selfish? Crazy? Would state border police stop me and shove a giant Q-Tip up my nose? Send me packing back to Oregon? Put me in one of those cute little jail cells like on Once Upon a Time?

Aw.

I hadn’t seen my family since early December. Before moving to Bend, Oregon in June 2019, I lived mere minutes from my parents, sister, niece, and nephew. Game nights, family dinners, and weekend outings were standard fare.

After a stressful move to a new apartment last November during a massive snow storm, battling severe winter depression, and then, you know, a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, my priorities had fully shifted from “greatest global good” to “DEAR GOD SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE ME A HUG.”

I put pedal to the metal as I burned through 11 states in four days. It felt amazing to have a plan. To work towards a tangible goal. To learn every country song currently topping the charts. To head towards the promise of human interaction – under the same roof! I basked in the glow of those formless, wordless things that turn “existence” into “life.” Hand sanitizer, masks, and pushing doors open with sweater sleeves were tiny prices to pay for the return of hope.

Over the following month, I filled my family love tank to the brim.

“Wow, you drove all the way back to Bend with your mom? How did that go?” several people asked after hearing that I made the long return trip from New Jersey to Oregon with Babs in tow.

Impromptu photo shoot near Des Moines, Iowa.

“You know, any other time maybe we would have gotten on each other’s nerves, but it was great. I just kept thinking, ‘What if this is the only time I ever get to do this?'” I answered.

A new perspective had settled in. A calm acceptance that this might be as good as it gets. A project manager and lifelong planner, I was finally starting to make decisions based on, “What makes sense today?” The ultimate answer, of course, has always been the same -follow love- but the approach was different.

To many of us, “love” equals “security,” and that means planning and preparing to care for our families, communities, and environment in the future. Heck, that’s why I’m vegan. But what if…we can’t? I’ve spent nearly four decades with my eyes firmly planted on the horizon; sometimes a source of comfort, but more often, anxiety.

To operate under the seemingly morbid idea that tomorrow might be worse -or never come at all- brought a strange sense of peace. It turns out that decisions made by asking, “How do I follow love and joy today?” are pretty damn solid.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Happy birthday, Babs!!!

~*~*~*~*~*~

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.

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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.

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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.” 

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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, Dating, PSAs

Why I’m Never Dating Again

DISCLAIMER: Names changed because it’s fun to rename people you’ve never met.

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“I don’t have a lot of experience with girls. I mean, like, verrry little.”

Looking back, I probably should have dropped my fork and run. But he was so funny. And had great hair.

It was late March 2015, and Adam was the ninth person I’d met during my 10 first dates in 10 weeks online dating phase. I never made it to the tenth. Our first date lasted nearly six hours, over dinner and drinks at a local gastro pub. (And by gastro pub I mean restaurant that features 117 kinds of beer, dramatically mustachioed waiters and duck confit sliders.)

At 35, Adam was a few years older than I was, animated and full of fun stories. When a position in the arts failed to cover the bills, he settled for manual labor alongside his father, work he described with hilarious disdain. If I had had to guess, I’d have said he’d probably just moved out of his parents’ basement within the past year.

“Next time we’re going to have to go to [the notoriously cheap local Mexican restaurant],” he said after I ordered my third drink (I did mention we were there for six hours, right?).

“Why?”

“I won’t be able to afford your hollow leg!”

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Well I need SOMETHING to drown out the memory of first dates #1-8.

At the end of the night, I insisted on paying, knowing I’d racked up an impressive tab with my multiple martinis and tuna tartare compared to his two beers and burger. As with most first dates, I left feeling both energized and drained, and still very much on the fence.

We texted incessantly, and by the end of our second date, I found myself saying, “I reallllly like you” before kissing him. He had been so nervous, I was surprised by how naturally he reacted.

On our third date, we got lost in the subway.

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Sign you don’t want to see when you’re supposed to be IN Manhattan.

Still, I wrestled with my resolve to keep dating. Meeting strangers and immediately auditioning them for Future Life Partner, or at the very least, Tonsil Hockey Teammate, seemed…WEIRD to me. Maybe because my dating life didn’t begin in earnest until 31 – after my divorce. I had married my first real boyfriend, someone I’d known through work for almost two years before we’d started dating, and we had been together for over ten years.

Nevertheless, in early 2014, newly single, I dove headfirst into two back-to-back relationships via eHarmony, eventually burned and defeated by both. “Gotta get back in the game!” was the conventional wisdom, and since I’d yet to become the baller, independent thinker you see before you today, I went with it. “10 First Dates in 10 Weeks,” I called it.

Big mistake.

Really big.

Just…no.

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I cannot believe how many pictures I have from this phase that never before made it on this blog.

After that, I entered one more relationship courtesy Match.com that was nice, but not right for me. It was mid-2017 by then and I realized I needed a break. I needed to finish grad school and focus on my passions. I dove headfirst into my thesis, met amazing new people, and lined up an exciting array of adventures for 2019 (heh, stay tuned).

Is that the reason I’m glad I’m single this Valentine’s Day? …Kind of. Have I noticed that I haven’t gone on a date in almost two years? …Sorta. Am I EVER going to date again?

…No.

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And not just because I want to mainline leftover french fries in peace.

That’s right. You heard me. At some point in 2018 it occurred to me that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted because I was following someone else’s rules. No wonder I was burnt out, frustrated, confused. I thought I just hadn’t found the right app, or tried hard enough, when in fact I was simply looking in all the wrong places. It was so obvious I couldn’t believe I’d missed it:

The only men I’d ever loved were friends first. Including my ex-husband.

Real friends. Friends for the sake of being friends. We weren’t trying each other on to see if we fit. We weren’t grilling each other over craft beer with sweaty palms and sky-high stakes.

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Or to get a blog post out of it. (…Who, me?)

We connected over shared laughs, common interests and similar goals. Our paths crossed naturally, and over time, we confided in each other, deepened our trust and developed genuine love. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

So did Adam become a real friend? No. But he certainly was the closest to one I found during my 10 9 First Dates in 10 Weeks, and he reminded me of what I really wanted. He reminded me that I need to see someone’s heart and soul before I feel comfortable sharing my most vulnerable self.

I admire those who can bare it all sooner, who can meet new people and embrace the uncertainty. I have girlfriends who relish getting to a new city and firing up Bumble. To them, it’s fun and exciting. For me, it’s a fate worse than death a chipmunk-less world.

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Wait, what?

The choice to never date again probably sounds dramatic and sad to those folks. When I made the decision last year? I’d never felt more relieved.

Go-Jules-Go_Redbox_Valentines-Day
Meet my Valentine’s Day plans.

~*~*~*~*~

How do you feel about dating? About being single (or not) this Valentine’s Day?

~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, Dating

I Love You, But I’m Not In Love With You

DISCLAIMER: Names changed to protect the innocent guilty.

Go Jules Go title graphic I love you but I'm not in love with you_6FEB2019

I was 18 years old when my life began.

One balmy summer day, after all the Y2K dust had finally settled, a young, auburn-haired woman walked into the local bookstore where I worked. Meg. The new hire. Her sundress flapped against ivory legs as she took the new hardcovers to the front of the shop.

We were fast friends, chatting in between placing orders and ringing up customers.

“You were maaaade for retail,” she teased, quoting one of our most recent patrons while I rolled my eyes.

I’d gotten the full-time job the same year I’d earned my GED. By the time I met Meg, I was taking classes at the local community college, my sights set on screenwriting. Bullied for glasses, braces and a few spare chins, I had eventually been homeschooled. I sometimes wondered if old soul really meant late bloomer.

Jenn-bday-Jules-Amelia-Bedelia
Just because I CHOSE to spend Date Night at our store’s Friday night book signings doesn’t mean I…never mind.

Meg regaled me with sordid tales of her past: running away from home, men calling in the middle of the night begging for forgiveness, operatic dreams dashed, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

“You need a little fun in your life,” she said one night as we sipped Sangria at a local bar. She was five years older than I and seemed to know all the places with lenient carding policies.

In March, one month before my 19th birthday, Meg and I took our shoes off in the mud room of her parents’ colonial and walked into the small, dated kitchen, just like we’d done countless times before. Blue painted cabinets and faded wallpaper enveloped us. Despite its age, everything in the house was spotless.

And there he was.

“Gem,” he greeted. (“Meg” spelled backward.) His deep voice rumbled with affection.

The figure sitting at the small round table, munching away on carrot and celery sticks, shared Meg’s fair skin and smile, but had much darker brown hair and eyes. Goodbye Justin Timberlake, hello…

“Ben, this is Jules. Jules, Ben.”

Meg’s twin brother. The apple of her eye. He grinned widely, eyes sparkling.

In addition to sharing physical similarities with his twin, Ben also shared Meg’s intelligence, musical ability and sense of humor. He’d graduated college two years earlier with a degree in psychology, but his true passion was film, giving us plenty in common. He had a serious girlfriend, but she didn’t like his friends, which meant every time I saw him, he was alone.

And suddenly he was everywhere.

The next time we met, we talked for over an hour. The third time, he sprung up and gave me a giant bear hug. His solid frame pressed against me and I lost my breath. I’d never been held like that.

That same night he stopped me from leaving by saying, “That Train CD you gave Meg is really awesome.”

Train_Drops_of_Jupiter
YES, MY BEST STORIES INVOLVE A TIME WHEN WE STILL LISTENED TO ACTUAL COMPACT DISCS. F*#%.

We stood in the laundry room of a friend’s house, in a holding pattern between the door out, for me, and the door back in, for him. We chatted for a few minutes about music.

“Well…goodnight,” I said eventually.

He stepped forward and this time I was ready for it. I lifted my arms so his were forced to circle my waist.

“You give good hugs,” I murmured.

He gave a throaty chuckle and squeezed me even more tightly.

Over the following months, the conversations and hugs grew longer. And longer. But he never made a pass, and I was sure I was imagining things.

Finally, in November, buoyed by quitting a toxic babysitting job, I emailed Ben. “I think there’s something between us,” I wrote, heart racing. “You’re completely amazing, and I wish you all the best life has to offer,” I went on. “I’m just afraid -and my ultimate point lies here- that you won’t realize when it’s being offered to you.”

Pepper-festival-Jules-bite
The face I make every time I remember this email.

That was Thursday. On Sunday, Ben replied. It was the longest three days of my life. He explained that his lack of response indicated “slight discomfort” because, while he enjoyed my company just as much, it was in “a different way.” He ended by saying he hoped that we could “continue to chill.”

I was devastated. Humiliated. Yet some part of me wasn’t willing to accept his words. And because of that, our friendship deepened. I was sure if I waited long enough, and tried hard enough, I’d get the thing I wanted most.

Six months later, at 3:00am one May, standing outside his parents’ house, Ben kissed me.

“I thought it was all in my head,” I breathed.

“It’s not,” he replied, brown eyes blazing. He held me and stared deep into my eyes, like he always did.

“I tried to figure out if I just wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough or funny enough,” I gushed. The words were out before I could censor them. I didn’t care.

“That’s ridiculous,” he reassured me.

cropped-champagne-jules-apr2013.jpg
Right?

The following year was speckled with a few more kisses, a couple of midnight confessions, and an endless series of marathon hugs. He loved me, and said I was one of his best friends, but he was never ready to leave his girlfriend and accept all I was willing to give.

Before I knew it, I was 21, tipsy, and begging Ben not to leave a party. He did.

And that was the moment.

The moment I decided to let myself fall in love with someone else. Someone I’d known a long time. Someone who, as it turns out, loved me back.

Meg once told me, when I finally confessed how I felt about her brother, “Your loving Ben has a purpose, if only to make you see how much you deserve in love.”

And she was right. Without Ben, I never would have known how to appreciate that love that’s meant for you is easy. Simple. Happy.

Any time someone talks about “Most Embarrassing Moments,” I think of that email I sent to Ben 17 years ago. I cringe. I blush. I bury my head in my hands. But actually, I love that girl. She put it all out there, fear be damned.

And guess what?

I’m still the same girl.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Chipmunks Forever

Wall of Love

A few blocks from my suburban New Jersey apartment there’s an eye-catching display of hundreds of pink and purple hearts dangling from a fence.

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Each heart carries a message, and even though I’ve walked by it almost every day since I moved into my new tiny digs, I’ve never stopped to read them.

This past weekend, I decided to change all that.

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Quickly, I realized the Wall of Love was constructed in response to a certain president’s logical and compassionate desire to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

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Reading each of the hearts, I couldn’t help but think of a recent revelation. For most of my life I’ve considered success in love to mean having a perfect, romantic love. Single? Rocky marriage? Divorce? Dry spell? Unrequited love?

FAILURE.

But.

*record scratch*

That’s f*#%&@ bonkers!

Being lucky in love isn’t about partnering up with Prince Charming Harry (although you go, Meghan Markle) or never experiencing heartbreak. Being lucky in love isn’t about romantic love at all! It’s about an abundance of love, period.

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And guess what? We can all have that.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Chipmunks. I love you!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back to Googling “Meghan Markle’s new hat collection.”

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

Blogging

I Love You, But I’m Not In Love With You

sowrongWipe off your shoes and put your napkins in your laps, Chipmunks, because today we’re guests over at Renee Schuls-Jacobson’s blog!

Or I am, at least, and I hope you’ll join me over there to read my guest post, which is part of Renee’s #SoWrong (embarrassing stories) series.

This is a very personal story I’ve hoarded like a pile of nuts for winter, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally share it with you.

Here’s a sneak peek:

I was 18 years old when my life began.

One balmy summer day, after the Y2K dust finally settled, a young, auburn-haired woman walked into the local book store where I worked.  Jenn. The new hire. Nearly half a foot shorter than me, her sundress flapped against ivory legs as she took the new hardcovers to the front of the shop.

We were fast friends, chatting in between placing orders and ringing up customers.

“You were maaaade for retail,” she teased, quoting one of our recent patrons.

I rolled my eyes. I’d gotten the full-time job at the book store at 16, the same year I earned my GED. I was taking classes at the local community college, my sights set on screenwriting. Bullied for glasses, braces, a few spare chins and a penchant for white tights, I was eventually home schooled. I sometimes wondered if ‘old soul’ really meant ‘late bloomer.’

Click here to read more.

Thanks, Renee, for hosting, and I hope to see the rest of you over there! Hurry before I drink all the wine!

Marriage

Do You Want to Know My Secret?

No, no, not the secret to my flawless skin*, the secret to figuring out HOW TO KNOW (S)HE’S ‘THE ONE.’

If you can't think of anything nice to say... you probably don't want to rate this picture over at http://ratemyink.com

Yessss. Can you believe I’m dishing the truth?

Not here, of course. My life coaches, Zest and Zeal, have advised me to only blog about true love (Second Husband excluded) two times a year.

This week I snatched up an opportunity to divulge this juicy answer over on Tinkerbelle’s delightful blog, Laughter is Catching: The (Easy) Answer to Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Love.

I’ll keep this post short so you can head over to my guest post and show the Laughter is Catching crowd how much you adore me, with promises of more slap bracelet pics to come soon!

*MAC primer, MAC liquid foundation, Maybelline pressed powder, and a deal with the devil.

Animals, Just For Fun, Marriage

Lovey Dovey Sunday

I love love. Even as a teenager with braces, extra chins and a permanent seat at the ‘Geek Table,’ I couldn’t get enough of Valentine’s Day. While others lucky enough to have a valentine would grumble and groan about the commercial nature of the holiday, I couldn’t find a single reason not to embrace a day that celebrated love. Not just romantic love, but love for family and friends, too.

It’s far from February, but there are lots of lovey dovey vibes out there this weekend that were just too wonderful not to share with you sweet little chipmunks.

Deborah from The Monster in Your Closet put up a beautiful post about love yesterday.

There are so many things I love about The Byronic Man’s latest post – I’m sure you’ll understand as soon as you read it.

My cousin recently shared this fantastic video on YouTube (Fran & Marlo Cowan, married 62 years, playing an impromptu recital together in the atrium of the Mayo Clinic):

And for some real guilty pleasure love, I discovered this weekend that Second Husband participated in a Funny or Die LOLCat skit (as the voice of Leopold in “Life of Leopold”). You can watch it here. …Sigh. Isn’t he so smart and funny and dreamy, even (especially?) with whiskers?