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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I'm Going To Chop My Ear Off Any Day Now, Uncategorized

Because Therapy is Too Expensive

I read a couple of exceptional blog posts yesterday, by two of my favorite writers:

Truth and Cake: Select Truth and Social Media: TMI or Not Enough?

Kristen Lamb: Making Heroes Heroic-Why Flaws are Important

These posts talk about flaws and sharing those flaws, whether they’re the flaws of your fictional characters or yourself. Please don’t mistake this, however, for the social media ‘over share’ disease. The intent behind this movement is to allow yourself (or your characters) to connect on a more real level.

As someone who swims in the memoir genre pool, I’ve stuck to the shallow end a lot. Deliberately so. After reading these wonderful posts, I thought, “You know what? Sure I’m shameless about sharing my silliest guilty pleasures, but I’ve never even used the word sex on my blog, and my memoir’s working title is Virgin!”

Aw cruddy stink nuggets, you’re probably thinking. It’s like someone just told me Danny Tanner is totally raunchy during his stand-up routines.

I know exactly how you feel (c’mon, Bob Saget), and I promise, I won’t get too inappropriate on you. Or too sullen-like-Edward-Cullen.

In Virgin, I wrote about things that made me uncomfortable, that could even get me in some hot water. It’s no Shades of Grey, but it’s not rated G, either. I wanted it to be raw and honest; I’ve never cried harder than I did writing that first draft. I called it Virgin not to sensationalize, but to capture the heart of the story. Being a virgin influenced almost every event the book covered, something I couldn’t have realized until looking back.

Ultimately, I wanted to write the kind of book I love to read.

While I worry I hold my feet too close to the ‘over share’ fire in Virgin (and in this post!), I’m willing to take that risk. I’m Go Jules Go now, and I want to tell you about the ugly awkward stuff, too. Awkward stuff like flaws. Like the flaws below.

That’s right, Chipmunks – here is some major, major ammunition if you ever want to hit me below the belt (like Babs). At least you’ll be prepared if Virgin ever sees the light of day.

I have massive (pun intended) weight issues. I’ve lost and gained over 100 lbs multiple times in my life. I (voluntarily) went on my first diet when I was 9, and it’s been a hot, gooey, cheese-covered mess ever since. Food is my ultimate vice. Speaking of vices…

I worry I drink too much. But that usually goes away after a couple of drinks.

I married my one and only boyfriend. I made the first move. If you don’t think that’s a flaw, well, just know that my chronic singlehood wasn’t for lack of trying, heaven vodka knows. I have enough rejection stories to, well, fill a book. I’m still shocked when the male species says anything nice about me, but…

I think I’m pretty. In clothing. With the right make-up. From the right angle. With good lighting. All of the pictures and videos on this blog are very carefully selected and/or executed to make you think I look a lot better than I do (read: I’m vain). Except for that one time when I was high on those heroin cough suppressants.

I want everyone to like me, and sometimes keep opinions to myself and agree just so they will. But you know what? I don’t like everyone. I don’t like a lot people! (…Did that make you paranoid? I’m sorry; I totally wasn’t talking about you. You still like me, right?)

I used to have panic attacks. I assume they stemmed from either abandonment issues or bullying. Or both. They were so bad I missed a year of middle school, and…

I never went to high school. I got my GED, took the SATs, and went to college, but I never got to wear an embarrassing prom dress still feel very intellectually inferior. Don’t ask me about chemistry unless it’s the kind between Jim and Pam from The Office.

Well there now. Don’t we all feel better? …No? Just me?

Zest and Zeal, my life coaches.

How do you feel about sharing flaws in a public forum (yourself and reading others’)? Do you think it’s necessary for honest writing? If you’re uncomfortable with all of this, who’s your favorite character on The Office (mine’s Jim. Duh.)?

Photo Credit (“It’s all your fault”): stickerchick.com.