The checkout lady at the grocery store thought I was a teacher.
She scanned the glue stick I’d purchased in order to assemble approximately 587 open house invitations for work (okay, maybe it was 120) later that evening, and then asked the question.
“Are you a teacher?” Big smile.
I looked at the artichoke, thick hickory smoked bacon, 2 bars of salted chocolate, green onions, cauliflower, and four bottles of wine that followed the little orange stick down the moving assembly line counter, like good little students on their way to lunch.
My friend Katie (yes, another Katie), who actually is a teacher, suggested that it must have been the wine — not the glue stick — that tipped her off.
And I have to agree.
Sometimes I think maybe I’d like to be a teacher. Only not the glue stick-wielding, double line-arranging, hand-holding kind because things like craft projects and untied shoe laces and stalactite boogers make me uncomfortable.
And I have very little patience.
And I wouldn’t have nearly a big enough wine budget.
But sometimes I think I’d like to be the Dr.-preceeding, university-working, wall-to-wall office bookshelf-having kind.
I’m not sure what I’d teach, but I would teach it well. I’d find a way to reach into the minds of impressionable young people — people who actually want to learn — and mold their pliable little brains into whatever strong-yet-imperfect sculpture I think future generations should uphold.
Each and every one of us has the opportunity to teach something every day — whether it’s part of our actual job or not.
From the way we speak to the lady behind the grocery store checkout counter who somehow mistakes us for someone who might choose to hang out with 30 children all day to the way we react when our spouses tell us they dropped and cracked the iPhones they refused to adorn with heavy-duty cases because they didn’t like the bulk, we always have the choice to handle encounters with grace and finesse over short tempers and rudeness.
With the exception of jackass drivers on the roads, I’m rarely rude to a stranger. Where I could stand to improve is the way I am with the ones I love.
Because, whether we realize it or not, we’re always being watched.
Minds — both young and old — are always being affected by the choices we make every day.
We have the ability and choice to make someone’s day better, or to make it worse. It’s as simple as that.
And I think, in my obviously thoughtful and optimistic state of mind this morning, that I’m going to focus on making days better.
And maybe the wall-to-wall office bookshelves will come with time.
How about you? What do you tend to choose?
P.S. I lied before when I told you that I imported all of my previous subscribers. I was wrong. This did not happen. And now I’m sad. So please re-subscribe by typing your email address into the “Subscribe to this blog via email” section in the top-right corner of the page, just below the header. I MISS you!
I thought I should let you know that I actually managed to move all of you lovely email subscribers myself. Apparently I was not very diligent with my research after 11 hours of headaches during yesterday’s transfer, but today I’ve managed to fix some issues with a clear head. So, if you were actually nice enough to already re-subscribe, hopefully this won’t cause you to get double emails. Let me know if you do, and I will fix it.
The people who will no longer get updates, apparently, are my lovely followers from WordPress.com. (You know who you are.) So, if you want to continue getting updates for my site, please subscribe via the email subscriber in the top right corner of my page.
And the thing is, I always knew Leah would make a wonderful mother.
But it turns out, Scottie B., that I’m pretty sure you will not be anything less than an exceptional father.
So listen closely, because I’m only going to say this once:
I was wrong.
You’re not not good enough for my cousin.
You — the two of you — and now the three — are completely,
(Unrelated side note: I re-vamped the site and there will soon be some changes. The most unfortunate side effect is that you have probably lost your email subscription if you had one. If so, please go to the top right corner of the page, just below the header and menu where it says “Subscribe to Blog Via Email.” THAT’S where you go to re-subscribe. And I’m not saying it will hurt my feelings if you don’t, but it might turn me into an emotional puddle of helplessness. So. If you don’t put your email in that box and hit “subscribe,” all that’s on you. Okay, so apparently I wasn’t very diligent in my research earlier, and I have now been able to transfer all of my email subscribers to my new site. So you’re off the hook. You’re welcome. Unfortunately, it’s still looking like any of my followers from WordPress.com (you know who you are) will have to use the email subscribe option in the top right corner of this page if you want to keep getting updates. And, you know… I’ll miss you if you don’t.)
Okay. So I’m currently in the process of trying to self-host this site. It’s slow. It’s frustrating. It’s going to require many, many glasses of wine.
Also, I just realized that if you’ve subscribed via email, you may no longer get emails after this post. You will have to re-subscribe.
In fact, you might not even get notice of this post, because I have no idea how all of this technical stuff works.
I’m doing this for various reasons — reasons I will explain in good time. In the meantime, I hope you will take the time to re-subscribe to receive emails when the site officially switches over, assuming I can even figure out how to set up that capability.
Because you’re like my security blanket, my self-esteem boosters, and my therapists, all rolled into one supportive virtual care package. Even when you say nothing, it still helps to know you’re there.
So please don’t leave me.
And bear with me while I figure all of this out.
And umm… I’ll get over this whole needy girlfriend phase once I’m back up and running. Because nothing brings out neediness more than technology problems. And of those, I currently have many.
I’ll catch you on the flip side!
UPDATE: The new site seems to be up and running. Please go to the window in the top-right corner, just below the header, where it says, “Subscribe to Blog Via Email.” Fill it out to update your subscription so you can still receive email notifications when I post. I won’t spam you. I promise. I’m sorry for the inconvenience!
UPDATE UPDATE: So I’ve actually managed to move all of you lovely email subscribers myself. The people who will no longer get updates, apparently, are my lovely followers from WordPress.com. (You know who you are.) So, if you want to continue getting updates for my site, please subscribe via the email subscriber in the top right corner of my page. That is all. For now. Thank you for your time.)
So I cannot, from my head, erase the things I know I need to do. I’ve swept them into a discombobulated pile — tucked somewhere behind the dusty corners of my right temple, I figure, because that’s where I wake up with a headache every morning.
Or maybe it’s because I clench my jaw at night.
Either way, these things won’t move.
And they weigh.
And rather than tackle them head-on and one-at-a-time like any normal, functioning, proactive adult, I sweep. And I stare. And I think. And I watch episodes from Season 1 of Felicity on Netflix and analyze my sister’s love life on the phone and eat artichoke for dinner 2 nights in a row.
Clearly, I have problems.
Unlike the last time Justin was out-of-town when I got all productive and inspired and finishy, this is one of those other times. Those times when I know I can stretch that dirty pair of jeans out one more day — when I think that a disgustingly filthy post-road trip car makes the appropriate statement to the world that I don’t give a sh*t — when I tell myself that watching Felicity is good for my nostalgic mental health.
And all I can think really, intelligibly, is that I hope this isn’t a preview of what will come when he’s gone for much, much longer later this year.
Of everything that happens. Mentally. Emotionally. The stuff that military spouses talk about but never really talk about.
The fact that I relish being alone.
And the fact that I hate being alone.
That I miss being touched.
That sometimes I don’t want anyone to touch me.
The way the leftovers are still in the fridge when I want them.
The way leftovers spoil in the fridge because I never eat them.
That this would be so much easier if I had kids to keep me company.
That ohmygod I could not handle effectively being a single mother for months at a time.
So I know, when the time comes, I need to gear up for productive mode. That lethargy simply isn’t acceptable. That I need to spend those 4 months painting the front porch. Remodeling my bathroom. Advancing my freelance career. Taking Spanish lessons. Or French lessons. Or both. Growing some arm muscles. Revamping this website. Learning how to make a proper gin martini while wearing vintage polka dot dresses and red high heels.
The biggest challenge, I think, that most people have with traveling, is finding the ability to strike a healthy balance between squeezing in all of the high-energy sightseeing they can possibly manage and actually getting a little R&R.
If they’re not careful, their vacation can turn into work.
I don’t have that problem.
I know when I’m feeling energized, and I know when it’s time to stop, find a cafe with outdoor seating, and sip a glass of wine.
Striking this balance can be particularly difficult on a road trip when, if you’re spending extended periods of time in the car, it can feel like you’re resting because you’ve been sitting for several hours, but in reality you’ve been a highly concentrated ball of compact energy — shifting music whenever the mood strikes; passing, passing, passing on the left; belting out the lyrics you remember to Billy Joel’s “My Life;” almost peeing your pants when you pass a cop and realize how fast you were going; spending the next half hour daydreaming about living in Europe and doing nothing but driving the Autobahn for days on end; telling yourself you don’t need any more homemade trail mix; and matching your vibrations to those of the vehicle while guzzling your double-shot skinny mocha.
When I left Angie’s place in Virginia, I felt refreshed. Energized. Her perfect energy of physical labor combined with wine-laced porch-sitting was exactly what I needed to rev up for the second leg of my trip.
I knew Erin would still be at work when I arrived in Annapolis, so I took my time getting there, opting for back roads (Hwy 310, anyone? Highly recommended if you’re making a journey up or down the east coast.) over the congested interstates with never-ending repeats of McD’s, T-Bells, and Flying J truck stops.
My method for road trip food selection is simple: If I see a place I like the looks of, I stop. If I see a sign that catches my attention, I stop. If Urban Spoon happens to tell me there’s something along my relative route that’s worth stopping for, I stop.
When I arrived in Annapolis, I decided to stop at a Trader Joe’s for the first time ever to pick up some of their infamous “3-buck Chuck” wine to bring to my compadre’s place. I wandered the aisles, impressed-yet-refusing-to-be-sidetracked by the numerous offered delicacies. I finally asked a sample girl where a sister could find some booze on this lovely afternoon, and she looked at me with what can only be described as an expression of the sincerest empathy. “In Maryland,” she said, because clearly I was a foreigner, “grocery stores can’t sell alcohol.”
Having lived in various states and counties south of the Mason-Dixon line for quite some time, I thought I’d already witnessed the gamut of restrictive alcohol sales. In Georgia I performed the grocery store walk of shame on more than one occasion — carrying my case from the registers back to the darkened shelves on a Sunday afternoon.
But this? This required people to make a whole other stop.
“But I just came from Virginia,” I whined.
She looked at me like I probably should’ve stayed there.
No matter. I stopped at an upscale winery and delicatessen where they wearily eyed my selection, poised to judge. “Hey!” The counter lady’s eyes lit-up. “This one’s a very popular choice!”
Apparently my skills are improving. Or rather, my luck was improving, since I randomly selected the bottle based on price and the label. But I smiled anyway, like I hear that all of the time, and went on my merry way.
Now let me just say this. Erin doesn’t actually live in Annapolis. She lives on an island just across the Chesapeake Bay, on the other side of one of the coolest bridges I’ve seen in my life. I’ll have a photo in another post, but hear me: If you have a chance to cross this 4-ish mile bridge in your life, do it.
That is all.
I arrived at her adorable house, ready to curl up on the sofa with a book and a beer I knew she’d left me in the fridge.
But then I saw it.
I was shocked.
Not just by the generosity of the Red Stripe, but by the fact that she lives on an inlet that leads out to the Chesapeake Bay.
In fact, if I would’ve stolen her canoe and paddled out just past that last house you see on the left, I would’ve had a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge.
Then I probably would have drifted out to sea, never to be seen or heard from again since I have zero upper body strength, but at least I would’ve died happy.
Instead, I spent the rest of the afternoon curled up in a lawn chair alternating views of my book and the water.
Hey. Don’t judge.
I’d already had a long day driving and shopping for wine.
And that’s the thing — when you find yourself alone in a new place, or especially with people in a new place, it’s easy to run yourself ragged trying to do all there is to do and see all there is to see. At some point, you have to force yourself to accept the fact that you’re never going to do and see everything. That life is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of actions and reactions, mirage-like events that sometimes you see and sometimes you don’t. And sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride.
So to me, I wasn’t wasting time.
I was enjoying the moment.
As Billy would say,
I don’t need you to worry for me cause I’m alright —
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home.
I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life —
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.
Thanks, Mr. Joel. I’m glad someone gets me.
What’s your travel style? Would you have camped out with a beer and a book, taken the canoe, or hopped back in the car to explore the town? How do you strike a balance between work and play when you’re on the road?
So apparently my 2 year blogiversary — that’s the cutsey name blog people came up with for a blog anniversary — like TomCat or BradGelina — get it? — passed nearly a month ago without me even noticing.
And that, my friends, is why I’m a crappy girl.
When we first got together, it was Justin who reminded me about the anniversary of the day we first met. And not just the first year, but most subsequent years.
Combine that with the fact that I would never remember anyone’s birthday if it weren’t for Facebook and that my detachment from having any real “home” has caused me to be about as sentimental as Lord Voldemort on Ritalin, and we have one very crappy girl on our hands.
I mean, aren’t girls supposed to be good at remembering special dates? And aren’t girls supposed to buy special gifts for people “just because” and carry Hallmark discount cards and have wrapping paper stations?
I neither do nor have any of these things.
I still have a birthday card that I bought for my mom over 2 years ago.
I’ve never been good with calendars, or planners, or blackberries, or reminders. I can do lists, but I usually only make it 1/3 of the way through them before I get bored and move on. I have approximately 37 draft blog posts that I’ve started and never finished. The polish on my right big toenail has been chipped for 3 days.
I tell you these things not only so you can understand what we’re working with here, but so you can feel better about yourself if you’re better than me. Or good enough about yourself if you’re as bad as me.
Because honestly, this is just me. And the fact that I let the exact date, 2 years later, that I started this blog roll by without even realizing it, only proves it.
And guess what?
The world didn’t end. The blog didn’t end. Wordpress hasn’t started writing me nasty letters because I missed a ubiquitous blogiversary post.
So really, I just forgot it, and I don’t feel bad.
And because I don’t feel bad, I don’t feel like a failure.
And because I don’t feel like a failure, I think that maybe mentally, I’ve made some improvements over the past year.
And if we’re going to bother measuring time, those are the things — self-improvement achievements, relationship communication milestones, number of stamps in my passport this year — that are worth remembering.
A date is just a date. A year is just a year.
It’s what we do with them that counts.
Annapolis, MD. April 4th, 2012. Taken with my iPhone.