Welcome to the Thunderdome

At work I have a bully, a nemesis, a jerk… And honestly, I’m not really sure how this came to be. A few years ago when we first met, he seemed normal. We even had a few pleasant conversations in passing.

Then one day, everything changed.

It was around the time that everyone stopped calling and started texting. Someone decided to have an entire conversation with me via rapid-fire text. This guy resided just over the cubicle wall from me, so he heard every “ding” before I could silence it.

He reported me to my boss for the noise. At the time I just figured he didn’t like noise. Soon after that first incident, he reported me again when I forgot to silence the critical stop on my computer. I was learning to write code, so my critical stop beep was going off a lot. It took me, my boss, and my manager quite a while to pinpoint the source of his discontent since the critical stop beeps were so quiet.

Because of this malcontent, I’ve had the ringer on my phone on silent for almost 10 years now. Yes, seriously. I forget to enable the ringer when I’m not at work. This, of course, makes my life a little more peaceful, but it also causes me to miss a lot of calls/texts when I’m not wearing my Apple watch.

For a long time I thought I was in the clear since I hadn’t been a “noisy neighbor.” Then my manager told me that a co-worker had noticed that when I had suffered a terrible cold, every time I blew my nose, this guy would loudly “hock a loogie” into his trash can. Whenever I cleared my throat, he would clear his throat louder. He’d started mocking my bodily functions back at me. This was ridiculous and absurd, but above all that, it was bullying.

I thought about it. I talked to my friends about it. I posted about it on Facebook. A few people asked if perhaps he was autistic. (He’s not, BTW. He’s just an asshole who likes to pick on people.) I moved offices to be farther away from him. This didn’t stop him. I got a lot of awful advice from people who just wanted to start trouble, but the best advice I got was to confront him. Fight passive aggressive with straight up in-yo-face aggressive.

I swore to myself that I’d give him one more time and if it happened again, I’d say something to him directly. After all, if I didn’t stand up for myself, who would? If I kept allowing his bad behavior to continue, it was partially my fault.

Sure enough, it happened again. I’ve had an ear infection for a while now because my Eustachian tube doesn’t drain properly and it causes sinus pressure, so I blew my nose. I didn’t think it was too loud, it was just what needed to happen at the time.
Like clockwork, the loudest, most disgusting loogie was coughed up by this jerk. It was deliberate and disgusting. I sat for a minute and almost just shrugged it off. Then something inside me said, “NOPE… NOT TODAY. YOU WALK OVER THERE AND YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR BUSINESS MISSY!”

So I did. And just to let you know, I’m not a fan of confrontation. I did, however, relish this revenge fantasy for a few months before seeing it come anywhere close to fruition, which alone is satisfaction enough.

Me: “Do you bully other people in the office or is it just me?”
Him: (grumbled) “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Me: “Because every time I sneeze, every time I clear my throat, cough, blow my nose, I hear you over here.”

At that point he looks directly down as if he thinks not having me in his sight-lines will make me disappear… like when you’re late to class and refuse to make eye-contact with the teacher. Surprise. I’m still there.

Me: (I almost walk away, then I stop) “You know… others see it too.”
Him: “Okay”

Just as I pass out of his sight, I find myself in the cube of another co-worker that he’s been mean to. I didn’t realize he was right next door, hearing this whole thing transpire. He was doing the most awesome silent cheering thing I’ve ever seen.

As I walked away, I called the guy a dick under my breath.
It literally could not be contained behind my teeth. The word forced its way out before I could stop it.
I left this part out when I told my manager about the whole incident. My co-worker didn’t. My manager just came to pat me on the back.

Sometimes it’s like that.

I’m liking this new “Take Charge” Me with no filter.
(Okay, we may have to tweak the filter part just a tiny bit…
Naaahhhhhhhh)

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The Mom Gene

In the past two weeks, I’ve found that it’s possible I don’t lack the “Mom gene” after all. I’ve been accused of this before, perhaps a few times. I’m not sure exactly how I reacted, but on the inside it stung a little.

I think when you’re a woman, being accused of not possessing the Mom gene is akin to being told that you’re mean, rude, masculine, rough around the edges, the type of person who kills houseplants and shouldn’t be trusted with puppies. Well, they’re correct about the houseplants. (Jury’s still out on that cactus I’m attempting to grow, but pretty much all other plants come to my house to die. Let’s be honest.) Dogs, on the other hand, I excel at.

It’s also like hearing, “You just LOVE to be the CENTER of ATTENTION!” It takes you by surprise, (unless of course it’s true), and you start to question yourself. I remember being told that by bitter, jealous, resentful people. (At the time, I didn’t realize they were bitter, jealous and resentful, but now I do.) When I really thought about it, I looked around and saw that I wasn’t doing a single thing to get any attention at all. I was evidently just one of those people who people just liked paying attention to. I also learned pretty quickly that the attention is equal parts positive and negative depending on where it comes from.

I’ll tell you the truth. I did theater from an early age, but it was because I could sing, not because I wanted the attention. I just wanted an outlet for my talent. The same thing for when I perform with various musical projects. For a few years in fact, I took a combination of two different stage fright medications just to be able to look like I wasn’t scared to death onstage. Some people hide behind instruments. Some behind costumes or hair. As a lead singer, you’re exposed out there. It’s a tad intimidating.

But getting back to my point… I’ve been blessed to have these two fantastic new teenagers in my life. Although it was a little sooner than we’d planned, now I’m excited to make all new plans. I’m excited to clean out my spare room. I’m excited to buy new furniture. I even have emergency pizza rolls in my freezer.

Side Note: My mom never kept pizza rolls around because there were only a few things she felt confident in reheating for my friends and I. Pizza rolls never came across her radar. I actually forgot about them this weekend or I would have cooked them already… and the emergency chocolate chip cookies as well.

Not that pizza rolls define motherhood excellence, but television sure made it appear so. And you know, just like the internet, everything you see on TV is true, right?

I’m enjoying learning what they like to do, what they like to eat, what they like in general. And I feel a genuine responsibility to fill in the gaps where they’ve been lacking. They need dental and doctor visits scheduled, clothing, shoes, real bra sizing done by a professional (no guess work), home cooked meals, skincare, stability… There are so many things that need to be done. I feel like I’m playing catch-up, but it’s only 2-weeks in. I know it’s only the beginning and that there will be time. I’m just an overachiever.

Which is perhaps why some of my friends say I lacked the Mom gene.

Eat thy words friends. Eat thy words. 😉

Yesterday we took them to see a Beagle Wedding. Yes, I typed that correctly. Two dogs got married… of the Beagle persuasion. It was adorable! And I’m not sure they’d smiled so big the entire weekend. Okay, there were multiple times, but they definitely share my love of dogs. Ronnie bought us all tee-shirts a while ago that say “Can I Pet Your Dog?” They wore theirs, but I wasn’t sure mine still fit. Gimme a few months and I’ll post a pic of all 3 of us in them.

The Happy Pup-le

Such Garbage

Last week at this time I was doing everything in my power to prepare and not be nervous for my performance at “The Great Cover Up.” I watched YouTube videos of live performances, looked at photos of the lead singer, rolled on therapy balls to get the kinks out of my back and tried to do everything possible to not forget a single detail.

We covered the band Garbage, who are a pivotal fixture from my adolescence. As the final step, I had my hair professionally dyed an almost-too-bright shade of red. Sometimes a musician is known more as a caricature of themselves than their actual selves. As luck would have it, Shirley Manson is most often remembered for her red hair and mod style, so the extreme worked. I also wore an A-line dress with a built-in cape. I wasn’t fond of the color, but with the harsh stage lighting and satiny fabric, it worked perfectly.

In Cori’s hair chair

Backstage was like the “Island of Misfit Toys.” Instruments in and out of their cases stacked like dominoes and local musicians I’d never seen…people rustling about, muscling for a tiny space to be until their time onstage drew near. I staked my claim on the Green Room sofa, headphones in, trying to listen to the 20 minute set at least once. My attempts were all but futile. Friends who had never been were flummoxed by the long line and unwillingness of the venue to let them in even after it had reached full capacity. They’d been warned prior to coming, but I still felt responsible for getting them in the door to see us.

Since my hair color was a very noticeable shade of red and I was running around in my boyfriend’s tee shirt, glittery fishnets, spanky pants and combat boots, I hung out backstage, anxiously awaiting the time to kick all the boys out of the Green Room and put on my dress (It wrinkled if you looked at it hard, so I’d steamed it 3 times before covering it and taking it to the venue. I wasn’t about to drive or sit around in it).

There were so many people. And they would cycle in and out in waves. A sax player warmed up and prepared his instrument right next to me while I sat there in my solitude. A hairdresser fluffed a bad mullet wig. Guys quickly grabbed PBRs from the mini fridge and disappeared just as quickly. The waters disappeared by the fifth band, but the PBRs kept getting replenished as quickly as they left. A girl sat on the corner table, plucking the strings of her guitar almost silently. 3 of us were attached by headphones to our phones. It was crunch time. It was as if we were all cramming for a final exam in the library.

The first band was early-era Genesis. Although I didn’t know a single song, I appreciated the theatrical elements. The musicians were older and nicer than some of the younger more self-centered ones. It seemed like they were just a group of old friends who enjoyed playing music by bands they idolized. When I really think about it, that’s probably what my current band is as well. It’s nice to have such a talented group of friends to jam with. I’m lucky.

Every so often someone would look at the lineup on the door and ask me which act I was in. The lineup was simply the time slot and the contact person’s name for each act. No one discussed which band they would be performing. The other performers were kept just as much in the dark as the attendees. I just kept telling everyone we were fourth.

And the time could not have passed slower.

Before I knew it, I had a set of two assistants wrangling me into my dress, fluffing my hair, giving me all sorts of positivity and pep talks… if only it was like this on the daily. Heather and Cori had run backstage between bands just to put me at ease. Both Heather and Jennifer stood in front of me (at different times), took my hands and just said “Wow.” When I accidentally spilled water on my breast, both Heather and Cori rubbed it until the stain disappeared. I honestly don’t know what I would do without such an amazing inner circle.

It seems as if I waited an eternity to step onstage, but as soon as I did it was as if my entire body went into autopilot. It was as if muscle memory and my brain said, “Relax. We got this.”

I remember only a few things about that 20 minutes. A few small mistakes (which I continually punish myself for because I’m a perfectionist) although it’s likely that no one noticed but me. I saw Erika, Bryan and Jennifer, which made me smile so big I broke character a few times. There were people I’d never seen before dancing and singing back at me. In the front row there was a girl I recognized from a very long time ago. She had pink hair and was singing all the songs back at me, even the ones we didn’t think many people would recognize. I also remember smiling at my bandmates because I couldn’t help but smile.

I think it’s the duty of every musician to reach at least one person in their audience through the power of their performance. If I can do that, I consider my efforts a success. Things like that you see through the blur.

The Art of Letting Go

Nothing will sabotage the present more than a preconceived notion of what your future should look like.

This is exactly what torpedoed my last relationship. He was still holding onto the idea of the future he’d created in his mind with his most recent ex wife. This revolved around the big house out in the middle of nowhere that was purchased in order to create a comfortable life for 5. It didn’t hit him until after he began the process of selling and moving that he was still living in the past. The wife left, one kid had been at an out-of-state school for a few years, one graduated high school this year, so he was left with 2 people, a lot of space, a lot of house, and a lot of memories.

Attempting not to make the same mistakes again, he held himself back from any sort of emotional connection or growth. I kept going as if everything was normal until I couldn’t.

Mistakes aren’t all bad if we can learn from them, and luckily, I was in the position to learn from his as well as my own. It was as if a light switched on in my brain. Just like that, I decided to let go of any and all preconceived notions I had about my future and just started LIVING. Sure I’ve led quite an interesting and exciting life thus far, but there were a few ideals in my subconscious that I still clung to. I’d wanted kids. I’d wanted to be married. And even though I watched a lot of my friends suffer through a failed marriage or 3, I still found myself seeking out the big endgame, sometimes in spite of where the relationship should have gone. Too many times I used the power of sheer will to make things work long after they should have ended. I saw things in people that simply weren’t there. And this led to mistake after mistake.

The square peg will never fit the round hole.

I never knew what it truly felt like to JUST LET GO. And now, there are still some times that I have to quiet the inner voice that reminds me of what I thought my own life would look like when I got to this point. But they are fewer and farther between.

A few weeks passed and I started talking to a guy I’d met who lived 3-hours away. Although the sparks flew when we met, we attempted to ignore them because of the distance.

Now he’s my boyfriend. And I couldn’t be happier. We’ve made vacation plans through September, and that’s the only future I see. No preconceived notions. Just fun. Every 3 or 4 days, he drives here to see me… because we can’t stay away from each other any longer than that. It’s a feeling I’ve missed. When you’re no longer forcing or trying to control things, the best things can happen. They just need the space to do so.

We’re taking my dog to the beach in August because he’s never seen the waves and sand. I honestly just wanted to see his reaction, but I know that whatever happens, I’ll love every minute.

It’s a great place to be… in the moment. And it’s something that has always seemed so simple, yet has always eluded me.

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I can tell you one thing… I’m going to enjoy every moment that I’m given. That’s a promise.

Our first weekend together. He didn’t flinch when I said “Let’s do mud masks!”

Even my dog loves him

Your Best Self

Recently I started working out with a personal trainer. I first met him over 10 years ago when I made the decision to learn a little something about fitness. Working out with him has been the only thing that has really worked for me, so after 10 years of denial, I’m back in the gym building muscle again.

In the interim, I tried every “quick fix” I could get my hands on. From Herbalife to Plexus to It Works! I tried it all. I was a Lululemon-wearing, green juice-guzzling Barre snob for a little longer than I should have been. I even went to a “weight loss doctor” who discovered that I was hypothyroid. After that she did nothing more than require bi-weekly visits that consisted of a tiny bit of small talk, a weigh-in, and a shot in my butt that was supposed to boost my metabolism. I left each visit $180 poorer with a pocket full of pills that made me hungry, irritable, and anxious. And then I quit.

I had all the excuses: No time, no money… blah, blah, blah. But when I compared all the time, effort and money I’d wasted possibly making myself even more unhealthy, there was no contest. Sure, personal trainers are expensive, but so is everything else. And nothing can equal the satisfaction of accomplishing goals and breaking through barriers.

Before I met Wade I’d never set foot in a gym. As a girl who had grown up never having to worry about her weight, I knew nothing about diet and even less about exercise. Instead of sports, I chose art and music. I had no active hobbies. My mother didn’t cook, so I learned how to survive on fast food and junk food. And it caught up to me. It took its sweet time about it, but it finally did.

When you need something fixed, you consult an expert. Wade has always been that for me. He knows I lack motivation and discipline, so he works to counteract that. He prevents me from sabotaging my progress. He keeps me out of my own way.

As you may have guessed, I’ve decided to move this whole “Year of Yes” thing in an even more positive direction. I’m definitely not missing any opportunities, but I’ve also decided to incorporate being my “best self” as well. I’m not a fan of stagnation or negativity, so these concepts have been an ongoing theme.

Undelivered

Years ago Alanis Morissette penned a song called “Unsent.” It was a musical nod to a handful of her ex-boyfriends, based on the premise that if she could say anything she wanted to them, what would it be? I related to it then just as much as I relate to it now.

When a relationship ends, no one ever really gets the last word… and why would they want to? But sometimes, after the smoke has cleared and the ashes have settled you’re left with a few things you’d like to say, but never will.

For instance, I saw that fool who broke things off by sending me a photo of the belongings I’d left behind last night. I was with my best friend and the guy I’m seeing at a concert. He was across the room. I’m sure if he saw me, he probably beat feet out of there as fast as his legs could carry him.

If I could say anything to him, it would probably go something like this:

You didn’t break me.

Despite your best efforts to the contrary, I’m fine… great in fact.

I did see you last night at the Dorothy concert. You were alone without a drink in your hand. I was most surprised by the latter.

I may never know the real reason behind what happened, but each day I care less and less. Just as you threw me away, you too will soon be erased from my memory and none of this will matter.

But most of all I’m grateful that you ended things the way you did. It was awful and you were a complete dick, but I’m glad I got to see it earlier rather than later. You did me a favor. If you hadn’t, I might still be there… fooling myself.

I hope you do resolve whatever internal struggle caused you to blindside me that day, not because I have any interest in what happens to you, but because everyone deserves to be happy.

I’ve written my fair share of letters to people who didn’t appreciate them. At the time, I thought all those things needed to be said. I was probably dead wrong about that, but I did it anyway.

I once wrote a poem and left it on a guy’s car in an effort to woo him back after he broke up with me. I have no idea what happened to that guy… or the poem for that matter. At the time I thought I was a GENIUS!

I’ve also had poems written for me. I can remember this one stanza verbatim:

You’re beautiful, you’re funny.
You make every day bright and sunny.

It was terrible. And I’m pretty sure I made fun of it with my friends. I was kind of an asshole. Of course, this didn’t make his writing any less terrible.

Skylar Grey wrote a song called “Words.” It’s an open letter to her grandfather who passed away before she could say goodbye. If you get the chance, give it a listen. It’s one of the most beautifully-written songs I’ve ever heard.

I’m fortunate to still have both parents, but this song makes me think of a few things I want to tell them before it’s too late.

Mom & Dad,

Words cannot express how much I love you and how grateful I am to be loved by you. You put everything you were into raising me and I need you to know that your efforts have never gone unnoticed.

I’m your child… equal parts of both. I got it all, the good, the bad… everything. You taught me to be honest and fair… the difference between right and wrong… I inherited your even temperament and charisma. You gave me the courage to start over time and time again. You were always there to pick me up whenever I fell and most of all, you taught me how to love because you provided an environment where there was so much of it.

I know I’ve leaned on you more than I probably should, but one day you’ll see that I can take care of myself as well as you’ve taken care of me. As scary as it is, I’m finally growing up.

Thank you Mom, for marrying such a good man. He’s raised the bar so high that I’m hard-pressed to find anyone who can compare.

And Mom, you lived vicariously through me. You always wanted me to have the best of everything, even it required sacrifice. You wanted me to have everything you didn’t. Your love was selfless and unconditional. I’ve learned a lot from you.

We’ve surprised each other, disappointed each other, laughed with each other and were always there for each other. But most of all, I just wanted to make you proud.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed. I’m grateful for each day I get to have you in my life, even if I don’t always show it. I get carried away with the daily minutia and don’t tell you these things enough. We all do. That’s why I wanted to take this moment to thank you. I hope you’re as proud of the person I’ve become as I am to be your daughter.

I love you,

Ann

525,600 Minutes

A lot can happen in a year. It’s funny to think that I started off the year recovering from a relationship that made me feel like a prisoner. I took the necessary time to put it behind me, then made 2017 my Year Of Yes. I spent most of my time doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I went to a TON of concerts. I hired a contractor to transform my house into a place I could thrive in, instead of the place where I keep all my stuff. I spent time with so many friends, made new ones and caught up with old ones.

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I opened myself up to the thought of another actual romantic relationship, which was a terrible idea, but I’m only wiser as a result. I fielded crazy texts from crazy boys, but they were well outnumbered by the pleasant interactions. I graduated from the Citizen’s Police Academy. I said “YES” to a musical project that my guitarist from Cherry (a band I formed in 2008 that had a successful 4.5 year run before I went to esthetician school) put together for the purpose of playing a HUGE venue with Biz Markie the day after Thanksgiving. Now we’re playing again and have someone opening FOR US! For our second show ever, this is monumental. Especially since our opening act is the talented Chris Hendricks, currently of Castle Wild.

Sure, this year had a lot of ups and downs. Without them what would life be?

If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t have hired a matchmaker. When it comes down to it, no one knows you as well as you do. Expecting someone to be able to find a match for you based only on information you provide is illogical. We all put our “best selves” out there when we are trying to get selected for anything in life. The guys my matchmaker selected had done just that. She had found them in a database based on my criteria. They were the best in the bunch in her opinion. (Of course, it’s also possible that they were the only guys within a 50-mile radius of me as well.)

I could have done the same thing myself. There are plenty of apps bursting with people looking for “Mrs. Right,” but most are looking for enough “Miss Right Nows” to fill the gaps in their schedule. It takes time and effort to actually get to know someone. Eventually, they will show you everything. It’s just a matter of whether or not you choose to stick around for the whole show. Sometimes you see enough in the previews to know that the movie will be a complete flop.

“Show me your crazy, so I can avoid it”
– Me

I’m also learning a lot about the home renovation process. (I painted my cabinets TWICE before I saw that Lowe’s carries paint specifically for cabinet refinishing… Duh) I hired and fired some excellent (albeit overpriced) lawn people. I also purchased a lawnmower. (It’s still in the box because my shed is full of contractor tools) The whole process has made me feel more in control of my surroundings, even though there were certainly parts of the process that no one seemed to have control over. At least I’m ending the year on my own terms with a clear idea of how I want this project to be completed. Yes, it’s been ongoing since May. No, I haven’t killed anyone yet, but I’ve gotten more than a handful of people fired.

I choose to end this year on a high note. Looking back, was 2017 everything I wanted it to be? Yes, except for a few minor hiccups, it absolutely was. I’m a little older, a LOT wiser, and perhaps a little worse for the wear… but I made some amazing memories with the people I care most about in this world. That part, I’m going to keep. And to be honest, I think I’ll continue this “Year of Yes” thing (with discretion) right through 2018 as well. I did, in fact, get a late start this year after all.