Be Nice to the New Kids at the Gym

In October 2010, my friend Angela finally coaxed me to go to Zumba with her after months of asking (read: borderline harassing) me to go. It was a special night for her: she had her Weight Watchers meeting that evening before Zumba class, and that night she achieved her goal of 100lbs lost. Because I knew she was close to the milestone, I went with her that night to cheer her on. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would immediately fall in love with Zumba – so much so that I did back-to-back classes that night. I’ve been doing some sort of dance fitness ever since.

It’s January, and for a lot of people that means New Year’s resolutions. This can be evidenced by the once-empty parking lots at gyms that are now packed with cars and the influx of new faces in workout classes. The gym I belong to is pretty well-attended no matter what time of year it is, but even I have seen an increase in class sizes when I go to dance. And it’s easy to gripe about having to park farther away, or needing to arrive earlier, to accommodate these new people who may not even stick around into mid-February…but instead, I think it’s a good idea to be welcoming to those people and to be excited that there are new people who are doing good things for themselves to kick off the new year.

Part of the reason I stuck with Zumba is because I received a warm welcome and a ton of support from the class regulars. Had I been treated like an outsider, I probably wouldn’t have lasted very long. And the same idea goes for new gym members. They deserve to be in the gym and in classes, just as much as we regulars do. They paid the fee to be there, they are looking for what we’ve found – a way to get exercise that they can commit to, that doesn’t fill them with hate and dread. So don’t be an asshole to new people at the gym. Show them kindness. Make room for them in classes. Show them that they’re welcome. It’ll help them become regulars themselves.


The Break Room Dolphin Needs a Home

“Someone left a dolphin in the break room.”

“Huh??” is the only reply I can think of. I’m on the phone with a project manager at work, and the subject of this particular phone call is not exactly what I was expecting. 

The PM continues. “Yeah, a stuffed dolphin, in the break room on my floor. They left it here the same way they leave their leftover food out for people to eat. But it’s a stuffed toy.”

I consider this for a moment. What motivates someone to pack a stuffed dolphin along with their lunch box, ultimately with the goal of discarding it in the office break room? “Are you sure it’s been abandoned?” I ask. You never know. Maybe whoever it belongs to brings it every day as a lunch buddy and they didn’t realize that Flipper had been left behind.

“It’s been here for a couple of weeks,” the PM confirms. “It has a sign on it that says ‘Free’”.

“People are so strange,” is all I can muster, because again, I’m rather at a loss for words over this. It’s not unusual to find ‘help yourself’ signs attached to items in the break room, but normally the giveaways are leftover sandwiches from a lunch meeting, or fruit from someone’s garden. Stuffed toys up for grabs is definitely new territory in our office.

“And, V, it’s….it’s kind of dirty,” the PM continues, a hint of disgust in his voice.

And because apparently my cubicle is turning into the island of misfit toys, within ten minutes of hanging up the phone the PM comes bounding down the aisle, clutching the stuffed dolphin by its dorsal fin (I’ll have you know, I wrote ‘dorsal fin’ but then Google’d it to make sure that the fin on the dolphin’s back really is a dorsal fin and it IS, so go me). He’d wrapped a paper towel around it first so he wouldn’t actually have to make contact with the dirty fuzz and risk getting whatever diseases it may be carrying. The thing was decidedly grubby, but not so much so that a trip through the washing machine wouldn’t set it right, which you’d think a person would do before bringing it into their place of business and offering it up as a giveaway.

I  have no idea what to do with this stuffed dolphin I’d been presented with but my boss jumps into action, grabs it by the paper-towel-clad dorsal fin, sticks it into a cardboard box, and closes the lid. For ambiance he affixes a paper printout of a beach to the front of the box, I guess so that the dolphin will feel as though it’s been returned to the sea.

I suppose I should feel good about the fact that we gave the poor dear a home…but when I walk by the box I notice that he’s starting to smell just a bit and I wonder how long we’ll have a dolphin in a box in our row. All signs point to for the rest of my career, with any lingering smell being blamed on someone’s lunch.



I Would Like a Pony

For years, when I’d have meetings with my boss he’d wrap things up by asking me if I needed anything from him, to which I consistently replied that I would like a pony.

Now, I have no idea what I would’ve done if he’d actually produced a pony at any point over the years. My friend C has ponies and through her I have learned that they need lots of attention and space to roam around and do pony things. You cannot keep a pony in a cubicle and I already have cats at home and there is no room for any more animals. I think on some level I was just issuing my boss a challenge to procure something for me that was unprocurable; he was not ever going to be able to fulfill my request and he and I both knew it and I like to think I was letting him off the hook by not asking for real things like a raise or better insurance that were also not procurable at the company we worked for but that were a lot more reasonable to expect him to give me, thus making things uncomfortable for both of us if I were to ask for them. And so, every month we’d meet and every month when he’d ask me what I needed I’d reply that a pony would be nice.

This was at the point in my career where I was working in customer relations handling complaints that were filed against my company with regulatory agencies, which I still look back on as the best time in my professional life. My team consisted of six of us hourly kids, our boss, and an analyst who did reporting and also has mad Photoshop skills. To work in anything regulatory when you’re on the being-regulated side of things requires a certain sense of humor, but throw in customer complaints and if you can’t find ways to have fun you’re going to burn out real fast. Our team indulged in a fair share of mischief, and when you put together eight smart people the pranks are next-level.  I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that my slight fixation on ponies worked its way into those pranks, like the time that I went to Kmart and bought a bunch of pink My Little Pony wrapping paper and proceeded to wallpaper my coworker Bob’s cubicle when he took a vacation day. Now, before you feel too terrible for him, know that he got his revenge by dumping fifteen pounds of dried rice in my bottom desk drawer the next time I went on vacation.

Eventually, not being able to get things like raises and better insurance led me to take a job at a different company that did offer such things. I missed an opportunity when I took my exit interview too seriously and forgot to mention that I was disappointed in the lack of ponies I had been provided throughout my tenure there. C’est la vie, I suppose. At first I continued the joke of asking for ponies from my new bosses, and although the odd request did get me some laughs I ultimately got tired of it and have since stopped using it. And so I can take zero credit for what happened when I attended an all-day training class last week and….was given a pony.

Oh yes, I was given a pony. At work. 

The ponies were a part of a team-building exercise in which the training class attendees were split into groups. Each group was given its own pony, and the point of the game was to answer questions about the training material correctly in order to “run a lap” of a “derby”. The group to complete ten “laps” first would win the race. My group did not win, but I felt as though I had won the grand prize when we were told that a person in each group could have the pony for their very own. Much to my delight, I wanted it very much and the others in my group wanted it not at all and so the pony was all mine.

His name is Al CaPony.

I considered naming the pony Sarah Jessica Parker as she has quite the horse face but was informed that I was being mean to say that and so. Al CaPony.

And this just goes to show that dreams really do come true. 

Good Things During a Hard Time

I seem to have taken something of an inadvertent blogging haitus, first for a lovely reason (a much-needed vacation), followed by the much-less-lovely reason of spending the last week caring for our cat Oliver, who got very sick on the last night of our afore-mentioned lovely vacation.

Bill and I went to bed early on that last night, knowing that we had to catch a morning flight home and wanting to get as much sleep as possible. Around 11pm in Chicago I woke up and checked my phone, which I normally do not do, but I think I wanted to just be very sure that my alarm clock was in fact set. What I saw made my stomach lurch: I had three missed calls from M, my friend and cat-sitter, who had texted me to let me know that something was wrong with Oliver and that she suspected he’d had a stroke.

There’s not a lot that can be done when you’re two thousand miles away from your sick pet, but I did what I could. Trying not to panic, I reached out to my friend and the love of Oliver’s life (seriously, the crush this cat has on her is adorable) Jill, who is our vet tech. She tried to comfort me and also recommended an emergency vet for M to take Oliver to. I talked to M and relayed the recommendation, and she bundled Oliver up and took him in. I called the airline and switched Bill and I to an earlier flight and then had nothing left to do but to try and sleep for an hour before we had to leave for the airport.

It was a long, long morning. In the cab on the way to the airport, I kept the window rolled down so that the air was hitting me in the face the whole way there. Normally I hate that sensation but for whatever reason it felt good then. On the plane I was too jittery to sleep, too anxious to eat, and too unfocused to read or pay much attention to anything. Ultimately I opted to close my eyes and listen to music, just hoping that time would pass quickly and I could get to Oliver.

As far as the time it takes to get from plane to baggage claim to airport shuttle to car, that Monday morning was actually one of the quickest experiences I’ve ever had. We had landed a little before 9am which put us on the freeway right at the tail end of morning rush hour, and luckily traffic wasn’t terrible and it didn’t take us all that long to get to the emergency vet. When we were led back to the kennel where Oliver was, I had never felt so relieved to see him.

He wasn’t pleased – on an IV, wearing a recovery cone, and clearly not feeling very well at all. His head was tilted, his eyes were darting to the left, and he was shaky and couldn’t stand. But he recognized us and started meowing as soon as he saw us.

We now know that Oliver developed what’s called vestibular disease, a condition that caused him to lose coordination and to become very dizzy. Basically, it was like having really bad vertigo. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know what caused it, and there’s not much we can do to help him feel better other than give him medicine to treat motion sickness. During the first few days that we brought him home, we literally never left him alone. He struggled to stand and walk on his own, so we had to help him when he wanted to eat or when he needed to use the litter box. At night I dozed on on our couch with him by my side, so that I would hear him if he needed to get up in the night. Bill and I took turns working from home so that one of us could be with him all day.

It’s been a week and a half now, and Oliver is doing better. He’s still wobbly and his head is still slightly tilted, and we don’t know if those things will ever go away or if this is his new normal. We’re relieved to see his personality coming back though, and he’s able to walk around without our help. At night after he eats his dinner he comes into the living room and meows at me to put him on the couch, just as he always used to before he got sick. Bill bought a dog playpen that we’ve converted into a little house for Oliver by filling it with blankets, pillows, a litter box and a bowl of water, and for now that is where he sleeps at night. We positioned it right next to my side of the bed, so that he can see me and meow for me if he needs me. He seems to like it and settles right in at bedtime without complaint. Eventually I’m hoping that he can be out at night with our other cats, but for right now knowing that he’s in a soft, cozy place where he can’t accidentally hurt himself helps me sleep a lot better.

I could have a poor attitude about what happened and complain about how much the situation sucked, and it totally DID suck, but I’ve tried really hard to find the positive in all of this. Looking for the good in things really helps with the anxiety that I’ve been feeling since I saw that text message that something had happened to Oliver. I’m so, so thankful for M, who is not only an amazing friend but the best pet sitter I could ask for and who stayed calm and took care of my boy even when he scared the crap out of her. I’m also incredibly thankful for Jill and Dr. Chris at Fifth Avenue Animal Hospital, who love Oliver as much as we do and treat us like family, not like clients.

This experience also made me grateful for Bill and our marriage. When we said our wedding vows we of course included the vow to love each other “for better or for worse”, and the last couple of weeks have shown us both. Our vacation together was a high point; having fun together when we were each relaxed and able to be our best selves. And in the worst of times, when we weren’t sure our kitty was going to make it, we made a great team and supported each other and Oliver every step of the way. I truly think I might have lost my mind if I hadn’t had Bill by my side.

Our family and friends came together to show us lots of love and support, too. I didn’t tell many people what was happening while we were unsure if Oliver was going to get better, but those I did confide in offered me so much love and comfort. To those of you who texted and called, it meant everything to me. Seriously, it helped keep me going when I felt exhausted and low and scared. Last weekend both of Oliver’s “aunties” came to visit him (and brought presents for me, which made me feel spoiled). Those visits gave me something to look forward to while things seemed bleak.

I’m also so thankful for my job and that both Bill and I were offered so much compassion by our bosses. We were allowed to work from home to be with Oliver, which is a huge luxury. I’ve had jobs in my life where I had to be in the office every day, for very specific hours (including mandatory overtime). If I had still been in those jobs I would’ve had to take time off without pay to stay home with my sick kitty, knowing that I was going to be written up for doing so when I did go back to work because you can’t file for FMLA to stay home with your cat. I’m so relieved that we were able to just focus on Oliver and not have to stress about money.

Even though I would have much preferred for none of this to happen to my kitty, I tried to make the best of a tough situation and now I’m just so relieved that he’s improving. I wish I knew for certain that he’s going to be completely fine and that nothing else bad is going to happen, but life doesn’t work that way so I’m focusing on the good moments now and enjoying them. Right now every day I get with him is one I was afraid I wouldn’t have, and for now that’s enough.





My Guest Post on A Childfree Happily Ever After

I’m so excited to share that I was invited by childfree advocate and best-selling author Tanya Williams to write a guest post for her site, A Childfree Happily Ever After! I love Tanya’s positive approach to the topic of living a childfree lifestyle and I am so excited to be working with her!

My first guest post can be found here:

Be sure to check it out!

The Wings of the Fried-Dough Pastry Stealing Seabird

I’m not especially fond of birds.

When I reveal this sentiment to people, more often than not it’s met with some degree of disbelief, as if I’d just said that I hate rainbows or kittens or chocolate. Which, really, is a strange reaction, because it’s not like anyone especially loves pigeons, or gushes about the redeeming qualities of crows. Who gets excited when they discover a woodpecker has moved into their neighborhood? Nobody, that’s who, because they’re distructive little bastards. The movie ‘The Birds’ was hardly a lighthearted adventure story, amirite?

So now you’re thinking, But those are abstract examples. What has a bird ever done to you? 

Well, I’m glad you asked, because as a child I was irrepairably damaged by the actions of a bird. Gather ’round, and I’ll tell you the tale.

The scene: a beautiful, sunny afternoon in San Diego. A smiling, pigtailed me walks happily down the path at Sea World with my family, taking teeny bites of the still-warm churro clutched in my tiny fist to make it last as long as possible. Sea World churros were a delicacy. If you got lucky enough to walk by the little food stand that sold them when it was open, the aroma of warm cinnamon and sugar and fried dough would catch you and pull you in. What small child can resist that scent and NOT beg their parents for a churro? Certainly not me, that’s for sure.

The peace of that idealic afternoon was shattered when, completely out of the blue, a seagull swooped down and snatched the churro from my hand. I stopped dead in my tracks in utter shock and horror, unable to fully process the transgression that had just been committed against me. My baby sister was quicker to react and chased after the filthy bird, which dropped my churro onto the lawn and flew away, but when she retrieved it the once-tantalizing treat was covered in grass and seagull spit and was ruined forever.

I have eaten many delightful churros since that fateful day, but my hatred of seagulls and general dislike of most birds was forever cemented.

Resting Busted Face

I feel like there are quite a few things that older people could tell younger people to save them lots of trouble in life, but that for some reason or another pearls of wisdom are hoarded from the youth who are forced to make these discoveries for themselves.  One of these such things that nobody warns you about (or at least that nobody warned ME about) is that you will face stormy waters ahead if you don’t sort your skincare regimen early on in life.

I was a lucky little lass in high school: my face remained fairly clear, in spite of the fact that my go-to makeup routine consisted of a Covergirl compact of pressed powder and eyeshadow that was usually either purple or white (ahh the 90s) combined with washing my face by swiping at it with a washcloth in the shower. I feel like instead of making me take PE from the cheerleading coach, which did not really enhance my existence in any way although it seemed to give her an opportunity to try out routines with the high school’s less-coordinated students, someone should have been educating me on actually caring for my skin properly so that I would have a jumpstart on things and my face would not end up looking like an elephant’s ankle by the time I hit my thirties.

I did learn mildly better habits in my twenties, such as occasionally remembering to take off my makeup at the end of the day and semi-frequently wearing a moisturizer with sunscreen, but this slightly higher attention paid to my skin did not save me from the hell that awaited me once I reached my thirties. Seemingly overnight, my once-oily skin dried out faster than Liza Minnelli after checking into the Betty Ford Center. Cosmetics that had at one time masked flaws now made me resemble a bridge troll and I had to get bangs to hide the fact that my forehead was perpetually peeling.

I took to the Internet to research remedies for my problems. After reading far too many articles online and wasting a ton of money on products that weren’t helping me at all, I called in the help of a professional and made an appointment for a facial. While shining a bright light over my face and gazing deep into my pores (sigh, how romantic), the esthetician asked questions about my normal skincare routine and what products I was using. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was working with a strong cocktail of moisturizer and makeup removal wipes from the Walgreens, so I just told her that I was looking for something new now that my face seemed to have completely flipped the script on me.

Fast forward a year, and I now have special day and evening moisturizers, a face wash that’s different from the face wash I use on the days that I use my Clarisonic, and recurring monthly appointments to visit the esthetician. It sounds like a lot, but I feel like the extra money and effort is worth it to be able to go out in public without wearing a bag on my head.

Youngsters, consider yourselves warned. Take care of your faces.

Summer Reading List

I accidentally took a month off from blogging; work got super busy and I don’t honestly know exactly what happened but June is over and now it is July and you guys it is summer which just happens to be my favorite season.

Summer in Seattle is so much different than summers in California. Before I moved to the Northwest, I definitely took nice weather for granted and honestly I don’t remember feeling much of a pull to get outside and enjoy a sunny day. Now, though, once the temperature hits 70 degrees I want to ditch all responsibilities and just be outdoors. I love the warm sun, the fresh air, the long lazy days.

Now that I’m done with school, I plan to spend many summer hours relaxing with good books. I already have some picked out that I’m looking forward to reading, but I would also love recommendations!

Here are the ones I have so far:

Summer of 69 by Elin Hildebrand (my online book club’s pick for July)

Before and Again by Barbara Delinksy

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager (this one comes out tomorrow!)

Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin

California Girls by Susan Mallery

And I’ll probably also re-read Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster because it’s one of my all-time favorites and I usually read it once a summer.

Okay, what books am I missing? Tell me what you’re reading so I can add to my list!

I Pity the Miracles

I actually feel a bit sorry for miracle babies.

Yeah yeah yeah, I get it, they’re called miracle babies in the first place because they are alive in spite of something that they shouldn’t have been able to overcome, doctors can’t explain it, minds are collectively blown. But once the miracle babies blow people’s minds, then there’s an added layer of expectancy about what the babies go on to do with their lives after they do the miraculous surviving, which is why I feel a bit sorry for them.

Still not following me? Let’s play this out.

Baby Suzie’s mom was told that Suzie would never survive outside the womb because she never developed a brain, but then BAM! Three days before her due date, Suzie’s brain develops at warp-speed, defying all medical odds, and she’s born normal and healthy and with a reasonably high IQ. The crowd goes wild. People wax philosophical about how meaningful Suzie’s existence must be for her to overcome so much. She lived because she hasn’t served her purpose yet, she is destined for so much more. She wasn’t meant to leave this earth yet because she has so much to accomplish, they will say to each other in slightly hushed tones, rubbing their arms as they get goosebumps thinking about how Suzie is going to make the world such a better place. Maybe she’ll cure cancer, or be the first woman president of the United States. Perhaps she’ll finally find a way to bridge all of the religious and cultural gaps that keep the world at war and we will finally all know peace on earth. Maybe she’ll crack the code and reveal to the world whether or not a hot dog is just a type of sandwich. The possibilities are endless! They don’t know what she’s going to do, but it’s going to be big.

Now, cut to Suzie’s mom rage-sobbing in her worn and stained recliner because forty-year-old Suzie is a Pizza Hut delivery driver who lives with her boyfriend Snake in his mom’s basement. Or, okay, maybe its not quite that bad, maybe Suzie lives in a small but tidy studio apartment with Snake and works a desk job and eats her lunch in the park nearby on nice days. But, Suzie sure as hell isn’t curing cancer. And nobody stops to ask her whether she’s happy, because she was supposed to be destined for so much more.

Suzie is just an ordinary person living an ordinary life, because smart capable people often grow up to live ordinary lives, no matter their origin story. Suzie’s last-minute, life-saving brain development may have been a miracle because it defied modern science, but ultimately it doesn’t obligate her to do more for the world than those of us who were just born, with no miracles or fanfare. But because she was a miracle baby, all sorts of people expect way more from Suzie than they otherwise would have.

On the other hand, people watched 16 and Pregnant and fully expected the girls on that show to be poor and live their whole lives in trailers or vans by the river, so if they manage to land a desk job or even a gig delivering pizzas, then the whole world cheers. So I guess there’s that.


Don’t Be Gross at Work

It is Monday.

It’s safe to say that my feelings about Mondays pretty closely mirror Garfield the cat’s, although, why does Garfield hate Mondays so much anyways? It’s not like Monday is different than any other day for him. He has no responsibilities and no place to be, he isn’t facing a long commute or a boss who wears wrinkled ties and smells like apple cider vinegar. As far as I can tell that damn cat just lays in his bed every morning until someone forces him to wake up long enough to shove breakfast in his food hole, which would be a nice change from MY cat Saturday who does not lie in his bed until I see good and fit to feed him but instead wakes me up by rubbing his cold wet nose onto my nose and then howling in my face with his tuna breath. At 5am. Even on weekends. I do not think Saturday dreads Mondays at all; in fact, I think he looks forward to them because he knows I have no choice but to get up early and he appreciates the prompt serving of his breakfast on weekday mornings.

And yes, my cat’s name is Saturday. Long story short, he came from a litter of seven so each kitten was named after a day of the week.

Like many people, for my day job I sit in a cubicle and do my work on a computer. Life in a cubicle is not exactly known for being a thrill-a-minute experience, which is evidenced by the variety of articles online about how to make working in a cubicle suck less. To be fair, I’ve had far less ideal work spaces, like when I worked 411 and had to change desks every time I came back from a break, or when I worked in an office that was trying out an “open concept” layout and instead of cubicles we all had desks in a big open space with no privacy whatsoever. It was loud and chaotic and I learned way more about my office mates than I ever desired to know, such as that the woman two desks over from me liked to kick her shoes off and walk around her work area barefoot (yuck) and was also prone to singing songs from The Greatest Showman not quietly. I will never see the Greatest Showman. I refuse. I will not watch it, no matter how much fresh buttery popcorn you promise to plow me with during the showing, because now all I associate it with is bare feet and not-great singing an inappropriate setting.

No one at work wants to hear you sing. Also, no one in public bathrooms wants to hear you sing either, but that’s a rant for another day. Sing in the privacy of your own shower or in your car like a normal person. What is wrong with these people?? Inappropriate singers are the worst. If you disagree with me you can feel free to not bother telling me and if you do I will use your comments for future mockery.

Ahem. Anyway….

After that experience, I was more than happy to return to a traditional cubicle with nice tall walls that I can hang things on and that afforded me privacy and sheltered me from the weirder habits of my coworkers. And as far as cubicles go, I’ve got a pretty decent setup. On the other side of the aisle from my cubicle are rows of shelves, not another cubicle, so there’s no one directly across from me. My coworkers that sit to the left and right of me are quiet and when they eat their lunches at their desks they do not chew loudly, which is very much appreciated because chewing loudly is something that will make me throw things at you and then we’re going to be in a fight when you slurp so loudly that they can hear you in China and then my paper clip lands in your bowl of soup after I sail it at your head and miss.

I’ve been fortunate enough to never really have to deal with loud chewers in the office, although I know others who have not been as lucky as I have. The only real problem child I’ve experienced was a man who sat on the next aisle from me, who shared one cubicle wall with me. I don’t actually know his real name but in my head it’s Phlegmy Fred, because that dude hacked and snuffled and shout-sneezed all day long. To be clear, shout-sneezing is different than regular sneezing; regular sneezing is just a sneeze and you say “excuse me” after you do it and you move on, but shout-sneezing is when you feel a sneeze coming on and you full-on scream “ACHOO!!” as you sneeze. It got so bad, two other people started complaining to me about the sounds Phlegmy Fred was making on multiple occasions. He was grossing everyone out. I am told it actually would get worse as the afternoon moved into evening, so people who worked later and were still in the office around 5:30 really got the final act in the Snuffle Symphony.

Self-awareness is important when you work in close proximity to other people, friends. I recognize that I am both impatient and ill-tempered, but even the kindest and sweetest of coworkers will get annoyed with you if they are trying to work but you are constantly making disgusting noises, or walking around in your gross bare feet on carpet that hasn’t been shampooed since the seventies, or singing songs out loud. Even if no one confronts you about doing these things, your peers are still annoyed with you and there is a good chance that one of them is snarky and will write about you in a blog post to entertain the Internets. You’ve been warned.