The Past, Present, and Future of Normal

Not for the first time in my life, I feel like I am living through history in the making. Years from now, kids in school will learn about 2020 the way they now learn about the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, and they’ll try to imagine what it was like to be alive for events they either were too young to remember or weren’t alive to experience at all. They’ll hear about the COVID-19 pandemic and learn about how different countries around the world responded. They’ll memorize statistics about how many people got sick, how many died, how many businesses ceased to exist. They’ll learn about protests against police brutality and racism, and I can only hope that they’ll also learn about how real change came out of them and how police were made to be better trained and better held accountable and that as a whole our country took a hard look at systematic racism and began a years-long effort of policy and social changes that moved us closer to real equality in America.
Even though there’s so much upheaval and uncertainty right now, we still go about our daily lives. It’s strange to be simultaneously engrossed in updates on the pandemic and on protests, and to also have normal daily tasks to focus on like picking up groceries or finishing a report for work. I think about how it must have felt to be alive during other historical events, like World War II. The war is raging and all you want is for life to be more like you remember it before the war, more normal, but even though what’s playing out is terrible and hopefully ultimately makes things better the normal that you remember is gone forever. That’s how I feel now, like the “normal” I knew before March 2020 is never coming back.
It’s exactly the same understanding I had as I watched the footage of planes flying into towers when I was seventeen years old. Things will never be the same after this. 
Right now, normal is working from home and mostly interacting with my family and friends digitally rather than in person. I have a select few people outside of my own household that are in our little circle now, people that I feel reasonably comfortable seeing in person. We’ve gotten used to making plans with friends that let us follow the social distancing guidelines: meeting up at a park, or in someone’s yard, or in the adorable gazebo in front of my condo building. Normal is washing my face masks as part of laundry day, then putting them in their individual Ziploc bags and stowing them in my purse so that I always have a fresh one at the ready if I am out and need to run into a store or if there’s a crowd of people where I wasn’t expecting one to be. I own enough of them now that I have a variety of colors and I know which brands fit best on my face. Normal is really weighing the risks of doing things that I used to not even think twice about, like whether it’s a good idea to get my hair done by a stylist or go to a store in person rather than ordering from their website or whether I feel like I can appropriately social distance on the deck of a favorite restaurant or if I’d be safer just getting my food to go and eating at home.
When my husband and I set foot into our lovely condo for the first time, on a Sunday morning two years ago, I instantly fell in love and knew it was where I wanted to live. At the time I had no idea just how special the place is, how grateful I’d be for this open and comfortable home that is now also serving as our work spaces and our gym. Bill and I are able to both do our jobs without interrupting each other, we have a nice-sized deck that lets us enjoy being outside together and also gives us the feeling of doing something fun and different when we opt to get takeout and then eat outside as a treat for ourselves. Sometimes I feel a little cooped up, but I guess that after being at home most of the time for five straight months that feeling is normal.
And so, we’re grateful and we’re making the best of it.
I have no idea what “normal” will look like, post-pandemic. Will wearing masks in public just become part of everyone’s routine? Will I ever really go back to working in an office building, or am I home for good? What I hope will happen is that people won’t forget about this year, forget that it became a luxury to enjoy a glass of wine on a restaurant deck or to hug a friend or to go to a party. I hope that we’ve discovered what’s really important and that we’ll live differently because of this.

(Caren) White Bread Only

Not surprisingly, it seems that the only topic really on anyone’s mind is the pandemic or topics surrounding the pandemic.  It feels like the quarantine is making people even dumber than usual, like people who don’t realize you ought not use the bathroom while on video chat, but honestly are stories like these that shocking coming from a country that had to be warned by Lysol not to drink their cleaning products? There have been some truly heart-warming stories of people helping each other and a bunch of stories that make me feel like humanity is literally the worst (people protesting the quarantine, I’m looking at you). But every now and then, even in a pandemic, a story comes along that is just so crazy that I spend a solid half hour fact-checking it to make sure it wasn’t made up.
Today we’re going to talk about Caren White (and yes, that’s her real name, which is just too perfect), a woman from New Jersey who is mad at all the people who are baking their own bread now instead of leaving the yeast and flour for her, and decided to scold the lot of us via a since-deleted article on Medium. Don’t worry, the Internet heroes of the world got screen shots, which you can see in this post. The crux of Caren’s request to see all our managers is that now everyone is baking bread and so there aren’t any ingredients left for her to bake bread and she feels that this is incredibly unfair. Best I can tell, she seems to believe that people are baking this bread, taking photos of it to post on social media, and then either tossing it directly into the trash or lighting it on fire, because she doesn’t for a second contemplate the possibility that we might be, you know, eating it.
You see, Caren doesn’t eat store-bought bread like the rest of us savages, and she can’t fathom why we’d suddenly rise like a lovely loaf of sourdough up to her food social status and decide to make our own. In her mind, the people around her are just bored IG influencers who don’t stop to think or care that her children might have to have their organic peanut butter and home-canned jelly sandwiches on Wonder Bread like barbarians.
I can only imagine what it’s going to do to her one day when her son (who I’m very confident is named Kyle) comes to her and stares her boldly in the face while declaring that from now on he’s only eating frozen corn dogs and drinking Mountain Dew.
Before deleting herself off the Internet forever, or until the backlash dies down, or whatever, Caren had the final word by declaring she wasn’t surprised by the response to her post since we’re all a bunch of entitled assholes who need to learn to share. Which is really sort of a perfect sign-off for her, because what could be more of a Karen trait than thinking other people are the entitled ones?
 
 

Fun Ideas to Pass the Time in Quarantine

Although it depends somewhat on where you are in the world, odds are you’re in quarantine right now as we experience a pandemic. My company put out orders to us to work from home a month ago, and in the state of Washington the stay-at-home order from our governor was just extended through May 4th. Work has definitely been keeping me busy, but two months (or maybe even more) is a long time to be at home.
For anyone like me who is suddenly finding themselves with more time on their hands, all this time at home can get boring, so I thought I could help out by coming up with a list of fun and easy ideas to do while in quarantine. I encourage everyone to try them all and report back on the wild success of each one.
Give yourself a makeover. Just because you’re not going out doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to look fabulous! Now’s the time to give yourself that haircut your normal stylist always discourages because “that really just wouldn’t go well with your face shape” (as if a Mohawk doesn’t look good on EVERYONE). It’s totally okay if you don’t have nice scissors, just go get the ones from that block of knives in the kitchen. It’ll be fine. If you’re doubting your own abilities, you can soothe those nerves with a few alcoholic beverages first. You’re going to look so pretty!
Sign Up for Nextdoor and become your neighborhood’s unofficial sheriff. Depending on the positioning of your home and windows, investing in a pair of binoculars (that you ordered off of Amazon, NOT that you bought in a store…but you know that!) may be optimum. Watch your neighborhood like a hawk and immediately take to the Internet to report any instances of walkers who aren’t maintaining six feet of distance, people riding bikes on the sidewalk, or any other mayhem you observe. Be ever-vigilant. Ignore any haters; or, even better, accuse them of being toilet paper hoarders. You do not need to know if this accusation is true because it’s the Internet and you can say whatever you want.
Create a YouTube channel and post a video of yourself reacting to the movie Frozen. Then share the link on all your social media accounts so that your family and friends can have a lovely time watching you croon ‘Let it Go’ while tears flow uninhibited down your face after you’ve consumed a bottle and a half of Merlot. Trust me, you will become super famous and everyone will love watching it. I suppose this would be a good moment to give the disclaimer that I’ve never actually seen that movie but I’m still confident in this idea.
Call your mom and confess all of your more sordid secrets from your teenage years. Mom will have a blast hearing that crazy story about the time you told her you were sleeping at Janet’s house, but really you were getting drunk on Smirnoff straight from the bottle and puking in a field. Note: if you still live with your mom it might be a good idea to skip this one.
Play a game of Monopoly with those you’re quarantined with. It’s the wholesome game that never ends badly.

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. 

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: https://childfreehappilyeverafter.com.au/news/im-childfree-but-i-dont-hate-your-kids/
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.

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.
 

Farewell, 2018

With just under two hours to go, 2018 is drawing to a close. I’m honestly a little shocked that New Year’s Eve is here already; this year flew by so fast!

This year was a year of milestones for us. Goals were achieved and dreams came true.  In so many aspects of my life, I am in a completely different place than I was a year ago, in all the best ways. Here are a few of the highlights:

Bill and I bought a house. To be more specific, we bought the home of our dreams – a beautiful condo in Edmonds. We love our home and our town, and are so excited to have found the place we intend to call home for the rest of our lives. We feel so lucky – it literally has everything that was on our wish list for a home.

I earned my Bachelor’s degree. This was a dream of mine for SO long! I am still in awe that I actually did it.  It was a ton of work, but I am so happy that I never gave up and that I saw it through. I didn’t just do the minimum, either – my final project earned a Capstone Excellence Award! My official graduation ceremony is in September 2019 and I am very much looking forward to celebrating this huge achievement.

I landed a dream job at work and I love it. Since leaving telecom almost four years ago, I had been trying out different roles and departments, but none of them really made me as happy as working in complaints at my last company did (I am aware of how strange that sounds, but I really did love that job!). Once I got tired of working in complaints, I worried that I would never find anything else that I would be that good at. Even though I had briefly considered pursuing a career change to Human Resources, my heart belongs in Regulatory. Ultimately I decided that was the place for me, and started looking in earnest for opportunities. The same week I finished school, I was offered a position with my company’s Regulatory team. I couldn’t be happier. Everything about this job feels right. 

Overall I look back on 2018 and feel that it was a pretty amazing year. Cheers to an equally amazing 2019!