Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

All the Things a New Yorker Thinks After a Weekend in Connecticut

 

New York City can be a bit of an asshole sometimes, in every way possible. It’s too crowded, too dirty, too stinky, too aggressive, too fast, and on top of all that, really expensive. After a while, you start to wonder if you’re becoming a bit of an asshole yourself. Am I too loud? Too aggressive? Too pushy? Too impatient? Did the stink rub off on me?

When that feeling comes over us, Vin and I know it’s time to get out of town for a day or two. And when we do, we like to check ourselves in at a bed and breakfast. Hotel rooms remind me of apartments, and I already live in one of those. But B&Bs are real, grown-up houses with wooden shutters and knick-knacks and windows and elbow space. You sleep in a big room filled with books and plants and a nice person who knows how to make good coffee serves you frittata and scones fresh from the oven in the morning. B&Bs are wonderful, and I’m always surprised when people say they’d feel uncomfortable in one.

So we booked a room in a place called Henrietta House in Ashford, Connecticut and drove out Friday night after work. The traffic was, predictably, an asshole. Starting Memorial Day weekend and stretching into the summer, most people get the same idea as us and head as far away from the city as possible.

We clarified prior to leaving the city that our itinerary was to do nothing, and that’s exactly what we did. We sat on the back porch, napped, read, played guitar, stepped over chickens, and ate delicious food. The air was cool, and we slept like logs under a big puffy cloud of a blanket. Parking was easy so we went in and out as we pleased. The most strenuous thing we did was a very light, short hike.

We were in Connecticut, birthplace of lyme disease, so we navigated the trail with the precision of tightrope walkers, trying not to brush into anything suspect. When we stumbled on a tiny bridge crossing over a lovely little stream, I urged Vinny to sit down, close his eyes, and participate in a mindfulness exercise with me. I crossed my legs, one over the other like a pretzel, shut my eyes and drew in a deep breath. I concentrated on my breathing–in and out, in and out–and tried to focus on nothing but the movement of my diaphragm and the calming trickle of the stream below us.

I finally opened my eyes and glanced to my right, expecting to see Vin in full lotus, floating off on some higher plane into a state of zen. Instead, I found him playing Clash of Clans on his dumb phone.

“Vinny! Mindfulness!” I yelled. Because everyone knows the way to get your husband to feel more relaxed is to nag him into a meditative trance.

So he powered off his phone and we both shut our eyes. It’s lovely when you find someone you can share silence with.

“I can’t believe this babbling brook doesn’t make you have to pee.” he said. That boy talks too much.

“It does. Let’s go. Mindfulness over.” Sometimes I shudder to think of everything I might accomplish in this life if I didn’t have a bladder the size of a walnut.

***

The next morning we shared breakfast with the owner Marian and her assistant Jasmine, two women I found myself relating to in very different ways. Jasmine had already moved around quite a bit at 26, and geeked out over things like good cheese and coffee, just like me. And the inn’s owner Marian was a fellow Texas gal and UT alum, who’d also found herself out on the East Coast years ago. She was great fun to talk to–well-traveled, well-read, opinionated, bold–and I found myself comparing her to many of the smart, sassy Texan women I’ve known through the years, many of whom I’m lucky enough to share a bloodline with. She has this great old house with deep brick fireplaces and wide-planked wooden floors. She travels, and fills her home with beautiful, special things. She gardens. She loves cooking, and cares deeply about fresh, real food. She has big glass jars of flour and sugar on her kitchen counter where she rolls out buttery scones and homemade pie crust. She belongs to a memoir writing club.

She is living my Act IV.

I’m still not exactly sure which act I’m in at the moment (the latter part of Act II, maybe?) but one day I will outgrow it, of that I am certain. One day I will grow tired of city life, of crowded subway cars and overpriced cereal boxes, and I will want to chuck it all and head out to the country. It doesn’t actually have to be the country either, just some place with slower speeds, cleaner air and better customer service.  I used to picture my Act IV as a summer camp owner, but in recent years “Bed and Breakfast owner” sounds much more appealing because, as my grandpa says, kids can really “clutter up a place”. Clearly, I’m not rushing to get to my Act IV- I still have a few other things to tackle first. All I’m saying is I can see retirement in the horizon, and I think I’m going to be really good at it.

After we said our goodbyes to Marian and Jasmine, it was time to drive to our friends’ Tara and Evan’s house in another part of Connecticut, closer to the city. They were hosting a “porch party” to celebrate the completion of the new front addition to their house. Their home is already very beautiful and surrounded on all sides by lush trees and piles of soft grass. Their new porch is long and deep, wide enough to fit a big wooden table and all of our friends’ running children. When I walked up to their house, I was immediately reminded of the wide wooden porch that stretched across the main buildings at my childhood summer camp, where I’d sit on a rickety bench with a cabinmate, swinging our legs back and forth, trying to catch the ice cream before it melted into sticky rivers between our fingers.

I don’t know how to explain what I felt at that moment. It wasn’t envy; I’m happy for my friends, and I have no qualms about inviting myself over to sit in front of their house and lick ice cream off my hand. I guess what I felt was…confused. Conflicted. Reflective. Vinny and I have been spending all this time researching very specific types of housing in the New York area, but are we making the right choices? Are we looking in the right direction? Is spending all this money on a house in the city the way to go? Are our priorities all screwed up? Am I closer to Act IV than I’ve realized?

The next morning I woke up in a FOUL mood. I’m not a particularly moody person, so when a nasty one comes on it is swift, merciless, and I’m embarrassed to say–very, very unattractive. This one was accompanied by sniveling and pouting and not-hormonally-induced crying. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off; I felt cranky and unhappy to be back in my small Astoria apartment. I had tasted a different life– a life where you shoo chickens instead of people off your back steps, where people are rarely in a rush, where the color green is not the exception but the rule– and I was having trouble finding the advantage of my living situation over that one. It felt like my apartment’s walls were closing in on me, making it difficult to breathe.

“What are we doooooooiiiiiiiiiing?” I cried to Vin. Poor guy had just woken up, and the first thing he had to listen to on his day off was my moaning. “This place is crazy. It’s crazy!”"There’s no physical beauuuuuutttttyyyyyyyyy here. It’s ridiculous to pay so much to get so little!” Sometimes New York City is the asshole. Sometimes I am.

To his credit, Vin navigates these moments like a pro. He is calm and patient with me. He’s a great listener. He lets me vent without letting me get myself too worked up. He’d make an amazing therapist actually.

After a good cry, I suggested we go for a walk down the street. It was Memorial Day, and there was a street fair right on our block. I needed New York to dazzle me that day, and I didn’t feel like going far to get it.

New York City’s summer street fairs are the same every time, and they pop up almost every weekend in different neighborhoods. It’s always the same vendors selling bizarre, random junk like $5 handbags, makeup samples, cheap bras and magnets. The humid air makes your shirt stick to your back, and is laden with the smell of sausage and peppers, fried zeppolis, and various meats-on-a-stick. There are bouncy houses and rides for the kids, boardwalk games, and live demonstrations from the Sham-Wow guy. I never buy or eat anything (unless Dough donuts show up–then I can’t resist), but I always walk through when I see a fair. The street fairs are synonymous with summer in New York City, and I’ve been here long enough to feel nostalgic about them.

By the time we reached the end of the street, I felt better. I needed a reminder of why this place is special and interesting, and why Act IV is still a few scenes away. I looked back down the street and smiled at the kids swinging hula hips around their waists, at the plumes of smoke from the barbecue pits, and the beautiful diversity of the people in my neighborhood. Then I looked down, and realized my fly had been open the entire walk. It was a sign from the universe, telling me to lighten up.

 ***

Last week I was chatting with a gentleman who told me how much he looks forward to seeing the pots of tulips on Park Avenue every spring. He goes for morning walks with a pair of scissors so he can bring them home and admire their beauty.

I thought that was a pretty crummy thing to do. Nothing beautiful or special is without sacrifice, and if you want flowers in your home, you should turn over your cash and buy them or turn over the soil and plant them, not steal them from a community flowerpot. And if you’re not able to bring them home, all you have to do is lace up your shoes and go visit them more often.

The natural beauty is there. You just have to walk a little further to see it.

 

 

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On Being an Introvert

 

I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs tests at least 10 times over the past 10 years, always thinking I can somehow outsmart the test and end up with a different result. Nope. Every time, same one.

INFJ. Introversion. Intuition. Feeling. Judging. Apparently it’s the most rare of all personality types, with only 1% of the population testing this particular combination. It’s the one area in my life where I actually feel exotic.

The first times I took the test, I was sure I must have done something wrong. The introverted part of the equation really threw me off because I always considered myself a pretty outgoing person. I was confused. But I can be so chatty! I love throwing parties! I’m not meek or shy! But the more I really learned about what it means to be an introvert, the more I understood that the test was bang on.

Introversion is not about being shy, and extraversion is not about being gregarious. It’s about energy, and where you draw it from. Extroverts gain the most energy from being with others; introverts from within. If you haven’t read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I definitely recommend it, especially if you other introverted types want to feel very understood.

The following is a passage from the book, but if someone ever asked me for a soundbite on how to best describe myself, this would basically be it:

Introverts may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.

This is me to the letter. In addition, there are other qualities inhabited by INFJs that really describe me as well– perfectionism, overly sensitive to criticism, prone to burnout. I also carry a lot of guilt with me for not keeping up with old friends as well as I should. Talking on the phone has never been one of my favored activities.

When I was a kid, I attended a lot of slumber parties. I would have a great time at them, doing the typical girl things–braiding hair, making Rice Krispies treats, prank-calling boys–but there would always come a point in the evening when I would retreat in a corner and start reading magazines (as an adult, it’s cookbooks:). In college, I loved hanging out with my roommates and going to parties but I also spent a whole lot of time driving through town alone to clear my thoughts. Sometimes I would park my car and sit on the side of a hill for hours to write or think. Being alone wasn’t something that bothered me or made me feel lonely; it was something that nourished and refreshed me, as long as it was in the right doses.

quiet

(Vin caught me taking a break from the party at a friend’s cabin)

My social engine is in very good working condition, but it peters out after four to six hours of activity. I’m not someone who needs or wants constant social plans. I’ve never partied till I dropped. I party till about 11 or 12 (max), so I can make sure and get enough rest so I can wake up early and have my precious alone time. I realize this makes me sound about as fun as a night of staying in and doing taxes. And yes–for the curious– the idea of having someone around ALL THE TIME (ahem, like a baby) is very frightening for someone who cherishes solitary time the way that I do.

I’ve learned to accept that I may never be considered the life of the party, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like going to them!  In fact, Friday night I was so desperate to be sociable that I practically begged my coworker and her boyfriend to go out with me after work.  We had drinks and dinner and dessert and talked to junkies in Tomkins Square Park. I got the social interaction that I craved and then I was ready to go home and hang out with myself. At 8:45.

Like many introverts, I spend a lot of time in my own head and tend to consider my thoughts one of my better companions. It is no coincidence that my personality type and a lifelong love for writing go hand in hand. My career choice as a therapist makes a whole lot of sense in that context too.  One-on-one interactions tend to be my favorite, and if a group is any larger than six, my voice may be the one you hear the least often. I’m not always a quiet or reserved person, but I sure can be. I absolutely hate to yell over other people. I hate to yell, period. If a situation requires yelling in order to be heard, I’d rather sit and listen. Or leave the room.

When I was 25, I made an attempt to teach 3rd grade in the South Bronx. It was a very unfortunate circumstance that the particular school where I taught was incredibly poorly run, with very little support from the administration, veteran teachers, and parents. A disproportionate amount of the students had significant behavioral issues, and I spent more time each day breaking up fights than I did teaching anything. After so many times sending kids to his office, the principal finally suggested I begin shutting my door and yelling at the students to improve classroom management.

You can imagine how well that went.

I couldn’t sleep. I barely ate. I cried every Sunday night. I dropped 15 pounds in less than three months. I was miserable, a nervous wreck. I was working against my natural disposition, my temperament, and my core self. I quit the day before Thanksgiving break. (that’s where the N for Intuition part comes in–when you know something is off, you just know). Still, that job taught me a lot. Working with large groups and being the focus of attention in a room? No thanks. Not for me. Pulling someone aside and talking to them one on one? Much better. My failure as a teacher was my inspiration to become a therapist, and even though there are stressful days in my current occupation, there has never been a day– not one– that stressed me out like teaching did. Play to your strengths! (PS: There might not be another group of people in the world I respect more than teachers.)

get ur freak on

(See? Introverts can have fun too! Here I am…puttin’ my back into it.)

Anyway, enough talking about myself.

I’m starting to feel uncomfortable.

 

Have you taken the Myers-Briggs Test? Are you an introvert or an extrovert, or a little bit of both? I’m very curious…please share!

 

 

 

 

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On Guilty Pleasures: 19 Kids and Counting

 

I am absolutely fascinated by the Duggar family. Their show is called 19 Kids and Counting, but I hope they change the name soon to 19 and Finally Satisfied since Mama Duggar is now 48 and her uterus probably looks like a hobo bag.

They’ve been running a ton of new episodes lately, and it seems like they always have a “special announcement” to publicize. First it was daughter Jill’s wedding, then Jessa started courting and got engaged. Then Jill got pregnant. Then their sister-in-law got pregnant. Then Jessa got married and was bold and non-traditional and served 1,000 ice cream scoops at her wedding. Then cameras followed them on their European honeymoon where they graduated from side hugs to French kisses. Now I’m sucked into watching Jill give birth on TV. I’m presuming cameras will be there for the next conception.

Just once I want one of those special announcements to be something like “Jehovah got a tongue ring and started listening to heavy metal in the garage” or “20-year-old Juniper used sarcasm for the first time”, or “Jermajesty went vegetarian and now requires his own batch of beefless tater tot casserole”. My favorite episode would definitely be “Daughter Juno side-hugged with a girl and SHE LIKED IT.”

I continue to find myself amazed that with 19 children, there are no real “defectors”. They all seem to go right along with the prescribed family values, which doesn’t happen in most families, right? They all appear to be almost unbelievably wholesome, kind, calm and good-natured. How did they get away with no teenage revolt? Where are the toddler meltdowns? Do those parents ever lose their cool? I would pay good money (eh, two to four bucks) to see the footage on the cutting room floor. There must be something we’re not seeing here. Life can’t be this easy with a family the size of a chorus line.

Michelle Duggar reminds me of every Texas preschool teacher I ever had, the kind who wore ankle socks with the little bunny pouf on the heel and long skirts with felt apples stitched around the hemline. She has this soft, gentle, sing-song voice that makes her sound like she’s constantly reading aloud from a nursery rhyme book with hundreds of little children gathered around her feet. On this last episode her youngest daughter had a seizure while she and Jim-Bob were out of town and she discussed that incident with the exact same tone of voice she uses for describing the joy of new grand babies. It was remarkable. I keep checking to see if there’s a tiny bluebird perched on her shoulder.

Jim-Bob is the consummate man of the house– provider, spiritual leader, and passionate husband to his adoring wife. He likes to bend her over and show his older kids how kissing is really done since they’re only allowed to hold hands until they get married and leave the Duggar clan. I know they home-school, but I think there are certain lessons that should be out-sourced, and making out is one of them. They should be learning that skill behind the bleachers like everyone else. But really, Jim-Bob seems like a really sweet man and he obviously cares deeply about his family. I was very touched by how emotional he became at his daughters’ weddings. He was visibly crying, and genuinely sad they were leaving the home.

Must be a very different set of emotions when you get married at 21 or 22 and it synchronizes with leaving your parents’ home for the first time. I got married at 35 and hadn’t lived at home since I was 17, so when my bridesmaid said to my dad on my wedding day: “Aww, your little girl’s getting married today!”, his response wasn’t tears or loving praise. It was “Little girl? Jesus, she’s practically middle-age!”.

Clearly, I grew up in an environment very different than the Duggar offspring. I am one of only two children. Our house was generally pretty quiet and without chaos. There were no mini-vans in our driveway, only sports cars. My parents are well versed in sarcasm, mood shifts, and profanity. We used to gather around the TV and watch Beavis and Butthead as a family. We weren’t home-schooled, but the next door neighbors were and we thought they were weird. My teenaged brother taped black garbage bags all over the attic and lived up there till he developed heat stroke. I refused to help my mother cook. My parents divorced.

We did love us some casseroles though.

 

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Adventures in New York City house-hunting.

 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about living in New York City, it’s that anyone who lives here is always up for real estate chit-chat. As one of my friends said, it’s our version of discussing the weather.

That’s because there are always crazy experiences attached to renting apartments here.  We all have horror stories about roommates who watched us eat to make sure we didn’t drop crumbs on the floor, or cramped studios with rats the size of kittens, or kitchens without a single inch of counter space so you had to lay a cutting board over your stovetop just to cut into a tomato. We all know someone who paid $2,000 for an apartment that didn’t even have a refrigerator or were woken up every night to an opera singer practicing down the hall.

Most New Yorkers aren’t shy about how much rent they pay, especially if it’s below market. Whenever someone compliments my mother on a sweater or handbag, she quickly reveals the price she paid for it. “It was only 10 bucks! Can you believe it?” Sometimes she even keeps the tags on just to remind herself what a bargain she got. New Yorkers are the same way with rent; it’s a badge of honor to have landed a good deal. I knew a girl whose entire family has lived in the same apartment on Mulberry Street (the main street in Manhattan’s Little Italy) for over 100 years. The apartment is the size of a prison cell and there’s no tub or shower, so she’s spent her entire life washing herself in the bathroom sink. HOWEVER. It’s rent-stabilized at SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS A MONTH. That’s less than our cable bill.

I would absolutely give up bathing for $75 rent.

Anyway, I bring this up because like I’ve mentioned before, Vin and I are in the throes of looking for a new place. We’re moving on from renting to buying, essentially tethering ourselves not only to a huge financial anchor, but also to New York itself. Vinny is a native New Yorker, so permanently committing himself to his hometown is not something that triggers moments of panic or intense self-reflection. But for me–an import, a transient, another one of those NYC wannabes who rambled into the city from somewhere else– the switch from renter to buyer feels heavy and conclusive. My time here is no longer temporary, living in NYC is not something I’m scratching off a bucket list or  ”just trying on”  before really settling down. This concept of New York permanency is something I’m still wrapping my head around, because frankly, it’s not what I would have ever predicted for myself. When I first moved here, I thought I’d live in NYC two years, three years tops.

Occasionally in this house-hunting process– usually after I shake my head in disbelief or gasp in disgust at a price on a completely unimpressive, yet ridiculously expensive property– Vin will look at me and apologize for being from New York City. He knows our lives might be a little easier if I’d married a nice boy from Omaha.

But I didn’t. I married a boy named Vinny from Queens and we spend our weekends scouting properties in the still (relatively) affordable parts of Brooklyn. If my estimations are correct, the down payment for a place in my husband’s hometown will cost right around what most people in my home state pay for their entire house.

I’m finding my adult life to be very entertaining so far.

In good news…we went to a bank recently to ask for a loan. And we got one! Our mortgage lender looks and sounds just like Sofia Vergara, and it’s nice to have something so pretty to look at while talking about something so stressful.

Because now, the fantasy portion of our house-hunting process is complete. No more sighing over beautiful brownstones with polished oak floors and winding staircases. We have a budget now. It’s about to get very real. The ads that amuse me most are, “Bring your architect and contractor!” Sometimes I think they’re tempted to quip: “And don’t forget your first-born child! You may need him as collateral!”.

So now we swap stories about how crazy buying a house or apartment in New York City is. We laugh over listings that park phrases like “in pristine condition” next to photos of dark, dingy caverns with wall-to-wall orange carpet and interior stone walls that look like something out of a Flintstone’s cartoon. We panic when we meet people at open houses who tell us they’ve put offers on four different homes in the past year, and lost them all to investors who made 100% cash offers on million dollar houses. We joke about trying to befriend elderly people in the neighborhood so we can have first dibs on their properties when they get ready to sell. Or, you know, die.

I asked our loan officer, “Have you ever heard of someone accepting an offer not because it was the highest, but because they liked the buyers?” I’m holding onto a faint hope that what Vinny and I lack in financial resources we can make up for in charm.

To my delight, her answer was yes. She’s heard of several situations where the sellers were eager to turn their keys over to people who they felt would really cherish the home. Not everyone wants to sell to developers or semi-professional house flippers with padded wallets.

So this weekend we’ll make our way back to Brooklyn. Vin will come equipped with lots of smart questions about boiler pumps and property taxes, and I’ll come in swinging a wicker basket filled with freshly baked mini-muffins, just in case the sellers are home.

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April Showers Bring More Blog Posts

 

If you ever notice that I start posting here more or less frequently, you can almost always assume it has something to do with the weather. If it’s rainy, very cold, icy, snowy, balmy, perfectly sunny or terribly crappy, chances are I will blog that week. If the weather is temperate, reasonable, average, or generally unremarkable, I probably won’t.

It all has to do with the peculiar rhythm of my job, which syncs to external and metaphysical forces almost always beyond my control. If there is an exact formula to client show rate, I have not yet stumbled on it, but the general rule is people do not want to come outside in any sort of extreme weather scenario.

Today the weather is positively terrible, as though a gang of nasty little gremlins is hanging over some invisible ledge in the sky, waiting to dump buckets of water on the poor innocents schlepping to work.  I’m sitting in my office alone waiting for my pants to dry and wishing I had someone to play Scrabble with. The cancelled reservations have been literally pouring in. It’s after 12 noon, and I haven’t seen a single person yet.

My favorite cancellation message was from a client who texted: “Can’t make it. I’m made of paper and unable to get wet.”

Anyway, the point of this blog post is that I’m sort of bored and looking for ways to make use of this unexpected free time (and by free, I really mean “unpaid”.

If any of you local-yokels are soaking wet and ambling around the East Village, come stop by my office. We’ll grab some noodle soup around the corner and I’ll hang a funny sign on my door that says something like “Gone Fishing” or “Can’t talk now; I’m busy trying to fix my hair.”

In my world, April showers bring May flowers, poor show rates and bad hair days.

But they also get me closer to June and backyard barbecues, so I can’t complain too much.

 

 

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Dream Interpretation

 

I’ve been having the weirdest dreams lately. They’ve been disturbingly violent, which is a particularly pleasant way to wake up in the morning.

Yesterday I heard a story about someone getting stabbed fighting over a bag of Cheez Doodles. My first thought was well, that seems a little harsh, but Cheez Doodles are pretty freaking good. I guess that was still on my mind as I lay down last night, because I dreamed that I was stabbed in the face in the grocery store down the street. It hurt a lot, so I walked up the street to the Rite Aid, and the pharmacist patched me up with a Dora band-aid, then I bought a bag of Doritos and traveled home.

Two nights ago I dreamed I was in a massive chain hotel in the desert, standing in the window with a crowd of people as we watched a fire erupt on the ground below. We stood there, slack-jawed,  as cars and trucks drove straight into the fire, everyone holding up DLSRs and snapping pics as they drove into the flames. Eventually I snapped to and said, “What are we doing? Grab your shit and let’s get out of here!” Then we all ran to the LIRR station (in the desert?) and headed back to the city.

But my favorite dream of the past week, and the one I think has the most potential to actually be shopped around as a movie, involved a one-on-one brawl between me and my arch rival. My enemy was trying to mow me down with an enormous boulder. Except it wasn’t a boulder. It was a huge frozen boiler chicken, shrink-wrapped and ready for roasting.

They say that what happens in our dreams is always a reflection of something going on in our conscious mind, but I have no idea what getting mauled by a massive frozen chicken has to do with my life.

I can tell you what it doesn’t mean though.

I still ain’t going vegetarian.

Bacon 4-eva.

 

 

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The Top 10 Ways to Make Your Post Go Viral

 

I was a journalism major in college, with the ultimate goal to write for magazines. In those days, there were very few things published exclusively as online content. In fact, when I interned at Texas Monthly my senior year, I worked in what was called the “new media” department, which basically involved taking copy from the last month’s issue and retyping it for this crazy new thing they were rolling out called a website. Oh! How times have changed!

Now the whole world’s online, and getting published is easier than ever–especially if you abide by the following ten rules.

 how to make a post go viral

 

1. Make a list.

It doesn’t really matter what’s on it; lists are today’s greatest literary device. Websites really like publishing them, and readers adore skimming them because we all have the attention span of an avocado. Try starting your post/article with a digit and watch the numbers climb! Here are some examples:

10 ways to Lose Weight While Main-lining Cool Ranch Doritos and Vodka Cocktails

My 8 All-Time Favorite Varieties of Hard Cheese

The 6.5 Best Places to Clip Your Toenails in Public without Getting Caught

 

2. Write about S.E.X.

You didn’t hear it here first– but sex DOES sell. People are nosy freaks and they want to know what you’re doing between, on top of and under your sheets. Write a funny little story about shopping for a vibrator, your first threesome, or the time things got so out of hand the neighbors called the cops. Don’t worry about your personal life– it won’t affect it at all!

 MJO_1562

 

3. Reveal your Darkest Secret

The inter webs are the new Maury Povich show. If you have something you’ve been holding close to your chest (i.e.: you have three boobs, you reuse dental floss, you’re really a giant cat living as a human) it’s time to clear the air and find a public forum to spill the beans to.

 

4. Discuss, in great detail, your most painful memory. 

There are plenty of websites that really want you to relive your trauma so other people can read about it. It doesn’t have to be well-written, or provide a message of caution, hope or encouragement to others. Just go there, because it makes for a compelling story and we are all very curious to know more about your misfortune.

 

5. Teach us Something

Put on a hat and call yourself an expert in one of the following areas, because this is what we really want to learn right now. Start your headline with HOW TO and then add any one, or a combination of the following:

make money, save money, find more time, waste less time, get clear skin, lose weight, gain social media followers, grow your blog, shrink your belly, save the planet, destroy your enemies, find your life’s purpose, lose your bad habits, stop craving sugar, raise polite geniuses, go vegan without dreaming of bacon, stop comparing yourself to others, find more joy, organize all your crap, stop farting in fancy places, keep your teeth from falling out, and make this year your greatest year EVER.

 

6. Write about Simplifying

We are all burdened by our over-scheduled, over-crowded, over-stuffed lives. If you really want to please the masses, give us a multi-step, super-complicated instructional online guidebook on simplifying every aspect of daily living. We want pictures of how you threw away everything you owned and started from scratch, starting with your wardrobe and ending with your kitchen utensils. Readers love a clean slate. Writers love a project.

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7. Tackle Controversial Subjects

Please share your personal insights and colorful opinions about ISIS, abortion, sexual harassment, medical marijuana, Obamacare, vaccinations for children, concealed handguns, gay marriage, physician-assisted suicide, affirmative action, animal testing, climate change, evolution versus creationism, and racial profiling. Do as little research as possible, and if you really want it to go viral, write completely out of your ass and have a blast reading the comments section. As an alternative, you can address one of those “open letters” to someone who’s made waves recently in the media.

 

8. Document Your Detox

Give up something vital–whether it’s food, booze, technology, or The Real Housewives franchise. Remember: Show, don’t tell. We all need to feel the withdrawal.

 

9. Let us Inside

Take us somewhere we’ve never been before, and give us something salacious to peek at. I can think of a few places that pique my curiosity, and I’d give an eye-tooth to take a tour through a monastery, a jail, a nudist colony, the dressing room of a strip club, a dominatrix’s den, Bellevue Hospital, and the man cave in the basement of the White House.

 

10. Write about Motherhood

Nothing makes waves faster on the internet than an article about motherhood. People live for stories like “1,000 things I want my daughter to know by age 3″ and “If you don’t breast-feed your children they will grow horns and become a blight on your community”.

Ask these questions to an audience: Should I become a mother? When should I become a mother? What if I don’t want to be a mother? What if I’m turning into my mother? Am I the right kind of mother? Should I work? Should I home-school? Should they cry it out? Should I cry it out? Can I name a girl Sephora, or will people automatically think of the makeup store?

Parenting is no easy task, and people like to share their every thought and feeling about it by reaching out to people they don’t know via computer.

 

And there you have it! Now go out there and break the internet with naked pictures of your butt.

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Top 8 Places I Dream About Moving To

Every time I post about the difficulties of living in New York, my friends opine on my Facebook wall. “Let’s all move away together!” “Commune time!” The thing that binds us here is not always NY itself, but the people here. What’s the fun of moving to a new place into a big house with ample parking if you don’t know anyone to invite over?

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So sometimes I fall down the rabbit hole of fantasizing about other places. I’ll see a program on HGTV or something where they’re fixing up some beautiful $250,000 house in Atlanta or South Carolina and I start pining for something a little easier, a little bigger. And weather! Enough with this frickackta winter weather! If we’re going to do a mass exodus, we are definitely following the sun.

And even though the likelihood of this ever coming to fruition– the mass exodus, all of us getting good jobs in the same area, the building of our commune–is extremely low,  I thought it would be fun to examine a few alternative living scenarios.

 

1. Austin, Texas

My top choice for alternative living is Austin. It’s a great town with wonderful people, amazing food, fantastic music and a million different things to do. The biggest bonus is that I already have family and friends there. Plus, breakfast tacos are my happy place.

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2. Charleston, SC

Never been, but I hear it’s warm and sunny with lovely architecture and delicious fried Southern food. Porches + lemonade + fried chicken= a life of fat pants and happiness. For some reason, I fantasize about what Charleston is like. Perhaps a visit is in order!

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico

I grew up with a dad who wore bolo ties through most of the early 90s, so I have a real soft spot for the American Southwest. We were the family with chili pepper lights on their Christmas tree and entire rooms dedicated to the traditional southwestern motif. I find the landscape and continuity of the architecture in Santa Fe really alluring, and my hair looks great in dry as opposed to wet heat.

4. Arizona

This pick is for our friend Aubrey, whose family lives in Scottsdale. I know this would be her top choice for exodus, and I think I could survive there as well, since I am programmed to love heat and dread winter. Unfortunately, I’m married to someone who I’ve heard will spontaneously combust if the temperature hits over 105, so this one might not work for us.

5. Santa Monica California

This won’t be much cheaper than the way we’re living now, and we’d probably spend half our day sitting in traffic, but I visited my best friend in Santa Monica two years ago and really fell in love with her lifestyle. I could work as a therapist to the stars and Vin could finally wear all his Rip Curl clothing in its intended setting.

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6. Portland, OR

We could line up a field with yurts and eat gourmet donuts all day. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

7. New Orleans

I have a feeling our buddies Bridget and Chris would cast a vote for New Orleans, a city close to their heart. We could all live in historical homes and throw beads off our balconies during Mardi Gras parades. By night we’ll hit bars and hear zydeco. We’ll wake up on Sundays and eat beignets, all day.

8. Hawaii

As long as we’re talking about escaping crazy city life, we may as well do it up right. Aloha, bitches. Pass the spam fried rice.

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If you guys have any other ideas you’d like to share about a lovely place I may have overlooked, I completely welcome your input, even if there’s a strong possibility it will make me cry. Don’t be telling me about 75-degree day in your area right now. I’m emotionally fragile.

 

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And I think to myself… what a puzzling world

 

Last Thursday morning I brewed a pot of coffee and turned on The Today Show. As I was about to leave the house for work, a breaking report came on. The headline blasted across the screen IT WAS ON PURPOSE, referring to the airplane crash in the French Alps the day prior, when a co-pilot deliberately turned 150 people over to God. I felt my heart drop to my stomach. It was sickening, horrifying, and hard to imagine.

Thursday afternoon, a coworker walked down our office hallway looking startled, and told us that she’d just seen an explosion around the corner. The storefront had been blown right off a restaurant on the next block, and she had seen and heard the terror that happened afterward as people ran outside, bleeding. It triggered a 7-alarm fire and three buildings collapsed, leaving 19 injured, 2 missing and many without their homes and businesses. It is so upsetting to see a huge hole where these classic East Village buildings were, and so scary to think of what it must have been like for the people inside them that day.

Between these two events, I met with several clients, one of whom, when describing news events completely unrelated to the two just described said: “The world is a shitty place.” I’d heard statements relatively similar to this throughout the week. “Life sucks”, “people suck”, “the world sucks”, “New York sucks”. It’s part and parcel of my job. Many people over many days iterating that the world is a shitty place full of shitty people.

Earlier in the week I agreed with a different client that a lot of bad things happen in the world, on her street, in the city. But I also reminded her that a lot of good happens too, if she can remember to look for it.

Sometimes it’s hard not to absorb the message that everything sucks, and some days–like Thursday– it’s hard to disagree with it.

I cut out of work early that day. I cancelled my last few appointments because our street was blocked off by firetrucks and heavy smoke was making it hard to breathe.

I took a seat on a still-uncrowded subway car and tried to tune out the world. If you’ve ever ridden a NYC subway before, you’re aware this is no easy task. Especially when a little boy– no older than three or four– plops right next to you and starts swinging his skinny legs and chatting his little head off.

His mother stood in front of him, and together they started playing a game of rock, paper, scissors. He was so animated and excited to play with her, and she was so clearly delighted by him. They did at least 10 rounds as we traveled through five or six stations together, giggling and tickling each other as they played.

It was a sweet, innocent moment on a day when I’d really needed one of those.

I remembered to look for it.

I found the good.

 

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I Found You

Sunday morning I told myself I was going to sit down and write but instead I stood up and walked out the door. It was still cold but the sun was shining, and I could think of nowhere I wanted to be more than Central Park. So I hopped on the subway and took myself for a stroll.

The snow still clung in patches and the tiny lakes were trapped under a sheet of ice. The trees were bare and with the exception of a random opera singer in a tunnel, the usual street performers were nowhere to be found. It’s the time of year when people are starting to come out of their cocoons and give a long walk a fair shot. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, when we all feel collectively hopeful. It felt like a beginning.

I walked to my favorite spot in the city, Bethesda Fountain. I sat and watched people take pictures of themselves with the frozen water as a backdrop. I watched a toddler dance to to the music from a saxophone player, who eventually bent down and gave her a high five. I did what i usually do, which is sit and look around and take stock of where I am and what’s around me.

And then I got a little teary-eyed, because I’m a sap and I can’t help myself.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and talk to the 22-year-old girl who moved here with only three duffel bags and an alarm clock and thank her for giving it a shot. I’d applaud her for listening to her gut and trusting her instincts. For trying something and sticking to it, even when it got difficult or lousy. For not listening to her father’s advice to stay put and look for a job in “corporate America” (sorry dad). For introducing us to penne a la vodka and street hot dogs and knish, even though they’re way too heavy and I sort of hate them.

New York is a fun place to visit and a hard place to live. It’s too expensive, too crowded, and too temperamental. Sometimes I hate that I love it, for those very reasons. I’ve taken steps backward, and made a few choices that in hindsight, I shouldn’t have. But moving here was never one of them. That 22-year girl really believed in us, and she did us both a favor. New York ain’t perfect, and neither am I.

But I’m glad we found each other.

 

 

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About Jenn.


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Kindly ignore the "food/friends/fun" part on the top of this page. It no longer describes this blog; I just don't know how to change it. Pretend it says something more accurate like "Stories of my Life", or "For a good time, read Jenn". About Me: I'm a 30-something Texan who moved to New York, became a therapist, and married a guy named Vinny from Queens. I delight in observing the world around me, and write about it here.

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