Monthly Archives: April 2013

I won’t eat broccoli!

This was a post I wrote Sept. 9, 2011 while I was working in a particularly harsh environment: a complete lack of employer support, no training, and a boss who was constantly contradicting herself by telling me she supported me and my efforts and then changing her mind and said she could not support me when our big boss disagreed with my suggestions for expanding the project they had hired me to expand. The nice thing is that all the changes I created were very successful and never failed us. Anyway, like most bad things, I did learn a few important things about myself.

Do you ever find yourself fighting against a specific part of who you are? For instance, say you have a dire aversion to broccoli but everybody keeps telling you to eat it. So you try to eat it. It makes you sick. But you still feel pressured by friends and family to keep trying to eat broccoli. No matter how many times you try it, no matter how many times you change it up, it’s still broccoli and it still makes you sick.

At what point do you accept that you do not like broccoli, never will, and move on with life? Accept that you are created specifically to not like broccoli and that it would be okay to never ever eat it again?

It’s not broccoli, but it’s similar. This story begins years and years ago based on some poor choices. Because of the poor choices, I worked various office jobs to help make ends meet. These jobs are the easiest to come by (if not right at this moment) and usually pay okay. The work is stable and so is the paycheck and benefits.

I started office work because we were poor and there wasn’t a whole lot of call for inexperienced theater majors with a second Bachelor’s in journalism. At least, that’s what I thought. My frame of mind was, “I graduated college, now where is my job?” I had no idea that I would actually have to go out there and find these jobs on my own, beyond online job searches. I felt entitled.

I know, finesse is not a trait I have.

Years later I’m still working in office jobs. I hate them. I hate office politics. I hate people who don’t communicate. I hate playing corporate games.

But I do like my steady paycheck, my benefits, my paid vacation and separate paid sick leave. I like knowing that it will have to take a lot, and I mean moving a mountain a lot, to fire me (don’t ask how I know this).

But office jobs bring out my worst. At least what I perceive is my worst. Specifically, my lack of “tough skin.” I’m, apparently, “too sensitive”.

Lack of tough skin is my broccoli. No matter how many classes I take, books I read, therapists I see, I am just a very sensitive soul. And for some reason that is a bad thing. My entire life people have told me to toughen up. Grow some thicker skin. Stop being so sensitive. Don’t take everything so personally.

A couple of weeks ago I heard a co-worker say about another co-worker, “He’s just really sensitive. We need to toughen him up.” I know the co-worker being commented about, and yeah, he is another sensitive soul. He’s a good guy. He’s kind-hearted and funny. He sympathizes with the students he works with and worries about them. He has worried right along with me through all the trials I’ve faced in this job. He loves his wife and supports her in just about everything she wants to do. He isn’t whiny. He doesn’t complain. He’s just struggling and frustrated with his job. Just like me.

But this makes him “sensitive”. And in this case “sensitive” equals a dirty word; as in, “She’s so smelly. We need to encourage her to take a bath”. Telling someone like me, like my co-worker, to grow tougher skin would be like telling Shaquille O’Neal to grow short. But why should we change?

My boss repeated tells me that I’m too sensitive and need to toughen up. At least she tells me to my face, unlike my sensitive-soul counterpart whom she just talks about behind his back. Oh, I know she talks about me behind my back, too, I’ve walked in on discussions about me she’s having with two of my other co-workers.

She told me again today that I needed toughen up, grow that crazy thick skin EVERYbody else has (all the cool kids have thick skin!), I realized that I was told to be somebody I’m not.

I am a sensitive person. But I don’t think this should be considered a bad thing. When people are fighting around me, I’m usually the first person to step up and make everybody back away (Halloween 2009). I like to work in a harmonious, drama free environment where people work together not because we have to but because working together makes everybody’s lives easier. It’s important to have sensitive people like me around.

It’s a shame that when I’m told to toughen up I can’t say, “You know, three years ago I chased, on foot, one of the three guys who broke into my home; a guy carrying a gun. The only reason I didn’t catch him and beat the shit out of him was because he can jump fences. Please don’t tell me to toughen up. My skin is thick when it needs to be. Apparently, this is not a time when thick skin is needed. Instead of me changing for you, why don’t you change for me?”

Six right livelihood guidelines

Consume mindfully.

  • Eat with awareness and gratitude.
  • Pause before buying and see if breathing is enough.
  • Pay attention to the effects of media you consume.

Pause. Breathe. Listen.

  • When you feel compelled to speak in a meeting or conversation, pause.
  • Breathe before entering your home, pleace of work, or school.
  • Listen to the people you encounter. They are buddhas.

Practice gratitude.

  • Notice what you have
  • Be equally grateful for opportunities and challenges.
  • Share joy, not negativity.

Cultivate compassion and loving kindness.

  • Notice where help is needed and be quick to help
  • Consider others’ perspectives deeply.
  • Work for peace at many levels.

Discover wisdom

  • Cultivate “don’t know” mind (= curiosity).
  • Find connections between Buddhist teachings and your life.
  • Be open to what arises in every moment.

Accept constant change.


I’m a Bad, Bad Girl

On Saturday night Mike and I went to dinner to one of our favorite local eateries. It’s a pretty cool joint, locally owned, local ingredients, great chef, not just some guys hired off the street to fry up some fries. It’s not swanky or posh, but maybe a bit hipster, but I forgive them for that. The food is delicious.

I had run next door to a consignment shop when I saw a pair of purple Converse from the window. I snatched them up and returned to the restaurant to find Mike seated at a table for four behind a family of five. As soon as I sat down I knew it our dining experience was going to entertaining at least.

The range of kids at the table seemed to go from 4-years to 14-years. All girls. Mom and dad seemed to be in their 40s, so not really the kind of folks I’d expected to be saying things like, “I want you to pay special attention. This is an important lesson.” I usually hear that coming from my younger peers, not people my own age or older.

What bothered me about that family and about other families like this is that everything is a lesson. A former boss made everything her child did into a life-lesson. In our college town we see a lot of this life-lesson parenting when we’re out and about. Parents with one baby slung tightly to the mother as if to imitate the safety of the womb (albeit, those things do look comfortable and every baby I’ve seen in one of those slings is always fast asleep). Dad is usually wearing his skinny jeans and his thick black rimmed glasses, holding the hand of one child and effectively ignoring it at the same time, and mom is hipster verging on hippy verging on Yuppie. Style is what style does, so more power to ’em.

It bothers me so much when the life-lessons distract me from having a meal with my husband. Maybe there should be different sections in restaurants for those with kids and without, with life-lessons and without. As soon as I sat down I heard the father say to one of the girls, “Now, girls, you’re talking in too loud a voice. When we’re in a restaurant we speak quietly in low voices.”

Okay, that’s not such a bad life-lesson to learn for kids. I hate that kid who is screaming and then the mom screams back and pretty soon I realize I’ve made the fatal mistake of walking into McDonald’s.

From there on out it was very “hushed” tones, although they were loud enough that we could clearly hear everything they were saying and constant demands for the children to be even more quiet. By the time I heard, “Now I want you to pay attention. It is important that you always use a straw when you drink at a restaurant” I realized that I could not just sit there, I had to rebel!

Whenever I’m faced with people like this I immediately feel this need to do the exact opposite of what they are trying to teach their children. The first time I realized I did this was when I lived in Pennsylvania and my cousin’s then 11-year-old daughter wanted to wear some danglely earrings. Nothing too long, just a little lady bug dangling from the post of the earring, very innocent and cute for an 11-year-old. When Little Cousin was told she could not, Little Cousin deftly pointed out that I wore not only dangling earrings but I also had three piercings in one ear. At which Mother Cousin said, “Wendi is a good girl but she’s done a very bad thing (piercing my ear multiple times)”. Since then its been my goal, nay, my life’s passion to alert kids every where that you DO NOT have to put a straw in your glass at a restaurant and that that is certainly NOT a very important life-lesson!

Whenever I get a text on my phone my alert is the cute little girl from “Despicable Me” shouting, “SHE’S SO FLUFFY!!! I’M GONNA DIE!!!!” My rebel self turned my ringer on (I always turn it off in the restaurant) and up full volume. Then I started texting Mike so he would have to text me back. (I can’t embed videos for some reason but here’s the link to Agnes exclaiming what we always exclaim to our own Fluffy Jane.)

The first time “SHE’S SO FLUFFY!” screamed out of my phone the family table grew quiet until the middle child said, “Who was that? What voice was that? Where did it come from?!” When no one answered her questions, she asked louder. I know, I’m horrible. The dad, of course had to tell her that in a restaurant we keep our voices low. I kind of snickered. When “SHE’S SO FLUFFY!” went out a second time it was ignored. Huh.

The rest of the time I tried very hard not to swear, at least not in my regular volume voice, just in case, and drank from my glass directly and chewed ice. Mike had a bit of a chuckle himself because we did not put away our iPad once dinner was served. In fact, we kept on playing Carcassone (which is the reason I did my best not to swear at him, he was beating the shit out of me!) It just seems like we hear life-lessons everywhere we go and I wonder if the kids are ever allowed to just be kids. I understand that parents need to discipline their kids, and I’m all for that. After working three years at Wal-Mart I know what undisciplined is – parents and kids alike! But does everything have to be a life-lesson? Cant’ you just go out for dinner? Does the newborn (this was at another restaurant) really understand that if you tell him that you will take him outside if he gurgles and makes newborn baby noises one more time that it’s not a good thing? (That one was so ridiculous. The dad kept saying, “Do you need me to take you outside? Do you want me to take you outside?” while the baby’s unfocused newborn eyes looked around as he gurgled and acted like a newborn baby should.)

I don’t know why I do this. Maybe because my parents were pretty strict while I was growing up or something along those lines. The line I heard over and over as a kid was, “what would the neighbors think?!” To which I always wanted to respond, “Well if you don’t say anything they won’t know thus they can’t think about it”. I think I might have said that once but totally under my breath. There’s only so much wrath an only child can get away with. (I love you, mom.)

Crazy Dream Recap: I Cougar Daniel Radcliffe

I made the lovely switch from bad dreams to overall weird dreams. Last night’s dream was a doozy. Daniel Radcliffe, better known for his work as Harry Potter, was actually the real Prince of Wales.

daniel-radcliffe1Oh yeah, so far this dream is looking good. I know that he’s only, what, 20-years-old, but he’s legal and he’s hot. He’s hot, look at those eyes! Or look at him here:






So he’s a bit younger in the second picture but still super cute. As one friend said, “A dream with Daniel Radcliffe? Yummy!”

Anyway, Daniel was the Prince and married to Kate Middleton. 130532-kate-middletonBut the palace knew that she needed a stand-in, you know in case Tom Cruise decided to kidnap her (see Suri Cruise Body Double). Side note: Kate is not pregnant in my dream and I am not married. We’ll get revisit both of these subjects soon

Since I’m the spitting image of Kate Middleton and totally British, the Palace calls me in. Makes complete sense and wow, a chance to hang out with Daniel! Sure, I’ll take the job!

So Daniel and I jet around the world doing humanitarian work and going to movie premieres. He’s a wonderful host and a fabulous faux-husband. And everyone thinks I’m Kate. The plan is working! Daniel tells me what life is like living in the palace. Kate teaches me how to be a princess. It’s really an amazing time for all of us. We’re all friends, not just the Palace and me, employer and employee.

When I’m not holding hands and being embraced by Daniel or getting princess lessons from Kate (who has, after a certain amount of time but since it’s a dream time means nothing, told me that I’m her best friend) I’m hanging out with my burly British boyfriend who is a rugby player. rugbyplayerFunnily enough, he doesn’t look too much different from Mike. Because for all intents and purposes, the rugby player (I have no idea who this guy is but was the best representation of the guy in my dream that Google had to offer) has the same hair as Mike. We’re not married. We’re serious and in love but because we’re British (?) and he’s a rugby player and I’m Daniel’s faux-wife we’re not getting married any time soon.

After some time Daniel and I are pretty close and one morning I feel pretty sick. Kate tells me that she’s not feeling well either and we discuss whether or not she’s pregnant. I guess that’s because she’s married and I’m not or whatever dream rule belongs here. But I’m still thinking about it. So I take a pregnancy test and sure enough I’m preggers!

But who’s baby is it? Ruby player Mike or Prince Daniel? Well, it turns out that even though I don’t remember an intimacy it turns out to be Prince Daniel’s baby and not Rugby Mike’s. I feel bad, of course, but Ruby Mike is excited and for some reason he is okay that it’s not his and honored that Prince Daniel is my baby daddy.

Kate, on the other hand, is really not pleased. I can’t imagine why. I basically stole her spot as Prince Daniel’s wife and her role as Princess of Wales (or whatever the heck her title is) and now I’m having her baby.

When I finally wake up from this dream I’m feeling a little bit of guilty pleasure from having supposedly scored with Daniel Radcliffe and that people mistake me for Kate Middleton; but I’m freaking out because I’m pregnant! Keeping with the sleep walking trend I’m in my room and I say, out loud to no one but I’m slightly delirious and think I’m talking to Daniel and Kate, “I want a paternity test so my baby will know where he comes from.”

It’s at this point that I wake straight into a full blown panic attack because I’m pregnant! OMG I’M PREGNANT!!!! I stand in my room, heart racing, cold sweats. I’m not sure when I finally wake up and come to my senses but when I do I got back to bed. Before I tell Mike my latest crazy dream, he puts his hand right on my belly and I kind of freak out and tell him, “I’m sorry I got dream pregnant with Daniel Radcliffe, but you and I were only dating!”

Mike’s used to all this by now and he just shakes his head and tells me to go back to sleep.


Me and Mike…you know, Kate Middleton and Burly British Rugby Player

I’m having flashbacks to the Cold War

Guam to get defense system after North Korea’s missile move. The U.S. said it will send a missile defense system to Guam to protect it from North Korea, which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said posed a “real and clear danger.”

There is a little part of me that is freaking out right now. My heart beats just a bit faster. I’m regretting my move to the top floor apartment (albeit the move was two years ago and I’m only on the second floor). I have the distinct need to clean out my pantry and restock it with non-perishable food items. I even reconsidered the purchase of some new red glitter fingernail polish because what is the point if THE WORLD IS GOING TO END?!?!

Welcome to my mind during what I can only call a flashback from post-cold war traumatic childhood-syndrome. It’s not a real thing. I’m sure my therapist would say it stems from my anxiety disorder but let’s just stick with my title. It’s more catchy if not a little long.

When I was in elementary school we lived in Germany for four years. It was an amazing experience, and I totally caught Carmen San Diego’s butt because my European geographical knowledge was so on point. Don’t ask me where Iowa is, I have no idea, my American geography skills stink. While we lived there my parents made sure I got as much history jammed into my brain as possible. We went to Verdun, France. We went to Frankfurt and Dachau. I traveled TWICE into East Germany (yes, Millenials, there was once an East and West Germany!). The first time I went with my parents and some family friends.

The trip with my parents was really interesting. And very sad. We crossed through Check Point Charlie into East Berlin. My dad had to wear his military dress uniform and my mom made sure that she and I looked our best too. After all we were representing Americans and we wanted to look good as a sign of respect. Except there was no one on the streets of East Berlin to show our respect to, that is, no one except the East German military guard that followed us the entire time. It was very scary. Guards, with guns, followed us around a city that was dead basically. People were there they just stayed inside. West Berlin is was very much a metropolitan city, bustling with life. East Berlin was the exact opposite. Everything was gray. Everything was dark. It seemed, much like Dachau, that the sun never shone there.

The second time I went with my Girl Scout troop by train in the night. The train ride was very interesting. We were told that once the train got to the West/East border we would not be allowed to look out the window of the train until we got to West Berlin. While traveling through East Germany it was Verboten to look out the window. We were all supposed to be asleep anyway so what would be the big deal? Right? Wrong. I had to peek. So lying on the top bunk I slipped a finger between the shade and the window and saw…fields. Not sure what the East Germans were trying to hide but I was shocked to see just fields. It was a scary thing to do though – to peek when we were strictly told by The Grown Ups to not peek at all.

All of this history, and a good dose of end-of-the-world disaster movies, and I am terrified of nuclear missile stories. Oh and did I mention that I spent a good portion of 5th grade hiding under my desk because of the bomb threats that were made on my elementary school because it was an American elementary school? Once we were back in Alabama I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor in the hallways of my junior high school because we were under a tornado watch, and that didn’t, and still doesn’t, scare me nearly as much as the possibility of a nuclear threat.

Possibility. Threat. Hasn’t happened yet, probably won’t, but it’s there and we’re talking about it and it makes me want to stock pile rice and powdered milk.

I can’t remember if my end of the world dreams began before 5th grade or not; 5th grade is just the time I know that I had them. The dreams were awful. Everything was gray. Ash fell continuously from the sky. My mother was dead. My father was alive but was having a hard time raising a little girl on his own. Long lines of people trying to get bread. Everyone in some type of coveralls – all gray. Lots of lines and people coughing and it being cold and dark all the time. And my dad. My dad was sad, really sad, and I worried that he wouldn’t be able to take care of me because he was always so sad.

Like I said, nightmares.

The last couple of nights I’ve been having some really harsh dreams again. Not so much about the end of the world, but sleep walking and nightmares are keeping me awake. I don’t want to be an ostrich to world events, but at the same time I’d like to sleep peacefully and not worry that the world is going to end because of some sicko in North Korea. I’d like to stop waking up in the middle of night finding myself crying or standing up next to my bed or feeling like I’m going to vomit.

I’m trying to listen to my gut; I know that North Korea isn’t going to act. It’s all a show. Lil Kim is feeling Spring – he’s strutting around North Korea shaking his tail feathers just like the Muscovy ducks in my pond are doing (side note: we’re expecting another “litter” of ducklings in the next couple of weeks!). I just wish his feather shaking was a little less world destructive. Can he not just keep Photoshopping pictures of how he’s already erased the US off the planet? That would be okay with me. It’s not like the North Korean people will ever know the truth. (Tell me why Socialism is a good thing?)

So until North Korea calms down I’m going to be one exhausted woman dealing with my Cold War flashbacks and trying to avoid the news as much as possible. If you see me stock piling food and bottled water just offer to help me get it up to my second floor apartment.