Archive | January, 2012

Jan
26
2012
The Second Greatest Gift of All

From The Muppets:
“Walter:  You give people the greatest gift of all.
Kermit:  Children?
Walter:  No.
Kermit:  Ice Cream?
Walter:  No. Laughter. Laughter is the third greatest gift of all.”

I’m going to have to disagree with Kermit and promote ice cream to number one.

Mom ate a banana split daily while pregnant with me. I’ve been obsessed with ice cream since birth. Coincidence? (Probably!) My family visited our friendly neighborhood ice cream shops a lot when I was growing up. One time I had enjoyed my small vanilla cone with Crunch Coat so much that my Dad let me go in and get another one…good times!

My first job was pumping the cream at DQ (ooh, that sounds filthy!) when it was still called Dairy Queen. I also worked at Carvel and I still use a quart container I took from there as a pen holder on my desk at work, 18 years later.

I love ice cream is what I’m saying.

When Dave was still in Syracuse, I caught a glimpse of a certificate of completion for something called the “Ice Cream Short Course” at Penn State while waiting to order at our favorite ice cream shop. It planted a subliminal seed in my brain. In the 15 years since, I have looked into the course several times. But it’s serious: a seven-day course intended for people in the ice cream industry. I filed the course into my mental bucket list.

As you know if you’ve been visiting here awhile, I’ve been thinking about career fulfillment and I appreciate all the encouragement I received after posting about my job apathy last August. Since then I’ve been trying to listen harder for my elusive inner voice.

Last fall, while walking Chuck, I got this idea to throw an ice cream social. Then I thought, I should make all the ice cream for it myself. I brainstormed flavors, toppings, and accompaniments. Then I saw an ice cream shop in my mind…my ice cream shop.

I’ve been rolling this idea around in my head as if savoring a butter rum Life Saver ever since. When I allow myself to daydream about the fun stuff, waves of excitement pulse through me. I have some store names, a logo idea, and signature flavors to develop.

When I force myself to think about the less creative aspects of running a business or things I know nothing about, like developing a business plan and employing people, and things like having to work all the time, including nights and weekends, my brain shuts down. When I remember how close I might be to early retirement if I simply don’t rock the boat, and how my biggest complaint about my current job is how much of my time it eats up, a stomach-seizing anxiety sours the excitement.

I want more free time and I’m a raging introvert. Life as a small business owner in a service industry might be my craziest idea ever.

But I was getting ahead of myself. So I looked up the Ice Cream Short Course and found a newer, two-day “Ice Cream 101” that sounds more like my speed. Before I could talk myself out of it, I registered for the course, booked a hotel room and a flight. I’m going to Penn State this weekend to learn more about ice cream making and running a shop.

Wish me luck, as spending all of my precious weekend free time traveling and being around four dozen strangers (complete with “group luncheons” and a reception providing an “opportunity for networking,” shudder…) is a little out of my comfort zone. But I’m excited and I think this experience will be telling…will it leave me with any excitement for this idea?

At least I’ll come home having learned how to make better ice cream, no? And that’s at least the second greatest gift of all.

Actually, you can do one better than wishing me luck…do you have any tips for how I can not be completely drained by this weekend? Any networking tips for a serious introvert? Since “ice cream lovers, entrepreneurs, and small-business owners” were all “welcome and encouraged to attend,” it’s probably going to be a mix (ha, a little ice cream humor!) of people already in the field and people, like me, who have a job in a different field and no clue.

Jan
24
2012
Run to the Hills

The alarm sounded, music uploaded onto the clock interrupting their sleep.

Honest to God, she’s never going to change that music, he thought. At least “Run to the Hills” accurately reflects the annoyance of waking up this way.

I hate when she lets the alarm go on and on, it’s so inconsiderate. Doesn’t she realize how exhausted I am?

He rolled around with his anger for a bit and toyed with the idea of turning off the alarm before she got up, but that would really piss her off. He considered an escape from the room, but he didn’t have the energy to right himself. His movements always felt awkward in the morning.

He tried one last time to roll over, but felt like he waded through thick brush. After about 30 seconds, he gave up and allowed himself to roll over onto his back. Positioned just right, he could muffle the sound of the alarm and rest.

He dreaded the days she slept through the alarm. She would check the time, panic, and start spewing profanities about the alarm’s uselessness, making him wince. Yeah, blame it on the clock. Why can’t you just go to bed earlier, woman?

After about a year of this torture, he couldn’t take it anymore. He cracked. Fuck this noise, he thought.

He made sure the alarm would never sound again. It didn’t help her get out of bed anyway. Silence, blessed silence, and rest awaited. 

 

This post was inspired by the Write on Edge RemembeRED writing prompt on personification: “tell a piece of your story from the point of view of an object who bore witness.”

This post is written in memory of my Tocky, who tried to roll around (as you can see from the video, pretty half-heartedly) and play music (only three songs worth, though it held many more) to wake me up for about a year, and then decided he’d had enough of my nonsense and my thick shag carpet and died an untimely death. After much back and forth with the company, they promised to send me a new one. We’ll see how Tocky2 fares.


Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
23
2012
Now I Am as Happy as a Little Girl…

Now is the time on Sprockets when we acknowledge being acknowledged. I have had bestowed onto me the coveted Love My Monkey award (or Liebe mein affe-mienke in the original German…OK, Liebster Award, whatever).

I am much too lazy to copy and paste the award rules here. Suffice it to say I’m to give props where props are due: to the blogger who nominated me and five other bloggers of my choice.

These award memes activate my acute fear of forgetting, ingrained early by the worst teacher in Bachelor elementary school history, as well as rejection. I forgot to include some people last time I did one of these things, even though it was one of the longest posts EVER. I’m sure after hitting publish on this, I will immediately think of a dozen others. I follow a lot of blogs. They are all special snowflakes. Dieter says my blathering has become tiresome, onto the links.

Thanks to Recovering Supermom for giving me this award. I first read her blog around the time I made homemade advent calendars and her post about homemade gifts spoke the truth and greatly amused me. She is a recovering perfectionist kindred spirit.

Here are some bloggers I want to highlight for their awesomeness. No need to perpetuate the chain if memes aren’t your thing, just bask in the glow of the liebster love:

Apathy is Green: Apathy is a self-described “minor cog in the bureaucracy.” I feel his pain. I’m also sometimes amused by his pain…like his office “talkopotamus.”

The Book Stop: I’d meant to include this blog in my Versatile Blogger post because: a.) she’s a friend in that thing called real life, 2.) I love her blog, and c.) she’s a versatile blogger. She writes thoughtful book reviews, and about book and literacy-related topics. She sometimes throws in a more personal post, which I appreciate as a friend and all-around nosy person.

Kid-Free Living: Another blog I meant to highlight before and didn’t. Amy’s an honest-to-goodness writer and as such needs no linky props from my little blog, but I want to give her a shout out anyway because her shit is funny. Just go check her out, it’s all good. If you need a place to start, here is a post that spoke to me.

Ramblings and Rumblings: Having a post Freshly Pressed was great, but it took months to check out the bloggers who had visited what with that “job” thing cramping my style. “Speaker7″ left a Wegmans-related comment and that alone should have made me reciprocate the visit, but the name “speaker7″ sounded vaguely spam-ish on first glance. When I eventually visited speaker7′s blog, I laughed my ass off and realized I’d been missing out. Here is a tribute to fleece. Here is the written and graphic equivalent of a haul video, only intentionally funny.

Zoe Says: Zoe is a fellow Belgian waffle lover and career fulfillment searcher (so excited about her photography career move). She writes charming posts. This one, about the icky-ness of mint, made me realize we are long-lost twins. I totally could have written that post myself and kind of wish I had.

Jen Has A Pen: I’m a rule breaker. I’m linking to six blogs instead of five. I found Jen through Write on Edge. She’s a great writer and is currently entertaining me with posts about her move to New York. I’m also jealous of her adventure as well as her super-cute blog design.

That is all the time we have. Until next time, auf Wiedersehen!

Jan
20
2012
Photo Friday: Guinness (Cupcakes) for Jesus*

The Event: Iron Chef Potluck (ingredient: “spirits”)

The Recipe: Guinness Cupcakes with Irish Whiskey Ganache Filling and Baileys Buttercream

The Verdict: while I announced the following on Twitter pre-baking… “Baking cupcakes filled w/whiskey ganache & topped w/Baileys buttercream. In other words, cupcakes I’m 98% sure I won’t eat. #5YearOldPalate” …I ended up eating…uh, several.

Cake: Loved. Delicious and moist and not Guinness-ey.

Frosting: Liked. A little grainy and definitely Baileys-ey, but sweet enough that I could eat it anyway.

Filling: Not good. The ganache set up too hard (heh-heh) to be a cupcake filling. It was like a solid truffle in the middle of the cupcake and made the cupcakes difficult to eat. I gave my fillings to Dave.

The New Obsession: Developing a signature cupcake recipe. Stay tuned!

*The silly memory these cupcakes bring to mind: Years ago, Dave and I spent St. Patrick’s Day in Philadelphia with friends from college. They were insane. John Boy (don’t ask) kept insisting that the guys drink only Guinness and Guinness-based drinks all night. When everyone else tired of Guinness, John Boy encouraged them to keep drinking it by exclaiming: “Guinness for Jesus!” I laughed so much my face hurt.

Jan
17
2012
Title and Tagline

Under Construction: Brussels, the European Union, and Me

This post was inspired by the Write on Edge RemembeRED writing prompt:

“Imagine your life, or a part of your life, as a title and tagline. That’s it. Give us the title, and give us the tagline.”

You know I can’t leave it at that. This prompt and my oldest nephew’s recent arrival in France has me thinking of my own study abroad experience in 1994. I have a whole separate post brewing about this. Here I’ll just say the whole city felt as if it were under construction. The fountain in the picture above did not exist when I arrived. I walked by a mess of cranes building something day after day. During the last two weeks of my stay, the cranes were replaced by a small park complete with trees, benches, and that fountain, ironically (defiantly?) crane-like.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
14
2012
It’s Good to Be Matt Damon

Two nights before Christmas, I stayed up late to wrap gifts alone. I kept the TV on for company and groaned when Charlie Rose came on with Matt Damon and Cameron Crowe. I expected shameless plugging of their movie We Bought A Zoo and perhaps some vapid discussion of their “craft.” But about 10 minutes in, the interview took a surprising turn that resonated in a bordering-on-creepy way with the two biggest themes I’ve wrestled with over the last year:  career fulfillment and friendships.

Matt Damon is very articulate. And also one lucky son of a bitch.

Phase 1 (in which Matt Damon and Cameron Crowe Confirm My Biggest Fear about Career)

Matt Damon pointed out how Cameron Crowe’s movies center on a main character doing something in the first act that everyone around him thinks is crazy. They do this because “it’s something they need to do…their inner voice is telling them to do it.” You know, just like we all do to choose our path…Oops. 

Amazingly, just as I was thinking, I have no inner voice, and what the hell does an inner voice say anyway, Charlie Rose said, “an inner voice that told you?…”

Matt Damon: “I gotta do that.”

Cameron Crowe said, “Exactly.” Then they both proceeded to rub it in. Their inner voices. That they both had from their earliest memories (Matt Damon’s Mom knew he’d take this path when he was two). That were encouraged by their parents (both of their mothers worked in education). That they reached the pinnacle of success by listening to and actively pursuing (Cameron Crowe wrote a Rolling Stone cover article at 16.). But I’m not jealous or anything.

Cameron Crowe: “Someone told me…if you don’t listen to that little voice it goes away…”

Me: “Yep.”

Matt Damon: “Boy that’s a terrifying thought.”

Cameron Crowe: …”pay attention because to be out there with no instinct guiding you, that’s truly scary.”

Me: “Welcome to my world. Not sure if I ever had the voice, but if I did it’s gone now. Terrifying? Maybe. But definitely overwhelming and frustrating.”

Charlie Rose: “Do you think that everyone if they listened carefully would find it, would hear it? Is it easily unheard?

Me: “No and YES!”

Cameron Crowe just looked confused (“I loved writing, loved the written word, I just had to follow that path.”). Matt Damon: “it probably depends on who you are…for some people it’s pouring out of them, and for others it might be a softer kind of voice.”

Sitting on my Mom’s living room floor, I alternated between cutting, wrapping, taping and staring at the screen in disbelief. How did they get onto this topic? Had they read my blog? Why did I have to be the second kind of person?

I closed my eyes and tried to hear my inner voice. My inner voice was so faint I could barely make it out. It said…

your life would be a lot easier if you were Matt Damon.

Phase 1 post script: I saw this billboard off the Pennsylvania Turnpike coming home after Christmas. Even Kermit the Frog has an inner voice.

Even Kermit has an inner voice.

Phase 2 (in which Matt Damon Confirms My Biggest Fear about Friendship)

The conversation turned to Matt Damon’s early days in the film industry with his best friend Ben Affleck. Just when I thought this interview couldn’t get any more surreal for me, Charlie Rose asked, “what is it that makes a great friendship?”

Me: “No way they are going to dissect friendship now too.”

Matt Damon: “For one thing, when it starts.”

Me: “Uh-oh.”

He and Ben met in high school and had the same goals. Charlie Rose summarized as follows, “the point is that you started early, the bond came early.”

Me: “Whoops!”

Thanks to Matt Damon for tackling two of my big life questions and pretty much taunting me.

I’d been meaning to write about this so thanks to Studio30 Plus for throwing out a writing prompt that fit: The Big Question.


Jan
10
2012
Breaking My Stride

I knew what I wanted. I had pictured tears of relief and pride at the finish line of my first half marathon, but my eyes stayed dry. My words were salty instead. “If I ever talk about doing that again, punch me in the face.”

I also muttered obscenities regarding the measurement accuracy of the infinite last tenth of a mile. Several of my toes burned, a painful reminder of my idiotic decision to walk on the beach in my running shoes the day before.

But mostly, I felt an exhaustion that said, two hours, 34 minutes, and 27 seconds is too long to do anything not involving popcorn or a horizontal position. I didn’t want to quit running, but I wanted to be faster, to release my inner cheetah. While I’d never run a pace even close, I set a goal of a 30-minute 5K.

On my speed-work days, I worried my inner cheetah was a tortoise. But the race I’d chosen was perfect:  on the trail where I usually run, night-owl friendly start time (11:30am!), and fall weather (I’m a delicate flower).

Keeping my pace felt effortless the entire first half. At the turnaround point, I thought, I have this. Then I learned something new about my trail. It’s not completely flat. The second mile and a half was all uphill. I’d never noticed the incline before, but pushing this foreign pace made it obvious.

Running began to feel like wading through mud. I wondered if I’d be able to finish, let alone beat my goal time. As I wrestled with myself, I noticed my husband on the side of the trail, my dog sitting at his side. I hadn’t expected to see them until the finish line. Chuck’s tail started wagging when he saw me approach. I felt a burst of adrenaline and my pace quickened. I prepared to give them a wave as I passed. I had no time to spare.

Then Chuck darted right into my path, plopped himself down, and looked up expectantly at me for the obligatory doting.

Although I did have to slow down to avoid crushing my dog, I didn’t have to stop, shouldn’t have stopped. But I couldn’t resist my fluffy muffin.

I missed my goal by 28 seconds. I like to blame it on Chuck. He broke-a my stride.

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Seriously, could you resist that face?

This post was inspired by the RemembeRED writing prompt: to write, in 400 words or less, about an unfulfilled goal beginning with the words, “I knew what I wanted.”

I’ve run four more 5K races since Chuck’s anti-Matthew Wilder interference and the trend is going in the wrong direction. I bought Run Less, Run Faster since I want to run faster and I can also totally get behind running less. I’m hoping it helps.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
7
2012
Photo Friday/Saturday: Red Panda Babies

Getting sick over New Year’s is apparently now a tradition. I’ve had a cold (and colds make me act like a man…poor little bunny!) since Tuesday. So I’ve been drinking orange juice and catching up on “How I Met Your Mother” on streaming video even more quickly than my retired mother (not that it’s a race or anything). Hopefully I’ll feel better and will be back to my non-regularly scheduled posting soon.

Dave’s last day off was Tuesday and even though I was already feeling a little off and the wind chill was 17 degrees, our plan to visit the red panda babies at the National Zoo was too important to blow off. In retrospect, standing outside cooing over the red panda family (Mom, Dad and the two babies, Pili and Damini) for 30 to 45 minutes in the bitter cold was probably a bad idea. But look!

Red panda’s too sexy for this branch.

The pandas were all basically napping when we first arrived, but then the keeper came out with food. They seemed to listen to him, check it out–so adorable! Dude has my dream job.

It kind of looked like they were eating cut up hot dogs.

The keeper and the volunteer we talked to said that Dad is still not used to sharing his enclosure with the two babies. Here’s a baby adorably trying to hold his/her ground when Dad approaches. Dad had the right of way.

Baby red panda!

The babies were born in June. Next time we need to get to the zoo sooner. They were still adorable, but getting pretty big. Even the keeper said he had trouble telling the members of the family apart.

This is my first attempt at watermarking my photos. I kind of hate it. It’s a pain in the ass and I don’t like the way it looks. I’m also baffled as to why it looks different depending on photo orientation. But I’d hate having one of my pictures stolen too. Ironically, I’m pretty sure Dave took most of these since I prefer to focus on enjoying red pandas without a camera in front of my eyes. I took some photos, but it’s impossible to know for sure which, if any, of these I snapped.

Jan
3
2012
2012: My Last (According to the Maya) Annual Goals

Probably not the most thrilling content I’ve ever written, but I’m pasting my 2012 goals below:

  • because I said I would,
  • to help with accountability, and
  • to serve as a foundation for what I’ll inevitably write about some of these.

As a reward for sticking with a list post in table format, see the end of the post for an embarrassingly unflattering photo of myself–menacing and holding the umbrella I attacked in a vicious rage.

I welcome feedback on any of what’s below, but particularly seek input in the “go cold turkey on perfectionism” area. Too much of my time gets sucked into the perfection spiral of attempting to make the good enough better. “Perfect is the enemy of the good” is my new adopted mantra, but the perfectionism is so ingrained in me it’s difficult for me to devise ways of knocking it the hell off.

Big-Picture Goal

Specific Activities / Strategies

Increase energy/reduce anxiety
  • Get more sleep!
  • Have nightly relaxation time & schedule weekly unstructured time
Go cold turkey on perfectionism
  • Use timer to snap out of over thinking and hyper-focus
  • Viciously cull to do list (stay tuned, I’ll be failing at this soon!)
Find career fulfillment
  • Locate inner voice / expand knowledge
Increase fitness (run faster, build strength)
Maintain intimate and fulfilling marriage
  • Walk Chuck in the evenings/take over 1 weekend morning walk for Dave
  • Real (not visiting family) vacation (London for Wimbledon?)
  • None of your business
Develop and maintain meaningful relationships
  • Host at least two events
  • Develop annual get together tradition
  • At least monthly social event
  • Reach out more frequently to friends (not just Facebook!)
  • Make amends where needed
Continue to write and build blog community
  • Post 2-3 times/week (develop editorial calendar)
  • Visit and comment on favorite blogs
  • Finish blog redesign
Plan for early “retirement”
  • Save refinance and health care savings
  • Confirm plan with financial planner
Simplify and customize house for oasis-like awesomeness
  • Declutter
  • Reorganize basement, get treadmill

There’s other stuff I’d like to do, like read some damn books this year, but this list is already too long. Hopefully there can be some synergy among my goals. For example, I plan to start a nightly reading before bed ritual to ease into an earlier bedtime and get more sleep. Presumably this will also result in my reading more than one book this year.

So I promised you an embarrassing photo, eh? I’d put the umbrella photo here, but that wouldn’t help me pimp the Logy Express Facebook page.

Go check out the photo, freshly published there. While you’re there, why not click the “Like” button?

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Do you set goals or make resolutions? What are your plans for 2012?