This Post Brought to You By the Crazy Guy at Starbucks

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It’s a summer day and it’s hot outside. Earth shattering newsworthy fact, sure, but I never tend to realize how hot it can get in the inland Southern California town where I work. On a typical weekday I don’t leave my office. I normally just bring a sandwich and eat at my desk or stand in the kitchen rabbiting a ranch doused salad.

But today I decided to try something different. I’ve been struggling lately to find time to write, so today I decided to bring my laptop to work, so that at lunch I could escape to a local Starbucks and get some work done.

So there I’m driving, pull neatly into the little parking lot meant for patrons of the Starbucks, sandwich shop, or dry cleaner of the little mini complex. The A/C in my car isn’t superb, so I tend to leave my windows rolled all the way down as often as I can. I surprisingly couldn’t find a spot right in front to the coffee shop, so I switched my clunker into reverse and looked over my shoulder as I began to roll backwards.

“HEY WATCH OUT!” shouted a toothless man as loudly as possible. I slammed my breaks un-dramatically, as even a squirrel could have stopped my 0.5 mph pace. I turned my head even further and saw a truck was pulling out of their spot at the moment that I was backing up. Probably 15 feet away.

“WELL PULL FORWARD AND GIVE HIM SOME ROOM!!” he shouted, this time with a healthy dash of anger. Baffled at the frantic urgency of the stranger, I turned to see the truck had an extraordinary amount of space without my moving. However I was being screamed at in front of the lunch goers chillin’ in front of Starbucks and the sandwich shop, so in my frazzled state I tried to shift gears and move forward ever-so-awkwardly.

I realized the truck was already gone by the time I began to pull forward, and heard the angry man walk by my window muttering under his breath profanities sprinkled with “dumb” and “girl.”

I shook my head, backed up again, and parked in the spot I had planned to before the public humiliation.  I had three bags with me, my purse, lunch bag and laptop case, and climbed out of my car with as much dignity as I could muster. As coolly and confidently as I could, I walked up to the complex and smiled at each stranger staring me down…or up…or whatever.

I know I wasn’t wrong. But damn that was embarrassing! I’m sitting in the coffee shop wondering why the guy had to make such a scene about it. Was he trying to protect me? The truck? Assert authority? Who knows, but I’m admittedly rattled.

SO MUCH SO THAT I’M STILL TALKING ABOUT IT. I came here to write and thanks to the grizzly old alcoholic, I’m rattled and distracted from the task I set out to accomplish.

But such is life isn’t it? Why is it the very moment that we set our eyes on something, almost instantaneously there is a brand new obstacle flung in our face to try and beat us back into mediocrity. Or distract us, humiliate us, cause us to change course.

Well public humiliation or no, I saw something pretty incredible. Here a fitting hackneyed phrase comes to mind, something to the air of “The biggest hill comes right before your biggest success.” Yeah something like that. But I must be on the right track. If the oddities of the earth are trying so hard to distract me, what awesomeness are they afraid I’m close to accomplishing?

Don’t get distracted today. You have a goal and you have a mission. It’s summertime, there’s crazies about, there might be good TV on later. There will always be distractions, but try and make some time today to take one step closer to whatever it is that will make your life amazing and far above the status quo. You never know, your big break might be just right around the corner.

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Mission Accomplished: Challenge Accepted

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About a week and a half ago, my world turned upside down. Actually, it turned right side up. It was Sunday morning and I woke up at 3:30am, excited, nervous and energized. I had all my clothes laid out the night before and semi-quickly threw them all on. I popped my sprouted wheat bagel in the toaster and a minute later slathered it with peanut butter. By 4:15am I was out the door and headed to the train that would take me to downtown San Diego.

Sitting on the train, I munched away at the peanut buttery pastry and gabbed with fellow passengers about the event of the day. “I see you’re doing the full,” stated the woman who sat in the seat facing mine, “how many have you done?”

“This is my first,” I replied with nervous yet confident energy.

“Wow! What time are you going for?” asked the friend who sat next to her.

“Honestly, I’m just hoping that I don’t die.”

We laughed. That joke was my standing reply to just about any question regarding the marathon I was about to take on that day. Along the train ride to the event, I was comforted by waves of strength, allowing my muscles to assure me, “We are ready.” Conversely, I was assaulted by waves of concern, as I recalled images of marathoners collapsing from years before.

But alas, I arrived at Balboa Park, where behind the starting line 30,000 participants in the ½ and full Rock and Roll marathon were collected. Music was blasting and the buzz in the air was exhilarating. Everyone was friendly, from the medics dressed as Elvis-es, to the lady wearing a garbage bag to keep herself warm in the porta-potty line.

I eventually found my boyfriend, who 6 months earlier had agreed to follow me in training for the event. We made way to our corral, 4, and met our two other friends who we had done our training with. All of us had the same look on our faces – unbelievably excited but also realizing 26.2 miles is crazy…so a bit mad-hatter.

At 6:15am, the gun went off and we finally hit the pavement. .2 miles into it, a man dressed as a court jester was dancing in the middle of our path. He was dancing and cheering, holding a huge sign that said. “.2 down, only 26 to go!” My friends and I all looked at each other and laughed.

About another mile in, we hit Hillcrest, and in the center divider 8 or 9 men were dressed as female cheerleaders, donning short skirts and having stuffed their shirts with huge boob-like balloons. They danced and flailed their pom-poms, cheering louder than probably any of the many, many groups of cheerleaders along the way.

Just after mile 7 we were headed out of Little Italy, and into a tunnel under the 5 freeway. A DJ was blasting just outside the front of the tunnel, and as I descended into the cave, her beats cascaded through the hollowed concrete like enveloping sound waves. The air was pulsating all around me as I ran through the normally dark tunnel. The darkness was no longer, as instead lines of LED lights flashed everywhere, whose coordinated movement made that Sunday morning feel like the late night hours of San Diego’s hottest club.

I was feeling great. The streets were lined with supporters, and around every mile there was a band or DJ blasting music. The bib pinned to the front of my shirt had my name on it, and supporters often took the time to read my name and cheer, “GO JONI!!!!” The support from complete strangers was honestly one of the driving forces that kept my legs moving.

And that was very needed by around mile 16. Up until then I had no trouble flying up and down hills, but somewhere around Clairemont I was starting to feel my legs. That’s when the real mental games began playing, as I came to realize there’s another 10 miles to go and I was really nowhere near finishing.

But that particular wave of fatigue passed, and I made it to Friars road. Friars is a long stretch of garbage nothing in Mission Valley, so that’s when I realized I had better put in my headphones. After a few songs in, the My Chemical Romance song Welcome to the Black Parade came on. I promise my taste in music is normally more sophisticated than that, but I do love that poppy-ass song. It very anthem-like and epic, so I let myself get into the lyrics and forget that I was still running:

We’ll carry on,

We’ll carry on

And though you’re dead and gone believe me

Your memory will carry on

We’ll carry on

And in my heart I can’t contain it

The anthem won’t explain it.

It took some effort to stop tears from falling down my cheeks, as I looked up and knew my Dad was somewhere in the clouds watching me run the greatest physical challenge of my life, cheering me on as he had all the years before. What can I say, I was on mile 19, anything was going to make me emotional. I instead channeled that energy and put it into my legs, stepping it up to hasten my pace a little quicker. I am confident he gave me that extra boost, with his hand on my back urging me to press forward.

At last I made it to the end of Friars but knew what was next…mile 20 and the 163. For months I had been dreading the 163, the portion of the race that covered the steep freeway, and the biggest hill of the marathon. This was certainly my monster to be reckoned with, as I really, really ridiculously am terrible at running hills. My hips lock up, my knees really start bitching, my breath quickens to the pace of gasping and my heart threatens to explode.

But dammit I made it and found myself in the last stretches of the race. Around mile 23 people started cheering that I was “Almost there!” I was ready to stop and slap each and every one of them, as I knew damn well there were 3.2 miles to go. But they handed me water and Gatorade so I let them yell their nonsense.

At last, I saw the jester from mile .2…but this time he was at mile 26. He was cheering and dancing with just as much energy as he had 26 miles ago, but this time I was happy to see that instead his sign said, “26 down, only .2 to go!” I smiled and laughed, and am pretty sure I have ever been so happy to see anyone again.

I looked up and in a small crane directly above me, cameras were flashing. I spread my arms wide and made peace signs with a giant grin. One of the cameramen gave me a thumbs up in approval, who I saw got the shot.

The crowd was now densely thick with people, as I learned later that 90,000 supporters turned out to line the streets with colorful signs and good will. Music was pumping, the commentator was screaming, and I could finally see the finish line. I reached deep into my now heavy wooden legs and with fury and exhilaration I stepped it up to a sprint. Complete strangers cheered me on those final steps as at last I crossed the finish line.

“I FUCKING DID IT!!!” I gasped to myself. One volunteer heard me and laughed as she handed me a water. I allowed another volunteer to place the coveted medal around my neck, and somehow I mustered out a “Thank you.” The area was absolutely packed with volunteers, supporters and runners. Everywhere I turned someone was trying to hand me something to hydrate or feed me, from Powerbars to chocolate milk to more glorious Gatorade. Camera people were frigging everywhere asking to take my photo. I realize they worked for the race and would try to sell me the shots later, but I decided to pretend I was a famed athlete and they were ESPN trying to get a good shot from my race. I posed and enjoyed the attention.

I decided I should try and find my friends. I knew from a Facebook invite my boyfriend had created weeks ago that many were going to turn out to support us. When I arrived at the family reunion section for letter S, I spotted a couple of my friends – one who did the marathon and one who did the half. “We did it!” I shouted as I approached. They turned around as quickly as they could, which wasn’t quick at all, and were both beaming smiles of pride. I learned the one who did the marathon had PR’ed (runner speak for Personal Record) and the other who did the half was handed beers that he accepted for the last few miles of his race. I was equally proud of both.

As the minutes passed, more and more of my friends appeared, congratulating me on my run. I was often asked my time, which I proudly could say was 04:18. Not too shabby for a first marathon in which you were hoping not to die. I chatted and bantered, but was anxiously looking for my boyfriend. He was nowhere.

“Where’s Scott?” I kept asking. I learned he was at the finish line and had wanted to see me cross. It was nice to realize that I ran faster than other people’s expectations.

“He’s on his way over here,” one of my girlfriends assured me confidently. So I chugged some more Gatorade and considered if I would ever bother doing another marathon again. While I was arguing with my exhausted muscles who pleaded with me never to put them through that again, I saw my tall, sweaty boyfriend approaching. “Finally!” I thought.

He was making his way through our now large group of friends and I couldn’t help myself but squeal, “WE DID IT!” I had my hands up in the air and gave him an awkward high five that somehow morphed into a hug.

He nodded, “Yeah” to my comment, but then didn’t seem to really want to talk about the race when I asked him about his time.

“Joni, there’s another reason why all our friends are here.” He said somewhat loudly and clearly nervously. All our friends heard and backed into a very neat circle around us. “Joni, we have been through everything together, highs and lows, we have now even run a marathon together.”

This is when I realized what was happening. My eyes widened and my already fatigued heart completely stopped. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my friends reacting similarly, holding up their phones to take pictures and slapping their hands over their mouths. A man with a giant camera was also filming, and I decided not to let my mind wander into what and who the hell that was.

Scott said some more words I honestly can barely recall, and then got down on one knee. All around me men were cheering and whistling while women were cooing, as I stood there with my jaw dropped and my legs about to collapse. Scott opened a box, exposing a gorgeous diamond solitaire, simultaneously saying the iconic words, “Will you marry me?”

I swear that I searched and searched for my voice, but it must have run off to the bathroom or something. Giving up I nodded as quickly as possible a “yes,” smiling and determined to make sure he knew how excited I was. Now for every other girl in my situation that’s not very difficult to muster, but I had just run a marathon and I was just trying to see straight.

My now classic head nod was accepted and he placed the ring on my finger. My eyes were still locked on his as he somehow was able to stand up and we hugged the greatest embrace I have ever felt. I forgot that there were other people in that general area, and when I came to, I realized that a crowd had formed about us. I started waving and stammering, unsure what to say but wanting to say it all.

Turns out the guy with the giant camera was a newsman from NBC, and I was happy to learn that the little snoop had caught the whole thing. Trying to hold back Anchorman jokes, I accepted when he promptly requested an interview. I am confident that I sounded like a complete moron, but I was thrilled that my emotions and moronic-ey were captured to always remember.

I am fairly decent at being able to articulate myself, but I will never be able to describe the cocktail of emotions I felt that day. After the newsman had left, my friends and I went to celebrate downtown. Somehow later I was at a rooftop pool, surrounded with amazing people, a diamond on my finger and a medal around my neck. In the same day I had met my greatest physical challenge and accepted the greatest love of my life as my lifelong partner. I don’t know how I have become so lucky, but all I can say is…YES.

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As the Girl in a Brother’s Band

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I love sleeping in. I find great joy in slowly awakening as dreams naturally transition out and reality fades back into consciousness. No alarm jolting this progression with immediacy. Just a soft, gentle stirring when my body whispers, “ok we have now fully recharged, let’s go boss.”

Saturdays have largely been removed from the ranks of restful slumber, as I have spent the last several months training for a marathon and it’s too damn hot to run 10+ miles in San Diego’s late morning/afternoon. It’s not so bad though, I can normally get up around 8:30am to meet my small running crew on time, and these days I consider that sleeping in.

However last Saturday, my dream-filled state was slapped into reality by the hand of my cell phone, as over and over again it was blowing up with texts around 6:00am.

Rolling over with as much urgency as I could muster, I tried to silent the inconsiderate device. I vowed that heads were gonna roll if someone wasn’t on fire and somewhat within driving distance so that I could actually do something about it. Thoughts of burning buildings flashed through my mind as I fumbled over my nightstand trying not to knock over my water glass.

Once I finally got to the obnoxious little computer, I discovered no such emergency. Turned out instead World War III was in full effect as my brothers, who so thoughtfully included me on a group text message thread, were ferociously assailing unspeakable insults towards each other. Name calling, personal attacks, and thoughtless verbal canonballs were hurled back and forth with only seconds between each injurious message.

The first thing I did was lay back down, slap my hand to my forehead and groan. “What a bunch of babies,” I said out loud to the empty room. It was a group message that included my three brothers and myself, two of whom were in the middle of this bloodless battle.

I’m more or less used to this behavior by now. So I sent a couple of texts calling for peace, but my efforts were, as usual, ignored. Each of the fighting brothers felt their words, texted with about as much thought as it takes to realize a poopy diaper smells like poo, were valid. Both felt justified tearing down the other mercilessly in front of me and my other brother, who surprisingly wasn’t involved in the fighting whatsoever.

It was an annoying way to start the morning to say the least. After spending a few hours trying to sort them out, the brothers concluded the conversation by blocking the other’s messages and vowing never to speak again. With a sigh, I went on my 12 mile run with friends at 9:00, but it was clouded by the negativity I experienced that morning. I felt sickened and sad, crippled with worry that either or both of today’s foes were sitting at home alone, severely wounded. What I hated most was that there was nothing I could do to stop it and had no real way to fix it.

Why is family such a pain in the ass? I remember when I was little and my Mom would tuck me into bed, she’d always tell me to be grateful for my brothers. Some nights I agreed with her, others I stuck my tongue out and wished they were sisters. You can borrow sister’s clothes. There are only so many options when it comes to your brother’s clothes, and a lot of those clothes are jerseys, and most jerseys are never washed. And that’s just gross, so I was shit out of luck and had to fend for myself with my own wardrobe. Regardless, she always said, “The best gift that I could give to my children was each other.”

Oh brother [cheap pun, sorry, couldn’t help myself].

I figured that every family must be this way. Family = fight, fun, football, being funny, folk music. My immediate world was comprised of us four siblings, my three brothers and myself. I have a half sister as well but she is a bit older and tends to stay out of the drama, probably because she knows the rest of us are morons. So between the remaining 4 of us, we definitely have the most fun together I have ever had in my life, but that’s when we are all getting along. There is unfortunately always a pair in our group who are either not speaking, pulling each other’s eyebrows out, or talking shooby behind another’s back. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and you would think we were the cast of Mean Girls thrown in a martini glass with the Real Housewives.

This is because my brothers and I have a real gift. We have earth-shattering tempers, not measurable by the Richter scale but will likely be responsible when California finally breaks from the main land and drifts off to sea. Through the same vein we also love each other with the same intensity. We didn’t have the easiest collective childhood, and often times all we had were each other. I have distinct memories with each of them individually, holding each other sobbing to get through the latest of round life’s nonsense. So when I moved out of the house and went on to college, I carried with me this love, the temper, the ability to hold my own in a house of 3 boys, and a pretty good sense of humor. These were the ingredients required to survive as an Erdmann.

I came to find out that the temper doesn’t go over well in the real world. Apparently people don’t like it when you yell at them. Shouldn’t they just yell right back and you both hug later and then get some ice cream? Guess not. I got in trouble those early years for behaving like a pugilist, and learned fairly quickly that whoever yells the loudest is not the one who necessarily wins the battles.

For some reason, gosh I have no idea how it became an interest of mine, I got into rhetorical studies and focused on argumentation strategies. I was really into learning karate for words, and have spent most of my years in formal study honing how to craft a logical argument and effectively express my ideas.  I wanted to be able to communicate better with my brothers and create a more conducive environment to healthy discussion.

Some of the first times that I would come home, I’d take my suitcase of words and try them out on my family. Surely this new briefcase of tools would help us communicate better. I outgrew my Mother’s vocabulary by the time I was 15, but I was excited that my brothers would be proud of how calm I was and had tactful ways for us to get along with each other.

Yeah, no.

Apparently when you go back home, you resume the same position you always had. I’ve come to realize that no matter where I go in life, no matter what I’ve learned or how ever-so-wise I’ve become, I am always the baby sister to my two older brothers. To my younger brother, I will always be his bossy big sister, and he will always be my best friend (it’s not that I play favorites, it’s just that he’s my favorite).

I realize also now that not every family is like mine. My last few boyfriends all, oddly enough, had probably the sweetest families that exist on this whole fucking planet. They never EVER fight, cry every time they leave each other, and have deep bonds with each other built on a solid foundation of cotton candy, pillow fights and Lucky Charms cereal.  I love them all dearly to this day but come on…not ONE argument? Suspicious.

But I used to get jealous when I met families like that. And I would really wish I had a sister a lot of times growing up. But, I have my three goofy brothers, and I guess my Ma is right…they are a blessing.  I don’t think any quadra-sibling unit has ever been through as much as we have together, and I wouldn’t trade those silly monsters for anyone else on earth. It would be nice though if one of them were a cross-dresser and happened to be my size, it really would be lovely to share a closet with a sibling and double my wardrobe.

For those of you that don’t have siblings, I’m sure you have friends that pretty much are. And for those that do have siblings, you likely have some crazy-ass stories that likely directed what you studied in school and who you are today.  I think we should all be grateful for whatever situation we happen to be in. So in conclusion of last Saturday and many of the wars of our past, this song makes me think of my beloved brothers today. “So brother, raise another pint!…I still look out for you no matter what you’ve heard…I know there [are] better brother[s] but you’re the only one[s] that [are] mine.”

Love you all, Choey

Tying the Knot…then Sometimes Untying It

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The Internet is a pretty incredible thing. You can easily get the traffic, clicks, and hits to your blog and other social media sites with simple reporting tools like WordPress stats or Google Analytics. As a budding writer, I’m quickly and neurotically learning the ropes to find and use this important data.  It helps me understand what topics people like to hear about, and what only me in my nerd queendom seem to care about.

Most of the time it’s fairly predictable. People like topics about life, sex and surviving work. But to my surprise I discovered the other day that the top search that included my name was “joni erdmann divorce.”

Yikes.

Y’alls just loves the sticky stuff, don’t ya? That’s ok. I don’t hide it and it’s not a secret. I’ve just never been one of those people who fancied bringing it up. I mean how fun is it, you’re out having a good time, and then after someone playfully makes fun of the divorced horse in the room about a totally unrelated topic they quip, “Yeah I do that, haha, that’s probably why I’m divorced!” All laughter stops.

And they never miss an opportunity to bring up the ex-husband or ex-wife, “Oh yeah, I’d come to happy hour but I need to meet with my ex-husband to pick up my mail.” I dunno, I just don’t care to label my ex that way. I call him my friend because I think that’s the most appropriate label for him now.  I get that it’s rare, but we are friends, and that’s where our relationship is right now. So shit, I’m going to opt for a kinder term that doesn’t bear harsh connotation and questioning.

Divorcees bring up their D-word because often times they think they have to. They assume people are wondering and choose to bring it up to show that they are OK with it. I’m more than ok, but I don’t think I have to walk around with a label on my status, no matter how much society wants me to. I personally avoid labels for everything, but especially on this subject.

I always check the “Single” box instead of “Divorced.” It is so hilarious that the form gods have created this useless box just to make fun us. No, there aren’t tax breaks for divorce, we treat you just like a single person…but we want to know about it and make you check our arbitrary box.  Dicks.

I never straight up lie about it, but I’m not going out of my way to bum others out by bringing up that little detail about me. And besides, if it all happened in your early to mid-20’s I don’t think it counts.  Ok it absolutely counts, but I’m 29 now and most of my friends are just now getting married, so I think it’s almost inappropriate for me to bring it up. “Yeah I’m divorced and am living proof that sometimes marriages end…but good luck with yours, here’s a gravy boat!”

If you were in my shoes, which you very well might be, you[‘d] understand.  It’s not a badge of honor like a degree or a track medal.  It’s a title akin to a scarlet letter, begging to shame you, like you did something wrong. Which is weird because we loooove marriage so much and there’s a lot of pressure to do it. Every time Americans hear about a couple getting married, we rejoice, “Congratulations!!” followed by a plea for every detail thus far. I’m totally one of those people, partially because I know the game pretty well and mostly because I absolutely believe in love and commitment.

And because we are so in love with marriage, we don’t rejoice when people announce their divorce. Which I’m not suggesting.  But when we hear the news of departure, we always respond sadly and slap our hands to our faces, “Ooooh, wow, they have been together for [insert years of adhesive glue], that’s really sad.”

A couple years ago, however, a friend of mine was telling me that she and her aunts were throwing her Mom a party.  I naturally asked what kind of party it was.  “A ‘Happy Divorce’ party!” she squealed.  My brain couldn’t process that information, and my silence requested that she go on. “Well, my mom was with this total loser for the last 7 years, and nobody liked him.  But we never could say anything to her as she just changed to conform to his lazy son-of-a-slut ass. Finally she is leaving him and we couldn’t be happier!”

She’s absolutely right. Comedian Louis CK also puts it well:

“Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce … That would be sad. If two people were married and they were really happy and they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times.” [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]

Right?? So why the hell are we automatically crazy sad for people when they announce their divorce?  Maybe it’s not so sad. They made a, yes very difficult and thought out, decision to move on with their lives without the other person. Good for them?

Now I must insert the mandatory caveat. Some divorces are very heavy, very tragic, and absolutely terrible.  Sometimes it is someone who was perfectly happy, they come home, and their spouse announces they are getting divorced. That’s sad. I don’t really want to play the blame game in hypothetical situations, but I have a very hard time believing someone could be entirely oblivious in a marriage where the other person was totally unhappy.  I might suggest that the person living in the lie of bliss may not be tending to the needs of the unhappy partner…and the unhappy partner needs to get a backbone and fucking say they are considering packing their Pruis before it’s too late.

There are certainly those situations, but we decide to apply them to every case of divorce.  We automatically assume it’s the most absolute tragic scenario and with heavy hearts we mourn.  We do the same thing with marriages, assume that it’s the most romantic fairy tale of a union, and that rainbows are going to shoot out of their eyeballs for the rest of their lives.

These assumptions are stupid and we need to knock it off. You can keep the happy rainbow assumption about marriage, but when people get divorced, it’s not always a terrible thing.  Sometimes it really is a fantastic decision for everyone, and life is going to be a lot better for the two after they stop killing each other trying to make it work.

I know that there are the religious people out there who completely disagree with me. I know that all too well because they are the ones who begged me to stay in my marriage for so long. I knew the marriage was over fairly early on, but because I made the commitment to God, I stayed. I made a lot of mistakes during that time – getting caught up in a legalistic church, drinking the Kool-Aid, marrying the first guy that asked, and waking up one morning married to someone I hadn’t even known for a full year.

Whoops. I don’t mean to sum up the seriousness of those 4 years and pretend it didn’t matter to me, because it did, but I don’t think I have to feel bad about it for the rest of my life. I spent 3 out of those 4 years in and out of counseling, Bible studies, reading relationship books, studying healthy marriages, doing everything I could to make it work. But I was still unhappy. It wasn’t my time to be married yet, and that’s completely my fault. Then I invested everything I had into trying to make something work that never had a chance in the first place.

That’s a little bit of my story.  I realize it’s less tragic than some, but it does give me some authority to speak on the subject of marriage and divorce.  I will never write a book on how to have a perfect marriage, just like I will never write a book about how-to-not-fear-spiders. But what I can say is how important it is to love who you are with, and that includes yourself.  When I was in that silly church that loved to call me a horrible sinner for even considering divorce, I told them I was miserable and unhappy. They replied, “Marriage is about holiness, not happiness.”

My best friend at the time said this, and I didn’t believe it then but I’ll say it now. “That’s a bunch of BULL SHIT.”

Marriage is about a lot of things, and I don’t think you can sum it up in a trite little phrase like that. I don’t want to go into the depths of my misery, but what I can say is that one of the best decisions in my life was my divorce.  And I know I’m not alone on that one. There are a lot of very difficult decisions to make in life, and divorce is one of them…but sometimes it’s the right one.

And while society thinks that they can label us who believed enough in marriage to try it, sometimes hastily, we absolutely do not have to bear the damning titles they want to give us.  I’m single, not divorced. I’m a woman, not a divorcee. Once we can shed these sad and miserable titles, we are free to dream again.  Sure, we need some time to lick our wounds and put ourselves back together again so that we can be a whole, single person. But once we do, there is hope again.

Just because you may have been in a bad marriage, doesn’t mean all marriages are bad. Just because you may have been divorced, doesn’t mean you fail at life. If you fall in love again, you shouldn’t have to be afraid of wearing a yellow dress because you aren’t pure enough for a white one. Fuck that.

Life is too short to get caught up in meaningless labels and shaming each other.  I for one am excited about my future in love. And maybe marriage.  I believe deeply in commitment, and love the institution of marriage. I also believe everyone should get a fresh shot at marriage, even if you’ve tried before. Marriage is a celebration of love. I think of all things to focus on, I think it should be love, not labels.

Now go on, you can change your search to “joni erdmann blissfully happy.” 😉

What’s so wrong with the “F” Word?

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No, I don’t mean the four-letter “f” word. But while we are on the subject, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the word “fuck” either. It’s short, and it has a nice sharp sound to it enunciating that you really mean that thing you are saying. It draws instant attention. And there’s something nicely taboo about it.

As a lady, I’m not expected to say, “fuck.” If my mother ever figures out what a blog is, that I have one, and gets to reading it, I can guarantee that she will make the 1,200 mile trek that separates us to wash my mouth out. It’s just “un-ladylike,” and no one will marry a girl with a foul mouth.

What the fuck does that even mean? I suppose you could make the argument that no one should say fuck, man or woman, because it’s just a vulgar word in your opinion. I’ll buy that. But to say there is a certain vocabulary women are disallowed from using is a whole different ballgame, and the very ballgame I intend to play.

The aforementioned “f” word is “feminism,” a word as taboo as “fuck.” There’s something inherently terrible about the word that makes my generation of iPod listening hipsters roll their eyes instantly and pray for a swift change of the subject. Like punk, many believe feminism is dead. Things are better than they used to be right? Quit whining, what more could women possibly want? Things are equal. After all, women can wear pants now.

So then, if things are just fine now, we can assert that we no longer need feminism. But before we have the funeral, what exactly is/was feminism?

In one of my first classes in graduate school, my professor asked us that very question. This wasn’t an undergraduate class of squeaky faced 18-year-olds carrying their Justin Beiber and Taylor Swift posters. GRAD students were labeling feminism a band of angry, bra-burning, man-hating lesbians who wanted their XY chromosomed counterparts eliminated from the planet altogether.

If students in the top 10% of the education system believe that feminists are simply angry homosexuals, what in Flying Spaghetti Monster’s name does the rest of the country think a feminist is? Perhaps many still conjure a “Feminazi,” a term coined by friend to egalitarians everywhere, Rush Limbaugh. Hopefully you caught my sarcasm. Rush, no friend to equality, started calling feminists “Feminazis” in the early 1990’s, accusing women who want to be equal to men just a terrible as Nazis. Nazis. Equating people who seek equality to people who are responsible for the genocide of millions.

Yeah, that sounds about right. <- Inserting another dose of sarcasm.

Perhaps from these small examples you can begin agree with me that feminism has taken a lot of crap in the last 20 years. Sure, in the 60’s and 70’s there was great progress in what most scholars agree to be the 2nd wave of feminism. But when the 1980’s showed up, there was a giant backlash against feminism. Feminism was blamed for the problems of the day, responsible for the supposed death of chivalry, the arguable increasing instance fornication, and the normalcy of women wearing stupid pants. What a bunch of ball-busters.

In my humble opinion, we are still in the backlash. Some scholars say that we are in the 3rd wave of feminism, in that feminism is lesser holding giant protest rallies and more so a covert effort behind curtains, quietly still pushing onward in the pursuit of a greater equality. But I’m not very convinced.

The big reason I think we are still in the backlash is because, again, the word “feminism” is a word as taboo as “fuck.” If we can’t even SAY the name of the movement, is there really a movement at all? The fact that I’m even writing this may suggest that feminism is alive and well, but I’m honestly nervous about posting this piece because I know that I am eliminating an audience by coming out feminist.

But I have to. I have to keep the conversation going. I have way too many hilarious stories about the ridiculousness of my being female in the workplace, bar, grocery store, and street. I have to share these stories with you, but before I do I want to lay the premise that I’m a feminist, because well, you’ll get my humor more easily.

I’m a feminist. I think I, being woman, should be equal to men. Boom.

I shouldn’t be called, “sweetheart,” by my subordinates. But because I’m female, it happens. I have an older colleague who doesn’t hesitate to call me, “beautiful Joni,” each and every time he addresses me.

So, I playfully call him, “beautiful Eric,” every time he calls me that, over and over pointing out the irony of such a statement. We always laugh, and that is that. I accept it when men hold the door for me, I think it’s awfully polite. I am not offended. However, in the name of feminism and equality, I hold the door for them too. While this almost always confuses them, they accept it, laugh, and we all successfully make it to the other side of the door.

See, I think feminism is more playful than many people believe it to be. Given that we are still stuck in many of the confines of gendered behaviors, playing with those lines always gives way to a laugh. What I’m saying is, we can be feminists in our own covert ways, and enjoy our small victories when we successfully cause someone to consider the WHY of the way things are.

But as covert as we can be, I want the conversation to continue as well. If 3rd wave feminism is our own feminism done in our backyards, blogs and neighborhoods, I think it deserves a name. Many feminists have the discussion, “well maybe we should change the name of the movement, since ‘feminism’ has become such a bad word.”

Ah hell no. That’s our word. That’s your word if you want it. And feminism is for everyone, men and women. As a matter of fact some of my favorite feminists are men, who remind me not to back down and fight even harder than I do currently to perpetuate equality.

At the end of the day, feminism is simply a movement for equality. It was born when women wanted to vote in the 1800’s, so yes it bears the gender specific root fem- in the name. But feminism is for equality in every regard of humanity. Feminists believe in equality of sex, gender, race, and class.

People, I’m a fucking feminist. And while you may find those words offensive, I hope that you at least know that what they mean. Fuck is just kind of a silly word in my opinion, used for punctuation of a point. Well sure it also means doing the ditty, but that’s beside the point.

Feminists are equality proponents. And I wonder – if you thought about it hard enough – perhaps, maybe, possibly, you could be a feminist too and not even know it?

Switching Gears by Taking Back What’s Rightfully Ours – Monday

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but no matter what is going on in my world, it is the biggest challenge of my week to peel myself out of bed on Monday morning. It’s not that I hate my job, because I don’t, there’s just something about switching gears from life unplannned, to a scheduled regimen of when to be in the office, when to take lunch, when to go home, etc.

Regimens are easy once we are in them – it’s just getting them started. Think about how easy it is to go to the gym when you are used to going, but when you haven’t for a while, getting to that first workout is the hardest task on earth.

And every single week, the majority of the American labor force makes this gear shift every week from weekend to work week. To help me with my gear shifts, I’ve been testing what exactly makes me happy on the weekends and trying to apply those things as much as possible to the work weeks – especially to Mondays. Dammit I don’t want to have a case of the Mondays every single week for the rest of my working life, and I’m on a mission for all of us.

Considering this mission, I was putting on my makeup this morning composing an ode to my beloved coffee, when this song came on my Spotify station. The lyrics that struck me so hard that I literally poked my eye with my mascara wand were the following:

“I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him…
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I studied art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
I will not be a statistic, just let me be
No child left behind, that’s the American scheme
I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system
What did you expect
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold but everything that it is…

Cause the moment is now, can’t get it back from the grave
Part of the show
It all fades away
Lights go to black
Band leaves the stage
You wanted an encore but there’s no encore today
Cause the moment is now
Can’t get it back from the grave”

I put the majority of the lyrics here because I think it’s more powerful in context, but these words keep ringing in my head this morning,

“The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot.”

Macklemore studied art. And he is 100% right to study those who have succeeded in something that you want to do. I have zero desire to become a rapper, and if you know what I look like and how awkward my general mannerisms are, you’d really find that hilarious. But I think observing and learning from what he has accomplished could help me in my craft(s). Which is easy for me to do, given that he too is a Seattle native and I love to see fellow Seattlites succeed.

In doing so, I’ve noticed a pattern in his music. He has his demons and he works every day to fight against them. I do too – they are different but they are there, fighting with everything they have to stop me from composing. To stop me from believing. To throw me on my back every time my dream starts to get a little momentum.

And what I love about Macklemore is he is a fierce fighter who is winning his battle, and inspires me to be more. Give more, write more, fight more.

He is pushing forward, and encourages me to as well. His regimen is ongoing, it doesn’t start or end on Monday. For me, the battle of Monday and the switching of gears is one of my demons, when it really doesn’t have to be. I shouldn’t switch gears at all! I don’t have to take the weekdays off to live my dreams. Succumb to the monotony of an office working world. Sure, I could easily feel like a number, a drone, a desk jockey – but I’m not. I’m creative, artistic and passionate, and while I drive to work on Monday mornings just like millions of other Americans, there’s something different about me. Because even in my Mondays, I search for inspiration to compose art, and keep my heart open to my dream.

And I think you can too. I think we all have that inner person who taps out during the work week, who really should never have to sit out at all. That true being that we really want to be. Whose talents, if realized, could propel us to joy and success we can’t even imagine.

So for this Monday, I put on my prettiest dress, even bothered to curl my hair, because this isn’t just any Monday. Today is the beginning of something big. I know this because I’m going to make it happen. Great painters became great because they paint a lot. And I will become great because I write a lot. Even, and especially, on Monday.

One-nighters and Cocktails vs. Marriage and Babies

*sniiiiiiff* Can you smell that? I can from my living room. Tuxes, cakes, flowers, crazy aunts and drunken uncles…that’s right, it’s wedding season.

Chances are very good that most of you this summer are getting married, attending a wedding, are in one, or irritated you aren’t invited to one that, damn-it, you should be.  Fortunately this year I am only participating in one (congrats Shannan & Micah!!!) and I am pleased to say I even made the cut for bridesmaid!  I’m truly honored and excited….22 days and counting. ❤

But it does make me think.  You’ve seen this meme going around, yes?

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I’ve even found a Facebook group supporting the cause: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Everyone-I-know-is-getting-married-or-pregnant-Im-just-getting-awesome/126569300696716?v=wall&ref=share.

Let me preface with, I am very happy for my married/getting married/baby having friends – I do plan to be like you one day.  But as for the rest of us…is there a countermovement?  Counter-typical-life-progression?

You know what I’m talking about.  The cycle goes like this:

High school -> College (aka partying) -> Get a job (partying not happen in college? Insert partying here)   -> Get married -> Have babies

According to a myriad of studies, somewhere between 80-90% of Americans will marry.  Oh and by the way the rate of divorce is declining.  Some suggest that the rate of divorce is declining because people are trying harder (bullshit), but the most supported hypothesis follows that people are more careful in choosing a life mate and are therefore waiting longer before saying “I do.”  This is tangibly evident according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which demonstrates that the average age of those exchanging nuptials have significantly increased.  In 1960, the average age for men was 22.8 and for women, 20.3. Compare that to the latest report from 2009, with men at 28.4 and women, 26.5.

I’m not the first to speculate what is going on here. We all know that the women’s rights movement has allowed women with more career opportunities than the past, and therefore don’t require someone to take care of her financially. (Don’t celebrate yet ladies, we still make only $0.77 to every $1.00 a man makes).  Mass media depicts life other than the nuclear family, from Mary Tyler Moore to Friends to Parks and Recreation. Finally another reason can be that various forms of birth control have allowed us the ability to choose when we want to have children.

But I think a very strong, less discussed, reason we are waiting is that many of us Generation X and Y’ers grew up watching our parents’, or best friend’s parents’, messy divorces. We vowed to ourselves, “I swear to God, that will NEVER be me!”

So we react. How do we prevent divorce? Marriage is “forever,” so how do we fix what our parents messed up?

I know I reacted early when I went to a church that prescribed what the divorce-free marriage would look like.  If I went back to the Biblical roles of men and women, that is the man is the head of the household and the woman submits, then she will be taken care of and he will have the satisfaction of leadership.  Ergo, they are fulfilling their gender duties and will never divorce. I have since divorced and been exiled.

While my experience with this divorce remedy ended poorly, this church is not the only one to offer this solution, and also argue that it must have been my fault that it didn’t work out. Many bloggers and average joe’s/jane’s alike have joined in the idea that marriages in the 1950’s were the ideal of divorce free marriages. These supporters suggest that women should be less focused on themselves and their rights, and rather be sweet and submissive to men because men need respect and the leadership role. THEN marriages would work better. I suppose that’s not…entirely insane…

So there’s that solution to divorce.  But I think a more prevalent reason why we are waiting to marry is the idea that marriage brings, dum dum DUUUMMM….age.  And in an era where plastic surgery is a normal commodity, mainstream media revel in the joys that we had getting drunk on the Jersey Shore, as well as our oh-so-glorious high school and college years.  You’ve heard it, college is the “best time of your life,” right?  Well those of us over 22 are in big trouble….the best times have already been had?!

Enter the trending “quarter-life crisis.”  You know you’re old as shit when you hit 25 right?  RIGHT?!  If you didn’t, well now you do, that especially goes for you chicks.

Grasping for youth, all around me are people terrified of growing older.  I see it especially living in Southern California.  “Peter Pan” syndrome, as it has been coined, is where no one ever wants to grow up and embrace adulthood’s ostensible responsibilities.  I mean, yuck, who likes bills?

But wait!! You are fiiiiinally the one who gets to call the shots!  You get to CHOOSE what bills to take on. No teachers, professors, parents commanding your every move. What the hell is wrong with that?  Why are we so obsessed with our early 20’s? Is it the casual sex? Drunkenness? Lack of responsibility? The unknown? Sure those things can be fun, I’ll give you that.

However I argue that post-college is when the real fun begins.  You have your own spending money (hopefully).  You get to live where you want.  The mood-swings have (again, hopefully) subsided. You have options and choices and the chance to fall in love with another person.

And YOU get to choose who that is. They can be as hot as you want!  Well, and, of course smart, funny, witty, you know…but also hot!!

I’m not getting married any time soon, don’t get me wrong.  But when/if I do, that level of love and commitment, I contend, can nowhere near be rivaled by a line up of [shallow] men/women texting all day and Sex-and-the-City-esque two week “relationships.”

Yes, babies are loud, smelly, messy and sometimes kinda gross.  But I think, I THINK, they’ll be pretty fun.  Going to the zoo would be more entertaining with a toddler that’s never seen an elephant, right?  Having a little one who you get to teach whatever the hell you want?  Ooooh the possibilities…(insert plan of world domination).

One-nighters and cocktails are fun. The latter of which I am the first to say is a great way to spend an evening out.  But the giant M-word is not something we need to fear, and no it doesn’t automatically make you old and dead to the fun part of the world.  So to that, congratulations to all of you who this summer will take on a new Mr. or Mrs. you.

But as for me, whether babies, marriage, one-nighters (haha, no) or cocktails are in my future, I can honestly say that the greatest times are yet to come.  I’m 28 dammit. Whether you consider that young or old, it really doesn’t matter because the truth is, I’m only getting more awesome.