Oct 16

The 10 Commandments of Turning 31

Tomorrow is my 31st birthday, and I’ve got big plans.

10 commandments for my 31st birthday

If you’ve been around here long enough, then you know that I’m big into self-improvement and making grand declarations for the type of person I’m going to be. (See Year of the Space Cadet and Be Intentional.) And along with this self-improvement kick, I’ve got some huge-ass plans that I’m going to be knocking out hard. I know exactly where I want to be this time next year, and I don’t plan on stopping until I get there.

But you can’t get where you’re going unless you have a map. (I used to have a boss who said that. He was the kitchen manager at a professional wrestling-themed barbecue restaurant in the parking lot of a Walmart. He had some good information.) So today I’ve laid out my 10 commandments of turning 31 to act as my map to get me where I want to be.

001: Self above all else.
Recently I’ve realized that I’ve spent way too much time being hard on myself. And honestly, it’s been the most self-defeating thing I’ve ever done. In the past month, I’ve taken better care of myself (mentally and physically) and I’ve seen a drastic change in my ability to accomplish tasks. Had I known that taking care of myself would enable me to do everything I wanted to do, I would’ve started taking care of myself a long time ago. For me, putting myself above everything else means cutting out tasks, people, food, material possessions, and energy that don’t serve me. It’s really a game changer.

002: All free time must be productive.
I’m not saying that I will use every waking moment to get work done. But what I am saying is that I need to be more productive with my downtime. When I’m done with my downtime, I should feel rested and ready to continue moving forward with whatever needs to be done. You know what’s not productive downtime for me? Social media, reading the internet for hours on end, texting, or watching TV. You know what has proven time and again to be incredibly productive downtime for me? Reading a book (and not on my iPad), walking Rosie, having coffee with a friend, and working out. 

003: Remember that everyone is lying to you.
This commandment sounds more nefarious than it actually is. It’s not that I think a ton of people are actively trying to deceive me. (Though, I have 96 students who are capable of coming up with the most interesting reasons why they didn’t do their homework.) Whether or not they mean to, people generally give bad advice because they don’t have your best interests at heart. I say this as someone who NEVER crowdsources for opinions on what I should do, nor asks for the sort of advice that would guide a life decision. I’m insanely self-reliant in that way. But that doesn’t mean that people don’t offer up opinions about my choices anyway. And what someone else believes to be best for me is as good as a lie because I know in my own heart EXACTLY what I need to do.

Everyone is lying to you. Click To Tweet

004: Put out the sort of energy that keeps you safe.
I wrote a little about how sometimes people can make me feel crazy when I reassured you that you’re supposed to be here. But it’s something I struggle with remembering myself. That’s why I need to put out energy that tells others to back off with their anxiety and negative thoughts. I need to create a protective bubble with my thoughts, actions, and words so that the self-doubt that’s planted by others can’t take root.

005: Contingency plans are for people who plan to lose.
Plan B is a birth control method. It’s not a way to envision the future. No more of my energy needs to go into contingencies. It’s full steam ahead toward goals.

Plan B is a birth control method. It's not a way to envision the future. Click To Tweet

006: For things to get done, you have to do them.
I think it’s really easy for me to just say I’ll do something later. Whether that’s the dishes, putting away my shoes when I get home, or working on a novel, I know that later translates to never. So, for those sorts of things to get done, I just have to do them. I have to make myself go to the sink and scrub the pots and pans. I have to walk myself the extra 20 or so steps to my closet where I can toss my shoes on the floor. I have to schedule an hour every day to just sit down and write. Because doing things is how they get done.

007: Be stingy with your time and money.
Neither of those are infinite resources, and the more of each I have, the easier it is for me to rest easy at night. I’ve written about the importance of saying no before, and it’s a constant practice for me. Now, I need to apply the same sort of discipline toward not spending money, and I’ll be golden.

008: You’re too damn old to talk shit.
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. For too long gossip was my love language. Not any more.

009: Don’t make anxious decisions.
Anxiety is like the jealous best friend you had in middle school. It’s the friend that makes you doubt what you believe in. It’s the friend that tells you how you’re not good enough. It’s the friend that makes you regret so many things. It’s not really a friend at all, but just like that girl you knew in middle school, for some reason you can’t shake anxiety either. But I know I can recognize when anxiety is pushing me to make a bad decision. More often than not it’s a decision about spending money or eating junk food, but it has pushed me to some pretty terrible extremes. (I took the job from hell out of an anxiety-based decision.)

010: Be relentless.
Everything takes time, and it’s an absolute waste to give yourself ultimatums. Far too many of my artistic friends say things like “If it doesn’t work out for me this time, I think I’m going to quit.” And I don’t think that’s fair. All I can do is relentlessly work. I can’t make others interpret what I do as marketable and therefore pay me for it. All I can do is be relentless. All I can do is sit down every single day and work. All I can do is continue up this hill. All I can do is do.

All I can do is sit down every single day and work. All I can do is continue up this hill. Click To Tweet

What do you think? Any commandments I should add? What sort of plans do you like to make on your birthday?

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Oct 16

Constructive Summer: From Zen to Jacked Up in 2:53

Constructive Summer by The Hold Steady

I’ve been bragging a lot lately about how zen I’ve been feeling. For a person who has spent the majority of her life biting her nails in an anxiety-fueled frenzy, this is a very nice (and incredibly welcome) change of pace.

I’m not entirely sure why I feel so calm at peace with life. There are still deadlines. I’m still behind on my grading. (I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never not be behind on grading as long as I teach.) All those things that would trigger my nail biting and night terrors are still there. But somehow, I’m down with it.

It could be because I’ve been eating a lot better, sleeping enough, and working out. (Hold your “I told you sos” and I will hold my middle finger.) But whatever it is that’s causing this inescapable calm, I ain’t about to gift horse it in the mouth.

And that’s why I’m getting jacked up.

I’m feeling good. I’m feeling ready. I’m feeling like I could do some real damage right about now. Projects are fixing to get conquered.

Projects are fixing to get conquered. Click To Tweet

For the first time in a long time, I’m feeling good enough to actually work on writing. I’ve written about my burn out before, but damn. I had no idea how pervasive it was until I was out of it. And I’m slowly realizing that I was in it for about a good 7 years. And maybe that’s why feeling normal is feeling so damn good right now.

I’m big on playlists, especially when I’m getting ready to tackle something. You have to set the mood. You have to create the soundtrack for your success. You have to imagine yourself in the middle of a 80s montage where you’re training to take down the rich kids.

The Perfect Song

And pretty much the only song that I can imagine for that purpose is “Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady.

I love this song. This song makes me want to drive too fast and flip tables and punch the sky and walk into a big NYC publishing party for all the literary darlings and get way too damn drunk. (Me and Mike are gonna do that someday, BTW.)

If you were to ask me what my UFC walkout song would be, I’d tell you “Constructive Summer” with zero hesitation.

(I’ve thought a lot about this, because you never know when Dana White is gonna call you up to the show. I’ve noticed they don’t have a lot of really out of shape nerds in the UFC, and I feel like I can occupy that space for them. Call me, Dana, if you ever need someone to just kind of walk out to the cage, and then definitely not fight. Seriously. I can’t handle the pain. I banged my shin on the coffee table the other day and I thought I was going to die.)

My UFC walkout song? Constructive Summer. Click To Tweet

Constructive Summer

“Constructive Summer” is tied up in a lot of feelings for me, and it came to me during a time in my life when I kind of needed some direction, or at least it was a trail of breadcrumbs when I needed to find my way back.

After my first round of grad school, I was in a dark place. Emerging from that collegiate cocoon with an advanced degree in writing while the nation was still rebounding from the recession wasn’t easy. (It wasn’t easy in a very privileged way. I recognize that. I didn’t go hungry and there was always a roof over my head. But it was a rude awakening, because the Baby Boomers lied to us all about the value of a degree.) And, for the longest time, the only job I could get was waiting tables and bartending at a place on Main Street. It’s not that I felt I was above that job, because I’m definitely not. Restaurant work is good, and that industry has been so good to me and my family. But I hated being where I was.

(I’ve never been able to enjoy the process. I’m results-oriented to a fault.)

I worked with good, mostly decent people, most of whom I’ve fallen out of touch with. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I don’t know if we had anything in common besides working there and drinking absurd amounts at the upstairs bar after our shifts. When we no longer worked those 8-hour dinner shifts, closed the restaurant down, and then went upstairs to drink away roughly half of our tips, we kind of fell out of touch. I do know that some people who worked there are still friends who hang out today. But I’ve never been the type of person who makes the effort to keep a friendship going. (This is primarily because I want to be alone 85% of the time.)

While I was working there, my friends were all growing up and getting on with their lives. Some had fantastic high-paying jobs. Some were getting married. Some were having babies. I was 24, and in the way that only a 24-year-old can, I knew that I was an abject failure. I’d like to say that this was the last time in my life when I wasted time comparing myself to others who weren’t in my situation, but it’s not.

There were nights during that time that I didn’t go to bed until the morning. I remember one night we left the bar and went to a coworker’s place. We split a 30-pack of some gas station beer, and let the party continue. Then, as someone opened the front door to go out and smoke, I noticed the sun was out and someone was jogging along the sidewalk. I looked down at the time on my phone. We had sat around drinking and doing nothing since we left work at 2 AM until 7:30 AM.

After staying up all night, I would go home and sleep. If I didn’t have to work that night, I’d stay in bed the majority of the day, and maybe I’d leave the house to run to the Circle K on the corner of Robinson and Berry to get some Gardetto’s Garlic Rye Chips, a 32-ounce Diet Coke, and a box of Hot Tamales.  If I did have to work, I’d wake up an hour before my shift and repeat the whole cycle.

But when I was at home or in my car, I was always listening to either The Hold Steady or The Gaslight Anthem. I’m not sure why, but those two bands formed the soundtrack to what I now refer to as my lost summer. And any time I heard “Constructive Summer,” it always hit me right in my stomach.

What song is your #realgoodgutpunch? Click To Tweet

And it still hits me that way. (You know how I feel about a #realgoodgutpunch.) Even though I’m a million miles away from the person I was when I listened to that song in my car on my way to bartend, I still get that feeling in my stomach.

So if you need me, know that I’ll be listening to Constructive Summer on a loop, because I’m ready to turn that gut punch into something. I’m ready make shit happen. I have me a extra wide traveler’s notebook filled with notebooks, and EVERY. LAST. THING. I want to do will be planned out, then conquered.

And even though I’m hella zen right now, I’m ready to be jacked up.

Want to see what my playlist looks like? I’ll be posting it on Saturday over at Mari’s blog. Be ready!


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Oct 16

If We Were Having Coffee

If we were having coffee, I’d have a lot of things to say.

If we were having coffee...

Lately I’ve been ruminating on the importance of drinking coffee with people and sharing ideas. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but spending time one-on-one with someone else is my favorite kind of hangout. I love getting coffee or lunch with someone, and talking about life. Ideally, I’d get to do this every single day. But since jobs and obligations tend to get in the way, that’s not always possible. That’s why today I’m going to share with you what I would tell you if we were having coffee.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about a Ph.D. program I’m interested in. The good news is it’s probably the most marketable degree I could get. The bad news is it’s at OU, which would make me “academically inbred.” (For those of you outside the world of academia, it’s considered inbreeding when all your degrees are from the same school.) I’ve been thinking a lot about how writing instruction is designed. (This is because I teach writing.) And I’ve been thinking of ways to better the process, as well as implement it for larger groups at a time. I’m not saying I have the key to teaching the ideal writing class online, but maybe I do? Either way, I’m going to look into the Ph.D. in Instructional Psychology and Technology program at OU.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about how the recent cold weather has brought every bug and rodent out of the backyard and into my house. I would also tell you that Rosie is literally the worst hunter, and does nothing to stop them. Oh well. At least mouse traps are $0.96 for 4 at my local Cash Saver grocery store.

If we were having coffee, I’d invite you to the LuLaRoe party a friend and I are having tonight. Sami and I have officially been friends for 28 years. And since our birthdays are coming up, we’re going to spend way too much on Nicole and Amelia dresses to celebrate. (Her birthday is tomorrow, and mine is on Saturday the 22nd.) You’ve probably heard all about how great their leggings are, but that’s not what I’m all about. Since I can’t wear leggings to work, and I’m not 100% comfortable with patterns on my thighs, I stick to the dresses and skirts. And I stick to them because they can be dressed up or down for work or for weekend stuff.

(SIDE BAR: Is anyone interested in a post about how to wear LuLaRoe multiple ways? By which I mean how to wear it for work or play? If so, lemme know in the comments.)

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you to divulge all the ways you cheated on multiple choice tests in high school in college. I’m going to be giving a multiple choice test to students in November, and I want to preemptively stop any and all cheating. (Mainly, I want to do this so I don’t have to turn in anyone for academic misconduct.) And, I think by eliminating as many opportunities as possible for them to cheat, it will make it hard for them to use anything but their brain.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you all about my new love for Saxon Park. (It’s a great place to walk your dog when you can no longer walk her because of the neighbors.) It’s in far southeast Norman, just south of Highway 9. The city parks and rec site designates it as “undeveloped,” but I think it’s perfect. There’s no playground, but there are a series of gravel walking trails that are perfect for walking Rosie. The one downside to all of it is my stupid brain though. While walking through the trails with Rosie and Chris the other day, I said, “Wouldn’t it be scary if one of those clowns they keep talking about on the news was here in the park, just standing on the trail?” I don’t know why I thought that. Chris let me know that I was pretty much ruining everything.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I have a solid plan to get mani-pedis with Katie tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited. Every whipstitch I need to take some time to get my hooves filed down, so I look more like a human person. Though, I have to say I’m pretty much paralyzed by the color choices. What’s your favorite fall nail color that is also acceptable to wear to work and that will match with my wardrobe?


Okay. Now your turn. If we were having coffee, what would you tell me?

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Oct 16

Why I Can’t Walk My Pit Bull Anymore

Rosie the pit bull and her soccer ball

Yesterday after work, I took Rosie for a quick walk through our neighborhood. Regardless of how many times I put her leash on her, every single time I reach for it, it’s literally the best moment of her life. Seriously, she’s that excited EVERY SINGLE TIME. And that’s fine. I’d like to be able to get that excited about walking, but I pretty much only exhibit that kind of excitement when Chris asks if I want to order a pizza.

Anyway, our neighborhood is a loop, so it’s easy to do a quick walk and wind up right back where we started. So we set off west until we hit the curve and turned south.

It’s worth noting here that the curve is where Rosie, my sweet angel of a pit bull-beagle-boxer mix “sexts” her boyfriend. I mean, not really because she doesn’t have a phone. But there is one specific spot on that curve where she pees every single time. And I like to think she pees there, and then some boy dog leaves her a message back. And since kids don’t pass notes anymore like we did in the 1990s, I’m sure she must be sexting.

After making her mark, we continued around the curve and headed back east. Then, rather than take the full loop around our neighborhood, I picked a street covered in shady trees and we headed back north. And that’s when we came upon Rosie’s playdate.

I had seen him before, since he’s always in the front yard without a leash. He’s definitely a mix breed. If I had to guess, I’d say he is part pit bull, part pony keg. Seriously, this dog is a barrel on four, short legs. And he growls VICIOUSLY.

Now, Rosie is a pit bull, amongst other things, so I make an effort not to judge other pit bulls. In my experience, pits aren’t mean. In fact, they are cuddle beasts. But let’s be real. You have no idea how other people are raising their dogs, and there is a demographic of dog owners who purchase pit bulls for all the wrong reasons.

So, as he growled louder and louder, Rosie tackled him. And that was that. Because they just played like two furry goobers. I wanted to have a panic attack, but I didn’t have to. Luckily, little pit keg is just as good-natured as Rosie. And I wish the story ended there with me and Rosie going home after a fun little wrestle, and pit keg staying at his house. But it didn’t end there, because I got to meet pit keg’s owner.

I looked up and saw pit keg’s owner smilling and walking my way from his garage. On the wall in the garage were no less than two rebel flags, one of which had an AR-15 screenprinted on it with the phrase “If you want it, come and take it.”

Naturally, I assumed he was going to murder me.

“Trigger! Did you find yourself a friend?” He asked as his dog rolled on the ground while Rosie continually tackled him. (She doesn’t know when to quit.)

Of course this man would name a perfectly adorable and sweet pit keg “Trigger.” It’s also worth noting that this man was wearing jeans, black shoes, no shirt, and a hand gun in a holster on his hip. (If you haven’t mentally filled in the blanks with a terrible farmer’s tan and patchy mustache, please do so now.) I don’t know a single person who gets home from work and makes sure they have their open carry weapon on them as they chat with the neighbors, but this dude did.

Anyway, I’m telling you all this because I can’t walk my dog anymore. At least, I can’t walk Rosie in our neighborhood. Because Mr. No Shirt Handgun Farmer’s Tan Creepy Stache wants me to bring Rosie over any time so she can play with Trigger. (Can I rename Trigger something better, like Hector or Buff? He’s not a Trigger.) And if I have to have another conversation with him, there’s a big chance that I’ll ask him if he insists on adorning his person and his home with symbols of over-the-top masculinity because his dick is that small.

And that’s not really something you ask someone with a gun, now is it?

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Oct 16

The Best Purse I Ever Bought: The Fossil Austin Large Flap Bag

The Fossil Austin Large Flap is the best purse I ever bought.

Today I’m just sharing my love of my Fossil Austin Large Flap bag. This isn’t a sponsored post. Though, if Fossil wanted to be a sponsor, I’d be happy to oblige.

I have very high expectations when it comes to purses, and the Fossil Austin Large Flap bag has exceeded them all. (If you’ve read about the best brown leather tote you can buy, then you know this already.) The Fossil Austin Large Flap bag has been a workhorse for me. It’s perfect for taking to work, or for going to a concert. It can hold a wallet, keys, a phone, and any other essential item you need — like a planner.

I came by my Fossil Austin Large Flap bag in a roundabout way. On a day when some friends came down to Norman for lunch, we decided to hit up Ross. I saw the bag first thing. It wasn’t with the others, but rather sitting up by a register. I was immediately pissed off because I assumed someone was buying it. But all throughout the shopping trip, I’d look up to see the bag was still there.

Are you a leather fondler? Click To Tweet

I picked it up, and fondled it. I love good leather, and the Fossil Austin Large Flap bag is made of some of the best of it. Sure, it was a little battered from being kicked around a Ross store, but nothing a little love couldn’t fix. The only issue was there was no price tag, but there was a security tag.

I snagged a cashier and asked her how much it was. She snagged a manager, who told me the bag was $125. For an all leather bag, that’s not too bad a price. (Especially since the actual price of the Fossil Austin Large Flap bag is $198.) But the bag was still scratched up, so I asked if they had another in stock. No go. The Fossil Austin Large Flap is a rare bird indeed.

This is the point where my friends were all like, “Um, you’re not going to buy that, are you?” They’re all Coach whores. Let them carry their bags made of cloth with a few leather accents. (Leather, I may add, that has been dyed within an inch of its life.) I firmly believe that if your bag isn’t 100% leather, it’s not worth it. And the Fossil Austin Large Flap is 100% leather. Seriously. It doesn’t even have a lining.

Anyway, I looked the manager in the eye and said, “Will you take $100 since it’s damaged?”

I’m Persian. This is what we do when we shop.

And, since I’m writing about how this is the best purse I’ve ever owned, best believe that the manager of that Ross took that offer. (You can literally barter anywhere. And you absolutely should.)

The Fossil Austin Large Flap bag is the best purse I ever bought.

I took the bag home, and bought some Kiwi brand mink oil. I massaged the bag a couple of nights and let the oil set in. Then, after a week, those scratches were gone. This probably also helped a lot with softening the really stiff leather of the Fossil Austin Large Flap. And I’ve been wearing it ever since. This bag has followed me through my second master’s degree and two terrible jobs. It’s gone to concerts, countless shopping trips, and a couple of vacations. And I plan to keep on bringing it with me wherever I go.

About a year ago, one of the little twisty knobs that secures the flap to the bag came off, but I stitched it right up. And, well, about a week ago, the other twisty nob came off, so it looks like I’m gonna have to get out my sewing kit again.

But I’m totally fine with that. Like I said, the Fossil Austin Large Flap is the best purse I bought. And I’m going to keep it forever.

What's the best purse you've ever bought? Click To Tweet

What about you? What’s the best purse you’ve ever bought? Any tried and true tactics for bartering at Ross?

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