UFYH, Or “I’m Making My Life Better, Damnit!”

This post might be a bit off topic in the sense that it doesn’t relate directly to writing. However, what I’m going to talk about directly affects my ability to be a writer.

Like many creative people I know, I have trouble keeping my shit together. That is, the sink will fill with dirty dishes. The bed will lay unmade. The floor unswept, the clothes stuffed in a laundry basket after being washed, etc, etc.

I recently stumbled upon this thing called UFYH or Unfuck Your Habitat and it’s seriously changed how I view being an adult. Before, I thought I had to do ALL THE THINGS ALL AT ONCE and if I didn’t manage to do that (which I never would), I’d be OMG THE BIGGEST FAILURE EVER. In the past, I’d usually hit a tipping point in terms of cleanliness. I’d trip over the pile of clothes on the floor one too many times. The kitchen would smell. I’d walk into the living room and see clutter everywhere and sigh just a little too loudly.

My typical reaction in these cases was to scurry about the house and try to clean up weeks’ worth of mess in a few hours. And I’d not only fail, but I’d exhaust myself on the notion of cleaning. Process repeat.

With UFYH, I’ve learned that setting aside even 10 minutes a day to clean up one thing is a BIG DEAL when you’re a person like me. 10 minutes a day of cleaning is doable, won’t leave me exhausted, and does leave me with a sense of accomplishment. Lately, my chosen task has been making the bed every day. It only takes a few minutes, but damn if the bedroom doesn’t look better. It says, “a grown up lives here” not “an unkempt teenager passes out here.”

I still haven’t mastered putting away the dishes or hanging up the laundry right away. But my aforementioned tipping point happens a lot faster now. Another thing that’s been helping a lot is making to-do lists. It’s going to sound crazy, but putting things like “Make bed,” or “Wipe counters,” on my to-do list helps a ton! Plus, I get that crazy satisfaction of checking that shit off when I’ve completed it.

This weekend, Matt and I worked on scrubbing the tub. If you follow me on Twitter, you likely saw me bitching about my hip and I think that’s how I injured myself. Even so, most of the tub is clean now. Seriously, I forgot what color it was supposed to be. It took some serious, get on your hands and knees and use some elbow grease, but it got done.

And this brings me back to writing (I told you it was related). I find it impossible to write when I’m distracted by mess. The clutter and mess can leave me paralyzed. By tackling a little bit at a time and using to-do lists, I’m conquering the clutter and seeing my productivity rise. This is necessary, ya’ll, because I need to make money (cooking a baby in my belly, yo) and I need to finish some of my creative projects. Because when I don’t use creative outlets, I get even crazier than I normally am. And trust me folks, that’s not a good look.

l’ll probably write more posts about UFYH because it’s awesome and it’s helping me. In any case, I just wanted to share this nifty thing with you all. Would you be interested in knowing more things I’ve been doing to cope with being a real-live grownup? Do any of you struggle with these same issues?

The Supermarket After Dark: Cleanup on Aisle Everywhere

Like usual, Matt and I forgot to get some things from the supermarket. Namely, cat food. Those fur-balls really pitch a fit when you forget to give them their wet slop and nuzzle and purr until you scream, “Okay, I love you, too, I’ll feed you god dammit just quit slobbering on my ear!”

It’s about 9:30 and we trek over to the market. I say trek like it’s a million miles away and we’re about to dump the ring in Mount Doom or something, but seriously, driving a block after dinner is like trying to roll a boulder uphill. That shit’s laborious.

Run past the carts with your head down.

So we get to the market and make our way to the pet food aisle. We have a solid set of rules when venturing into Ralph’s after the sun’s gone down: get in, get out, don’t make eye contact, and avoid the people who talk to themselves. It sounds simple, but as I said earlier, It’s a trek and treks, as I also mentioned earlier, are laborious, so of course it wouldn’t be that easy.

We scan the broad selection of Friskies cat food, looking for the preferred disgusting meat concoction for our kitties. Yes, they have a preference, if not in flavor, then in texture. So, we’re scouring through salmon, beef, and tuna & egg–the personal favorite of my gag reflex–and come across a can of chicken a la the Savory Shreds variety. “Those cats are going to be excited as hell,” Matt says and I nod in agreement like we’re making a life-changing decision.

Then, our eyes fall on it at the same time. It’s Friskies, all right, but the labeling has changed. There’s swirls and motifs all over the can. To top it off, there’s a delighted orange tabby raising a paw as if to waft those swirls carrying fishy heaven closer to his nostrils to really take in the aroma. They’re flavor swirls, and I’m telling you: they’re downright whimsical.

We grab the same can, oblivious to the fact that Friskies’ damn marketing plan has worked. Whimsy sells, and we load up the cart with multi-colored cans. There’s swirls and decorative outlines of fish and cows and chickens tempting that tabby. We grab all sorts of flavors, just so long as they’ve got flourishes and shit. By the time we’re done, we’ve got a barnyard in our cart and we dontevencare.

But let me tell you something disturbing. One of the cans said Friskies with Chicken and Gravy. WITH! Do I need to emphasize that more? WITH!! 

Mmm-mmm. Nothing like Frisky shreds.

What the hell does that mean? I was under the impression my cats were chowing down on chicken shreds in gravy. But apparently I was mistaken. They’ve been lapping up Friskies and the manufacturers have been so kind as to add chicken and some gravy to the mystery stew out of the kindness of their hearts. Here’s my question:

What the fuck is a frisky?

Whoa! I know, right? Did I just blow your mind? I thought so.

Now that your life won’t ever be the same, allow me to move on and tell you about the rest of the supermarket experience…

We start wandering about the store like a pair of lost children looking for some sort of sugary snack to take home and devour on a Thursday night, because that’s how awesome we are. Then I hear it.

I pause in my tracks and turn my head to the side trying to listen. Matt hears it too and our eyes go wide in horror, but not in surprise. Because we live in Huntington Beach, deep into the O.C. That high-pitched drone coming from a few aisles over can be one thing and one thing alone: high school girls.

We try to keep our cool, even though our first instinct is to run. We examine the ice cream as a distraction. It was so picked over Matt nearly lost his arm in the back of the freezer trying to get some damn strawberry cheesecake ice cream. That’s what we’d do for you Ben & Jerry’s! Your ice cream is like crack and we are your junky addicts, willing to lose an arm to frostbite for just another creamy spoonful! But I digress.

The laughing gets louder. One voice squeals above the rest. She can’t stop chuckling about something. She’s about to have an aneurism. I just know it. And then the girls round the corner. They giggle like a pack of hyenas and even though their screeching laughter is enough to make me want to stick my head in the freezer, and slam the door repeatedly on my temples, I don’t. Because then they would win. And I can’t allow that to happen–as an American.

Like, oh my god, hahahah, like, hahahaha, *snort* huh?

The Sweatpants and Hoodie Hyenas saunter off. The laughter fades and we both breathe a sigh of relief. Those sighs say, “Whew, that was a close one.”

But as we turn to head over to the checkout we have to stop. I can’t move. One of the hyenas, er, girls, broke free from the pack. She leans on her cart and skids through the store, giggling to herself like a mindless idiot. Then I look down.

Now, let me emphasize something here. We live near the beach. I get the whole beach culture thing, I do. But this was just not right, okay?

She wasn’t wearing any shoes. Do I need to repeat that? The chick had no shoes on! Just socks. As if that weren’t bad enough, there was a giant hole one of the socks and her big toe protruded through it like a hernia. I mean, is it that hard to find a pair of shoes when you’re stumbling to the market on a weekday night?

I’m not going to lie. It was sad. And disgusting. But mostly just sad.

Any of these would've been fine.

We wait for the straggler to pass before dashing to the self-checkout counter. But again, our progress is thwarted.

The pack of teenagers had converged at the self-checkout, doubled over in laughter, half buns bobbing, hoodies spontaneously flinging over their heads. And the source of their amusement?

Blueberries.

Glinting in the harsh fluorescent lighting lay a minefield of blueberries, peppered across the linoleum. Why, they were even still frosty from the refrigerator. And the girl with the loudest laugh that crossed the entire market like a smoke alarm held the container, dangling in her hand, empty and useless.

They never knew the glory of a bowl.

We followed the rules: get in, get out, don’t make eye contact, avoid the people who talk to themselves. After tip-toeing through the blueberry massacre (“they were so young!” we cried as we wept for their purple souls) we made it to the checkout stand unscathed.

The car ride home was silent, somber even. There’s was nothing to say other than to reflect on what had just transpired. What evils we had encountered. What perils we narrowly escaped. The trek was complete, the journey at an end. But I doubt we’ll ever be the same.

And the nagging certainty that we will forget something from the grocery list again haunts my dreams.

I Was a 16 Year Old Stereotype

I am 26 years old. My face has grown narrow and my body tells me I’m no longer infallible each time I stand (creak, pop). I’m a college-educated business owner. I’m married. In sum: I’m a grown woman with her own mind, wants and needs. Great right? Sure, only it’s left me wondering how I got here.

You see, I was such a weak willed girl. That might sound harsh, but truly, I was a 16 year old living, breathing stereotype that I’m ashamed to identify with today.

Let me back up.

Part of me recognizes that it’s normal to be boy-crazy in the midst of puberty. As a teenager, I obsessed over boys and celebrity crushes and all of the things depicted in popular culture that girls that age love. These images of teen girls are likely rooted in truth. Hormones are to blame, for sure. But how much of my behavior was influenced by a culture that said I should do anything I could to catch a boy’s attention?

Each morning when I woke up, I preened in front of the mirror, hating everything I saw. My female friends made it a point to emphasize every one of my flaws for their own amusement. Some “friends,” I know. And my perpetual shyness got in the way of talking to people and showing anyone who I truly was.

Society told me if a boy liked me, I was worth something. If no one from the opposite sex would glance my way, I was useless. Yet, if you were to pursue anyone of your own accord, you’d be labeled, stigmatized and derided for being too bold, too brash and dare I say a shameless hussy!

I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. There is an unspoken balance teens girls must hold onto. The tightrope walk between virgin and slut. The ever-present need to attract a mate, but not do anything overt to accomplish that. Because we girls just aren’t inherently worthwhile, you know. We have to do something to get a guy. But I’m getting off topic. The virgin/slut paradigm is so engrained in our culture that I do no one a service by delving into it here.

Back to being 16.

I wasn’t a “bad” girl. Yes, I’m talking sex here. That wasn’t me, but I did compromise myself on occasion for the sake of a boy. I definitely felt the pressure to be something I wasn’t and to mold myself into a girl that a boy would like.

Pitiful, isn’t it? I acknowledge that feeling inadequate and out of place is a part of growing up, but hiding who you are to gain favor transcends the teen years. It can set the tone for a life lived in the shadows. A life only half lived in the wake of another’s expectations.

If all of this sounds melodramatic, I’m sorry. But the realization that you spent the better portion of your teen years trying to be someone else for everyone else’s sake is mentally taxing.

Hiding my thoughts led to losing them.

Thankfully, I’m at the point now where I better understand myself (though it’s always a learning process) and feel no shame at voicing my own opinions. I think back 10 years ago when the walk across campus at high school every day filled me with so much dread, I’d rather stay home and sleep than face people that were supposed to be my friends just waiting to take a shot at my crumbled self-esteem. I sometimes wonder what I would have been like if I hadn’t been afraid to be myself around my peers who mocked my clothes, my teeth, my skin and my body. Would I have stood up and had an opinion?

The positive side of me thinks, yes. Of course I would have. Anyone who knows me now has no doubt encountered one of my unfettered tirades about something. But the pessimistic side hits closer to the truth: I couldn’t have voiced an opinion when I was 16 because I didn’t have any.

Spending your youth accommodating everyone with false agreements and complacent smiles (just so they’ll like you) does an awful thing to your mind. You forget how to think for yourself.

When I was 16 and a stereotype, I was so unhappy. And though I know that girl with a shriveled up soul was me (and is in me and will forever haunt me), she is not a girl I want to know. I understand her and why she made the decisions she made, certainly.

But I despise her.

The Day the Dolphin Laughed At Me

The oil spill in the Gulf upsets me, though I’m ashamed to admit, sometimes I forget. Living in So Cal, I don’t see daily reminders of the devastation down there. But when I flip on the TV or seek out updates online, I’m reminded of the awfulness of the situation and how the people living on the gulf coast don’t have the luxury of forgetting about their oil-slicked shores.

After seeing some particularly disgusting images, I couldn’t help but think of the time I went to San Diego for a week when I was eight. It was pretty much the only family vacation I ever remember going on where we stayed overnight and it featured my first trip to SeaWorld.

On a side note, when I asked my dad what the difference was between a motel and hotel he said that a motel was nicer and that’s why we were staying in one. ::grin:: Ah, parental white lies.

Most of the trip is lost to wispy memory now, but I do recall a few vivid details. For instance, I was dressed identical to my mother: over-sized sunglasses, black tank top and white bicycle shorts with black flowers–hey, don’t judge.

But what stands out the most from that day was the moment we approached the dolphin tank. There was a round tank in the middle of the walkway. I believe it was connected underground to a larger tank (at least I hope it was!) and you could walk up very close and see dolphins swimming around. I was fascinated by their shiny skin and graceful tails swishing.

Dolphins can laugh, right?

Then, out of nowhere, a dolphin emerged from the water. He (I say he because his actions befitted a little boy’s playground antics) turned to one side with his head out of the water. One fin extended up as if to wave. Then he slammed it down onto the water’s surface, sending a huge wave right onto my small frame. I was soaked. And before the dolphin plunged back into the water, he paused, looked at me with those black glassy eyes and laughed.

I’m dead serious. That dolphin laughed at me.

He thought splashing me was pretty damn funny and because of his bold attitude I never forgot him.

So what on earth does this memory have to do with the oil spill to end all oil spills? Sorry people, this is about to get serious.

To say I was greatly upset when I saw images of dead dolphins floating to the water’s surface in the Gulf, and a man carrying a baby dolphin out of the foam, only to learn it died later, would be an understatement. Photos that don’t seem to make it to the nightly news of animal carcasses and workers covered in oil also disturb.

I don’t know how people can go from day to day without acknowledging this issue. Or act as if it’s not a big deal. “Oh so some sea life dies, so what? We’ll be okay.” Where does this sort of passivity come from? Is it a natural reaction when faced with issues that are too big to comprehend? Or does it stem from the seemingly acceptable apathy that runs rampant in our society?

People that don’t at least want to clean off pelicans, sea turtles or even those poor dolphins, dumbfound me. What kind of people are these? If I had money, I’d like to think that I’d attempt to go down there and try to do something (despite BP’s desperate attempts to prevent anything from getting done).

I can understand people feeling powerless, but those who don’t care at all baffle me.

But maybe I’m just biased. I mean, a dolphin pretty much made fun of me once. How many people can say that? In my opinion, a creature capable of that sort of tomfoolery doesn’t deserve such a devastating fate. Nor do any of those sea mammal’s fishy friends. Pardon me if that’s hippie dippie, but it’s true.