Snow Leopard Friendships

 

Sometimes in life, you have to spend months, even years, slowly and patiently developing a friendship.

Perhaps you interact occasionally at group functions, knowing each other from a distance, and then over time come to realize you could be friends.

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Or perhaps you even dislike each other, avoiding or fighting constantly, until, after so many awkward or even hostile moments, you realize that the things you like about each other overpower what you dislike. Or even that what you disliked was actually just what you didn’t understand. (Fearing what you don’t know, and all that nonsense.)

I’ve had those friendships. In fact, lately I’ve considered taking a photo every time I meet someone new, in case that person eventually turns out to be a good friend. But the awkward factor would probably be too high. “Would you mind if I photographed you in case I like you later?”

These friendships can be especially deep, because you have years of shared experiences and mutual friends to enjoy together. They are time-consuming but incredibly worthwhile relationships to develop. Don’t be afraid to invest in those kinds of friendships, even if some of them don’t turn out the way you expected. The ones you gain will make up for the ones that drift away.

That’s the lesson for this week; that’s where the universally applicable part of this post ends.

Because every once in a while, you find someone that you immediately become friends with, and really there’s nothing you can do to make it happen except be in the right place at the right time, and jump in when the diving board appears. (Mixed metaphors, you say? Come on, you knew what I meant.) It’s a rare but amazing thing. Like comets. Or snow leopards.

For me, lately, I’ve been incredibly grateful for one woman who appeared in my life in August, pretty much permanently. She’s funny, she’s deep, and she gets my nerdy references to everything from Milo and Otis to Star Wars. We went on tour together during a particularly rough season for both of us, and were able to laugh and cry through it together. I appreciate her friendship probably more than I can say, and I’m fairly good with words.

And at this point, it’s permanent. She’s stuck with me. Forever. Sorry, Aech.

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So maybe there is another universal thought here: if someone comes along and you instantly become friends, jump in. I mean, boundaries are a thing. A big thing. We can talk more about that later. But I’m just saying, don’t be afraid to make friends, even fast friends. Because they’re pretty great.

Frog Hunting – Episode 2

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Note from the author: This is a follow-up to the post “Frog Hunting,” which you may want to read first.

 

After six months of unsuccessful attempts to meet men online, I canceled my online dating account.

Then, after eight months of unsuccessful attempts to meet men in person, I joined a new dating app.

And it’s been chaos ever since. In fact, I had to put a hold on my account because I was talking to too many men at once. Believe me, that is a sentence I never thought I’d say. Last month, there was a moment when I was actively trying to schedule four dates at once. I submit this as proof that not only is there a God, but he has a spectacular sense of humor. (I also submit those monkeys with the crazy noses, because COME ON.)

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I’ve only gone on five dates so far, and all of them have had some special moments, as most first dates do.

But there’s really only one that I need to tell you about. And it’s a bit of a long story, but that’s necessary for you to get the full effect. So bear with me.

 

I met this gentleman (we’ll call him Gary) for a beer at a local brewery. ThinkstockPhotos-517501476

(For the record, the beer was excellent. I would always recommend going somewhere you like on a first date because then even if the date is terrible, you at least get to enjoy some aspect of it.)

Gary is a good-looking man, and his dating profile is full of photos from his military days, which adds a level of attractiveness that I’ve never actually understood. Talk to the Bennet sisters or Debra Winger if you need further clarification on that point.

Anyway. We shook hands, sat at the bar, and started chatting. He seemed nice, genuinely interested in what I had to say, and like a financially viable adult, which at my age is 80% of what makes a guy worth dating. I had already learned from our online conversation that Gary was new to Indy, that we had some hobbies in common, and that he worked for a popular mattress company.

What I soon learned in person as we talked about sports and local restaurants was that his job perfectly described his personality: a snore.

Trying to see if the soporific quality of his conversation was due to the topics at hand, I asked him, “So, Gary. Are you a church-going man?”

He smiled. “No, not really. But I’m very religious.”

He said something after this about growing up in the Methodist church, but I was so busy trying to figure out how you could claim Christianity as your faith, be religious, and still not go to church, that I totally missed what he was saying. I tuned back in when he said, “But actually, I’ve started a new project lately!”

Anticipating some clarification on his spiritual situation, I said, “Oh?”

“Yes! I just purchased a snorkel mask and wet suit in order to snorkel the White River to find snails. I’m planning on starting my own snail farm! I’m a big escargot person. Do you like escargot?”

You guys. He was so excited about this. It was the first inkling of emotion he’d shown in half an hour. (But can we also point out the inherit hilarity of saying you’re a “big escargot person?”)

“I…I guess I’ve never tried it,” I said, as my brain struggled to discover the line between the Methodist church and the culinary delicacies of the White River.

He smiled a genuine smile. “You have to try it! I usually get my escargot from Walmart.”

Struggling to keep up, I tried to match his humor. “Oh! You know, one time I was in Walgreens and they were selling sushi. I could not figure out who would buy sushi from Walgreens in Indiana!”

He shook his head. “Yeah, that’s weird. But the Walmart escargot is really very good.”

He was serious.

“Oh.” I said. It occurred to me that I’d been saying this a lot. I didn’t seem to be successfully participating in this conversation. I tried to engage.

“And…the snails in the White River are…escargot material?”

ThinkstockPhotos-178580834“Definitely!” he said, and launched into an explanation of the origin of said snails. I admit, I didn’t fully follow, because his voice is incredibly monotone and I am not a robot, but I gathered that at some point a group of famous Chinese snails ended up in Lake Michigan (“They must have been really lost,” my friend Emily said when I told her this) and traveled down the White River into Indiana.

You guys, the White River is not glamorous. It’s sort of like the Hudson. Necessary for the economy, nice to have, but I’d never get in it. I don’t care if those snails had Scottish accents and looked like Matthew McConnaughy, they can stay in the White River as far as I’m concerned. (By the way, Matthew’s been looking sort of weird lately. Maybe I need a new “hot man” to reference. Let me know if you have suggestions.)

Anyway. Feeling way out of my depth (pun intended), I decided to change the subject. I asked him about his cat, which I’d seen a picture of on his profile.

I kid you not, people: Gary spent the next 15-20 minutes filling me in on the diseases and other physical issues that his cat has had over the last few years. Once he started talking about how he spent a year picking scabs off this poor cat every night, I finally pulled out my phone to check the time.

“Well, I should probably get going. Thank you for the beer!”

We parted ways without talk of another meeting, and when he texted me the next day to schedule a date, I politely declined.

See, the thing is, I do some weird things. Last weekend I spent approximately 20 hours learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. But I am not under the impression that this hobby makes me more desirable toward men. Snail farming, while…unique…is not a chick magnet. Perhaps I should have explained this to him at the time, but I was too busy not gagging on my beer during the flea and tick conversation.

 

Moral of the story? I don’t actually know. Why don’t you tell me?

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The Good Stuff: Tough Week Edition

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Perhaps you are in the 1% of Americans that haven’t had a rough, physically exhausting, and emotionally draining week. If so, good for you! Live long and prosper, and go out and spread your own cheer.

This post is for the rest of us. If you need a pick-me-up emotionally, physically, relationally, spiritually, ecumenically, whatever…I’m with you. Read on for a few suggestions of how to recover.

 

Search YouTube for “full-length Hallmark movies.” One of my favorite things to do when I’m totally exhausted is watch incredibly cheesy, made-for-tv movies. Yes, they’re terrible and unrealistic. That’s the point. At the end of the movie, everything wraps up in a bow, and even the people who got rejected are doing fine. It’s an 88-minute reminder that life has good moments. Now, you might have to search through the results for a while to find a movie that wasn’t recorded on somebody’s phone or dubbed over in Tagalog, but there are lots of options so stick with it. Or if you have cable, just find the Hallmark channel.

Read Isaiah 43. This is my favorite part of what God has to say to us in writing, but right now it’s a great reminder that the end is never really the end and that even when things seem hopeless, they’re not.

Watch Benedict Cumberbatch and Jimmy Fallon write and perform a scene via MadLibs. I mean, when on earth does a brilliant British actor being silly on national television NOT cheer you up?

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Tell someone a joke. My friend Molly is always good for a bad joke, and it’s one of the many things I love about her: she likes making other people smile. Texting is a particularly good way to tell jokes, because it lets people read and enjoy at their own convenience. Can’t remember any jokes? Come on, guys. You hold the internet in your hands. You can start here.

Give someone something just because. One of my favorite ways to do this is to go to a store for no other purpose but to wander around until I find something that reminds me of someone. And then I buy it and give it to them. If you want, you can save it for Christmas (we’re almost there?!?) but I’d recommend just giving it now. People love unexpected gifts that say, “I saw this and thought of you.” However, sometimes the item is wildly expensive, and you know you cannot purchase it. If so, text them, call them, email them, write them a card, and say, “I saw this thing and I so wanted to buy it for you, but I couldn’t afford it. Just wanted you to know I was thinking of you and I’d buy you a million of those if I could!” Trust me. If I heard that from you, I’d love it.

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Give out free and unnecessary hugs. Although I would beware of hugging strangers, hugs are the best. Give them out like candy on halloween.

 

Smile. I like you guys. And remember, tomorrow is a new day.

The Accidental, Comedic Quest

 

Scene: A bright, sunny Saturday morning, mid-morning, at the 6021. ASHLEYNE arises from bed and opens her bedroom door, allowing the general populace to know she is awake, before returning to sit on her bed. SHANEEQUA appears in the doorway, also still in her pajamas, looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed. 

S: Good morning! Do you need some coffee?

A: Yes, please.

SHANEEQUA departs, returning shortly with two steaming mugs of coffee. ThinkstockPhotos-496590873

A: Thank you. You’re the best.

S: You’re welcome!

ASHLEYNE cautiously sips her coffee, wondering sleepily what’s coming next. 

S: I’ve been very productive this morning. I even cleaned out all the vases, and threw out all the flowers. Then I went to take the trash out, and remembered that our trash can blew away. So I called Republic to ask them to send us a new trash can, and the woman told me I had to call the police and file a report. I said, “Let me get this straight. You want me to call 911 and ask them to file a report because a tornado took my trash can?” And she said, “No, you can call the non-emergency line.” And I said, “They’re going to have me committed.”

ASHLEYNE looks confused. 

A: You have to file a report? Why?!

S: Exactly. I said, “Yeah, no. Not doing that.” So I looked down the street, and there’s a trash can just lying in someone’s yard a few houses down. So I’m waiting until 10:30, and then I’m going to go knock on their door and ask if it’s theirs, and if it’s not, I’m going to take it.

A: Makes sense. Why 10:30?

S: Well, I was going to go earlier, but Holly said since you were still sleeping, maybe it was too early, because other people might be sleeping.

A: Makes sense. Sort of.

S: So I’ll wait a little while longer.

SHANEEQUA exits, walking into the living room. After a few moments, ASHLEYNE follows, considering what she wants for breakfast. SHANEEQUA now stands by the open front door, looking through the glass storm door. 

S: The sky is really dark over there. I think a storm is rolling in.

A: Yeah, I heard thunder a few minutes ago.

S: I’m going to go sit on our front stoop and watch the storm roll in.

A: We don’t really have a front stoop.

SHANEEQUA opens the storm door and walks out into the sunshine. ASHLEYNE hesitantly follows, obviously not yet under the full influence of caffeine. 

S: See? There’s the trash can.

SHANEEQUA points south, about six houses down, across the road, where a large blue garbage bin lies haphazardly in a front yard. 

A: Yup.

S: Let’s go get it.

ASHLEYNE looks down at her sweatpants and her mug of coffee and her bare feet. 

A: Now?

S: Sure! Seize the moment!

ASHLEYNE looks at SHANEEQUA’S bare feet. And back down at her own. Clearly, brain function is not happening. 

A: Okay. Let me roll up my pants so they don’t get wet.

ThinkstockPhotos-101768388ASHLEYNE rolls up her sweatpants to her knees. The pair walk to the sidewalk and turn south. Gradually, without either one noticing, the sunlight is fading. A couple with a dog passes, glancing curiously at the two shoeless women gingerly carrying their coffee down the street. 

The pair cross the street, avoiding puddles, and approach the house in question, starting up the driveway, which is cracked and full of holes. 

 

A: I don’t think I’ve ever seen this house before.

S: I guess we should knock on the front door?

Looking at the house, both are starting to experience some doubts. The house seems neglected, the pathway overgrown, and upon closer inspection, it is evident that trash bags have been used to cover the windows from the inside. The front step is surrounded by moss and dirt. SHANEEQUA hesitantly knocks on the glass of the storm door. 

A: Maybe knock on the inside door?

SHANEEQUA carefully opens the storm door, which reveals a mass of cobwebs. SHANEEQUA hurriedly knocks, and then shuts the storm door. Approximately 3 seconds pass. 

S: I don’t think they’re home.

A: Yeah. Let’s go.

Both turn and hastily retreat. The sky has turned the color of granite and thunder shakes the trees. As the pair dodge potholes down the driveway, a door opens in the house next door, difficult to see because of a poorly-maintained hedge. A small, portly old man emerges, peering through the hedge at the two women, sucking on a wooden pipe. 

OLD MAN: Are you girls looking for your trash can?

One enormous rain drop falls to the ground. 

A: Yes, we are.

OLD MAN: Well, a whole bunch of ’em blew over here the other day, all from down that ways.

OLD MAN waves toward the north. A second rain drop falls to the ground. 

S: Yeah, we think this might be ours.

The skies open, and 40,000 rain drops fall at once, drenching all three people. OLD MAN disappears mysteriously, and ASHLEYNE and SHANEEQUA make a beeline for the trash can, pulling it up off the yard. 

S: Oh my gosh!! This is hilarious!

ASHLEYNE starts pulling the trash can down the sidewalk behind her, mug of coffee in her other hand. Both women are dripping, and the rain drops are so large that their coffee is splashing up into their faces and onto their clothes. SHANEEQUA begins laughing hysterically. 

S: This…is…ridiculous…my coffee…oh my…gosh…

The pair moves slowly back up the sidewalk, hampered by their bare feet, the trash bin, and the debilitating laughter. Once they reach the 6021, they take out the trash, since they are both drenched anyway, and then step inside to laugh themselves silly. 

S: How about I make some more coffee?

A: Definitely.

Two minutes pass. The rain stops completely. After three more minutes, the sun returns, and the pair exits the Twilight Zone, and returns to normal, weekend life. 

 

 

In other news, it appears that our neighbor has decided to name his trash can, so that if we have another tornado, he can locate his trash can without calling 911.

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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Life is full of decisions, both the kinds we make individually and decisions others make. Because of the sheer volume of choices required in order to stay alive and the immense number of forces outside our control, it is not actually possible to make wise and positive decisions all the time.

In other words: not all our decisions are winners. 

This is true even when we make decisions affecting only ourselves. For instance, wanting something new and different in my breakfast routine yesterday, I decided to put sauerkraut in my breakfast burrito. The burrito that also contained salsa. Let’s just say it was…leaky. And very, very sour.

ThinkstockPhotos-503761172And then there are other people’s decisions. We can’t control them, yet they still affect us. Like when you have a favorite grocery store and one of the cashiers asks you out in the most awkward way possible, making it extremely difficult for you to continue to shop there without it being super weird every week. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

The point is, things get rough sometimes, because decisions are hard and not always up to us. What I’m working on this week:

  1. When a “non-winner” choice (by me or someone else) affects me, laugh about it. It probably actually is funny.
  2. Make a mental note to learn from said choice. For instance, sauerkraut and salsa aren’t friends before 6 am, and I shouldn’t try to force them to be.
  3. Move on. This is often the most difficult part for me, especially if it was my own decision-making that caused the issue. But I’m discovering that moving on is absolutely essential to my quality of life.

I’d love to hear your most memorable “non-winner” decision and how you moved on.

A Trash Can Away From Greatness

We didn’t have television growing up – or rather, we had a television and a VHS player…just no channels. No, I’m not Laura from Little House on the Prairie. It’s just how it was.

But my great aunt Ruth lived in a house attached to ours, and she had basic TV channels, which was a huge deal. Five days a week – come hell or high water – she watched the news, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. (And she would have been shocked that I just said “hell.”)  She wouldn’t watch the weather, instead preferring to get her predictions from the hometown newspaper. As a five-year-old, I personally found that very unreliable, given that it was printed in black and white and not color.

My siblings and I were rarely allowed to watch TV with Aunt Ruth, but there were two events we could count on: the Presidential Election and the Olympics.

Confession: If no one else was home – an admittedly rare circumstance – my sister and I would sneak into Aunt Ruth’s house and, keeping careful watch for approaching adults, watch snippets of soap operas. Ah, the rebellious lives of homeschooled children. 

So. Watching the Olympics, both winter and summer, was a big deal. More specifically, the Olympians were a big deal. They were stars, icons, world leaders…bigger than Alex Trebek or George W. Bush. They were superheroes. Unreachable, unknowable, and unbeatable – except by their own kind.

I maintained this belief for a long time, and it is still my default. It gives watching the Olympics an extra special excitement.

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But in 2012, I was flying back to New York from California, and an unknown event caused an entire airline to delay flights in a major North Eastern airport. I found myself in a terminal packed full of frustrated people. Standing room was scarce, and there certainly weren’t any open seats. As a tired 24-year-old with an hour to kill, I plopped down where I could: right next to the trash can. I pulled out a book and started to read.

Within minutes, another girl claimed the other side of the trash can as her temporary home. After making herself comfortable, she called a friend. With my proximity, boredom, and innate Harriet the Spy tendencies, I quickly deduced she was speaking to a friend from home. It was obvious they hadn’t spoken while she’d been traveling, and their mutual excitement piqued my interest.

She started describing the opening ceremonies and how crazy it was that she’d gotten to meet Hope Solo and even see Alison Felix in real life.

Ah. This girl was at the Olympics. Of course she was excited.

Wait. What was that about her first heat? This girl was IN the Olympics.

This girl was an Olympian. 

I could hardly believe it. But then her flight was called and she walked to her gate, and I could clearly see that TEAM USA was stitched in giant letters across her back.

I sat next to an Olympian! Well, sort of. We were separated by two and a half feet of plastic and garbage. But an Olympian!

She was normal. She was a kid. She sounded like a high school student describing her prom. She was probably a small-town hero, a college athlete who didn’t medal. For her, this was the biggest moment of her life.

Even though I’m older and much wiser, as I watch the Olympics, I’m still star-struck. Watching Katie Ledecky or Kerri Walsh-Jennings makes me wonder how there can possibly be any misogynists left in the world. Those women are amazing. 

But beyond amazing, I now know they’re real people. They work crazy hard and earn those moments in the spotlight. That’s why they get to be Olympians. But they’re still normal. You and I aren’t so far away from them, really…sometimes just one delayed flight and a trash can. Don’t forget that, friends.

 

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To prove my point, I give you American tennis Olympian, Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Bethanie is known as the “Lady Gaga of tennis” for her style choices. She was once fined for wearing a cowboy hat during a professional match. See? Normal human. I love it. 

Something for Your Monday

Two things:

  1. I love this, and thought it might make your Monday better, too:

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2. I’m going to be traveling this week and next, so consider this your head’s up in preparation for…GUEST BLOGGERS! That’s right. New voices, new thoughts, new senses of humor. Brace yourselves. And check back on Friday to see who I conned into this job first! [Insert maniacal laughter here…]