Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Twenty four things I have learned in the last year.

I started this tradition on my 20th birthday. I remember writing it in my 12'x18'6" dorm room (yes, super long and skinny, but suspiciously perfect for dancing). I excitedly shared bits and pieces of my thoughts with my bubbly roommate Kelley as I wrote. I'm not the same person I was when I wrote my 20 things, and I'm thankful for these written ideas, as not often do people have such a concrete list of their priorities and newly gained insight each year. I didn't think this list was going to be a thing, but I think after four times, something becomes an official thing. I just made up that rule, but it's a good one.

I couldn't have guessed all of the things that would come and go in my life in just four short years. Since the autumn that I wrote my 20 things blog, I've fallen out with people I really cared about, failed miserably at the job search, and cried in my father's arms about what the hell I'm suppose to do with my life. I suffered with the rest of the world in watching greed, disagreement and intolerance turn into anger, resentment, violence and terror. I held the hands of friends gone to hell and back, watched them battle depression, addiction and pain. I gave the eulogy at my grandfather's funeral. I laid my childhood friend to rest, and I grieved over the losses of four people younger than me in just one year. I experienced incredible anxiety and stress over my future and the thought of losing my friends and family.

I was reminded of life's brevity, yes, but I also learned of life's incredible worth. I experienced sloppy, wet bucketfuls of joy in my life every single day. I fell in love and learned what healthy meant. I traveled across the world, surprised myself, and spent a year nannying for the most amazing two boys and awesome family. I stood next to my cousin as she committed her life to her best friend, became closer with my brother when he moved 2,507 miles across the country, and surprised a sister a long drive away. I hit the jackpot in the job search, dove down to shipwrecks at the bottom of the ocean, and celebrated and cultivated incredible friendships — some brand new, some twenty years old. I met and lived with my soul sister and two black cats, moved to a new city, started a new career, found my inner athlete. I restored my faith in humanity through long runs, coffee dates and StoryCorps tears.

At the end of it all, the world still awaits. I celebrate the fact that I am still so young, and I thank the people (and animals) who have made me who I am. Because I'd be a super boring, lonely person without their conversation, advice and gooey warm hugs.

Internet, I give you this year's 24 things I've learned in the last year:

1. People who don't think dogs are worth the shedding don't understand dogs.

2. Joy doesn't just happen to certain people by chance. Joyful is a state of mind that is deliberately chosen and cultivated.

3. Being a writer actually means being a reader who occasionally strings words together. 

4. There are better uses of your time in line than on your phone. Look up people!

5. Or how about I just forego the phone altogether? Forget your phone sometimes. Spend time with people who won't be on theirs the whole time you're with them. And hang out with people who will tell you to put yours down. Those are the kinds of people who get it.

6. Surround yourself with giants. I am currently working with brilliant minds! The things I have learned in my short time at this company have taught me so much. And it's because I'm surrounded by people who, not only are incredibly intelligent, but who have included me in on the conversation. They've brought me into meetings and interviews and let me write for big projects from the start. Surround yourself with people who are going to help you grow, and who won't squander your ideas or make you feel small.

7. Watching childhood friends grow into real, functioning and amazing people is a very wonderful thing. 

8. I used to think lateness had to do with a person's character... and then I moved to a city where parking was impossible. 

9. Be the friend who pays for the coffee. 

10. Be the 'first responder friend'. Be the friend who is going to answer the phone, grab the pot of coffee, and head over at 2AM when there's been a eureka! moment, a bad break up, or somebody needed to eat Lay's and french onion dip with.

11. Be the friend who doesn't ask questions when your best friend borrows your favorite T-shirt and then holds onto it for a little over four months because you know she's enjoying wearing it all of the time. Of course this is really just because you have like 45 articles of her clothing still and don't want to have to give them back.

12. Surely you can't be serious. Nothing should be taken too seriously. When we take things too seriously, we get offended. When we get offended, we become sour and bitter. And as I've aged, I've found I don't like either of those flavors.

13. Don't call me Surely.

14. Writing requires a lot of vulnerability. When you write, you're basically putting your panties on a line for people to critique. When you write about yourself, it's like taking those panties, turning them inside out and showing everybody their skid marks. You have to expect people to forget that those are your mistakes, and thank them for pointing out your poo.

15. There are some kinds of people who don't understand that they have the option to write their own books, make their own maps. Show these people that this choice exists. Give them a taste of what it's like to create something.

16. Your online persona is not an accurate representation of your life, your relationships or the quality of either.

17. Cynicism is a disease. It's a contagious, contagious disease that I have decided to quarantine myself from.

18. Good stories need to be told. People crave real, powerful and beautiful stories. 

19. You can learn a lot about a person's soul by what they think is funny. 

20. "Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time." - Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

21. The older you get, the more you look forward to Thanksgiving Day with family than what is under the tree Christmas morning.

22. Make every day extraordinary. Days fall together when you let monotony take hold. Weeks go by quicker when you do the same thing every day. Don't live for the two days tacked on to the end of the week. Do extraordinary things with every day of your life. You'll remember them.

23. Life is about giving someone else your last piece of gum. 

24. I am by no means wise, I am by every mean still learning. 

20 Things
21 Things
23 Things

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Two things we can't forget about Beauty at Every Size.

After being told for 24 years that my body wasn't perfect enough -- by the media, by myself, by my gym, my peers and more -- I tried something new.

I stopped listening.

Every time I thought a thought that made my chubby cheeks feel like they didn't belong, I told myself to shut up.

Every time I heard some comment on television about crazy ideals of beauty, I didn't let it get to me.

Every time I tried on pants and had to choose between fitting my waist or my muscley legs and ballet-given booty, I'd just start twerking the crap out of the dressing room.

Eventually, I started to see a me that I liked when I looked in the mirror.

I'm telling you it wasn't always this way, and not every day is perfect, but when I stopped counting the pounds on the scale and started counting the pounds I could dead lift or bench press or row-- when I started counting my miles on the pavement -- I immediately started loving myself more.

There is a beauty at every size movement that's been going on around me and I got really excited about this because I'm a huge proponent for this very truth. I think it's great that women are joining together and forgetting the silly standards that have been put out there... but I have two cautions we need to keep in mind for this trend:

1. Body acceptance does not mean we don't have to take care of ourselves.

There are some sizes that are not healthy and it isn't okay. Body acceptance is good, but no one who is morbidly obese can be living a full life. Having to sit out of things is not living life to its full potential. Being sick all of the time is not living life to its full potential. You must take care of yourself. Living with the health issues associated with obesity is no way to live.

Obesity causes THOUSANDS of other health issues, but here are ten, all of which are life-threatening conditions: Depression, Reproductive Problems, Cancer, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Stroke, Kidney disease, Osteoarthritis, Sleep Apnea and Asthma.

Celebrating curves does not give us a Get Out of Health Free Card.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years.

The number one killer in America is heart disease. Its number one cause is obesity.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of breast cancer, a leading killer of women. New research finds that "An increase of two skirt sizes per decade, between the mid-20s and mid-50s could increase breast cancer risk by 78 per cent."

I'm not blaming the victim either. I understand that obesity is a deep problem with tough roots and thousands of factors.  In college, I studied extensively the various socioeconomic factors related to obesity. It is an epidemic that America's poor are malnourished, yet morbidly obese. It is an epidemic that we have to feed our children boxes of cancer-causing food because that's the only thing we can afford. It is an epidemic that people aren't receiving the proper education about nutrition and the human right that is health care they deserve.

Those of us who know about health and value nutrition are obligated to work towards teaching others about healthy living.

Those of us who have battled with the shit that comes with obesity and the self-harming extremes of dieting and not loving your body that are pushed on us by society must work towards helping others.

We cannot stop prioritizing healthy living because body acceptance is a thing, although it is a beautiful start.

2. This being said, body acceptance must come to love every size. 

This is hard for me to say. For a long time I've been very ashamed of this because I didn't want to be a brat for speaking up about being small. But I have to say it: Beautiful at Every Size is not Beautiful at Every Size Except for Size 0s. It is not Beautiful at Every Size except for Size 2. It is Beautiful at Every Size, you get it?

I mean, it's AWESOME that Meghan Trainor is dancing with curvy women singing about grabbable booties. Who doesn't love a grabbable booty? (and I actually really love the catchy song) But they're straight up hazing a skinny girl in her video. Why is the skinny girl's size not acceptable, too?

Look, I am a size 0. We exist. I'm not a size 0 because I starve myself, and I'm not particularly always 100 percent of the time in love with my body. I have fat on my legs, too. I have weird butt dimples in the muscle from the time a trailer fell on me. We can't keep thinking that to be this size you have to have serious body issues. Some people just are this size. Because it is a size too.

So why has it become so popular to bully skinny people now in popular culture?

I guarantee those petite women have some real self-consciousness inside of them too.

If we can't accept women at every size, then we're just back to where we started -- we'll just have gone to the other end of the spectrum and neither does anyone any good. 

From both ends, it's important that we just simply start taking care of ourselves and people around us. There are people who are naturally skinny and eat garbage every day. There are people who are naturally larger and they're healthy as can be. 

We need to love the way we look and be proud of who we are, but if we aren't working towards becoming the best versions of ourselves that we can be, then what reasons do we have to be proud of who we are?

Embrace Beauty at Every Size, but don't forget to be inclusive and to not stop taking care of yourself too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Story of the Extroverted Introvert

Erin, Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert? 

Those who know me know this question is silly.

I'm ridiculously outgoing (and super annoying).

But it's actually a question I've asked myself a lot lately as I've moved to Pittsburgh and had to really make an effort to meet new people.

It's weird when you move to a new place because you kind of forget how you made all those old friends in the first place. You are no longer surrounded by thousands of people your age that you know. It forces you to take a good look at what you want in a new relationship and a deep dive into who you are.

I always took being called an extrovert as somewhat of an insult. I mean, I'm a writer! I'm supposed to fly-on-the-wall the crap out of every situation! I can't break down that fourth wall and actually gather my own life experiences, right? To participate and observe creates a skewed, conflict of interest to a story, right?

I spend a lot of time with myself. I like shopping alone and eating alone. I like watching boats pull bigger boats down the Allegheny River on my lunch break. I like putting up my ENO hammock and hanging out by myself as all the sidewalkers stare. So naturally, I thought of myself as an introvert.

But I think I confused introversion, independence and observation skills as being mutually exclusive.

I thought because I was able to spend days hanging out with myself and not getting self conscious -- because I could go out to lunch with myself without feeling the need to stare at my phone -- that I was an introvert. Really, it's just that I am independent.

When it comes down to it, as in most areas of life, we can't simply organize ourselves as one way or another. Humans are more complex than that. Even when we gather MORE boxes and MORE descriptions (like the ever popular Myers-Briggs tests), people still don't fit into our tidy little categories.

There are super self-conscious extroverts and insanely conceited introverts. There are extroverts who hate talking in front of others and their are introverts who can sing the Star Spangled Banner in front of millions on national television.

Introversion/Extroversion really explains where you get your energy from.

The other day, we bumped into someone who I think it's safe to call a legend in the organization I was involved with in college (called Younglife) at Dave & Andy's (an awesome homemade ice cream shop in Oakland).  He and his family had just moved to Pittsburgh to start a new YoungLife chapter here and I had known this from mutual friends, but had never actually met him. Casually, I approached the man and we held a titillating conversation for a few minutes before I got my strawberry ice cream and we headed on our way.

As we walked to the car, licking our cones, I was bouncing off the walls. My boyfriend pointed it out that my energy level literally changed because I had just met a new person. He laughed. hard. Because we've argued before whether I'm an extrovert or introvert. He was right. My attitude and mood after meeting this new person had gone from 0 to 60. So obviously so that it was kind of hilarious.

Ultimately, my confidence, extroversion and independence all come from the same roll of quarters. They all work together to make me who I am.

Everybody is different and it's really awesome to see how we all fit together.  We need all kinds of people to make it all work.

While, introversion and extroversion are things we need to know about ourselves in order to best take care of ourselves, there are also different skills that make us who we are that we can practice and perfect. These can change as we change.

It's so important that we all figure out where we get our energy (you probably already know this answer). It's important that we figure out the skills we love about ourselves and keep practicing them, and that we figure out the things we're awful at and, after scrutinizing them, we exercise them.

You are a unique person with some kick ass skills that you can use to make the world suck less.

Forget what box you fit into and figure out who you really are. Then go be that person. Be the best damn version of that person you can be.


The independent, somewhat introverted outgoing extrovert who enjoys hanging out with herself but also gets really excited about meeting new people.

Update: I was approached about this blog and told that I'm not an extrovert or introvert because I'm an ambivert — the person who fits in between. My point in this blog is to show that people are complex beings, inadequately categorized from simply getting their energy from alone time or social time. To take this blog and attempt to categorize my feeling that every person is unique completely misses the point.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

People Observation: Cat videos killed the curiosity

My next door neighbor is a professor Emeritus of Physics. He's an incredible man who I could chat with all day. On the subject of our college town's academic quality, I asked him what he notices with students these days compared to those he's taught in the past. He gave me one answer: they just don't have any curiosity.

He teaches physics. His students are studying to be scientists. But they never seem to care anymore to know the fascinating answers we are finding to some of the universe's biggest questions.

My neighbor's observation isn't unaccompanied. I've noticed this myself.

I babysat for a wonderful little boy who has a creative brain that I loved to pick. While many people find Right Brains to be the math experts, I would argue the most successful problem solvers are the ones who can best mix that Left Brain creativity with that Right Brain critical thinking to find unique and new routes for finding solutions. This boy I babysat is one of those people. His math homework was kind of a mess, and he loved to use one of those extra smooth and inky purple pens to write his answers (which drove me kind of nuts). His answers were always right, but he always seemed to find them in ways I never understood. One day, he brought home a couple of wrong answers on a math quiz. He was very discouraged. He said his teacher told him he wasn't good at fractions. I was livid. What kind of third grade teacher tells an eight year old he isn't GOOD at something? Then, as I looked through his answers, I found she was the wrong one. The questions had been ambiguous, and when the boy attempted to ask for clarification, he was shot down. Only because this boy had misinterpreted a quiz question was he told he was incorrect, and even worse, he was told he wasn't good at it.

We have all had similar experiences: When I was in second grade I used to get really excited about the books we were reading. If I read ahead I would get in trouble. (Sidenote: My brother Sean used to read ahead to parts in books with swear words -- obviously 5th grade swear words like hell and ass-- so he could volunteer to read out loud during the raunchy parts of class novels)

Eventually this getting in trouble for our curiosity takes a toll on us. We get sick of our excitement about all of our questions. We're told our questions are stupid. So we stop asking. Eventually, the only questions we ever ask are, "is this going to be on the test?"

As a young person who was insanely curious in college, I felt this kind of punishment all of the time. See my story about getting a C- in a class I took for fun.

But I have found that the rewards for my curiosities always outweigh any kind of "punishment" I'd ever receive for them. Rewards like further understanding of people who aren't like me (or, as it turns out, end up being more like me than I think). Rewards like empathy. Rewards like meeting new people and noticing the little nuances and paradoxes of every day life.

I've talked about New Years Resolutions before. They're an easy way for me to make a drastic change towards becoming the person I believe a person should be. I like to do drastic things (mostly so I can brag about them but also) to test myself and learn something along the way. This year, my resolution was that I wasn't allowed to look at my phone while I'm in a line.

You see, people are looking at there phones everywhere they go. Every single line you've stood in in the last three years has been loaded with phone lookers. And I hate it. I absolutely LOATHE it. People constantly checking their screens are missing some incredible stuff.

We miss the eye contact with strangers at a coffee shop that turns into the observation that they, too, visit the same coffee shop every morning, which maybe then becomes a friendship. We miss the opportunity to ask people about their days. We miss noticing the puppy walking down the street. We miss real, genuine smiles to and from strangers that over the course of an entire day can change a person's emotional wellbeing. The things I notice that others don't notice baffles me. The things I've noticed and enjoyed since this year's No Phones While Waiting rule baffle me.

While you watch that video of that (probably adorable) kitty on your phone, you're missing your own cat's short nine lives. While you're letting your child sit on that tablet at the dinner table, you're missing an incredible conversation about his life -- he is missing an incredible interaction with his family.

Here's the truth: Nothing on your phone will ever be more remarkable than the person sitting in front of you.

I would like to challenge you to tickle your curiosity muscle every now and then. I would rather have friends who don't know but want to know than friends who know everything. I would rather have friends who can find answers with me than friends who tell me all the answers. (Chances are if you think you know everything you're probably wrong because there is no possible way that you do.) Read ahead and find the swear words. Get distracted with a new hobby. Use your freaking imagination.

There is nothing more attractive than a person who has curiosity.

Put down your phones and step away from your screens. Because they don't have the answers. Go explore the world.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Find Your Math

Friends and I working hard in high school math class.  

Lately, I've read a bunch of lists on Buzzfeed and the Clymb about things you think about while you're on a run, and they're probably true for most people. But there is something they all fail to mention that I spend doing at least two thirds of a run, no matter the distance: Math.

As my feet hit the pavement and my heart works my butt off (literally), my brain maths all the math it can math.

I calculate distances and time and miles per hour. I calculate the number of houses I've passed and what my average house per minute is. I take educated estimates on how many trees are in a forest taking into account acreage of its area and average tree trunk sizes and distance between trees and other absolute absurdities. I look at my watch. And then I try to speed up and calculate my time and miles per hour all over again.

I calculate calories and heart rates and what percentage I've finished of my run. Dang, that's a lot better than having to positive-think my raging heart through to the end of a jog.

I'm a distractonaut. I live for the exploration of distractions. I lay in my bed and thoughts unravel. Plans for my life and death unfold,  bills and loans to be payed pile up on the hall table of my mind, and the to-dos of weeks and months to come lay their heads onto the pillow next to me. At my desk, it's a fight to make sure I keep my keyboard-tapping fingers on the task at hand. It's a challenge to not be constantly thinking a million miles a minute about anything and everything that's happening outside the refrigerator I like to call my office.

On a run, though, I ignore all that garbage. And I just math.

If you hate math, this probably sounds repulsive to you, but god, thinking about math is so much better than running each step at a time and thinking about the next step and the next and the next.

Mathing on a run is my favorite distraction. I don't have to turn it in or pay it off or tell anybody about it later. Hell, half the time I don't remember any of the solutions or equations to tell myself. If math isn't your schtick, find your something that gets your brain occupied on other things for a while. Things that don't matter.  You don't have to be running to give your brain a break from the world. Do it while you're meditating or laying in bed or taking a minute on a park bench during your lunch. Write a little story in your mind. Think about good memories. Think about something you don't have to remember to write down or do later. Think about pie. Or, if you're like me, think about pi.

Even for an insane extrovert like me, solitude is where I find my sanity. Find your math and run with it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

People Observation/No More of That: Musical Snobbery

photo courtesy of The Verge.

This blogpost is inspired by a post a good friend of mine named Eric put on Facebook a couple days ago reading this: 
"Helplessness Blues is a great album by the Fleet Foxes. So late to the game."
First of all, Helplessness Blues is amazing. Eric, I'm so glad you found such a wonderful album. So many feels. 

Second of all, I know you didn't mean it in this way, but IT ISN'T A GAME! 

There is something empowering about being unique, the first, or one of the few in the realm of knowledge. It makes you feel special, I understand. This stupid thing that happens in fandom that I have dubbed Musical Snobbery, however, has got to stop.

I've explored a lot of genres. I like to sing music and play music and dance to music on a morningly, afternooningly (that's a word..) and nightly basis. With the exception of country music sap songs because those are awful, I like music that grabs my heart straight out of my chest and gives it a good smackin'. I like music that leaves my heart alone, but instead yanks at my brain and tickles my curiosity HQ. I like lyrics that mean something. I like lyrics that mean nothing. I'm a classically-trained Soprano with a secret love for a little bit of screamo. (I guess it isn't a secret love once you put it on your blog.) I can recognize a Strokes' bass line from three houses away. I can shout Bruce Springsteen lyrics at the top of my lungs and only mess up on the parts that he's mumbling his face off and I've never understood.  Just like most of you, I, too, had an emo phase. And going to college in Appalachia turned me into a lover of anything with a banjo. I'm lookin' at you, Steve Martin.

In high school, I took advantage of the surprisingly awesome bands that would come through Columbus (thanks for being a good stop-through town CBUS!), and -- without any actual expenses -- I spent every last dime that I earned at my minimum wage job on the relatively cheap basement shows. Possibly like you, I have memories of talking to bands after shows and accidentally elbowing middle school girls in the face for being the worst crowd members in the history of rock. 

While 90s music envelopes the brilliant nostalgia of early Generation Y, I find the early 2000s to be a musical dark age.  I thank heaven for things like Myspace, which would eventually lead the way for new and creative musicians to gain followings without having to sign to a major record label.  I love the things that are happening currently in the music world (for the most part). (Sidenote: It isn't a coincidence that the 90s and now are both musical eras of awesome as pop culture cycles every 20 years... but that's another blogpost for another time).

Alas, here we are. With so much music being home-brewed and accessible to fans all over the world every day, I can see how a subculture of music snobs could emerge. In every kind of category and hobby and subculture of anything you've ever seen or heard or smelled, there's always some group of snobs trying to make it exclusive. (It's all somewhat preschoolesque in a Neener-neener-neener-I-know-something-you-don't-know kind of way). 

But what kind of true fan of a band would want to hide the music they enjoy? 

I have friends from college who stopped liking Mumford once everybody knew who they were. Why wouldn't you celebrate their success? Why would you not want something you love to live on? 

A true fan of a band would want to support the band and share it with people, not keep its supposed awesomeness to him or herself. Hide it under a bushel, no; blast it in your car with the windows down and scream it at the top of your lungs. 

Take these non-musical, yet also applicable references: I love Bob's Burgers. I need everyone else in the world to love Bob's because without their according fandom, Bob's will get cancelled. (See: Arrested Development.) My love for the Columbus Blue Jackets represents a similar situation. I've loved the Blue Jackets since their Inaugural season in 2000. No true fan would get upset that a bunch of bandwagoners are hoppin' on after this year's playoff run. More fans leads to more tickets, jerseys and other random crap with a CBJ logo on it, which leads to more money, better players, and thus, a better team. As Paul Brown used to say, "There's always room on the bandwagon."

Don't let the hipsters fool you. Music is meant to be enjoyed regardless of how obscure it is. Classics are meant to be heard. And thank God for it too. Cheers to all of those times I was recommended a great song or band, and double Cheers to the times they have led to friendships and experiences and, a lot of times, easing some pretty harsh pains. 

Which takes me right back to Helplessness Blues: 
I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking,
I'd say I'd rather be A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
The music game is not a game. It's an awesome collective of fandom and shared experiences that were meant to be shared. You are a functioning cog in some great machinery of amazing sounds and lyrics and beats serving something far beyond a little music ego. 

My message to hipsters: Revel in the obscurity of the songs that you find. Enjoy that strange sound that tickles your ears in a way you've never heard. And then, when you've downloaded it (probably illegally) and played it on repeat for ten or twenty times straight, share the crap out of it. Good music is meant to be heard. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lessons from Lucy

Lucy and me the day we met.
I hate those phone calls.

The ones you get where you can tell the minute you pick up that there is bad news to be delivered. The extra hesitancy that lingers on the other line; It is endless. 

This weekend I had to say goodbye to my sweet dog Lucy. She was relaxing in the living room smiling those dog-breath riddled teeth one second and the next she was gone. 

Lucy was an incredible dog.
Lucy taught me how to love others unconditionally, to forgive, to not care so much about the little things, and to cherish every second that you have with your people. 

What if we loved like our dogs? What if we really decided to be the people that our dogs saw in us? What would that look like? 

When nobody is ever mean to you, there is no understanding of such a concept. 
When humans are hurt by others, they build walls, they stop trusting others, they turn bitter and sometimes get angry or violent. The same is true with dogs no question, except their ability to rehabilitate after abuse is a lesson for us all. When a dog has been hurt, accepting love begins to come easy. It's like they know that love is exactly what they need.

Nobody was ever mean to Lu. She was brought home as a furry ball of squish and she didn't go a day in her life treated badly. Sometimes we came home late to feed her dinner, and sometimes she couldn't hold herself anymore and had to defecate on the carpet in the dining room. (Of course, then she'd put her tail between her legs in shame, as if it was her fault that we left her in the house too long.) And don't get me wrong, I'm not watering down the pain that associates with holding your bowels for too long. 'Tis is a pain no one should have to go through, It does, however, bring home the point that Lucy lived an incredibly loved life.) Can you image your life if no one ever hurt your feelings? A life where no one ever stole all the good sharp crayons from the box or laughed at you the first time you tried to work out in the weight room or told you that you needed to lose some weight or said that you just weren't good enough for this or that?

A little girl once told Lucy she was fat, and asked me if I fed her hot dogs, but Lucy had a limited English vocabulary so her getting bullied by a chubby girl on a ferry to Kelley's Island doesn't count.

As a result, the concept of "mean" was foreign to her. She had no understanding of what it meant to treat someone badly.

Such a life is pretty impossible for humans. Babies are brats. And adults are babies. And there are cynical butt holes that are going to be rude, and selfish and irrational. But that doesn't mean we can't try. We can welcome our people with the joy that a dog brings us when we enter the room (even if we've only been gone for twenty minutes). We can treat each other like we've never been hurt, like "mean" is a foreign concept. 

Who cares what you look like? 
Lucy was born with a defect that required a surgery and left a crooked scar on top of her head. She was completely ignorant of her abnormality her entire life. She was 75% fur, and this would sometimes lead others to mistake her fur for fat.

Lucy didn't care. Because Lucy didn't know. She didn't sit in front of the computer looking at less fluffy dogs. She didn't research surgeries to remove the scar tissue and straighten out her crooked face. How would a dog be able to even understand the idiotic concept where we all strive for perfect bodies? So why should we?

Cherish every second you have with your people.

There is no joy in the world like coming home to a happy dog who is indubitably enthusiastic at your arrival. You could have had the world's worst day. People could have told you that you were an idiot four million times, but when you walked in that door and there was someone there crying with joy at your mere getting home, all of a sudden you don't feel like an idiot anymore.

I had to pack my bags and leave for college at the end of every summer to a dog that would cry. She knew I was leaving and she cried.  It made me cry too. Every time. 

I hope to greet the people I love with a bit of that genuine excitement. I hope to cherish the minutes I get to spend with the people that I love. 

As a believer who's questioned every bit of a God's existence on a weekly basis, friendships like mine and Lucy's have served as a witness for me to keep faith in a Father with a heart so big it rivals Lucy's. As a believer, I hope to love others like she did, helping others try to understand what it means to believe in a higher power who represents love. 

I'm not sure I'll ever meet a person with as big of a heart as my sweet Lucy. But I know if I approach the world with even a sliver of the love she did, I am set.

Lucy, I will miss you so much. Thank you for teaching me how to appreciate everything, to love unconditionally, and that sometimes you have no other choice in life than to just poop on the carpet.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My toxic relationship with ranch dressing.

My friend Lucas refers to celery as "Ranch Spoons."

Which is clever, but ranch sucks.

It's time I've come clean. I have a bitter rivalry with ranch dressing.

Ranch was invented by Satan himself to help carry out his Obesity Agenda.

Do you remember salad shakers? They were this cool thing McDonald's had for a while, where you got a salad in a cup with a bubble lid. After dumping your ranch dressing in and shaking it up, you'd have yourself a nice lil' cup'o'salad covered in the worst thing that ever happened to salad: incredibly
unhealthy dressing.

I got a salad shaker when they were around, and, like many times as a little kid, I immediately ran around outside and upset my stomach and puked it up.

The next time I ate ranch was in the seventh grade. I was an obnoxious little thing. I stormed into the cafeteria one day and threw my friend Kerry's binder onto the table in some dramatic rampage of attention-seeking, only to have it land onto a puddle of ranch that had spilled on the table. It splashed onto my face and got all over Kerry's binder. She played it cool. She shoved the ranch-covered binder about six inches from my nose and said, "lick it!" Obviously, she was kidding. But obviously, I was a ridiculous human being. I licked it all up. When I realized the ranch had been left from the eighth grader's lunch the period before, I immediately ran to the bathroom and threw it all up.

I still can't eat ranch.

When people I'm with choose ranch as their salad dressing, I cringe.

I find the way that ranch sits on a salad to be one of the grossest things.

It just sits there, a goopy glob staring at you.

Trying to eat vegetables is a good thing. Some people don't like vegetables. I get it. But it isn't even breaking even. It's breaking under. And I understand that it's okay to eat unhealthy things in moderation, but if you're going to let yourself splurge on the calories, why would you splurge with your salad? Donuts, fries and a Coke every now and then is splurging. Putting ranch dressing on your salad is not splurging.

Americans' obsession with ranch dressing has got to stop.

Hidden Valley should not be allowed to sell their product as "kids are finally eating vegetables!" Frankly, I'm glad this valley they speak of is hidden, because all of the children there are probably chubby. Ranch is giving veggies a bad rep. Vegetables are good. Broccoli is little trees and there is nothing more appealing to children then eating little trees.

The minute we started smothering vegetables in milk fat was the minute we gave kids the idea vegetables were only good if they were smothered in milk fat.

The culinary world is finally pioneering some incredibly creative and delicious salad dressings. The world of vinaigrettes is a beautiful world that blows Hidden Valley and all of its chubby kids out of the water. You can make them at home. They practically mix themselves. They make even the bitterest of romaines an absolute marvel.

And when it comes to dips, ranch has got to be the lamest. There are so many different kinds of brilliant dips for anything you think you currently "enjoy" with ranch. Hummus was the best thing that has ever happened to carrots. If you're going unhealthy, eat spinach and artichoke dip or buffalo chicken dip.

It's time we stopped this culinary inadequacy and stood together to defeat the ranch agenda. We can join as one and collectively choose to teach our children that vegetables can be eaten without being smothered in milk fat. We can come together and make it known that the nutrient-packed salads that make our bodies so happy deserve a better dressing!

Ranch sucks.

Your chicken nuggets deserve better. Your cheesy bread deserves better. Your salad deserves better. YOU deserve better.

The good kind of ranch. 
The bad kind of ranch. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

No more of that: Phones at the dinner table

There doesn't need to be a discussion for this. I'm sick of sitting at the dinner table having a conversation with people while they sit on their phones.

We don't need some stupid "everybody put your phones in the middle and the first one to grab their phone pays" thing either. Just don't use your phone at the dinner table. It isn't that hard. Keep it in your pocket or your purse and enjoy your real life.

The iPad parenting that is sweeping restaurant tables across the country has got to stop. It is lazy parenting and it is absolutely ridiculous. Your child needs to know how to sit and have a conversation with older people. The family dinners I had growing up are a memory I cherish. In fact, I could argue most of my people skills have been acquired during family dinners. Parents who allow their children to sit in the corner of an Applebee's booth with their headphones in and their iPad on are robbing their kids of an incredible experience.

Monday, April 28, 2014

More of this: Doing something about it.

I'm starting a new weekly segment on here I'm calling "More of This, No More of That" where I rant and rave about two completely unrelated things that have been on my mind. I have a lot of things that bring me frustration. I have a lot of things that bring me joy. Here's my opportunity to tell you about them.

More of This: Doing something about it

The United States doesn't have an official language, but if we did, it would be complaining. We love complaining, and most of the time not doing anything to help the situation, just sit around and complain. I think it's okay to complain if you're in an unfair situation, but it's better when you're complaining turns to action. 

I was inspired by a friend of mine, Ashley Beatty-Smith, a graduate student at Ohio University who realized the need for new programs for student-parents at the University when she found herself not getting the kind of care and help she and her family felt they needed and definitely deserved. Ashley created an organization called PrOUd Parents on Campus and they have made incredible strides for student-parents for years to come.

I spoke with Ashley and asked if I could share her story. Here are her words:

The problem

"During the summer of 2012, I learned that the only family-friendly housing, The Wolfe Street Apartments were scheduled for demolition. After viewing between 15-20 different apartments and houses, we settled for an apartment that we would later learn would not fit our needs; numerous middle-of-the-night fire alarms, car alarms, all-night partying, busted beer bottles, and even the neighbors urinating down from their balcony. We chose to sign a lease to move for the third time in three years. (We have since moved, and once again have signed a lease to move for the 4th time in 4 years).

During the time of our second move, I was turned away for childcare at three different care facilities, including the OU Child Development Center. The CDC listed us at 63 on the waiting list; however, my supervisor’s daughter, who is several months younger than my own daughter, was offered a spot from the waiting list at only 5 months old. Now at 19 months old, we are still buried on the waiting list with no time frame for when we can expect care.  

Many of these factors exhausted me; I felt let down by the university I cared for so much. 

Realizing something needed to be done

The turning point for me was the moment I felt bullied by my peers in a campus dining hall with my daughter. I accepted an invitation from friends to the Nelson Dining Hall, and many of my “fellow bobcats” stared, pointed fingers, and took to Twitter to express their feelings about a baby in the dining hall. The tweets said, “Would it be rude of me to ask to borrow this girl in the dining hall’s baby for the white trash party tonight?” and “Okay teen mom parading your baby around Nelson, you’ve officially made us all uncomfortable. #awkward.” 

I felt alienated for the first time on the campus I had been proud to call home for nearly 4 years.
I started speaking with fellow classmates I had met who also had children. Their stories were the same: no housing, no childcare, and reluctance in taking their child on campus. I realized that something had to be done, not only for myself, but for all of us living under the same circumstances. I felt that we deserved equal access to resources necessary for our success.

Doing Something about it

I first approached Dr. Jenny Hall-Jones, the Dean of Students, and Dr. Susanne Dietzel, the director of the Women’s Center. Next, I approached Dr. Ryan Lombardi, Vice President for Student Affairs. Additionally, I reached out to The Post asking for their coverage of the issues. 

My goal was to raise awareness, and finally administration was aware of the issue and the community was able to engage in dialogue about this invisible, but significant, population. Around this time I was graduating and starting my graduate program in College Student Personnel, working as an academic advisor in the Allen Student Help Center.

Through my advising work I started meeting at least one or two student-parents per week who shared many of the same struggles. I started connecting them to one another, forming an unofficial support community. With the help of a fellow student-parent, I co-founded PrOUd Parents on Campus to have an official avenue of support for these students. 

I became so entrenched in each of their stories. While their struggles were all so different, the need was the same- some type of resource not offered by the university. I put together a list of these needs and started meeting regularly with Dr. Lombardi. 

Because of his support, the university has chosen a more inclusive healthcare policy that will include additional prenatal coverage; the university is actively seeking a family housing replacement; we are building a resource website including information on healthcare, housing, childcare, and support groups; we are implementing a poster campaign to combat the negative culture; and we are beginning work on a medical/parental withdrawal policy inclusive to both support partners during the birth of a child. 

Visualizing Real Change

I have felt more fulfilled by this work than anything I have done previously. I remind myself that although my time as a student here is limited with graduation just a year away, these policy changes will positively impact other students for generations to come. There are freshman students in my support group who will likely see change prior to their time ending here. And that is what keeps me going. After becoming a parent, finishing their education becomes more important than ever for these students. So it is my hope that these positive changes will empower them to continue on to the finish line."


I am so encouraged by people like Ashley who have the guts to actually do something about the real mess they found themselves dealing with. It takes nothing to complain, but it takes a lot of work, courage and heart to actually get up and do something about the problems we face. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

No More of That: Posting about the weather

In a perfect world, there would be no more posting about the weather.  

Why? Because it's boring. It makes you seem boring. You're not boring. You eat sushi! You Instagram sunsets! You, who has a family and a cute dog and really great hair, are not boring.

So follow the rule that's been around forever: Don't talk about the weather. 

And apply this rule to social media.

If it's raining outside, all it takes is someone with a mere one of the five (or six) senses to figure this out. ONE OUT OF FIVE.

I get that people aren't observant. It confuses me, but I get it. And I'm trying to grasp that not everyone remembers everything everyone said, was wearing, was with, walked by and coffee shop they frequent in a five mile radius. I get that people aren't psychotically observant like yours truly.

But the weather is so obvious

Why do we have to post the obvious? Why does anyone care?

I understand that it's nice to get on Facebook and see that other people just like you got soaked in the rain storm this afternoon. I get that you now have a knee-jerk reaction to tweet "OMG ANOTHER DAY OF COLD?!" the minute you pull up AccuWeather on your iPhone.

I get that people like to make clever little posts about the weather.

But what bothers me is usually they are not clever. 

Humor is based on real, meaningful observations. Things are funny because they're true. They're also funny because they hold the kind of truths you've never had pointed out to you before. Humor comes from being surprised. All comedians are doing in standup is calling out truths you've never noticed, but that are so true you chuckle at yourself. Posting some snarky little ditty on the fact that it's April and it's snowing is freaking trite

On the matter of it's April and it's snowing: IT. ALWAYS. SNOWS. IN. APRIL. 

Every. year. 

Sometimes it gets cold in the Spring. That's what Spring does. Spring is the 22-year-old of the four seasons, always trying to figure out what the hell it's doing with itself. 

"Three snows after the forsythia bloom" is an old wives tale, but it's almost always accurate

Snow in April does not make your state have the KOOKIEST and MOST unpredictable weather. Knock it off. That's a competition only somewhere in Tornado Alley or tsunami territory or somewhere arctic is going to win. Columbus, Ohio in all of its temperate, four-season-having splendor, is among some of the mildest, least kooky climates in the world. 

Look, I think it's kind of cute how, no matter how young or old, if a person steps outside to find flakes falling onto their nose, they inevitably have to state the obvious, "it's snowing!" It's cute! And if all of your friends live in Cleveland and you're in sunny Colorado on a beautiful day, and you're into being a ginormous ass hole, I guess it makes sense to gloatingly tweet that it's a beautiful day.

There are always cool observations about the weather. This year, parts of Ohio got just the right bit of wind and snow and cold. Snow rollers developed and my friend Julia posted a great picture of her mom trying to steal one from a park to take home. THAT kind of post is a weather one worth reading.

Post about the fact that you went on a run and saw and smelled fresh-cut spring grass for the first time since September. 

Post about the sweet older gentleman who you saw hold his umbrella over his precious wife to keep her dry in the rain. 

Post about the giant hole that windstorm left in your parent's living room roof and how surprisingly overjoyed they were because that meant insurance would be getting them the new roof they'd actually been needing for years.

But for the love of sunshine, don't just post that it's raining.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

6 Things I'll cry about on the spot

This post is inspired by an adorable girl I knew in college named Jessica who posted on Facebook a couple days ago about how sad she gets when she thinks about all the dogs who don't have homes. I read that post and immediately started crying. Not kidding. I'm holding back tears right now. It just isn't fair. They just want homes. They want nothing more than to love you unconditionally and teach you about being an optimist who a, love to eat and doesn't care if they get a big gut and b, love to chase squirrels and doesn't care if they never catch one. Oh God, now I'm crying.

I've never been a big cryer, at least not in the arms-to-the-heavens PRAISE JESUS mega-church let-there-be-light revival cryer sense.

I have a friend who hears a good song and can be filled with a spirit that manifests itself in 138 tablespoons of salty tears. She looks so cool and I am so jealous. SHE LOOKS SO COOL, but I've never been like that at all. I've always been the person who awkwardly sits next to the sobber, patting her on the back saying super-creative and wisdom-filled robotic things like, "there, there" and "don't cry."

I can count the number of people who've seen me cry on my ten fingers. I just don't like people seeing me cry. I'm an ugly crier.

This means, that when I do cry, it's out of nowhere and catches people by surprise. I've always wished I could explain it to people so they can better prepare for possible impending sob fests, but my crying muscle is a completely arbitrary and involuntary character of its own. My tears have cute little tiny raindrop-shaped brains of their own, but this is my attempt to try and explain what I've learned might trigger their appearance.

1. I've already mentioned this, but anything about dogs that don't have homes gets me every time.

My boyfriend and I were outside of Target a few weeks ago and they had shelter dogs to play with. I played with them so long the volunteers thought I was about to buy them all. We then realized that we had to go into Target to get the one thing we came in for  (plus the other $65 to spend on other cute things we didn't need) so we headed passed Target's big red balls and into the dollar spot. My boyfriend was about ten yards in front of me when he turned around to see me crying uncontrollably screaming "THEY JUST WANT A HOME!!" We had to leave the store.

The worst part is that while my boyfriend was telling the story to my parents later that night, I was in the other room crying to myself.

2. Onions

I once cut up four ten pound bags of onions into bits for thanksgiving stuffing in our church kitchen to take to the food pantry downtown. I chose this task because I'm an arrogant ass hole and I had been bragging about how onions never make me cry.

The onion particles hit my nose like the truck that delivered them to the grocery store. I didn't stop gagging and crying for hours. It was a horrible experience. I couldn't even serve the stuffing at the soup kitchen.

To this day, even the thought of that experience makes me gag-cry (which everyone knows is the worst kind of cry).

3. Dads

I'm a sucker for a loving dad. I love living in an era where Dads aren't just called to be breadwinners who sit in the living room with a Scotch after a day at the office. Dads are finally allowed to display the mushy love they've always felt for their sons and daughters publicly and it's wonderful. If I see a dad holding his daughter on his shoulders for the Princess Parade at Disney World, I start crying. I saw a dad pick up a little kokopelli stuffed doll for his kid at the Phoenix Airport last week and almost melted.

My dad has done a lot for me and we have a great relationship. He's totally awesome. But so is my mom. In fact, my mom is the one to blame for most of the reasons I cry. What isn't rational is that moms always do this kind of stuff. I just won't turn into a giant puddle on the floor when I see them do it. It's like it's just expected of them. But they should get the credit they deserve too.  It totally isn't fair and I'm really sorry that I don't cry when a mom gives her kid a hug. I really am sorry. 

4. When people go out of their way.

I cried on my 21st birthday.

I was in the middle of an attempt at following the gluten free fad and hadn't eaten cake in a good week (SO HARD, OMG). We were about to go enjoy ourselves at some of Athens, Ohio's finest establishments when my roommate brought out a big chocolate gluten-free cake with adorable decorations and candles and everything. I immediately started crying.
Here I am crying with Santa as my best friend Sarah presents my gluten free cake. I would also like to highlight my friend Brian laughing at me.
4. StoryCorps

Since 2003, people have been recording almost 45,000 stories and emotions associated with real, human lives via StoryCorps. StoryCorps is an incredible project.  The stories they feature are those of normal people. People who have been through the craziest garbage together sit down behind a microphone and they talk about it. I first heard about the Corps on NPR's Morning Edition a couple years ago and I haven't heard one yet that hasn't made me cry. There is an incredibly brilliant beauty in people sitting down and having honest, meaningful conversations.  They're just real people having real conversations about their connections and what brought them in.

If you feel like restoring your hope in humanity, here's this week's. This is the story of Collin Smith, 23, and Ernest Greene, 72. Smith was in a car accident his sophomore year of high school that left him a quadriplegic. Greene was a member of the Smiths' church and decided he was going to help him however he could. Ernest Greene became Collin Smith's helper. He did everything he could for Smith. And when Smith wanted to go to college, Greene went with him. They graduated in 2013.

People sometimes confuse my blonde hair and bubbly personality for me being a total doofus. I have spent enough time philosophizing and weighing pros and cons.  I've decided that world is already shitty enough. It's a great thing to be able to not make it suck less. My bubbly personality is the product of a lot of DECIDING to not be a grumpy downer all the time. (i.e., Less Squidward. More Spongebob.)

Reading about stories of other people who've also decided to not be selfish buttheads all the time makes me cry. There are some really amazing real-life human beings in the real, actual planet Earth world. I love reading about the incredible things that people do for one another. No fictional movie or book or television show will ever be able to capture the beautiful things that people do for each other, things we do for no further reason than the need to love and be loved.

5. A Wholesome, Happy Ending

It doesn't matter how long the story is. If I've just finished the Harry Potter series or if I've just watched this thirty second Subaru commercial. I feel for the characters and I start wailing.

I don't cry during sad parts of movies or books...or commercials. Because the world is already shitty without having to watch a movie. When something happy happens, I'm in tears because I'm just overwhelmed with a surprising joy. That's what having a good cry is all about.

Three Examples:
  • When Shadow, The Goldenest Retriever of all time, comes over that hill in Homeward Bound. (I've talked about this before)
  • The happy family ending to any episode of Parenthood. The Bravermans hold the remote that controls my tear duct dam.
  • When the all the chubby people in Wall-E land back onto Earth and find a plant and get really excited about making pizza.
Happy endings get a lot of cries. There is always something emotionally stimulating about joy and hope and peace wrapping you up in a giant fluffy happiness blanket.

Some people cry when they're angry or sad or nervous or stressed. I think I cry when I'm surprised. I like when people surprise me in a good way and my reaction is tears.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The best thing since chewing gum.

I'm starting a new weekly segment on here I'm calling "More of This, No More of That" where I rant and rave about two completely unrelated things that have been on my mind. I have a lot of things that bring me frustration. I have a lot of things that bring me joy. Here's my opportunity to tell you about them.

More of This: Not Chewing Gum

We had a school store in my high school that sold spirit wear and calendar books with our mascot on them (Go Celts) and candy. Everyday after lunch freshman year, my friends and I would grab a box of CherryHeads and a pack of gum. I chewed my way through a lot of packs of gum in high school. It might have had to do with my plan to always be ready for Jeff, the senior quarterback, who one day was going to be ready to admit to the school he was in love with me and go in for the kiss.

That kiss never happened. Unrelated (though possibly related), I can't remember the last time I bought a pack of gum. I guess it was at a Target a couple months ago. I don't really chew gum anymore. And apparently, neither does any one else.

Gum sales are down 11 percent in the last four years, and people don't really know why.

There's theories, ofcourse: the "In this Economy?!" Theory, the "Not Enough Gum Marketing" Theory, and the "Why Chew Gum When Starburst Minis Just Came Out" Theory.

My money is on the last of these. People are keeping their mouths busy with other stuff: Stuff that you don't have to squish into a torn-off corner from a magazine page when it loses it's flavor; stuff that you can swallow quickly when your aunt calls you for your monthly chat and you don't want to be smacking your gum the whole time she's chewing off your ear; stuff that you're not going to find underneath your movie theater seat (PRAISE JESUS).

That classic image of the valley girl chatting on the phone - gums blazing - is extinct.

I like this. Let's keep not chewing gum.

No More of That: The Superlativization of Everything Ever

Generation Y has an obsession with calling everything the best and the worst, the coolest, the grossest, the smelliest, the funniest, the smartest.

My generation loves hyperbole (exs. Buzzfeed, our use of the word literally all of the time) and we know that nobody is actually serious, but what happens when we actually are serious? What happens when we actually are being literal?

I've come up with some examples that don't work for superlativizing and those that do.

Examples that don't work:

  • "My mom makes the best pizza." 
    • No. Your mom probably makes a great pizza. It's probably absolutely delicious. I would likely enjoy several servings of your mom's pizza, probably several more than my fair portion. But your mom does not make the best pizza. Sorry.
  • "You're the worst."
    • The Worst?! This one is so nondescript that it's suggesting out of all places, things, people and ideas in the history of existence I am the very worst. I am the worst at existing. Ever.
  • "You have the hairiest face." 
    • For the record, no one has ever said this to me. Someone did say this to my friend. He has a beard. That doesn't mean he has the hairiest face. This girl has a pretty hairy face. And if you're getting punny, this guy has a pretty harry face. But how in the world could you possibly superlative someone's face hair above another person's face hair?
Examples that do work:
  • Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world. 
    • I think he's raced some races and somebody found he did it faster than other people. 
  • Nickelback is the worst band. 
    • Everyone knows this as a fact. Out of all bands that ever existed, Nickelback is the best at not being a good band. 
With that last bullet in mind, I understand superlatives are usually very subjective. I think golden retriever puppies are the cutest things in the world. My boyfriend thinks my buddha belly after a chipotle burrito is the most attractive thing in the world.  I think that driving on old bridges is the scariest thing I've ever had to do and some people jump off of bridges for fun. I got voted Most Outgoing in high school. I'm sure there were other people in my school who were more outgoing than me, certainly less awkward and weird. 

Even though a lot of superlative is based on opinion, I think we need to be more careful with deciding everything is the best and the worst. It starts to lose its touch! If you take a bite out of the best freaking pizza you've ever had, and you exclaim, "This is the best freaking pizza I've ever had!!!" nobody is going to believe you. Don't become the boy who cried best pizza.

So there. Let's stop superlativizing every TINIEST thing. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Busy work matters

Grade School Erin was always in those enrichment programs where they would take the bored smart kids and stick them in another classroom and make them do logic puzzles with the boxes that you’d determine whether Jenny, Johnny or James liked Baseball, Bowling or Badminton. The harder ones had a third category, sometimes fourth, where you’d have to determine whose parents were splitting up and which one had a peg leg.

I went to a great montessori preschool where we were working on things that slightly resembled multiplication right after nap time and we’d have breakout sessions after Sesame Street to determine the symbolism of Big Bird and Grover’s Friendship.*

When I got to “normal kid school” in first grade and was put into classrooms with the Great Unwashed public school kids, I acted out because it was so boring for me. A kid who grew up with working parents was used to school from morning until just before dinner. These kids cried on the first day of first grade because they had to stay all day and eat cafeteria food.

I had the same teacher for first and second grade.  My teacher’s name resembled another word for male genitalia. High school kids turn non-derogatory words to horribly offensive and disturbing messes. Having a name that sounded like a creative word for penis was asking for it, hence why she taught first grade instead of high school. This teacher was so mean. She loved all of the other kids and she hated me, probably because I already knew how to read and didn’t want to do her weird lessons. 

I would sneak out of the classroom and spend extra time in the bathroom stalls reading stolen library books. I once hid in the metal firetruck out on the playground and waited for everyone to go inside from recess before I started playing out there for an extended recess of my own. Another time I found the copy machine in a back room of the library and made several black and white copies of a picture book that I loved, with hopes to take one home to my mom and then sell the rest to other kids. My first step in becoming an entrepreneur was extinguished shortly after by my first lesson in copyright law.

In first and second grade I had a big crush on a boy named Christian. He complimented a black pair of Adidas knock offs I had (the two stripes instead of three stripes clearly showed they weren’t the real deal, but Christian didn’t mind), which meant I wore them everyday. Christian moved away to Atlanta my second grade year and broke my heart. (My first crush isn’t entirely relevant to the moral of this story. I just think it adds to the picture I’m painting of myself as an angsty eight year old who’d loved and lost and was really bored in the classroom.) 

I was in seventh grade when a kid named Devon asked me if I was one of those “really cool smart people who never did her homework but still got really good grades.” I had never really described myself like that, but I liked the way it sounded.

For a girl who tested well and was put in all of the enrichment, smart-kid, seminar classes, you’d think it had hit me sooner that doing my homework mattered. But I never really got the point. I remember getting a B in Miss Blanton’s sixth grade math class. I was so confused. I’d gotten all A’s on my tests. I talked a lot but never while she was talking and only about important things like pretending I knew things about hockey and boys and my bushy 12-year-old eyebrows (god bless ‘em). My parents asked me why I hadn’t been doing my homework and for the first time in all my life I started to realize it was all based off of a point system. They had to explain to me that you get points for doing your homework and you get points for your tests and you get points for not constantly talking about dancing with Connor Rosenbaum at the canteen then kissing him on the cheek and running away.  

I thought that was bullshit. When Devon told me it was cool how smart I was without doing my homework I wore that description like a badge of honor. I cared about my grades, and I always did the kind of homework that I took interest in, like science fair experiments where I tested different dish soaps or creating little felt and yarn Benedict Arnolds in US History class. Don’t get me wrong I was a total nerd, but I also thought it sounded so much cooler to just be plain smart, instead of the kind of person who only got good grades because they did their homework.

Here’s the thing though. Homework is a part of the point system. And it meant that my not-always-completing-everything-by-its-due-date wasn’t going to win me the points.

This isn’t a blog post about how eventually I learned to do my homework, especially in college when homework was doing the reading and you couldn’t get A’s on the tests if you only attended lecture. Eventually, I forced myself to start doing my homework, especially once things got harder at the university level.

This is a blogpost about the point system. There are always going to be things that you don’t think you need to do. You think you’ll be able to not do that extra little busy work and still get an A on the test. But that’s not how life works, really in any aspect of it.

Take relationships, for example. Relationships aren’t about just sliding by because you’ve got the smarts. In fact, it’s that busy work that makes a relationship so damn good. I scraped off my roommate's car every snowy morning this winter. My roommate lets me borrow her shoes whenever I want. It's wonderful! Extra effort is usually unnoticed, but in the end it gets you closer to that 100%. 

Other examples: Taking a couple minutes to wash out your coffee mug every now and then makes the coffee taste so much better.  Taking a minute in the morning to wash your face makes your entire mood.  Eye contact and smiles to the people you’re passing on the sidewalk makes the world less cold and crummy. Pulling $7 a month out of your bank account and giving it to something/someone else changes your entire outlook on life. Putting down your phone while you’re waiting in line for your panini to be pressed might spark a conversation with a stranger who will, one year later, become your best friend (true story!).

Doing all that extra crap is the difference between a good person and a great person, a good friend and a great friend. I like it.

I didn’t have crazy parents who wouldn’t settle for anything below a 95. They were proud of me when I put in the work and even more proud when I learned that I liked the outcome of putting in the work more. You don’t want to be one of those crazy people who can’t be proud of themselves, no matter how much work they put in it, either. Be proud of yourself, dammit! It’s all about working hard and caring about others. If you put in that extra effort, it will never go wasted. 

*Can we just talk about how nobody ever wanted to talk about Grover? He was always my favorite. He was Blue Elmo with a cooler, more masculinely sophisticated voice. Preschool Erin had taste.