Monday, August 13, 2012

Content Craving: A Warning

Netflix.  Amazon Instant Video. iTunes.  The list goes on and on.  And I've finally coined a name for it (a name that I think is original, at least): DCC (Digital Content Cravings).  There are many cravings that do not harm the body (unlike craving, and thus eating, ten cupcakes), but may harm other areas of one's life.

Africa. Europe. Asia. Somewhere you saw in Budget Travel. If you're addicted to travel, you probably have a way cooler life, and photos, than I do.  I, too, have this obsession, but cannot feed it regularly, so it grows angry in a closet somewhere in this metaphor.  You've probably been to all six habitable continents, ridden a camel, and eaten something that would make Anthony Bourdain cringe.  But this addiction, at least,  usually results in a more well-rounded, globally conscious existence.  Been there.

Richard. Bob. Sam. That guy with dimples and funky "kicks".  If you're addicted to love (well, Robert Palmer said it best, "You're Gonna Have To Face It"), then you have probably spent a lot of money trying to looking pretty, meeting your dream man, and falling madly in love (again).  You will eventually break up with said love interest, but after damaging friendships in the time you spent obsessed with him, you may find a negative end to your love addiction: Spending Saturday night alone watching HGTV, crying into an empty pizza box.  Been there.

Ann Taylor Loft. Banana Republic.  Gap.  That thrift store where they have a "deal" on the most expensive used stuff you've ever laid eyes on.  If you're addicted to shopping, you may end up with beautiful things and experiences, but a mountain of debt, an empty bank account, and sense of desperation to sell everything on Craig's List.  And if money ain't a thing because you're wealthy (I hate probably have the new Stella McCartney bag AND a reality show), you may eventually end up poor (aka, living within MY means).  Since the emergence of the Internet, shopping has become too easy.  This type of obsession is one of the more common, and all kidding aside, serious addictions that Americans face, and it most closely relates to the reason for this post: Digital Content Cravings.  There NOW.

My latest, and greatest, harmless (as in, you won't lose your job or your dignity), but still harmful (as in, you may empty out that aforementioned bank account) obsession is adding to my digital library.  I would never have guessed ten years ago that I would be utterly obsessed with downloading digital content.  And I'm not talking books for grad school or my job.  I'm talking Mumford and Sons' new single AND season three of Pretty Little Liars.  I'm talking a flat monthly rate for all the episodes of Hoarders that will make me feel better about my own state of overall cleanliness.  I'm talking $1.99 per episode for the new stuff, people.  Or $1.29 for that "new hotness" (that new Mumford song IS awesome).  You may be thinking, "Everyone downloads stuff.  That's no addiction."  Wrong enablers.  It is BAD.  It's "I just got home from a rough day and all I want is that episode of Bethenny Getting Married when she pees in the bucket in her wedding dress" bad.  It's "I am already buying gas, snacks, and paying for a hotel room for this road trip, BUT let's go ahead and make THREE CDs of songs to listen to on it" bad.  It's even "I think I want Moe's tonight! Inner Voice: No, you can save that $5.00 and watch TWO episodes of the new season" bad.  This addiction, while not life-threatening, is also time consuming.  For the last few weeks, well, I've had some time to kill (okay, okay, you can hate me all my 12 month employee and Mommy friends).  So, instead of reading the new Emily Giffin book, or taking in a sunset, I often find myself on the computer realizing that I NEED three songs by Keith Sweatt in order to relive my youth (really!?), gazing into the eyes of Toby Cavanaugh, or trying to solve the latest mystery in Allison DuBois' dream, or even wondering what lies buried under those 400 plus milk cartons and piles of cat feces in that apartment.

My point is this.  It's a not so fine line, people.  It's a not so fine line between the click of a button, and having to change into real jeans instead of pajama pants, drive to Target, and pick up a DVD or a CD.  The digital age means money in the pocket of a lot of somebodies.  Make sure it doesn't mean you having to eat Ramen Noodles.

This has been a warning.  Now, I have some PLL to watch...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The End of Summer 2012

The End of Summer IS near!  Maybe not close enough, for those of us tired of sweating, melting, and withering in the seemingly endless heat of the South.  I always look forward to Fall for all of the obvious reasons (Football, Pumpkin beer, Festivals, 5Ks, and the list goes on).  However, I think sometimes the end of summer gets a bad rap.  The end of summer squeaks by without so much as a wave, much less a proper send-off.  So, I thought I would blog today about the end of summer.  Despite the sunburns it has dished out, it deserves a goodbye.

The best of Summer 2012:

Awesome, awesome start to the summer (well, my summer, which started in July) at the Shinedown concert.  Shinedown is hard rock enough for the Harley riders, but mainstream enough for your mama.  It's radio edit with an edge.  I really enjoyed an impromptu trip to Myrtle Beach for this show, at the House of Blues.  I liked the venue, which was enclosed, dark, and almost resembled a barn with several lofts, and the stage on the ground floor.  The show was fantastic, too.  Say what you will, hipsters, but sometimes playing the hits will get you everywhere with fans.

Another summer fun experience?  Food, of course.  I had some truly delicious meals in the QC.  I got to try Savannah Red during Queen's Feast/Restaurant Week, and it was phenomenal.  Talk about ambiance!  This sassy spot is tucked just inside the Marriott.  With warm oranges and reds presiding in the color palette, SR creates a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere as soon as you step through its doors.  Then, you're greeted with funky, interesting one-of-a-kind artwork, some on the wall and some functional, as the table is adorned with pottery.  You actually drink from a hand-made clay goblet.  The food itself was out of this world, from the spicy shrimp and grits to the Krispy Kreme bread pudding, served on fire!!  I felt like I was Katniss living it up in the Capitol.  Luckily, no one forced me into survival mode right afterward, because I practically had to be rolled out like Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Another summer treat?  Time with family and friends at the pool, the beach, and lunch.  I love being able to take the time to spend with those I love.  I like having the time to squeeze baby Emory, take GK to the library, and go to lunch with Tara, Colleen, or Melissa!  I really like having the free time to drive to SC, so that I can get a few extra minutes with my amazing man.

Yep, Summer 2012 delivered in many ways.  The Olympics were fun to watch, and I was once-again reminded of my physical limitations, but inspired to keep doing what I do (Mediocre runners unite)!  It's a time when we can reach for white wine, even though we love red.  It's a place where naps are not only acceptable, but a daily habit which we chastise ourselves for at night.  As they say in Jamaica, "It's not's see you later!"  So, see you later, Summer.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Charlotte Unhitched in "The Burgh"

I am lucky enough to get to experience the Queen City on a regular basis, but sometimes it's fun to get away and try out a new metropolis.  One of my very best friends lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so I am blessed to visit once a year.  You may have heard of Pittsburgh, also known as "The Steel City" for its famed football team, which lies about seven hours North of Charlotte.  I'll admit, before my friend Lauren moved there, it was not one of my top travel priorities.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that it wasn't even on my list.  However, this big city in the beautiful mountains is really a gem.  I am so grateful to have been able to enjoy my third visit this past weekend.

Here are ten special reasons why you, my NC and QC friends, should consider a trip (which you can do in about half a day, with stops at Sheetz, of course) to this awesome travel destination.  Of course, there are sporting events to attend (you won't find a city that loves and reps its teams more) and the history/scenic tours offered on and off the river, but these are MY recommendations for an awesome trip from a real "Yinzer" on the inside.

10) Getting there is half the fun:If you're flying, you'll save about six-seven hours, and have more time to enjoy the city, BUT you'll miss some fun on-the-way spots and stops.  You'll pass through the beautiful NC mountains, Virginia's breathtaking vistas of the Shenandoah Valley, and of course, the great, under-appreciated state of West Virginia.  There are loads of tourist attractions in West Virginia, including the New River Gorge for outdoor enthusiasts, which boasts camping, hiking, and river fun.  So many small towns to discover lie along the beaten path, as well, like Jane Lew or Oak Hill.  There's also a great deal of deliciousness.  Pepperoni rolls anywhere and everywhere are number one, but there's more!  For example, the fruity, fabulous wines at  Kirkwood Winery, located in Summersville (  These friendly folks were gracious and hospitable to my traveling buddy @Mel_Geezy (Melissa) and I.  Located just a wee bit off the beaten path, there were adequate signs to help us find our way, and we were glad we did.  Some of the yummy, fruity wine flavors included: Pear, Cherry, and Rhubarb.  I bought some of the pear and it was smooth and delightful for a summer's evening.  I even tried Dandelion wine, an old tradition that I would have missed had I not taken the road route to PA!

9) The tunnel: Okay, so you WILL pass through two other tunnels in route (if you're coming from Charlotte area), but this is "THE" tunnel.  I would definitely recommend coming into the city on Route 19 so you can have this experience...especially if it's your first time in Pittsburgh.  You go through the dimly lit, somewhat creepy, a little too long tunnel, and BAM!  The light starts sneaking in, and you know you'll soon be exiting, and when you do...there it is!  The city of Pittsburgh in all it's glory, with its bridges, its famed Incline going up Mount Washington, Heinz Field, and so much more.  It's almost too much to taken in at once, and it's overwhelming, but also really cool.  

8) The lunches:  Okay, Okay, on to the really good stuff.  Pittsburgh is home to Andy Warhol, Mike from the sitcom "Mike and Molly", and of course, the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates (or Bucs), but it's also home to some super delicious eateries.  For lunch, I think the ideal spot is Fathead's on Carson Street in the SouthSide neighborhood.  It's got a great selection of sandwiches, burgers, some monstrous salads, and a great craft beer list.  I've eaten there twice, and both times were really delightful experiences.  I had a tuna wrap most recently, with homemade chips and  Breckenridge Vanilla Porter.  Great stuff.  Another lunch-time treat would be the Strip District, with treats like food carts and Mancini's Bread Company.  While you're in the Strip District, you can also pick up anything and everything to do with Pittsburgh sports, from t-shirts to tooth picks.  Finally, I have to boast about the Italian Market in Bloomfield.  What an awesome place!  The smells of fresh pepperoni rolls and other delectable pastas, sauces, etc. waft through the air.  Great fresh breads, olive oils, and cookies, too.  We bought ingredients for a traditional, okay well not so traditional (we are not Italian) family dinner and cooked up a storm!

7) The Card Store: Located in Shady Side (, this is almost like a sister store to Paper Skyscraper on East Boulevard!  It's packed full of cute, hilarious, unique, and of course, pleasantly offensive cards (I found one card that had a hole-punched heart on the front, and it read "I Love You A Hole Punch"...LOL).  It's always been a favorite pastime of mine to go to a greeting card store and look at the cards, of course, only buying the best ones I find for my friends and family.  I used to do that a lot...before Pinterest!  Kards Unlimited also features quirky gifts (a Shakespearean Insults Mug), books (Tina Fey's Bossy Pants, for example), and toys (A very cute French/English wooden flash card set).  I found some adorable books for my nieces, but also some crazy pickle fingers (yes, rubber covers for your fingers that look like pickles!).  If you have someone in your life who's hard to buy for, this is the place to go!  There were so many moments of laughing with my friends in that store, so if you go to Shady Side, you must go there!

6) Hofbrauhaus: Having never been to Germany myself, I was eager to give this traditional beer garden ( a go, and try out some German fare.  While I didn't eat there for a meal, I did show up later for some fun!  There are huge picnic like tables with benches, where you can sit, or if you like to dance, you can stand!  A live German band plays traditional music, but more commonly, hits like "Don't Stop Believin'", "Sweet Caroline", and the beloved potty mouth song, "Alice", as well as new and old favorites.  They even take requests.  Every few minutes, they shout out German toasts, and everyone is expected to Cheers!  The big beers in steins aren't bad either, but if you're hoping for a glass mug, be sure to show up before ten o'clock, after that time they only serve in plastic cups :(  I had a delicious dark beer called a "Dunkel", but there were several others to choose from).  The crowd was mostly college to mid-twenties, with some oldies like myself thrown in, and then some very oldies (like a man dancing suggestively on a bench all night and frightening me with his gyrations).  Hope you get to go, because it's a fun and festive experience you don't want to miss...especially if Oktoberfest is one of your favorite holidays! Prost (Cheers)! 

5) Peace, Love, and Little Donuts...and popcorn!: That's actually the name of a Bohemian-esque donut shop in the Strip District ( ) that guessed it...little donuts.  These aren't just any little donuts.  I'm a hard-to-please Krispy Kreme fanatic,who loves miniature-sized anything, and I want my donuts to be sweet, delicious, and different.  This place features donuts like the Maple Bacon (with that salty/sweet kick you're craving), Samoa (tastes just like the Girl Scout cookie), and Vanilla Sprinkle, among many other choices.  I have a t-shirt from this place because it's always on my list of Pittsburgh must-do's.  The t-shirt reads, "Feed Your Inner Hippie".  And at this tiny, funky stop I can!  Another Strip District snack sensation?  Popcorn!  Not just any bag you'd throw in the microwave, or eat in a movie though.  This is a gourmet popcorn shop ( that serves flavors like Thin Mint, Smores, and Wisconsin Cheddar.  You can get it to go in a paper bag for immediate snacking, or try it in a tin that will last up to a month if it stays sealed.  The shop itself has a collection of antique popcorn boxes, and it reminds me of an "old-timey" fair feeling. Definitely snack in the Strip!

4) The Incline:  I've only done it once, but it's worth the view.  The incline is really cheap (only a few dollars), and it's a scenic view of the city, as you travel up Mount Washington.  I love mountains, and I love the vistas from any summit.  I was able to see so many landmarks, bridges, sports stadiums, and the unique, staggered architecture of the "houses in the hills".  It's a great way to take in the city and really absorb it.

3) Squirrel Hill Pizza: I called it this before I could remember the name, but now I know it by heart: Aiello's (  I was super psyched to try this again.  Being the weirdo I am (at least, according to my friends), I got a cup of cold, cooked mushrooms to put on my own slices, but we still shared a delicious pizza!  This isn't anything fancy, but it's jaw-dropping deliciousness, and the best pizza in Pittsburgh (in my opinion, anyway).  A trip to Aiello's gives you a chance to check out the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, as well.  The fellas making the pizzas are friendly, the drinks are cold, and the foldable, cheesy slices are worth the short wait.

2) Porch Parties:  Okay, this one's not really fair, because it's an experience unique to MY Pittsburgh visits.  But, this is something you can try anywhere really.  All you need are friends, food, cocktails/beers/wine, and a porch with a cool breeze, if possible.  Some of my best and warmest PA memories are on the various porches of my friend, Lauren.  She's a proud Bloomfield resident who has awesome access to a killer outdoor space in her new apartment. I love sitting on the porch, gossiping, sharing some Pear wine (From Kirkwood!), and just remembering our glory days.  


1) The People of Pittsburgh:  I've met some good-hearted, down-to-earth, fun-loving people in Pittsburgh.  If you travel there, you will too!  They're proud Pennsylvanians who adore their teams and are happy to show you around/recommend something/lend a hand/give you a ride!   Each time I visit, I come home with some awesome memories and a few new Facebook friends.  I think my souvenir shirt should say: I Love Some Peeps in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

'Season'al Depression

A long, long time ago, the television was just another form of entertainment.  Now, it's a way of life.  Ever since the ingenious inventions of devices like DVR and TiVo, 'season'al addictions have flourished.  Instead of rushing home from dinner or a ball game to catch your favorite show, week after week, you can record the entire season in one fell swoop.  Then, you can sit back in grand couch potato fashion and watch as many episodes in a sitting as your brain can possibly comprehend (for me, it's about 5 before I zone out, become agitated, and ultimately eat ice cream...never fails).  Yes, I was once a content little DVR darling, too.  Then, a marvel came along and took said addiction to the next level.  And that, dear readers, is the joy of my life and the bane of my existence all rolled into one perfectly priced $8.99 per month: Netflix.

Netflix has really revolutionized my personal TV style and agenda.  During my  DVR days of the past, I tended to record the most random and outlandish programming known to man, woman, or mutant.  For example, I would record a show about hoarding, followed by a show about channeling all of your crap into a snazzy design space, and then another show about pawning said crap for a fraction of what it's worth.  However, my real 'fake-life' passion would always be found in watching seasons.  I'm a fan of spontaneity and instant gratification, what can I say?

In the end (that being the end of my contract and tolerance of a certain cable monopoly), I decided to nix the DVR and go with a cheaper, more portable solution.  I started streaming Netflix online about a year ago, and it's been pure bliss ever since.  I remember the first day, I was so enthralled in adding to my queue.  The first pick I watched was The Thing Called Love with River Phoenix (oldie Indie goodie).  The best part of that experience?  I watched it on the treadmill.  I was hooked!  I am not a fan of sitting in front of the TV, or really sitting at all, for that matter.  I like to feel a surge of productivity in conjunction with my lethargy.  Therefore, I have become an awesome folding/ironing pro, sometimes listening from the other room as I throw a load in the dryer.  I always seem to follow what's going on somehow!

 A TV season is perfect for a 'gal on the go'.  Thirty minutes to an hour and you've gotten a basic story, or plot update, and some closure so you can sleep at night (okay, maybe that's me!  But I was REALLY concerned that Pacey was getting way too involved in stock trading, okay!)  I have since fallen madly in love with watching season after season of whatever show I deem my current addiction.  And with any addiction, there's the initial, hazy first few episodes.  Those are the episodes that hook you, grab you, and make you eager to fold laundry late on a week night, just so you can squeeze in one more.  Eventually, I find myself absorbed completely, and unwilling to watch anything else.  This can go on for months, because I do leave the house, work, read, and attempt a normal life outside of TV Land (sometimes).

This leads me to what I am now experiencing, and thus the purpose of this particular post.  I get sucked in, I crave episode after episode, I get familiar with the characters, and I become like the TV junkie that your parents warned you you'd be if you watched too many Saved By the Bells, while sitting close to the TV in the 80s, eating Cocoa Puffs.  The real question for the utterly obsessed viewer is this: What happens when it's over?  What happens when the show you've become so enamored with ends with a bang...or sometimes with no bang because it was pulled off air mid-season (eh hum, Medium!)?  I have a queue full of shows, but no desire to watch any of them.  None of them will be MY show.  None of them will fill that void, and that predictability of what I will watch, week after week, is gone.  I am left with an empty void where my favorite, beloved show with new-to-me episodes once stood.  So, what else can I do?  I COULD mope, or worse, watch the show again (that's when it becomes 'a problem').

 As silly as it sounds, our generation, our society has become a bunch of 'TV lovin' fools'.  Hollywood knows it, and that's why the keep cranking out more new gems every year (Just when I thought I would never get over Friends, I found HIMYM).  We Americans love our seasons, and we will watch them on a train, on a the rain?  Okay, this is starting to sound a little ridiculous, but it's true.  I know I enjoy having two episodes of True Blood to watch in a row, or catching a late-night replay of the Monica and Chandler affair always puts me in a better mood.   

So, what's to come in the wake of this madness on demand?  I'm not sure...but I'll let you know when I finish The Walking Dead.  There is life after Medium, after all.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Unhitching defintions

When I try to define happiness, I realize I will never be a dictionary contributor.  It's just not in the cards.  Maybe it's because every definition of happiness I try to concoct is different.  I can't come up with one, solid definition.  Some days, I think happiness is summertime, until I sit sweltering in my car in mid-July, with my legs sticking to the inside of my Capri pants.  It's at that moment, wiping sweat from my brow, that I decide happiness is a cold, snowy winter night, tucked warm under a fleece blanket in front of the fire.  That is, until a snowstorm knocks the power...and the Internet...out. I'm lucky that I've known a lot of happiness in  the form of many time zones, temperatures, and blessings..  I'm thankful that I've had family, friends, and loved ones to support matter what make me happy!

 So, I'm left with a reasonable quandary.  What is the true definition of happiness?  Ask a child, and he'll say ice cream before dinner.  Ask a ninety-one year old grandmother, and she'll say the ability to go on a long walk without a cane.  They key is that everyone's definition is different, whether it changes or not (I'm pretty sure I will always say that Chef Boyardee is my REAL definition, ever since age five).  That's what makes this nation a wonderful place...a place where everyone can choose their own happiness.

 If I can't define happiness, I am fairly certain that I can't define love in simple terms either.  Love and happiness go hand in hand, and clearly we all don't see these abstract terms in the same light.  They are so big, so broad, so beautiful, and so overwhelming, that even we, human beings who experience them (hopefully!), cannot say what they truly are...we just know them when we feel them.

  I believe everyone has an equal right to his or her own destiny, in their own definitions, and we all deserve to have someone special there beside us, of our choosing, along for the ride.

I am reminded of the popular 1980s film, The Breakfast Club.  What makes the movie so memorable isn't the bond between the quirky characters that is foraged during a day of detention in the high school library or the infamous hallway slipping and sliding.  The real core of that movie is the last scene, when the principal finds and reads a letter from the students:

 Dear Mr. Vernon, 
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, a basket case,a princess,and a criminal.

Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,

The Breakfast Club.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Break long as it's not my stuff

Anger is a totally natural emotion, although we're told the opposite from a very young age.  As toddlers, when we feel the anger of a stolen toy, or a lost turn on the slide, we instinctively do one of two things.  We retreat (as in, cry to our mommies) or we retaliate (as in hit, bite, or any other toddler-approved means of fighting).  Action # 1 leaves us in the role of "victim", for which we are cuddled and coddled, and the other child is shamed and usually punished.  Action # 2 usually means we are in major trouble...but usually leaves us with a feeling of satisfaction (which evolves into guilt as we age).  We learn that retaliation has no grounds and should not be a means of getting what we want.  We learn that anger is wrong, and it should be shuffled out the door or swept under the rug as quickly as it overcame our sensibilities.

  By the time we reach adulthood, many of us with  guilt complexes or a need to "people please" (in other words, people who usually need therapy) have learned just how to deal with the onset of anger: repress it.  The problem with repression is that the anger doesn't go away; it builds until it erupts in the form of a massive credit card bill, some broken glass, or a pile of hubby's clothing on the front lawn.  Usually, these eruptions lead to a forked path, which could be a bankruptcy and a civil lawsuit, or the much more desirable path of an outlet to  an anger-free zone.

Ah, the healthy solution...finding an outlet.  No, I don't mean an outlet in which to stick a safety pin when you feel that you can't contain your anger at a) boss b) boyfriend c) ex-husband d) all of the above (yikes).  I mean an outlet as in a way to release or express your pent-up emotions.  For those of us divorce survivors, we had to find said outlet for anger before we ended up emptying a box of wine while the film crew of Hoarders knocked impatiently at the door.

My own outlet started out as shopping, but quickly became exercise and running.  Sadly, in my line of work, shopping is out of the question.  I've now lost about 25 pounds and I exercise regularly.  That wasn't always the case though.  I had to find an outlet.  I channeled all my frustration, anger, and feelings of woe into a daily 30 minute workout that led to ultimate pound sheddage (new word!) and blissful pant sizes smaller than I had ever hoped to go again.  It wasn't easy though.  It took a lot of hard work, early mornings, and dedication to keep the anger from swelling, like my weight would have if I'd eaten my weight in Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough (like I originally wanted to do).

The one thing I was not planning for was the day I realized that all of the anger was gone.  What do I do now?  What motivates me?  Anger motivates us to seek success in our goals so often, but what happens when you run out of fuel?   I used to find listening to angry remixes of Limp Bizkit and Stabbing Westward were major fuel for my workouts, but soon I found myself moseying along to the Avett Brothers, and other mellow beats.  I found that contentment was short-lived.  After all, there is always someone or something to make you angry, right?  Being a happy, well-rounded, and positive person means saying no to anger.  I am often reminded of the movie Anger Management when I think of this subject.  Jack Nicholson's character teaches Adam Sandler's character a simple phrase to help him ease his anger when it arise: "Goosfraba."   According to the site, this actually means, "A word that Eskimos use to calm down their children. Also a word Eskimos use when they're having sex."  Hmmm.  So maybe that's NOT what I thought.

Finally, I want to admit the truth.   I know that not everyone will pick up running  or crocheting, or even writing as an outlet. Sometimes just venting to a friend or using extreme sarcasm in Facebook posts is outlet enough.  But in the spirit of this blog post, I have created a list to help ease the anger that I still occasionally find following me like a persistent puppy.  Hope this helps some of my fellow survivors of divorce, or work, or any other little idiosyncrasy that life throws your way.

1) Wine (as long as you're only having a glass and not leaving the premises)
2) Chocolate (dark is healthy and good for your heart, but Reese cups usually ease the pain of a mandatory  meeting on a Friday afternoon)
3) Netflix-You can usually find some ridiculous reality show to make you feel better about yourself, and help you to laugh off the anger.  I suggest the show Til Death, a sitcom starring Joely Fisher and Brad Garrett that chooses to celebrate anger instead of hiding it.
4) Buy something frivolous like an expensive cake with your name on it or some rubies (unless, of course, you're the bankrupt person mentioned earlier)
5) Remember, when you're angry, there's usually someone else out there who is just as angry about the same thing.  Find that person and hash it out.  Usually, complaining loves company.  As Olympia Dukakis' character Clairee Belcher says in the hit play/film, Steel Magnolias, "If you don't have anything nice to say about anybody...come sit by me."

Night Y'all.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Unhitched Flick Picks: Ten Movies for Divorced Girls

So, it's sad but true...a lot of us gals have suffered through a divorce.  And while my blog is not solely focused on life after divorce, my second life, as I like to call it, has played a large part in what I write.  I was trying to be supportive of a friend, and as I corroborated with her divorce, dating, and general "What If" anxieties, I thought this list needed to be shared.  Sometimes, diamonds are a girl's best friend.  But what happens when you've taken off that diamond and you're trying to move forward into an uncertain, sometimes scary future?  We all need a little bit of hope and inspiration in those moments.  Some people read Self Help books, and others turn to a therapist.  I've always had a different breed of self-soothing: the movies.  Ever since I was a little girl, I've been fond of, okay more like obsessed with, movies.  I look to them for the ideals that I create about what life should be.  And while those ideals are often, pardon my French, "shot to Hades" by reality, it's still nice to have them lingering nearby.  They provide a glimpse at what life could be, and sometimes that's just enough to keep a gal going.

The Top Ten Movies to Inspire the Divorced Gal, or as I like to call it, The Second Life Gal:

10) Only You-This quirky Rom-Com is set in Pittsburgh (Love it) and Venice (Sort of love it), along with other parts of Italy.  It does way more to romanticize travel than love, for sure.  It's the story of Faith, a girl who gets the name of her would-be future mate off of a Ouija board at age 11.  Faith grows up, accepts reality, and gets engaged to a very sensible fiancee...until one day a man with the magic name surfaces.  This film really creates a magical love story that would win over any cynic.  And a mid-90s Robert Downey Jr. doesn't hurt this one!

9) He's Just Not That Into You- An ensemble comedy of a lot of big-name actors (HOT! Bradley Cooper) and actresses trying to fall in and out of love.  This takes a realistic approach to relationships, and leaves you with some simple advice to apply to future dating ventures.  If he's into you, he'll call you!

8) Eat, Pray, Love-While I could rave about the book for days, the movie is not as a great!  But it does make the list because Julia Roberts is fantastic as Liz, a divorcee traveling the world looking for her true self.  Great cinematography and funny one-liners, but read the book first!

7) Broken English-I watch this only under specific circumstances: a) I want to drink wine b) I am already a little depressed.  It's definitely an "indie" movie, and there are a lot of awkward silences.  But there's just something about it...I mean, I did buy it on DVD.  Parker Posey (awesomeness) is Nora, a thirty-something single girl whose desperation, anxiety, and self-doubt transcend the fictional story and delve a little too deeply into real single girl woes.  It takes a romantic turn when Nora falls for a French hottie with whom she has a very French New York.

6) Sweet Home Alabama-I'm not sure why this is on my list.  Maybe because it oozes with sweet, Southern goodness from beginning to end.  While the story line is highly unlikely for most divorced girls (getting back with your hot ex-Who would have dumped Jake in the first place?), it is a flick that always gets my mind off of any sadness and reminds me to stick to my guns.

5) Legally Blonde-Another awesome divorce movie, for sure.  Jilted bimbo-turned-lawyer Elle definitely plays the "I Win" game with her ex (Pooh Bear!) and shows him what he is missing.  The scene in which Elle and her BFF nail tech Paulette visit a trailer to retrieve Paulette's dog is priceless!

4) Sex and the City: The Movie-Talk about girlfriends picking you up after you've fallen!!  While parts of this are tough to stomach, especially if you were a fan of Steve and Miranda, I think that the movie took these four ladies whom we so love from the TV series to new heights.  A little too honest and realistic at times, it does remind us that our friends are always there when we need them.

3) Elf-This will definitely get your mind off of anything that might be troubling you, because it's hilarious, Christmasy, and whimsical.  The date scene with Jovie and Buddy is definitely worth the viewing.  Sometimes I watch that scene only and then turn it off!! That date, with the world's "best" cup of coffee and the skipping, is everything I know exists and everything I want from my other half.  This movie reminds me that silly, irrational, ridiculous love does exist!

2) Mermaids-Great chick flick.  It's a mother and her two daughters trying to figure out their relationships with themselves, each other, and the men who fall for them.  Winona Ryder's character Charlotte is so quirky, over zealous, and zany that it's hard not to laugh.  Her narration throughout the movie reminds us all of how ridiculous our teenage ideas were!  What I always liked about this movie was the scene when Cher (Ryder's on-screen mom) is sitting in the bath tub and she pulls out a map, closes her eyes, and points to a spot.  The family moves there the next week.  I always thought that freedom like that didn't exist.  When you start your second life, you realize that, while you definitely would not have chosen this route, it's all about the ride.  You can go anywhere and do anything you truly desire!

1) Under the Tuscan Sun-This movie is number one because it really embodies the divorce experience.  The denial, the sorrow, the anger, the fear, the irrational and sometimes questionable decision making in those first few weeks after you've uncoupled...this film has it all.  It's based on a book by Francis Mayes about her real-life experiences in Tuscany.  I always loved the scene in which Francis is sitting at a restaurant with her best friend Patty, and a chocolate cake with the word "Freedom" is delivered.  Patty and her partner offer for Francis to take over their "Gay and Away" tickets to Tuscany...and thus the rest of Francis' crazy, wild adventure ensues.  That moment in the movie really reminds me that all of us who have walked in divorced girl shoes need a little push, a lot of love, and a chance to jump blindly into what the future holds, no matter how crazy it may seem to others.  Francis never thought she'd be starting her life over, but she finds herself in that position, nonetheless.  Patty encourages her saying, "Have you ever come across one of those empty shell people?  You wondered what happened to them.  At some point in each of those lives, they came to a crossroads."

Sometimes it takes a year to gather your thoughts, your feelings, and yourself and move on.  Sometimes it takes a month, a week, a day.  And sometimes, it takes a movie.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Change of Taste

  I think it's really funny how tastes change over the years.  It's kind of nice to be at an age where you can clearly spot, identify, and even laugh about phases of the past.  Everything is clearer in retrospect.

  I wouldn't say I don't like any of my passe hobbies or interests anymore, but I definitely don't have the passion for them that I once did.  So, take a moment and think about your own phases.  Food, fashion, friends??  It's one of the quirks of life to change your tastes.  Some people are better about sticking with one or two passions for the long haul.  I really admire those people, but at the same time, I think it's okay to change.  Think about the people who have the same hairstyle for 20 years!  That's a little too long to rock the Dorothy Hammill haircut!

Here are some phases I've had, so feel free to laugh, or start your own phase!

1) I Live in NC, but Constantly Eat Cajun Food Phase- I still like it spicy, and I'll still eat Cajun food when I get the chance at Charlotte's own Cajun Queen in Elizabeth.  Delish!  However, there was once a time when I was eating Cajun food without pause, and starting to sound like Rene off of True Blood (Just kidding...laisser le bon temps rouler).  I think this was brought on by a 2002 visit to New Orleans; I tend to latch on to the places I visit, especially when they are super cool.

2) Independent Film Phase-Long, awkward silences, lots of chewing in dark, desolate diners, and often times gratuitous violence.  Um, sign me up??  I'm all for "artsy" and "moody"; I own the movie Broken English with Parker Posey, which is definitely all of the aforementioned.  However, I think the film Drive has driven me away from this phase.  Despite Ryan Gosling's hotness.

3) Foreign Film Phase-I used to love watching movies in Spanish or French; I liked the sound of these languages, and trying to decipher what they were saying when I had to go to the fridge.  This phase was short-lived; as my eyesight has worsened, so has my desire to read and watch a movie at the same time.  But maybe if I get Lasik...

4) Honey On Everything Phase-Bread, chicken, in coffee, on fries...too bad I'm not a beekeeper.  This gets expensive quickly!

5) I'm Going To Be A Surfer Phase- Ummm, I don't live near the ocean.  Just because I watched Blue Crush, I thought I was the next Laird Hamilton.  This was one of the most unrealistic phases, but I did buy a lot of cute, early 20s person clothes at PacSun.

6) Boxing Phase-After watching Million Dollar Baby, I was getting all Laila Ali  on every punching bag in the county.  I don't know if this phase was aggression-driven, or if I just liked the idea of warming my hands in those giant gloves.

7) I like _______ music phase-This phase is more generic because it comes and goes, and it's part of being open to new tuneage.  With the invention of iTunes, who has not had a particular music phase in the last ten years?  I will say that I most recently found the Avett Brothers, and they are definitely making the move to the top of my iPod playlist!

8) I like flannel and vampires phase-This was, of course, a Twilight-induced stupor that came on shortly after I read book # 1 and lasted until I finished book # 4.  This phase was really awesome (just kidding).  I found myself wearing long underwear-esque shirts and listening to a lot of emo music from the soundtrack.  I also thought I might fall for someone pale...or over 100.

9) I'm an artist phase-I'm not an artist.  I just play one on occasion.  I have tried many different mediums: canvas, glass, wood, etc.  All of these were epic fails.  All of you are safe; most of them will never be seen by human eye.  Hmmm, that picture of Dorian Gray is somewhere in my attic...

10) The Pepsi Phase-I really thought I was going to become a Pepsi fan to be different, but alas, I like Coke Zero, and I cannot lie.  NO, Coke didn't pay me for that, but they should.

Moral of the story: We all have our little fads, phases, and moments of sheer insanity; however,  we eventually realize what we once thought was cool or cutting edge has become old, tired, or sad.  Hopefully, we won't say the same for ourselves one day.  Following fads and trends, or falling in love with a new product, idea, or genre keeps us fresh and young.  We all have our old faithfuls that we return to, because we're creatures of habit.  So, after a while, we go back to sweet and sour sauce instead of honey, or we realize that moving to Hawaii is really out of the question.  Unless the cards fall into place, the stars align, and that phase that everyone thought was crazy turns out to be the best thing you ever did.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

To Tech or Not To Tech...

Recently, I had to wait about twenty minutes for a table at a restaurant (not an uncommon practice in Charlotte). We instituted the age old "there's a wait" practice by going to the bar for a round of drinks before the last remaining pager on Earth (the restaurant pager) buzzed.  As I looked around the bar, which was pretty packed, I noticed a group of single girls, a group of single guys (I'm no Patti Stanger, but Hello!), a family or two, etc. all huddled around the bar.  These people were different heights, races, and ages, but they had one thing in common: the iPhone.  I used to think that only rich people had the iPhone.  Then, I thought only young professionals had it.  Then, my friend Melissa joined the ranks.  This blog isn't about the popularity of the iPhone, though.  It's about people who don't have one: namely, my friends Tara, Mike, and I.  Are we the last early thirtysomethings without this nugget of technology?

As Tara, her husband Mike, and I chatted about movies, and even placed a bet after arguing about a scene in a TV show, my future flashed before me at a glance.  That sounds whimsical and cliche, but it's true.  I glanced up to wipe the frost off my glass, and realized that the hordes around us were not talking, laughing, or even watching the multiple TV screens surrounding the bar.  They were texting, checking Facebook, tweeting, and I imagine looking up some kind of senseless fact on Wikipedia.  No one seemed to say, "Found it!" and return to the conversation.  Everyone's eyes remained glued to the iPhone screen, ignoring their present company as they waited.

This raised the question in my head: Should I get an iPhone and join the masses, or be left behind?  Or should I look at the question entirely differently?  Maybe not having an iPhone was keeping the conversation going, and keeping good, old-fashioned human interaction a priority.  Everyone says that I am addicted to Facebook and Twitter, since I tend to log on at friends' houses to check my feed or retweet a funny comment.  I often look at this stuff as conversation starters.  My boyfriend is on a really tedious work schedule, and I rely on Facebook and Twitter to lend me newsworthy topics to entertain him at night on his 40 minute drive back home.  So, I'm not anti-technology by any means.  But do I need it in the palm of my hand?

When we returned back to my friend Tara's house, we settled the bet by pulling up the TV episode in question, and of course, Mike won, so now we have to go see a  'man' movie :(  But was it such a big deal to wait?  Is it ever that much of an inconvenience to wait for information?  Do we really need to know that Bob is engaged during dinner, or that Whitney broke a crown on her tooth eating a Baby Ruth (Dr. Suess for Facebook)?  

I think inevitably, I will get the iPhone 5 when it is released this spring/summer.  My argument about old-time communication is valid, though.  I know people have "cell phones on the counter" and "turn it off at dinner" rules.  But I'm talking about the bar wait right now.  That was "time to kill", and people were taking advantage.  Aren't those moments some of the few and fleeting empty ones that still exist today?  

Enough with the hypothetical questions, and the pros and cons of travel-size technology.  My point is this: In future scenarios of waiting for a table, I hope to still hear laughter from a bad joke shared to fill a silence or see a couple share a kiss and exchange "I Love You" when they're backed into a corner of the bar.  I don't think that kind of time is wasted.  As Carrie Bradshaw says in one of my favorite SATC episodes, "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda", "Life is what happens when you're waiting for a table."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Holding on to the past?

When should someone let go of the past?  More importantly, when should you let go of past stuff?  It may mean the difference between a calm, clean home setting and an appearance on the show Hoarders.  I've been lucky enough to move twice (uhh, did I say lucky?) in the past two years, and I have purged a great deal of stuff.  However, I am currently left with a quandary: Should it stay or should it go?  I have several items in the attic at my former rental house, and luckily my former roommate has been kind enough to let said stuff stay.  I need to decide to dump it or keep it.

Back in the stone age, or even the pioneer days, too much stuff was never an issue that plagued the average person.  I don't think cavemen were complaining about animal skins piling up by the dozens like, say, the greeting cards I've kept and collected over time.  And I seriously doubt that when Papa Ingalls was loading the wagon, Laura's massive collection of folded notes from high school had to tag along.  My point is that as time has skipped along, we as humans have accumulated more and more stuff.  And not just stuff.  I'm not really referring to the glasses or the afghan or even the edible underwear (hey, I don't judge) that you bought yesterday.  I'm talking about mementos.  When should they hit the pavement, on your allotted trash or recycle day?  Or better yet, or better for the environment, donate it.

This draws up a larger question as well...when should a gal get rid of the stuff from her ex? I have to admit that I kept certain things I'd become attached to after my split.  Purses, namely.  Although, I did manage to part with a few at a yard sale.  I had three phases: dump it, keep it, dump it.  In phase one, I was packing up the house we shared and I was ready for everything to go.  I gave a porch, that's right a porch, full of stuff to a donation center, which they graciously picked up for me!  After my initial move, I was in minimalist heaven, or so it felt, until more and more items with ties to the ex surfaced.  A Christmas ornament here, a t-shirt there.  Before I knew it, I was treasuring a past that wasn't so shiny as if it were wrapping paper on Christmas morning (still on the boxes).  When I "came to", I realized that that stuff had to go too.  And so it did.  I actually sold a pair of earrings and my wedding bands (I paid for the rings themselves) at a second-hand antique shop while I was in Palm Springs on a trip.  It felt like a lot of closure, and a lot of relief.  Thus, the third cyclical 'dump it' phase.

I have more questions than I have answers, and from time to time, I still stumble across items that "we" purchased, but I usually find a justification for keeping them...seeing as how they made it this long, and outlasted all three phases.  So, I usually don't feel bad about them.  Men are just as prone to hang on to mementos as women are, in my personal belief system, that is.  I think there are probably pieces here and there creeping around his closet, his bureau drawer, or even his bathroom.

How I Met Your Mother did an episode about this early on, when Ted discovered that Robin's dogs were all gifts from exes.  He argued that his ex stuff was just stuff, materials, but could he really ask Robin to get rid of her living, breathing reminders of past relationships?  This was a really thought-provoking episode.

I guess the long and short of it is this...hang on to what you need, but don't live your everyday life like you're looking at a photo album of the past.  Toss it.  That's my personal standpoint.