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Sunday, July 23, 2017

This is My Week


~  First off - bottom right - WTForecast...makes the weather report so much more interesting.  If you don't have it, and you want to be cool like me, you must.  Don't worry, you can choose the level of profanity.

Also, yes, it has been ridiculously hot around here.  Alabama in summer is just stupid anyway, but this week has been completely disrespectful.  The temperature above doesn't do it justice.  This week the heat index topped 100 daily.  I'm telling you, disrespectful.

~  A cousin of mine recently graduated high school and is interested in getting into photography.  In an effort to support her dream, I had some pictures taken this week.  Nothing too fancy.  The top picture was my favorite of the entire lot.

~  My iPhone 5 died unexpectedly.  (Or was cracked and gave up when it was dropped for the zillionth time.  Either way.)  I had to order a new phone off Amazon because I'm telling you, this whole "rental" thing the cell companies do now?  No.  And the prices to buy a brand new one?  Even more no.  Certified Refurbished from Amazon is the way I go.

I ordered the iPhone 6.  I love it, except I'm having to exchange the one I received for one from another company.  The receiver volume is messed up on the one that just arrived.  First hand tip: do a little research on the company rating you are buying from.  My first order was a day late on top of the volume issue.  Not.  Happy.

The whole no phone situation was a rude awakening about how dependent I am on a smartphone.  I mean, in the first two hours I was trying to brainstorm what to do so that I would have a phone during the 5 day wait for the new one to arrive.  I was like the Bear Grylls of cell phone survival.  

"Ok, my fitbit will tell me when I get a text if I keep the phone close enough.  And I have a laptop so I can still use my apps.  Five days.....I can make it five days."

Except I couldn't because at 6 AM the next morning I was at Walmart Supercenter (where I haven't been in at least a year) getting a $25 android smartphone like some kind of fiend.  For shame!

Truthfully the little temp phone wasn't half bad!  I'm keeping it just in case this ever happens again.  Like a survivalist food bank....

~  This weekend was birthday celebration palooza.  Friday night was girls night/birthday party #1.  We went to see Girls Trip.  Twice.  

~ Saturday = more birthdays!!  My now 5 year old cousin had an ice skating party.  I rocked that like a pro.  (Ignore my proximity to the wall at all times and the "balance arms" in the pictures above.)  I can honestly say I didn't fall one single time!!  

~ Saturday night was party number three.  Another girls night!  This one with a bit of alcohol and a lovely dinner with the girls.  Throw in a few sideways comments and one or two barely avoided arguments in the spirit of being an adult and letting stuff slide, you have a pretty interesting time!

~ Today has been/still is Sunday Funday.  And by "fun" I mean lazing, napping, and reading.  This is fun to me for today at least!  I woke up and about 2 hours later took a nap.  

Currently reading You are a Badass by Jen Sincero.

I have managed to do some light housework and laundry (*snore*), so I haven't hit full vegetative state quite yet. 

~ Bottom center is a belated birthday gift from a cousin that I absolutely love, love, love!!

How was your week?  Any fantastic experiences?

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Single Girl of the Group

Over the weekend I was at a birthday party when a friend of the family mentioned there was a single guy at her church.  Suddenly I had three sets of wide open eyes staring at me simultaneously with that "Did you hear that???" look.

I'm that girl.  The single girl at the parties where everyone else is married with kids.  I think somewhere along the line maybe I crossed into the realm of pulse point attraction (as in, He has a pulse. ding ding We have a winner!!).  Whenever a man is mentioned who is even barely inside the single spectrum (i.e. possibly, maybe, could be, we think, he might've said he thought about getting a divorce once), all eyes turn to me.

I'm not kidding.  A few weeks ago a co-worker called me squeaking and squealing because a guy I had "so much chemistry with" just made a comment to her about changing his bank information because the wife took his money.  And that means they're separated.  Which then means he and I can finally announce our star-crossed love and start making babies, I guess.

Bless them.

To be fair, I am single and I do want to meet someone.  My friends and family know this and so their actions are their best efforts at finding me that someone.  They're trying to help in a way, and I appreciate it.  But.  But, but, but.

This whole *nudge nudge* thing just weirds me out.  This weekend here was the list of his qualifications:

1. He was of the male persuasion.
2. He was single.
3. He was at a church.  
4. And I'm assuming here...he was breathing.

I got an extra *nudge nudge* look when they were told he rides a motorcycle.  And I think they may have known a friend of his that he might resemble kind of, in a way, if he turns sideways and you tilt your head.  They didn't say the friend they knew was cute, they just gave me more *nudge nudge* looks.  Is this a good thing?!?  I don't know.

Y'all!  I've ridden a motorcycle once in my life - when I was 12 - and I burned my entire left calf using the muffler as my dismount slide.  A motorcycle does nothing for me.  That's not a plus.  For me.

I've been to church maybe once in the past year.  And when I do go to church, I go to one that is a lot different from how they believe, which means how he believes if he's going to their kind of church.  Another thing that's not a plus.

How about this.... can he hold a decent conversation?  What does he do for fun?  Does he read books?  Like to travel?  Heck, does he have a job?!?

I mean, where is our standard meter right now?  You know?  Can someone go dig it out of the trash, please?  What about this guy makes you think your wide *nudge nudge* eyes should be focused on me?  Simmer, please.

I'm just saying.  I really think my friends and family might be more desperate for me to find a man than I am at this point.

Is this what happens in your late 30s?

At what point can I give the *nudge nudge* look to my married friends when someone brings up the topic of divorce?

Too soon?  Not the same thing?

I kid, I kid.  Asking for a friend.

I had a guy walk up today and ask me, "You found a man yet?"  Nope.  Not yet.  "Well what's wrong with you?"  Ummmm.....

I'm 94% sure he was teasing.

I have another friend who thinks I should join an online dating site.  As a reminder she will sing the farmersonly.com tune to me when the topic of dating or being single is brought up.

83% sure she's teasing.

Really it's a funny thing to me.  I don't mind it as much as it sounds like I do.  Sometimes it's embarrassing, but I know it's either in good fun or to help me.

What about you?  Are you that girl too?  Do your friends get a kick out of teasing you about it?  Comment and let me know you're here!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Solo Travel for the Single Girl

I'm one of those people born with a wandering spirit.  I often find myself glancing longingly at the interstate ramp when I've been homebound too long.  I love the 'wind in my hair' feeling of getting out on the road and seeing places I've never seen before.  

For years I waited until I had someone to go with me, hesitant to travel alone.  Then I decided that was enough - no more waiting!  That meant I had to get over my hesitation and head out solo. 

At this point I've done lots of different solo trips, including everything from catching a hockey game, to an open destination weekend, to a week in London.  When I talk about my trips I am often surprised by the number of people who say they can't imagine traveling alone.  Like I told them I travel outside the Milky Way, not to the next state.

Personally, I can't imagine not doing it.  The other option is to stay home and continue glancing longingly at interstate ramps.  Ummmm....no, thank you.

Someone asked me recently if I get scared traveling by myself.  I thought about this for a while.  The truth is yes, a few times I have been but I make an effort to travel smart. 

These are a few tips I gave her if she decided to venture out on her own.


1.  Avoid that "deer in the headlights" look.

I am a strong believer that if someone is looking for a target, the person wandering around looking lost makes an awfully easy mark.  I know you're wondering how you can possibly look like anything else when you're in a place you've never been.  You don't have a clue where anything is!  Maybe you're doing things you've never done before, like hailing a cab or just walking streets you've never navigated before.

I've been there!  I don't always do planning for my trips, but usually with something new I try to do at least a little research.  For example, before going to London I did an exorbitant amount of research on the tube (their subway system).  I had a little notebook where I kept notes like what card I needed to buy and what stops go where I wanted to be.  I took it with me everywhere.  They also offered pocket sized layouts of the tube system that allowed me to keep up with where I was and when I needed to switch trains or get off.  Boston on the other hand, didn't offer the pocket reference guide so while I did use the giant diagrams they have posted, I also kept a picture of it on my phone.

Technology is a fabulous thing for solo travelers!  Walking the streets of Boston, I obviously didn't have a clue where anything was but I didn't want to bumble around looking lost.  I downloaded Google Maps onto my cell phone, which gave walking directions to any address I needed.  I was able to roam around without hesitation like I did it every day!


I'll tell you all about the ridiculous selfies I take when I'm out and about at some point.
This is me in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.


2.  Always be aware of your surroundings, and those who surround you.

It's easy to get caught up in all the new sights on the road.  Whether it's giant skyscrapers, historical monuments, or rolling hills, the new sights can be distracting.  I always remind myself to pay attention to the people and things around me. 

This doesn't mean I shoot death rays at everyone who comes within 5 feet of me.  There's no need to be paranoid or crazy.  I just pay attention.  I trust my instincts.  If someone acts strangely or stands too close (and that has happened before), I pay extra attention and act accordingly.

One trip I wore a backpack and had a guy stand unusually close behind me while waiting in a line.  I noticed anytime I would move, he would move as well.  This was a little creepy.  

The way I dealt with it was without confrontation.  I just kept readjusting, facing other directions.  When I checked out, I quickly left the store and went to find a bench to sit instead of going to my next destination.  I did this to make sure he didn't follow me.  There were people everywhere so I was pretty confident I would be safe on that bench.  When I decided the coast was clear and I felt safe again, I headed off on the rest of my day.


3.  Act like a teenager again!

Well, not in a super fun way where your bills disappear and you can eat whatever you want without consequence.

When I'm in my hometown I go where I want, when I want.  I know where I am, where I'm going, and where to avoid.  That's not the case when I'm on the road, which has the potential to put me in a dangerous situation when I'm alone.  I usually try to make it back to my hotel room before it gets too late. 

This is just a "better safe than sorry" tactic of mine.  I do occasionally break this rule, if I have a good reason like taking in a show.  Most of the time I just use as much of the daylight as I can (sorry, night owls!) and make my way back to my room when the sun starts setting.



4.  Keep your money on you and out of sight.

When I travel, first of all, I never keep my entire stash of money on me.  Typically, I carry my debit card and enough cash to get me through that day.  The rest is hidden in my hotel room.

While I do often carry some form of purse, I never keep my money inside.  Or my identification.  These things are kept in my front pocket, or in a money belt.  (Most of the time my pocket.)

When I have to pay for something if I can pull one $20 bill (for example) instead of all the money I'm carrying, I do that.  If not, I keep it as concealed as I can in my hand.  When I'm done, I quickly shove it back in my pocket.

This may seem obvious, but I also would not count or organize my money in public.  If you have to, do it in a bathroom stall.  Anywhere you won't make a spectacle of yourself and all your riches.



5.  Keep someone informed.

I always have a travel buddy, even when I travel alone.  Personally, I don't normally have an itinerary and even when I do, I rarely stick with it.  However, I make sure there is someone who knows what I am doing every day - where I plan on going and how I plan on getting there.  

It may just be a simple text, 'Hey, today I think I'm going to these places:  blah,blah, and blah.' or even better, sending a text each time I head somewhere new.  Hopefully these will never be needed for anything other than conversation but if something unexpected did happen, you want someone to know where you might be.

Once I ordered my dinner to be delivered (it was after dark!).  Upon learning this my mother insisted I tell her where I ordered from and let her know as soon as I'd locked my room door behind me after the food was received.  I honestly thought this was whackadoo but she freaked me out enough to go along with it.

Delivery was uneventful, but the next night when I did the same thing my delivery guy was arguing with a passerby when I came to the door.  There was one moment the passerby walked up aggressively when I thought, "If that guy had a gun, I'd be dead right now."  Quite a sobering thought.

After everything calmed down and I got my food, I was visibly shaken and could only think about what could have happened....and that I hadn't told my mother that night about the delivery.


This is the night of the first delivery, when I still thought my mother was whackadoo!



What I want you to take away from this is that, while it does make sense to take a few extra precautions, solo travel is absolutely "doable"!  Some of the best trips I've been on were done alone.  In fact, I think everyone should take at least one trip alone at some point!

Have you been on a solo trip?  Do you have tips I didn't mention here?  Let me know you're here!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Don't Let Them Tame You

"You were once wild here.  Don't let them tame you."
~ Isadora Duncan


I happened upon that quote a while ago.  Isadora Duncan is called the creator of modern dance, so I'm sure she was talking to a fellow dancer who was maybe holding back, not dancing to their full potential.  Clearly not me, but the first time I read those words it was like an electric shock.  They ran straight through me.

A slideshow of moments flew through my mind.  Moments when I'd held back.  Stopped myself.  Hesitated.  Flinched.  Became smaller.  There were plenty to choose from.

After a while I started to think about who I was when I was younger.  I was so fiercely individual and independent back then.  It didn't bother me to be different from everyone else.  I never minded not being part of the pack.  In fact, I can remember times I was frustrated with friends of mine because they were so driven by the popular groups.  "Why," I would wonder, "Who cares?"

Now I see that quote and it hits me like a brick...that's exactly what has happened to me.  I've been tamed.

Lightbulb!

A lot happens between elementary school and adulthood.  We all have our stories.  Our list of things that happened over the years and changed us, good or bad.  Someone who hurt you, let you down.  Or maybe you had someone who became a hero in your life and made it better.  I certainly have my list.  Maybe you're thinking over your list right now.

If you picture a house....One thing causes a crack in the foundation.  Not a big deal, you think.  Then a little water gets in and the crack grows.  More water.  A new crack.  Before long the foundation becomes so weak that any little thing causes more damage.  The earth starts moving bit by bit.  Sinkhole.  The entire structure is in shambles.

This is the best way I know to explain what happened to that confident, independent little girl from elementary school.  As an adult I avoid certain situations and interactions.  I haven't really written since I was 12.  I am quiet in groups.  I am slow to voice my opinion to others.  I'm still just as independent as I've always been, but I hide it from other people.  I've spent a lot of years making myself smaller to avoid notice, confrontation, attention, vulnerability.    

Little by little over the past few years I have fought to "become myself" again.  I will tell you,  it's one of the most difficult things I've ever done.  Every single day I fight.  Whether it's fighting negative thoughts that go through my head, or forcing myself to do something I would normally shy away from.

Even this blog is a fight.  I'm so used to keeping myself locked inside, not sharing my thoughts and opinions that doing so is a foreign concept to me.  The writing, putting my thoughts into words...that's another fight.

Those of you with social anxieties know what I'm talking about.  Or if you are fortunate enough not to have them, you probably know someone who does.  It will be difficult for someone without an anxiety issue to relate, but try to keep in mind that while their issue is invisible on the outside, it's a battle on the inside.  A damn war.  Every. Single. Day.  Against ourselves.  Our own minds.

Imagine, if you will, having someone follow you every day.  Every time you voiced your opinion, they matter-of-factly stated, "That was stupid."  Every time you wanted to join a group of friends or call someone you'd hear, "They don't want you there," or "They don't like you."  This person following you would point out every tone of voice, every bat of an eye, "See?  They think you're stupid too."  Every time.  All day every day.  Imagine it, really.  Stop for a few minutes and imagine what that would be like for you.  I think most anyone who dealt with that constant barrage of negative thought would shrink away and become a shell of their real personality eventually.

I keep that quote near and use it as a mantra of sorts.  Don't let them tame you.  I repeat it in my head whenever I feel myself hesitating or trying to be smaller.

The picture below is a tattoo I got last year.  This is how deep that quote is to me.  I had different types of wildflowers added around the quote because they blossom anywhere.  I will blossom too, in the middle of this war.  I will blossom.


My anxieties have ruined friendships of mine.  Years of my life have been stolen or given away.  I am working on it.  I'm far from where I need to be, but I'm trying to move in the right direction.

If you are someone who deals with this same thing, I feel you.  I know what you're going through.  My hope for you is that you will find a way to fight too.  Don't let the anxiety win.

Don't let them tame you.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Out and About : Boston

My birthday this year fell on a Friday.  My 39th birthday....one year before I enter an entirely new decade....the fifth decade of my life.  I'm getting a little panic-y just thinking about it, which is exactly what I was doing the Monday before my birthday sitting behind my desk at work.

Since I was failing miserably at accomplishing anything productive, I gave up trying and started daydreaming about going somewhere for my birthday in a shameless attempt to ostrich through this event by essentially sticking my head in the sand and LA-LA-LA distracting myself with a trip to Anywhereville, USA.  Because THIRTY-NINE!!!

Long story short, I ended up flying to Boston by myself for a little four day weekend.

Me, about to board the plane

I really didn't do much planning at all prior to arriving in Boston.  To give you an idea, upon arrival I knew I could either catch a cab or ride on the trains (subway) to my hotel.  I didn't decide which until I was standing at the exit of the airport.  

Some insight into my personality, I will sometimes shy away from activities or situations that take me outside of my comfort zone.  I knew I was leaning towards catching a cab because it would allow me to avoid lots of people on the trains, and more importantly avoid drawing attention to myself because of the luggage I had with me.  So I forced myself to use the trains.  Screw you, Comfort Zone!

It took me about an hour to figure out my worries were unnecessary.  I could've ran through the train station naked and maybe 3 people would've even bothered to bat an eye.  No one is paying attention to me or anyone else in the city.  There is no eye contact.

So I made it to my hotel.  I'd chosen to stay in a small business - The Copley House - that built rooms out of brownstone apartments instead of your regular run-of-the-mill chain hotel.  I loved the idea of living "like a local".  

I requested a studio room and while it was tiny and on the 3rd floor with no elevator/escalator, it was nicely renovated and a perfect size for just me.  The staff were very kind and welcoming when I checked in.  My one gripe was noise.  There was some renovation work being done on the room across the hall when I was there, which is a temporary issue.  Although, one night I knew my neighbor was just arriving by the rustle of his shopping bag.  His door was right beside mine, but still.  
After dropping my things off in the room, I decided to kind of roam around and see what was nearby.  My hotel was in a lovely location, very near the Prudential Center which I walked through.  I came across the Boston Public Library and went in to browse a little.  

Roaming the streets.

 You will learn that I am an incurable bookworm.  When I go to a new place, I always look up the local bookstores.  Boston had two that caught my eye.

I found out Trident Booksellers was near me, so I headed there for dinner.  It's a small place but with a great selection of books and gifts, as well as a little cafe.  I bought a book and a few souvenirs (they had the most fantastic socks for sale!!), then ate in the cafe.  The drink (pictured below) and the turkey sandwich I ordered were both outstanding!  If you are ever in Boston, I would recommend a stop here.

Strawberry drink and a little reading at Trident

Day two, I started out early and stopped for breakfast at Flour Bakery & Cafe.

My actual birthday

Chocolate croissant was deee-licious! 

After breakfast I traveled over to Boston Commons to stroll around.

Washington statue in the background

So here's a little tip when taking selfies - Consider your environment.  I, personally, do not.  As a result, below you see a picture of me with a big smile and a horse's ass.  You're welcome.



Lunch

Next stop was Brattle Book Shop.


They have this cool open space next door where they put shelves of books.

Brattle Book Shop

As you can see, prices start at $1!!  And some really great, vintage/antique books mixed in with more modern choices.  Bookworm Heaven, I'm telling you!

I spent over an hour looking through these shelves and would've stayed longer if my arms hadn't been full.

My book spoils

My brother texts me at some point to ask, "When are you going to Fenway Park?" as if there is no doubt whether I'll be going or not.

"Um....I'm not." because I hadn't even thought about it, which seems reasonable considering I don't baseball.

Being the always supportive and uplifting sibling he is, my brother ends the conversation with, "You don't know what you're doing.  Ur ruining the trip.  Who goes to Boston and doesn't see Fenway?"

Alas....

For my brother.  Fenway.

I also took this picture of the plaque, in the place of a tour of the park.  Bonus points!! 

The rest of the day I went over to the harbor and sat to read.  Sitting is good.  When planning a trip to Boston, plan on LOTS of walking.  Wear comfortable shoes.  Seriously.

Day Three I scheduled a whale watching excursion.  I was SO. EXCITED!!!

Leaving the harbor


Boston from the water

Pictures.  When I tell you I was excited so I took pictures what I really mean is I was like a kid in a candy shop and I just kept snapping with no idea what I was getting or not getting.

The good side of that is when I uploaded my pictures to Google, they turned them into mini animations, so below....WHALES!!!

These first two are fin whales.



After visiting the fin whales we headed over near Cape Cod where there were young humpbacks.  By this time you can tell it's not as bright out.  The sun had gone behind the clouds and it was FREEZING!!





I did visit a market down near the harbor after the whale excursion, but unfortunately didn't take any pictures of it.

The next day I traveled back to the airport - on the trains! - and headed home.

Overall it was a wonderful birthday!  Happy 39th to me!!

Have you been to Boston?  Leave a comment!  Let me know you're here!!

Who Am I?


I'm going to be honest with you...I don't like the awkward introductions.  That whole getting to know you stage where you don't know anything about me so you're left looking at my picture up there thinking, "Her bangs are too long." or "Her teeth aren't completely straight." or "What an awful angle!"  While those things may be true, let's skip on past that, shall we?

I am 39 years old.  I have lived in the same town all of my life - outside of a 6-month stint when I followed a boy to another state at 18.  I have lived in the same house for 12 years.  Worked the same job for 11 years.

I never imagined myself to be the type person I describe above, and I'll tell you a secret.  I didn't even realize what I was doing until a few years ago.  Suddenly I looked around and realized I'd lived the last 10 years of my life waiting for it to start.  How droll!

Here's what I imagine my life should look like.  Nomadic, probably living in a camper, traveling the US, stopping on a whim to follow a wooded trail or tour some metal museum I saw on a billboard a few miles back.  I should laugh without a thought in the world for how loud it is, or how much attention it garners.  I should be dancing in the rain, skipping down to meet the ocean on the beach, and screaming at the top of mountains.

I have allowed myself to give up my fire, little by little so that I don't even realize it's gone.  Every disappointment, every bruise, every scar I have given a piece of who I am until most of my fire is gone and I am living a life with no soul.  When I looked around and saw my life as it was, I wanted to cry at what I saw.  So disappointing.

So I started trying to work my way out from under the muck, to climb out from under some of the wreckage I'd allowed to pile on top of me.  It's taken a while to get here, but I am finally starting to venture out again. While I haven't quit my job and sold all my belongings to buy that camper and travel the continent - YET! - I am trying to focus on becoming the person I want to be and living the life I want to live.

I can remember writing "letters" to myself as a child and putting them in the mailbox to pick up later, writing a book with a classmate in elementary school, and writing my own book at 12, writing my prayers down as a teenager.  I've always loved words and found an outlet in writing, but have allowed my writing voice to be silenced.  That's where Positively Crystal comes in.  I want to share my journey back to myself in the hopes that people out there will relate to my struggles.  Maybe I can even help someone else who is drowning in their own life.

Awkward introductions behind us now, Hello and Welcome!!  Comment below, let me know you're here!