Reason #539 Why I Try to Avoid Interacting with People

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an introvert/socially anxious/awkward/shy/a hermit and generally dislike other people and all the things that go along with interacting with them.

I put this all aside last weekend when I decided that hubby and I should go to the movies to celebrate our 15 year date-iversary. Since we’re movie snobs, we only go to the AMC Dine-In theater with the recliners and full menu of food and alcoholic drinks. Apparently everyone else in the tri-state area had the same idea and all of the movies that I wanted to see were either sold out or only had single seats left. I then did something even more out of character and bought tickets to The Wolf of Wall Street at the theater we had never been to before, in a city we weren’t familiar with. Cue the anxiety.

The seats weren’t the big fancy recliners, and there was no table on a swinging arm, but the menu was the same and the chairs were comfy enough. The seats were grouped in fours, so being extremely anti-social and borderline rude, I bought two seats in the middle of a group of four. I figured the chances of anyone buying the two single seats on the ends was slim to none so we would get to watch the movie in semi-privacy.

We got there, settled into our seats and buzzed our waitress. She didn’t even greet us or tell us her name. In fact, she said no words to us at all when she arrived. She just stood there looking at us with her pen to her little waitress pad, as if we had disturbed her from something much more pressing than our need for fried food and sugary drinks.

Just as the previews were starting a young couple walked over and was looking at the seat numbers. The guy then asked us if we would move over so that they could sit together. I grumbled and gave him a bit of the stink-eye while hubby and I briefly consulted each other about whether or not we would move for them, and then we picked up our stuff and shifted to the left. Now, I know that it was not nice of me to buy those particular seats, but I also find it somewhat unacceptable that they bought the end seats knowing that they would just ask whomever was sitting in the middle to move. Then the guy had the nerve to say to us, “It’s not like one seat makes that much of a difference anyway.” Well, no, I suppose it doesn’t, but when there is reserved seating and someone pays for specific seats, then yes it does make a difference. Especially when that someone is me and now I have to sit next to you, Douchey Guy with a Ginormous Phone and Therefore Ginormous and Unbelievably Bright Screen. He felt the need to pull it out every few minutes for the next three hours to check who knows what, gallantly turning it away from his girlfriend’s face right into my eyes.

Towards the end of the movie, our waitress brought the bills over. I paid with my credit card, Douchey Guy paid with cash. They got their receipt, we got nothing. A few minutes later the waitress came back and told DG that he paid with cash. He acknowledged this. She told him that she mistakenly gave him a credit card and asked where it was. He feigned ignorance and my blood started to boil because I knew immediately that he had my credit card. She explained to him in the simplest of terms that if he paid with cash then he would not receive a credit card in return, and just as she was about to start drawing him pictures to illustrate this point, he pulled my credit card out of his pocket and gave it back to her.

Now, I wasn’t upset at the waitress. Things happen. People make mistakes. BUT. How could someone knowingly take a credit card that doesn’t belong to them and put it away in their pocket?! There is no reason for this, other than he was going to steal it, right? The only reasons we didn’t say anything to him were (1) he seemed high as a freakin’ kite and was also at least a little drunk, so there was a good chance he didn’t have a clue what was going on, and (2) have you watched the news? People are unstable and I didn’t want to end up a headline.

I got my card back and all is right in my world, but I think I’ve learned my lesson and will not be venturing out again in the near future.

Sticks and Stones

Whoever coined the phrase sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me clearly was never insulted, was delusional, or had superhuman thick skin. While I remember that kidney stones were the most physically painful experience of my life — I seriously thought I was dying — I can’t recollect the exact pain. But the times when someone has said something mean to me? That’s etched in my memory forever.

That Cynking Feeling’s recent post about being ridiculed for her hair got me thinking about the times I’ve been made fun of or insulted. There is one gem in particular that stands out.

Freshman year of high school, I didn’t know anyone. My parents sent me to a small Catholic school while all of my grammar school friends went to the more expensive, more popular schools that came with built-in social circles because half of our eighth grade class went to one, and half went to the other. I, on the other hand, had to start from scratch, which is beyond difficult for someone as socially anxious as myself. Luckily a nice girl named Sabrina latched onto me the first day and we became fast friends.

One day we were sitting in the gym for an assembly and we were chatting on the bleachers before it really started. Some of the “popular” girls (I use the term loosely as there were less than 100 kids in our entire class, so everyone was popular if you think about it) were sitting to my right. I felt a tap on my shoulder, so I turned around and one of the girls was smiling at me. She said to me, “My friend wants to sit here, and since you’re alone, can you move?”

I was shocked. I mean, I had been in the middle of a conversation with someone when she interrupted me, not to mention the empty seats right below us. Confused, I gave her a weird look and told her that no, I could not move because I was sitting with my friend. Her mouth fell open for a second and then, without taking her eyes off of mine, her mouth turned into a wicked smile and she said to her friend, “Just sit here and squish her. She doesn’t matter anyway.”

Now, I knew then and I know now that this girl’s opinion was the only thing that didn’t matter, but I’d be lying if I said her words didn’t hurt. This incident happened FIFTEEN years ago and I still remember it clearly — not just what she said, but how it made me feel. I felt like garbage. Dirty, stinky garbage. I couldn’t understand how someone could possibly be SO cold and awful. It was straight out of Mean Girls (despite the fact that the movie hadn’t even come out yet). I came from a close-knit class of 22 kids who were all friends with each other, and the fact that someone could say something like this, not just to me but to anyone, blew my mind.

It doesn’t help that this person is friends with my brother-in-law and his wife. That means that any time there is a kid’s party on that side of the family, guess who’s there? Her, her husband, and their little minions. I’d love to say that I’m a mature adult and that the past is in the past, but that would be a bold-faced lie. I ignore her entire family and pretend they don’t exist because the 14-year-old in my head reminds me that she doesn’t matter anyway.

My Fitness Pal vs. My Fitness Parent

As I mentioned a few months ago, I quit Weight Watchers and switched over to using My Fitness Pal. I had every intention of using it just like WW, tracking every single morsel that passed my lips, and I figured I would see the same results I had seen with WW in the beginning.

Then the holidays happened and I couldn’t bring myself to keep track of just how many cookies, M&Ms, Ferrero Rocher balls, and God only knows what else I was emotionally binge eating.

I think I am finally back on track now. I’ve been waking up at 6:45 every weekday morning (except for two) during the week to use the elliptical before work. This is HUGE for me as I love to sleep and need, like, 11 hours every night to not be ragey. I’ve been trying to incorporate more fruits and veggies into my diet, while slowly phasing out all the cakes and wine — which has been more than a little problematic as my IBS has decided that pears (one of favorites) are no longer acceptable. I learned that lesson the hard way, and no amount of over-the-counter remedies worked to ease the pain. It was so bad one day that my boss had to send me home early from work because he could see what poor shape I was in. So, lesson learned. No more pears.

It’s been hard, you guys, and I haven’t been perfect, but I made a decision a few days ago (after some questioning from a friend) to make my food and exercise diary public on MFP. There’s something about having to own up to other people (even if it is just my measly 6 friends) about my food choices that makes me re-think if I really want to eat those four mini-Snickers bars before dinner.

The problem is that I think MFP is being a little over-generous in the amount of calories it thinks I am burning when I work out — being more of a pal than a parent, if you will. It tells me that for every 45 minutes I spend on the elliptical, I am burning 441 calories. I’ve just been accepting that as fact and only thought to question it recently when I wasn’t seeing the numbers on the scale go down quite as much as I’d like. I checked the elliptical itself and it tells me that 45 minutes is only 359 calories. That’s a big difference! That’s, like, an entire snack right there. I appreciate MFP’s generosity and encouragement, but I need the tough love right now to make this happen. I don’t need to be coddled, I need to be told that I can do more even though it feels like my legs are on fire.

I like being able to track my workouts and hold myself accountable, so I’ve had to start logging them at the end of the day, when I’m all done eating. That way I don’t think I have any extra calories lying around waiting to be consumed. I’m also back to my old WW way of tracking: enter everything in the morning so that I know exactly what the plan is for the day. This lets me know up front what I’m working with, and I’m less likely to reach for a snack if I know that it will definitely make me go over.

I weighed in this afternoon —  two days before official weekly weigh in day — and I’m down 1.2 pounds.

Book #2 of 2014: The Book of Tomorrow

I read this book in two sittings. I pretty much could not put it down, and thanks to my new old lady reading glasses, I didn’t even get a headache or eye strain. Win-win.

I read my first Cecelia Ahern book, P.S. I Love You, when I was working for the internet marketing company. It was sitting on the bookshelf in my little cube and I picked it up one day when I was alone in the office. I read the whole thing that day instead of doing website updates and submitting copy to B&N. I fell in love with her writing immediately, and it didn’t hurt that she’s Irish. I’ve since read Love, Rosie (although this one was difficult to get through because of all the intentional spelling mistakes), Thanks for the Memories, and If You Could See Me Now (Fabulous book! Go read it now if you haven’t already!).

The Book of Tomorrow and The Time of My Life were Christmas presents from hubby, and the only reason I chose to start reading Tomorrow first was because it was the thinner of the two. Highly scientific strategies at work over here.

Anyway. Tamara Goodwin is a 16-year-old spoiled rich girl whose father has just killed himself. She found him dead in his office, surrounded by pills and an empty whiskey bottle. She and her mother have to leave their life of luxury and move in with weirdo relatives who live in the middle of nowhere. Tamara leaves behind almost all of her material possessions, her friends, and her entire lifestyle. Her Aunt Rosaleen and Uncle Arthur are an odd duo — Rosaleen is absurdly nosy and Arthur communicates mostly in grunts and nods. Tamara’s mom won’t get out of bed, so she’s left to her own devices for entertainment.

She ends up meeting a hot 19-year-old traveling librarian and while investigating his library bus, she comes across a locked leather-bound book with no title or author. The cute librarian tells her to take it, and when she finally pries it open she discovers a diary entry written by her with tomorrow’s date. Turns out, every morning the entry erases and a new one appears, telling her exactly what is going to happen the following day.

I thought this was a phenomenal premise. Imagine knowing in advance exactly what will happen to you the following day so that you know which mistakes to avoid and what decisions to make. I could tell myself which phone calls to avoid at work and which ones to take! I really thought that the author had something with this idea, but then it didn’t go in the direction I was expecting at all — I figured Tamara would start writing directly to herself, telling her past self how to make life better, what to do to get her mom out of her depression, how to avoid Rosaleen’s snooping. And she did, to a point, but not in detail.

It’s clear from the beginning that Rosaleen and Arthur are hiding something, but I didn’t see the ending coming, which was a nice surprise. I hate when the plot is so transparent that I’m just sitting and waiting for the protagonist to figure it all out. I wish the plot line with the hot librarian had gone a different way, or been developed a little more, but those are minor complaints.

This is a quick, easy, and enjoyable read. Highly recommended. And seriously, go read Cecelia’s other books as well. Please don’t tell me that you already saw the P.S. I Love You movie so you don’t need to read the book. As with virtually every single book adaptation, the movie does not do the story justice.

Book #1 of 2014: Shine Shine Shine

I first heard about Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer on Joshilyn Jackson’s blog. I’ll admit, I didn’t think much of it, but I filed it away in my brain under “Look for This Book at the Library” and then promptly forgot about it. A few weeks before Christmas my husband asked me to make a list of things I wanted, so I put a bunch of books on the list, including Shine. He got it for me, along with four others, and I put it in my To Read pile on the bookshelf.

Then one day while I was on the elliptical and desperately scouring the internet for something to keep me distracted for another 20 minutes, I came across Write Meg’s post about books she read in 2013. I knew that it was about robots and space and love, but her brief synopsis intrigued me. I picked up the book on January 1st and finished it in about 10 days.

In my first sitting, I was blind-sided by the main character’s mother being in the hospital on life support battling cancer. I’ve really been trying to be more positive and less mopey, and I considered stopping the book right then and there because I thought  it might send me spiraling backward. I didn’t touch it for a couple of days while I contemplated just putting it back on the bookshelf and forgetting about it, but something told me to give it a chance and keep reading.

Sunny and Maxon Mann are an odd couple: she is desperately trying to be the perfect housewife and mother, and Maxon is a bit like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. He’s off in space trying to colonize the moon with robots, while she’s at home, hugely pregnant and caring for their autistic son, Bubber.

It took me a long time to get into this book. In fact, I don’t think I really connected with it until the very end. I couldn’t relate to the characters, I didn’t understand a lot of the math/science-y talk, and the preoccupation with Sunny’s baldness annoyed me. Mostly, I finished reading it simply because it takes a LOT for me to not finish a book. The only one I can remember that I’ve actually given up on and stopped reading was On the Road.

All that being said, I am SO SO glad that I stuck with Shine until the end. I feel like it’s one of those stories that doesn’t come together until it’s over and then you realize how much you loved it. It’s weird and different, but it’s also sweet and unique.

As I was reading the parts with Sunny’s mom, I couldn’t help but feel they hit a little too close to home. I teared up at several parts because I could relate so much, and I even thought to myself that it must have been written based on the author’s experiences, because I don’t think anyone could write so accurately about end of life issues unless they’ve been there. I finished the book in the middle of the night and read the article at the end about the author’s mother — I was right. Reading what she wrote about her mom and her feelings of guilt made me cry and I had trouble sleeping that night. I just wanted to give her a big hug and tell her, “ME TOO! I felt the same way!”

I realize this review has been kind of all over the place, but that’s how this book made me feel. Highly recommended!

I’m a Woman AND I Can Shovel Snow!

Who woulda thought, right?

We got a dumping of snow the other day — about 12 inches — and I still had to go into work because obviously my job is super important and it is necessary that I physically be in the office even though I could have worked safely from the comfort of home in my jammies (it’s nice I’m not bitter about it). When I got there, my boss commented that he hoped my husband was the one who shoveled us out. I wrinkled my nose at him and said that we both did it and that I am perfectly capable of shoveling a little snow.

Only last month, during our Secret Santa/Yankee Swap afternoon at the office, one of the gifts that was unwrapped was a power drill and my colleague got very upset and announced that she thought we were supposed to buy unisex gifts only. Someone replied that girls can use power tools, too, and she retorted that she didn’t because she “has a husband for that.” She wasn’t joking or trying to be cute, you guys. She was completely serious and offended that someone chose to include an item that was so obviously unusable by women. It was at that moment that I made it my life’s mission to win that drill simply to prove a point.

I was raised by parents who did not believe in gender stereotypes. My mother would frequently rant about the issues of “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys” and how there was no such thing. If a little girl wanted to play with a truck, then that truck was a girls’ toy. If a little boy played with a doll, then it was a boys’ toy. I still get a little worked up whenever I visit the Toys ‘R’ Us website and see the categories broken into Girls and Boys. I was an only child and I was given a variety of not only toys, but chores as well. I did the dishes. I helped saw the stump off the Christmas tree. I dusted. I BBQed when we went camping. I vacuumed. I emptied the garbage.

My husband and I have an equal partnership: all of the work is shared 50/50 regardless of whether the task is traditionally performed by a man or a woman. Hubby does the laundry, so do I (in fact, he is the one who taught me how!). I wash the dishes, so does he. He mows the lawn, I usually injure myself with the weed whacker, but I have been known to get bored with that and ask to mow for a little while. I can’t imagine a marriage where I was expected to do certain things just because of my gender, nor where I expected certain things of my husband just because he is a man. (I realize every marriage is different and this is just what works for us.)

Although I could have gone home with a heated neck massager, or that nifty little Ninja food chopper, I instead chose to steal the power drill from my boss and defend it to the death just to prove that girls can like things that are “meant” for boys.

Victory:

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ETA: I had lunch with my coworker yesterday and The Drill Incident came up. She said she was surprised I wanted it because it had been stated several times that the gifts should be unisex and she really felt like a tool was more for a man. She asked what I thought and I tried to be very respectful. I told her that I didn’t think so, that I have received tools as gifts, and that I think they can be for men or women. I said that I use tools at home all the time. She thought for a moment and then told me, “I guess you’re right. I guess I just see men using them more so I never thought about it that way.” So, way to go Erin for jumping to conclusions and trying to prove a point that didn’t necessarily need proving. Now I kind of feel like an ass. 

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

ImageI read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school just like every single other American student. I didn’t really remember it, except that there were a couple of little kids hell-bent on pestering their weirdo recluse neighbor, Boo Radley. They made it their life’s mission to get him out of the house and into the light of day.

I’ve decided recently to go back and reread all the books I was forced to read for English class, because there is a big difference between having to read a book to pass a test and reading a book for pleasure. Turns out I was slightly off in my memories of Mockingbird‘s plot. While my high school self focused on Boo, my more mature (ha) self discovered the real meat of the story in the racial issues and the court case which I had no memory of whatsoever. Clearly I just memorized what I needed to pass and then promptly forgot all of that information to make room for Spice Girls lyrics and the combinations to my friends’ lockers. 

Tom Robinson is an African American man accused of raping a white woman, and Atticus is his lawyer. He knows he doesn’t stand a chance at winning the case because a jury would never find in favor of a black man over a white person, but he gives it his all and knows that Tom is not guilty. The book is narrated by Scout, who is only nine, but surprisingly she understands a lot more than the adults give her credit for. She knows that it’s wrong to treat people differently because of the color of their skin, and she knows that it’s important to do the right thing even if it’s not popular. 

Rosa and I read Mockingbird every night for the past week or so and have thoroughly enjoyed it. We’re now moving on to Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer. I didn’t have any idea what the book was about, but my favorite author recommended it and someone else described it as “really weird,” so I figured it was right up my alley. I’m halfway through Chapter Two right now and already there are astronauts and a woman with a dying mother (oh, the irony). 

I Survived Christmas and New Year’s Eve!

The past four holiday seasons have been difficult, to say the least. I’ve cried during all of them, and spent the days leading up to each wishing I could just stay in bed and ignore the world. This year? This year was different.

I embraced the fact that it’s OK to not feel OK at this time of year. There’s a lot of pressure out there to make the holidays perfect and happy and sparkly, but it’s actually really hard to make that happen, especially when you’re really missing your loved ones. Instead of forcing myself to make five different batches of cookies, we made two traditional ones and that was it. I allowed myself to feel kind of blah if I needed to, and I also embraced the moments of being really excited about everything.

When I walked into my sister-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve, she immediately placed a glass of her “signature Christmas drink” in my hand and made sure it stayed full all night. (Turns out it was just rum and triple sec with pineapple juice, but it was enough to keep me giggly.). Seeing my nieces and nephew open their presents made me smile and laugh and look forward to one day watching my own children tear open gifts from Santa.

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My dad has started a relationship with a woman he’s known for years, and although I haven’t met her yet and I have a lot of feelings about this development, it makes me calm and happy to see him calm and happy. This has relieved a tremendous amount of stress from my life.

We spent New Year’s Eve with hubby’s parents, and my brother-in-law and his wife. We drank mimosas and played some heart-stopping games of Jenga and then watched the ball drop. My mother-in-law stuffed rice and lentils into our pockets so that we’ll all be wealthy this year, and my father-in-law made a touching speech about family and going after your dreams.

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I’m proud to report that not only did I survive the holidays, I actually enjoyed them for the first time since 2009.

This year, I’m focusing on writing and reading every day. I’m going to start my day earlier so that I can work out in the morning and spend the evenings blogging, working on my book, and reading some of the five new novels I got for Christmas. I’m going to be more patient with others, be more positive, and make healthier decisions for myself. Just because I’m having a bad morning at work doesn’t mean I can eat six cookies and a Kit Kat at lunchtime (true story). I want to travel somewhere we’ve never been before, even if it’s only a day trip or a weekend getaway. Mostly, I want to get back to the person I was before all the loss. I want to find that happy, fun, and carefree girl that I know is lurking somewhere just below all the bitterness and anger.