it’s time to buy my own island

this afternoon, on my way to work, i watched as two strangers both pulled over in a busy intersection to stop traffic. if you have ever been to ocean pines, you are aware of the goose population and their cavalier way of travelling the roadways without a care for the large rattling machinery that is hurtling toward them. two geese and their eight fuzzy babies were spread out across four lanes of heavy traffic because only two of the little ones could make it over the median strip. the others were scrambling while momma goose was honking in every direction.

one kind samaritan held off the cars while the other tried to encourage the remaining goslings over the concrete hurdle without touching them. after a few moments where i sat drop-jawed at the existence of human decency, the geese were all ushered across the street safely. then i realized that i should have been videotaping.

in these combative days where i am seeing too much ugliness from people, including some whom i love, it was just really great to witness utter kindness. there have been several instances in which cars have struck one of our winged neighbors and simply kept going. it gave me the warm fuzzies to know that some people don’t suck.  they took time out of their busy day to help some birds who some see as a nuisance.  would i have mustered the courage to put on my brakes and do the same if i had been first on the scene?

and then i noticed that i was the only person out of the twenty or so cars stopped who rolled down their window and gave these people a “good job, guys!” and my happy little bubble was burst, my cynicism restored.  everyone else just sped off to their important lives and were probably more irritated by the delay than emotionally affected by the compassion.  what a thankless act, being kind.

sometimes, i don’t wanna play here anymore.

rest stops and guardrails

i have always been one to find beauty in ordinary places.  in fact, that was the primary impetus for my first cross-country road trip.  i wanted to find accidental allure along back roads and seemingly forgotten tracks.  unfortunately, i was also on a time limit.  ten days is not a lot of time to drive from maryland to colorado and back, especially with the lower speed limits of an unbeaten path.  so route 70 was my main drag in the interest of scheduling.

practicality is a necessary evil that i refused to let cloud my vision, however.  so i vowed to find charm along the roadside, even if it meant pulling u-turns and parking in median strips.

the first day of driving did not disappoint.  due to an accident, my gps steered me down an unusual side street before i even left my comfort zone.  sometimes you have to trust the travelling gods, and detours are just hidden charms.

IMG_7464-2

heading toward my first destination in pennsylvania, i was surrounding by the last days of fall.  a potty break afforded some time to enjoy the foliage at a surprisingly scenic rest stop.

IMG_7473-2 IMG_7480-2IMG_7487-2IMG_7493-2i have driven through sideling hill in western maryland plenty of times, but i have never pulled over and really enjoyed it.  the bonus of autumn leaves made for even more spectacular views.

IMG_7501-2 IMG_7503-2 IMG_7512-2

i was not the only one who had pulled over to enjoy the surroundings.

IMG_7522-2

so the tone of my trip was set: yes, i had goals and specific sites that were pinned along the way, but i shed all fears of the funny looks people would give me as they drove past me on the shoulder, camera in hand.  if i only had a few days to take in the world around me, then any and all stops were going to be precious.

IMG_7521-2

coffee cup wisdom

i apologize if you ran into me today.  it was a shit day.  i had a bad attitude and i took it out on nearly everyone around me, except for the paying customers.  a girl’s still gotta eat. after work, i was hoping that some retail therapy would cure what ailed me, but that, like other things in my life these days, fell short of expectation.  when shopping fails to elevate my mood, i know something stronger is afoot.

as i wandered the aisles of sparkly cheer, i could feel my funk being exacerbated by the impending holiday.  my financial situation means sparse gift-giving to those i love. i’m single again.  i am suddenly one cat short of my usual brood.  all in all, bah humbug does not even begin to cover it.

and then, amidst the salad spinners and the “kiss the cook” aprons, i found this.  or rather, this found me:

IMG_20151206_225701

 

a coffee mug.  a three dollar, mass-produced-in-china piece of clay.  a utilitarian vessel hanging on a wall of hundreds just like it.  and somehow, even though blue isn’t my favorite color, it reached out and smacked me in the face.  it cut through all of the “keep calm”s and the “life is good”s and actually said something that i could hear.

make it happen.

because only i can.  i can bitch about my job, and my bills, and the stagnancy of my soul, but that brief release isn’t going to fix a damn thing. i can drown myself in bad tv and good wine, and the next morning will still begin the same way.  unless i do something about it.

we all need to wallow from time to time, and the length of said wallowing is different for every person and situation.  in the end, only i can decide that it is time for action.  only i can say that tomorrow is not going to be another shit day.

let’s pretend this is a cooking blog

yes, the vicious rumors are true.  i am part of the food porn generation.  i enjoy barraging my social media community with pictures of the tasty things i eat, cook and enjoy.  some people are simply sick of us food-porners, and justifiably so.  over-saturation is common in a world where some will post a picture of the chicken tenders they just microwaved if enough people will click that “like” button. but food porn serves a mighty purpose.

in a universe where millions of recipes are just a google search away, and where healthy eating is constantly being thrust upon us, home chefs are experimenting with age-old flavors and attempting to insert a mindfulness of what we put into our bodies.  i am not going to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon, for that is a rant better saved for another time (spoiler alert:  moderation is key, people.  in everything).  i will, however, be honest in saying that i have played around with various types of flours and sweeteners in order to make baking a less guilty pleasure.  the results have spanned from successful parsnip muffins which wowed even my fellow food snobs, to impenetrable flax seed cookies which i could have used to knock squirrels off of my bird feeders.

let’s get down to the mission at hand:  pizza.  the perfect meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight snack. pizzas can be casual or dressed to the nines.  the topping combinations are only limited to your own creative genius. already, you are drooling just thinking about the heavenly union of melting cheese, tangy tomatoes and airy dough. some prefer a wafer-thin crust that crackles with every bite. some like a crust with some chew that they can fold into a pizza-taco.  i am not going to lie to you, friends:  these things can not be mimicked without the empty calories of pure white flour.

i have yet to attempt a crust with the myriad of gluten-free flour options, and i can only assume that some of them are passable as they have been in my many baking adventures.  but i was looking for easy, and there is not a dough out there that fits that description.  through the powers of facebook sharing, i have found a wholesome substitute that is a cinch to prepare and is delicious in its own right. i have seen so many attempts with pureed cauliflower that i have been discouraged from trying those recipes. behold the powers of the super-grain known as quinoa.

IMG_3772

 

i am not going to bore you with the facts around this flexible little grain.  wikipedia can surely fill you in on its multitude of benefits in a balanced diet.  i will wholeheartedly admit that the reason i gave this recipe a shot is because it involves 4 ingredients, all of which are readily available in my kitchen:

Quinoa Pizza Crust

Makes: One 9-inch pizza crust
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup water, plus more for soaking quinoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
cooking spray

http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com/2015/03/11/how-to-make-quinoa-pizza-crust/

i doubled the recipe because i always plan for leftovers.  i used a mixture of regular and red quinoa, so my crusts turned out more purplish than golden brown.  just a matter of aesthetics.  i also quadrupled the salt (1 teaspoon total in my double batch) because under-seasoning is a crime, and quinoa truly has no flavor on its own outside of a slight nuttiness.

making the batter was a breeze.  soak the quinoa in a large bowl of water overnight.  drain the quinoa and rinse thoroughly.  i recommend a mesh sieve or cheesecloth for this process as the tiny grains will fall right through your colander.  not that i had this problem, i swear.  after rinsing, put the quinoa, water, baking powder and salt into a food processor or blender (goddess bless my ninja), and puree the ever-loving bejeezus out of it until it looks creamy.  it will not form a dough, which is why i called it a batter, duh.

IMG_3785 IMG_3788 IMG_3791

 

line two 9 inch pie pans with parchment after spraying them with cooking spray so the parchment sticks.  i was supposed to then spray the parchment with more cooking spray, but i totally forgot to do this and the crusts did not stick at all.  but you might want to follow this step of the recipe, just in case.  then evenly distribute the batter to the two pans and smooth them out to the edges.

IMG_3795

 

bake the crusts for 15 minutes at 425.  remove the parchment and flip the crusts over into the bare pie pans.  bake another 10 minutes, or until the edges meet your desired level of crispiness.

IMG_3799the toppings are where you get to go crazy.  i made a quick pizza sauce with tomato paste, tons of garlic and herbs from my garden.  one crust i topped simply with fresh mozzarella.  the other i topped with mozzarella, turkey pepperoni and sliced sungold cherry tomatoes from a local farmer’s market.

IMG_3805 IMG_3801

 

return those beauties to the oven for another 10 minutes.

IMG_3808

 

now i was a dummy and baked the pizzas with fresh basil on top.  rookie move:  the basil burns up in a heartbeat.  learn from my mistake and add the fresh basil after the final round of baking.

all in all, i am chalking this recipe up to a major win.  the crusts were crispy on the edges, but chewy on the inside with a mysterious “yeasty” flavor that perfectly mimicked traditional pizza dough.  they were not grainy at all, or dried out like cardboard, as i expected they would be, so that was a pleasant surprise.  no, you are not going to fool your kids, or your suspicious friends, into thinking that you ordered delivery pizza: there is a lack of air pockets that may disappoint most pizza connoisseurs and the density level is higher than some may prefer, but as far as healthy pizza options go, this recipe is bangin’.

IMG_3816

i am going to experiment further with this recipe by adding other seasonings to the batter.  i was thinking about cumin and turmeric for a mexican pizza.  the topping options are limitless.  perhaps some pesto and goat cheese, or alfredo sauce with shrimp and peppers.  i also want to try this batter in smaller forms so that they can be used for individual hors d’ouvres.  i think the crusts would freeze well, so keeping them on hand for quick meals would be a great idea.  i am constantly struggling with the task of cooking for one, so i plan to make a batch to keep in the freezer for when time is limited.

well, kiddies, i hope you like my newest blog section which i am going to title “let’s pretend…”  i am going to take this blog to new levels:  travel, photography, poetry, literature review.  just like these tasty pizza crusts, the sky’s the limit and i’ve never been afraid of heights.

 

 

 

professional procrastination

so here i sit, with a deliciously coveted sunday off of work. there are a handful of things that i want to do, such as writing a blog post that i got the brainspark for two days ago, and going out for a photography session on this almost 50 degree january day.  there is a crucial list of things i need to do including exhausting-sounding gerunds such as cleaning, purging and organizing.  my favorite thing to do on a day of rest is try out a new, elaborate recipe and hope the outcome is a nectarous end to a luxurious day of, well, rest.

with the limitless possibilities tugging at me and the tv remote always at the ready, this is the discourse that just took place in my head.  this is the monologue that occurs more often than i am proud to admit.  this is the true inner-workings of a procrastinator who is seasoned in her craft.

ok, so it’s 2 o’clock now.  the sunset is at 5:14 so i need to be somewhere photogenic by 4:30 at the latest which means i have to leave the house around 4.  if i shoot for around an hour, that still gives me five hours before i have to pick leanne up from work.  writing a blog post usually takes me a couple of hours so if i put the pork chops in the crock pot when i get home from taking pictures, then i can finish writing before dinner is ready.  but i don’t want the food to get cold before we eat so i should probably write first and then work on dinner. i can throw a load of laundry or two in there.  and the floors could really use a vacuum and mop in their lives.  the bedroom should be vacuumed too.  alright so i will leave at 4 to take pictures, be back home by 6, throw in a load of laundry, bust out the vacuum and the swiffer, then sit my ass down in front of the computer for an hour.  but no facebook and no tv.  i could always leave now to take some shots so that i catch more sunshine.  maybe if i change out of my pajamas i would feel more motivated.  hmm.  but this episode of roseanne just started.  and it’s a really funny one where mark punches out the jukebox at the lobo and dan lies for him to cover his ass.  and of course everyone gets caught.  you can’t hide that shit from roseanne.  ok, so after this episode is over i will stop being a lazy piece of shit and go be productive in the world.  or at least what i consider productive.  because taking pretty pictures isn’t going to clean out my closets. god, i really need to get all those bags of donation crap out of the third bedroom so i can take pictures of the drafting desk i want to sell.  i can do that tomorrow before i go to work.  then i can work on turning that into a library and hang all the local artwork i have acquired.  crap, i need to get up with laura to buy that photo from her.  we’ve been talking about that for months.  i need to shoot her a message.  but i can do that later when i’m not wasting daylight.  ok.  i should probably eat something before i leave the house.  i wonder if i can make a toasted ham and cheese sandwich before this show is over.  eh, if not, what’s one more half hour going to change?

seriously people.  and it just goes on.  in the time it takes me to rationalize all my actions, i have pilfered away the time i could have actually been doing all the things that i was thinking about doing.  in the end i usually end up just staying on the couch and wallowing in self-hatred.

the hardest part of being a procrastinator by nature is the lack of understanding from non-procrastinators.  do you think i want to be this way?  do you know how much easier life would be if i had unlimited ambition?  i certainly have the time.  my house could be immaculate and organized.  college would have been much less stressful if i could have written my papers sometime previous to the night before they were due.  i probably could have sold some photographs before christmas.  my blog would be famous if i utilized all the free time i have on my hands properly.

this is me, for better or for worse.  i will always be this girl.  my brain chemistry requires a certain reward system.  i can guiltlessly enjoy bad tv marathons as long as i swear to fold laundry on every commercial break.  i can have one more cigarette as long as i load the dishwasher immediately after i stub out the butt (and yes, i’m still working on re-quitting.  it’s much harder this time. that’s a whole different blog post).  even the small things, like answering emails or calling to make a dentist appointment are put off for days, sometimes weeks. i am sure it seems senseless to you eager beavers out there.  you just don’t get us.  it’s a constant cycle of self-bartering and broken promises.

but there is always tomorrow.  that is the cornerstone of living the procrastination life. tomorrow is the bane of and reason for our existence.  with inexplicable rationale, us procrastinators always believe that tomorrow will be there, waiting for us, and that sounds like downright positivity to me.  i will go to bed tonight disappointed that i watched five episodes of roseanne instead of hitting the beach with my camera.  i will get up in the morning and not harp on my shortcomings.  instead, i will start the conversation all over again.  i will revel in the small victories of each day, even though sometimes they are as excruciatingly small as writing a blog about slacking on my blog-writing.

i don’t make resolutions

for realsies though, do people still go through the motions of these hollow promises every year?  yeah, we know.  you are going to eat healthier and go to the gym more.  you are going to watch less tv.  you are going to shed the negativity and find the bright light in every day. you are going to stop being so lazy and chase your dream of professional writing.  ok, so i say that one every couple of months.  but at least i am smart enough to know i am just fooling myself and that the lure of the couch and streaming episodes of “american horror story” will always prevail.

that being said, i don’t want you to confuse this entry with a resolution.  this is just my bi-annual attempt at self-motivation.  this attack of inspiration’s timing just happens to up the cheesy factor.

if i am going to go anywhere with this blog, i need to actually, like, write in it, and stuff. on a pretty regular basis.  in order to do that, i need to share the banal details of my daily life with you lucky people and hope that you find me somewhat entertaining enough to force my thoughts upon your friends and any other bored strangers.  so without further ado, i present to you…

“still life: new year’s day 2015, 4:37 a.m.”

still life nyd 2015-001

this is a photographic encapsulation of working in the service industry.  this is sitting on the couch after a crazy hectic night of ensuring that all of your customers had an incredible new year’s eve celebration.  this is eating frozen pizza in your sweatpants after serving a seven course meal full of international delicacies that you didn’t even get to taste.  this is your girlfriend being left kissless at midnight.  and this is only one night out of the year.

there are so many things i have missed over the years because of my career choice. i didn’t attend thanksgiving with my family for nearly a decade, and christmas is usually celebrated in january.  weddings rarely take place on a tuesday in the winter, so during my busiest season of the year i have to feel like a jerk for choosing my bank account over witnessing the happiness of my closest friends.  my birthday gifts are usually a lame text message sent in lieu of my presence at the shindig.  concerts, shows, vacations: these are all luxuries afforded those who don’t work weekends.  and it’s a major bummer.

no, this is not a pity party.  i am usually very content with the work that i do.  i know that i’m damn good at it and not enough people get the constant affirmation of that fact in other fields.  and the money, well, the money is amazing and is by far the biggest reason i have never left the job to go sit in an office somewhere.   it also affords me a freedom that a “real” 9 – 5 job would not allow.  but i am all too aware of how much i waste all of my free time.

hence this non-resolution resolution.  prepare yourself to be annoyed by the resurgence of my blog posts.  if i know myself at all, i know this fire may only burn for a few weeks.  if i slack off, feel free to yell at me.  if i am boring the fuck out of you, please speak up. i may or  may not care, but i at least need to know.  if nothing else, i need to reveal the results of my jello shot delivery research that took place over a year ago.  professional procrastinator, at your service.

there’s always room for…

Several years ago, a close group of my college cohorts created a yearly event called “Turducken.” It is a gluttonous weekend shared between longtime friends who gather around a excessively fowl creature of gastronomical delight, pun absolutely intended. If you don’t know what a turducken is, well my friend, I do not envy you. But I also do not have time to teach you things you should already know. There’s this thing called Google. Look it up.

IMG_2006

Meat orgy.

In the passing of Turducken celebrations, there have been ugly sweater contests, haiku writing competitions and redneckery. We have enjoyed snowstorms and mural painting sessions, and monstrous games of Scrabble where we learned that some of our friends don’t know any words that contain more than three letters. Discussions of politics and religion are always encouraged. Prank phone calls are suffered by those who do not attend. And the food. Sweet baby Jesus, the food. That tri-fecta of birds and bacon is lovingly surrounded by potatoes and veggies smothered in cheese, casseroles and pies. And dozens upon dozens of deviled eggs.

It is my turduckenly duty every year to supply two things: deviled eggs and Jello shots. Unlikely bedfellows, for sure, but staples of this hallowed holiday’s traditions. My quantities of production have had to increase each year of the event. If I recall correctly, 2012 required 6 dozen deviled eggs and somewhere around 160 Jello shots. My friends are animals.  And honestly, every event involving my SMC alumni requires that I bring the same two party supplies.  I swear I have other culinary talents, but if it ain’t broke…

Anywho, this is not a story about egg farts or vocabulary. This, shockingly, is a story about booze. I’ll give you a moment to process. I need to finish this growler of Burley Oak’s Sour Trip before it goes bad, and that would be a travesty.

. . .

What follows is the email that I sent to the fellow members of my Turducken clan. Now I warn you, with medium such as email, Facebook or poetry, I do not bother with the constructs of capitalization or punctuation. Sometimes I talk like a 12 year old boy. Please do not judge me:

holy shit, dudes. i just had a momentous idea. or at least i think it is, so screw what you think. you’re doing it anyway.

so i was researching buying jello shot cups in bulk online (there’s a phrase no one in this email thread has ever typed before) and i discovered that there are at least 5 different methods of jello shot delivery. i have read reviews on all of them and we, ourselves, have tried at least 2 or 3, depending on which of the rest of you have been to the freaky tiki in myrtle beach. there are so many pros and cons for each method that i could not decide on which to go with. so here’s where you come in: i am going to turn turducken into a literal testing grounds. i am bringing jello shots in all 5 forms of delivery, the classic and the newfangled. i will make up comment cards for you all to fill out on your experimentation with all forms. not only will this solve the dilemma of which vessels will be further used in all events, but i am going to create a damn hilarious and informative blog on our findings. everyone will receive credit when i get famous. i will never forget the little people.

so, who’s in? or should i say, who is lame enough to protest?

Yes, that’s right kiddies. This mid-thirties woman just found a way to combine her love of academia with her insistence on binge drinking like a 21 year old fresh off the graduation stage.

Sure, there is almost always alcohol consumption when old friends get together. I would love to say that our tastes have matured over the years, but the truth is that we have simply expanded our repertoire. We still love our cheap canned beer, but we also share some of our favorite local craft beers and homebrews. Our wine now comes in a bottle instead of a cardboard box with an udder. We like to pretend that coffee drinks cancel each other out. But, Jello shots: there is an alcoholic concoction that just screams, “I want to pass out under the dining room table and hate myself for three days.”

It’s a sickness. And a life choice.

In the time of this project I will be letting you witness my important research. You know, pictures and graphs and shit. Okay, not graphs. I have an English degree, people. But maybe charts, if I can find an easy program online. It would be hilarious if one of you would create a PowerPoint slideshow. I don’t even really know what that means.  Please feel free to share any experience you have in this area of study. All recipes and advice will be gratefully accepted, although I will probably just do what I want.

PS ~ I have only received one response to my email as of yet. It was one of the Turducken founders telling me that he had a dream last night about eating too many Jello shots. Yeah. I think it’s a sign.

UPDATE:  This might be the most evil Amazon cart I have ever loaded:

jelloshotcups

 

Now to decide flavors…

and this is why i should not have kids

I think I may have screwed up one of my cats for good.

Wait, wait, wait. Let me back up for a moment. I would like to warn you, fair reader, that if you continue to read these silly blog posts, you will likely read a decent amount about my cats.

0414000905a

No, I am not a crazy cat lady. I have two of these obnoxious creatures and that is where I have drawn the line. We all know that acquisition of a third feline is when you start wandering the streets with an empty baby carriage and mumbling to yourself. I am also not a “cat person.” I am an “animal person.” In my lifetime I have also befriended dogs, birds, mice, rats, frogs, lizards, rabbits, fish, and a very unfortunate hamster by the name of “Princess.” Cats just happen to fit my lifestyle. And by lifestyle I mean that I can leave town for a few days if I provide them with an extra bowl of food and they are none the wiser.

The reason that I own cats and not a plethora of other more dependent animals, like I wish I could, eerily mirrors the reason that I am 99% sure that children are not in my future. Don’t be sad. I’m not sad. I really think it is just best for everyone. I rarely make responsible decisions in my own life, so how could I be trusted to properly guide that of someone else? Let‘s put it this way: Sometimes, when my cats are being loud and batting at my face in the morning to communicate that their food bowls are empty, I pull the blanket over my head and pretend they don’t exist. I mean, I know they aren’t going to starve to death.  Plus, I was up late last night and do not feel like standing up yet.

Back to the matter at hand. Now and then I forget that I am my cats’ whole world. Gideon (aka Babyman, Supermodel Kitty, Tiger, Mittens) just turned 16 in February. Raven (aka Fatty Boombatty, Midnight, Asshole) is somewhere around 12ish. Come on, we all know that the second kid’s baby book is never as good as the first‘s. They are both indoor cats and have been ever since I took away their freedom and domesticated them. They have nothing but the environment I have created for them. That can get to be a lot for a girl.

This past week I bought them new food bowls and an automatic water dispenser. As cats get older their bodies start to do mean things to them, as do ours. Their organs don’t function as efficiently. They are thirsty all the time and peeing all the time. My vet calls this “old man’s syndrome.” I call it “I have to remember to fill the water bowl and clean the litter box twice as often.” Hence, the water dispenser was necessary. The food bowls? Well, they were purple.

After setting up the new café for my furry roommates, I go to work. When I return, it doesn’t seem as though they have eaten as much as usual. But the new bowls are smaller, so I figure it is just an illusion. I go to bed. I wake up and go off to work a double. When I come home this time, same deal. But it’s been so hot and humid and I refuse to turn on the air conditioning, so perhaps this is a protest.

As I go about my usual business of post-work decompression, Gideon is being annoying as fuck. He is always pretty needy, even more so now that the “old man’s syndrome” has taken hold, but this is excessive. I go to change the laundry and he is right on my heels. I run to grab something out of my truck and he waits at the door for me as if I will never return. He clambers onto my laptop. I walk to the kitchen for a snack and he practically climbs into the refrigerator. Hold on a second. I think he’s hungry!

Not for one second did it occur to me how monumental of a change I had made by altering the eating and drinking habits that had been developed for over a decade. Those creepy little bowls with the faceless whisker and paw print designs had been a ritual for these cats in this tiny world of theirs, and I just walked in one day and changed shit. No warning. No memo. No democracy.

No lie, I cackled a little at the thought of my power. The psychological implications seemed limitless. And then I immediately felt like a jerk and pulled a rotisserie chicken out of the fridge. I bribed my little beggar to eat out of the new bowls, and it worked. Then I splashed my hand around in the water bowl of the dispenser so he could see that it was his friend and not some alien being that had taken the place of his life source. I got another laugh when he jumped because the jug of water bubbled while he was gulping away. I’m only human. But I think that my training an old cat new tricks shows that I can also use my powers for good. Occasionally, it may just take a day and a half.

What about Raven, you ask? Oh, don’t worry about him. That fat boy will eat out of a paper bag if I let him. He will be just fine.

vacation with a side of ethics

I am easy to please when it comes to vacations. I don’t need a lot of activities and adventures. The last thing I want is an itinerary. All I ask for is a beach and a good book, healthily interspersed with fruity cocktails, good food and lots of napping. I recently returned from my second trip to Jamaica and I gotta tell you, that place does not suck.

All-inclusive resorts are the ultimate in relaxation for lazy vacationers such as myself. Eat whenever you want at one of five different restaurants. Drink whenever you want from a bevy of beach, pool or club bars. Go snorkeling, get a massage, play beach volleyball. Or don’t do anything at all. Sit on your ass and ignore the world. Nobody cares. The only schedule you need to know is when the jerk chicken shack on the beach opens and your nose will figure that out. Take off your watch. You’re on island time now.

This trip doubled as a much needed technology detox for me. Hi, my name is Kim and I am an internet addict. I can easily spend an entire day sitting in front of my laptop, only standing up to go to the kitchen or the bathroom. I am a time-waster extraordinaire and have the butt-shaped indentation on my couch to prove it. If you see me without my cell phone in my hand, it is probably because the battery is dead. No mobile device on the market can keep up with my addiction. I am constantly texting and checking Facebook to see what I could possibly be missing at any given time. It is a serious problem.

International roaming rates are ridiculous and even my level of dependence could not be justified at that price. The resort where I stayed offers 90 minutes of free wi-fi per day. Somehow, I managed to survive. I sat in the lobby for sometimes less than an hour a day just to get my fix and let my mom know that I was alive. It was, dare I say, refreshing. Unplugging from the online world gave me time to socialize with real live people. Gasp! I walked the coastline and took in the beauty surrounding me. I read half a book in a day. I slept better. I felt energized. Damnit, this is the part where I am supposed to learn a lesson and apply it to my daily life, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, a Caribbean vacation does not come without a cost, and I am not simply talking about the credit card bill.

The moment when I stepped off the plane, I was smacked in the face with the fact that, despite the booming tourist industry, Jamaica is a third world country. The roads are poorly paved and planned. The flow of traffic seems like chaos. When I first saw the windowless shacks propped up on cinderblocks that litter the countryside, I assumed that they were abandoned. Well, we all know what happens when we assume. This is how most of the locals live. A majority of these hovels are without power or furniture. They serve as shelter, and shelter alone.

Many of the homes look unfinished with rebar jutting from the roofs and half completed paint jobs. Our tour guide explained that the people of Jamaica do not borrow from banks in order to construct their living spaces. When they have some money saved up, they build until the funds run out. Then they work toward saving more money so they can build some more. Doesn’t sound like a horrible plan, really, until you realize that the majority of the locals, especially the resort workers, make around $50 USD per week. And to think, I get pissy if I don’t walk out of work with over $150 in my pocket after a single night.

The town center is jammed with ramshackle shops advertised with hand-painted signs claiming “cold beer joint” and “hair braids.” Every produce stand vendor and jewelry maker alike vie for my attention. They want my American money and they are willing to show me things I’ve never seen before in order to get it (That is a direct quote). Buying from the locals is a nightmare for me. I want their handcrafted goods. I want to support their local economy. However, between my guilt complex and my severe bartering ineptitude, it is just best that I smile and walk away.

When we get to the resort, my conscience kicks into overdrive. Here I am, about to be waited on constantly by a staff of people who seem more happy to be at work than I am about being on vacation, and all I can think about is how spoiled I am. The people employed there have no other goal than to make me comfortable. Service with a smile is an understatement. They literally break into song while serving what must be thousands of frozen concoctions a day. I, too, work in a resort town, and I promise you that I have never been happy to pick up a blender.

I tipped generously over my four days in paradise, but I didn’t see many other tourists following suit. I would not have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t given twenty bucks a night to Dalton, the bartender who was happy to serve 30 woo-woo’s at a time. He is a better man than I. Of course, that means I got preferential treatment from most of the bartenders: Some things are universal. It made me feel good to know that I was helping out individuals who deserved respect for their hard work and long hours, but it also made me wonder where all the money we vacationers pay to stay there is going. Straight to the top, I guess. The rich get richer… Boy, that sure sounds familiar.

Don’t get me wrong, Jamaica is a diverse place scattered with mansions and ghettos alike. Just like America, there are the affluent and the underprivileged, and I am definitely one of the lucky ones. I have worked hard to be able to own a house and countless other “things” that are considered purely luxury. Perhaps when visitors travel to Ocean City, they consider me one of the unfortunate ones who is forced to meet their every demand for a couple of beer-soaked dollars left on the bar.

I will definitely be returning to Jamaica in the future and I urge everyone who can to do the same. Despite the moral conundrum, I could not have asked for a better breather from my daily life. There is a peace and friendliness there that I have never found on beaches in the states. I could have done without the excess of Speedos and saggy boobs, but I think I have our European neighbors to thank for that.

IMG_3442

if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts

I hate exercising. I loathe it. In fact, I don’t think there is anything that I dislike more in this world, except for maybe rapists and shitty tippers. There is no logic for my hatred, no horrific experience that has scarred my psyche. Well, there was that one time in my college gym when I watched my roommate lose her fingertip in between two plates of the rowing machine, but I digress.

I have never truly been a sporty person. One season each on recreational basketball and softball teams do not an athlete make. Feel free to ask my father about the week when I tried out for volleyball. He will regale you with tales of hellacious bruises, insurmountable fatigue and ceaseless complaining. Still, in high school I loved popping Bryan Adams’ So Far So Good into my walkman and running around my hilly neighborhood. Some of my favorite activities were playing tennis and basketball at the local playground and wandering forest trails and streams. I biked and walked everywhere in college, took aerobic dance classes and participated in my fair share of Frisbee related activities.

Nowadays, no matter how many times I wake up on the couch to a 4 a.m. P90X infomercial, I can not shake my lethargy. I still love a good bike ride, but usually under the guise of a bar crawl. Warm days often inspire me to pop in the earbuds and take a walk around my neighborhood, but I wouldn’t call my pace energetic. If I manage to drag myself away from the Food Network and let Jillian Michaels scream at me for half an hour, I feel amazing and proud.

But, aye, there’s the rub: that infernal “if” known as motivation.

I love the post-workout euphoria. I feel accomplished and strong. I drink more water and have unexpected energy. I am super productive in general chores and household tasks. The cobwebs in my cranium seem to dissipate. That’s right kiddies, you heard it here first: Those damn scientists really know what they’re talking about. Yet even with all of these benefits, the hardest part is talking myself into taking that first step. Oh, if only I could let you in on one of those conversations. They always take longer than the actual task at hand and usually involve a whole lot of but-I-don’t-wanna’s and just as many be-a-fucking-grown-up-and-do-it’s.

I am the Queen of Justification perched high upon her very own Shit-Mountain of Procrastination. I’m always too tired, too busy, have too many other things to do. I ate healthily today, so a workout would simply be redundant. I have to work a double tomorrow and I don’t want to be sore. The carpet is too dirty for crunches. All of my socks are in the wash. Neptune is in the sixth house. You get the picture.

Amidst the chaos of this busy life I allegedly lead, I still manage to spend a disturbing amount of hours on Facebook. I force myself to participate in some unnecessary retail therapy at least once a week. I somehow squeeze at least 2 major Fireball fueled benders into each month, peppered with dozens of trivial forays into the land of “just for one.” If you can find an episode of Law & Order that I haven’t seen, in all of its incarnations, then I owe you a unicorn. Nope, not a free moment to spare.

Three months ago, I made plans to join friends in Jamaica for wedding/ birthday shenanigans at the end of April. I wrapped myself in the determination of a girl whose bikini season would start prematurely this year. I dusted off my kettle bells, cleaned the junk food out of the cabinets and stocked up on green tea pills. A few unseasonably warm afternoons helped to ease my lazy ass off of the sofa.

I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but April is here. I can count the amount of times I have exercised on one weak little hand. Even the threat of being half naked on a beautiful beach surrounded by dreadlocked strangers and fruity frozen drinks could not kick my enthusiasm into gear. So here I sit, a desperate woman wearing a waist-trimmer belt, wondering how sore she will wake up tomorrow after a 20 minute ab workout.

Sometimes I like to let my feminism be my excuse, which does wonders for my moral compass. I mean, who is to say that my body is not perfect the way that it is? Why should I let this patriarchal society’s praise for heroin chic dictate my actions? My beer gut is gorgeous! My cellulite is my own and no one can take that from me! I refuse to compete with an unrealistic ideal of beauty just to satisfy the brainwashed masses! And plus, if I can still manage to get laid, then what’s the big deal?

Oh, who am I trying to fool? I am a lazy piece of shit.

I spend more time researching miracle cures on the internet than I do worrying about my own health and well-being. Just last night, in fact, I wasted several hours reading about these “Ultimate Body Applicator Wraps” that are supposed to magically melt the inches off of any body part within 72 hours. Seriously. Don’t bother checking out the website as it is simultaneously encouraging and disheartening. (Who has the intelligence to create something that produces such amazing before and after photos but doesn’t have the wherewithal to make a cohesive website with functional links?) Needless to say, these wonder wraps are currently in my amazon.com shopping cart and I still haven’t convinced myself to take them out.

Let’s talk about the list of herbal weight loss pills I have taken over the years: green tea, raspberry ketones, green coffee bean, African mango, white kidney bean, hoodia, kelp, cinnamon, raw kombucha, brown seaweed. All of these are actually good for you in one way or another and I am sure they really do help your body become leaner. You know, if you actually exercise while you are taking them.

And then there is all the money I have spent on equipment. I have previously owned a Pilates machine, several stationary bikes and an elliptical. Yoga mats and blocks, kettle bells, hand/wrist and ankle weights, a weighted hula hoop (yes, it does bruise your hips after the first ten minutes), resistance bands, jump ropes, stability balls and upwards of 20 workout DVDs. A few years back, I locked in a promotional $20 a month gym membership rate. After visiting the gym at least three times a week for two months, I just started calling it my “fat tax” and went back to the couch for the next ten months.

Ugh. That’s all I’ve got. I’m incorrigible. Even after publicly confessing this to the twenty of you that are reading, I will still probably weasel my way out of breaking a sweat tomorrow. I have found peace in the fact that this is the body I am taking to Jamaica, and everywhere else. But you know what? When I get there, I am still going to strut my negligent, pasty self out onto the beach in a cute bikini, sexy cabana boys be damned. I abhorrently refuse to return from my one vacation this year with a fucking one-piece tan line.