Category Archives: Extreme Sarcasm

convention main stage

How To Shake Convention Brain

How many of you have ever gone to a convention and taken a picture like this?

PowerPoint slide

And how many of you have come back after the convention and gone, “Yeah, I have no idea what this is about.”

If you raised your hand, then you’ve suffered from convention brain. Convention brain happens when you get sucked up into a vortex of expo hall swag, free t-shirts, stacks of business cards from people you barely remember, and back-to-back-to-back-to-back bad PowerPoint presentations where people speak only in jargon.

“If you want to optimize your content strategy to increase KPIs, you should use these empathy hacks to achieve a customer-centric approach.”

Everyone in the room nods. No one in the room knows what it means.

Going to a convention is like going to Vegas. You lose all sense of chronological time, drink exorbitantly on weekdays, and brush elbows with celebrities who are paid buttloads to show up and talk about things they have no experience with. What does Mark Hamill know about content marketing? It doesn’t matter. Let’s talk to Mark Hamill about Star Wars for an hour.

Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill!

The first step for shaking convention brain is tending to your aching feet. Since you knew there’d be a lot of “networking,” (which in my case was awkwardly stepping into a group of people and joining in on their laughter, even when I didn’t hear the joke), you probably didn’t wear sensible shoes.

Every one of your sessions was a half mile away from your next session, and you had to travel up and down 20 escalators, through a sea of lost marketers, over the legs of smarter convention-goers who decided to skip out on the next session in favor of charging their iPhone at one of the two outlets in the entire convention center, and you had less than 15 minutes to get there. So soak those feet and wear some orthopedic slip-ons for the next few days.

The next step is going through your obligatory expo hall swag bag, tossing most of the garbage you collected, and adding it to your obligatory expo hall swag bag collection.

Since your sessions were punctuated by strolls through said expo hall, you avoided eye contact at all costs, otherwise suffer the stilted pitch of a booth junkie hating himself just a liiiiiiittttle bit for having to give away free mints to convention zombies in order to get leads. But you didn’t get away scott free.

There was that one company who spent at least a million dollars on their booth because it looked like the set of I, Robot and had more than five comfortable couches. You hung out on one of those couches and pretended to be interested in whatever the company was offering. You have a call with them later today. You’ll have your company spend $5,000 on their services because you don’t have the guts to say, “So yeah, I just wanted to hang out on your couch.”

If you’re lucky, you come away from a convention with a few golden nuggets of useful information. A couple of your sessions offered practical, actionable information. You may have even been inspired by an unexpected speaker. Pro tip: Always go see the comedian. If your convention hired a comedian, forgo the session on Five Ways to Unlock Creative Genius by Using Account-Based Demand Generation Content Syndication Customer Decision Journey B2B Advanced Marketing and go see him or her speak.

When you get back from the convention, it’s important that you go through your notes immediately. Otherwise your buzzing brain will leak out any of the good, useful nuggets (and the comedic inspiration), and you’ll be left with a bad PowerPoint presentation where you speak only in jargon to kick up to the bosses. Don’t let the cycle repeat itself. Find a convention mantra and repeat it over and over. Mine is “Why?” Can be applied to every life scenario. You’re welcome, bosses. That was $7,000 of convention dollars well spent.

The last and most important step for shaking convention brain is to remember your humanity. Yes, you got 20 more Twitter followers and added a few more connections on LinkedIn. Yes, you have 35 emails in your inbox from eager marketing vendors hoping you’ll partner with them for services. Yes, you just rubbed elbows with Mark Hamill. (Okay, he was at least 50 rows away, but still.) You are not a superstar. You went to Cleveland for a convention.

When you come back down to Earth, don’t be disappointed by the reality that no one gives a shit about you. No one discovered your God-given content marketing talents and plucked you from obscurity. But if you’re smart, you’ll play your convention cards right and take your tucked away piece of knowledge to heart. Buried in there, underneath all the swag, there was a lesson. Own it, be a little better for it, and then laugh at it. Why? Because you just got rid of convention brain.

The Battle of the Craft Project

craft projectMy son is two weeks into kindergarten and we’ve gotten his first assignment. Naturally, it’s a fun craft project that mom, dad, and child can all enjoy.

So naturally, it was a fucking nightmare.

Backtracking for a second: I love Lucas’ teacher. She rocks. She’s no nonsense. She’s firm but fun and she gets the littles. She’s not forcing homework down our throats but is also encouraging home activities and strong parental involvement. So, yay! Win for us.

She sent home a note with parents last week letting us know that we’d be helping our wee ones with making their book box, a shoebox they’d decorate and show to the class. It’s a place to store their homemade books that they’ll create throughout the year. Cute.

We grabbed a box and literally every paper, pen, marker, crayon, colored pencil, cloth, ribbon, button, piece of lint, balloon, feather, sticker, paint, straw, errant Cheerio, yarn, loom, and kitchen table we could find. We displayed it all on the, you know, kitchen table and turned on some tunes to get our son motivated.

We were like the parental equivalent of the creepy old Six Flags dancing man.

Us: Luuuucas! Check it out! All these fun crafts? Do you believe it? Let’s decorate your book box for school!

Lucas: I’m gonna go play with my fans.

Us: Noooooo! Forget the fans. Look at all this cool stuff! Wanna write your name on the box? You can…you know…write your name on it? And put some stickers….on….it???

Lucas: Ummm…no, I want the fans.

Us, getting frustrated: Lucas! This is for class. Your teacher wants everyone to make a book box. You don’t want yours to be blank. Now let’s try something! Some…stickers? Or how about…you know…this OTHER sticker?

Lucas turns on and off the chandelier light above the kitchen table.

Us: Come on, buddy. This is fun! Right? This is totally fun! Like…crafts! Crafting! It’s…great! Let’s do this!

Lucas picks up a marker, lazily writes “Lucas,” and walks away.

I was so angry with my son in that moment that I wanted to shame him. Shame him for not wanting to participate in something FUN like CRAFTS and instead go play with something he actually enjoys like (for some God forsaken reason) setting up a series of fans to blast air at each other and make curtains move. But then I realized something:

I fucking hate crafts.

My dislike of crafting is severe. Construction paper makes me weep. Glue sticks are just cylindrical booger canes. Glitter might be the work of the devil. And my son just might share my total disregard for scrapbooking, knitting, or chalkboard signs wrapped in burlap sold on Etsy.

God I love that kid.

One Step Closer to 40

Can't complain about this, though. #meday #treatyoself
Can’t complain about this, though. #meday #treatyoself

It was my birthday yesterday. Meeeeeeeeeeeeeh. I realize in the grand scheme of things, I’m still comparatively young. I’m not here to complain about that. (Okay, I’m a little bit here to complain about that.)

What’s hard to stomach is…I’m one step closer to 40.

I thought 30 was a little daunting, but for the most part I welcomed it with open arms. Everyone says, “Your 30s are great! You’ve figured out who you are, you make strides in your career, maybe you start a family. No more drama and upheaval like in your 20s!” (I beg to differ, but okay. I’m following.)

What they really mean is “the year 30 is great!” Every year after 30 is one step closer to 40. Thirty-one and you’re still basically just 30. Thirty-two and shit starts to get real. By the time you reach 35, you realize middle age is just a thinning eyelash away.

But 36…36 takes you over that threshold. I now round up to 40. Okay, granted, I technically was supposed to do that at 35, but suck it, math. I held onto my early 30s as long as I could.

So here we are, 36. Crow’s feet and all. Greying baby’s bangs and all. Slowing metabolism and bad back and general sense of defeat and all. Are you a glimpse into the “I give up” 40s? Should I just go ahead and give up now?

There was that awesome meme that circulated around Facebook a couple weeks back. About how Harrison Ford was still a carpenter at age 30 and Samuel L. Jackson didn’t land his first movie role until he was 40-something (and then he didn’t stop saying “yes” to any movie he was offered after that). I liked it. At 35, it spoke to me. At 36 I’m like….meeeeeeeeeeh. That’s so much WORK.

Because if you want that kind of success in advanced age, you really have to stay the course. You’ve been told “no” over and over and over and over and over. You’ve tried and failed so much, it’s just the expected outcome now. But you finally wear people down. And that’s when it hits you.

That’s what that meme was saying, right? Don’t give up, even when it’s socially acceptable to give up! But I’m so close to 40, the age when no one expects you to do anything else with your life. The age when you’re supposed to start living vicariously through your kids instead. Can’t I just give up now and call it a day?

Every bone in my slowly aging body says yes.

But as I inch my way closer to 40, another small voice, likely to be squashed by this gaping apathy brought on by another birthday, says, “Hey. Hey you. I’m not done yet.”

Sigh. Okay, little voice. I hear you. It’s why I write this blog. It’s why I still say yes to freelance projects even though I don’t technically need the money. It’s why I needle around writing a book I have no idea how to get published.

One step close to 40, eh? Who cares. I’m gonna keep doing my thing until either nothing happens or something happens. I hope it’s something. But if it’s not, at least I gave it a try.

The Tango Lucas: A Bedtime Routine

IMG_6364The Tango Lucas is a complicated dance. It starts at 7:30pm. It starts that early because, if we’re lucky, it’ll be over by 9. That’s a long time to hold a rose between your teeth.

You want to learn this dance? It’s not easy. But let me teach you.

First it goes, “Time for bed, Lucas!”

Then it goes, “Just one more minute, Mama.”

Next it goes, “No, let’s go buddy.”

And then it goes, “Just one more very very one more minute!”

We sashay into the bathroom where we begin the brushing of the teeth. We wrangle over the toothbrush, the toothpaste, how long to brush, keeping the faucet running, turning the faucet off, spitting in the sink, spitting down the front of his shirt. We finally do a hop-skip into Lucas’ room.

In the second section of this dance, the power struggle amps up a notch. While I try to slow things down into a waltz by reading a book, Lucas keeps me on my toes with a hundred and one questions about the fan, the Bandaid on his leg, how come cups don’t breathe underwater, and why can’t he touch Mama’s boobies? It’s like we’re doing two different dances at this point.

Try and keep up because the third section of this tango is where things get really spicy. Just when you think the dance is going to end, Lucas surprises you with requests for water, having to take the randomest 8:15pm dump, or picking his nose and danglinng the booger above your face. I call this part the “backwards tango.”

Finally, the finale. I lay down and pretend I’m dead. Literally don’t move a muscle because if I do, that’s cause for starting the dance all over again. Better not have an itch on your nose. It’ll result in, “Mama, what’re you doing?” Better dare not check your phone to see what time it is. The glow from the screen will roll you back to the intro, and you were just getting excited about the idea of pulling those thorns out of your mouth.

Now here’s the trick to this whole routine. Just when Lucas has finally stopped whirling around and whispering to himself, just when you’ve had about three minutes of quiet, just when you hear what you think are the slow breathing sounds of sleep, just when you get ready to step forward and take a bow, that’s when he gets ya.

“Mama, I’m hot! I need to change.”

What an exciting tango! The audience is riveted. I, on the other hand, have thrown in the towel. Go ahead and put me in the corner. The only reason this dance ends is because I end up passing out before my son does in his bed.

On Being Incredibly Out of Shape

There’s a difference between gaining weight and being out of shape. Once upon a time, a year after I had Lucas, I got down to my college weight. But was I as in shape as I was when I was dancing and working out 15 hours a week in college? In the words of the great Kanye West…

HELLLLL NAAAAAW.

So the point here is that being out of shape is defined by not your weight but your strength, endurance, mobility, and flexibility. All things that have slipped away from me like a trout sliding out of the hands of a sloth.

Once upon a time, I was strong in body and mind. Now I’m incredibly out of shape. I’d consider it a workout if I did the mom stroke, which is essentially hopping on one foot in an above-ground pool while wearing a skirted one-piece and getting only the bottom of my hair wet. The only way I could be in less shape is if I just threw in the towel on walking altogether, getting wheeled around in the half-Segway, half-mall massage chair I was rolled down the hospital hallway in after giving birth to Lucas.

Lucas is also not thrilled about working on his fitness.
Lucas is also not thrilled about working on his fitness.

Recently (last week), I decided it was time to get back in the game. In the words of the immortal Julia Roberts: Big mistake. Big. Huge. I started with taking a real Vinyasa flow class, as opposed to the restorative yoga I’ve been dabbling in, which is basically paying $20 to take a nap. At one point in the class, my body seized up six ways to Sunday and I thought, “Nope. You can’t do this.” I stood there and did nothing, pretending to be enthralled with a spot on my mat. That spot, it turns out, was from a tear that I cried during downward-facing dog.

Two days later, I joined three of my coworkers in a light Crossfit training (oxymoron, I know). There’s nothing like huffing and puffing your way through a jog around the perimeter of a room next to a couple of able-bodied 20-somethings to give you perspective into how truly, absurdly out of shape you are. A couple sets of lunges later and everything inside of me was screaming. In fact, five days later, and my quads were still like “YOU STUPID BITCH” every time I tried to sit down.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take either advanced yoga or gentle yoga. Those in their mid-to-late thirties can relate to my dilemma. At a certain point, you reach a precipice. Your mind remembers being able to do great things with your body. But your body has given up. Alex and I were at the park playing with Lucas on the monkey bars this weekend. I, in my newfound fitness euphoria, attempted to do a pull-up. You can only imagine how that went.

So yeah, I checked into the geriatric-friendly gentle yoga.

The sad thing about being incredibly out of shape is that only once you start trying to get back into shape do you realize how bad things really are. When you haven’t tried, you still believe you can do those things. Nope. Jig is up. You can’t. You won’t get back to able-bodied 20s fit either. Your muscles are thin and ragged and they really hate you right now. But at least you can try.

The Irrefutable Top 10 Songs of the 80’s List

Listen up because this is important. I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating the ultimate collection of 80’s music, curating everything from big hair power ballads to the synthesiziest synth pop you ever did hear. I’ve built the foundation of an entire best friendship on this collection of 80’s music.

Over the years, my BFF Shauna Autenrieth and I have bonded over obscure 80’s finds, communicating almost entirely in song titles. I won’t hear from her for weeks until suddenly this shows up in a text:

IMG_3231

Giggling over Michael Bolton’s “Soul Provider” aside, I’m telling you this because you need to understand how stone-faced solemn I am about my 80’s catalog. I take this shit seriously. And that’s why I’m presenting to you this single, indisputable, definitive, irrefutable top 10 best songs of the 80’s list. These are not necessarily my favorites—they are genre-defining masterpieces.

Are the 80’s a genre of music, you ask? Yes, I argue, and here’s why: There’s a sound that you can pinpoint and go, “Soooooooo 80’s,” whether it’s pop, rock, soul, or R&B. My criteria for determining which songs made the top 10 were whether or not they helped shape that sound. Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” is fantastic, but I don’t hear it and think shoulder pads and bike shorts. Too timeless. Not on the list.

I’m looking for melodrama, overpowering snare drums, schmaltzy lyrics, saxophones, sound effects, yearning, and, oh yes, SYNTHESIZERS.

So without further ado, I present to you: The Irrefutable Top 10 Songs of the 80’s List.

10. In the Air Tonight, Phil Collins

It’s all about the slow burn. Eerie and mysterious, “In the Air Tonight” creeps up on you in grainy black-and-white until, a full three minutes into the song, a resounding breakdown beat has every white person in the room air drumming like Pavlov’s dog. You can’t not do it. You can’t.

9. Sweet Child O’ Mine, Guns ‘N Roses

Sweet, sweet opening riff. So much hair. So many bandanas. So much swaying. Axel Rose and Slash are the definition of quintessential 80’s rock. Whitesnake and Def Leopard and Bon Jovi would not have enjoyed the success they did if it weren’t for this song. Also, all hail the guitar solo, which died out in the 90’s when rock and roll guitarists stopped having to be really fucking ridiculous at playing the guitar to sell records.

8. Maneater, Daryl Hall & John Oates

You can’t have a conversation about the 80’s without talking about Hall & Oates, and “Maneater” checks off all the 80’s boxes. Saxophone? Check. Super Velveeta cheesy lyrics? (“The woman is wild, a she-cat tamed by the purr of a Jaguar…”) Check. Prime for a mean step-dig dance? Check. Bonus points for permed mullets in the music video.

7. Jump (For My Love), The Pointer Sisters

Who here saw the Pointer Sisters perform this number on “Solid Gold”? If you answered yes, you’re allowed to comment on this list. Otherwise fuck off. Yes, this song has made its way into many pop culture references, including a most memorable Hugh Grant dance scene in Love Actually. Still, there is nothing that’s not 80’s about it. Major synthesizer action. Key change for added drama. One-note high octane energy from start to finish. Tell me you don’t want to bust out in a Jane Fonda Jazzercise routine right now.

6. Africa, Toto

“Gonna take some time to do the things we never HAAAAA-AAAAA-AAAAAA! Ooooh….oooh.” Do you know what the hell Toto is saying here? Do you care? I don’t bother looking up this lyric because I know it won’t make grammatical sense either way. This song wins for most ridiculous lyrics in a song ever. “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like a leopress (or is it Olympus? Again…doesn’t matter.) above the Serengeti.” For lyrics alone, this song makes the list. But then you add in some synthesized xylophone and pan flute and well…it’s 80’s magic.

5. Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bonnie Tyler

This one had me tossing and turning because I went back and forth on whether it should be “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or “Holding Out for a Hero.” Both are blonde, shag-cut Bonnie Tyler masterpieces. But ultimately, the clench-fisted drama of “Total Eclipse,” paired with the fact that there’s actual thunder, push it over the top.

4. I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner

foreigner

Are you looking at the longing in this man’s eyes? JUST LOOK AT IT. Look at the hands reaching out. Look at the hair. Feel the ache deep in your gut as Lou Gramm power belts his way through the chorus and tell me you don’t shed a single tear that slowly trickles down your cheek each and every time you hear this song.

3. Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears

Usually, when it comes to 80’s music, the cornier the better. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is the exception that proves the rule. This song is just COOL and Curt Smith is also COOL and Tears for Fears were COOL and I love them and there’s nothing that you can say to change it. Fast forward to 1:15 of this “Psych” episode and watch James Roday’s expression when he realizes it’s Curt Smith playing an acoustic set in this dude’s backyard. That’s how everyone should feel about Tears for Fears, and this song is what made them feel that way.

2. Beat It, Michael Jackson

Black Michael Jackson WAS the 80’s. Show me a child of this decade who didn’t skip her Thriller album trying to do the moonwalk, and I’ll give you a white sparkly glove. There are four or five memorable hits on Thriller alone, but “Beat It” wins for sheer badassery. The music video features a bunch of gangbangers doing what gangs in the 80’s did best: dance battles. You just kind of HAVE to pop your collar to this song. Did you want a red jacket with rhinestone shoulders? You did, and it’s because you watched this music video a few too many times.

1. Oh Sherrie, Steve Perry

Ladies and gentlemen…the best song of the 80’s. Steve Perry, aka “The Voice,” shows us what happens when you mix the purest vocal timbre with the organ button on the keyboard and a gospel choir. You don’t even need them. Just let Steve Perry sing to you on a staircase and you will openly weep. This song wins for so many reasons, not the least of which is you can’t listen to it once. You only stop hitting repeat when your voice has gone hoarse from attempting to karaoke your way through the greatest song by the greatest singer of the greatest decade.

 

I Saved You All From Reading Something You Shouldn’t Have

Lucas_faceLast night I typed up a thousand words on something I was very angry about. It’s been eating me up for weeks, and last night I let it all out. I ranted, blustered, shook, cried, and as my finger hovered over “publish,” a small voice went…”might not wanna do that.”

Called my husband in for backup.

Me: Read this. One a scale of one to bitch went and lost her damn mind…

Alex: Yeah….so….

I didn’t have to finish my question. He hesitated, trying to find the right words but I knew before they came out of his mouth. Nope. This one stays in the vault.

I pride myself on being open and raw and honest on this blog. On not shying away from ugly truths. On exposing those truths and then having us all laugh in the dark together.

Welp…I got a nice chuckle out of it anyway.

Some things just don’t need to be out in the world. I needed to write it. Oh God, I needed to write it. But you all don’t need to hear it. Trust me when I say: a ranty post about how the system is fucked is almost quaintly 90s, and frankly, an outdated point of view. I’ve been listening to a little too much Rent and feeling a little too jaded. Jade is best worn as a bracelet, not as a blog post.

You see, I always feel the need to feed the blog monster. And when something is consuming my mindspace, my instinct is to write about it. And then serve it up to you. But then I realize I’m doing you all a disservice. You’re here to read about meatballs and overbearing mothers and the occasional nostalgic trip down dancer lane. You’re not here to nod and ask, “And how does that make you feel?”

So I’ll spare you. And instead, just so it’s clear I haven’t forgotten why I started this project in the first place, I’ll serve you up a video of my favorite Italian Mama (besides my own mom, LOVE YOU, MA!)

I Need Me Some Creative Viagra

It’s been a little quiet here at The Olive Gal lately. And for no good reason. I told myself when I started this blog more than two years ago that I wouldn’t just crank out blogs to have blogs. I’d write when I had something to write about.

So yeah, about that…

It’s not that there hasn’t been stuff happening in my life. Quite the contrary. Maybe it’s not groundbreaking, earth-shattering stuff, but I can usually find something to reflect on. Oh hey, I got a hang nail! What’s the symbology??

It’s not that there haven’t been juicy socio-political-cultural things to satirize. In fact, on Thursday I got all mad and frothy at a USA Today article that explained how the CDC believes all women of child-bearing age should avoid alcohol. (You have a uterus? Does it work yet? NO DRINKING FOR YOU!)

But man. I just can’t get it up lately.

Help, I'm in a nutshell.
Help, I’m in a nutshell.

I spend my days writing and researching and strategizing and worrying about SEO. I ain’t complaining about that. I spend a good part of my time as a virtual car recluse, confined to the four walls of my crossover while I crumple-faced cry-sing my way through Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity” for the 15th time in a row.

I spend my evenings as the Qasimodo-esque servant to a five-year-old tyrant, who’s practically telling me to “mush” as we piggyback down the hallway to the bathroom (because he refuses to walk there on his own), and whose nightly wake-up calls have gotten me daydreaming about dying just so I can have seven straight hours of rest.

So when I do find myself alone on the couch these days, I heave a sigh and reach for my laptop. Upon seeing the login screen, I decide I don’t have the energy to type in my password and give up. If that’s not a parallel for middle-aged flaccidity, I don’t know what is.

So here we are. Me in desperate need of inspiration, and you going “Why the hell am I still reading this bullshit?”

If there were a pill called Creative Viagra, I’d be loading up on it like a rich, privileged pharma-junkie just treading water between scores. Since there isn’t, I’ll have to settle for that Elvis-lite lyfe: hyper-caffeinating during the day and knocking myself out with ZzzQuil at night.

I’m not sure how to end this blog. How did Larry David end Seinfeld, a show about nothing? Terribly. They went to jail, like a bunch of assholes. Is there a blog jail? Maybe I need to go there. For inspiration.

The end.

Word of the Year: Balance

Every New Year, us humans have an innate tendency to reflect on the 365 days we survived and look ahead to the 365 to come. We can’t help it, it’s a thing we do. (And me especially. This annual tradition falls right into the lap of my navel-gazing wheelhouse.) After reflecting and checking boxes for accomplishments and contemplating tasks left incomplete, we resolve to forge ahead. Some of us wish for change. Some of us want to keep momentum going. Some of us plainly don’t give a shit.

But I do. And as I think ahead to my 36th year, I search for a path that can bring me and my family happiness and prosperity. In some years, I’ve dug my heels in with renewed tenacity, looking to pursue missed goals or creating new ones to reach. Sometimes that’s worked. Other times, it’s been a miserable failure.

This year, I’m trying a different approach.

2015 was a year of transitions: selling the house, getting laid off, moving, getting a new job, buying a new house, starting a new school for Lucas…ticking that off right now, I’m surprised I actually came out of that year alive. Whenever you reach a bend in the road, or in my case, six bends in the road, you’ve got to put on the brakes a little. But, as far as I can tell, it’s a straight shot ahead. Time to accelerate, right?

With every bone of my body, I want to say yes, let’s punch it! But something holds me back this time. I’m ready take things out of second gear (I swear I’m almost done with this car/road metaphor…bear with me), but as I do, I’m mindful of patterns in my past. I go from zero to 60, make some progress, but then run out of gas.

More time with this guy
More time with this guy

So in 2016, I need to find balance. I want to balance my dreams and the dreams of my family. Balance my work life, home life, and hobby life. Balance my health and my pleasure. In order to do that, though, something’s gotta give. Because if I keep trucking along as I have been, I’m going to go all Bilbo Baggins—butter scraped over too much bread—and I’ll come to the end of 2016 either completely wiped or obsessed with a magical ring that I stole from a scrawny goblin underneath a moun…wait a minute, no.

So how do I achieve balance? I divide my time and effort wisely. I can’t keep trying to give 100% of myself to every endeavor. Don’t get it twisted: that doesn’t mean I won’t be working hard. If I want to accomplish something, I’m going to throw my (currently considerable) weight behind it. For example, my annual “Oh God, I ate my body weight in pasta” holiday regret always turns into the cliche “Now I will make myself miserable on a New Year’s diet”—and I almost always pull it off.

But what I can’t continue to do is attempt to both laser focus in on a goal and have multiple goals. I need to reserve energy—both creative and physical—in order to play with my son, write this here blog, do something worthwhile and enjoyable (instead of just the literal definition of Netflix and chill all day ery day), kick ass at work, be a good wife and partner, and maybe do something about managing this 10-year-long crick in my back.

For once, I’m not trying to conquer the world. I’m truly lucky enough to have checked off many of the big goals of my 30s. I can thank 2015 for that. So in 2016, I’m going to focus on learning how to enjoy them and how to find happiness within myself, instead of within getting stuff done. This is the year of peace. This is the year of self-worth. This is the year I’ll find balance.

So what’s your word of the year? Or…let’s not be coy about it…New Year’s resolution?

That One Time I Got Struck By Lightning

This morning in San Jose, the sky was ominous and dark and the rain fell in sheets. As I stared out the window of our 10th floor office, I saw a flash of light in the sky and felt a low rumble of thunder. I was in a glorious happy place, contently sipping my coffee as I churned away at the morning’s work. Another rumble of thunder and I hear:

“Oh my God, we’re going to die.”

Californians. I love you guys. You are so used to undisturbed blue skies that the smallest hint of “weather” sends you into a melodramatic tailspin. Case in point, this NBC Bay Area news story about thunder and lightning. The struggle is real.

But while my officemates were saying their Hail Maries, I was going full Lieutenant Dan. I can’t help it. That’s what I do in a good rainstorm.

lieutenantdan

Which brings me to my story about being struck by lightning.

When I was 13 years old, me and my friend Jackie Henry were hanging out at home doing what all bored kids do in the summertime: absolutely dick. Then, quick as a hummingbird’s hiccup, the weather turned. We went from oppressive heat to serious heat storm, the rain drenching us in oversized, sloppy drops. Since we were already in it, we decided to just run with it, hooting and hollering at the sky while terrible red branches of lightning reached their claws to the ground.

“Is this all you’ve got?!” I screamed at the sky in so much irony.

Because we were teenagers, and teenagers must immediately jump on the phone to brag about whatever it is they are doing, we ran inside to the basement after about five minutes of that nonsense, and I picked up the orange rotary phone. You know, the one with the exposed wire at the end of the chord? I grinned a toothy metal grin full of braces as I dialed my “boyfriend’s” number.

I couldn’t make this shit up, guys.

Just as the call went through, lightning lit up the sky and a zap told me the telephone pole had been struck. I didn’t have time to process that, though, because (as Jackie later recalled for me), a tiny streak of light danced from the receiver to my mouth and knocked me to the ground.

Told yah. Struck by lightning.

Jackie frantically stood over me shouting “Oh my God! Are you dead? Are you dead?” No, I was not dead. Just an idiot.

Later that day, traumatized from my brush with death, I huddled in blankets and shivered as dramatically as possible for my parents to see when they returned home. Boy, would they be upset to learn that their only daughter was almost killed by lightning!

Yeah. They laughed.

Hard.

Like…tears in their eyes.

Like…doubled over.

Like…they had to walk away.

I was horrified. HORRIFIED! How could they laugh at such a serious thing?! I ALMOST DIED, GUYS!

Looking back, I’m proud of them for not peeing their pants on the spot. Because if it were me, there would be no amount of hell to pay. My poor kid would never live it down. I’d be writing about it in this here blog and then bringing it up to his girlfriends the first time we met. I’d make a commemorative video of the moment complete with a “fuck you, Mom” photo taken after said lightning strike. I’d be asking him, a week later, “Hey, remember that time you were struck by lightning?” I’d make a T-shirt that said, “I was struck by lightning and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!”

Okay, I’m done now. I hereby grant you all permission to tell this as a cautionary tale to all of your friends who think they’re badasses in the rain. And to your pussy California friends who really do think they’re going to die from a little bit of thunder when they are perfectly safe inside. Let me tell you something:

You’re fine. I was struck by lightning.