Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Top Ten Ways I Will Have Culture Shock In Tennessee Over Thanksgiving

I wrote this a couple years and it still rings true. Happy Thanksgiving, Internets! (with an s, because lots of things in the south have an additional "s". Like "The Walmarts.")

Top Ten Ways I Will Have Culture Shock In Tennessee Over Thanksgiving

10. Dinner does not cost as much as a car payment
9. People at cash registers are actually nice to me
8. People have houses. With yards.  And driveways.
7. Everyone roots for the same sports teams
6. Everyone has the same accent
 5. My social plans will not be altered by protests, motorcades, or security threats
4. There are parking lots. With multiple spaces. For free. And I can park my car in any of them. At any time of the day.
3. People will not honk at me if I hesitate at a green light (ha! Like I ever do that, but still…)
2. I will at no point during the week be wearing a suit or ID badge
1. Big. Trucks.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Downward Spiral into Oblivion

About a year ago, me, my friend Gina, and The Other Goldfish Poodle were all sitting around in a quaint little restaurant in West Virginia, when the topic of conversation shifted to - turning 30.

What proceeded out of my and Rod's mouths was nothing short of frantic vitriol being spat into Gina's face about how she should just stay in her 20's if at all possible because once you cross that threshold (and here's where one of my favorite Rod quotes is uttered) you enter a "downward spiral into oblivion."

Here's the thing. Rod and I LOVED our 20's. Being Goldfish Poodles, everything was so shiny and new and exciting. And everything felt like an accomplishment. Mom, I got a job! Mom, I have my own apartment! Mom, I decided not to eat the inside part of Oreo cookies for breakfast each day even though I totally can. 

I started worrying that nothing I did would ever be seen as an accomplishment again, because I assumed that once you are in your 30's, people just expected everything. Of course you should have degrees. Of course you should've been promoted by now. Of course you should be able to keep a house plant alive....

Rod had similar fears. He felt like his major accomplishments all revolved directly around age. He won honors and held leadership positions for things that you age out of. He was always the youngest to do this or that, so he too feared that his best days were left in his 20's. Our best days were still somewhere using plastic crates as furniture and wearing Forever 21 outfits to the office. (Ok maybe that was just me. ...and maybe I still occasionally shop at Forever 21...but you get the point.)

And before you start judging us: yes, he and I both knew we were being uber dramatic and First World Problem-y.  But it was fun to commiserate and there really was some tiny level of apprehension around our 30s. (Tiny level of apprehension meaning - I literally woke up panicking in the middle of the night more than once during my 29th year. I should switch to decaf and get a life, I know, I know.)

Oh! oh! And the other thing! For females, I feel like this whole getting older thing is even more pressure-filled because we have those baby-producing expiration dates and all that. And we are bombarded with stories of men who only want "younger models" etc. I just felt like my "value" for marriage was decreasing like a car. A really fun sporty car that splashed through mud, but still. And yes, I know I could've just settled down with someone in order to check off the whole Marriage box if I really wanted to, but I physically can't stay with someone just to check a box. I actually really need to love the dude. UGH. ANNOYING.

Anyway, Gina is laughing in our faces by this point while Rod and I are nearly making stoic suicide pacts over our chicken salad. At some point, Gina suggests that maybe Rod and I are climbing ladders of "success" based on wrong assumptions. That maybe we haven't reached the top of the ladders of our potentials, like we feared, but that we actually just need to find a new wall to lean the ladder on.

Ok, I explained that really poorly so if anyone reading this has a psychology degree, maybe you can help elaborate.

Regardless, it helped. Sort of. Rod and I pondered the possibility of New Walls and in the end, he ended up making a very personal/potentially career altering announcement in a very public forum, and me?


Well, I'm on my way to joining, anyway.(!!!!) A couple things need to take place first, but I was selected for something in the Navy Reserve.

And yes, I'm absolutely going to yell "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!" every time I put on the uniform. I know that movie was about Marines, but yelling "MY EGO IS WRITING CHECKS MY BODY CAN'T CASH!" is not as rewarding...

So -YES! That is the thing I've been keeping from you (...and also my mother). The thing I went after like a spider monkey. The thing that had me running around the Pentagon frantically.

It's such a long story as to how I arrived at this goal, but I'm just thanking the Lord for the journey because it's been amazing on many different levels. I'm sure I'll have more to share (just imagine the embarrassing possibilities awaiting me in a world filled with physical fitness tests, uniforms, and weaponry...). But you know why I was selected? Because I had years of experience behind me.

AKA -- I likely wouldn't have had the slightest chance at this if I were still a fresh little 22 year old. Take that, Past Dana! With your wrinkle-free face!

So, OK, fine. Maybe there are a lot more things to be done even after your 20's. Maybe there are higher walls that I didn't even realize existed when everything seemed so new and shiny and I still felt cute and naive enough to get away with anything.

I'm now trying to look at 30's more the way Olivia Wilde talked about them in Glamour (yes, I just quoted a Hollywood actress and referenced a fashion magazine. I may be joining the U.S. Military, but I am not turning in my Superficial Girl card, child please.) - "Saturn has now orbited the sun once since you've been alive; make this next go-round whatever you want it to be. Consider your baggage (bad boyfriends, job setbacks, body issues) lost by the airline of life, leaving you empty-handed at your new destination with only one choice: Go shopping."

I think I'll do just that, Olivia. Uniform shopping. (...and maybe some new stilletos...) 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Deflate Escape

I just discovered the What would I say site, which pulls random pieces of text from your Facebook page and combines them into ridiculous sentences like:

I can't resist a snow monkeys to do



; we had fun I shot Dog owner sitting behind this, they towed from a massueuse so I suppose I couldn't find my nephew.


It's almost like playing Mad Libs, or reading the script to a Bad Lip Reading episode.

One of the phrases it pulled up for me was “Deflate Escape.”

Ah, the Deflate Escape. Let me explain.

Like I told you here I met my friend Ryan years ago and we immediately hit it off sense of humor-wise, especially when Ryan started emailing me on a federal account, using my badge photo in the email to make it look like I was saying whatever stupid thing he typed next to it. He used his photo too. Now that I think about it, it might've been the first Facebook Wall pre-Facebook.

From: Ryan
To: Dana
Subject: How non-awesome everyone else is

(that is not actually Ryan, that is some random dude I found online to protect Ryan's innocence, but you get the gist.)

We've stayed friends through the years - through ski trips, softball teams, and multiple parties with his former roomates and his awesome wife.  

I feel like I've never hung out with this group without seeing something completely silly. Fire extinguishers sprayed into hot tubs, holes put into walls from boys fighting while wearing hockey gear. One time, they created a new game where they rode skateboards in the basement while simultaneously jousting each other with swimming pool Fun Noodles.

Wouldn't you stay friends with these people forever, too?

The last party I attended was shortly before my trip to Iraq. It was Ryan's annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, and to add to the ridiculousness of everyone wearing crazy tacky clothing, there was also:

A Bounce House.

Yes. Like the ones made for children. Not grown adults working in professional jobs in the United States' capital.

And since this is the same group of people who like to create their own fun with everything, it wasn't enough to just bounce inside of this thing. No -- they had to see if they could break it.

And thus Deflate Escape was born. As the name implies, the "game" was to throw people into the house then have someone on the outside deflate it, and see how fast all of the people trapped inside could extricate themselves.

Here's where I feel the need to point out once again that many of these people work, by day, in jobs that support our nation's security. Makes ya'll sleep well at night, doesn't it?

Since I was about to go to the country where we had just ended a war, Ryan insisted I needed to participate in Deflate Escape as training. You know, in case I got in some type of situation in Iraq where I'd need to free myself from a rapidly collapsing inflatable building. Seemed legitimate.

What ensued over the next few hours was nothing short of astounding levels of immature mayhem. As soon as the release valve was pulled, people started bouncing off each other, fighting to get to the escape hatch in the ceiling or trying to squish themselves out the front door. From the inside, I just remember giggling a lot and seeing the bottom half of those who successfully reached the hatch before me:

From the outside, I watched people triumphantly emerge however they could:

It looked like a big colorful pillow case with giant hamsters fighting inside. I watched one escape episode where the house was still fairly stable and the boys inside shoved someone so hard he flew into the side, which caused the entire thing to immediately break down all lop-sided. And keep in mind, everyone is still dressed in Tacky Christmas Sweaters:

During the last escape, I'm standing with Ryan's wife on the outside while we hear him inside, yelling something about potentially breaking his back. He starts to attempt an escape out the front door, all while everyone is still jumping inside, which creates the scene where we see Ryan, head first, jostling violently out the front hatch, like some tumultuous birthing process. He's half moaning "I think I'm breaking my neck!" and his wife stands there watching him, shaking her head, and she dead-pans to me:

"This is a new low for us."

I love them.

One day, when we've all fully settled down and spend our days going to PTA meetings, hopefully we'll share these times with our kids to make sure they knew we were awesome.

...Then we'll rent bounce houses for the kids and play in them ourselves the rest of the night.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

That One Time I Tried CrossFit

You all know how much I enjoy a good physical challenge. I've done Warrior Dash, Run Amuck, Tough Mudder, Muddy Buddy, Ragnar Relay, I've ran a full marathon, I go indoor rock climbing, I rowed crew, I've done kickboxing, worked with kettle bells...I've done pole. fitness. classes. people. (never fear, it was nothing scandalous. I just can't help myself - it's really fun to twirl, you guys.)

So it only seemed fitting that I also try one of the latest, hottest fitness crazes: CrossFit.

Aka the sport where "you workout one hour, then spend the next 23 hours talking about it..." (to quote my friend Zak.)
So yeah, that's one of the reasons why I hadn't tried it before. It has the reputation of being "cult-like," and all-consuming. The other reason I wasn't jumping to try it? Injuries.

When I hear "CrossFit," I instantly flash to the graphic images a friend posted on Facebook of his blown Achilles after CrossFit. Then I think of my coworker coming to work in a sling because CrossFit had snapped his shoulder out of socket...

So when my friend Adam suggested I join him for a class, I was hesitant. I decide to try it, then immediately get an email from a friend that starts with: "Ok, I'm not saying 'don't do crossfit'....."
She went on to warn me someone she knew nearly died from something called rhabdomyolysis... ...from a CrossFit injury.
*Face Palm*

I head to class anyway, and learn - it's held inside an MMA gym. So not only am I joining the CrossFit cult, but I have to push past blood-thirsty fighters waiting to jump in their ring before I even get to the workout room.

(the smell alone in the MMA part should've been enough to make me turn right around and go home, but alas, I persevered...)

We get to our room - and it's packed. Heavy metal music blaring, bodies all over the room intermingled with equipment I've never seen before, people yelling encouragement to others pumping some of the biggest weights I've ever seen. There are two pregnant women here. Everyone does seem a little obsessed. Dear goodness. This is a cult.

I'm thinking how thankful I am to be here with a friend and not alone -- then we get split up right off the bat. GAH! THIS IS HOW THEY GET YOU. They are separating me from my herd...

They put me with three other ladies who are also new. Everyone walks over to barbell racks where we are to get up under a barbell, do one rep of shoulder presses, then put the barbell back on the rack. And we keep doing that, increasing the weight, until we "fail," meaning we literally can't push it all the way up and lock our arms anymore.

And we are all scrunched up like sardines since there are so many people. My group gets positioned next to -The Boys. And The Boys are raising barbells with giant weights on the end - and they are struggling. It looked something like this:


Except I never saw someone actually crumple to the ground, but I definitely did see them violently shaking at the top of their extension before throwing the giant barbell down. I started practically running in scared circles trying to make sure I didn't end up underneath them.

But then I discover I'm able to lift more weight than half my group, and I immediately start feeling competitive. I hear myself beg my instructor to allow time for me to try  just one more rep with heavier weights.
Oh my gosh. They don't even have to bite my neck, I'm willingly turning myself into a CrossFit vampire not 10 minutes into class...what is wrong with me?! Do they pump Addiction through the air vents here? No wonder people push themselves so hard they get injured all the time...
We moved onto the "WOD" (Workout of the Day- cult speak, clearly. I bet I'd get a tear-stain tattoo on my cheek if I ever complete one successfully. Or at least some kind of honor patch on the back brace I'd inevitably end up in...). It was called "Fran," and I've gotten about three different explanations for why WODs are named after people, so I'm just going to believe that they are named after people who died attempting them.

During the WOD, my group ends up practically laying on the floor under the barbell contraption. Rings had been suspended and we were to pull ourselves up using the rings. But because the class is so packed, we end up smooshed against some of The Boys again. And one of them started doing some type of pull-up move I've never seen before. It was as if he was doing The Worm in mid air. It looked like this:


And he was doing that right above us. Like, I totally watched him nearly kick my partner in the face while she was doing ring pull-up things.

But ... he was fit. And shirtless. And I finally gave up and just blatantly stared at him, analyzing all the body art he had on his torso. (I'm sorry, if you don't want to be unabashedly gawked at, then don't look that good shirtless. The rule is simple.)
And at that mesmerizing moment, I may have been close to becoming a CrossFit convert....
...but then it was my turn to lay on the floor and attempt to pull myself up on those stupid rings and I snapped out of it.

I started by foolishly asking the instructor about "proper form" for these pull ups - HA! I'm surprised he didn't laugh right in my face, because he knew what was about to happen. By my third rep, I was doing any kind of motion I could to get my body anywhere near "off" the floor.. This is how it's supposed to look:

This is more like how mine started to look:

You know how children who don't want to move will just go limp and you try to pull them up off the floor but their heads just lay there in an awkward angle while you tug at their arms from above? That's pretty much what "form" I had at the end holding on to those rings.

At some point, my contact lens slipped off my eye during the last rep. Even my eyeballs were working in this class. I had to walk back out past the MMA testosterone ring again to get to the ladies room to fix it, and that's when I realized

-I could no longer straighten my arms. I was walking like a T-Rex and I couldn't control it.

...I won't be joining a CrossFit gym anytime soon.

I mean, I'm glad I "get" the culture a little bit now, and I did enjoy it, but I think if I decide to join a fitness cult, I'll look for one who's members are just really devoted to time in the steam room, or the juice bar. A Spa cult, really. Until I find one of those, I'll stick to my running.

(just teasing, CrossFitters! Please don't kill me. Because I know you can with your bare hands...)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pearls and Muscle Cars

I spent the first 13 years of my life growing up literally in the middle of an orchard in eastern Washington State. I was around nature worshippers, migrant workers, and Germans who wore lederhosen in the Bavarian sister city Leavenworth, a couple miles from my house. 

My family moved to eastern Tennessee when I started high school and they remain there to this day. There, I was around guys similar to the Duck Dynasty boys or something out of Varsity Blues. Whereas some of the girls went on to be college cheerleaders, models and debutantes. I'd say overall, we were more red-neck than Southern Belle, but there was a bit of both.

And now I've lived in DC for the last 10+ years, where the currency is power and connections, and everyone drives a Mercedes, Audi, or BMW and likely has a career in government/politics. 

I'm a hybrid of all three places now. 

Being in DC, particularly in the Republican circles, means I'm often around what my friend R and I refer to as: Pearls.

A Pearl: A girl with perfectly coifed hair, preppy clothes, and a constant string of pearls. You can't walk around Capitol Hill or the White House without running into a quintessential Pearl. They know which fork to use at dinner, and they would never do something like Tough Mudder for fun.

Nothing's wrong with being a Pearl, some are very nice, and occasionally I play the part of a Pearl myself. And you can look and act like a Pearl, but still have...edges. It's the real Pearls that don't appear to have edges, that I have a feeling might be secretly horrified by many things about me, such as the fact that:

-I like dirt
-I sang in a rock and roll cover band
-I shoot guns
-I like Muscle Cars

I also really enjoy irreverent humor, sarcasm, and I flaunt my embarrassing moments like some people flaunt Ivy League degrees (because, come on, wouldn't you rather hear about someone splitting their pants open than hear about someone's Ph.D from Yale?...)

And I also find it fun to display the Washington Hippie or Tennessee Redneck sides of myself in doses, along with the more-formal Pearl side. Which can backfire or be hilarious -like the time I showed up to a fancy Department of Homeland Security event and had my car valeted in front of the nice hotel where it was being held. My car? A Mustang. As I was standing around with former political officials, one of them spotted the car off to the side and blurts out in disbelief "who brought the muscle car?!?"

When I proudly informed him it was mine, we both giggled for awhile.

Life doesn't have to be so serious, you guys.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I attended a recruitment event for The Junior League. And it was in Georgetown, (AKA the preppiest part of D.C.) which made me feel like I probably needed to channel my inner-Pearl. 

I brought reinforcements.

My friend Cherilyn is also from the south and also assumed we should lean debutant-esque for the day. And as she gets in my car, she's on the phone with another friend and laughingly explains that, she's now "sitting in a Mustang...in pearls." and we both giggle picturing ourselves pulling up to the Junior League in this car.

We arrive at the event, and at one point I glance over and notice not one, but two Louis Vuitton bags down the row I'm standing in:

Ah, Georgetown...

Cherilyn and I start walking around and looking at the building, and we glance out the front window and see the Juicy Couture store across the street. Cherilyn jokes that she bets no one in this room shops at Juicy -

"well, except you..." she clarifies, since I had just exclaimed that I wanted to stop in there for perfume on the way home....

We start giggling and feeling out of place again. 

But things turned around and we met a lot of lovely, nice ladies at the event. We even met one girl we instantly clicked with because -- 

she had edges.

She irreverently informed us of how she accidentally ended up with her husband:

"Well, I first met him in a bar. I thought he was married, he thought I was white...."

She also immediately blurted out that she thought we were going to a strip club when we mentioned "Frozen Hot Chocolate" (as in, the dessert we planned to consume at Serendipity after this event.)

We love her.

We eventually leave and continue our Debutante Day in Georgetown by strolling in a paper store. Yet, instead of fancy, calligraphied note cards that a self-respecting Pearl would send out to thank someone for attending her political fundraising gala, we end up with?

A package of pop rocks and a Star Wars thumb-wrestling kit.

We are sucking at being Pearls right now.

Later, as we were strolling by the pub where JFK proposed to Jackie (The Pearl), I realize I'm outside an iconic Georgetown establishment, wearing appropriate attire, but holding Pop Rocks and a Juicy Couture bag. I feel like this is the perfect diagram of my personal life in D.C.:

One part Pearl; nine parts Hot Mess.

We jump back in my Mustang and head back home to take off our lady dresses and get in sweat pants. I love playing Georgetown for a time, but then I need to go makeup-less and laugh until I snort unattractively at something. 

As we ended our day, we crossed the bridge leading out of Georgetown and came across an accident where two cars had hit each other.

...They were both BMWs.