The New Nature of Friendship

all_friends-512I’m Friends with 736 people. Most of whom I haven’t seen in something like 25 years. A few I’ve never met. But we’re still friends. How is that possible?

First Friends

Our first friends are chosen for us. We don’t have a say in it. Our siblings are our first friends, or maybe the children of our parents friends. But we didn’t choose them. Your first friends were the kids your parents inadvertently decided on for you. That’s how it works when you are a baby. You can’t make those decisions for yourself. You are too busy learning to walk and talk and clap. Babies love clapping.

The older we get the more say we have in who is or isn’t our friend. We see personality traits we like and attempt to become friends with people who share those traits. When I was six I was friends with girls who enjoyed purple as much as I did. As I grew a little older and more mature, it was stickers. If you had a lot of stickers, I wanted to be your friend. In grade school my best friend was the girl who came before me in alphabetical order. We sat next to one another for five years and her family lived a short walk from mine. A friendship was born.

But how long is a friendship based on last names or love of stickers supposed to last? Your grade school friends either became your Jr. High friends, or you were put into different classes and developed new friendships. When it became clear that my Alphabetically Based Friend and I had little left in common, our friendship just passed into memory. It wasn’t a sad thing. It wasn’t a thing at all. We just outgrew each other. Nobody expected you to stay BFF’s with the kid you sat next to in Ms. Partridge’s Fifth Grade home room, or that girl who wore horse shirts every day.

But there they are in your News Feed. Every day. You get to see the children, dogs, cats, hamburgers, family holidays, work complaints and Halloween costumes of every person you ever met in your entire life who happens to remember your name.

Facebook Friends

It was a simpler time. A time before Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. A time when you met people at school or church or work or your local D&D game or the market and if you liked one another – you became friends. If one of you moved away, sadly the friendship would loosen its grip. Long distance friendships lasted only if both parties were good communicators. And remember, it was only the telephone and letter writing. Like with a pen on paper. If you couldn’t manage to keep up with your letter writing or phone calls, the friendship would die out.

These days I see the daily minutia of 736 people. For example, I know that some of my friends in Austin floated the river today. I know that another friend of mine from high school adopted an adorable kitten named Winston. I know which of my exes have gotten fat and which have gotten remarried. I also happen to know that one friend is “Trying the meatloaf”, while another is “Just over it.” Facebook isn’t really about friendships, it’s about self promotion. It’s a one-way street – MY Street. I’ll talk about what I want, and if you are my friend you are obligated to look at it. But is that really a friendship?I’m not casting stones from my fancy glass castle, so settle down. I am well aware that I am guilty of posting pointless pictures of cats to Facebook. And I don’t even own a cat.

someecards-enemies-real-life-block-youI guess I’m saying that since we (as a society) have decided that we want to know people forever, we need to start being a little more discerning about what we put out there. I mean, I would never bring someone over to my house and make them look at photo after photo after photo of my cat or my child. Or my lunch. So perhaps I shouldn’t be doing it online either. Perhaps less is more.

Friends used to be people you saw often and hung out with, people you shared secrets with. In person. Now a friend is just a click away. You don’t really have to put time or effort into a Facebook Friend. Once you agree, that’s it. You are friends.

Terminus

Until you get deleted. And that is pretty easy also. You can edit actual people from your life with just a click of a button. You don’t have to write a long letter explaining why you can’t be friends anymore. Heck you don’t even have to look the person in the eye or be in the same time zone. All you have to do is click. They might not even notice. It’s that easy. Facebook prolongs the period it takes to get over someone, because you have an open window into their life, whether you want to or not. You see their updates, their pictures and their relationship status. You see how happy they are. Or at least how happy they seem. Either way it isn’t healthy. It’s a mecca for passive aggressive behavior.

We call people we know on Facebook our friends whether or not we know them in any real sense, or even like them. Most of your FB friends are just people you used to know. Sure you know what they ate for dinner last night, but it’s a one-sided deal. True friendship is built upon trust and interaction. Real friendship is deeper than words on a computer screen or photos of desserts. A Friend is someone you socialize with in person, someone you have an emotional investment in and feel a connection with. It seems crazy to expect the same experience from a computer screen.

So for good or bad, Facebook makes it easy to form and maintain friendships. We can post a quick happy birthday on a wall and we don’t have to worry about sending a card. If a friend is bugging you with her political postings or boring stories of his workplace, just log off. Personally I don’t give a rat’s posterior if you are “Having a hurried Friday” or if little Johnny “took forty minutes to tie his shoes”. And I certainly don’t care to know which GoT character a classmate from third grade is.

So how do we continue? What is the solution to the problem of online friends? It’s so easy to just hide or block those that don’t fit into the little online kingdoms we have created for ourselves. But that isn’t really doing anything to improve friendships or our online experiences with other people. We need to start conducting ourselves better online. Don’t post every thought that comes into your head no matter how hilarious you think it is. Use good judgement. Ask yourself if all 736 people you know online need to see the ice cream cone you are eating.

Ignore all of the bullshit. Don’t comment on everything. Use restraint. Don’t friend everyone that asks. Treat people online (or off) with respect. Having lots of friends and dozens of “likes” on a status can feel-good. I get it. But when things get tough, “likes” and comments won’t replace a real shoulder to lean on. Being a real friend takes time. I guess ol’ Will Shakespeare said it best, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

My Other Life

cubiclesMy life feels like it was lived by two different people in two totally different worlds – before Prague, and after. Some of you knew me in my other life. I was small then, not like I am now. I was afraid of the world around me, I was afraid of taking chances, and I was afraid of failure. Funny thing about failure – the more you fear it, the more you fail. But I didn’t know that in my other life. I was trapped.

My other life was lived very quietly. I was docile, housebroken. I had a car. I had a job. I even had a husband. My other life wasn’t designed by me or for me. My other life was a culmination of decisions I made because I felt pressure to conform. I did things I didn’t want to do. I held down jobs that made me miserable. I worked 9-5 jobs in windowless rooms alongside people I had no interest in and nothing in common with. I woke up every morning feeling heavy. I didn’t know it then, but my spirit was dying. My spirit was screaming out for rescue.

I was never interested in the things I was supposed to be interested in – things like earning lot’s of money, having a big house full of fancy things, a husband, a job or kids. I never wanted a car (I didn’t get my licence until I was 20 years old) and I never cared what kind of car other people drove. My interests were books, philosophy, nature, art and adventure. But, these were not acceptable aspirations in my other life. I was made to feel stupid or silly for wanting to explore these things. People told me to “get serious” and find a way to make “real money”. A phrase which still makes me wonder… How much money does it take to become “real money”?

Guaymas, Mexico - I lived here, too

Guaymas, Mexico – I lived here, too

When I moved to The Czech Republic I left my other life behind. I left the attitudes that belittled me behind and I left the lifestyle of excess behind. But a funny thing happened when I did that. The people from my old life became defensive. They called me “flakey” and told me to “grow up”. In my mind it was pretty mature, pretty grown up, to move to a non english speaking country ALONE. I didn’t know a soul in Prague when I got there and I didn’t know any Czech, but I managed. Something I wouldn’t have done in my old life. But after about a year in Prague I realized I wasn’t that person anymore. I wasn’t that person anymore because I had left behind all of the people who told me I was.

Those people who met me in Prague (or in Mexico) met a different person. They met an outgoing girl who wanted to see the world and have fun doing it. I turned into the person I had always known I could be. I was that person who hopped a bus to Mexico in the middle of the night… all by herself. I was that person who was brave in the face of fear. I walked strange streets and met strange people. I went to the movies, took flights and trains and busses, I went out to eat, and I landed jobs. By myself. I realized that not only were the people in my old life wrong about me, they never really took the time to get to know me. I didn’t fit the mold and it threatened them.

Good old Zizkov

Good old Zizkov

I am still facing this, but I am getting better at handeling it. There are plenty of people from my old life who do support me, and who are excited for my journey. Because that is the way I see my life – A journey. My life isn’t about accumulating things or having a career. My life is not about attaining social status – reflected in where I live, what kind of car I drive, or how many rooms my house has. That’s cool for other people, but for me it’s all about the journey. And the journey doesn’t have to end.

I don’t need much, not really. I need a place to rest my head, someone who cares about me in a real way, creativity, passion, and love. My happiness doesn’t depend on what anyone thinks about my life. My values do not need to reflect yours or anyone else’s.

I am pretty sure that the secret to life is knowing that.

My Top 9 Life Ruining Films

stage-door-holy-femalesWhat I mean by “life ruining” films is simple. It is a movie that forever altered the way I view or interact in the “real” world. Whether it is false expectations or high aspirations, the following films have ruined my life.

  1. Say Anything (1989) – A few years after this movie came out, I developed something called “The Lloyd Dobler Effect”. Named after the male lead, The Lloyd Dobler Effect states that after seeing “Say Anything” women’s expectation of a mans behavior rises to unusual levels. Thus resulting in long-lasting, and often times repeated disappointment on the part of the woman. In short – no mere mortal man could ever live up to Lloyd Dobler. Not all men are created equal. The Lloyd Dobler Effect also gives birth to the notion that there are indeed “nice guys” out there. Who look like John Cusack.
  2. Star Wars (1979)princess-leia-1Girls today want to be princesses. They want to wear pink sparkle dresses and tulle skirts and that’s that. You are a Princess! I got news for you dorks – being a princess takes more than just pink clothes and some sequins. It takes balls. Princess Leia ruined my life. I saw Star Wars at a very young age (in the movie theatre!) and I left thinking that I could totally lead the rebel alliance, fall in love with Han Solo and stand up to the Dark Side with no problem. Yeah right. I grew up and realized that when you stand up to the “dark side” in the real world, you get fired. When you experiment with cool new hair styles on Earth your friends make fun of you, or ask you “what happened”. Maybe it’s different on Alderan. Maybe they treat princesses like human beings there and not like mini stepford wives. Anyway. Thanks for teaching me that real princesses are mouthy, ballsy, feminine, hard-working women who lead countries and planets and never, ever wear pink. Even if it does get me in trouble now and then.
  3. Practical Magic (1998)Practical-Magic-practical-magic-12642483-1500-1193 Okay. So I kind of believe in magic, and I might actually believe that I am magic. I’m adopted and that leads to a lot of harmless psychological delusions. This is the least of them. But this movie ruined my life in a couple of ways. First, it totally justified my “bad boy” fixation with the dark and sexy “Jimmy Angelov” character. It also made me want to live in a really cool old house with tons of space over looking the ocean with my cool crazy aunts (who just happen to be witches) living with me and my zany sister. It’s not too much to ask, is it? I could plant herbs and make pancakes for dinner! I could ride my vintage bicycle down to main street and buy some apples at the farmers market. And then I could go crazy from the insane boredom of staying in one place that long with no movie theatre.Next up? The hair. I was obsessed with Sandra Bullock & Nicole Kidman’s hair in this movie. It is long, shiny, lucious, bouncy, and awesome. Hair envy. I soon found out that it wasn’t real. Maybe it was magic. Or extensions. And of course, this movie is one of many films confirming the “midnight margarita” delusion. It looks awesome to wake everyone from their  slumber and begin drinking margaritas at midnight. In movies this leads to fantastic dance parties, laughter, touching confessions and the kind of hangover that is fixed with a smile and some “strong coffee”. Needless to say, this is false.
  4. Grease (1978)Olivia Newton-John in In what way did this movie NOT ruin my life? Ugh.First off, I became a cheerleader in High School and did not end up a hot sexy bitch who puts out my cigarettes with flare in a pair of hot red Candie’s. Next, being the best singer at school doesn’t make you cool. It doesn’t do anything except make female drama dorks jealous, and make the asshole dudes notice your boobs and try to “score” with you. Speaking of asshole dudes, this movie is yet another in a long line of movies that told me guys might act like dicks, but underneath they are really awesome. Assholes like Danny Zuko are nice guys underneath. When their friends aren’t looking. And if you try hard enough, and eventually change everything about yourself, he will like you. And finally, I fully expected my last day of high school to end in a big carnival. It didn’t. There were no big group numbers dedicated to my friends, vowing that we’ll stay together forever. There were no rides. There was no hot guy. All I got was a trip to Disneyland, a buffet and a diploma. Big whoop.
  5. Private Benjamin (1980)Private Benjamin I almost joined the army because of this movie. I’m totally serious. I even went into the ROTC office at school and talked to the nice folks in there about ruining my life forever joining the army. It looked really fun! Obstacle courses all day, bunks at night. Travel to Paris. Meet weird people. Smoke a little. Where do I sign up? I was more than disappointed to learn the stark realities of the US military for anyone, but especially for a woman. And I’ll leave it at that.
  6. Stage Door (1937) – Wait a minute. You mean when I grow up I can not only be an actress, but I can live in a hotel for women in New York City and be friends with Ginger Rodgers and Katherine Hepburn? Okay, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. But I didn’t know that women in the movies and women in real life can be THAT mean. I think I was shocked the first time a girl friend stabbed me in the back and nothing bad happened to her. In the movies the mean girl always gets outed. In real life she gets meaner.
  7. Dirty Dancing (1987)Dirty-Dancing-dirty-dancing-19698995-640-400I’m noticing a theme here… bad boys that just need the right girl to break through. IT DOESN’T EXIST. In real life bad boys are assholes and “nice guys” are actually really nice, interesting men just waiting for women to stop watching “The NOtebook” long enough to notice them. Whew! Anyway, that isn’t really why this movie ruined my life. It made me think The Poconos would be a cool place to visit and that I might actually be able to dance. Ha! Dirty Dancing has also made me hyper-aware of ever carrying a watermelon.
  8. Annie Hall (1977)large_annie_hall_blu-ray_04Woody Allen is responsible for so many of my personal issues, that he could make a great film about it. Annie Hall is quirky, independent, smart, funny, goofy, talented and attractive. She lives in NY and she dresses unlike anyone else. Long before the world even thought about Carrie Bradshaw they were obsessed with Annie Hall. But Annie Hall was a tall girl. A slender girl. Annie Hall lived in NY, not in CA (at least not til the end of the movie). Anyway, this movie gave me a romanticized NY that I still long for, and that I look for each time I visit. I’m not giving up on this one quite yet.
  9. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)audrey-hepburn-17 I have been chasing the perfect cocktail party since I saw this film when I was about 12 years old. I believed that when I was a grown up, I would have glamourous, confusing parties that resulted in people kissing in bathtubs and drinking from shoes. I thought people would dress for parties and have quirky conversations. I think I secretly hoped that Truman Capote would actually come to a party I threw and proclaim me, and my shindig a success.

A Letter to Myself – age 16

Me in my teenage bedroom.

Me in my teenage bedroom.

Dear Me,

It’s me! (You!) I am writing to you from the future. Don’t get freaked out or anything, but the future looks a lot different than the world you are living in. I am writing to share with you (me) some things I have learned on this crazy ride. Maybe things would have turned out different. Or maybe not. We are one stubborn woman. Either way, you are a super cool teenager who grows up to be a strange, talented, smart woman. And yes, we still have Le Mutt, and we still like Bruce Willis. Even if he is a republican.

  1. Computers are your friend. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but computers will become a way of life for the whole world. Stop falling asleep in keyboarding class and know that in about ten years computers will be super cool. 
  2. Learn to speak spanish. This is going to sound crazy to you, but years from now you will be living in Texas, teaching spanish to little kids. You don’t speak spanish. You even lived in Mexico for 5 months! Do yourself a favor and use spanish as one of your electives. Oh, and while we are talking about electives – please, PLEASE when you are in Madrigal’s do NOT let Mr. Kelsey be an asshole. He picks out the ugliest dresses for you to wear on tour, and even tells you ladies that you should “wear more make-up”. Please!  Make sure you boycott, and tell HIM to wear the fucking lipstick.
  3. Stay Brave. You will hear this throughout your whole life: You are one of the bravest women I have ever known. It’s true. You are. At 16 you have already been through a lot, and you are going to go through even more. No sweat though. You blossom into a super badass, super YOU. Sure, you are still scared of a lot, but you don’t let it stop you from living life. Keep it up.
  4. Don’t sweat the bitches. I know you spend quite a bit of time wondering why those snooty, popular girls are so mean to you. I know it confuses you because half of you can’t stand them, (their matching outfits, and shinny cars that Daddy paid for – barf) while the other half just wants to be invited to the party. Well I have news for you – they don’t stay popular forever. In fact, years from now “The Internet” will give you a way to peek into their lives as grown ups. It’s awesome. I don’t want to give anything away here, but you totally win. Just remember, you don’t peak in high school like those bitchy girls. So just tough it out and you’ll end up feeling pretty good about the whole thing.
  5. Love your body. I know you think you are fat, but take it from me: You are the thinnest you will ever be RIGHT NOW. You are super cute and hot. Your tummy looks just fine. But you would do well to ditch the “Mauve on White” lipstick, and do me a favor –  DON’T GET THAT PERM!

I guess that’s all for now. You are doing pretty well at 16, and don’t need a lot of advice. I’d tell you to stay away from the assholes (in the dating department) but you won’t listen. Some lessons need to be lived in order to really learn from them. But don’t worry you end up with a super hot sweetheart who treats you with kindness and compassion. He also makes fart noises whenever someone bends over. You act mad, but inside you are all giggles.

Keep enjoying life kid-o, you deserve it.

-Me

10 Things Happy People Do Differently

l-A-piglet-full-of-happyIt’s that time of year again. Time for people to take stock of where they are in life, and what they want to change about it. The beginning of a new year means the search for a better, improved self. You’ve probably read lists of ways to be happy before, but this one is a little different. I hope. I have met a lot of happy people in my life and travels, and they all share at least one thing in common…

  1. They Don’t Give a Fuck. Happy people know themselves pretty well. Happy people know that caring about what other people think of your new scarf, or your owl tattoo is a waste of time. Does it change your life at all if someone doesn’t like you? Not really. If someone you care for doesn’t like you, well then you need to look inward and see if you’ve been a jerk, but usually it is just that other person projecting some weird shit onto you. Anyone who has ever seen me dance knows that I don’t give a fuck what people think of me. 
  2. They don’t suffer from FOMO. FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out. You know those people, right? The people who say yes to every invitation because they are terrified of missing out on the fun. Women buy unflattering clothes because they are afraid of missing out on trends. Whatever. Happy people know they are not missing anything. I turn down invitations all the time! I figure if I do something that I am really not interested in, then I will be a grump or unhappy while doing it. And that defeats the purpose of being a badass.
  3. They have peace & quiet time. I firmly believe that I am a happy person due (in part) to the fact that I take at least one hour everyday for myself. Alone. With no phone, internet, computer, camera or anything else digital. I sit down and read. A BOOK. That I hold in my hands and turn actual pages. I belive in the ritual and practise of being still. And I believe in taking time away from technology.
  4. They don’t blame other people. Happy people know that whatever they do, is ultimately their own choice. Happy people take responsibility for their own actions, decisions and choices. They know if life isn’t going quite the way they wanted it, that it isn’t _______’s fault. It’s theirs. Nobody makes decisions for you. And you ALWAYS have a choice. The second you stop blaming everyone for your life is the second you will begin being a happier you.
  5. They have hobbies. I just wrote a post about my lovely collection of hobbies. I love hobbies! Hobbies keep you busy and keep your brain firing on all synapses. When you take time to do something just for yourself, you are reminding yourself that you are important, and that it is no one else’s job to keep you happy. It’s your job. Not your partner or your kids, or even your work. It’s up to you. If you can’t figure out what makes you happy, then how will you teach anyone how to treat you?
  6. They don’t care about money or buying a lot of stuff. You’ve heard it before: Money doesn’t buy happiness. I mean, that’s what I’ve heard. I myself have never actually had a lot of money so I don’t really know. But I can tell you that I have been happy as a poor person. I don’t have a television in every room. Hell I don’t own a single television. But I am happy. I don’t have an iphone, microwave, car, ipad, or a lot of clothes, but I don’t care. Mo’ money = mo’ problems. Reevaluate what NEED means and see what happens.
  7. They are active. Happy people tend to be active, and healthy. Look at the folks on the Biggest Loser. When they start out, they are all fat and full of excuses for why they let themselves become fat. By the end of the show they are running a marathon and full of joy. Coincidence? I think not. When your body is active, your brian gets sent happy endorphins! Yay! So stop making lame excuses (“I’m so tired…”, “I don’t have time…”, “I have kids…”) and either get off your couch and change they way you eat, or shut the fuck up about your huge ass.
  8. They laugh. A lot. I take time every day to watch (or read) something funny. On purpose. Think about it. Laughing makes you smile. Happy people smile. Seems like an easy fix.
  9. They say “Please” and “Thank you”. I know this seems like a little thing, but stay with me. When you actively say please and thank you, you are showing kindness and gratitude. You are also showing the people around you how you want to be treated. I say please and thank you to everyone from my boyfriend, to the servers at a restaurant, to the little kids I work with. It makes people smile to hear “Thank you.” And it makes me smile to say it.
  10. Eat bacon. It is a well known fact that bacon makes people happy. The smell, the crunch, the flavor. Bacon! If we all ate bacon (in moderation, of course) we’d all be happier.

Ten Commandments (according to me)

I’m not religious, at least not anymore. Like most kids growing up in the USA I was forced to attend church every Sunday with no explanation aside from “It’s what we do.”  I went to the Presbyterian Church which was also called the “cool” church. (My definition of cool is somewhat different nowadays, but I digress.) We read from the bible, sang songs along side hip dudes in their twenties who, for some reason or other wanted to spend their time showing high school kids the ways of Jesus Christ. We had social gatherings and trips to do fun stuff, but when all was said and done – it was still a church.

There was nothing necessarily wrong with my church, but as I got older I began to understand that church wasn’t any place for a free thinking woman like myself. I stopped going when I was a senior in High School because I thought telling teens that they would “go to hell” if they drank or had sex was not only mean, but a big fat lie. And yes, I was told that. Verbatim. And when I asked for proof in The Good Book I was told “later…”. Right, because it doesn’t say that anywhere in there.

The fact that I am happily not affiliated with any organised religion doesn’t mean I am not a woman of faith or spirituality – I am. If there is a god “up there” I don’t think that he/she cares about churches or tithes. I don’t think that god, or buddha or whatever prophet you belive in cares if you drink caffeine, beer or water. I don’t think that deities take notice of whether or not you have kids or if you smoke weed. I think if there is a big someone watching over all of us they just care about one thing: Are you a douche, or not? The following are the Ten Commandments I live by. Or try to.

  1. Thou shalt not be an asshole. It’s easy. If someone has their signal on in heavy traffic and they are trying to merge, LET THEM. When you go to the cinema turn off your phone – completely – people can still see when you text. Don’t stand in the express line with a full cart of groceries. You get it, right? Don’t be an asshole.
  2. Practice forgiveness – This applies to yourself as well as to those around you. Did you break the first commandment today? Yeah? Well, forgive yourself and try a little harder tomorrow. And if someone has “wronged” you in some way? Let it go man. No good comes from holding a grudge, and it give that person a whole lot of power in your world.
  3. TRY – It seems simple, but somewhere along the way I think we forget to just try. Try new food, new clothes, new hair colors, new languages, new places, new people and new books. Hell the harder something looks the harder you can try. Trying is what helps keep us young and alive.
  4. Thou shalt not judge – How hard is this? Really fucking hard. I try to remember how I feel when people judge me and then try not to make other people feel like that. I think when I feel like judging it is just insecurity coming out and that kind of sucks. So instead of looking at that… um… person with different political beliefs and calling them say… liberal fascists or maybe even communists we should think about it first and wonder why we felt the need to lash out.
  5. Don’t take it personally – This is my favorite of all my commandments. If you can master this you will lead a happier life by at least 1000%. If (and when) someone says something negative to me (or about me) I can shrug it off pretty easily – because it’s not about me, it’s about them. We take things personally when we think we are the center of the universe, when it’s all about us. Life is a whole lot simpler when you take yourself out of the equation. I get news for you: Nothing anyone does is because of YOU. I promise. It’s all projection. So take a load off and relax. Become immune to both insults and compliments and you’ll be a lot happier. I don’t need to hear that I am good at work, or pretty or a good singer. I know it. When someone says I suck? Great, thanks for sharing.
  6. Don’t take the good stuff for granted – Do you have an awesome family, or girlfriend or husband, or garden or job? Then show some appreciation! Do one of the chores you sweetie HATES doing. Take your family to the park or zoo just because. Bring some doughnuts to work. Just be outwardly appreciative and everyone will feel happy.
  7. Thou shalt not assume – We all know what happens when you assume… but really. When you assume you are robbing someone of honesty, and that someone is you. Assumption is the close cousin to judgement, and we all know that thou shalt not judge. It’s hard for me not to assume that every dude in his twenties wearing khakis and drinking a Bud Lite is NOT a douche bag, but I have to try.
  8. Thou SHALL Dance! – At least once a month I have private little dance parties… in my underwear. It helps me to relieve stress and remember what a total badass babe I am. I do it alone and I turn the music up LOUD. It’s nice to act like a dork with full freedom to do so. It also helps with the “not giving a shit what people think about you” parts.
  9. Thou shalt Sing Out… Louise – I mean this both figuratively and literally. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I tell it like it is. If you want my opinion, I’m more than happy to give it to you. But you should know that I am going to tell the truth. I’ll call you out if I see you acting a fool, and I’ll call you awesome if you are acting awesome. I also fully advocate singing at any time.
  10. Thou shalt not be selfish – I’m a school teacher so telling people to share is a daily thing for me. But I work with kids, they need to be told. Adults should fucking know better. If you are acting selfish then please stop it. And you know if you are being selfish. Are you asking to cut in front of a dozen people in line because you only have “a few” things? That’s being selfish. Anytime you put your own needs and well being in front of others then you are being selfish. Is there a time and place for it? Absolutely. But the time and place is usually not when you want something that others are opposed to. Try being flexiblle and see what happens.

Stupid Cupid

Before I even get started I want to go on record as stating that I am not one of those people who “hate” Valentine’s Day. How can you hate a holiday all about love and romance? But, I guess I should also go on record saying that I don’t “love” Valentine’s Day either. I am pretty much ambivalent when it comes to the hearts and flowers holiday, but I wouldn’t say no to a Valentine.

All of my Czech students and friends have always claimed to loathe the holiday because it is “a made up holiday” with “no history”. I also hear that it is a Hallmark holiday and has no real significance. Well, I got news for you Pavel… and Lenka and all three Jana’s – ALL holidays are pretty much “made up”, and Valentines Day does indeed have a history. I’d tell you all about it, but you can use the internet just as easily as I can. Anyway, I don’t see the point in wasting energy hating something as harmless as Valentine’s Day when you could be stuffing your face with candy hearts and chocolates. Not to mention that I don’t see anybody overlooking Christmas or Thanksgiving because they are commercialized and “made up”.

The majority of my Valentine’s Days have been spent working. I always earned a ton of money as a server on Valentine’s Day. You would be surprised how many schmucks will shell out a tiny fortune for one dinner that would cost them half the amount if they just held off til the 15th. And come on, how obvious is a dinner date on Valentine’s Day? You want your special guy or gal to REALLY think you are cool? Then you need to step up your game. And I have a few tips for ya…

  1. Make something – ANYTHING. It can be a card, or a mix tape mixed CD. It can be a cool video that you make, or a stuffed lion. How about you MAKE dinner? Write a silly poem or draw a picture. Make a T-Shirt that says something deep and meaningful like, “I Love You More Than Bacon.”
  2. Steer clear of restaurants – I have worked at a few restaurants and I’ll tell you a secret: They make the prices higher on Valentine’s Day. Don’t do it. Go the day before or the day after and save some cash. Also, if you don’t like fancy food, don’t go to a fancy restaurant. What good is eating Pan-seared black cod with seafood sausage tagine, preserved lemon, couscous and green olives if you have no clue what that is? Don’t try to impress someone by spending money on fancy food. Go get a burger, you’ll both be happier. 
  3. Single? So what! – What a great excuse to have a house party. Invite over a few of your friends (single or couples) and have a Prom. Or a dinner party. Or go Trick or Treating and confuse the shit out of your neighbors. Just have fun! Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about couples gazing into each others eyes over candlelight and chocolate cake, it can be about couples going out and having a good time with their friends – single or not. 
  4. Movie Night – That’s right, stay home and watch movies. How awesome would it be to not have to get dressed up and go out? Order a pizza (with love), grab a bottle (or two) of wine and throw on a few classic romance movies like “Casablanca”, “An Affair to Remember” or “RoboCop”. You’ll have fun snuggling next to your sweetie and it will be just as romantic as going out. Except you don’t have to tip the valet. 

And I guess that’s about it. If anything gets through here, let it be this: Don’t hate on the holiday. There is nothing wrong with showing a little romance, love and affection to somebody. Try and remember how exciting it was to get those cheesy Valentine’s back when you were a kid, and hold on to that feeling. Wouldn’t it be a lot cooler to be happy than angry? It doesn’t have to be the worst day of the year… unless you want it to be. 

Living in America – Part Four: That’s Entertainment

Since landing in California last week, I have managed to see three movies in the theaters. Those of you who know me know that seeing movies is one of the great joys of my life. I have seen Cyrus, Knight and Day, and Despicable Me. All of these movies were worth seeing in totally different ways. “Cyrus” was the quirky, touching, darkly humorous Indi movie. “Knight and Day” was the summer blockbuster, and “Despicable Me” was sweet, funny and totally enjoyable. I left that film wanting a fluffy unicorn and a freeze ray.

There is not much difference between seeing movies here versus Prague. Both have succumb to having an endless barrage of T.V. commercials prior to the previews.Yuck. Both countries sell goodies for you to munch on and both have big multiplexes. The differences are in the details. For example, in Prague you can get a large popcorn in either “Butter” or “Ham and Cheese” flavor. Here, you get to douse your own popcorn in as much “Butter Flavoring” as you like. The sizes are different as well. A large in Prague is HUGE – and it amounts to a medium here. The Czechs also don’t offer a full fast food menu in the theater. I was shocked to see that at the AMC I could get a pizza, nachos, and I am pretty sure wings were an option as well. And in Prague almost every theater has “reserved seating” which most Czechs adhere to strictly. Honestly, I have been in an almost empty theater and have been asked to move.

Then there is the ever entertaining land of T.V. Since I had three days laid up because of my foot, I was granted the opportunity to watch more television than I have in years. I watched 90210 reruns, Wife Swap, Regis and Kelly, The View, about six Lifetime Movies and countless other crappy shows. I learned that I still like 90210, I want to kill Elisabeth Hasselbeck and I hate commercials. Nothing ventured, nothing gained indeed.

I also took a trip to The Getty Center in L.A. with my mom, Jenn and three of her girls. It was an amazing space and the gardens were beautiful. Unlike Prague, L.A. actually has some good museums with actual art in them that is worth seeing. Prague’s pitiful National Museum must be the laughing stock of all other museums everywhere. This is a museum that holds an entire floor of taxidermy and genuine REPLICAS of ancient artifacts. I get more joy looking at the artwork my preschoolers make. At least that is authentic.

By far, the most entertaining thing I have done here was have an impromptu dinner with my friend Rebecca, her husband and her mom and mom’s hubby. We chatted about books, politics, wine, food, Europe, travel and female circumcision. Don’t even ask about that last one. Seriously, it resulted in my very pregnant friend (pregnant with twins, by the way – third trimester – a boy and a girl. I secretly hope she names them Brenda and Brandon.) Jumping up from the table and screaming that she was leaving. She might have yelled more, but I was laughing too much to notice. I honestly haven’t had that much fun since I have gotten here.