Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – Every Day In May

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A mile a day in May has been easier than I thought. It’s a mile. It’s a walk at night with the dog. It’s a jog around the block. It’s an intentional stroll through the airport. It’s exploration in a new city.

Last week brought me to Portland for the first time for work. You know when you feel like things unravel in a specific way because there’s a higher purpose in mind? Do you ever get that feeling? I was supposed to go to Portland last December for a work conference, but it didn’t happen. I sometimes wonder what my first impression would have been had that happened. I wouldn’t have been in the same place in life, had the experiences I have to date and hello, December?! Cold!

While I can’t speak for December Portland, May Portland kicked ass!

My parents moved out of Brooklyn to the suburbs of New Jersey before I was born to give us a better life than the one they had. My dad wanted us to have a backyard, to not worry about crime. And all I wanted growing up was to live in Brooklyn. To walk down the street to get fresh bread everyday. To fall asleep to the sounds of the city. Someday, I will do that. But it probably won’t be Brooklyn. Humidity and my hair just do not mix.

I try not to look at Timehop too much. Who needs to be reminded everyday of where you were last year, the year before that and so on. It goes against my whole goal of living in the present, but it sure is fun to look at. Was my hair really that color? What ever happened to that person I used to hang out with or that guy I dated? For some reason, I looked at it today and was remind that last year at this time, I took a day trip with my friend Marie to Montezuma’s Well.

Now, if you live in Phoenix and you’re like the rest of us who try to escape north any chance they get over the summer, you’ve passed the exit. Many of you may have been to Montezuma’s Castle (one exit beforehand) where you can see the ruins of the houses that the Sinagua Native American tribe built high into the side of a cliff.

Now, I’m not a Native American expert, but I did take Spanish in high school and college and I assume that Sinagua means without water? That’s my best guess…and this is a desert so…

The Well is a giant hole in the ground filled with water, surround by cliffs (which also hold the ruins of past dwellings) and the land is considered sacred, though I didn’t know that until I looked it up just now. What I can tell you, is that it is the most chill place I’ve ever been to.

A calm washed over me and I just felt like everything would be alright. My dog, Fosters (we’ll use her real name since her middle name is “poops”) was with us and I have never, in her ten years, seen her calmer than in this spot. I sat on a rock, overlooking the well and contemplating life. Fosters lay at my feet and I’m sure did the same, or maybe she was dreaming about giant bones made of peanut butter, but whatever it was, she chilled out. People walked by to pet her and she didn’t even jump up to great them. She just laid there and took it all in. I remember thinking how odd it was and even took video of her. But I understood how she felt. Like there was reason among all of the chaos. Like the wind flowed around you just to embrace you and tell you everything would be alright. Super hokey, I know! But you had to be there.

I felt a very similar feeling in Portland. Like the air was supporting me, telling me to have courage to do whatever the next thing in life is that I have to do. It made me want to write. It made me want to live in a loft and walk to yoga, to take Fosters to grab organic coffee. Who knows. Maybe someday, I will. It’s good to have dreams.

I walked around the Pearl District and into Powell’s Bookstore . It’s the largest independent bookstore in the country, says my Portland friend, and she should know, right? It felt good to be surrounded by that many books. It reminded me of a library. I don’t know when the last time was that I was in a library. Im sure I’ve been in one since working at the ASU library in college, but I can’t remember when. I also found a cute little change purse that had a girl floating away on a cloud that said “Bitches Get Stuff Done”. I went back the next day and purchased it. Duh.

One of the days I did my mile jogging in my friend’s neighborhood. So many flowers! I wanted to stop and take pictures, but I waited towards the end of my run. I’ve been doing Charity Miles every day during my mile a day. It’s an app that you can download and for every mile you do, money goes to a charity of your choice. Mostly I run for Autism Speaks, but there are a ton of places to pick from. I love the idea that my Mile A Day In May isn’t just for my own benefit.

I am replacing the flooring in my living room and main hallway, which means that I have to clean out the floor of the hall closet, because let’s be honest, it would look super tacky to have the closet a different flooring. I bought this house eleven years ago and today felt like a further catharsis. Photos of people who no longer have a place in my life. Things that no longer have a sentimental tie that must have been important at one time to have been in this closet in the first place.

Bags and bags of things, I tossed. Five garbage bags in all. Things from a past life that no longer bear any resemblance to who I am or what I consider important.

I went to walk my mile tonight with the dog, right around sunset since it’s getting warmer and warmer. We passed a man going through the trash, a very common occurrence in my neighborhood. Mostly they are looking for cans to cash in, but I’m sure there are people looking for food, or clothing. He had several things in a pile that I’d gotten rid of not six hours ago. Things I could have cared less about: an old toaster, posters, old blankets, a salad serving set that someone had given as a wedding gift. A giant twinge of “what are you doing with my things!?” washed over me. I watched him open the box the serving set was in and examine the silver spoon and fork that were intertwined with stones. I’d never used it.

I remembered that things are just that – things. I kept walking, hoping that whatever I’d given up today could maybe give some help, some joy, some peace tonight to someone else. 

Montezuma’s Well. May 9, 2015:

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL: A Mile A Day In May

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If you didn’t wake up this morning with *NSync’s “It’s gonna be me” stuck in your head, which of course, sung just like Justin Timberlake is actually, “it’s gonna be May” then you either are not in your thirties, or you missed that whole boy band thing in the late 90s/early 2000s (and more power to you) better yet, maybe you forgot it’s May?

It’s Gonna Be (May) was the video where they were action figures, breaking out of their boxes in the toy store, supposedly signifying their break away from that fat, creepy old guy that managed them whom I believe is now in jail for money laundering or Ponzi schemes or something. It’s also the video where you realized that JT didn’t need the other four guys.

Regardless, May has lots of sayings (aside from my favorite one above, which inevitably makes me want to listen to better *NSync songs like Bye, Bye, Bye…please hold while I put this down to do the dance…) there’s “April showers bring May flowers” all of which I’m allergic to, or better yet, an idea of #EveryDayInMay where you pick something to do every day during the month.

It’s kinda like make-up lent for those people who failed and ate chocolate two days in, or for those of us who love a challenge! Thankfully, I am one of the latter.

My sister, an amazing artist and illustrator, does her Every Day In May with a drawing each day – this year centering on female literary characters (we’re kind of an interesting family, if you can’t tell). I’m secretly hoping for one of the women from my favorite childhood series, either Strega Nona or Stacey McGill from The Babysitter’s Club. Hint, hint. I know you’re reading this.

I’ve been thinking about what I would like to do and thought again about getting into a habit (a good one). While I love to run (okay some days there is a very thin line between love and hate) it gets harder for me the warmer it gets in Phoenix and the worse my allergies get as those May flowers bloom, making it more difficult to get out every day (and easier to make excuses why you can’t.)

Then I read an article about streaking. No, not Will Farrell in Old School streaking, though that might be fun once, in a safe environment (and by safe environment, I mean one where no one would see me and I could still wear a sports bra because, ow). This streaking has to do with running a mile every day, for a year.

So I thought I’d take it one step at a time (literally!) and make my #everydayinmay a mile a day. While I wont commit to running it every time, it will be a mile nonetheless; an intentional mile completed in one timeframe (not a mile accumulated from walking back and forth to the break room at work throughout the day).

And what better way to kick off my Mile A Day…wait, why can’t I help wanting to rhyme this somehow with Rachel Ray, who PS is NOT the same person as Rachel Roy, so leave her alone, BeyoncĂ© lovers. PS, why don’t you take your rage out on Jay Z, just sayin’…anyway, what better way to kick this off than with a mindful triathlon that took place in Scottsdale today: Wanderlust.

Wanderlust (aside from being a shitty movie that wasted Paul Rudd’s sex appeal, but on the plus side brought Jennifer Aniston a husband) is also a group that brings together yoga, music festivals and touts an all over healthy style of living. Today was their 108 Event (no idea why it’s called 108, and I don’t feel like looking it up) otherwise called The Mindful Triathlon. It is a 5K run, followed by vinyasa yoga, followed by guided mediation. It was like this thing was made for me; all of my favorite things in one day!

Somehow, the yoga gods or Buddha or someone looked upon us this weekend and kept the weather in the high 70s/low 80s so that we did not melt today. And while I have an awful sunburn in a beautiful pattern on my back from my lululemon sports bra (I know, I know, yoga snob alert) it was an amazing experience. I am zen times ten right now (finally got a rhyme in there).

While my Fitbit reads 4.28 miles, I definitely fulfilled day one of my every day in May. Some days might be longer, some days might be walking or running (or even a combo of both), but every day will be at least a mile. In a month where I have plenty of travel, a friend’s wedding and a continuing battle to fight my allergies, this will be an amazing way to keep me on track. No excuses.

Join me in your own every day in May, or feel free to join me in mine! Coincidently, our company is also having a 10,000 step challenge in May, so for those of you who work with me, let’s do this thing!!

Whatever you pick, keep at it, keep your head up and keep that creative spirit going…because in 31 days, it’s gonna be June, and Justin Timberlake has no song for that…yet.

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – Perspective, holy water and a Seinfeld episode

Have you ever felt like you were cursed; like Midas’ nemesis, where everything you touch turns to crap instead of gold?

Have you ever tried drinking a swig of holy water (yes, I have holy water in my house, what Italian Catholic doesn’t?) to try to see if it will cure you from whatever is wrong with you?

The last two weeks have been all about perspective, and I definitely need to work on changing mine. Who wants to be the whiner who is always saying “woe is me” (or “woah, is me” if you’re Joey from Blossom). Nobody wants to hear that, and nobody wakes up and plans to feel that way throughout the day, at least I hope not.

I looked up definition of perspective; it has several definitions. The first is about drawing two dimensional figures and the comparison of height, width and depth. The third definition (which I’m not nerdy enough to comprehend) is about the spacial distribution of perceived sound. Yeah. I just said that.

I’m definitely not an artist (my sister and brother got all of that talent in the gene pool), so let’s forget definition number one. I’m also not a scientist, nor do I walk around saying “Bazinga”, so let’s scratch definition number three (cough…nerds…cough). That leaves us with the second definition – also the actual thing that I’ve struggled with this last two weeks. Perspective: 2. a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. That’s the one.

I like to think of myself as a happy person. I smile a lot, most times because I want to, sometimes because I’m supposed to and even times when I don’t want to; because faking a smile can sometimes help you actually begin to feel better.

I do yoga, I meditate “I am happy, I am healthy, I am safe, I am peaceful and at ease.” I try to be kind when I can and remember to laugh and have fun with everything, because if you can’t laugh at yourself, that’s when you know you’ve really got issues.

April started off harmless enough; yoga, a movie with friends, pizza night with some more friends. I was excited that the start of baseball season fell on a Monday. I work from home on Mondays, and the idea of working and having the Yankees game on in the background made me the happiest girl in the world. Until the game got postponed due to weather. What weather? It’s beautiful here. I’ve been waiting six months for a postponed opening day; how anticlimactic.

But it was really when I sat down to do my taxes that I felt the immense shift in the tectonic plates (or maybe that was just my crappy couch?). I owe money every year. And every year I whine about it a little and tell my mother I’m going to change my withholdings at work and every year I inevitably promptly forget and then curse when the next year comes around. Whatever. It’s life. This year I had Siri set a reminder for me when I got to work the next day and I actually did it. Problem solved.

See, we all have problems, but it’s what we do about them that separates us from the next person. We can whine about it, feel like the victim and say why is it happening to me?, or we can take action. If we take no action, nothing changes. But sometimes, that is easier said than done.

As I finished my taxes, I noticed it was feeling a little hot and sticky in my house. In Phoenix, we can turn the air on as early as February some years. The next two days were supposed to be almost in triple digits. I got up, peeled off a piece of leather that was stuck to the back of my leg (yes, my couch is dying a slow, painful death) and went and stood under the register in the ceiling of my kitchen. The fan was on and the air was coming out, but it wasn’t cold.

I went from room to room, sticking my hand up as close as I could get it to each register, which if you know me, isn’t very close at all because I’m roughly the size of a tall midget. Or tall little person. Whatever the proper term is today. No cold air. I called the people who had installed my air conditioning ten years ago, they could come out in three days. I whined to my friend Marie who promptly gave me a number for a company she knew and boom, just like that, they were coming out the next morning. Action.

I would have to work from home the next day in order to be here for them…wait…that meant that I would get to have opening day on in the background while I worked. Silver lining. Maybe God (who is clearly a Yankees fan) wanted me to be home.

AC guy came and went, along with a new motor and a new air compressor…almost as expensive as sitting in those front section seats the Yankees have that no one ever sits in because no one can afford it and when they show tight shots of the batter, makes it looks like absolutely no one is at the game? Yeah, that.

I know everything comes in threes, but I thought, hey, I already had to buy a new refrigerator this year (which you all know about painstakingly, since you’ve been reading my blog) until the car started shaking on the highway a few days later. And, if you read my blog, you know how that turned out. Getting yelled at by the Nissan guy, flipping out and having to have a rental car for the night.

On the plus side, Nissan guy profusely apologized the next day. A real apology, not one that I had to get out of him or one that someone else had forced him to give. And after the week I’d had, all was good. All was forgiven (and I got a nice discount on my repairs). Nary a nasty letter that I’d already crafted the night before was sent.

That’s why you take a beat. That’s why you take a breath. Give yourself time to calm down, give the other person time to calm down. Look at things from another perspective. Try to come from a place of understanding.

My mom always says to be kind to everyone you meet. How do you know that person is not Jesus? She used to always ask me that when I would criticize or make fun of someone. How do you know they’re not Jesus?

A few years ago, I was visiting my friend in Seattle. A homeless person kept coming up to us, asking for money for soup. I had told my friends the “what if they’re Jesus” thing earlier that day in the hotel elevator (I think, because we were making fun of someone). My friend handed them money and whispered to me as we walked away, “What if it’s Jesus?”. We saw that same homeless person at least three times that weekend, in all different parts of the city. Each time, my friend handed them a few dollars and whispered to me “what if it’s Jesus?”.

I like to go to church when I’m on vacation, if I’m in a cool city that has a cathedral. Seattle has a beautiful one, St. James (which is also the same name of the church that I grew up in). He is the patron saint of pilgrims and laborers (I had to look that up). Fun fact, he was beheaded. Anyway, we go to mass that Sunday and it’s so amazingly beautiful inside that I can’t help but take pictures with my phone (before mass started of course); the ceiling, the stained glass windows, it’s all breathtaking.

I see the usher coming over to us and I think, Goddammit! And then I think, wait, I can’t say that in a church! And then I look at our clothes and think, maybe since it’s a Cathedral we’re supposed to cover our shoulders? Is this dress showing too much cleavage? Is he going to confiscate my phone?!

“Hello” he says kindly. “You look like visitors, where are you from?” After we tell him, he asks if we want to take up the gifts. Amazed and honored, we both nod. Now, if you’re not Catholic, taking up the gifts means that after they collect the money halfway through mass, you go stand in the back and take the basket of money, and the wine they’re going to bless, up to the priest. You walk down the isle with it, everybody looks at you and makes you self conscious, why did I wear such a low cut dress to church? 

The part comes when we’re supposed to go stand in the back and wait for the collection to be over and while we’re back there, the doors from the outside open and who of all people walks in? Our homeless lady. My friend and I look at each other and tears start to form. What if it IS Jesus? By the time we got back to our seats, she was gone.

I try to remember that story whenever I get super upset randomly at someone else. I don’t know the day they’re having. I have no idea what they are dealing with when they go home and lie in their own bed. Perspective.

This morning, almost a week after my tax, AC and car debacle, I wake up and let the dog out like normal. I turn on the shower, pick out my outfit for the day. Let the dog back in. I notice that she’s sniffing in front of the cabinet by the sink in the kitchen. I walk over and see a weird, dark water stain where she’s standing.

I open the doors of the cabinet and realize I’m standing on wet tile. My faucet has been leaking. At this point, I can either cry or take action. As I grab towels, I start to laugh. What else can go wrong? I bought this house ten years ago and replaced everything all at once: redid the kitchen, got a new air conditioner, bought a new fridge. It’s been ten years and everything is just getting old. It’s been used. It’s been worn, and shit’s gonna happen.

After cleaning up the water, I calmly check the leak. Faucet issue, for sure. Thank god it’s not a pipe. I put a pot under the leak. I bring a fan over and point it directly at the cabinet, I know how this works. I turn the water off at the main line into the house as I leave for the day. There are worse things in life, right? Remember that Seinfeld episode where Kramer installs a garbage disposal in his shower and makes a meal for Elaine, Putty and the germaphobe lady? That could be me!

After work, I go to get my emissions test done, something you need to do in Arizona every other year when your car is over five years old (mine just turned five) in order to get your yearly registration renewed. My car is in perfect condition, I know because I just paid for it to be that way. I’m smiling at the attendants as they check it, happy that there was no line and I got to pull right in.

The guy smiles back at me as he hands me the paper and says “your car has failed the emissions test. Go inside and they’ll tell you what to do.” I’m sorry, my what? My perfect car? How? So instead of crying, I remember – action. Evidently there is a data link chip (computer chip) in my car that is not working. Everything else is fine. I have 60 days to get it fixed and come back for a retest, “and the best part” the guy behind the counter says to me enthusiastically “is that you don’t have to pay the $20 for the test again!” That’s the best part? Really, dude?

So I call my guy at Nissan, thank God we made up…thank God I never sent that letter….”it’s probably just a blown fuse, bring it in and I’ll take care of it.”

And so tomorrow, I embark on another day, hopeful that it is just a blown fuse. That I’ll pass my emissions, that nothing else in my house will break. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned these last two weeks, it’s that no one is trying to punish me. This is life. Sometimes things miraculously go your way (with or without drinking a swig of Felix Felicis – wait, I take back what I said before about nerds) and sometimes, stuff happens! I should be thankful these things gave me ten years of life.

What I do know, is that I am lucky to have parents who call and ask what they can do to help. I’m lucky to have siblings that check on me every day to see how I’m doing. I’m lucky to have friends that go with me to Home Depot and help me pick out new flooring for my living room. I’m lucky to have a job to go to every day that I love, with people that actually care about me, that I actually care for back. I’m lucky to have legs to run with and arms to support me in weird yoga poses. I’m lucky to have a healthy dog, who greets me everyday with a wagging tail and a toy in her mouth, begging to play fetch. I’m amazingly lucky to have this life, broken fridge, broken AC, broken faucet and all.

I could focus on all the things that go wrong. I could focus on all of the things that I don’t have; all of the things that I expected to have at this stage of life or at this age and don’t. But when I get overwhelmed, I try to take a look at things from another perspective. I am happy. I am healthy. I am safe. I am peaceful and at ease. Most importantly – I am loved.

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – Social conflict: car dealership addition

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So today I had a little car trouble, nothing huge, just that the day did not end up like I thought it would. It got me thinking about customer service. What do we want when we go somewhere and spend our hard earned money? How do we, as human beings, expect to be treated? In an age where we’re losing our social interaction skills, where kids will grow up sorting out their issues over a computer instead of trying to talk out a problem, where will we be ten years from now? What will we expect from customer service interactions then?

I was at a conference recently where the speaker pointed out that this very issue, social interactive skills, is one of the biggest contributing factors to violence in schools. Kids are not widely taught, nor do they get to practice often, social conflict. Everything can be thrown out from behind the wall of social media. You can bully someone from the comfort of your own room, without ever having to be near the person you are aiming at. It was a powerful statement that rang true with me.

I think, how can I effect this change? I don’t have any kids of my own yet to teach. I can let my dog bark it out with the neighboring dogs, at least they don’t know how to use Facebook….yet, though I have thought about starting a page for her…

Today, however, I’m no different than the rest of society. When trying to work something out verbally fails, you go to the Internet. You “take it to the streets” (a phrase that I can’t say without singing it like Michael McDonald in my head) to a larger audience to find someone who will listen.

Suffice it to say, I will not be emailing the letter below (to be followed promptly by posting it on their Facebook) until my car is returned to me tomorrow, I’m not an idiot. I also hope that after tomorrow, there is nothing more I have to add to it before sending.

What do I expect out of this, what do I want?

To be heard!

Isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that why we blog, post on social media, talk at the “water cooler”, de-stress over lunches or happy hours with friends? We all just want to be heard, and more importantly, to be there for others when they need to vent.

Dear Bill and Pinnacle Nissan;
There’s no reason you should know who I am, so let me give you a bit of background. I am a loyal customer who purchased a Nissan Altima five years ago. It was my first new car, ever. I bought a service package, so that I could take care of my car, make sure to keep it looking beautiful and running smoothly. You are near my office, so it’s incredibly convenient to drop my car off in the morning, receive complementary shuttle service to my office and then pick up my car on the way home. It’s one of the main reasons why I bought my car at your specific Nissan dealership.

Over the course of the last five years, you have done every oil change, every battery replacement, every tire replacement, every brake pad replacement, even after the service contract has run out. My car has kept up beautifully. I couldn’t ask for a more reliable vehicle.

Each time I come, I’m asked who my service person is. I don’t know, I have to say, it changes every time. There was Angel, there was Rob, there was another Rob, there was Phil, there was Bill. Who can keep track over that period of time? It didn’t bother me. Some were nice, some were new, some were pushier than others, but they all got the job done.

My friends ask, why do you always take your car to the dealership, it’s sooo much more expensive? Most times, it is. But it’s convenient, it’s consistent and there are perks: no one else works on my car while I’m at work, no one else washes my car and vacuums it out for me before they return it.

I would hear other customers dropping off their cars and complaining that their service person always changed. Who cares? I always thought. As long as they take care of you and get the job done, then it shouldn’t matter who it is.

I have worked in customer service my entire adulthood, in fact, I’ve been very blessed in my young life to have managed huge teams of people. I have worked in sales, on multi-million dollar accounts. No matter what business you are in, the one thing we all strive for is to sell a consistent product to our customers. So it doesn’t matter if we get Rob, or Phil or the other Rob; the output should still be the same and we should leave with our problem solved and feeling like we had a respectful interaction with one of Nissan’s service personnel.

I have always felt this way, for five years. Until today. I dropped my car off at 8am, the car was shaking between 20 and 40 mph, I knew something was wrong immediately and brought it in. I had a new guy (new to me), Michael. Seemed great, took my info, told me how much it would be if tires needed rebalancing (which is what I was assuming) and if so, could he just go ahead and do that? Yes! I thought to myself, somebody gets it! I’m a busy woman, if you can push forward with something, please do. I liked his initiative and thought to myself, finally, someone who gets me and understands that time is precious.

I happily walked over to the shuttle and was ever happier when the shuttle guy, Buck (my favorite) was there waiting for a rider. Perfect timing.

Michael called me at 11am to tell me that it wasn’t the tire balancing – one of my tires had a huge bulge in it and was separating. Also, I had alignment issues that needed to be fixed (I guess I knew that too but had hoped it wasn’t that bad). “It’s a good thing you came in this morning” he said “you could have blown this tire on the highway and it would have been really bad.” Wow, someone who cares. I told him to go ahead with the fixes and went about the rest of my busy day.

As I was getting ready to leave work at 3pm, I thought it was odd that I hadn’t heard from anyone saying the car was done. I wasn’t concerned, sometimes people just forget to call to tell you it was ready. No biggie. Except this time, my new tire was on, but the alignment wasn’t done. “My bad” I said “I never told you what time I needed it done by”. Michael said it would be done by 5pm or offered me a rental car for the night. Luckily, I have friends that like to go out after work and didn’t mind taking me to get my car. There are worst things in life, right?

5pm comes and goes, no phone call. I thought, okay it’s Friday, they’ve probably had a crazy day, I’ll give it a little longer. At 5:30 Michael calls to tell me that there’s been a mistake. They don’t have the tire I need (wait, I thought you said that was fixed already?) and I would now need to come get a loner car for the night. He offered to let me keep it until Monday if that was more convenient for me, which it wasn’t. I don’t live near work and I work from home on Mondays. That’s okay, I told him, I will bring it back mid day tomorrow. I also asked him if he could take anything off the bill, for inconvenience, and he agreed to take 10% off the total. Great.

When I came to pick up the rental car, he had brought in my insurance info from the glove compartment already and I happily gave over my license. When she asked me for a credit card, it stopped me in my tracks. Who knows why, maybe it was because of the week I’d had, maybe it was because I was sick of surprises today, maybe I just wanted to go home with my own, fixed car and not have to worry about it anymore, but it really upset me that I would have to take on any kind of liability for the fact that Nissan had not finished my car on time.

I’m a safe woman, I’m not going to take it down to Mexico and party for the night, but I get it, you have policies and you have rules, but the liability for a rental car or anything should not be my issue right now. It’s not my doing you didn’t have the car done. It’s not my doing that I was told the new tire was on and balanced and then told it was not. It’s not my doing that I now have to come return the car in the middle of my Saturday. This is on you, you put down your own credit card.

Now to some, and honestly maybe even for me on a different day, this probably wouldn’t have been an issue; it’s a what-if, it’s a worst case. But today, asking me to take some small amount of responsibility for something I had zero responsibility for, put me over the edge. I refused. I kept apologizing to the rental car guy and the girl behind the counter. None of this was there fault, but I was visibly angry. I waited for Michael and explained my issue. Now, to be fair, maybe Michael’s had a rough week too, or a rough day. Maybe he’s had multiple people upset with him, I have no idea.

Regardless of his situation, his job in that moment was to listen, to problem solve and to be respectful. I would love to be writing you this letter to tell you that’s what I received today, but unfortunately, it wasn’t.

He took my being upset and appeared to get just as upset with me. As a “solution” he offered to return me my car with the broken tire on it. That was his solution, to send me home on the tire that six and a half hours earlier he told me I was lucky hadn’t blown and caused me harm. I was so appalled (just as appalled as he appeared to be at me for asking him to put my rental on his own credit card) that I said fine, and took out my card. Michael stormed out. That was it, he was done. He got his way, I guess? He didn’t want to deal with me anymore and walked away, out the door and across the parking lot to the service room with the other service guys, visibly upset and maybe even telling them what a b*tch I was being. I don’t care what he said or didn’t say about me. What Michael thinks or doesn’t think, what he says when I’m not within earshot; that’s of no importance to me.

Customer Service Secret: When someone is upset, all they want is to be heard. Suggesting that I go home on what he referred to as an “unsafe tire”, refusing to apologize and walking away when I was still visibly upset is not okay. It is, by far, the worst thing that he could have done. Listened, got me a supervisor, anything else, any ounce of empathy and I would not be writing this letter. But walking away from someone who has been a loyal customer for the last five years and who remained cool through all of the back and forth of today was absolutely the most disrespectful thing he could have ever done. My concerns mattered so little to him, that he could just walk out.

Big, huge props to the other people in the room. They all tried to calm me down, tried to tell me it would be okay, to smile and have a better day. That this was not a huge thing, that it would be okay. They were respectful, they acted like they cared, whether they did or not is irrelevant.

Sure, you’re dealing with cars, but really – you’re dealing with people. Respect them enough (whether what they are saying makes sense to you or not) to listen to them, to treat them like a human being. Not to walk away. I absolutely raised my voice. I absolutely was close to tears, but I wasn’t yelling at him, I wasn’t swearing, I wasn’t throwing my purse around maniacally, I was just upset. I was caught off guard that I’d be asked to take one ounce of liability for an issue I hadn’t created. Life happens. We get upset about things, small things sometimes, but we deal with it, we don’t walk away like it doesn’t matter.

So tonight, I’m hopeful that my car will be fixed tomorrow, by a time that’s convenient for me to get the car. I’m hopeful that I’ll return the rental car with zero issue and my car will be shiny, clean, aligned and safe. I’m hopeful maybe Michael won’t be there tomorrow, or maybe he’ll sleep it off and realize in the morning how he could have better handled the situation.

But you have lost a customer for life.

Maybe I don’t matter to you. Maybe it doesn’t matter that my car is almost paid off and that my next car might have been an Infinity from your dealership. Maybe it doesn’t matter that I would have bought the service package and taken my car in there for all of its oil changes, its batteries, its break pads, even after the service contract was up.

I may be just one customer, but I will never again give you the opportunity to make me feel the way I do today. You can be sure I won’t let anyone I care about purchase there, if there’s any chance that this is the way one of them might be treated. I’m not a shy woman. I am fiercely loyal and vocal about the things that I love. I am even more so when I feel like I’ve gone unheard.

I hope you read this. I hope you take the time to teach Michael, who I had such high hopes for earlier in the day (maybe that’s why I was so appalled at the ending?) what it means to be in customer service, what it means to think about the fact that you are dealing every day in the commodity of people, not of cars. I hope that this is a lesson not only for him, who I’m sure will learn and grow and I hope go on to bigger things, but to everyone who comes after him, to the next Michael, the next Rob, the next Phil.

Sincerely,
Xxxx XxXxxxx

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – My Big Fat Spanish Weekend

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Ah, the weekend. It’s a common theme amongst my generation that our jobs are just the gigs between weekends. That doesn’t mean we don’t take work seriously, only that our free time is just as important to us. Balance. It’s something I strive for everyday. As a Libra, those into astrology would say that I was born with a need for balance in my life, that I constantly try to stay middle of the road on things. If there is such a thing as perfect balance, I am still striving to find it.

Balance, harmony is about how you feel, not how your balance makes others feel around you. See, you might strive for one thing, when someone in your life needs something else from you. What you need less of, they may need more of. That in itself is a seesaw. You can’t please everyone all the time, or live to balance out other’s lives, so focus on you – the one and only thing you have control of.

I try to pack my weekends with a mix of exercise, relaxing and friends. It’s a great recipe for me. I started off the weekend by seeing “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” with my friend Lee. I loved the first movie, who doesn’t? The atypical woman gets the quirky hot guy! What is there not to love!? The second one is definitely worth seeing. I forget how similar Greek and Italian cultures are. Both of our families are huge, and loud. Nobody ever wants to move away, and everybody does everything (and I mean everything) together. You take care of your own. Instead of everyone being named Nick, we’ve got Tonys and Joes and Maries in my family. That reminds me of something that happened earlier in the week.

It’s beautiful weather here in Arizona. It got hot waaaay too early this year, and because of that, things are blooming sooner than usual, which means I’m having breathing problems sooner than usual. I went to see an ear, nose and throat doctor for the first time this week. He was born in Brooklyn, raised in Long Island.

“LaRocca, huh. We had one of those in the neighborhood. Joe LaRocca. He used to sell things that “fell off” the back of the truck, if you know what I mean”. Oh, I know what you mean.

“There’s so many Joes in my family, who can keep count?” I laughed.

“I better treat you well” he said “I don’t want your family coming after me.” After a thorough discussion about my nose (and me being extremely disappointed that my breathing issues are not cause by anything that can get me a free nose job) he said to me as I was leaving, “Are you going to call your father and tell him I did right by you?”.

“It’s way too early”, I said. “Let’s see how you do with my allergies first. And if not…” I took a slow look around the office and did a little circle upward with my finger as I asked, “…you got good insurance on this place?”

Italians, Greeks, Mexicans. Big families. All the same.

On Sunday I’d planned to go to free yoga with my friend Lynn at lululemon. If you don’t know what lululemon is, it’s a high end athletic-wear store that focuses on yoga clothes, among other things. Their clothes are expensive (and I mean expensive) but they are well made, last forever and make your butt look amazing! Lululemon has an ideal, target customer: her name is Ocean. She does yoga every day, is single, mid-thirties and makes at least $100,000 a year. While I’m not quite there, I am a proud lululemon snob. I refuse to wear anything else. I still have my first pair of yoga pants, which I bought six years ago and still wear to this day. That’s quality.

Anyway, I knew I was going to yoga today, so I planned to get up early and go to church, 8am mass. Yeah, that didn’t happen, I like sleep too much. After a beautiful yoga class outside at Scottsdale Quarter on the lawn, a canopy of palm trees overhead and a few weirdos sitting there watching us, the Catholic guilt started to kick in.

On the way home, I looked up which masses were remaining for the day and found there was one left – Spanish mass. Lynn laughed and said it sounded like a good idea. Why not, right? How hard could it be? I know when to sit, stand and kneel. I took Spanish in high school and college. I know how to ask where the bathroom is and how to order two beers. Also, my church has projectors where they show the words to the songs, the responses. I could totally do this!

I thought, I’ll go right before it starts so there’s no time for people to try to talk to me. If somebody tries to start a conversation in Spanish, I’ll just pretend I’m deep in prayer. I love Latino guys, maybe my future husband is there!

During mass, there’s only one part where you actually talk to one another, and that’s towards the end when you do the sign of piece. For those of you who have never been dragged to Catholic mass, the sign of peace is where you turn to those around you, shake their hand and say “peace be with you”. There’s an older lady that always sat near us growing up, who used to say “peace and love”. I thought that was cool, different. I called her the Peace and Love Lady. When I was home for Christmas this year, there she was, in front of us. “Peace and Love”. I was elated to see that she still does it (actually, no, I was elated to see that she was still alive, she was an old lady back when I was growing up).

“Hey Siri, text Pita.” I love using talk to text when I’m driving. For those of you who haven’t read all my blogs, Pita got his name because he’s a big Pain In The…you know. He’s also Mexican.

“How do you say peace be with you in Spanish?” I told him what I planned to do. He promised me I wouldn’t be the only white girl there (he was wrong) and sent me back the detail I needed, “Paz este contigo”. Shit. How was I going to remember that? I thought about writing it on my hand, but then I need to shake hands, so that was no good…paz, that part I could remember. As a kid, when you wanted to be cool (cough) during mass, you would make a peace sign with your fingers and say “peace” to your brother, to your friends. While I wasn’t about to throw up a peace sign, I could remember “Paz”.

I got to my church parking lot just as it started. When I go on a non Christmas-Easter Sunday (to a gringo mass), I can always find a parking spot. Today, nothing. I had to park two blocks away, thank God I was in flip flops. As I walked up, I heard people clapping and singing. What the? Nobody sings at white people mass! Except me. I’m usually the only one around me singing; and the music…bum bum, bum ba bump bum, bum bum…this doesn’t sound like the old guy singing cheesy Jesus music; this was upbeat, this was fun…and everyone was clapping to the music. A whole church full, standing room only…so much for showing up late! I found an empty spot on the back wall to lean against as I clapped along in time to the music.

Who performed the service, I wondered? We have an old French-Canadian priest that is 82 and then a younger, enthusiastic Italian priest from the Midwest with hair longer than mine…evidently the latter speaks perfect Spanish. I marveled at him as he walked down the isle amongst everyone singing hallelu-“jas”.

While I couldn’t understand everything, I got the gist of it. “Jesus Christos” died for our sins. There was an energy at church that I’d never felt before. They baptized four kids during mass today, something that most churches do in a separate ceremony on an errant Saturday. Not my church, no, we do it during mass. We renewed our own baptismal vows (at least, I think that’s what we were saying?) and as he poured holy water on them, he said “Paz este contigo”. I got this! I said The Lord’s Prayer in almost perfect Spanish, thank God (literally) for the words being projected on the front screens.

After mass, there was a guy selling sno cones outside, another one was selling churros! I think I may do this Spanish mass thing more often….

Paz, este contigo.

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – Wrap it up, Lent!

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While I haven’t blogged since the start of Lent, my Lenten journey this year was about giving to others, instead of giving something up. I have to say, it feels good to be at the end of the forty days and look back at all of the random acts of kindness that occurred, as well as think about how much satisfaction and kindness it ended up giving me in return.

I started the process, thinking that I would blog about it every few days, talking about what I did and what I learned. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that random acts of kindness should be just that – random. That writing about them daily took away from the whole idea that they were random. Like a millionaire who gives money to a charity to get the publicity, something did not feel right about shouting about what I’d done; and that, in itself, was the best lesson I could have ever learned.

There’s also that question of anonymity. Did that person go out of their way for me because they wanted to, or because I was some sort of output of a social experiment? I didn’t want anyone in my life wondering this. Doing nice things for others came extremely easy at times. At others, I had to remind and ask myself, “What have you done for someone else today?”.

But I will share a few things that I learned along the last forty days.

If you know me personally, or from reading my blog, you know that exercise is a huge part of my life. It is what keeps me sane, what allows me to get out of myself and my own way. My favorite thing to do is yoga, especially hot yoga. The practice allows you, no…mandates that you focus on your breathing (unless, of course, you’d prefer to pass out). In doing so, you are incapable of having a full and direct train of thought for the entire time. Sure, your thoughts come in and out and you are taught to listen to them, to examine them. Are they negative thoughts about yourself: “I can’t hold this pose for this long. The girl next to me can go farther in the pose than I can. My stomach looks like a giant blob like this, why is she making us stay like this for so long, I don’t want to look at myself anymore.” Yoga is about accepting yourself as you are in that moment, being kind to yourself. It’s a lesson I’d been sorely missing for the first thirty-one years of my life.

I know how stressful adulting can be on a daily basis. I know how much yoga has helped me, so thats why I’m always inviting people to join me. When I ask you to come with, it’s not because I want to show off my dancers pose (which is awesome, by the way), it’s because I want you to have the feeling that I do; a feeling of self-acceptance, of love. Then that person brings someone, and they bring someone else. We pass it along. Who wants to be the only person happy in a room full of others who are miserable? That’s zero fun. Help other people figure out how to be happy, how to be calmer, how to relax, even if it’s only for a little while…though yoga and swimming are the only two exercises that continue working in your body after you’ve stopped doing the actual act of them. For everyone who said “yes” to me dragging them to yoga during lent, for everyone who then invited someone else, thank you for helping to make this a truly meaningful forty days.

It was after yoga one Saturday morning, and I went to the farmers market on the way home. I needed to pick up some bee pollen for a friend with allergies and get my usual: a chicken pita from the Lebanese guy. Oh this chicken pita…soooo good. I got up to the table ordered my pita, along with a mom and daughter who came up shortly after. We chatted about what we’d purchased already and I shared that I’d bought a jar of lavender, grapefruit infused honey. “Oh!” said the mom, “You know what that’s really good with? Tequila! Just put a little honey and tequila in a shaker with ice. It’s amazing.” We got to talking about the milk guy and the fact that he has all kinds of options: whole, skim, chocolate, root beer (yes, root beer), strawberry, etc. The daughter showed me the glass bottles in her bag, “You just pay $1 deposit for the bottle and bring them back to him each week.” My pita was ready and Costas rang mine up.

I should mention that I don’t know if his name is really Costas, but that’s what I call him in my head, because he reminds me of the father of the Greek guy that Gilmore girl falls in love with in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the one her grandmother tells her to stay away from…

Anyway, Costas adds it up on his iPhone and I say to him very quietly, “I’ll pay for there’s.”

Have I mentioned there is nothing quiet about Costas? “Oh, you paying for them today, woo hoo, ladies it’s your lucky day!” He laughs loudly and swipes my card.

“No, no, please, you don’t have to do that.” But I told her I wanted to. The tequila recipe was worth the cost of the pitas alone (just ask my friends that I made it for later that night).

I waved goodbye and went through the rest of the farmers market. I was buying some homemade dog biscuits when someone tapped my shoulder. It was the daughter with a glass bottle of chocolate milk.

“Here.” She handed it to me. “We want you to have this.” She walked away before I could even properly thank her.

I walked back to my car, fresh bottle of milk in my canvas Jets bag and thought, wow, see what happens when people are nice to each other? How often do we run about our day without stopping to make a connection with those we come in contact with.

P.S. That was the most amazing chocolate milk ever…

P.P.S. “But where’s the recipe” you ask? “Most of your blogs have recipes!” Oh my friend, but there is…two spoonfuls of lavender grapefruit honey, one cup of cold water, one cup of tequila, one cup of ice. Shake well and serve!

…and now, to figure out what my next writing journey will be…

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – The Lent is on!

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For those of you catching up (or living in a heathen hell hole…hmmm…that place sounds cool, actually) it’s Lent! Which means that most Catholics are now giving up some food that’s a real sacrifice for them in order to…understand Jesus’ suffering…or something like that.

Instead, I am spending the 40 days doing something for others every day. Why take away when you can add?

I’ll admit, I thought this was going to be incredibly easy. How hard is it to do something nice for people every day? In actuality, I think we all do so many nice things, that it’s hard to point them out. In fact, it feels weird to think that smiling at someone, saying hello in the hallway to people you don’t really know or saying thank you when someone says something nice is even something that you’d point out or strive to do. Unless you are a total dick, we all do those things every day, without acknowledging or realizing it.

It became apparent to me, that in order to really feel like this 40 day journey was making a difference, I was going to have to go out of my way everyday to do more than just smile at people in the hallway, which I already do…almost to a creepy point…

As with everyone, I am not perfect (though I hate to admit it!). This is going to be a journey for me as well and hopefully by the end of it, I will have learned just as much about non-judgement of others as I have about acts of kindness.

All of us are kind people at heart, but think about the judgements that we may be putting around that kindness. Who do we offer kindness to? Is it people we like already, or we know from experience will appreciate our efforts? Is it someone who looks beautiful already, so it’s easy to tell them that you love their dress or their shoes? What about someone who isn’t put together? Do we exhibit our kindness to them? Do we help the homeless or stay away because it’s scary for us to do so, or because we judge that they got there for a reason and assume any help we give will go to drugs or alcohol, so we decide not to help at all? Be honest.

Day two started out with me realizing that I probably would do better to have an intention every day of what I want to do as my random act of kindness. I was in the Dunkin drive thru, waiting to get my bagel and thought, oh I should probably pay for the person behind me. Nice thought, right?

Here’s where the judgement side comes in. I looked at the person behind me. Did she look like she would appreciate her meal being bought for her? Did she have a nice car, because I swear if she has a Beemer, I am NOT buying her coffee! Did she look like she was going to eat a lot and/or does she have eighteen people in the car with her – i.e. is this going to be expensive? All of these thoughts, as horrible as they are, went through my head. Then, after chastising myself for thinking it, I of course paid for her meal.

It was $10. Who knows what she got. Then I started thinking, I wonder if she did the same for the person behind her? I wonder if she got a dozen doughnuts to bring to work, where did she work, who would eat those doughnuts? Would she tell the story at the water cooler and inspire someone else to do the same the next morning? How cool would it be to follow the trail of kindness…if only kindness came with a go-pro attached to it and we could watch it’s journey…

…and then I remembered, it doesn’t matter. Kindness should be given without judgement, without thought about whether or not the person should deserve it or would appreciate it. Kindness should be given freely without caring about what happens at that moment in time. Kindness is not about what you did yesterday or what you’re planning tomorrow; it is about that exact moment.

I am the last person to remember (let alone quote) a bible verse (trust me), but my parents had a tapestry hanging in our front hallway when we were growing up, you know, the one they read at every wedding: Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offense or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.

This is really what this journey is about: to get to a place that is kind, without being boastful (which I realize is going to be super interesting when I’m writing a blog specifically about kindness).

I am going to mess up along the way, I can promise you that. I am probably going to insult someone who thinks I am only being nice to them because of this journey, but I’m not going to let that stop me and neither should you.

My friends have all found their own inspiration in this and I encourage anyone who wants to come along to share their stories, especially if they are hilarious. I’m waiting for one of my guy friends to congratulate someone not pregnant on their new baby, or something along those lines.

I called my mom today and she laughed and asked if today’s act of kindness was about reaching out to senior citizens…

…maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t…

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – To Lent or Not To Lent. That is the question.

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Today is Fat Tuesday, which makes tomorrow Ash Wednesday, which if you’re Catholic means you have to go to church and have them put ashes on your forehead (which p.s. I pronounce “farhead” and get made fun of for it). Then, you’re supposed to walk around with it on your head all day long so that: a. People know you’re Catholic and that you don’t mind showing it by having soot on your head all day and/or b. people can tell you all day you have a little something on your face. It usually ends up being a mix of both.

You’re not supposed to wash off the ashes until the next day (I think that’s, like, a rule some Pope made up a long time ago?) so when I was little and my parents asked if I wanted to go to Ash Wednesday mass before or after school, I always said after, because well, I’m no dummy. Soot is not a good look for me.

Did you know that the ashes are from burning the palms from Palm Sunday the prior Easter? Way to go Catholics for having this recycling thing down before it was cool.

So as a part of lent, to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert…though for the life of me, I can’t remember why he was in the desert, or what he was doing there for 40 days (I must have been busy paying attention to anything else possible during CCD) but for whatever reason, we are supposed to suffer like he did by sacrificing something that we love for the same time period.

Suffering on purpose. It all seems a little self-negative, if you ask me. To purposefully deny yourself and make yourself feel guilty really goes against my whole self-love philosophy. If you’re not nice to yourself, then why should anyone else be? Catholic guilt 101.

I’d tried to give up plenty of things as a child that did not match the definition of sacrifice (according to my parents). Evidently, giving up homework or your brother for 40 days is not what Jesus had in mind? But he was chillin’ in the desert, so how do we really know how Jesus feels about me trying to give up eating green beans?

As I got older, I got better at it…and by better, I mean giving up things that were an actual sacrifice at the time: Doritos. Pizza. Coffee. The Cow. That’s right, one year I gave up the cow – literally anything that was made with cow’s milk or had cow in it. That lent sucked!!!

But in all honesty, the things that were the hardest to give up were almost like addictions and after 40 days away from them, I tend to eat them less now. I barely eat Doritos (though I had some today, but that doesn’t count because it was Fat Tuesday). Except for pizza. Nothing could break my love affair with pizza. Nothing.

I’ve heard recently that as an alternative to sacrifice, you can ADD something to your daily routine that brings you closer to God, or something like that. Maybe that’s a new rule from the cool Pope we have now? Since I already live in a desert, I figure, how hard could this be? So this year, instead of giving up garlic or wing sauce, I will, instead, institute 40 days of Random Acts of Kindness.

This could be anything, from giving the homeless guy that works my highway corner some change, to paying for the person behind me in the drive thru line at Dunkin, to giving blood or volunteering at a food bank. I’d love suggestions or ideas; I’ve got 40 days to cover!!

Since my last blog focus was about sacrifice, this will be about an abundance of love and kindness.

When I begin thinking about it, there are small acts of kindness every day in my life. Take today, for instance, traveling in Chicago where it’s snowy and beautiful and really, really freaking freezing. It snowed last night and we realized quickly that our rental car had no ice scraper. I grew up in a cold and snowy place and although it’s been a while, I know how handy (and sometimes necessary) an ice scraper can be.

After dinner last night, it started snowing, which by the way ruined our plans to drive to downtown Chicago for doughnuts…no idea why doughnuts, but I think it was because we’d just finished some deep dish pizza and thought, if we’re going to have a cheat day, we might as well go full out. Regardless, we decided we’d be better off sticking close to the hotel the harder the snow started falling.

We went to CVS and asked if they had any ice scrapers. He searched and said they were all out. As we were walking out, I said it was a bummer, because our rental car didn’t have one. “Rental car?” he asked. “I just got side swiped in Portland in a rental car by another rental car. Let me go in the back and check for you.” and he did, brought back a whole box of them, even gave me a discount. Random. He didn’t have to help us, he didn’t have to go search for them, but he did. Kindness.

Even thought it snowed all night and all day today, it was such small flakes, most if it melted as soon as it hit the ground. There was barely any accumulation, so of course we didn’t end up needing it. But that’s not the point. The point is, I really wanted to make a snow man and/or sing about wanting to build one. Total bummer.

When we dropped off the rental car today, I joked about having to buy an ice scraper to the attendant and laughed about the fact that we didn’t even need it. He was like “what do you mean, there wasn’t one in there?” and gave me a gift certificate off my next car rental. Seriously. How kind!

How easy will it be to consciously go out of my way to be kind? I’m guessing this will be much easier than I think. How many random things do you already do for people; holding a door, asking someone if they need anything at the store, picking someone up from the airport, remembering to breathe and not go off on someone because something doesn’t go your way that day? How many random acts of kindness have you received today? Be grateful for those small things, acknowledge them.

…so if, over the next 40 days, I ask you to sit with us at lunch, think about whether it’s because I want your company, or whether I’m throwing you a bone as a solid act of kindness. LOL. Just kidding!!!!

Feel free to join me in 40 days of random acts of kindness or whatever your 40 days of Lent happens to be filled with…or not filled with as it were, if you’re addicted to Catholic guilt and have to give something up so that baby Jesus doesn’t cry…or whatever happens if you don’t follow the exact rules…

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25 Days Sans Refrigeration: Conclusion. I said burr, it’s cold in here, I said there must be some fridges in the atmosphere…

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When I last left you, I was joyously celebrating the early delivery of my new, gigantic, beautiful fridge. I’ve been told by several friends and family members that my posting a picture of me kissing the new fridge was not enough closure for those of you who followed the story from the beginning. So here is some refrigeration full circle for you. You’re welcome.

13 Days Ago:
I was the first delivery of the day and all I kept thinking about (no matter how many times I had measured) was: Please dear God, let it fit.

I like to think of myself as a smart girl, but sometimes, things just catch me off guard.

Delivery guy (we’ll call him DG): Is your husband excited for the new refrigerator?
Stupid Me: Oh no, I’m not married. (Damnit!! What was I thinking!?)

I went back to my dining room table and tried to work while they removed the front door from its hinges in order to have enough room to out with the old, in with the new.

Me: You’re going to put that back, right?
DG: Don’t worry girl, I got you.

Oh Jesus. Here we go. It’s probably important to explain that I met my ex husband in college when he delivered my mattress. Needless to say, I have learned my lesson. This delivery guy did not stand a chance. Fun fact, guess what I discovered that morning in an envelope on top of my old fridge? My marriage license. Wait, what? I certainly didn’t put it there, I need a step stool to reach my top cabinets, so I can only imagine how it got there some seven or eight years ago.

As I was happily and gloriously ripping aforementioned marriage license into a million pieces (exaggeration), I thought about setting those pieces on fire (not an exaggeration-I’d searched my house years ago to try to find and burn it), I settled for throwing the pieces in the garbage. Then I realized that I didn’t even want the pieces messing with the chi in my house for one more minute, so I took the trash out to the dumpster. I know it was just a piece of paper, but with every rip I felt a sense of freedom. Freeeeeeedom!

Back to Mr. Has No Chance In Hell Delivery Man, who is now telling me about how much he loves the San Francisco 49ers? (Really? People actually like them?)

Me: How do you feel about getting Chip Kelly? (For those of you non-sports followers, he is the coach that ran the Philadelphia Eagles into the ground, got fired and then somehow got hired by the 49ers, most likely, to run them into the ground…though, they’re already there…)

DG: Girl, how do you know who Chip Kelly is?! (Dude, strike number 2! Don’t question my sports knowledge.)

Me: (here’s my chance to redeem myself) Oh, my boyfriend is an Eagles fan. (Lie! I wouldn’t date an Eagles fan) and he’s going to be so happy that I can cook for him again!

And that’s how you save yourself from a random delivery guy. Almost.

Working, working, (and now in an epic meme war with my friend trying to find the funniest Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” memes in honor of my delivery man – my personal favorite being a Catholic-themed “Hey girl, don’t worry, I won’t let you forget to say “and with your spirit”) the new fridge comes in on a dolly and delivery guy #1 now has delivery guy #2 (where did he come from?) positioning the fridge.

DG: Oh girl, it’s not going to fit! It’s too tall, girl.

Wait….what?! Of all of the things to go wrong, after all this time and seriously, it doesn’t FN fit?!!

Me: (Running over to confirm) Oh my God, it’s too tall!!
DG: (Laughing) Girl, I’m just playin’, it’s still on the dolly. You’re good, girl.

Strike. Number. Three.

After unwrapping the fridge in all its stainless steel glory, oh and on top of him pretending the freezer handle was the fridge handle and didn’t fit (seriously, dude, that’s only funny the first time), delivery guy decided to give me his number “you know, girl, in case you have any problems with the fridge or want to talk about…..your fridge….or anything else…..”. Unfortunately, he already had mine from the delivery slip.

After they left (yes, they put the door back on its hinges), I thought, this fridge is so pretty! and so gigantic! What am I going to put in it? So I headed to the store to get the incredibly important things that I had really missed over the last twenty-five days: almond milk, garlic paste and buffalo wing sauce. You know, the essentials. Oh, and the delivery guy texted me a few times throughout the day to make sure “my fridge was working good, girl”.

The great habits that I have learned over the past month are far better than filling up my new fridge with things that I don’t need. I’ve grown to love going to the store and getting only what is required for that night’s dinner. It’s made me be more creative. It’s saved me so much money and saved me from wasting all of the food that I used to regularly throw out because I never got to it.

Most importantly, it gave me an outlet and a reason to write again, which has made me feel more alive creatively than I have felt in at least a decade.

This journey helped me to remember to be thankful for the things that I have, to appreciate the things that I don’t have and to reflect on how important it is to shake things up at the core every once in a while; to see if those things that you were so dependent on actually matter in the big picture.

I did state at the beginning of this journey that by the end, I hoped I would meet the man of my dreams at the grocery store (cue the witty dialogue over opposing ends of a pineapple). While I didn’t meet him at the grocery store, and while it’s too early to use phrases like “man of my dreams” (which P.S. is probably way too cheesy of a phrase for me to use, ever) there was, in fact, a meet-cute with witty banter over ice hockey and waffles (mine filled with peanut butter, jelly and bacon and his with strawberries and cream cheese) and while he does fit my major qualifications of being close to six feet tall, having played baseball professionally, hating all Boston-based sports teams and being gainfully employed, he’s also extremely sweet and a giant nerd, which surprisingly, I like. Oh, and he is NOT an Eagles or a 49ers fan, let’s be clear.

While I’m sure he thought I asked him his middle name to put him in the blog (I did, but then chickened out a few times – I don’t like to jinx things too early) it also makes it extremely helpful to have a middle name when your friends like to google everyone you date to ensure that they are truly not serial killers; which if he is, he is damn good at hiding. Seriously, my friends should work for the FBI. For real, my friend once found a guy’s charitable donations while stalking him on my behalf and then I had to sit and wait patiently date after date and practice my surprise face if/when he was ever going to spill it that he’d donated money to inner city children. Thank God that one never worked out, way too much pressure!

So I guess sometimes when it seems like you are losing, you actually might win the thing you’ve been waiting the longest for while you’re not paying attention.

It’s with a bit of sadness that this sans refrigeration journey comes to an end. What to write about now? (No, not my dating life, you are lucky you got anything!) Lent is coming up, so for us Catholics, it’s about sacrificing something you truly enjoy or adding something to your routine that benefits others every day. I’m sure an idea will come to me.

One of my friends suggested that I give up TV for the Lenten season (which is 40 very long days).

What is she, nuts?!

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25 Days Sans Refrigeration: Days 23 & 24. The fridge will come out, tomorrow.

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It’s my last night sans fridge. Thursday will bring about shiny, new stainless steel-ness (that’s right, stainless steel-ness, I said it) to my kitchen to replace the old stainless that graced my home for the past ten years.

After enough time without a fridge to have created new habits, I have… drumroll… created new habits. What a concept! If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you know that I suffered from the following:
1. Standing-in-front-of-open-fridge-itis
2. Aimlessly eating at night after dinner because it was there
3. Buying groceries every week that I never used and ended up throwing out

As I embark on returning to a life with a fridge, I think about the fact that I don’t really want to readjust after the way I’ve been living for the past 25 days. I’m going to tie a little something onto the fridge handle (which I’m sure will be pink and sparkly) to remind me to stop and think before opening aimlessly.

I keep checking my bank account. I keep going over my bills and trying to confirm that I didn’t miss paying one of them this month, because suddenly, I have more money than I’m used to having left every two weeks. You know why? Because I’m not spending $100 at the grocery store every week on crap that I won’t eat. I’m not buying a package of four sausages when I’m only going to eat one. I’m not buying a pound of ground beef when I’m only going to eat a fourth. I’m not buying stuff to put in the freezer to eat “whenever.”

Yesterday (day 23), I spent less than $3.16 at the store for my dinner. I bought one sausage link ($1.40), one organic tomato ($0.51) and one organic orange bell pepper ($1.25). I made a fabulous pasta dish out of it. Photo below. Just cut up the tomato and bell pepper into small chunks. Take the sausage out of its casing and brown it, throwing the tomato and bell pepper in halfway though. Add a little white wine and some cooked pasta. Toss it with a little parm and manga!

So, what did I make on my last night sans refrigeration? Absolutely nothing, and I’ll tell you why.

It all stared a while back, when a friend told me I had a brake light out on my car. I’m not going to lie, I completely forgot about it. Dad, when you read this, don’t get mad. I legitimately forgot. When I remembered, it was time for me to get an oil change anyway, so I made an appointment to drop my car off this coming Friday.

After work today (day 24 if you’re counting), I was on my way to my massage (ps if anyone in the P.H.X. needs a good masseuse, lemme know, she is awesome!) and this crazy lady starts honking at me on the freeway and trying to pull up next to me.

Have I mentioned that this is Arizona and everyone has a gun? You kinda tend to be worried when someone is tailing you, honking and trying to get your attention. Her lane slowed down and she cut off a few cars to get in the lane next to me on the other side. Honking and pointing at me.

My car seemed okay, I could feel all the tires were still inflated, there was no smoke coming out. Finally she caught up to me (going full speed on the highway and still continuously honking). I rolled down the passenger window, not sure if I should be more worried about her or about what was so earth-shatteringly wrong with my car.

“You have no brake lights!!!!!” she screamed at me and sped off. In hindsight, I wonder if this woman realized now much she put herself in danger by spending four minutes cutting off traffic to yell at me.

So yeah, I was a little freaked out. Like, I knew one was out but could all three really be out? This B is probably just crazy. I made it to the spa and tried to not be worried about driving home while trying to relax and enjoy my massage. I figured, this chick is nuts. It’s sunny out, I use cruise control a lot, I bet all my brake lights are not out.

I rode home, scared the entire time that someone was going to hit me, but I made it. When I got home, I asked my neighbor to look for me (it’s kiiiiind of hard to check your own brake lights). She was like, nope, all your lights are on just fine. So I stepped on the brake. Yup. NO BRAKE LIGHTS. Not a one.

After a brief moment of panic, I remembered that I’m working from home tomorrow because the fridge is being delivered. I have AAA, everyone should, especially if you are a single white female. Actually, the white part has nothing to do with it. It just sounded catchy. I could chance it or I could have AAA tow my car to the dealership. It would work out. It always does. Super calm!

Then I started thinking…how hard could it be to change a light bulb…ok three light bulbs? I started YouTubing it. Maybe it wasn’t the light bulbs, maybe it was the fuse said a chat room post. So I YouTubed that. That didn’t look so hard either.

Remember at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life (one of my favorite movies, by the way), the note that Clarence (the guy trying to get his angel wings) writes in the book that ends up in the basket of money? It says “Dear George, remember no man is a failure that has friends”. I think of that quote all the time. All of my family is 2,500 miles away. Without my friends, where would I be?

Side note: Coincidentally, I also use that movie as a barometer to know when I really love someone. When George goes over to Mary’s house and she puts on the Buffalo Gals record and they are both talking into the phone receiver to Sam Wainwright (ok, I watch this movie too much) and he grabs her and tells her all the things he’s not going to do and the person he’s not going to be and then kisses her!? That!

Back to friendship. I am lucky enough to have amazing friends in my life, who also make me feel like a part of their family. My work-husband (yeah, that’s a thing) is great with anything home improvement related. For those of you who don’t know, a work marriage is like when you look out for and take care of each other a work, minus all of the fringe benefits, hassle and responsibility of a real marriage. It’s great, everyone should have one. My work-hubby is great at carpentry, tile and plumbing. He drew up the plans to build me floor to ceiling shoe-purse display case two years ago, but has since had a slew of surgeries on a torn achilles, which led to the need for back surgery. Man, some guys will do anything to get out of their honey-do list…

But the issue today was car related, so I called the friend that knows the most about cars: Mt. Pita. For those of you who don’t know how Mt. Pita got his name, go back and read the blog. It’s a funny story.

I shared the issue with Mt. Pita and asked him if he was up for an adventure. He’d been talking about craving pancakes earlier in the day, so I thought, hey, this is perfect, I can pay him in pancakes!

While I waited for him to get here, I went over my the owners manual (just pull that stuff up on google) and felt fairly confident that it was a blown fuse. I mean all THREE brake lights? What were the chances? Except actually it was two brake lights (left and center), because the right one I already knew needed fixing.

I’m the sort of girl that doesn’t like to get her hands dirty, unless I’m learning how to do something knew. I am notorious for eating things with a fork and a knife, especially pizza. I don’t eat bone-in wings because you have to pick them up. There’s also a story floating around that I once used a fork and a knife to cut a Snickers bar, but I think that’s a fake, because I don’t recall that happening…and you’d think of all people, I would remember! My mom says I’ve been like this since I was little. I despised mud pies and finger painting. When I’m cooking, I hate when I get breading or anything else that coats your hands on them for too long. It makes me feel trapped and claustrophobic.

But give me sledgehammer for tile, a paint brush or anything else hands on where I am learning something new, and I am in! (I might just wash my hands a lot).

Did you know that you have multiple sets of fuse boxes in your car? Do you know how to find a fuse, take it out and tell if it’s blown? Did you know that your car comes with a little tool to pull out said fuses and even comes with spare fuses to use if you blow one out? I didn’t – until tonight! If anyone wants me to check their fuses, I charge by the minute (something has to make up for the fact that I’m getting my hands dirty.)

After checking the rear light fuses and realizing they were fine (like, geez, don’t blow a fuse) we dismantled the rear right side taillight to check to see if the bulb had blown out. To do this, you pop off the thingies (yes, thingies-technical term) that keep the lining of your trunk (that carpet-like stuff) in place. Then you unscrew two bolts and voila, your entire tail light section comes off! Twist out the light that’s having this issue, pull out the bulb and oh yeah, mine was burnt out.

After getting in the zone…AutoZone that is (that’s right, get their jingle stuck in your head too) twice, and spending a total of $11.93 on light bulbs…in hindsight, we should have gotten the third tail light bulb out before we went the first time…all three of my brake lights were replaced and working. Total, not counting the two trips to AutoZone, it probably took thirty minutes. Even at that, it probably only took thirty minutes because I was slow-Mt. Pita made me do the left brake light myself.

We went to IHOP in celebration and in search of all you can eat pancakes (Mt. Pita, not me. Three pancakes and I’m out). As we approached the front door, a homeless man took something from the outside trash can, looked at us, pointed to the trash can and said (very emphatically) “That’s MY business!” Okay then. I don’t know what he took out of the trash can, but obviously, that’s none of “my business”. Two re-orders of pancakes and $20 later, we left feeling accomplished.

I never thought I would be able to check a fuse or change a break light. I can tell you the dealership would have charged me soooooo much more than $30 worth of parts and pancakes! It just goes to show: with preparation, logic and a friend, you can accomplish anything!

P.S. Car light bulbs are commonly sold in packs of two, including the center brake light (the one in your back window) of which you only have the need for one. Next time I see another Altima driving around without a third brake light…maybe I’ll offer to change it and give them my extra bulb…and make them buy me pancakes.