I have a long history of thinking I am my own doctor. When I was 17 years old I went off to college and stopped seeing a dentist because at that time it was in vogue to just pull everyone’s wisdom teeth on the off-chance they would grow in and cause issues. But I just KNEW if I let my wisdom teeth grow in they would push my other teeth together and close some of the gaps that I was so self-conscious of. So, I stopped going to the dentist for a few years while letting nature take care of some cosmetic orthodontics. Continue reading
From the moment I found out about you growing inside of me you were loved and you were wanted. That’s not to say I wasn’t in shock when I first saw those two lines on the stick, Continue reading
So, here we are on December 31st and as cliché as we all know it to be we still tend to think over the past year and look to the coming year. Some of us do so with regret and hope, some with nostalgia and concern, others with a mix along the emotional spectrum, but we all do it to some degree. Anyone who follows my writing knows that 2016 was quite a year for me. Continue reading
Last week I had my wellness screening for my new employer. You know the deal – weight, height, measurements, blood pressure and cholesterol – all the key factors for health insurance guidelines. Continue reading
Nearly a month ago my good friend Wayne suffered a massive heart attack and died. Just like that. One moment he was here, the next he wasn’t. For something that happens so quickly and completely, I’m in awe at how long it takes to process and accept the magnitude of the event. Continue reading
I know, I know… It’s been awhile. Lo siento mi amigos. (I’m sorry my friends.) What can I say, I was busy/sick/uninspired/____(fill in the blank). BUT, rest assured the last six weeks I’ve been just as awkward as ever. Trust. What I haven’t been is focused on my whole endeavor of trying something new each month. Sorry about that, but I’m sure I’m not the only one with grand intentions that all too often unravel and fall short. However, today is the official first day of Spring and it brings with it a fresh start, new growth, yada yada– I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Bottom line — Awkward Jean, and all her misadventures, is BACK!
Now, as I mentioned, I have fallen very behind in my attempts to try new things and chronicle them here for you, what I haven’t disappointed you with is some awkward moments à la Jean. So, pour yourself a beverage of choice and get cozy while I tell you about the time I went bat-shit crazy thanks to the pressures of Valentine’s Day AND the time I went bat-shit crazy thanks to the pressures of a nearly perfect day with Crush.
It all started a few days before Valentine’s Day. A friend of mine has been having a few medical issues and had just learned from her doctor that she is pre-menopausal. This friend is only a few months older than me and, like me, doesn’t have children. She was married, is divorced now, and is suddenly faced with the fact that IF she even can have children she likely needs to do it in the next year. As she sat there sharing her initial reaction and fears and questions I found myself thinking that this could be me. She is my age. What if my doctor suddenly told me I had a year to make all my dreams come true, or to change my dreams. Suffice it to say I struggled to stay focused on her, supportive of what she may need — a shoulder, an ear, a bottle of wine — but as selfish as it is, my mind started going a million miles a minute about my life. Where I’m at. What I want. What I need. What I’d do. And then the horrible moment when I realize, this is my life. I am her. There is no guarantee. I am thirty five and this may be as good as it gets.
It was with this distracted mind and heavy heart that I talked to Crush on the phone that night trying to focus on jovial and topical conversation. I tried to push all my scenarios and thoughts and fears and questions out of my head but instead what happened is mid-sentence I interrupted whatever Crush was saying and blurted out —-
Awkward Jean: DO YOU WANT TO HAVE KIDS? Er, I mean, not with me. Well, Not NOT with me, I mean maybe, but um, no I mean, not like right now but in general. In life. SHIT. Let me start over, this isn’t coming out right. Do you want to have kids? Um, you know what I mean…
<Insert long pause here>
Crush: (clearing throat) My intentions have always been to procreate, but in the last year I’ve begun to think I won’t. <Sidebar: UMm, you mean, since you’ve met me?? That’s what I was thinking, but every now and then even I know when it’s best to hold my tongue.>
Realizing this was WAY more awkward than I’d intended I went for a subject change in basically the worst possible way —
Awkward Jean: Sooo, Friday’s Valentine’s Day.
Crush: Assuming you are changing the subject, I’ll say this — guys are in a no-win situation with Valentine’s Day. We can squeak by, but we can’t win. I don’t do Valentine’s Day.
Oh. Right. Guess the slippers I got him and wrapped in red heart wrapping paper is suddenly a wee bit awkward. Excellent. Right up my alley.
Which brings me to the actual day of Valentine’s Day. I had bought Crush a gift, he didn’t even wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day. My cube mate had TWO, count them TWO, bouquets of flowers delivered. I ate lunch at my desk alone and spent the evening listening to my friend’s mariachi band surrounded by other couples, flowers and heart shaped balloons. But I wasn’t alone, I had giant goblets (plural) of Dos Equis, all the chips and salsa a girl could want and a couple of my girlfriends in tow. Oh, and a small child pointed at my belly and asked if I was pregnant. I just looked at her, took a gulp of my beer and said “So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance!”
In hindsight, it wasn’t that awful of a Valentine’s Day… Well, at least it wouldn’t have been had I not established some unrealistic expectations that led me to feeling disappointed, hurt and alone (no Crush, no gift, no verbal confirmation of said holiday AND that was basically beer in my belly, not a baby). But, I kind of think that’s what Valentine’s Day does… it’s more or less a litmus test for relationships. If you get your feelings hurt — chances are your relationship needs work. If you celebrate enthusiastically and publicly — chances are your relationship needs work. If it’s basically another day and you and your partner engage in typically caring, thoughtful behavior that could otherwise take place any day — congratulations, you’re likely in a good place.
Crush + Awkward Jean = Not a good place.
Which leads me to…
THE ALMOST-PERFECT DAY
A couple of weeks after Valentine’s Day I had an almost-perfect day with Crush. I hadn’t seen him in quite some time due to a business trip and a bout of bronchitis but finally we had a date (sorta) planned. I’d won tickets from work to a concert and invited him. He said yes! That day we went to lunch and it was nice, we had fun, it was a beautiful day, we giggled and held hands in the car… I couldn’t have written a better lunch date. Then work ended and we went to dinner at one of my favorite places and he enjoyed it and we had fun and laughed and had delicious drinks and headed to the concert and had great parking… Everything was perfect. The concert was fun, the people were great, it was an amazing night, and amazing date… And then — BAM! Awkward Jean. So close, and yet…
We’d taken my car from the office and at the end of the concert had to drive back to the parking lot for him to get his car. We sat in my car for a bit talking, listening to music, holding hands with my head on his shoulder as it got later and later… and just when he said he REALLY did need to get going this happened —
Awkward Jean: Crush?
Crush: Yes Jean?
Awkward Jean: Do you think you’ll ever fall in love with me?
<<Sidebar — Oh yeah. That happened. Feel free to take a moment to cringe and imbibe in a big gulp of your beverage that likely needs to be refilled at this point>>
Crush: (Patting my cheek, kissing my forehead) Do you think you’ll ever stop asking me inappropriate questions that are WAY too soon to ask?
Awkward Jean: Probably not.
What? At least I’m honest. And, I have to give him credit, he handled it pretty well. The best part was, as he got out of the car I thanked him for coming with me to the concert, to which he replied —
Crush: Thank you for winning tickets. (And,as he walked to his car looking back over his shoulder) I LOVE winners.
Awkward Jean: You KNOW I’m going to over-think that!
And I have. Well played sir, well played.
XOXO — Awkward Jean
PS — Upcoming Posts: Why I’m a hippie on a commune, the time I bought a bed that is smarter than me and St. Patty’s Day aka The Biggest Day of the Awkward Jean Calendar Year. Until then — take care my friends. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself.
It’s okay Peyton, while you were having one of the worst games of your life, I was hosting one of the worst dinners of my life… A couple of weeks ago I boldly asked Crush if he wanted to do something for Super Bowl. It went something like this:
Awkward Jean: “So, I was thinking maybe we could do something for Super Bowl…”
Crush: “What’d you have in mind?”
(Oh. Right. A plan. Yeah… hadn’t EXACTLY gotten that far…)
Awkward Jean: “Um. We could go to a bar to watch it, or you could come to my house, or I could go to your house, or maybe my friend Kim will invite us over or maybe my friends Todd & Trever will have a Super Bowl thing… I don’t know, if they do it’s always last minute, but typically fun, but um” (STOP RAMBLING JEAN) “I guess there are a lot of options” (Brave Jean) “I just want to do something with you.”
Crush: “Well… I think we can plan on that. The issue is this – If I don’t really care about who’s in the Super Bowl I enjoy the food and mingling and whatnot of a Super Bowl party, but if I do care then I just want to focus on the game and not be surrounded by strangers or a bunch of people not paying attention… Soo…”
Awkward Jean: “So, you love Peyton and want to pay attention. Got it. Well, you can come over to my house and I can make dinner and you can pay attention, it will be nice.”
Low and behold that is what we actually ended up following through on. It’s also the beginning of the mistakes that Awkward Jean made…
Mistake #1 – “I can make dinner.”
Why is this a mistake? A) Everyone knows that Super Bowl food should be snack-based, not sit down meal type of food. Duh. B) I love snacks. LOVE them. In fact, in college I even choreographed a dance in honor of my favorite snack, Hot Pockets. So why, with a strong history of snack loving, would I decide to make a full dinner DURING the Super Bowl? Madness. Awkward madness. C) How am I supposed to watch the game and be all seductively adorable if I’m cursing in the kitchen the whole time? Oh Jean.
Mistake #2 – “I’m going to make Chicken Milanese.”
Why is this a mistake? A) I’ve never made this meal before. B) This meal requires frying… as in a vat of hot oil and Jean. NEVER is this a good idea. C) I’ve never fried chicken before… do not be fooled, it is an art.
So, I blindly dove into this scheme of cooking a full meal in order to impress my Crush (Hindsight: HA!). My menu: Chicken Milanese, Homemade Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and Balsamic Brussel Sprouts. Oh, and I bought some crescent rolls to make as well, just in case he wanted those – he did. (Hindsight: Thank God.)
Fast forward to Super Bowl Sunday. Crush arrived about an hour before kick-off. I had a little platter of snacks out and we nibbled on those while we watched the pre-game show and set up some bets to keep the game interesting. (Hindsight: SO necessary, seriously – what happened Peyton??)
As the kick-off approached I started to think that I had MAYBE over-extended myself on this cooking gig. Suddenly I realized that I’d never ACTUALLY made mashed potatoes before, and while I watched my sister make the Chicken Milanese I wasn’t very confident in my own chicken frying. I mean, she told me to cut the breasts in half so they weren’t “too thick” but… how thick is too thick? I mean, one end was really thin and then it seemed to get fatter… did I need to cut them in half still? Maybe cut the thick half off and then cut that in half again? Hmm… And the potatoes, how long do they have to boil? How much butter and milk do I put in? At least I knew I had the Brussel Sprouts down to a science – I’ve made them plenty of times. And Crush did want the rolls, so that’s one more thing that needed to go in the oven. So now I had to time out the oven usage. UGH. I REALLY should have thought of some of these things before he was sitting on my couch. And I offered him a drink, but do I need to keep refreshing his drink or do I tell him to make himself at home and help himself? Would he rather feel comfortable in my home, getting his own drink or am I supposed to still be a proper hostess and keep checking on him?
These are the thoughts that were rambling through my head as I peeled potatoes (is four too many? Not enough?), pounded the fat end of the chicken with a meat cleaver, freaked out over what I was sure was salmonella juice sprayed everywhere and had to wipe down the entire kitchen with my trusty antibacterial wipes… By the end of the first quarter my cooking was already resembling Peyton’s playing.
A disaster was developing, but I naively thought I had plenty of time to salvage it… And, like Peyton, I was wrong.
By the second quarter I had smoke billowing from my burnt-raw chicken, a seemingly impossible paradox, but trust me Awkward Chef Jean had managed it, but everything else was going well. The brussel sprouts were nicely sautéed and awaiting the oven, the potatoes were perfectly boiled and drained… Now what to do with the chicken… Hmm… I decided I could maybe bake it some to hopefully get it cooked through without getting too burnt… So, I threw it in with the brussel sprouts and sat down to enjoy half time.
Crush: “Is that bell for something?”
Awkward Jean: “No.”
Crush: “It’s not?”
Awkward Jean: “Um. Well, yes, but it will be fine.”
Crush: “Are you sure?”
Awkward Jean: “Totally.” (Note: It was NOT fine)
Sooo, that’s how the ONE thing I knew how to make got burnt to a crisp… Balsamic Brussel Sprouts – were now Blackened Balsamic Brussel Sprouts… Still salvageable, I still could make this happen. I just needed to heat up the gravy and mash the potatoes and check on the chicken… that just kept getting more and more burned on the outside while the inside was BARELY getting cooked… Hmm…
So, I put the crescent rolls in the oven, and started mashing the potatoes… which it turns out were now cold… and the butter was not mixing, but rather turning into big chunks… UGH!! Okay, focus. I’ve got this – I simply put the, now mashed, potatoes back on the stove while I worked on the gravy. Surely the gravy will be a success – it’s a packet. You just add water. BAM! I’m back in the game… except of course the gravy wouldn’t thicken, the bottom of the potatoes started burning and I was so busy stirring both of those, opening the wine, assuring Crush I had it all under control and we’d be eating soon… that I didn’t realize the rolls were almost burning – Mad dash to the oven, grab an oven mitt and WHEW!! The rolls are just right – I got to them just in time, but… Um, I didn’t exactly have any place to put the hot tray. My little townhouse kitchen is not spacious and the counters and stove were already covered with things… so now I’m just holding this hot tray, trying to scrap burnt potato off the bottom of a pan and the gravy begins to boil over because, why wouldn’t turning the heat up make it get thick??
Oh, and let us not forget the chicken. At this point the burnt bread crumb coating was basically peeled off and the poor breasts had all these knife hacks for all the times I prematurely checked its doneness. It reminded me of my favorite Jack Handy quote – “If you ever drop your keys in a vat of molten lava, just let it go man, they’re gone.” Same thing with the chicken. At some point I was going to have to let it go, it was gone. (Hint: I did NOT let it go…)
By the beginning of the fourth quarter I had our meals plated and ready to serve—may master plan was to cover the mess with the gravy to hide it, but sadly Crush didn’t want gravy. Damn. This is about when I realized my guest had just spent the majority of this awful game, watching his hero Peyton Manning getting crushed as he drowned his sorrows in whiskey and tried to avoid the smoky burn of my cooking that wafted through the house. So basically he was already drunk and disappointed – sweet!! He was perfectly primed for the meal I was about to serve.
I have to say I was impressed, Crush ate everything on his plate, even went back for seconds, and his comment on the meal?
Crush: “Mmmm, these rolls are delicious!”
They damn well better be – I carried that tray around for a good ten minutes while I finished destroying everything else!
And, just when you think the evening couldn’t be more of a failure… let me go ahead and share one final tidbit. I’ve been having back issues and Crush thoughtfully brought this electrical stimulation device over that you hook up to your sore muscles and it gives some charge/massage type thing to help them relax. Well, after the game was over and that delicious massacre of a meal finished, we went upstairs so I could lie down and he could hook the machine up to my lower back. FINALLY, time to relax…
As I lay there with the little charges surging through my muscles helping me relax I suddenly realized I was a little too relaxed. And sadly I realized this too late. You guessed it. Suddenly, without warning or provocation, abruptly aggressive and loud flatulence was released. In front of Crush. Oh. Dear. God.
Awkward Jean: “Oh! Um, excuse me.” (Said in highest, most awkward voice imaginable.)
Crush: (Questioningly turning the device over in his hands while looking at it…) “Oh. Wait. Was that YOU?”
Awkward Jean: “Um. Yeah…”
Crush: “Oh. Wow. I thought something was wrong with the machine…”
Awkward Jean: “Everybody farts.”
And… that’s more or less how my Super Bowl went. Peyton, when I say I feel your pain, trust me… I feel your pain.
XOXO – Awkward Chef Jean
I have wanted to write this post for three weeks, to the day. For two weeks, to the day, I’ve had the green-light to go ahead and write it. Every time I try, I just can’t. I’ll wake up at 3 in the morning with a mind filled full of the right words, one step closer to figuring out what I want to say, how I want to approach putting my feelings into thoughts and then those thoughts into words… But, somewhere in the process I get overwhelmed, tear up and choose not to face it. Not yet.
I’ve cried every day for three weeks. Some days more often than others, some cries deeper and longer, but every day I’ve tried to squeeze the hurt up through my body and out of my eyes. And it’s hard. I handle hurt and loss and heartbreak through music. I make playlists of the songs I relate to in the situation, the songs that make me feel less alone and more like I will survive… maybe even come out stronger on the other side. I listen to the songs over and over, obsessively on repeat, until they come on and I’ve somehow managed to squeeze out every ounce of feeling they once produced, and become numb. That’s my catharsis. That’s how I heal.
But, how do you handle a heartbreak that isn’t romantic? How do you relate to songs that no one has written? It’s no secret I’m not very good at relationships. Any relationship really. I’m just actually pretty awful at it. The people who love me have long ago given up on my being an equal partner in our friendship, our communication. I am selfish. I am often one-sided. And I am lucky that I have so many people who love me for who I am and accept how I’m able to connect. Unfortunately the side effect of this is that I tend to take people for granted. I tend to expect them to always be there for me. My whole life I am the one who leaves. I leave home, I move away, I change careers… I go. Rarely am I left. So, when it happens… I struggle.
Friends, good friends, they hold on. They learn my quirks and they put up with my disconnectedness and they accept me on my terms. I’ve learned to let friends go, because the real ones are never really gone.
Three weeks ago my “work husband”, for lack of a better term, pulled me aside and made good on a promise we’d made each other nearly seven years ago. At the time we were newly hired co-workers and were pretty unhappy in our current circumstance, we’d bonded and learned to rely on and trust each other. We made a deal that if either of us were ever looking, seriously looking and interviewing, for other jobs we’d let the other know. Three weeks ago he pulled me aside and told me he was about to be offered another job, one he would be taking. Two weeks ago he gave me his resignation letter. Suffice it to say it wasn’t the merriest of Christmases, nor the happiest of New Years. And now I sit here with three days left. Three days. How do you fit seven years into three days?
I’m so proud of him for leaving. He outgrew us long ago. He is so talented. So creative. So humble and patient and smart. He deserves so much more than we can give him, than I can give him. He has taught me to be a better person. He has taken all the crazy ideas in my head, translated them, put them on paper and created something out of nothing on a daily basis. He makes me want to be better at my job. Better at living. Better at being.
His affection, respect and allegiance have always been conditional. He is not my friend. We do not hang out outside of work. But he is my better half, professionally speaking. He calms me down when I let all the anger and frustration and hurt build up and overflow. He reels me in when I get caught up in the propaganda and playbills. He centers me. Well, the best I can be centered. He helps me focus and he lets me shine. I’ve sucked him dry for so long, it’s his turn to be center stage. To be built up to great heights. To be pushed to not only succeed, but to truly leave his mark. It’s his turn.
And I’m broken-hearted. I feel like a piece of me has crumbled and all that’s left is a hole in a spot I never knew existed. A spot, like so many, I’ve taken for granted.
He was 23 when I met him. In the last seven years, I have seen him grow from a focused young man, into an experienced, mature man. I helped him write out questions to ask his future wife when they were getting to know each other and talking on the phone at night. I was with him on his first business trip, with his very first taxi ride. I helped him pick songs for his reception when he got married. I listened to his triumphs and struggles at becoming a first time home-owner, dog-parent, small business-owner. (SIDEBAR: I didn’t always listen very well, one of my favorite quotes he’s ever said to me is “You are an APOCALYPTICALLY bad listener!” Fair.) Every dream I ever had for myself, I got to watch unfold for him. And it was so well deserved. Every success, every triumph, every dream come true. For seven years I lived vicariously through him, and never once told him how impressed I was that he didn’t sit back and wait for “Happily Ever After”, he actively pursued it.
For seven years I drove him nuts. I disappointed him professionally and personally. And yet, for seven years he stood in the shadows with the weight of the spotlight on his shoulders as he worked to help me shine. AND, he made my coffee every day. I mean, that’s definitely something I’m going to miss.
So, for three weeks, I’ve cried every day. I’ve tried to figure out who I’m going to be without the best part of me cheering me on and encouraging me and pushing me to be better. I never expected him to stay forever, but… it wasn’t until he was leaving that I realized I always thought I’d go with him. I always thought we’d be working together forever.
Starting next Monday I’ll be making my own coffee each morning. I’ll be keeping my too-liberal thoughts about politics, religion and social issues to myself. I’ll rely on my brother Robert and friend Mike for new music I should be checking out, even though they’re too busy and rarely send me songs anymore. I’ll wear bright green to work and no one will sarcastically comment “Happy St. Patty’s Day” no matter what time of year it is. I’ll go out to lunch and eat the whole thing and be miserable all afternoon because I won’t have him to remind me to save half. I’ll take longer to get my ideas out of my head. And the patience and communication he’s been trying to teach me for seven years will finally be put to the test when I hire a new designer to work with.
My brother tells me that I need to look at this as a positive thing. As a chance to stand on my own and be the better person I’ve been working toward. But right now, all I feel is the tsunami of emotion and the hopelessness of being left behind to pick up the pieces. And then I think of him moving on to something worthy of his talents, to finding a better professional half who builds him up, instead of just draining him of his worth, and I smile. I could never give him what he’s given me, but I can let him go and hope he finds it somewhere else.
In the meantime, I guess I can learn to make a mean cuppa Joe. Wish me luck. I’d say good luck to him, but he doesn’t need it. He has talent and drive and I know he’ll be successful.
XOXO – Awkward “Work-Divorcee” Jean
PS — If by chance you have some song suggestions for me, let me know. I did start a playlist, but so far I only have six songs… that’s some serious repetition my friends.