Of Destiny and Tater Tots

I have always held the believe that life works in mysterious ways. About a month ago, I began to feel a desire growing within me. A craving for something I had not experienced since the days of my youth.

Tater tots.

I had a serious hankering for some crispy, golden-brown tater tots.

The last time I had enjoyed some tots was elementary school, when they were served on an off-white plastic tray with cardboard pizza and a bag of milk. Now, over a decade later, I’m a semi-pescatarian who works out daily and tries to stay on the healthy side of eating. So tater-tots are usually not on the menu.

But the stomach wants what it wants. Luckily, my extreme aversion to grocery shopping prevented me from going to purchase tater-tots, and, surprisingly, tots are difficult to encounter anywhere other than the grocery store. Also, they pretty much have to be made in the oven. And I’m a microwave kind of gal.

I took it as a sign that it was not meant to be, and hoped that my hunger for tots would disappear with time and patience. I had survived over a decade without tots. I would persevere.

A week passed, the tots all but banished from my mind. And then I went to work one fine evening and noticed that the menu had been posted for my workplace’s monthly trip to make dinner for families of children who are receiving treatment at a hospital about an hour away from my place of employment. I usually attend and help cook, despite the fact that I am the chef of Gordon Ramsay’s nightmares, but if my schedule does not permit, I often sign up to bring an item from the menu list. So I grabbed a white-board marker to write my name beside an item to bring….and my heart stopped.

Because on that list, in big, capital red letters, was: TATER TOTS (LARGE BAGS).

A thousand thoughts converged upon me. Could it be fate? Just when I began to forget the intense hunger I felt for the tots, destiny throws me this curve-ball? Immediately, I scrawled my name on the white-board. This was a clear-cut sign from the potato gods. I was meant to have tots.

After work the following day, I made a trip to the much-abhorred grocery store. Side-note: Normally the tater tots are in these freezers in the back of the store, near the deli and the fish market, so that is where I headed. I literally made two laps of the back of the store (naturally refusing all help offered to me by the employees) before realizing that they were, in fact, not there. Then I went to the ‘potatoes’ section of the actual frozen food department, and it took me another five minutes to find them among the french fries. You could have given me a map and it still would have taken me twenty minutes.

I stood there, in front of the freezer, looking at the huge bags of tots, for what felt like an eternity. People passed, on their way to pick up ice cream and frozen dinners, or the occasional pizza. They were ignorant to the allure of the tots. I could hear the little potato bits of heaven calling to me, begging me to take them home.

It would be so easy. I needed two bags for the charity dinner, and could buy a third for myself. I mean, they were right in front of me. This was divine intervention. THIS was destiny.

And then I glanced at my shopping basket, and realized it could only fit two bags of tots. Also, my arms are spindly so I wouldn’t be able to carry a third without looking like a noodle-armed fool. A cold mist of devastation fell over me. But I held my head high, and accepted that, though the tots were so close, it was not meant to be. After all, did I really need a GIANT bag of tater-tots? No. Would it be a smart decision, food-wise? Probably not.

I grabbed my two bags of tots, and left. Well…. paid for them, then left.

The next day, I walked into work with the two bags of tots, and put them in our work freezer. I was working a late shift, so I was unable to attend the dinner, and told my coworker where they were, since she would be driving to the event. I thought that my duty was done, and all was well.

Then she came back, about four hours later. I asked her, “How did the dinner go?”

And she put her arm around me and said, “I’m so sorry… but we forgot to bring your tater tots. Luckily, they already had some in the kitchen.”

After her words finally processed, realization struck. I now had not one, but two giant bags of tater tots. So much had happened since my initial craving for them days before. Destiny had, yet again, meddled around in my dietary life, bringing tots to me when I tried so hard to resist. I was meant to have tots. So I brought them home with me that day, put some in the oven, and enjoyed their potatoey goodness. AND IT WAS MARVELOUS.

Life really does work in mysterious ways. Just when you think something is not meant to be, that something will always be standing in your way, destiny comes through, like the sun after a rainstorm. It may take the long road, sometimes, or it might never happen at all. Some things are meant to be, like me and tater tots, while other things are just not fated to happen, like Tron 3 (and yes, I’m bitter about that one.) I mean, I’m not going to make a habit of consuming tots, because my arteries would protest after a while. But that’s life, I guess. Life is full of surprises…crispy, golden, potatoey surprises.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have two bags of tots to eat, and a destiny to fulfill.

I’m Not Angry (I Promise)

In general, I consider myself to be a pretty decent sort of person.

I try to be nice to people whenever I can, and sure, I have days where I’m moody and irritated for what could be a multitude of reasons, but generally, I think I’m okay. I’m not some ticking time-bomb of rage just waiting to unleash upon some poor unsuspecting innocent civilian… most of the time.

When people first meet me, this might not be apparent.

I suffer from a condition known as ‘Chronic Resting Bitch-Face.’ I’d seen the term floating around on the internet before, and was easily able to make the connection, and I realized that most of the symptoms fit me.

Basically, unless I’ve put effort into smiling at or about something, I always look like I’m in an early phase of anger or annoyance, though I prefer to refer to it as being “stern.” It’s just how my face is. It is my natural expression, for reasons completely beyond my comprehension. I was born this way. I was probably a pretty solemn looking baby and a downright severe toddler.

I am one of those people who type ‘lol’ in a text or email when really, I didn’t so much as crack a smile. I am inwardly expressive, more so than outwardly. I internally sobbed during the Red Wedding, but no physical tears…well, maybe a few. Often, I will be asked, “Are you okay?” to which I normally respond with some variation of,  “Yes, I’m fine.” Usually, that response is pretty accurate.

This is sometimes followed by another question of, “Are you sure you’re fine?” with the occasional add-on of, “You look kind of angry” or, one memorable, “Who pissed in your cheerios this morning?” That’s the equivalent of telling someone “You look tired,” when really, they mean, “Wow, you look terrible.”

And then I spend a good thirty seconds assuring the person that I really am NOT angry. It’s just my face. And these conversations often leave me irritated, so in the end, pretty counterproductive.

When I studied abroad in England during the summer of 2011, I did not know my roommate very well at the start of the term. We’d met before, and were on speaking terms, but weren’t really friends yet. I did not find out until a couple of weeks into our classes, after we’d become good friends during our travels and studies, that she was afraid to talk to me in the morning because I “look angry” when I first wake up. I’m not exactly a morning person, but I didn’t realize that translated onto my face as anger.

That was when I realized that I had a “condition.”

This happened before that moment, as well. I found out in high school that a girl I ran track with, who was far more popular than me but very nice and a great teammate, was at first too intimidated to speak to me because of how I carry myself and my facial expressions. I have also had friends confess to me over the years that before we officially met, they were literally “afraid” to converse with me. AFRAID. Like I’m Jason Voorhies and they’re a camp full of idiotic teenagers.

That was when I realized that while I may not be a naturally angry person, I sure do look like one. Even though if I were to be a Pokemon, I’d probably be a Jigglypuff. That’s how intimidating I should seem, though apparently, people perceive me more as a Tyranitar.

I have had a lot of time to reflect on this – and to observe my reflection in the mirror, to try and understand what other folks are seeing. I realize that the way I see myself often clashes with the way others see me. And it’s something that I have been forced to accept about myself, because unfortunately, I do not believe there is a known cure for Chronic Resting Bitch-Face. I have been putting effort into being more expressive when I am feeling positive emotions, but I get nasty headaches if I laugh or smile too much over the course of the day. Kind of like being allergic to happiness.

I am not the only sufferer of the Bitch-Face epidemic. It has claimed many, all across the world. It affects men and women alike. It takes no prisoners. I feel you, my Bitch-Face suffering brethren. I am forced to promise people that I’m not angry with them on an almost daily basis. Someday, maybe there will be a cure. Or at least, some kind of treatment, for those of us who REALLY ARE FINE, and we’re not angry, we promise.

Until then, I will continue to internally smile, until perhaps someday, it will reflect on my face, and I hope that when I say that I am fine, people will eventually believe me.

Surviving Rock Science

When I was in my final year of college, I had to take a lab science. It was a requirement foisted upon me, not a choice.

I’d thought that I dodged it, because I took an online astronomy class with a “lab” over the summer of my second year, but my university saw through that thinly-veiled attempt to avoid being forced into cooperative classwork and my astronomy credit went toward my non-lab science requirement instead. Total injustice, but whatever. I sucked it up.

I opted for Geology. Mainly because it seemed like the least intense class (science is my weakest subject besides the dreaded beast known as MATH,) and also because it was the only lab that worked with the rest of my schedule. When I walked into the classroom on the first day of the semester, I took the seat closest to the door and prayed that somehow, I would survive the semester with my GPA intact.

As the rest of the class filtered in, I realized that I was doomed. I knew nobody. But everyone else seemed to know each other. This was common for me, as an out-of-state, antisocial, party-hating student living alone off-campus, and it had never really bothered me.

But this class was a lab. Involving lab partners. Which meant that I was going to have to talk to somebody.

The HORROR.

We didn’t do an actual lab for about a week. And then, it came time to pair off. It’s a ritual that’s practiced from grade school all the way through the echelons of higher education, where the strong survive and the weak limp along like a lame gazelle. But for me, it never got easier over the years, due to a toxic combination of crippling shyness and natural resting “bitchface.” It’s the same reason why I always sat alone on the bus from grades 9-12. The other kids were scared of me, and I’m afraid of people.

The professor handed out our lab packets and told us to find a partner. In the time it took me to blink, literally EVERYONE had already paired up with someone, and they were busily working on their packets. Laughing, making bad rock puns, and generally being normal college kids forced to take the class even though their life will never involve terms like gneiss, pumice, or pahoehoe lava ever again.

Everyone had paired up… except me and the other guy at my table. He was on his phone 50% of the time during class and put his bookbag on the seat between us like I had an infectious disease. It was obvious that we were going to be stuck together, but regardless, we both opened up our packets and proceeded to completely ignore one another for about ten minutes and fill it out ourselves.I don’t remember which of us spoke to the other first, but it was definitely out of necessity.

And thus began the strangest partnership in the history of rock science.

I didn’t know his name until our third lab together, and I’m not altogether sure he ever learned mine. I don’t know/remember what his major was. He was pretty rude to me at times, and I wasn’t exactly a shining example of class and charm (not that I ever am). The only thing we agreed on was trying to trick our professor into giving us answers, which never worked, but he often pointed us in the right direction if I whined enough. He still texted 50% of the time. I complained incessantly about not understanding how to read topographic maps. We developed a weird partnership, where we were constantly sarcastic to one another, each thought that we were the smart one, and did not interact unless it was totally required. If we saw one another outside of class we didn’t acknowledge each other.

One time, he was absent for a lab and when my professor asked me where he was, I shrugged and said, “I dunno.” I imagine his reaction was similar for the lab that I missed a couple of weeks later. We weren’t facebook friends and didn’t exchange phone numbers. I didn’t know his last name until graduation, and that’s only because it was in the program. We did not speak about our personal lives or anything that did not involve rocks. After a while, we more or less got along, though we were still 100% sarcastic to one another and I’m 90% sure he thought I was a complete idiot, which is fine. I graduated Summa Cum Laude and he didn’t. I’m sure that was a shock for him (If you’re reading this, Former Lab Partner, then HAHA) but I never found out his reaction because we never spoke after our last lab, and parted ways without a goodbye.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never see him again, and I’m not devastated about it.  If for some bizarre reason I do see him again, our conversation will go something like this:

“Hey remember when we were lab partners in rock science?”

“Yeah.”

“Me too.”

End of conversation. We were lab partners. That was literally it. Strictly business. Strictly rocks. I don’t even remember what he looks like.

But do you know the craziest thing about it? We were one of the the best sets of partners in the entire class.

The only lab we did “poorly” on was the most difficult lab in the entire unit, and we still did better than a majority of the other groups, if not all of them. We got all A’s except for that one, which earned a B. If we didn’t have the best grades in the class, it was only because of individual test scores. I know that I finished the class with an A, and I imagine that he did, too. Despite not being friends, and not even really getting along, we found a weird middle ground and managed to make it work. As much as I hate to admit it, I wouldn’t have gotten an A in rock science without him. I think our professor was equal parts impressed and perplexed by us.

So the moral of the story?

Being paired with a random person in a class isn’t the end of the world, even if you are antisocial and have perma-bitchface, and your partner can’t keep his face away from his phone for two minutes. You too, can survive. And it might just end up going better than expected.

The Digi-Piggy

I received a package in the mail this week. That package contained a glorious piece of porcine machinery known as the Digi-Piggy.

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Like most scatter-brained individuals, I am notorious for misplacing things. Just last week, I took a pair of brown shoes from my closet to wear to work. I set them down somewhere, went to do something else, and forgot where I put them. It’s been six days, and I still haven’t found them. They’re lost in the abyss somewhere with my St. Patrick’s Day socks (couldn’t find them in time for this year) and about a billion bobby-pins and hair-ties.

As such, I purchased the Digi-Piggy so I would have somewhere to keep my loose change. My wallet is literally splitting at the seams because of all the coins I have, including several British coins from my vacation last May, and last week I cleaned my room and found pennies in some very odd places. I wanted an efficient (and adorable) way to keep my coin situation in check.

Unfortunately, my scatter-brained-ness is not exclusive to physical possessions. It also includes thoughts. Goals, both long and short term. I forget a lot of things, or lose traction midway through something because my mind is spread out in a thousand different directions and I can’t find my way back.

Sometimes, it takes a little prompting to get my priorities in focus. Especially when I feel like certain goals or ideas are impossible, and then I lose all motivation before I can even start planning.

I’m hoping that my acquisition of the Digi-Piggy will not only help me with my loose-change problem, I’m hoping it will help keep me focused on a dream that I’ve had for many years now. I very much want to go to New Zealand someday – in part to satisfy the Lord of the Rings fanatic side of me, in part because it looks like such a beautiful place to go, and in part because I have a burning travel-fever to cure. Unfortunately, that dream is a long ways off, with me being a semi-recent grad with loans and bills to pay.

I know the road to my dream will be a looooooong one (have you seen the price of tickets to fly to NZ?), but my Digi-Piggy is going to help me out, a little bit at a time. I’ll be saving in other ways, of course, but all of my spare change – diligently counted by my Digi-Piggy – is going to my NZ fund. It’s just a tiny step, but I enjoyed depositing all of my spare change and seeing the digital $3.04 on the piggy’s nose, and it made me feel like I was getting somewhere.

$3.04 toward my trip, and all of my spare change is out of my wallet. Killing two bird with one stone – or, rather- solving two problems with one piggy.

An Elusive Balance

This morning, I awoke on the floor of my bedroom.

‘This morning’ is technically correct, though I should mention it was actually 3:20 AM.

Though not necessarily a common occurrence for me, I do occasionally wake up in this fashion – with the lights still on, an unfinished cup of coffee on the nightstand, my back in knots, and iTunes still playing The Lord of the Rings Complete Recording on my laptop. And it usually happens after I try to stay up late writing. Emphasis on the try.

And my first thought is almost always ‘Not again.’

I go through periods in my life where I think I have it all together – the stars align, my routines even themselves out, I remember everything on my to-do list, and I don’t wake up on my floor in the wee hours of the morning. And then, inevitably, there are also periods in my life where I fall into that horrible place between ‘having it all together’ and ‘a complete, total trainwreck.’ These days are usually categorized by piles of unfolded laundry littered around my room and days where I rely solely on English muffins and ramen noddles for sustenance.

I mean, I’m in my early twenties. I think I’m allowed to be a trainwreck sometimes. But it’s not productive, and, in the end, usually makes me feel like a useless slug until I can pick myself back up again and try and get back on track.

I suppose I am searching for something that has eluded me for what feels like forever – that balance, between the extremes. The train that chugs along toward a visible destination, instead of being completely stopped at a station, or blown off the tracks and broken into millions of indiscernible parts. The place in between feeling totally and utterly stuck and feeling like everything is moving far too quickly. The right pace to get to where I want to be in life.

I find myself, some days, coming home from a long day at work, and instead of working on a manuscript, like I promised myself I would, I sit down on my bed and end up taking a three hour nap, and then can’t fall asleep at a decent hour at night when I need to wake up the next morning at 5AM. Then when I wake up from the nap, I feel so bad about myself that when I attempt to salvage writing time out of it, I’m too irritated to make words.

Other days, I get to bed at a proper time, feel energized at work, come home, and pump out 5,000 words in a word document all in one sitting, and don’t end up hating it all when I reread it the next day.

I guess it’s all part of life, trying to find that balance. The periods of sluggishness and feeling dispirited grow shorter, and the periods of productivity and an increased sense of accomplishment grow longer. I’m still looking for my balance – so I don’t wake up on the floor of my room with my foot tangled in my comforter and Enya resonating from my laptop speakers. It would probably help if I stop drinking four cups of coffee a day, but that’s a whole separate issue…

Currently, My train is chugging along. I have a novel that is in the process of being edited/published, though I still don’t even believe it’s happening. This is something I have worked very hard for, and I am hoping that it will provide me with some more momentum.

There are still days when I sit in front of my screen and stare at the blinking cursor, and can’t think of anything to type, so I give up and browse the internet for cat pictures and fainting goat videos for hours. But the days (with the exception of last night, apparently) where I can sit and churn out thoughts and ideas without feeling like it all belongs in a compost heap are growing more frequent.

The balance is getting closer, every day. My train has finally left the station, and I will keep it on track, so that someday it might reach the destination I dream of, even though it might take occasional pit stops here and there.