The Choices We Make

I have technically been an adult for 9 years, but in many ways, I feel like I’m not quite there. I sometimes forget that I am the master of my own destiny, the bearer of my own burdens, the navigator on my own stretch of road, and I determine the path, and how to handle the obstacles that arise. I can go out, buy a whole cake, and eat it all by myself if I feel like it, with no one but my conscience to stop me.

I’ve wanted a Nintendo Switch for a while now, and planned to buy one next month. Thanks to an employee special at work, I would be able to get one for a great price. And then, come November, I’d be playing Pokemon Shield, and making my way across the Galar region. And there would be a lot of Mario Kart, and maybe some Let’s Go Eevee! until then. Plus, I could play online with my two best friends – Mario Party is great fun when the three of us play together.

But I had my car inspection this week on my beloved Nissan, Vice. It has been a long while since I’ve needed anything done to it – I usually breeze through inspection with maybe a couple of tweaks, nothing major. So it was time, and $337 later, my wallet was a bit thinner than I would like it to be – and I’m looking at new tires in the near-ish future. Which won’t come cheap.

And so, I had a moment of clarity – that the choices we make can reflect where we are in our lives, and our values. I have bailed on plans because I don’t have the funds, but have also spent money on things that aren’t necessities. No matter how badly I want that Switch, it is going to have to wait until my Nissan has some new tires, even if I miss my initial chance to become the champion of the Galar League. So, I must be an adult for now… but eventually, play time will come around again.

 

Boop

Like all dignified cat owners, I love to give my cat, Reese, little ‘boops.’ Boops on the nose, boops on the head, etc. However, much like me, Reese also spurns the majority of affectionate gestures, so she typically acts incredibly affronted when I do this to her, and then ignores me for hours afterward.

Here is a pic of the demon, for reference. My adorable, antisocial tortoise-shell kitty. She’s about twelve now – but she’ll always be a “kitten” to me. She does love the occasional cuddle, but only on her terms.

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Recently, Reese has taken to laying behind the living room couch, which is a decent sized strip of carpet that leaves plenty of room for her to loll around, and she can see when people come and go from the house through the stair banister.

Recently, I came home from an outing – I believe from my viewing of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – and Reese was waiting patiently behind the couch. She stuck her head through the bars of the banister and meowed eagerly at me, likely upset that I’d left her so long without food, not at the simple joy of seeing me return from being gone somewhere.

On a whim, I stuck my face toward her. Normally, she shies away from such gestures, but she tentatively stuck her head further toward me… and she booped my nose with her nose. Her little pink, velvet nose booped mine, like a tiny kiss.

I was stunned. She’s never done anything of the sort before, and she immediately scooted away from me afterward, so I almost didn’t believe it had happened. I filled her bowl with food, and she chowed down, the moment forgotten. But my heart was warmed… and even if it never happens again, I will always remember that boop. I will treasure it.

It truly is the little things, isn’t it?

Just a Moment…

This week, landscapers came to do some yard work at our house. So, being the occasionally nice human being that I am, I figured I would park my car in the street so they could pull into the driveway, which would hopefully make it easier for them to get their work done.

The issue is, I forgot to do this the night before. So when I blearily awoke, around 7:40 AM, I remembered the plan and dragged myself out of bed to go and move my car. It would only take a moment, I thought. So, frizzy-haired, in my PJs, and with my feet shoved in my mom’s too-big clogs, I clambered into my Nissan and maneuvered down the driveway, then pulled into the street…

…only to realize it was also trash day. So the trash and recycling bins were set up on the curb. I would have to park a little further down to give the trash truck room, but that would mean parking adjacent to a neighbor’s car, and thus, making it even more difficult for the truck to get by. Plus, I was dangerously close to my other neighbor’s property line. Since she is a horrid person, I didn’t want to give any reason to set her off.

So, I figured, I’ll just swing around the block and park along the street on the other side of my driveway. Yet again, I thought, it would only take a moment…

… except I saw the familiar brown of a UPS truck lumbering down the street in my rearview as I swung around the corner. I looped the block, then, as I made my way down my street, I saw the UPS truck parked in front of our house. Right where I needed to park. And because one of my neighbors parks his big honkin’ red truck right on the rim of our property, I had to wait in the middle of the road for the UPS truck to move.

And I waited… for five minutes. Which, needless to say, is more than a moment. I would have gotten out and asked him to move outright, but because I looked like a troll, I didn’t feel like making my presence known. Eventually, he moved and went about his business, and I was able to park my car well out of the way of all passing trucks, both mail and trash, and leaving the driveway clear for the landscapers.

The whole process took about seven minutes. Which is hardly just a moment… so maybe, I would be better off expecting the unexpected from now on.

And the best part?

…The landscapers didn’t even park in the driveway.

Lottery

When I was about seven or eight, I was obsessed with the musical CATS. Like, properly obsessed – I used to watch it every day after school, knew all the words to the songs (even though I didn’t know what half of them meant), and dreamed that I could be one of the characters onstage someday. Seeing as I can’t sing or dance, this was a lofty – and unreachable – ambition. But child Allie kept on dreaming. And my favorite cat was Skimbleshanks (the Railway cat), if you were wondering.

I loved it so much, my mom took me on a bus trip to NYC to see the show on Broadway. I was psyched. It felt like my dreams were coming true – what could possibly be better than seeing CATS on Broadway?

The day of the trip, the bus was full. Lots of dancin’ feline lovin’ folks, but I was easily the youngest by a significant margin, and definitely the only person whose age was still in the single digits. Also this was circa, like… 1999, for reference. This was the original Broadway run of CATS. To pass the time on the bus, the people who organized the trip arranged for us to play a game. A lottery-type game.

So, everyone who wanted to participate would put in $1 into a pool, and then everyone who put money in would write their name onto a slip of paper and put it into a bucket to be drawn. The last name drawn would win the entire pool. My mom added a dollar on my behalf, as well as for herself, so my entry into this contest was legit.

I think you can tell where this story is going.

One by one, the names were read out, occasionally accompanied by a groan or a sigh of disappointment. The slips of paper in the bucket began to dwindle. My mother’s name was read out, but I kept waiting for mine, until there were only two names left. Needless to say, I won, which upset many of the other passengers, but my mom made sure to shield me from disapproving glares and grumbles, so I wasn’t really cognizant of that.

I won $45, which, to a seven year old in the year of our lord 1999, might as well have been six figures. My mom kept it safe for me since we were going to see the show first, but we would have some shopping time afterward, and I had plans for that cash.

The show was incredible, of course – CATS really opened my eyes to the wonderful and expansive world of musical theater. I still can’t sing or dance, but I love watching other people do it. They also let the kids climb onstage and explore a bit during the intermission, because the show was a big hit with the younger crowd. But after loving the music and watching the VHS over, and over, and over again, it was a total dream come true for child Allie to see it live. I also get to be smug and brag about how I got to see it during the original, previously record-breaking Broadway run. And Skimbleshanks is still my favorite.

After the show, we got some pizza at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and then… it was time for the next stop on our trip. A little place called FAO Schwarz. For those unfamiliar, it’s the toy store in the movie Big where Tom Hanks plays the giant floor piano. It’s not open any more, but it was insane, like a Toys-R-Us (R.I.P.) on steroids. And I was a child with $45 in my velcro wallet.

I’ll give my mom a lot of credit – she didn’t try to rein me in. I was a kid with whims, and I wasn’t about to put that money in the piggy bank to save for something like college. No, that didn’t even cross my mind. If there was anything at that point in my life that I loved as much as CATS… it was Pokemon.

I spent all the money – and I mean all – on Pokemon stuff.

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To be fair, twenty years later, I still have some of it. I have five talking figurines and a couple of plushies. I also bought a poster of the original 151 Pokemon to hang above my bed, because that’s the only Pokemon that existed at the time – it started at Bulbasaur and ended with Mew. The picture is of the figurines, which currently stand guard on my bookshelf, and sneaky peek of Raichu’s head. Squirtle also only speaks Japanese for reasons beyond my comprehension.

Was this the most responsible use of that money? Probably not. But I was young and $45 was a treat for me. It was like winning the lottery. If I won $45 now, I would probably put it toward bills. Either my car payment or my student loans. Because I’m 27 now, not 7. I can’t just toss money away on a whim.

Though it would be very tempting to spend it on Pokemon stuff…

Me Too

I know that many people look at the world today and see it as a volatile place. I’m more or less the definition of a standard-issue, Starbucks-loving, nonreligious, straight white girl, so obviously, my life hasn’t been riddled with the kinds of difficulties faced by those who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, skin color, religion, gender identity, what have you. I am very fortunate, in that regard – and I am fully aware of that.

But in the wake of the “Me Too” movement, I realized that there are some experiences in my past that have affected me and have influenced my behaviors around members of the opposite sex. You can say you’re tired of hearing about these “Me Too” stories, but it’s always going to be relevant, and if people have a story to tell, then they should tell it. I only recently told this story to my parents, and they were shocked that I hadn’t told them about it before, so I thought it might be therapeutic to get it off my chest. However, if personal stories aren’t your cup of tea, you may want to pass on reading this post.

I played on a coed soccer team when I was around seven or eight years old. We had three coaches – my dad (the best one, and no, that’s not bias speaking), one of the other dads, and a bald guy with a beard who I will call “Frank,” for the purposes of this story. Basically, it was a bunch of kids in green shirts running around occasionally kicking a ball in the right direction. One kid never took off his parka. We were terrible. I later had a briefly successful venture into more competitive soccer, but this was my first year playing, and nearly my last.

There was a kid on the team named “Sean,” also a fake name for the purposes of this story. Sean played defense, I played offense. When we had scrimmages during practice, and I found myself opposite of Sean, he would waggle his eyebrows at me and pull his shorts up to show me his underwear. My reaction to this was to basically make a “WTF” face, because why on earth would I want to look at his Scooby-Doo undies. He did this fairly often. I didn’t engage with him. I gave no indication that I wanted him to do that. I said nothing to him. I was there to play soccer, and that was it. That sort of unwanted attention was uncomfortable for me. I’m certain my father never noticed him doing this, or he would have for sure taken that boy to task.

As mentioned before, we were not good. We were, to put it bluntly, dreadful. We lost most of our games, but really, when you’re that young, the purpose is to have fun and to learn, not to wreck the competition. Two of our coaches understood that we were spindly-limbed novices still learning how to play the game – Frank did not. Frank treated U-8 soccer like it was the world cup.

One day, after a particularly rough loss on our home field, I was walking to the bathrooms (a generous term, as they were really a pair of port-a-johns) when I overheard Frank talking to some of the parents. He said, with malice in his voice, “Allie flirts with all the boys!”

I stopped walking, because I couldn’t believe it – and I didn’t understand. First of all, I didn’t know what flirting meant. Frank sort of clarified it, as he went on to claim that I distract all the boys so they can’t focus on the game. He accused me of being the reason we lose games, the reason for the poor performance of the boys on the team. I assume this mainly meant Sean, the underwear showing weirdo, but he said, “all.” I thought boys still had cooties at that age, so I didn’t understand where that accusation came from. I wanted to score goals – I wanted to be a good player. I went to practice to play. I wasn’t doing anything intentional to “distract” the boys – if I spoke to them, it was usually about cartoons or Pokemon cards, and only at breaks. But Frank’s words hurt;¬†they made me feel terrible and I went into the foul-smelling port-a-john to have a nice cry.

I look back on that now, and I see it as a middle-aged man blaming an eight-year-old girl in pigtails for the poor performance of a U-8 soccer team. I was a child who did nothing wrong, and yet, my existence was a reason for his ire. Even though I was being paid unwanted attention by a male player, it was my fault that our team was terrible. I was made to feel guilty, to feel responsible, to feel… ashamed. And for what?

I know it looks tame compared to many of the other stories – and thankfully, it is. There have been a couple of other instances in my personal history, but those are not stories I care to tell at the moment. But this event from two decades ago had a profound impact on the way I interacted with boys for years. I didn’t want to be blamed for any male’s shortcomings, and I also developed a steep distrust for male authority figures that I have only recently begun to get over. I generally avoided the attention of boys/men for the next, oh… fifteen years. And it’s something I still grapple with, twenty years after I was sent crying into a portable bathroom by the overheard accusations of an incensed soccer coach. I know that it wasn’t my fault, but I also won’t deny that there was long-lasting damage done to my psyche that day, which I have only been able to unpack and process over the last couple of years.

I hope that this movement – the “Me Too” movement as it has been called – will help other girls, boys, men, women, and anyone else who has been affected in a similar way, cope with what they’ve gone through, regardless of the severity. I know that hearing others speak up about their experiences has made me more comfortable with sharing mine, and I can only hope to do that for someone else out there.

 

 

Fling the Shoe

The mind of a child is an incredible thing.

When we were very young, my childhood best friend and I invented a game. We would swing on her swing set, go as high as we could, and fling our shoes off of our feet and send them flying across the yard, and see who could send theirs the farthest. We called this game, “Fling the Shoe.” Not the most creative name in the world, but it got the point across.

It’s such a simple thing, but it held a lot of meaning for us. We would muster all our strength and release the shoes at the peak of the swing, aiming for the brink of the neighbor’s yard. It all came down to the timing – if you waited too long, you’d accidentally send it flying straight up, or do it too soon and you wouldn’t get the proper angle. There was a certain art to it, and we could play for ages trying to achieve the perfect technique. I don’t know who won more often, but I don’t think we really cared who actually flung their shoe the furthest. We just had so much fun doing it.

We spent countless sunny afternoons playing this game, and lamenting bad weather because it meant we couldn’t. In the summer, her backyard was full of our laughter, and the air was full of sneakers. Every time I see a swing set I think of those days and how much fun we had together. We weren’t glued to the television (at least, not all the time) or engrossed with computers – which there is too much of these days, even though I am pro-technology. All we had were our imaginations, our creativity, and the simple bliss of childhood friendship.

“Fling the Shoe” was such a simple thing, but it’s a dear memory. Because it meant so much more than that, and still does.

 

In Disguise

I recently left my old gym in favor of a new one, and have been making an effort to eat better. I’m in decent shape, but would like to lose a couple of pounds and improve my strength. All about that self improvement, folks.

And then, as I was hitting my stride, I got struck with a stomach virus that rendered me almost completely immobile, during a week where we had surprise extra shipments at work while also being severely short-handed. People kept a wide berth around me in the office and I had to wear a heating pad around my neck while on the floor.

Needless to say… it was a bad time. But I did lose a couple of pounds.

I also wasn’t able to drink coffee for a couple of days, because the very scent of coffee made my stomach churn. After I started feeling better, I kept the trend going. I haven’t had coffee since Tuesday, which is a new record for me. And I actually feel… good?

So maybe, sometimes, bad situations can be a blessing in disguise.

UPDATE: Not an hour after I finished drafting this post, the stomach bug returned with a sudden and violent vehemence and brought a horrible migraine with it.

So… I take it back. No blessings here, in disguise or otherwise.

And I am totally drinking coffee tomorrow.

(My Game of Thrones Season 8 post will either be this Friday or next Monday, depending on how fast I can finish it. I have a lot to say, but want to give the dust time to settle and my mind time to chill a bit.)