Juicy Olive

The quest for “the good life” should never be complete but it should definitely begin now.

Summer of Selfish May 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — juicyolive @ 10:06 pm

I’ve never been one of those people who sets New Year’s Resolutions. For some reason the holidays always end up being so overwhelming that the only thing I can think of is: “ummm…I pledge to stop drinking Champagne several times a day and to limit my intake of baked goods to simple cereals.”

But, throughout the year, inspiration always comes to me. And, for whatever reason, the recent passing of Memorial Day has got me thinking. I just spent a glorious weekend with my friend Stephanie in Portland, and I did everything I wanted to do. I walked through The Pearl. Sipped beer at Deschutes, Henry’s and Rogue. I shopped at the beautiful hatmakers’ boutiques and selected a couple of chapeaux that fit me perfectly. I sat in the sun and watched windsurfers. I tasted wine straight from the barrels in the caves at Archery Summit and Domaine Serene. I walked up to a waterfall and felt its cool mist on my face.

On the looooong flight home, I gave a lot of thought to why my weekend was so  much fun. Sure, it was fuled by great times with one of my closest friends. But also it was driven by my needs and wants.

I am a people pleaser. It probably goes wayyy back to the days when I took enormous delight in seeing my parents or teachers or golf pro or anyone else with authority be happy with me. Somewhere along the line, I’ve given the entire world authority, and I’ve tried my hardest to make everyone like me. This results in a lot of, “what do you want to do, Charlotte?” “Oh, I don’t know….whatever you want.” (in the back of my head, a soundtrack of “don’t rock the boat” plays on repeat.)

I have worked very hard to break the cycle of NEEDING that approval. NEEDING everyone to be okay with every step I take. NEEDING everyone to understand me. And, for the most part, I’ve done a good job.

But recently I’ve slipped back into some yucky old habits. I’ve felt like I MUST say yes to all invitations. MUST agree to serve on every committee. MUST be nice to the person who isn’t.

Well, enough is enough. I need to reel it in and focus on myself.

Effective today – May 28 – I hereby pledge to make this the Selfish Summer. What exactly will I do? I’m not sure yet. But mark my words, I’m going to put myself first again – and I plan to like it!

Anyone want to join me in some hedonistic summertime fun? Beach day? You’ve got it. Roaming up and down Clark street just to watch the idiots before a Cubs game? sold. Staying in for a night because you feel like rotting in your apartment after a long weekend? Bring it.

Let’s make sure we’re being good to those we love and those who love us, but to keep ourselves in the spotlights in our minds. This goes full circle…in being good to ourselves, we’ll be better for them.

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Here Comes the Calm May 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — juicyolive @ 1:24 am

You know how people talk about the calm before the storm? It’s that weird moment of peace that settles over you just before some metaphorical explosion takes over your life. You’re happy as a clam with your family, and your mom gets diagnosed with cancer. You feel like you’re just hitting your stride at work, and you find out the company is downsizing. You have a fabulous date with someone, and he tells you the next day he’s just not that into being in a relationship. No matter what, there’s that moment where everything seems peaceful. And then shit falls apart.

Recently, my shit has fallen apart…or so it seemed. I felt out of whack. I felt put upon. I felt like there was a joke, and I was on the outside looking in just waiting to realize what was so damn funny about derailing me.

So, I did what everyone else would do. I threw a gigantic pity party. I invited all of my friends – via text messages, instant messages, emails, phone calls, and crying pleas – to join me in my self-absorbed lameness. I got so grossed out with food that I barely ate for three days. Then I became ravenous and ate a cheeseburger, fries, several beers and a cookie. I retreated and laid around in bed feeling like a serious loser. I got empowered and did some yoga. I watched a happy movie. I watched a sad movie. I drank a bottle of wine. I boycotted liquids. I considered dying my hair, but settled on a rinse-out glaze. I cried. I laughed. I took a sleeping pill. I stayed awake. I watched reruns of Law & Order. I wrote in my journal. I wrote mean emails. I deleted them. I sent nice emails. I regretted them.

What’s weird is that we can all recognize the calm before the storm – in retrospect. Hell, the beauty of hindsight is its clarity when looking back…and oh how I realize the splendor and the moment before the pain.

But what about the moment when calm returns? If I’m playing my cards well, my life – in general – is calm. So, wouldn’t it be natural for calm to come back again? Yet, when something upsetting has happened, bouncing back feels so difficult. It feels like I’m betraying myself and the process I’ve just endured to feel better. But isn’t that the goal? Isn’t that what I want?

The answer for me is yes and yes. I need to indulge myself in the pity party. It is what it is for a reason – you have to take care of yourself by giving in to those emotions. Doing so healthfully makes a boatload of sense. But when it feels right, let calm come back. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to lick your wounds even though the feeling of wellbeing, happiness and structure return.

I would love to know how you all deal with the upsetting and unsettling loss of calm and the way you welcome it back into your life.

In the meantime, I invite you all to join a pretty serious pity party (I throw a good one!) and an even better “I’m over it” party.

 

Claudia gets a present May 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — juicyolive @ 8:48 pm

I got a text from Claudia last week, and in the few short words I saw on my cell screen, I knew this had to be shared on Juicy Olive.

Via email, Alvin had informed her that afternoon he was bringing a “choking hazard” to her for their first date. Whaaaaat? Yep – you read it correctly. Claudia asked me, “what’s a choking hazard?” My best guess was that weird ball-gag thing that Ving Rhames and Bruce Willis are forced to wear in “Pulp Fiction,” and I was really hoping I was wrong. I told her to keep her phone nearby during her date and to have an escape plan if necessary.

So, after telling him she really likes all food except for Latin American and Mexican food, Alvin takes Claudia for tapas. Riiiight. Tapas. While technically not traditional Latin American or Mexican cuisine, tapas are about as close as you can get. You’d think that Alvin just didn’t care or wasn’t paying attention, but it turns out that those were his two strongest qualities. Evidently, Alvin cares – a lot – and he is very detail oriented.

"hey baby, i got you a choking hazard"

"hey baby, i got you a choking hazard"

They sit down at the tapas bar, and Alvin presents Claudia with her “choking hazard” gift. What is it? A wooden whistle. You know, the kind that typically has a logo or quippy saying on it? Evidently, Alvin thought it was a riot that there was a “warning: choking hazard” sticker on the package; I know – it’s a total hoot…hilarious…so funny.  Alvin asks her to blow on it, and Claudia obliges. (She told me that the “Twilight Zone” music started slowly playing in her mind at around this time…wonder why?) Like a child giving a parent a present, Alvin was gazing at Claudia with a look that screamed, “I need your approval!” Claudia thanked him and told him the gift was really nice, which apparently was the right thing to say, as Alvin pulled three more wooden whistles out of his man-purse. THEN he pulls a marker out of his bag and asks her to write names on the whistles. Then he wanted her to play with the whistles – like doll babies.

That’s right. For those of you just joining this program, Claudia’s date gave her children’s musical instruments to name and play with throughout their date. Yep – fun, fun, fun.

Following the melodious dinner, Alvin produces – yet again from his man purse – a spreadsheet that details all of the bars playing live music that night, the start times of each band, the style of music, the cover charge and the approximate cost of a drink. Incredulous, Claudia selected a band whose name sounded interesting and off they went. This seemed like it would be a perfect distraction for Act Two of the date. Not so much. Turns out, the venue and band Claudia selected weren’t that popular. Including her and Marvin, there were two other patrons, the bartender and the ensemble. That’s all.

To be filed in the category of It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, Claudia decided the very best option in the midst of the What the F^#* Date would be to drink a whole lot of vodka cocktails. Instead of working its magic, this made Alvin far more annoying and the music far more painful.

When the night ended, Claudia was sure Alvin knew this was a no-go. Surprisingly, he didn’t. Dear Alvin went in for the kill – invited her to his apartment, wanted to kiss her, asked to see her again soon…the whole shebang. Not surprisingly, Claudia bolted from the car, made up an excuse to not see him again and has avoided his calls ever since.

I know, I know. Everyone is probably saying, “what a bunk move, Claudia – you need to at least give him the courtesy of letting him know you’re not interested.”

You know what I think? She doesn’t need to do that. Sure, it’s a nice and courteous move. But one date in, it’s not a requirement. And while I’m not advocating being a complete jerk , I am saying that standing up for yourself and your needs is best. Given how uncomfortable the sole night with Alvin was, I think Claudia made the right decision. She didn’t want or need to subject herself to his weird behavior again. Cutting bait early and not giving him any indication to read it otherwise was fine.

So the moral of the Claudia tale this week? Do the right thing…for yourself. A wacko date may be funny to recount to your friends, but putting up with the wackiness any longer would be cause to blow the whistle.

 

Like Peas and Carrots May 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — juicyolive @ 4:31 pm

They say when you meet a special someone, you just know. Usually, this is in reference to a romantic soul mate: someone who starts a fire inside your heart and keeps it burning for the rest of eternity. But I’m a strong believer that such a spark also happens between plutonic friends. You meet and you click; and then you know you’ll be partners in crime forever.

Bosom Buddies?

Bosom Buddies?

That’s pretty much how it was for me with Stephanie. We met at a significant crossroads in each of our lives. I had just quit my job after the PR agency I had been working for went belly-up quickly. Stephanie was in the midst of finishing her work toward a teaching degree. We were both feeling lost and trying to make ends meet, while still living a fun and fulfilling life.

One summer day I walked through the doors that Stephanie had entered only a few months beforehand. Chateaux was a darling gift shop in Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood, and I was hired to join Stephanie as shopgirl extraordinaire. Unfortunately, just as we were hired, the business started slowing down. The loveable owner was considering shutting down the store entirely due to sluggish sales and a changing demographic of shoppers in the area. After dusting the shelves for 30 minutes, unpacking shipments for an hour and dealing with the occasional wacky customer, we still had several hours of time to kill before locking the doors at night.

I knew we were connecting as friends, but my initial spark for her was very focused: Stephanie loved music and she had awakened for me a renewed urgency to seek great tunes. In my pre-Chateaux days, I had fallen into the habit of listening to one of about 10 CDs over and over again. The jukebox in my brain was becoming increasingly limited and dated. With all that idle time on our hands at the store, Stephanie and I would take turns putting in new CDs, learning the lyrics to great songs and letting them become the soundtrack of the early days of our friendship.

I will never listen to “Chariot” by Gavin DeGraw without thinking of the two of us belting out the entire song (no customers in sight) while reorganizing gift cards. The entire “Songs About Jane” album by Maroon 5 takes me back to the time we rearranged a window display, only to realize the owner had a different vision for how the fancy shower curtains would be hung. Any song by Annie Lenox now transports me to our fits of giggles when we realized just how grossly flirtatious the UPS man was with us. (it’s really tough to take a man in a brown shorts outfit seriously.)

Jason Mraz, Bob Dylan, Robert Earl Keene, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys – these artists sang to us each and every day. I will forever be grateful to Stephanie for reopening musical doors and illuminating a passion for bands and songs that I had forgotten. But in learning the lyrics, dusting the shelves and spending more hours than we’d like to admit sitting behind the cash-wrap counter, we became friends.

Now more than six years later, we have introduced each other to more music, destinations, restaurants and fashion. We’ve supported one another throughout the big moments in our lives, such as pursuing new jobs, moving to new cities and – of course – meeting, dating, loving, hating, breaking up with and moving on from men. We are brutally honest with one another and can make the other laugh without saying a word.

Today, I live in Chicago. And Steph lives in Portland, Oregon. We often talk about one day moving to a place where we could once again live in the same city and see each other more frequently than once every six months. Until then, the modern world has given us the tools to stay connected. Sometimes we schedule “virtual happy hours” that consist of us making cocktails and talking on the phone for a couple of hours after work. Would it be better if we were sitting at our favorite dive bar sipping a frosty Fat Tire together? Of course. But we’ve found a way to become closer over the years – instead of further apart.

Soul Sistas

Soul Sistas

I’m going to visit Stephanie next weekend, and I cannot wait. I’m surely going to post a lot of good stories from that time, as we always tend to come up with some doozies. She is a true Juicy Olive, which means F-U-N is in store for sure!

Until then, I’ll remain forever thankful for all of my friends and for the friendships – like mine with Stephanie – that have withstood the tests of time and distance.

 

Setting the Bar High May 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — juicyolive @ 4:55 pm
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Here’s a conversation I recently overheard between a couple-friend of mine:

Lindsay: “Ooh – that cupcake looks awesome. Should we split it, honey?”
Ryan: “nope.”

I took such delight in that exchange, because it typifies what I admire about couples: sharing and honesty. Lindsay and Ryan are a generous, devoted and happy twosome. Yet both of them have retained their individual personalities and priorities. Granted, it’s a simple discussion about a simple dessert, but the balance of care and candor is what most people strive for in a relationship.

But about that dessert: did I mention that Jonathan baked those cupcakes (and a sheet cake too!) for Bridget for her birthday!? I mean, seriously, he baked them! By himself! For his wife! Because he loves her! Adorable. (EXCLAMATION POINT!)

I’m thrilled to know that I have such great friends whose romances with their mates set really high and happy standards for we single gals. Whether it’s witnessing a humorous negotiation about a cupcake, observing a devoted and mature parenting style or seeing how they resolve conflict carefully, I take comfort in how healthy my friends’ relationships are. I also take comfort in knowing that some day, someone will potentially bake me a cake. Heck, a cake isn’t even necessary – feed me chocolate, fan me with palms and provide me with an endless fountain of champagne and I’ll be fine…simple needs, really.

The lesson here is simple: never settle. That harmonious partnership is out there. And when we find that person, we’ll be giving and getting what we want.

And for Ryan, that meant the whole cupcake – way to stand up for your needs, buddy.

 

Don’t Call Me Taj

Filed under: Friends,Uncategorized — juicyolive @ 4:46 pm
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The other night, we were at a friend’s house for a wine-tasting. The cast of characters featured a world of know-it-alls…a little…actually, we don’t know that much…at all.

For example, did you know that Meritage doesn’t rhyme with “fusilage?” We learned that tonight. It rhymes with “heritage” – who knew!?

This got me thinking: how important is it to know much at all? I’m increasingly less interested in being right. But when I was in college, I tried my hardest to be the smartest commenter in the lecture. I raised my hand first. I furiously scanned my notes for the most obscure element of the text that would make me brilliant to my peers. And tonight, some of that came out around the table – when presented with the opportunity to win prizes for our wine knowledge, our hands shot up in the air and our teacher’s pets personas came to life!

For the most part, though, we were surpisingly restrained. Here are a bunch of Type-A personalities who want to be in charge of the discussion and we actually listened.

The know-it-alls learned a little something about wine

The know-it-alls learned a little something about wine

And here’s what we learned:

  • House Wine – don’t judge a book by its cover. This wine looks generic by label, but started the night off pleasantly and made us feel relaxed. Read this: relaxed, pleasant, yummy, clean, tasty. BUY ME!
  • A. Genoux – this is a classic Rhone blend – with a heck of a lot of syrah and grenache in it. Fruity with a dry finish, we all agreed that this improves as it breathes and would pair very well with food.
  • The Prisoner – this gorgeous bottle by Orin Swift Cellars surprised us all. The base of 50% zinfandel gave it strength, but the additional grapes (cab, syrah, petit syrah, charbono and grenache) provided incredible balance and flavor.
  • One Twenty Over Eighty – if there is ever a reason to join a wine club, Ehlers Estate has given it to us with this bottle. Only available to its club members, this incredible red blend knocks your socks off. A traditional Bordeaux-style red, this wine begs to be consumed with dinner – and a little leftover to complement a bite of dark chocolate at dessert!
  • C.M.S. – Featuring a blend of “Cabernet,” “Merlot” and “Syrah”, this wine by Hedges provided a memorable conclusion to the tasting. It was very balanced and reminded me of the kind of wine you’d like to sip to finish your night. Go change into your jammies, curl up on the couch with a blanket and have one last glass of CMS while squeezing in the last dose of gossip with your friends.

That night’s focus – if you haven’t already figured it out – was blends: merlot, cab, petit verdot, etc.. On their own they can be remarkable, but together they’re like magic. It’s not to say that an independent varietal isn’t a worthy bottle of wine. Please, we had heart palpitations recently when trying the 100% petit verdot from Reverie. But the group consensus was that blends don’t get enough credit and that everyone should treat a simple “vin de table” with a little more reverence next time they’re at a local wine store.

On my way home, I was reflecting on our fun and realized that much like the unassuming blended wine, a group of friends like ours is surprising, exciting, fun and rewarding. Individually, we’re rock stars. But when blended together, we’re the penultimate meritage: fruity, funky, refined and gorgeous.  

That night, our group of smart and informed wine tasters learned a lot and laughed even more. And while we may nver shed our smarty-pants demeanors, nights like those taught us to always keep learning. Around every corner is a new drop of detail that adds to the encycolpedias in our minds. 

And, hell, if nothing else, we’ll never again forget how to pronounce “meritage” – just remember “don’t call me taj…” (get it? GET IT!?)

 

Calling all Comedians May 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — juicyolive @ 3:46 pm

A few years ago, I was dining with friends at one of my favorite Chicago restaurants – Avec. Avec is a food-lover’s mecca, featuring rustic, Mediterranean-inspired small plates and a gorgeous and reasonably-priced wine list. There we were, sipping sparkling rose and dunking our bread in the last, flavorful drops of sauce from the chorizo-stuffed dates. I look over to my left, and who do I see but Will Ferrell! There was Anchorman himself, having a lovely dinner with his wife, sipping what looked to be a nice bottle of Burgundy, and I was oggling him.

Would you have dinner with this guy? I would...

Would you have dinner with this guy? I would...

It’s not that I necessarily think Will Ferrell is handsome. I mean, sure, he’s had his suave days. But for the most part, he’s a bit goofy looking. I mean, this is the guy who wore an American flag Speedo on Saturday Night Live. He’s the man who sported green tights in Elf. He’s the man who ran naked through the streets (“we’re streaking, honey!”) in Old School.

And yet, I love him. That night at Avec, I watched him (without looking like a total stalker) in fascination. And – to be honest – I kept waiting for him to make me laugh.

And that’s the real reason behind my love affair with Will – his sense of humor and ability to be funny.

I adore funny people.

I know that sounds like an obvious statement, “doesn’t everyone like funny people?”, you’re probably asking yourself. And – yes – I suppose that’s true. However, I’m obsessed with funny. I enjoy people who can make fun of themselves. I take great pleasure in being with very smart people who don’t take themselves or the world so seriously. I love being goofy, letting loose and dorking out.

I am so lucky to have a group of friends – both here in Chicago and across the country – who indulge me in my love of laughter. And I’d like to think that I return the favor. We had a ball when learning an entire cheerleading routine one evening and then performing it for ourselves. We giggle like schoolkids whenever someone mentions “poop” or “fart.” And we have given new meaning to “LOL” – I literally burst out laughing regularly when I’m instant messaging with Tommy, Carrie, Stephanie and others.

In the various dates I’ve had as an adult, one thing has become very clear to me. I like funny people. I find them attractive. Humor makes romance more exciting. Laughter makes days more interesting. And a sense of humor – even if not to the caliber of Frank the Tank’s – is priceless. In my book levity trumps looks.

So, the next time you’re out on a date with that special someone, don’t be afraid to be a dork. Embrace your silliness. Unleash the funny.

Comedy is cool.