Because it’s National Coffee Day [guest]

By Cazey Williams

I’m here to set the record straight: I’m not addicted to coffee.

I’ll admit, I’m like the middle school girl who pines for the most recent teen heartthrob idol and adorns her binder (which is already emblazoned with his face and brand, thanks to Wal-Mart capitalism) with his name and hearts, and she won’t shut up about him – but when it comes down to it, she isn’t even dating Justin Bieber/Zac Efron/Brock from Pokemon.

So I talk about coffee all the time; it doesn’t mean we’re together.

You could call me the emotionally abusive/absent boyfriend. Ask me if I drink coffee, and I’ll say I only drink it twice a week – three times if I’m especially sleep deprived – which is true, but it implies a sort of objectivity and detachment from my mistress. Which is definitely not the case.

In fact, I have nicknamed my fondness “#bae.” And like a misogynistic boyfriend, I have preferences for my #bae: Iced and with soy. (Pause here: Misogyny actually isn’t a joke; I can rant about this at another time. Besides coffee, feminism is a passion of mine.)

My friend recently told me that she found a coffee shop on Yelp “that supposedly has the best iced coffee in Richmond. I knew you’d appreciate this. You’re my only friend who loves iced coffee and not just coffee. It is a separate creature, really.” No kidding; iced coffee is a unicorn compared to just to regular, blah, hot coffee.

I didn’t wait for my friend before I tried the coffee.

So based on this adoration, you must be wondering how am I not addicted? Well, like I said, I limit myself to #bae twice a week. So physically I’m not addicted. But emotionally, it’s a different story. I schedule things around the days I allow myself to overdose on Americano on the rocks (that’s what my friend told me the Europeans call iced coffee, and I like to be pretentious). Here where the problem lies: I want #bae every day.

Like, I wish you could bring iced coffee to cycling class instead of water.

I hail from a family of caffeine junkies. Heck, I hail from a nation full of them; we might have poured tea into the bay, but we run on Dunkin and, Gabriel knows, Starbucks is a millennial mecca. People don’t judge if you waken to the coffee pot and need the black stuff to get through listless afternoons. #bae whispers, “What would be so bad about addiction?”

I remember the first time I unlocked the omnipotence of coffee. Two years ago to this month – the third Wednesday of my senior year at college – I had slept ten hours the night before, but I felt as dead as a patient undergoing open heart surgery, and so being as cheap as a broker who banks in the Caribbean, I sought self-service Starbucks (it’s a college campus thing) where instead of paying full price, I filled a 32 oz. soda cup with straight iced coffee (double brewed if it’s Starbucks!), maybe three ice cubes, and a splash of soy milk. Then I went to work where I casually sipped my bae down in about fifteen minutes.

Your eyes probably just bulged. If they didn’t, they should have. I came that close to cardiac arrest that day.

BUT MY GOD, HOW GOOD IT FELT.

Some people get the spins when they’re drunk. I get the pulses when I’m (over)caffeinated. You are infinite. You can run for hours – physically and metaphorically. You are fearless.

The reason I am afraid of addiction is as messed up as that high I had on September 12, 2012: I don’t want a tolerance. I want to be able to get back to that high whenever I please. And if I’m caffeinated every day, eventually it will be an everyday thing, and it won’t be special.

Am I overthinking this? Obviously. But that’s my trademark.

So I sip my #bae and forget these qualms. And senses awaken. Energy proliferates. Social media abounds (because did you really order #Sbx if you didn’t insta it?). And what’s another coffee tomorrow, the next day, even later today? As long as I’m not addicted.

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My First Food Review & It’s Fall Themed

I’ve always wanted to be a food blogger because it combines my two favorite things: food and writing. I even went so far as to sign up as a food blogger from some offer on Craigslist. Shocker that one didn’t work out.

But I’m not taking no for an answer, so here’s my first food review. In celebration of the first week of fall, it’s pumpkin flavored.

I’m reviewing Dairy Queen’s Pumpkin Pie Blizzard.

What you get in stores looks nothing like that.
What you get in stores looks nothing like this.

So if I were to give this pumpkin blizzard a rating, it would be a one out of five stars. And here are all the reasons why:

  • The pumpkin pie is composed of two elements: the pumpkin pie filling and the crust. I know this because that’s what a real pumpkin pie consists of. But here’s what it tasted like in blizzard form:
    • The crust tasted like, shaped like, looked like, and probably were oyster crackers.
    • And the pumpkin pie filling tasted like (if I had to guess), looked like, and had the exact same consistency of pumpkin baby food.
  • So pause while you picture those two elements, wrapped up in some melty vanilla ice cream.
  • Then, add in the excessively sour taste of the baby food, coupled with the stale cracker crust, and it’s just a depressing combination of food.
  • The worst part of the whole experience was that this isn’t even what I wanted. They had run out of cookie dough. And they ran out of chocolate ice cream the previous time.
  • So clearly it’s not meant to be, but let’s get back to the most depressing thing about this whole bit:
  • I have been trying pumpkin everything lately, except for the fact that everywhere runs out of it. I went to Dunkin Donuts and they ran out of pumpkin flavoring for coffee. Then I went to Starbucks and they ran out of pumpkin scones. So by the time I make it to Dairy Queen and they actually have pumpkin flavored foods, and it’s terrible.

But let’s be honest, this set-back won’t stop me on the quest for pumpkin flavored everything this autumn.

What 3 traits do you value most in people?

So a few weeks ago my sister came to visit, and I volunteered to make us dinner one night. We went grocery shopping, bought our supplies and an entire box of wine. Successful girl’s night in the making, right?

So I (well, let’s be honest, it was probably more so her) cooked dinner, and then invited Cazey over. And then we drank.

Most people, when they drink, get drunk and dance, or cry, or bitch about relationships, or bitch about being single, or any combination of the above. But not Cazey and my sister. Nay, they debate politics, recite history, predict future economies, and engage in other deep philosophical discussions.

They were losing me a bit, until Cazey presented this question: what three traits do you value most in other people? Without hesitation, my sister counts hers off:

  1. Personal responsibility for their actions and where they are in life
  2. Sense of humor
  3. Ambition
  4. *Bonus points: Her favorite thing is seeing people doing what they enjoy, whatever that may be.*

Then, without a pause, Cazey reciprocates:

  1. Competency
  2. Self-awareness
  3. Ambition

And I had nothing.

What does it say about me that I can mumble out some half-hearted answers, but don’t have hard sets of values that I look for in people? Even as I sit here, weeks later, it’s difficult for me to pin point.

I value honesty, loyalty and people pursuing their passions, but once hearing my sister’s and Cazey’s answers, I would also have to say that humor, self-awareness and ambition also sound really excellent. I really hate getting lied to, but I also can’t stand when people don’t stand for anything.

So that leaves me wondering, what do I really value most in people? I can name the three songs I’d listen to for the rest of my life if I could only have three forever (“She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5, “Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy and “You Raise me Up by Josh” Groban), but yet I can’t specify what I like best about people. Maybe that should tell me something about myself.

Can you name the three things you value most in people? Leave them in the comments.

Tis the season: Sweater Weather

As the roommates and I went for a brisk walk last night, we took in what would be the final walk of the summer. And while typically I’d feel upset about the end of summer, this year, I can’t but only be a little sad to see the summer sun set.

Because autumn is officially here. A time for jeans, plaid (is plaid still a thing, I hope so because I love it), boots, sweaters, scarves and hats. Well, not so much hats because I’m not a hat person, but I like the idea of being able to wear a hat.

I have a special place in my heart for New England falls, but last year’s Richmond fall was equally wonderful. And with the plethora of fall-themed activities I have in mind, this autumn will be sure to top it all. Pumpkin flavored everything, carving pumpkins, picking pumpkins, taking pictures next to pumpkins, and thinking about pumpkins only comes second to apple picking, cider drinking and perfect fall weather walks. And changing leaves. And falling leaves. And the scent of fall. There’s really nothing better.

Plus, the perfect fall weather means that you don’t have to worry about your toes looking good all the time, a headband is an easy way to make your hair look presentable, and if you gain a few extra pounds, who cares? No one is seeing you in a bathing suit anymore.

So if none of that made any sense, I get it. I’m so excited for fall that it’s almost impossible to prioritize which reasons are most important.

I hope you all share in my enthusiasm, dive your feet into your boots and enjoy the perfect temperate weather.

Nothin' like boot season.
Nothin’ like boot season.

In defense of singledom [guest]

By Cazey Williams

Today, let us forget the saying that there are two types of people, those that categorize people into two types and those that don’t, and let’s consider the dichotomy of young newlyweds versus stickin’-it-out singles.

​Several things have got me thinking on this topic including reading a Katharine Hepburn biography (where have all our steadfastly single icons gone?) and I’m fast departing my early, “carefree” 20s (I don’t know what is carefree about taxes, IRAs, and 6 AM alarms). Also, my dad has asked me in the past year when he can expect grandchildren.

​Point of information: I haven’t been in a relationship since seventh grade.
​Additionally, my friend (who’s currently in a 3-year relationship) attended an engagement party over the weekend for our similarly aged friend (23) that made her “question a lot of things. Like, do I want to get married? Is this something I should be thinking about? …But then I watch the Beyoncé and Beyoncé husband’s show on HBO, and all those thoughts are negated.”

​I applaud these questions. I am sick of logging onto Facebook to be besieged by engagement photos and babies with names that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. (Vinnie? Really?) In a decade, will I be inundated with divorce announcements?

​In fact, another friend recently was approached by her mom’s 50-something friend. “Are you still with that boy?” the woman asked. My friend said they had ended things. “Good. All my friends who married young, half of them were divorced by 30.”

​Don’t get me wrong, I am not against marriage. I am just not a fan of marrying before you have a gray hair on your head (crow’s feet don’t count) – or even a job. I acknowledge it’s a personal choice – like what flavor froyo you want – but that doesn’t mean I’m not rolling my eyes – like when you order vanilla when salted caramel is available.

​YOU HAVE SO MUCH LIFE LEFT. Why are you doing this to yourself?

​Marrying young may sound exciting – someone to share cleaning the bathroom with – but fresh out of college, do you really know yourself? What if you hate your first job and want to move cross-country? Or out of the country? Or don’t have a job? Or your spouse decides any of those things?
​I’m not even saying don’t stay together. Really, you should – to see if you can endure those things, because if you can’t, how are you going to endure fertility issues? Or retirement when you have no respite from one another until you die?! I’m just saying, why are you putting a shackle on your finger?
​Personally, I want to join the Peace Corps after grad school – and I don’t plan on taking a partner abroad with me, because that just doesn’t as romantic as a wanderlust single finding himself on the savannahs of Africa or the Great Wall of China. All that puts me at 28 or 29. (When I tell potential love interests this, I can’t decide who’s running away – me or them.)

​The way I see it, choosing your life partner is like a buffet. Do you get the first dish you see, or do you wait for the ones that may be further down the line? Keep in mind that in most cases you can return to the first dishes – though not if someone eats them up first.

​And yes, this equation changes when you factor in kids (do you want a doggie bag?) – but ask then, Are you marrying for the runts children, or are you marrying for love? You must build the nest before you can lay the egg.
​I may be (reaffirmed) on this kick because of the aforementioned Katharine Hepburn biography, but ol’ Kate had it right when she said, “I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.” So just be single. *peace hand emoji*

A restless nights sleep

Sleep is a time for your body to relax and rejuvenate itself for the next day. It’s graceful and peaceful and pictureesque.

Except not for me.

Sleep is a time for me to be in about as much physical motion as I am awake. Let’s just say I’m like a weird zombie when I sleep. It’s probably one of my most embarrassing traits because I have no chance of controlling how weird it gets. At least when I’m awake and being a creep, I know it’s happening and can mitigate it. So with a bit of shame, here’s a list of things I’ve done in my sleep that are bizarre. And I’m sure it’s not an exhaustive list because someone has to be awake to tell me it’s happening for me to know it happened.

Let’s start off mildly and work our way to the extremes. When I was younger, I used to share a room with my sister, so we can thank her for the observations she’s collected over the years.

You sound like a beached whale.

Ahhhh, what a compliment. It takes me awhile every night to find a comfy way to lay, so as eloquently as my sister said it, I sound like a big dying fish out of water.

And if I couldn’t find that comfy way to lay, I’d shake my legs because I’d be getting annoyed that I could not fall asleep. So let’s call that my restless leg syndrome.

Then, I’d eventually fall asleep, wake up again, and convince myself that I had never slept at all. So then I’d go downstairs to tell my mom about it. Or better yet, I’d wake her up to tell her I wasn’t asleep.

But what can be even worse than that? Oh, just me sleepwalking downstairs. Then I’d wake up mid-way through some mumbles to my mom and get terribly freaked out.

Or I’d wake up sitting in my closet.

Or in the middle of the floor.

Or sitting in between me and my sisters bed on the shag rug.

And then it’d be really dark, so I’d just lay back down and sleep on the floor until it was light enough to be able to see my bed again.

So THANK GOD I stopped sleepwalking in my later years, but I’m not totally out of the woods yet. I’m still a creepy sleeper from time to time.

I talk in my sleep pretty regularly, and then have to remember to warn people that it’ll probably happen. I grind my teeth, and I’m somewhat convinced I snore a little when I sleep on my back.

And oh yeah, I dress and undress myself. For example, I like to sleep naked a lot. There’s just nothing like the feeling of sheets all over you. Anyways, if I go to bed naked, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll wake up with a shirt that I had put on at some point in the night.

And vice versa. Sometimes I wake up and I just so happened to be missing my shirt. Awesome.

But potentially the creepiest thing I have started doing is looking at my phone. This really should be a sign of the times. I shit you not, I’ve read and answered texts before. Nothing major, and most of the time I just instinctively read it and roll over, but this one time I looked at my phone and realized I sent a text saying “just don’t even worry about it,” to a statement that really did not deserve anything remotely similar to that response.

I no longer sleep with my phone within reach, but I wouldn’t put it past me that it can happen again.

So now that I’ve shared probably the trait that I have that freaks me out the most, who wants to have a sleepover?

Exercising my right to complain about exercise classes [guest]

By Cazey Williams

Sara told me that people like lists, and I like complaining. In fact, to get my own tab on Tweets & Mascara, I told Sara, “I bet I can find something to complain about every week.”

I assume most people have attended some sort of exercise class in their life. So tonight I thought I’d list what spikes my blood pressure in group exercise classes other than actually working out. For example:

When class ends early. When I ate my third slice of pizza at lunch (or let’s be real, fourth, because is anyone taking that?), I am anticipating a full 60 minutes of sweat. So when the instructor has me out of the room ten minutes to the top of the hour, I haven’t reached my perceived quota of calories burned. What am I supposed to do? Hop on a treadmill for a 10-minute interval training program? Or better yet, order more pizza when I get home?

Similarly, when class begins late, this ticks me off. 1.) You’re cutting into my hour of calorie burning. And 2.) I’m here to exercise my body, not my social anxiety. Enough awkward time with my phone out of reach!

“You’re stronger than your mind.” This is how instructors begin a lot of classes. And you’re right; I am. Because I am here and did not skip. I resisted going early to happy hour / devouring dark chocolate blueberries that aren’t even actual blueberries (looking at you, Brookside Dark Chocolates) / working through life responsibilities that can’t be left behind at the office. But that does NOT mean I can physically push my legs faster or maintain this plank for a minute.

“You choose what to do.” The instructor says, “Take three minutes and do your favorite exercise, drill, stretch, etc.” I purposefully signed up for this class to surrender my autonomy. Don’t ask me what I want to do. All day I have decided what to wear, what to eat, how to sign emails (Thanks? Best? Sincerely?), etc. Now, YOU tell me how to work my triceps.

Partner drills. “Grab a partner.” Time out. I didn’t come here to speed date. I struggle to make eye contact with my own reflection in the mirror during a class, let alone asking the dripping stranger beside me whether we can press feet together (their soles are brown; mine aren’t much better) and do buddy boat pose.

Or worse, the instructor wants me to cheer on my partner. Back to me not making eye contact: I will not draw more attention to myself by telling my newfound acquaintance that they’re killing it or “Go, go, go!” How about no? Or I’ll kill you.

Lying about the time. I saved the best for last: The instructor says it’s a seven minute climb on the bike. Fourteen minutes later, we’re still climbing. Or they say, “Five,” pause for five seconds, “four,” pause for five seconds, “three,” pause, etc. There is no beating around this bush: I’ll burn it down right here. You’re a ****ing liar, I don’t trust you anymore, and I am neither climbing nor give a crap about you because you have backstabbed me in the heat of a workout, and now I hope your shower after this consists of the toxins leaking from my pores.

Leave your complaints about exercise classes in the comments!

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Twenty-Something Perspective

A really popular topic for any millennial to cover in a blog is their definition of their twenties. Here’s mine:

Perspective.

That’s what my twenties mean to me.

In high school, my mother (God bless her) would wake up every morning and make me breakfast to eat and a lunch to bring with me. And I would essentially hate her for it.

“Good morning Sara! I made you waffles today.”

“Whhhhhhhy must you torment me with words so early in the morning.” Then I’d probably shoot some lasers from my eyes at her in between rolling them.

Did I actually hate her? I hated mornings, she was around, so clearly it was her fault.

Ahhhh, but with a bit of perspective, we can clearly see that it was indeed not my mother’s fault (or at least as far as I know, she wasn’t the cruel, cruel person behind high school starting at 7am) but I took it out on her because she was around.

Sometimes taking a step back and realizing what is causing the grief – and putting things into correct perspective- can make everything a lot easier to handle.

Here’s another more recent example. Sometimes work gives me anxiety. Some days, it’s just really hard. And I wear my feelings on my sleeve, so everyone knows if I’m not feeling it on any given day. And this one day, a truly wonderful woman put it so easily into perspective, it’s something I remind myself when I’m feeling stressed.

“You got a job straight out of college that uses your major at an international development organization. That’s a big deal.”

When you think of it like that, it’s the perfect blend of an accomplishment, and an explanation of why it will be hard from time to time. Attempting to solve poverty is a really difficult goal. Every day isn’t going to be perfect.

So while putting things into perspective isn’t easy, nor will it always make you feel better, it helps to process the feelings you might be having at a deeper level than just the surface details.

Perspective. That’s the biggest lesson the twenties have provided me, and a lesson that I will continue to learn more about, I’m sure.

Ignorance Spreads Illness

So typically I like to keep my work-blog life decidedly separate, but there’s one topic that I find absolutely fascinating and want to talk about. It’s scary. It’s serious. And it’s not talked about enough. It’s Ebola.

I am in no way an expert on Ebola, so there’s my disclaimer, but I do know enough to write intelligently about it. And I brought a ton of linked sources into this post to back me up.

What I find most fascinating about Ebola is the ignorance that surrounds it. The ignorance causes it to spread, but it also hinders fundraising for it. By now you probably know that this is the worst Ebola outbreak ever, so what is making it so bad? See previous sentence for the answer (ignorance). And I’m not using the word lightly, and I’m not pointing fingers. It’s a collective and problematic lack of effort, lack of awareness and lack of intelligence.

At the root of the problem is that the countries where Ebola is spreading, people believe it is caused by witchcraft, or that doctors are injecting people will Ebola. Try helping to stop the spread of a disease when people don’t actually believe that the disease is actually a disease, or that going to the hospital will kill you. It makes treatment impossible. People are dying on the streets and not knowing why. Or blaming black magic.

Raising awareness is a key to stopping the spread of the disease. But so is treating the people that already have it. And protecting those that don’t. Which leads to the problem that people stop the spread by blockading cities from each other. So then the blockade, which could potentially stop the spread of the disease, cuts off the entire economy of the segmented area. Which is deadly in the long run for the already fragile economies of these affected areas.

So there’s the internal problems happening within the Ebola-affected countries. But there are bigger problems too. WHO admits we acted too slowly (because of budget cuts), which doesn’t bode well for future similar outbreaks. We didn’t take it seriously enough.

And the last bit of ignorance falls on the American perception of the disease. 40 percent of those polled say they believe we will have a major Ebola outbreak in the United States. Let’s talk about this. We know it’s a real disease. We have a solid health care system. We can easily contain it. Yet, when we think about ourselves and fear it here, that doesn’t help those that are really affected by it.

And this last statement is purely what I think, so there won’t be any links backing me up on this, but I believe we aren’t talking about it enough. We’re ignoring a pretty big deal. And that’s a form of ignorance.

Anxiety in all forms [guest post]

Editor's Note: I get anxiety from work and overwhelming social plans, but in this blog post, Cazey toes the line of taboo and explains his daily struggle with a specific type of anxiety. Enjoy!

By Cazey Williams

Today I want to talk about a little known disorder that afflicts some average Americans like myself. I suffer from ABS, otherwise known as Anxious Bladder Syndrome, first described by yours truly in 2013. The primary symptom is inability to urinate when people are around.

Common treatment includes telling your friend they can’t go to the restroom at the same time as you. Repeating you’re dead serious, yeah, it might sound like a good idea to go to the bathroom before the movie begins/food gets here/your drink arrives, but it was my idea first, and I can’t pee if you join, so stay in your seat.

Alternatively, one can seek a toilet in the far, deserted corners of the building. My life consists of walking into bathrooms, seeing occupied urinals and/or feet beneath stalls, and U-turning – whiplash notwithstanding. Gosh forbid someone sees me walk in. Once, I needlessly washed my hands before hunting for a vacant restroom. What a waste of water.

Thankfully, I work and attend grad school in a 24-story office building. This means I have 23 anonymous restrooms to choose from, because obviously I don’t use my own floor’s restroom. That’s playing Russian roulette. Once, someone decided to brush their teeth and floss while, hello, I’m trying to pee here. Worse, my floor’s restroom doesn’t get LTE, so my phone struggles to load Instagram while I wait for my distended bladder to do something about itself.

By law of parsimony, I go down one floor in my building to use the bathroom. All summer this has been my urinary sanctuary. The lights flick on when you enter. No one visits, not even the janitor. I know because of the stall against the wall: A janitor needs to visit. Here, I can find relief without tensing that someone may walk in and, consequently, drying up like a spilled Slurpee in a Target parking lot during a heat wave in August.
Of course, all good things must come to an end. This oasis was always indefinite: Eventually, someone on this floor would recognize me as the frequent visitor with no other purpose than urinating – and maybe a stop at the water fountain.

But I didn’t expect it to end how it did.

I had been double-fisting water and iced coffee all morning. For my kidneys’ health, I had to pee. On the way to my safe haven, I hear a familiar voice – my professor’s: “What are you doing down here?”

I lie, “The bathroom upstairs is full, and I have to go.”

Professor proceeds to lead us into the bathroom where he tells me that this is the best bathroom in the whole building. Don’t I know it. “Only two men work on this floor, so no one’s ever in here.” Except you, sir; you’re in here right now.

I lock myself in a stall. Professor selects a urinal and begins his business. Without hesitation. I fake text, ruffle with the toilet paper, bite my lip – everything, but pee. I can’t even squeeze out a drop. Finally, Professor zips up. The silence from my stall SCREAMS, even over the sound of him washing his hands.

You’d think I could go once he leaves, but I have lost the urge. The anxiety of this encounter will carry over into every future visit to this bathroom.

ABS 1, me 0.