Sore Subjects Over the Holidays [Cazey]

By Cazey Williams

I hate to be one of those people who says, “Let’s not talk about it,” because really, I only want to talk about it more after you say that. But here is a list of things I’d rather not discuss while reuniting with family and friends over the holidays.

Grad school. Like, OMG, number one thing people want to ask me about. I know they say grad school is supposed to break you before it does – well, whatever it’s $uppo$ed to do – but I didn’t know it would have me questioning what is a truly healthy amount of apathy, dissatisfaction (does that negate the apathy), and why the heck don’t I just teach elementary school art???

Hillary. Yes, she’s going to run. And if she’s not, is the fighting worth it? Pass the pie.

The newest Apple product you got for Christmas. Does it play music? Is it touch screen? Does it cost over $200? I don’t care.

My driving. Being home provides my parents ample time to scrutinize the driving habits they don’t see the rest of the year. I know, Mom, I’m too close to the car in front of me; that’s why I asked if you wanted to drive to grandma’s instead.

My cousin’s children. My aunt announces that grandchildren are the greatest gift you can give. Well, Mom and Dad, I hope a gift card suffices.

My relationship status. This is a tired topic.

“You look tired.” I’m tired of hearing this, too.

The dish your relative brought to dinner.  I know, Uncle Jayme, I have to try it. It’s the best pulled pork I’ll ever have. (Why is there pulled pork at a Christmas dinner?)

“Why don’t you visit more?” And I’m out.

Crap, it’s not even Christmas yet.

Names For a Bunny and Who They’d Be As a Person [Cazey]

By Cazey Williams

My friend visited me recently and told me she only had $40 to spend for the week. At dinner she ordered the soup du jour. She was saving up, she explained, for a bunny. She had already bought the cage, which included hardwood floors . . . . . That’s almost as crazy as orchid babysitters.

I asked what she was going to name the critter. Now my friend and I bonded seasons ago over our mutual aspirations to be lawnies – a South African term for acting pretentiously rich, or so her South African boyfriend at the time told us. It’s even more lawny that it’s a South African term. So obviously the bunny needs a lawny name, which I excel at since I named my dog in sixth grade Guinevere (yes, of Arthurian legend). What follows is her list of possible names and my reactions.

Ashe: Other than reminding me of a brooding, slight adolescent, are you going to buy a pale bunny to be Misty? I think Willow would be a better deciduous tree to summon when christening a bunny.

Lotus: At least it’s More acceptable  than the much maligned Misty (or Opal or Pearl! *shudders*). Lotus is a name better suited for a butterfly or hummingbird – both creatures someone named Lotus would own. Lotus would work on an organic farm co-op and marry Jackson. They would have three kids before 30 (another shudder) and would have a band that featured a banjo. This is heavily influenced by me once meeting a Lotus who worked for Relay Foods. Me: You were destined for this job the minute you were named.

Jackson: One of those moronic rich kids who has absolutely no idea that they’re dumb and won’t be rich once his parents pass because his sister is inheriting the business. Also, a golden retriever, not a bunny.

Leopold: I find no fault in this name. Leopold could date my dog Guinevere.

Harry: My friend told me not to mock this name because “a lot of rich and famous people are named that.” I responded, “I attack the famous.” Harry is a name of boring white privilege inbreeding.

The Name Which Shall Not Be Named: I can’t share this name because of potential family fallout: A relative named her newborn this. Gah! However, I’ll hint it rhymes with “Maleficent.” I absolutely refused to allow this name to pass, even for a bunny. I’m sorry, *****’s of the world and my relative on my dad’s side, this name reminds me a Wormtail.

Otto: Just seems a little old for a bunny. Probably because of the Ottoman Empire.

Raphael: The winner. I’m not a fan, but I’ve been told to fix my attitude. The bunny goes by Raphie, which is even worse because in middle school I knew a pathological liar named Raphie. But at least he’s not the Name Which Shall Not Be Named. Raphie, it’s on you to fix the name’s reputation. Don’t ruin those hardwood floors.

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Stop the Season Greetings [Cazey]

By Cazey Williams

All month I have been receiving texts from friends asking for my address. You think you’re being so subtle. Why oh why do you need my address? At this point I don’t even ask; an inevitable Christmas card is on its way.

I want to say, Stop; don’t send it. The text asking for my address was enough effort. No need to pay whatever cents to send me a holiday note. But that would make me Scrooge.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around why we send cards. I actually enjoy the life update ones aka the bulleted lists of “my son is saving the refugees in Africa, my daughter is  getting her MD and engaged to a senator’s son, and we just rescued a puppy mill golden retriever.” Admittedly we’re all eye rolling at the Joneses’ mass-printed “Our grass is greener” digest, but at least I’m learning something other than “Does this friend avoid saying ‘Merry Christmas’? Oh, and cute stamp.”

When I receive the card – besides the brief reflection that this is adulthood, because someone sent me a piece of paper in the mail and no one’s ever done that before – I immediately add to my to do list “Send so-and-so a card.” Or I used to. This year I said the hell with that. Because let’s be honest, I was only sending cards in return, never initiating, so it wasn’t very genuine, so I’m cutting the frills this year. Don’t delude yourself that I actually sent my card before I knew yours was coming.

And once I’ve read your card – maybe even laughed at the Dollar Store-quality joke inside (am I the only one who buys Dollar Tree cards?) – what do I do with it? Humans, this is what’s killing the rain forest.

I toss your card if the only penmanship besides the pre-written greeting is your name, but if you transcribed a note, I feel inclined to keep it. Yet, I don’t know when I’m ever going to feel moved to reminisce on my Christmas card collection. Maybe once global warming has killed Christmas? Though maybe it’s the reverse, as I hinted above. The trees y’all.

Okay, I should stop bandwagoning on the environment to further this argument. Just, really, don’t send me a card. I promise, a Christmas tree emoji is enough.

as told over brunch

We’ve Got a BIG Announcement!

Cazey and I are pregnant!

Jokes!

No, but we have something in the works that we think you’ll like. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a hint:

as told over brunch

Stay tuned and subscribe in the right hand column to be alerted of upcoming changes!

(In) Visible Memories

When I was little, I had chicken pox. And because I was little (and itchy), I scratched a tiny hole into the bridge between my eyes. From then on, I had a scar.

When I was a bit older, I fell a bit and had a pretty nice look scuff on my knee. That left a faint, but present scar.

Then in high school I tried hurdles, got all caught up and fell. In that one act, I sprained an ankle, ripped open another knee and was substantially bleeding out of my elbow. Healed (but cankle-like), scar, scar.

The next year, I got an elbow to the face during a soccer game and needed stitches in my cheek. Facial scar.

Then I took a mirror to the leg. Very long scar.

While some of those memories (okay, well all of them), I don’t want to remember, the scars are still sort of part of who I am. Except for the fact that all of them minus the last one are essentially gone.

Just like my shoes from Firefly. They were disgusting. There were five large spots on the shoes from whatever sort of substance that got on them, and it was super noticeable.

Firefly shoes

So I eventually (and when I say eventually, I mean it took about six months) washed them in the washing machine. They came out almost brand new.

And then I had a weird pang of nostalgia. While the stains were gross and unsightly, it was conversation starter. Not a great one, admittedly, but when I looked down, it was also a personal reminder of the bliss that was Firefly.

Then, as I was carrying my laundry upstairs (with my new, clean shoes of course), I wondered if that sentiment also applied to the scars that have since faded from my body, and the one I am religiously putting mederma on to get to (hopefully) fade. They were all connected to memories, and while getting my cheek stitched shut is not a fun memory, the general memory of playing soccer for my entire life surely is.

But then I made it to the top of the stairs and realized that I will always have my talking points, even without the visible marks. I’ll just have to start every conversation with, “Hey did you hear I went to Firefly” or “Hey did you hear about the mirror incident?”

Or maybe I’ll just tell everyone to read my blog instead.

Five Facebooks Friends Who I Don’t Know, But This Is How I Think We Met [Cazey]

By Cazey Williams

In my youth, I befriended people on Facebook who I would not even speak to, but hey, I saw you at that party last night. It’s all about networking, right? Now I have to talk to you for a minimum of 15 minutes before I click “Add.” That doesn’t mean I’ll remember you in six months when I see you on my newsfeed For example:

Stella: My best friend and I went to the river a couple of months before I moved to Richmond, VA. Two girls started talking to us, both college freshmen. They were high and looking to get higher. One was Stella (obviously). The other had dropped out of school after some sort of drug incident, and ever since her parents wouldn’t allow her to be alone. That weekend her babysitter was Stella. Somehow my friend and I took selfies with these girls, and so we had to become Facebook buddies so we could be tagged. Except Stella never posted the photos.

I would have forgotten about Stella if I didn’t see her, I don’t know, every other day at the gym. She is a lifeguard there. I can’t tell if she wants to pretend we do or don’t know each other.

Katrina*: Facebook says we’ve been friends since December 2011. We have 25 mutual friends. She likes everything that I post, and she’s sorta cute. Except who are you? In 2012 and 2013, she wished me “Happy birffffdaaay!” Spelled the same way both years. What about my 2014 birfday, Kat?

*She’s currently Kat on Facebook.

Kyle: Once upon a time Cazey had a crush on this girl who he never should have had a crush on, but she convinced Cazey to add Kyle on Facebook because Kyle is from Cazey’s hometown. They’ve never met or communicated – or so Cazey thought until he checked their “See Friendship.” In March 2011, Cazey wrote on Kyle’s wall,

“You are an asshole,” love [insert former crush’s name], coming from 3:01 a.m.

Now that’s a friend worth keeping.

Zach, Travis, and Chad: I think there’s one more name that should be clumped with them. These are the Michigan Boys. Sophomore year spring break took place in Myrtle Beach. One night my friends and I met these dudes at an 18+ club (because we were 19 *shudders*) and then drove to the beach house they were renting. Which was 40 minutes away. They were all leaving for Michigan the next morning. Epic memories include: The house had an elevator. The only food in the house was frozen chicken and pizza, and the oven was broke, so I sucked on a frozen chicken nugget until it was chewable. A girl tried going down on a guy with everyone in the room. I didn’t think that stuff happens except in California.

Rebecca: At first I was going to write, “No idea.” But really, what I mean is, “Rebecca, you’ve gained a bit of weight….” We became friends in 2009. High school classmates.

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#SeekingFollowers: A Social Experiment [Cazey]

By Cazey Williams

On Thursday, bored and avoiding work on three (three!) final projects, I decided to try an experiment: I wanted to see how many followers on Instagram I could get.

Instagram is by far my favorite social media platform, and that’s probably because I’m a pretentious, ironic millennial (read: hipster and maybe tack on wannabe). I also won’t lie, I watch my ratio of followers to who I follow. Followers are the currency of social standing. (And this is what makes me a wannabe hipster; a bonafide fair trade coffee-drinking, thick-rimmed glass-wearing, scarf-in-the-summer millennial isn’t concerned about these capitalistic, mainstream woes. At least theoretically.)

Anyway, I’m pretty close to a 2:1 ratio. It’s more like 5:3, but whatever. I’m known for taking artsy photos already. Exhibit A:

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Exhibit B:

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(You don’t think they’re artsy? Ugh, go choke on your almond milk latte.)

My posts get decent attention aka the number of likes generally reaches above the threshold where Instagram summarizes likes with digits (“11 likes” !!!) and not an ugly string of users’ handles (that’s what you call the users’ profile names, for you not-on-it readers: It is not your Twitter/Instagram name; it is your Twitter/Instagram handle).

To start my experiment, I Googled how does one get insta followers – for free. Apparently, it’s a thing to buy followers. Well, sorry, I have morals. After reading two blogs, I had gained all the insight I needed. Tips included using #hashtags (but not too many!) and liking random people’s photos. Also, commenting helps. And you could also totally throw your reputation to the curb and post #Like4Like or #Follow4Follow all over the place – but do I seem desperate? ~Repeats: “No, I am just bored on a Thursday afternoon.”~

To begin with, I don’t usually caption my photos. Actually, this was a suggestion from Sara a few months ago: She believed my “silent” photos garnered more likes. I considered doing a t-test on the data because I don’t know if this is true, but I stuck with it; I like having that mystery vibe behind my Sierra filter (get out if you’re a Sutro fan, wtf is that – or Kelvin?! You Oompa Loompa!).

I decided to start with captions. I have a basic friend who always posts two captions: The original one and then the string of hashtags. For example: “#psl #starbucks #pumkinspicelatte #latte” or “#run #runner #marathon #halfmarathon #brooks” or “#rome #italy #historic #history #vacation #travel #roma #vatican #stpeter #catholic”. *blinks* AND SHE HAS LESS FOLLOWERS THAN ME.

Earlier in the day I posted this:

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At the beginning of the experiment, it had no caption and five likes. #disappointing

I added, “#Richmond #RVA #virginia #VA #downtown #city #urban.” Note, I did not tag #tree or #USPS.

I went to the restroom. Upon my return, I had six likes from people I don’t know (!!) – but no new followers (da fuxx?!). I debated deleting the hashtag caption now that I was over the threshold of 10 likes (“11 likes” *hand raise emoji*). Then Mr_Anani_ commented on my photo: “Nice!”

Oh no, Mr_Anani_, I see you! I know what you want. Well, you’re not getting it. I’m not following you.

And then I gave up on my experiment, because I didn’t want to graffiti my highbrow photos because #image, even though getting followers is all about #image, too. #irony #hipster #bai

How Much Should Convenience Cost?

Recently, I found myself sitting in my car, in dire need of an oil change. I had yelped oil change stations, and there were only a few options that were open on a Sunday. The comments say Jiffy Lube is ridiculously expensive, but when I called Firestone and they said it’d take several hours, and Jiffy said fifteen minutes, I was sold.

Upon arrival, they directed my car into the station, courteously escorted me inside, pointed me in the direction of free tea and went right to work on my car. The lady then tried to up sell me on everything from a new air filter (fine, go ahead and make my engine breath again) to a new transmission (uhm hells no).

When it was all said and done, I was there for maybe twenty minutes and paid over sixty dollars ($40 ish for the oil and $20 ish for an air filter).

On the face of it, I’m mad that an oil change is that much. Every other time at other places, it’s been between $25-35. It’s ridiculous how much they’re charging considering at a minimum, I’d be paying $44 here.

But is it really that outrageous?

Not only did they have me in an out within a half an hour, they were open on a Sunday, and provided super courteous and friendly service. On top of that, they vacuumed my car (had I know that, I would have cleaned out the piles of stuff), tested my tire pressure, found a leak in my transmission fluid, topped off my windshield wiper fluid and washed my windows and dash board.

Let’s be real, I never do any single one of those things myself. It’s a long list of little things that make my cars quality of life a bit nicer. So rather than going somewhere else during my lunch break that takes over an hour, Jiffy does a whole lot in a short amount of time. And yes, there’s an obvious spike in the price for it, but for an extra $10 dollars, it’s a hell of a lot more convenient.

The Struggles of a Fast Walker [Cazey]

By Cazey Williams

You’re walking down the street when you hear the approach. Maybe it’s the clip of its heel or the clap of its bag. You turn, but it’s upon you. And then it’s gone. You’re left in its wake.

You are never safe – in the city, in a neighborhood, on a country road in Asheville, NC in July. It could be anywhere. It is a fast walker.

How do I know such things? Well, I happen to be one. Here are my woes:

  • You don’t realize how fast you walk. Meanwhile, your walking companion(s) are gasping for oxygen, and they may or may not have a stitch in their sides.
  • You think, Dear stranger, I’m not racing you. This is just my pace. Stop being a competitive American.
  • You are always sweating, no matter the temperature or the weather. In summer you look like you just got done with the Ice Bucket Challenge. In winter, you carry your coat even if it’s below freezing. Unless you just started walking.
  • People always comment that they see you running. In undergrad, I cannot tell you how many people would tell me they saw me “running” on campus. While I do run, I did not run nearly as frequently as was cited. Nor do I run in jeans and flipflops.
  • People remember you. Junior year, I had a painful crush on this girl. We went to this potluck dinner. There are at least 20 people there; I know four. While I’m stuffing my face with tres leche cake (I remember that cake – so good!), someone says, “I know you; I always see you fast walking on campus.” Suddenly the whole room is alight: “Yeah, I always see you!” “You walk so swiftly!” In any other context, these disclosures would be extremely creepy. And then my crush announces, “I’ve always wanted to meet you. I remember watching you walk freshman year.” ……………
  • You have nicknames. “Speed Shoes,” “Fast Walker” (how clever), “the Bullet,” etc. Yeah, you can keep them to yourself.
  • People tell you they run 12-minute miles, and you stare at them. That is how fast you walk a mile.
  • You could walk a marathon in five hours.
  • You invite your friend over and tell them it’s a 10-minute walk to your place. Twenty minutes later they arrive red-in-the-face and call you a liar. Well, it’s 10 minutes for you.
  • Your friends always say, “We can walk there…if you walk slow.”
  • You think you must look efficient and busy when you’re on the way somewhere when in fact everyone is like, “Where are you hurrying? Why are you stressed out?”
  • You avoid running into people you know because you either have to a.) slow down and chat or b.) do the awkward pass-by where you try to pretend that you don’t notice that your acquaintance is a tortoise.
  • You hate couples that walk on the sidewalk hand-in-hand and don’t get out of the way. Actually, you hate everyone that doesn’t step to the side when you approach. Couples and groups just amplify this hate.
  • Two seconds on the crosswalk signal? Of course you can make it across the street!
  • You both dread and delight in startling helpless, sluggish pedestrians. They always jump once you’re upon them. Middle-aged women on cell phones are the best.
  • You wish people were more accepting of your kind.

One Hour, Every Three Months

If you look for it, there are millions of microscopically unimportant things that can go wrong every day.

Today alone:

  • An Amazon seller sent me a totally different shirt than the one I ordered.
  • It rained on our walk to froyo.
  • I forgot to apply mederma to my leg scar.
  • Taylor Swift got stuck in my head.

I could go on, probably almost endlessly.

But what about the millions of microscopically important things that can go right every day?

  • I got a new shirt off Amazon today that was only $5.
  • I got froyo today with two of my favorite people.
  • My scar has been healing exceptionally, and for the most part, I’ve even been remembering to massage away the lump.
  • Hell, despite how derivative most of Taylor’s new album is, it’s at least catchy.

But most importantly of my day, it was the first Monday of the third month. Which meant I was a hot ball of stress all day over visiting recovering veterans. Every third month, our alumni chapter brings them pizza and chats for an hour or so.

The first time I went, I was really nervous (more honestly, I was probably more so scared). War is hard, and looking at those directly affected in the line of fighting in honor of America and seeing what it does to people, is really eye opening. It was amazing to sit across the table from some of the bravest men and women in our country.

So when it came time for this month’s pizza, I wanted it to be perfect. So when people cancelled day of, I was going crazy. Then I couldn’t decide what toppings to get. What if people are allergic to peppers? What if everyone wants cheese? Is pepperoni too unhealthy?

Then finding Papa John’s was in and of itself a challenge (the sign light went out). I took a U-turn at the speed of light to try to make it on time. I’m surprised pizza didn’t end up on the ceiling of my car.

But why was I stressing over the little details like pizza toppings, a few minutes, the number of people showing up? What I soon remembered was that none of that made a difference.

The time we spent playing ping pong, chatting about family pets and eating pizza is what really matters. Being able to meet people that have given of themselves in such an impactful way, and (hopefully) bring them a bit of comfort during a difficult time, is the true value of the event. Not all the peripheral noise going on in my head.

While it’s just an hour every three months, it’s a little something for people that really deserve a whole lot more.