The Fall of Man

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They found him. Gunshot wound to the chest on his birthday. Although, it makes sense, his heart was what hurt the most. His wife passed away four years ago in a car accident. He was the one driving the car… He had sold his house two weeks before he took his life. He wanted to move out of the city and on with his life. But, with no job prospects and no real friends anywhere else, he must have lost all hope. Deep down, we all knew this day would come; we just thought it would have happened shortly after she died, not now.

My uncle Steve is was an introverted, angry man. He didn’t like the outside world. When he met and married my aunt, his second wife, new life was pumped into his veins. He turned himself around, started going to parties, meeting people, and he even thought about having children! He said and did things he, and we, never thought he would do. But, when he accidently hit the other car that caused her death; he also died. The spark she implanted in him was gone; he went back to his old ways, hating the world and everyone in it. Each year that he remained alive, we considered ourselves lucky.

The last time I saw him was the day before his birthday. We were at a family gathering at my grandmothers. It was to celebrate her birthday, as well as his. He retreated to the living room for most of his time there, and when he was in the kitchen, he wouldn’t talk to anyone. All he wanted to do was play with his smart phone. When my grandmother talked to him, he answered her with a strong tongue and boiling anger in his eyes. No one could say or do anything to please him at this point.

I didn’t even bother trying to talk to him for fear that he would lash out at me. In fact, in all the years that we’ve been family, I’ve never said more than a few sentences to him. He wasn’t the type of uncle to show up at your high school play, take you out for ice cream, or make small talk. He was a man who just wanted to be left alone.

Sure, I could cry my heart out, take off of work for a few weeks, and preach to everyone about how you need to, “hold you loved ones close.” But, I can’t. I’ve never loved this man. To me, this isn’t a heartbreaking loss.

In fact, this isn’t a loss at all. My uncle did not die; he’s very much alive. Today he turns another year older…and colder, that is true. And, as I sat near him the other day, not speaking a word, I was reminded of how awful of a person I truly am. I realized in that moment that the man sitting near me is a man I’ve known my whole life; but he’s been nothing but a stranger. I realized that if he died tomorrow, even from suicide, it would not have a major impact on me. Sure, I would feel awful. No one deserves to die, no matter what the cause! And, no one deserves to feel alone. But, to me, it wouldn’t feel like a major loss. I can honestly say that it would hurt more if my dog died than if he passed away.

Four years ago, this was where my family found themselves; on suicide watch for my uncle. It’s awful to admit that someone who is supposed to be such a huge part of your life doesn’t matter to you. Writing those words, “It would hurt more if my dog died than if he passed away” makes me feel like a terrible person, but I know deep down that I’m being true to myself. Although, sometimes, we have to admit that even those people in our lives who are supposed to be family and the closest humans to us, mean zilch. That is why we all must create our own “families.” “Families” that are made up of blood relations, friends, acquaintances, dogs, cats, etc. “Plant your own seeds and grown your own garden because you have the power to choose who you become and who is allowed to influence you along the way.”

Granny Smith – over and out

I’m Poor

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“I’m poor” is a phrase that I’ve been hearing a lot lately from friends, especially when I’m trying to plan a nice evening for us outside of our apartments. Every time I hear that phrase, I cringe and hold my tongue. For many individuals my age, it can seem like we have no money. Student loans, renting our first apartment, car insurance, renters insurance, pets, cell phone bills; it all escalates quickly. But, are we really “poor?”

Different images can pop into our minds when we think of the word “poor” or “rich.” When I think of “poor,” I think about a homeless person sitting on the side of the street, or a single parent who only works a few hours a week and is about to lose his or her house…and possibly their child(ren). When I think of poor, I don’t think of people in their early-mid twenties. Sure, we don’t have a lot, and we haven’t even started thinking about saving for retirement, but most of us have an amazing support system, like friends or family, or other financial resources (financial counselors) that can help push us in the right direction.

When I think of poor, I think of individuals whose family members left them to fend for themselves, put them into foster care, went to jail, died without saving a single penny to give to their children (who are already homeless with nothing), the list goes on. When I think of rich, sure I think about individuals that have mansions in California, nice cars, wear Gucci, etc. However, I also think of people who have enough money to pay for their own car, provide food for themselves (and possibly another family member), have a pet or multiple, go out to eat with friends, but most importantly, I think about myself. When I thought I had nothing, whenever I’ve felt like the world is falling apart around me, I have my family, friends, significant other, and my dog. I have a plan B; I have a backup system. This helps me know that even if I don’t have much in the end, everything will work out.

I used to be the type of person who took on everything, who thought she could figure it out on her own, who was afraid to ask for help, and who was used to having other adults “taking care of” it for her when it was physically apparent that she was struggling. Now, I’ve learned to say “no.” I’ve learned to ask for help directly and from multiple resources. I ask for help because I am rich. I am rich because I have a strong support system. I have a strong support system because I’m attracted to people who know what it means to care. I am not poor. I am the opposite of poor.

Granny Smith – over and out

I Do What I Want

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It’s no secret that I thrive when I have a routine. I also greatly resent my adulthood transition and often find myself missing the “don’t care, this is what I want to do today” mindset that I had when I was a child. However, I’m excited to announce that I’ve found a way to travel back in time!…If only for a few moments. But, you can do it every day if you put your mind to it!

Back in July, I got a bit bored with my job seeking routine and decided to take a break. I was still hunting, just not as strongly as I had been during previous months. I started putting items first on my “to-do” list that didn’t really need to be done any sooner than the others. For example, I was taking long bike rides in the morning before checking my email. As I continued this pattern, I couldn’t help but notice how free I felt. Even though I’m accustomed to a strict schedule, I felt like I had control over my own life and my own decisions instead of the economy.

And, as they say, all good things must come to an end. After about a month, I realized that I needed to get back into the game, but, I’ve certainly found a way to incorporate my newly discovered, free spirit into my daily life…but in smaller doses.

With children, significant others, fulltime jobs, etc. it may seem like we can never give ourselves the attention to our wants that we truly deserve. My challenge to you is even if it’s just once a week or once a month, complete the item you WANT to do before moving on to your traditional TO-DO list. I’m obviously not suggesting that you select to give yourself a pedicure instead of feeding your children. This challenge could be as simple as meditating for five minutes BEFORE taking out the trash.

Try it once. Put the things you love to do back on your “to-do” list.

Granny Smith – over and out

A Childless Mother’s Day

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For those of you who live under a rock, yesterday was the famously Hallmarked, “Mother’s Day.” I spent a wonderful day with my mom and the rest of my family doing yard work, watching television, and eating ice cream! I can only hope that you all had just as wonderful of a day with your mothers and/or children. So, because yesterday was all about celebrating moms, I thought I would compose a post about how out of this world I felt not being a mother on Mother’s Day…or, just every day in general.

Yes, it’s controversial, and yes it’s a topic that’s been brought up before. If you’ve read TIME magazine within the last couple of months, you know that they ran a report regarding childless couples. In the report, TIME states that, “the birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history. From 2007 to 2011, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.”

If you’re anything like me, you proudly raised your hand, and maybe even shouted, “That’s me!”when you heard the “1 in 5 American women statistic.” It’s no secret among my peers and family; I can’t stand kids. I’ve known since I was 12 years old that I didn’t want babies, and that I would do ANYTHING to make absolutely sure that a child never formed inside of me.  So, you might be asking, “Why 12? Why not before then?” In all honesty, I was on the fence. I knew deep down that I didn’t want children, but I had heard from older family members, the media, and my Barbie dolls how great having a family of your own was. And, I thought that maybe having one or two kids wouldn’t be so rough. I mean, it’s the American dream, right? Graduate from college, get a job, get married, start a family. I can’t tell you how many individuals I know from high school and college who are in their early 20’s and doing just that. In fact, I found out today that one of my married friends is pregnant, and another is engaged.

At this point, I feel the need to shrug my shoulders and sigh. Sometimes, I feel a bit awkward because I don’t want what everyone else seems to.  At the same time, many tell me that “I’ll change my mind.” But, I’ve felt this way for more than 10 years,  and every time I’m around a child (or anyone who is more than 5 years younger than me) I cringe and become very uncomfortable after about 15 minutes. Sure, babies and young kids are cute, but after a few moments, I’m more than ready to hand them back to their mother.

Also, let’s just say I can barely take care of myself. Do you really think I’d do well adding a helpless individual to the mix? No. I also have a short temper for ignorant idiots, I mean…kids. It’s not that I think all children are stupid, it’s just that I tend to get frustrated when kids can’t get on my level. We can’t have a conversation about the election? You don’t know the name of our Governor? Fine; get out of my face; I can’t handle you right now.

Needless to say, I’ve always wondered if a lot of us TRULY want to have children, or if we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that our lives take this natural progression and having children is all a part of it. 

When I was a senior in college, one of my favorite professors told us a quick story about when she was a new mom that, I think, a lot of new mothers can relate to. She stated that after her oldest was born, she was so sleep deprived, frustrated, emotional, you name it! This new experience really upset her because she obviously and quickly began to realize that motherhood was less than a bed of roses. One day, she went to her mother’s house said, “Mom! Why didn’t you tell me motherhood was going to be this difficult and crazy?” To which her mother replied, “No one told me. It’s something every woman needs to figure out for themselves.”

What a slap to the face! Can we pause for a moment while I get my tubes tied?

But, in all seriousness, at the end of the day, it’s our mother’s that brought us into this world and have helped us grow, learn, and become who we are. I know that I’d be a complete mess without mine! Almost every woman has the physical capabilities to become a mother, but not every woman can be a mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

Granny Smith – over and out

Special Treatment for Those with Special Needs?

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Now, before you think this post is going to be some hateful rant, calm yourself and read on. My brother was diagnosed in 1995 at the age of 3 with Autism, and I’ve been an advocate for the rights of special needs children ever since. However, about a week ago I found myself re-evaluating how I react to those with special needs.

Long story short, my brother has been participating in the Special Olympics for the past couple of years, and every year I try to attend his regional competition, which is located at one of our local high schools. This year, as my family and I sat down in the school’s cafeteria to relax before heading to the gym, a young, special needs athlete named Cole from one of the other teams walked up to our table, introduced himself, and started carrying on a conversation with me and my parents. Cole was hilarious, but at the same time he was very nosy and kept apologizing for asking questions. After awhile, he began to solely ask me personal questions, and it seemed he wanted to be friends (or something more) and know every detail of my life. I can’t lie, even though I spend a lot of my time around individuals with special needs, I was uncomfortable around Cole. Hell, I’m uncomfortable around all strangers! Finally, Cole’s dad realized that his son was talking our ears off and came over to our table to introduce himself and redirected his son to the gym.

The weird and sad part of all this was I felt a sense of relief and a burden lifted off my shoulders when he walked away. Phew, don’t have to deal with him again, I thought. But, I was actually wrong…Turns out, as luck would have it, Cole’s group ended up sitting next to my brothers, so I had to pass him on my way into the gym. Once Cole saw me, he immediately stood up and rushed to my side.

“How are you doing, ma’am?” he said as wrapped his arm around my shoulder.
“Great!” I said, mustering up every ounce of pep I had.
“Would you mind if I sat with you for awhile?” he proceeded.
“Um, I think we’re supposed to sit with our teams,” I replied.
“Well, I don’t have to sit with mine, that’s the point I’m trying to make,” he shot back.

Thankfully, before the moment got any more awkward, one of Cole’s coaches called him over to sit with his team. And, of course, the fun didn’t stop there. After the opening ceremonies, I noticed Cole coming over to my brother’s team. To avoid another uncomfortable encounter, I used my brother’s larger build as a barricade and hid behind him until Cole was finished talking to my brother’s teammates. Seriously, this kid would not let up. He seemed to be doing everything to try and get my attention.

And, of course, once I thought I was free of him, it turned out he was competing against my brother under the same division…that meant I was going to have to run into him again at the awards ceremony after the competition.

Flash forward to the awards ceremony and my brother took first place (of course he did, we’re related). So, after all of the pictures are taken and everyone disappears, Cole came running up to my family, and that’s when I decided to make a break for it. I grabbed my things and briskly walked down the hall to hide in the women’s restroom. Cole saw that I was busting my ass to getaway and yelled after me, “DON’T YOU WALK AWAY FROM ME YOUNG LADY!” And then..he proceeded to ask my dad what my name was. Of course, my father thought this whole thing was hilarious and told Cole…who ended up screaming my name down the hallway until I disappeared.

Just at the point where I thought I had gotten rid of him, I realized that the exit door was at the other end of the building, which meant I would have to walk past the cafeteria where I last saw Cole. After a few minutes, I stuck my head out of the bathroom only to find him talking to someone right outside of the cafeteria. Well, eventually Cole’s new found friend decided to head back towards the gym and get some popcorn, which prompted Cole to follow him. I realized then and there that it was now or never. I swiped up my stuff and RAN towards the exit. FREEDOM! I thought as I reached the parking lot. And as my family and I drove away, all I could think was, I’m safe now

As I reflect back on the day that I had with Cole at regionals, of course I feel awful, but I’ve realized that even if he didn’t have special needs, I would have treated him the same way. With this situation, I’m reminded of the VERY FEW TIMES I’ve ever been “hit on” at bars while I was in college by guys that I had absolutely no interest in getting to know. And, what did I do in those situations? I politely blew them off, just like I did with Cole. I had no interest in hanging out with Cole that day. I was there to watch my brother kick ass and take names. And, I have a boyfriend. I’m not looking for any more male companions. And, did Cole suffer? Of course not! Being the friendly guy that he is, when I wasn’t around him he ended up talking to so many more people who were willing to engage in a bit of a conversation with him.

Personally, I think there’s this argument out there that we have to treat individuals with special needs as a “special case,” or be nicer to them than we would someone who doesn’t have special needs because they “unfortunately can’t be normal functioning adults in today’s society.” And most days, I think that’s a bunch of crap. With all of the special needs individuals that I’ve gotten to know through my years of volunteering and meeting my brother’s friends, people with special needs don’t want to be treated as “special cases,” they want to be seen and treated as though they don’t have a disability. They want to be treated how we want to be treated…like a human being. So, if you’re not interested in forming a connection with them, don’t! They rather have a genuine connection than put up with something that is forced….and wow, what does that sound like? Hmmmm, how about something that everyone wants, no matter age, race, gender, etc. So, at the end of the day I’m not advocating for everyone to go out there and treat individuals with special needs like shit. Of course not! Treat them as they are, human beings, and form a genuine connection that the both of you will benefit from.

Granny Smith – over and out

Go Ahead, Celebrate!

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So, now that Valentine’s Day is long gone, I want to bring it back into the realm of conversation…I know, sorry! But, it’s not what you think! Give me a second to explain…

My birthday is August 14th, so Valentine’s Day is a big day for me because…it’s my half birthday. Check: If you’re not rolling on the floor laughing by now, what’s wrong with you? I can only imagine what all of you are thinking, who the hell celebrates their half birthday? Trust me friends, I didn’t come up with this; I was suckered into it by my mother when I was a little girl.

For as long as I can remember, every Valentine’s Day, my mother would sneak into my room before I woke up and leave a few small gifts, candy, a card, and a balloon. And, at the end of the day, my family and I would gather around the kitchen table and enjoy some cake! I was always reminded on February 14th that not only was it a national holiday, but I was exactly 6 months away from my birthday. Now, why did my mother constantly remind me that Valentine’s Day was also my “half birthday?” I secretly think that my mom has always wanted to share her birthday with a holiday and when that dream obviously did not work out in her favor, she hoped and prayed that one of her children, hell, even one of  her pets, would have a birthday on a holiday. When that didn’t work out, she studied the calendar and thought of the next best thing. I mean, we don’t celebrate anyone else’s half birthday in our house ….lucky me!

The point of all of this is that when I told my boyfriend about my family’s crazy Valentine’s Day tradition…he didn’t even flinch. Sure, he thought it was weird. But each Valentine’s Day he makes sure that he treats it like my second birthday. I receive half a cake, half a birthday card (tehehe), flowers, my favorite food, and most importantly, love. The crazy part about all of this is I hate Valentine’s Day and so does he. But, the dumb Hallmark holiday has actually brought us closer together because of my mother’s interesting calendar observation. We don’t look at February 14th as another stupid holiday, but a funny reason to have something to celebrate. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world because I get to celebrate two birthdays a year instead of one… and I don’t age twice!

In the end, everyone should have the opportunity to feel like they’re the most important person on the planet! And it doesn’t have to be on Valentine’s Day or just your birthday. It’s important to find someone in your life that wants you to feel amazing about who you are, what you believe in, and everything in between. The fact that my boyfriend picked up this ridiculous tradition of mine and ran with it means wonders, and I don’t have to cringe every time Valentine’s Day rolls around!

But, the main reason why I brought this up is because I want to hear from you guys! Is there anything that you significant other, family members, friends do for you that makes you feel special? Are there any holidays in particular that you love more than the rest because of an awesome tradition you have?  Let me know and be well!

Granny Smith – over and out

The PTO Debate

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The end of the year is coming, and you know what that means?! Yes, ok, so the holidays are right around the corner, but you also need to schedule the rest of your paid time off!

Having recently started an adventure with a new company, I tossed and turned a bit with this issue. With so many projects going on at work, I felt like I shouldn’t be taking any time off, but, what was I supposed to do? At my place of work, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I was at a cross roads.

So, I decided to level the playing field and take a few days off in November and a few in December. This past week, I used two and a half days, and what did I end up doing?…I drilled out a few work projects.

Was I happy with my progress? Sure! But, when you use your “paid time off,” aren’t you supposed to be using it to relax, or spend time with family, go on vacation, etc.? I know that many people in my office use it for doctor’s appointments, going to the dentist, etc. because they have SO MANY days of PTO that they don’t know what else to do with themselves. On the other hand, some people that I work with end up using all of their PTO before the end of the year because they have children, and their children get sick, have dentist appointments, etc. Either way, they’ll end up working on a project, responding to emails, or doing something work related during their day, or few days, of PTO.

And, in my case, with having to use all of my PTO before the end of the year, our office constantly stresses using it “wisely” and “thinking about all of the projects we have to do” before deciding which days are the “best” for us to leave.

The truth is, there really is no “good” day to leave the office. And, sometimes you just have to use your PTO so that it’s gone. My recommendation is to NOT take a huge chunk of time off during one specific month, but to split up your days between months. But, your PTO time is also YOUR time. If your boss or coworkers want something from you, they need to reach out to you before you leave on vacation.

I recently got in trouble because I scheduled a family vacation during our office’s holiday party. But, like I said, it’s YOUR TIME. What are they going to do? They gave you X amount of days off. It’s the company’s problem if they find that too many people are taking off on specific days. And then, they’re going to try and pin it on you for taking those specific days off? PTO shouldn’t come with rules. It should be considered a gift from the company!

The more hours I work in corporate America, the more I believe that we’re all overworked and underpaid, and we’re constantly made to feel bad about the time that we want to spend with our families. Sometimes, I laugh silently to myself when I think about the unemployment rate in this country. Really? You don’t want to hire a few more people to help out with your work load? I know that I could certainly use an assistant, and I’m not even a manager, I’m on the ground floor!

And, might I mention, what the hell happened to the days where shops were closed on Sundays? What happened to Sunday being known as “family” day? Since technology has come around, it’s caused so many of us to think that work is more important, because our “world” is right at our fingertips.

In the end, our jobs and our possessions aren’t going to be there for us when we’re struggling on our death bed…it’s going to be our family and our dearest friends who will help us, and make us forget about our pain by bringing up the good times that we shared with one another. But, what if we’ve been so wrapped up in what we’re doing, that we never allotted time for the “the good times?” What do you think about that, corporate America?…