Milkshake Thoughts

12 PM: This lunch is crap; I’m going to get a milkshake this afternoon.

2:55 PM: I’ll type that contract when I get back. It’s milkshake time.

3:05 PM: “Chocolate Milkshake, please!”

Small or Large?” Um…small is probably the better choice. But small seems so…small. Is large too much? Ah, well. “Large!” Treat yo self!

Whipped cream? Cherry? Name for your order?” Why are you still asking questions? Just take my money and give me my milkshake.

3:07 PM: YASS, MILKSHAKE!

3:11 PM: Holy crap, why did I get a large?

3:15 PM: How have I already enjoyed half of this exceptionally large milkshake before I’ve made it the short walk back to the office? *shrug*

*Drink more*

3:55 PM: How is there still so much milkshake left? It’s like Mary Poppins’s magic Chick-Fil-A cup.

4:07 PM: Large milkshake…I’m a donkey, there’s no way I’m finishing this.

4:10 PM: I think I might explode. Milkshake everywhere.

That would be pretty funny, though. Spontaneous milkshake combustion.

Ah, it hurts to laugh.

4:15 PM: WHYYY?? I don’t ever want a milkshake again.

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Stoplight: A Snapshot

 

The light clicks from yellow to red.

A mud-splattered truck stops short at the line, its driver blaring Lynyrd Skynyrd. He openly scopes out the blonde in the Jetta beside him. She pretends not to notice as she taps out a mortified text to her BFF of the week. Behind her, a balding businessman strums his fingers along the dashboard of his leased Mercedes and frowns at his knock-off watch. The ’06 Subaru next to him rocks with four teen boys’ motion as they take turns playing air drums and ironically head-banging to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” while the dusty new Honda behind them houses a woman’s quiet sorrow. Tears roll over her chin as she sobs silently into the steering wheel.

The light turns green. The snapshot becomes a picture in motion.

The truck engine revs.

The Jetta driver drops her phone into the passenger seat.

The business man reaches for the shifter only to remember he now drives an automatic.

The boys burst into the intersection with shouts of laughter.

And the woman drags a hand down her cheeks, blows out a heavy breath, and swallows the rest of her pain.

Until the next stoplight.

Mockingbird

“I was like a well trained pianist who knows which note to hit, but can’t make the music his own.”
― David Benioff, City of Thieves

I’ve come to discover I’m something of a mockingbird. My art is often more mimicry than original.

My funniest moments usually entail bringing up something that has already been deemed hilarious, the memory even funnier in a new context. I have decent comedic timing and quick wit, but most of my jokes are not my own.

I’ve noticed it in my writing, too. My personality is a bit obsessive so once I get into a show or a book I can’t stop until I’ve absorbed it entirely. I start thinking in terms of the story, using similar vocabulary and diction as the characters, and when I try to write my own stories, this mimicry flows through.

I got the full series of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman for Christmas one year, and I wasn’t halfway through the box-set before my characters were using words like “ma” and finding rugged, outdoorsy ways to occupy their time. While reading Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassins trilogy, my own writing stopped using contractions and took on the elevated diction of a medieval noble.

Usually upon editing I can get back into my own character’s heads, my own story’s voice, and I can make the necessary word adjustments to return to my own style.

There are a few writers whose actual style lingers deep in my subconscious, though. Mark Zusak (The Book Thief, I am the Messenger) is probably my favorite. Every so often, I’ll write something oddly poetic, and I’ll have a burst of gratitude for Zusak and his impeccably beautiful prose.

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Mark Zusak, The Book Thief

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And like a child watching her world with awe-filled eyes, I am easily shaped by the words and experiences I’ve immersed myself in. I only hope I will continue to tug out my own, original voice from the web of adoration I gladly weave around myself with each new book, with each beloved movie.

Take My Life and Let It Be

Lately, there have been a lot of political issues that I’ve felt strongly about, but out of fear of the reaction of those around me, I’ve kept my opinions off social media. I’m non-confrontational, a people-pleaser to a fault, so the idea that I could be a source of tension or discord in a relationship is terrifying to me. I’ve stood instead on my soapbox in my empty living room, ranting to myself and my husband and my God.

I can’t anymore. This time, I’m too angry and too sad. This time, the feeling runs too deep.

I’m done with the silence, praying with the cries of my soul. Now, may the world hear my heart.

A few years ago, I started praying every time I sat in a low-lit theater, waiting for the previews to start: Please, God, don’t let there be a shooting here tonight. God, please, please don’t let me die during Zoolander 2.

I wasn’t worried about ISIS or Radical Islam. I was terrified of the one-off white guy who snapped.

Now, my prayers have changed: Please, God, take me in a shooting by an American. And God, if I get to choose, let him be anything but Muslim. Show those who love me that anyone can cause terror. Teach my family and friends that Radical Islam is not synonymous with terrorism, but simply one — albeit effective — example of it. Use my life to open even one person’s eyes to the idiocy of claiming an assault rifle is a weapon of defense, when the very name implies attack.

Take my life, Lord, that even one person’s outlook may be changed. 

And God, remind my family of your forgiveness. And if I die at the hands of a Radical Islamist, remind my father of the lesson he drilled into me since I was small: that he could be the only Jesus the Muslim community knows.

Remind my loved ones that Jesus represents love, and forgiveness, and acceptance. That as Christians, these are the traits we are called to show to the world. Jesus asks us to turn the other cheek, not turn our backs on the suffering, the sinning, the potential risks, the unworthy. 

I, too, am unworthy. I, too, have held hate in my heart.

They call these attacks on America a jihad. Holy War. Well, I declare a Holy War, too. A challenge to those who follow Christ. A war fought by loving our enemies, doing good to those who hurt us without exception or conditions, without “if” or “unless.” A war led by a Savior who cried for the children to come to him. My Jesus laid down his life when he could have fought back. My Jesus is disheartened by those who put the ease of gun ownership above common sense and the safety of our children. (Because we are all someone’s children)

So use me, Lord, that even just one person may learn that hate breeds more hate. Only love conquers all. 

And remind them, God, that Love chose to die. The victory does not go to the last man standing; it’s in the peace that follows.

 Enough Already.

When is enough enough? A man opens fire in a theater. An office party is interrupted by gunfire. A woman is murdered on air. A praying congregation is massacred. A classroom of children, slain.

A packed nightclub is riddled with bodies.

The world mourns. The world gets angry. Some call for a complete ban of weapons. Others insist arming the innocent would keep them alive.

The issue isn’t black and white. Why are we still making it so? How is there no possible way to find a compromise between all or nothing?

I grew up on a five acre farm in Virginia. I’ve fired rifles and handguns. I’m not afraid of them. My life has also been touched by gun violence. A friend of my parents–a police officer–was gunned down as she left work by a kid with two AK-47s and a grudge against the police.

She was armed; she may have fired back. A handgun is still little defense against an assault rifle. I don’t remember the details of the incident; I remember the after. I remember the phone ringing, and the sound of my mother falling to the kitchen floor, the noise ripping from her so hysterical for a moment I thought she was laughing. I remember my father repeating “no” into the phone, as if he could change the news.

I do believe in the right to keep and bear arms. I don’t think all the guns in this country should be banned. I do wonder how the hell the ban on assault rifles expired and no one has reinstated it. There’s owning guns, and then there’s arming oneself for battle.

As an American, I should have the right to not need to arm myself to feel safe. I believe my rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should not be contingent on a concealed-carry permit. My safety shouldn’t have to reside in a handful of steel tucked in my purse or a bedside drawer. I don’t want to attend a class where my teacher or the students beside me have guns strapped to their waists. I want to walk into a classroom or a movie theater or a night club and not have to worry if these are the last breaths I’ll take.

I know safety isn’t guaranteed, no matter the precautions taken. I know at any moment, due to any number of reasons, the next breath I take is not promised. I’m not asking to be put in a bubble.

I am asking: what are we doing to make things a little bit safer? Because each time it happens, the “liberals” call for gun control and the “conservatives” frantically point to the Constitution.

A large group of prominent voices in this country is too quick to blame anything but the weapon. Of course, the basis of their argument is sound. The gun doesn’t aim itself or pull its own trigger. Blaming the weapon is like blaming a car for an accident or a pencil for poor spelling. I’m sure we’ve all seen the bumper stickers and t-shirts and whatever else making these sorts of comparisons.

But the argument shouldn’t end there. It shouldn’t be so simple as throwing up one’s hands and saying “it’s not the gun’s fault so you can’t take it away.”

So who is to blame? The answers to that question are cut and dry, both vague and appropriately specific enough to distract from the fact they’re just fluff: Criminals. Mentally Unstable. Radical Islamists. Domestic Terrorists.

I think we can do better than that, and we should be asking deeper questions. How do criminals get guns? Fine, you say they’re criminals and therefore obtain the guns illegally. What about the mentally unstable? Or those self-radicalizing terrorists who’ve yet to commit a crime? It is dangerously naive to insist that increasing background check requirements for gun ownership will only hurt the law-abiding citizens.

The San Bernadino shooters were law-abiding citizens, before they attacked their co-workers. The Uber driver in Michigan was a law-abiding citizen, until he went on a rampage. The Virginia Tech student didn’t have any priors, but he massacred a campus.

Maybe a more stringent background check would have picked up the ties to ISIS, the anger issues or the mental instability. Maybe, if in order to purchase a gun we had to complete an assessment on our home life, on the family members who may obtain access to our weapons, families in Newtown, Connecticut would be whole. Maybe denying guns to those on the No Fly list might have meant those hundred people would have returned home from a night of dancing, instead of ending up in a hospital in Orlando or worse.

As a law-abiding citizen, I would feel far safer if it took me weeks of assessments and checks before I was approved for a gun purchase.

Sure, criminals will still get their guns illegally. But rather than bemoaning that fact and wringing our hands, or insisting the rest of us should build up our own arsenal, doesn’t it make sense to look at the system and acknowledge it is broken? Wouldn’t it be a better use of our time and energy working to increase mental health rather than clinging to our guns without offering any solution? Wouldn’t it be something at least, just to tighten up the requirements already in place, take the worst of the weapons out of  private citizens’ hands, and make it that much harder for a currently law-abiding, as yet undiagnosed-mentally-unstable, bitter citizen to wrap their fingers around the very weapons we’ve been told will keep us safe?

Doing Math

That’s one of my favorite statements to yell when trash-talking another team in literally any type of competition. Rather than SCORE! or BOOM! or IN YOUR FACE!. It’s right up there with MONEY IN THE BANK! and the always fun (but least ladylike) SUCK IT!.

I don’t know why it always makes me laugh; maybe because when I really am doing math, it feels like something to shout about. Like, I’m achieving over here!

But that’s what I’m doing right now. Math. It’s why I’ve been a little quiet on the blog, and why I’ll continue to be less present for a little while. I have to do math.

My boss strongly encouraged (read: insisted) I actually start taking classes towards getting my RPA designation. It’s one of my professional goals for 2016, and (at least until I make enough writing to quit my day job) I am in the business of real estate, so getting some letters after my name is important if I want to continue to do well in my day job (read: bring home that bacon).

So, I’ve started taking a Real Estate Investment and Finance class. Because I’m all about going big or going home. I’ve pretty much chosen the most difficult of the RPA classes to start, mostly because it’s the only one currently offered at a discount by my own company, but also because I half-heartedly hoped I might be surprisingly good at Finance (spoiler alert: I’m not). And because if my husband ever decides to actually try his hand at investment properties and flipping homes, I want to be able to contribute beyond being the pretty face welcoming people into the finished project (because I sort of hate schmoozing and small-talking people in general).

The first class was overwhelming with letters divided by letters and all this talk about depreciation and capital vs. income and present value and my head is already spinning. Since we’re adults, they expect us to read the chapters in our own time and come prepared to class with intelligent questions and insights to share. It’s like a horrible senior capstone class in college. Except, my capstone was the History of Psychology which was incredibly interesting to me. Finance and investment is…not so much.

But it’s important, and it will be fantastic knowledge to have tucked away no matter where my day-job may take me, so I will be applying myself from now through the end of July. I’ll need to take creative breaks of course, so I don’t plan to neglect my blog completely, but for the stretches of silence between posts, I apologize in advance.

I’m doing math!

Adult Milkshake

Every so often, it hits me that I’m an adult. Yes, I go through my life acknowledging I’m a grown up with bills and a job and responsibility and all that boring adult-stuff. But once in a while, I remember being an adult means I’m my own boss.

Last night, I really wanted ice cream when I got home. And I racked my brain for quick dinner recipes I could throw together that would make it acceptable for me to then have dessert.

Then I remembered: I’m an adult. I can have ice cream for dinner if I want.

Also, my husband was at a work happy hour and would likely want actual dinner when he arrived home. So basically, I was just killing time with a little ice cream.

The only real problem was the ice cream we currently have is sub-par flavor-wise. It was a sad day when I combed through the ice cream aisle at the grocery store only to find all the flavors and brands acceptable to both my husband and me (my husband will only eat ice cream from cartons that have the plastic seal on the outside and remember, I had that mouth surgery so I can’t have anything with nuts or super chewy chunks yet) were covered in a layer of frost. And I wasn’t trying to eat crunchy, freezer-burnt ice cream.

Did you know Yuengling makes ice cream? Me neither, until I saw the cartons at Harris Teeter. Apparently they started selling ice cream to keep their family business afloat during Prohibition. And they are ah-mazing at making ice cream. They should be even better known for their mint chocolate chip than they are for their beer.

So, I was at Giant (it’s slightly more convenient to stop here on my drive home from work than the Teeter) about to tearfully give up on my ice cream quest, when I spotted a 2 for $3 pint deal for none other than Yuengling ice cream. I was so pumped. In that moment, it didn’t matter that the only flavors were root beer float and black & tan. I grabbed one of each and went on my merry way.

Of course I got home and thought w-t-f, why would anyone want ice cream flavored like the delicious beverage it can help create? That’s pure laziness. I was ashamed of myself. At least the black & tan is a chocolate-caramel swirl.

Obviously, I still tried it. I mean, it’s still ice cream. And root beer floats are possibly my favorite way to enjoy ice cream.

I’ll say this for Yuengling: their ice cream is dope no matter how weird the flavor. Still *highly* recommend them.

My husband is a traditionalist when it comes to ice cream. He’s not into “birthday cake” flavor or “strawberry cheesecake” and he felt the same about “root beer float.” So it’s up to me to finish that bad boy. And I mean, it’s good, but it’s not eat-an-entire-pint-in-one-sitting-good. (Also, I try to follow the serving size. I might have two servings in a night if I’m feeling particularly feisty–or adult-y–but I try).

A lot of things came together last night to make for a pretty delicious concoction on my part. I had the weird ice cream flavor. I had a hankering for cold, creamy goodness. My husband was at a happy hour. I wanted my hour to be happy, too. The obvious conclusion: add some alcohol.

I love butterscotch. My husband does not. If I’d known that this winter, I wouldn’t have bought such a large bottle of butterscotch schnapps for my hot buttered rum recipe. But I didn’t, so I did, and now we have a ton of the stuff. I figured it couldn’t hurt anything tossing a splash of it over my two heaping scoops of root beer ice cream and half-cup of milk. And while I was adding liquor anyway, might as well throw in some vodka to give it a real adult-kick.

This ended up being a little too much liquid, so I dug out the last of our freezer-burnt chocolate ice cream, avoiding the biggest ice crystals, and got a big enough scoop to mix in and bring the consistency back to a nice, thick milkshake.

The improvised recipe is below, but if you’ve ever made a milkshake by stirring your ice cream till it’s super soft, you can handle making a drink like this. Unless you’re not 21, in which case get out of here and come back when you’re old enough to complain about not getting carded.

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Adult Milkshake – Root Beer Float

  • About 2-3 big scoops of Yuengling Root Beer Float flavored ice cream (we don’t have an ice cream scooper. It was lost sometime around when we moved just before the wedding, and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it, so we use regular spoons. It makes gauging scoop-sizes difficult, but otherwise works fine)
  • Enough milk to cover 3/4 of the scoops in a glass (~1/2 cup)
  • Splash of butterscotch schnapps
  • Shot of vodka (we use Tito’s)
  • 1 scoop chocolate ice cream

Stir the 3 scoops ice cream with the milk until it reaches desired consistency. Add the alcohol and stir immediately to mix well. Stir in chocolate ice cream until smooth and enjoy.