15 Gross Words

Yesterday, I asked my coworker how she prepares her spaghetti squash, and she made the horrific decision to use the phrase “flake it off” in her description. [Any food bloggers reading this need to create a Taylor Swift parody called "Flake it Off" immediately. This is me officially signing over the rights to that idea.] Although my coworker was trying to be helpful with her mini-culinary lesson, her use of the word “flake” brought my appetite to a screeching halt. This got me thinking…what other words make my stomach try to reenact a Gabby Douglas floor routine? See list below. No, “moist” is not included. Call me crazy, but I actually think moist cake sounds delicious.

1. Flaky- Dry skin shedding from one’s body. Like dandruff. Sick. [I couldn't very well leave off the inspiration for this post.]

2. Crusty- That crumpled shirt on your floor with dried food on it. Or worse, unwashed underw— excuse me, I just vomited.

3. Pasta- It’s such a slimy word. Passssttaaa. I mean, I love it, but just don’t love the word.

pasta

4. Slather- Slytherin. Snakes. Scales. Greasy scales.

5. Sauce- Inevitably makes me think “secret sauce,” which is probably a tangy recipe filled with pig’s blood, camel intestines, and ranch dressing.

6. Kernel- Honestly, does a kernel of anything sound appealing to you?

7. Pregnant- Let’s stick as many ugly consonants into one word as we can. I also just imagine feeling bloated for 9 months, and that makes me want to cry.

8. Swollen- I don’t like S’s or W’s or L’s, and this word has all three. Also, the aforementioned bloated thing.

9. Ointment- I have an issue with the sound of “oin.” Couldn’t we just called it “soothing cream” or something?

10. Blanch- Say it outloud. Blanch.

11. Fluffy- Some of you think of baby animals or croissants, but I think of puffy fat. I don’t know why.

12. Spongey- N’s should never be paired with soft G’s. Also, sponges are the dirtiest things ever.

13. Quail- I just think of nasty old rotten eggs. And birds in general kind of gross me out.

14. Mustache- It’s an unpleasant word paired with unpleasant imagery.

15. Loin- Again with the “oin” issue. This time we have to think of a male’s meaty upper thigh area, too. Great.

Fabio-loincloth

Try and be creative with your replacements for these words next time we chat. For instance, instead of saying, “Shanny, would you like to join my pregnant sister and me for some pasta slathered in sauce, followed by fluffy spongecake for dessert? And wait until you see my brother’s mustache for Movember. It’s so crusty. Also, could you help me put some ointment on my swollen ankle?”- why don’t you try, “Shanny, would you like to join my sister (her baby bump is so big, btw!) and me for some spagoots and yummy cake? And wait until you see my brother- he hasn’t shaved in almost a month. He looks ridiculous. Also, could you help me put some soothing cream on my sprained ankle?(<–who would ask that?)” It’s not that hard, people. Help a sister out.

 

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Filed under Food and Health, Humor, Lists

Is Caring Too Much a Thing?

There’s a fine line between excessively sympathetic and emotionally unstable. A fine, fine line. [Cue song]

*I sang this little ditty at my first showcase in NYC (2011). This video of me is for entertainment purposes only and really has nothing to do with the rest of this post.

 

Let me tell you a story. Last week, a young lady strolled into Safeway grocery store to buy quinoa (keen-wah), chicken, mushrooms, and asparagus for dinner. She may or may not have been trying to be healthy in order to lose the 3lbs she’d gained in a single weekend from binging on potato chips and Velveeta Shells & Cheese, but who knows. After rounding up the goods, she approached the nearest checkout aisle, which occupied a teenage boy cashier of Asian heritage. His skin was a pale grayish color, his lips were swollen, his hands were red and cracking, and his ears had painful-looking scabs from whatever skin condition plagued him. Briefly forgetting her hanger (<– click for definition), the young woman tried to brighten his day with a friendly “hello” as she placed her food on the checkout belt. The boy was obviously nervous as he shakily scanned the first two items and avoided eye contact. When he picked up the asparagus, he started flipping through a book of vegetables to find their identification code, but after a minute, shyly asked his secretly-hangry customer what they were called. Feeling patient in light of his obvious nerves, she gently answered, “Asparagus.” After another minute or two of frantic button-pushing, he mumbled that it was his first day and he couldn’t figure out how to ring up the…long green things. Three full minutes later, he breathlessly called into the empty air “Darryl!”-which we can assume was the name of the one manager’s name he remembered. Unfortunately, Darryl didn’t appear in a magical poof of smoke, so the boy returned to desperately stabbing buttons on the register.

buttons

Like this, but less happy about it. Also, Merry Christmas, everyone! I know many of you have already put up your trees.

At this point, the girl’s hanger started to vaguely bubble from within. She needed food and needed it now. Quietly, so not to embarrass him in front of the long line that had formed in the last five minutes, she said, “I’m not trying to steal or anything, but they’re like, $2. Do you think you can either find a manager or just throw them in the bag? Either way would probably better than not figuring it out.” Unfortunately, an even hangrier lady was next in line and overheard, jumping on the opportunity to screech, “She’s right!! This isn’t how you run a business! Give her the dang asparagus for free and let the rest of us start checking out!” The poor child behind the counter was clearly about to have a heart attack, so the girl with the asparagus began proactively scanning the premises for a medic and/or manager. Just in the nick of time- saving the day in khakis and a faded blue polo- Darryl triumphantly rounded the corner to swiftly ring up the asparagus, double-bag the wine, and re-bag the raw chicken in its own Salmonella-free compartment. When all was settled, the cashier-boy handed the girl her receipt and issued the most heartbreaking apology in the history of apologies. She smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it,” then proceeded to her car, where she got inside and replayed his agonizing apology over and over in her head. This kid obviously had a tough life with his physical deformity, plus a terrible and intimidating first day at work…so she did what anyone who feels bad for someone would do. She cried the whole way home.

Who does that? Silly girl. Such an emotional mess. She should get it together. Can you imagine getting that upset because of a teenage boy’s battle with asparagus? Embarrassing!!

Okay, fine. It was me.

Maybe I’m more like a baby than I realized and simply can’t help but cry when hungry, but I’m fairly certain that feeling bad for a cashier shouldn’t prompt a wave of unbridled emotion. Once the tears subsided and I subsequently judged myself for a full hour (and ate, duh), I tried to see the positive: Maybe I’m not an emotional disaster who should be locked away from the world like a ball of nuclear energy on the brink of eruption. Maybe I just have shockingly high levels of sympathy/empathy. [My coworker told me her roommate once partook in a university study to scientifically determine levels of emotion, and her roommate’s results said- verbatim: Shockingly low levels of empathy. Add that to the Match profile.]

That kind of long quick story and psychological analysis leads me to one question: Is caring for others too much a legitimate problem?

When the typical pageant interview question What’s your biggest weakness? elicits the response I have too big of a heart, we all snort at the subtle nod to narcissism. Oh, you’re so great that your greatest weakness is being too great? Must be tough being you.

But what if that’s a real answer? What if it’s true that having too big of a heart is a serious weakness in life?

[For the record, my answer to that question was always “Cheese.” Make ‘em laugh and move on. I don’t need to advertise that my weaknesses include resting b**** face, an inability to keep my car clean, and a fear of instruction manuals.]

I think everybody can agree that a certain amount of sympathy/empathy is important. It’s even an implication of the Golden Rule. Think about how other people feel and treat them accordingly. Got it. But some of us find it difficult to turn off the compassion switch once someone’s suffering is completely out of our control. Our hearts break for people who were dealt terrible cards, who are hurt by people we can’t stop, or even for those who continually hurt themselves. Since there’s nothing we can do, our concerned little hearts throw their hands up in despair, asking God “Whyyyy” and wreaking havoc on the nearest tear ducts. I think it’s safe to call that reaction a weakness in life.

Like any weakness, excessive sympathy/empathy can be strengthened and improved upon. This doesn’t mean those of us with this condition should strive to be ice queens, but it does mean that we should trust in the greater plan when the suffering of others is beyond our reach. Instead of letting those moments overwhelm us with sadness, we should harness that emotion into either developing a legitimate plan or practicing trust in a power greater than our own.

And that’s what I have to say about that.

Quite a simple conclusion for such a long riveting introductory story, but I never know where these things are going until they’re finished. This one just happened to be top heavy.

pamela-anderson-picture-5

We’ll call this post “Pamela Anderson.” Get it? Top heavy? #icrackmyselfup

By the way- for those of you with “shockingly low levels of empathy,” getting teary-eyed from helplessly watching old men shuffle across the street in the rain or welling up with happiness for people crossing the finish line at marathons doesn’t make us unstable. We just really, really like our fellow humans. And if we lose control of our emotions, give us a glass of wine and throw on The Mindy Project. We’ll be good to go in no time. Actually, scratch the wine…that may add to the emotions. Wait. No. Never scratch the wine.

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Girl’s Girl or Guy’s Girl?

You are standing in front of two doors.

Behind Door #1 is a room full of men.

guys

Behind Door #2 is a room full of women.

girlsYou don’t know any of these people. They are roughly your age, but from all different backgrounds. You have to spend one hour with them over drinks. Which door do you choose?

Hands down, dingdingding we have a winner- it’s a landslide, folks- I’m choosing Door #2.

I don’t understand men and I never will. Are they annoyed or just cocky? Are they calculating sports stats in their heads or actually listening to me? Do they want to have stimulating conversation or just look at my boobs? Both? Is my humor lost on them because they don’t understand that 98% of what I’m saying is sarcastic and/or exaggerated for effect? [Oliver Rule #1: If it’s not worth exaggerating, it’s not worth telling.]

Put me in a room full of girls and I am good to go. I don’t care how stuck-up, strange, or basic typical these señoritas may be, I know I can win them over by finding some sort of common ground and running with it. Watch and learn:

  • You went to private school and shampoo twice and only wear heels in the office? Ohmygosh tell me about it, but at least we have wine and Target am I right??
  • You are an oversharer with boyfriend issues? Girl, men are from Mars. Spill.
  • You are intellectual and deep? How can the magnitude of each person’s personal universe exist so congruently with each person’s insignificance in the greater universe?

Easy peasy.

Some of my girlfriends, albeit wonderful, are the exact opposite. They tell me that they feel far more comfortable surrounded by simple men than complex women. To each her own.

So, besides gravitating towards Door #1 or Door #2, what are the tell-tale differentiators between a girl’s girl and a guy’s girl? Glad you asked, because I created this completely arbitrary scientific side-by-side comparison cheat sheet:

*Note: This cheat sheet may prove difficult for the color blind. Sorry for the unintentional discrimination.

GIRL’S GIRL

  1. I can’t decide which girlfriends will be bridesmaids in my future wedding because it feels like I can only choose 2 or 16. Nothing in between.
  2. Fur vests are cute and trendy.
  3. I will never be in a relationship because I care too much.
  4. My dad is an anomaly of the male species.
  5. Flirting is fun, but can get tiring.
  6. I like to chat with my friends at parties.
  7. I love hugging.
  8. Guys make me nervous because I don’t really know what they’re thinking.
  9. I would rather overanalyze than misinterpret.
  10. Involving people in my decisions will help me to avoid mistakes.
  11. Taylor Swift songs are catchy and relatable.
  12. Everything I read on Generation grannY speaks to me.

GUY’S GIRL

  1. I have spent 0% of my time thinking about my future wedding.
  2. Fur vests seem like something only glamorous ice princesses or hard core hunters should wear.
  3. I will never be in a relationship because I don’t care enough.
  4. My dad is just a dude. A great dude, but a dude.
  5. Flirting and talking are the exact same thing.
  6. I can’t commit to any one conversation at a party for longer than five minutes.
  7. Happy to hug when hugged.
  8. Girls make me nervous because I know exactly what they’re thinking.
  9. I would rather misinterpret than overanalyze.
  10. If I make the wrong decision, I’ll try something else next time.
  11. Taylor Swift songs are catchy.
  12. Most of Generation grannY makes no sense but I find it amusing anyway.

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That Was So Ten Years Ago

Did high school actually happen? Or did I dream up soffes, Code Red, and Carson Daily?

soffes

Back when I had a Spark Notes account and was proud to call myself “Miss Cox”* (wait for it), I did my best to stay in the good graces of my peers, but still learned the valuable lesson that haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. [Taylor Swift’s new album is fabu, am I right? Right.] Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t suppress my proclivities for asking an obnoxious amount of questions in class, singing one notch too loud in chorus, and delivering the morning announcements in the manner of a serious news anchor. Likability score: off the charts.

I’m making it sound like everyone loathed me in high school. I don’t think that’s true, unless I have an incredible sense of self-preservation and have been lying to myself all of these years. We’ll stick with the former. I wasn’t an outright disaster or mean girl, but as with the majority of teenagers, I’m sure much of my behavior was misinterpreted or accidentally annoying. While some of you may be predisposed to sweetness and perfection, the rest of us have had to learn to tame our undesirable tendencies over the years- in my case, tendencies of 15-year-old Shannon to make her voice distinctly heard and be so socially awkward that it came across borderline offensive. Since 2006, I’ve learned that basically nobody wants to hear a passionate opinion unless they already agree with it, and found friends who were patient enough to transform my awkwardness from borderline offensive to simply entertaining. Thanks, guys.

So why the history lesson about Shanny the Granny’s youth? To demonstrate two points that will make your heart a lot less bitter, ultimately helping you more easily enjoy this crazy thing called life. A.) People can change and B.) Everyone has a story.

Note that I say people can change. Not people do change. My rose-colored glasses aren’t unrealistically thick. However, when discussing someone you didn’t like in a previous stage of life- be it high school, college, a previous job, etc.- your ability to rant about that person for more than five minutes tells me more about you and less about them. A self-aware person who actively works on his/her own personal growth looks back at old nemeses and assumes that they, too, have bettered themselves over time. But when the thought of a now-stranger still gets the ole heart racing, odds are Bitter Betty has slacked in the soul-searching department, herself- thus projecting a lack of growth onto that past irritant. Of course it’s wishful thinking to believe that the girl from summer camp 2002 isn’t still a total prima donna, but along the lines of innocent until proven guilty, life is way less stressful if you adopt the principle of changed until proven the same. Hopefully you’ve progressed enough, yourself, to support that mantra.

On to point B. Everyone has a story. I’ve touched on this before, but a reminder won’t hurt anyone. People don’t come out of the womb stuck up, idiotic, and abrasive. Though certain personality traits fall under Lady Gaga’s slogan Born This Way, most are learned- or at least perpetuated- by one’s environment. Particularly in adolescence, home lives are often swept under the rug at school, revealed only through aggravating behavior. So keep in mind that there is a reason for all behavior, which does not serve as an excuse for poor conduct, but should at least inspire a bit more patience in our reactions- particularly in retrospect. For example, anyone who reads THIS (<– click) might get a better idea of why I was such an odd duck in high school.

Thanks to the young lady at my college homecoming this weekend whose passionate tirade about a girl she hasn’t spoken to since 2008 inspired this blog post. I hope you read this, but have no idea that I’m referring to you. That would be awkward.

*I attended [Frank W.] Cox High school, who beat Varina High School (Vuh-Rye-Nuh) in the 2004 volleyball state championship. Cox beat Varina. You can’t make this stuff up.

miss cox

Miss Cox 2006. Killin’ it.

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Human Weirdness Proven by Google Searches

Everyone is weird. Do you know how I know that? Because of what pops up in Google searches. I’m here today to address a few of the questions I ran across that really seem to be plaguing the minds of Americans:

google-whatdoesitmean

To be an American: Pretend to Watch football, crave Chick-fil-a on Sundays, and gobble up sensationalized news.

When your nose itches: Someone is thinking of you and/or dust has landed on your nose.

To be in love: LOLOL how would I know?

google-whatisthebiggest

First three are boring, pass.

Biggest bra size: I seriously wonder about this nearly every day. Where do the letters stop? I’ve heard of triple H’s. Any I’s out there? I want to know.

google-whois

Sorry for the cursor on the screen. I know that’s going to drive you crazy.

Let’s take a moment to look at America’s priorities.

google-whyismy

Eye twitching: Good luck with that.

Internet slow: Oh, the irony of using Google to answer this question.

Period late: Proof that every girl out there thinks she is pregnant 1/4 of every year.

Poop green: This is apparently a relatively common issue..?

google-d

Daddy long legs/dogs: Boring, pass.

Dragons real: Such a muggle question.

Doritos gluten free: “Quick! Find out if I can eat these!” says the basic girl drunk on wine with late night munchies.

*This search ↑ “are d…” proved so interesting that the rest of the searches are snippets from using the same search format with every letter of the alphabet

google-j

Jews will always prove to be the most mysterious people on the planet.

Also, jeans are not business casual, you lazy millennials.

google-L

How is it possible that this is the first question that popped up? You guys are such freaks.

google-u

Unicorns and dragons…someone forgot to teach this generation what “fiction” means.

UFOs ≠ aliens

Question #3 confirms how basic our country has become.

Question #4 is from the same people who asked if jeans are business casual.

google-z

Ignore 1-3

Are zebras white with black stripes?

…really.

Keep being weird, America.

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Never/Always: Splurge Edition

What people choose to spend their hard-earned money on is really telling of their personalities and priorities. If someone is willing to shell out substantial cash for the iPhone 782 6, but won’t buy two-ply toilet paper, I have some real questions about his or her significance in my life. Which leads me to today’s Never/Always topic:

11 Things on which I’ll ALWAYS Splurge

11 Things on which I’ll NEVER Splurge

These lists are not meant to be agreed upon by all, by the way. But if you’re not willing to splurge on martinis, you may not want to share that information with anyone. It’ll make you look undignified.

ALWAYS:

1. Guac. There’s a good chance that guac will end up on 50% of my Never/Always lists. Whether the extra $3 at Chipotle or $24 for a family-sized appy at Dos Caminos, count me in.

2. Starbucks. We all have a shameful indulgence. Mine is a $4.29 tall soy chai latte. Every single day. That is $30.03/week, $132.99/month, and $1,565.85/year. Um. I shouldn’t have done that math. I definitely should NOT have done that math.

3. Heels/boots. My version of splurging on shoes is probably still pretty cheap in the eyes of most women, but I’d rather buy a $200 pair of hunter boots or a $100 pair of basic pumps than get a $40 pair that fall apart after one aggressive night in NYC Georgetown Clarendon. Sandals, though? What’s up, Target.

4. Martini liquor. A basic gin and tonic at the local Irish pub? House gin, please. A before[√]during[√]after[√] dinner gin martini slightly dirty with extra olives (preferably bleu cheese-stuffed)? The good stuff, please. I don’t have time to brace myself for fiery pine needles before every swallow.

martini

5. Self-tanner. If I’m forced to wear a strapless dress in a winter wedding or need to prepare for a tropical Christmas vacation, I have no qualms with loading up on Jergen’s Natural Glow. It’s about $10 more than it should be, but I’m not trying to scare off wedding guests or tourists with my pastiness.

6. Shampoo/Conditioner. Pantene Pro-V really does make your hair look like the commercials. Same with Bioceutica, but I’m only fancy enough to use the latter because a family member sends me excellent gift baskets.

7. Airport water bottles. They know that no matter how high they jack the price, everyone is forced to buy water only after they make it through strip searches security. It’s so maddening. I mean, a small price to pay for safety- yes, but charging more than $3 for a bottle of water is outrageous. And still I give in.

8. Work clothes. Business casual style doesn’t change rapidly like the fringe or crop top craze, so I’m going to get myself some double-stretch fancy pants from Banana Republic instead of the wannabes from New York & Co. Again, I know my idea of splurging is probably lame compared to most, but keep in mind that I’m a granny who gives zero flips about name brands.

9. Medicine. Name brands might not be important in my clothing choices, but I’m not getting some generic cold medicine that might not do its job. Ain’t nobody got time for Ebola.

10. Brand new books. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.

11. Victoria’s Secret. 5 for $25? Couldn’t pass it up if I tried. Which may be why I have about 175 pairs of underwear.

NEVER:

1. Apps. With all the free apps out there, why would I ever buy something? I also don’t use apps, so this is probably a silly thing to include on this list.

2. Make-up. I know a lot of girls like their Mac or Bare Minerals or all the fancy stuff from Sephora, but take me to the make-up aisle at CVS and I’m good to go. Maybe this is why all my girlfriends look like supermodels when we go out and I’m the bumbling sidekick. I don’t know.

3. Jewelry. I have some gorgeous pieces of pricey jewelry (again, thanks to family members), but statement necklaces and every day earrings are all courtesy of Target and Forever Love. They’re going to break or get lost anyway.

4. Plane seat upgrades. The concept of first class is nice and all, but at the end of the day, I’m still sitting next to strangers and trying not to get caught reading over their shoulders.

5. Sunglasses. Only the most responsible people in the world should buy nice sunglasses.

6. Wine. You might be shocked that wine is on this list. The thing is, even though wine is my best friend, lover, and soulmate all rolled into one, I can find an awesome bottle for $8 or less, so I’m not going to buy a $40 vintage off the shelf. Also, when I want the really nice stuff, I can just turn on the puppy eyes when my dad takes me to dinner. #perksofstillbeingsingle

7. Cable. I survived living by myself for a year with nothing but Hulu. Not even Hulu Plus. Somehow, I managed to get by without talking to myself often or anything weird like that.

self five

8. A fancy car. The amount I care about cars is even less than my interest in Kim Kardashian’s latest selfie.

9. Cool-kid gym memberships. Expensive cardio machines with personal TVs attached to the front actually make me dizzy. I need to be able to look out at the sea of lunks on machines while I’m getting my cardio on, so high class gyms have no appeal, as they only house ellipticals with TVs five inches from my face.

10. Real plants. Decorative plants are beautiful and maybe someday I’ll graduate to a new level of home décor maturity, but I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment.

11. Electronics. I don’t know if you guys see a trend, but I don’t do gadgets. At the current rate, they all become old news within like, three months anyway.

 

I feel like you just learned a lot about me. My splurge tendencies exposed more than I wanted them to, so let this be a lesson to make wise choices, everyone.

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More Loyalty, Please

Chipotle. My brother. America. Wawa. ChapStick Moisturizer. CNU.

What do all of these things have in common?

My loyalty.

  • If someone asks where we should go to lunch and a Chipotle is within a five mile radius? Chipotle. But the lines are so long! But they never give the same portion twice! But you’ve had it for your last five meals straight! Don’t care. Going.
  • My brother is the kind of guy who texts me random selfies with my sister-in-law just to brighten my day and forces me to miss out on my precious sleep so that he can listen to me cry we can catch up over an extra drink. He could publicly dis Mindy Kaling and I’d still stand by his side. (Though given he’s a talent agent for comedians, I know he never would.)
  • America might be a little weird these days, what with school teachers in Nebraska no longer being allowed to call kids “boys and girls” because apparently acknowledging genders is now insulting (??), but I still tear up when “I’m Proud to be an American” plays during every 4th of July bar crawl.
  • The predicament: I have about 14 miles worth of gas left in my car, and a sign tells me there’s an Exxon in 2 miles and a Wawa in 14.5 miles. The decision: Wawa.
  • Not lying, I’ve gone to three different drugstores in a one mile stretch to find ChapStick Moisturizer (the blue tube) before buying Blistex, Carmex, or some other second-rate creation that doesn’t make my lips as kissable.
  • Our football stadium (yes, we have a team) may be smaller than the visitor’s bleachers at my high school, but when Christopher Newport University is mentioned on obscure lists of best emerging colleges in the nation, you better believe I swell up! I’ll be C-N-U around, fellow Captains. (ha.ha. …)

Loyalty is hard to come by these days. From relationships to sports teams, people jump ship as soon as something easier or more personally beneficial rolls around. A perfect example is the effect of fantasy football, where “loyal” fans find themselves rooting for someone on the opposing team since that person is on their fantasy team. Where’s the reverence? Where’s the devotion?

The “me” culture of the 21st century is responsible for the demise of a laundry list of once-popular characteristics, to include persistence, humility, and empathy. Loyalty is only one among the many endangered qualities in a jungle of stifling selfishness. Though not yet extinct, loyalty is more of a pleasant surprise than a collective expectation. Examples of unyielding faithfulness are generally applauded for their rarity, such as the couple celebrating their 81st  wedding anniversary  (<– click) or the employee who started in the mailroom and ended up as a principal in the same company (<– click). Though citing extreme examples, the general concept of someone sticking by another person or thing’s side- even when times get rough- is more heartwarming than ever before, because with rarity comes value and admiration. Like gold. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, beanie babies.

oldest couple

John Betar, 102, and his wife Ann, 98, have been married longer than anyone else in the United States (81 years). [Thanks to Trinity Church in Va Beach for sharing their story on Sunday!]

Part of the problem is a fear of commitment. Choosing one thing means letting go of the idea of something “better” coming along. It means viewing an obligation as a respectable responsibility, not a dreaded requirement. If we are loyal to a person or thing over time, ups and downs are inevitable. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but not a single thing on this earth will ever be consistently phenomenal- except faith, but even that fluctuates due to our state of humanness. When we make the decision to be loyal to something, that decision is almost always made during an “up.” The challenge is to be aware during that initial decision that a “down” will eventually follow, often simultaneously with an “up” replacement. For example, someday your relationship will be in a rut, and at the same time you’ll meet someone new who seems incredible. Loyalty is sticking to your initial commitment, which is on its “down,” even when a tantalizing new “up” is dangling in front of your face. The same can go for your company or favorite brand.

This is not to say that every choice in life needs to be definite. Circumstances absolutely exist where the best move is to close a harmful chapter, but in the spirit of self-development, perhaps we should all choose one or two more things in life to pledge our loyalty. Even if it’s something as silly as Velveeta over Kraft, making the choice to stay loyal (going all the way to a different grocery store if the one you’re at doesn’t carry liquid gold Velveeta) will be a good reminder to not always give way to selfish convenience or personal gain.

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Bikini Talk: Exposing More Than Skin

I was honored to write a guest blog for Kandice Pelletier Swimwear, the official swimwear sponsor of Miss USA 2014. In the post titled Exposing More Than Skin, I explain how donning a bikini reveals more than just physical appearance. Click on the link below to read!

http://www.kandicepelletier.com/blog/2014/10/2/guest-blog-exposing-more-than-skin

missnyss

In my Kandice Pelletier swimsuit at Miss New York 2012!

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13 Polite Things that Are Not Actually Polite

In a world where basic please and thank yous are rare, this granny is immensely appreciative of rudimentary manners and polite gestures. Expressing consideration for others with respectful actions is a sure way to win me over, but certain courteous traditions are just awkward or inconvenient. Please refrain from the following:

1. Holding the door when I’m more than 10 feet away

I didn’t plan on taking a power walk or light jog when I got dressed this morning, but now I have to pick up the pace so that you don’t stare at me like I’m a lazy tortoise.

powerwalk

2. Waving me forward at a four-way stop

If it is your turn, please just go. Oh, you don’t know if it’s your turn? Did you pay off your driving instructor or something? How are you allowed on the roads?

go

3. Covering your mouth when eating

Putting your hand in front of your mouth actually draws more attention to your smacker than if you just openly chewed. And if you have so much food swirling about that you can’t possibly complete a close-mouthed chomp, might I suggest smaller bites.

giraffe

4. Offering to carry something once I’m already loaded up and situated

The amount of effort it’d take to transfer any one of the four bags slung around my various body parts to your wide-open arms is really more effort than it’s worth.

bags

5. Telling me that I look great today

And every other day…?

rude

6. Sneezing into your hand

Are you really one of those people who hasn’t gotten the memo about the elbow sneeze? Doorknobs. Handshakes. Train poles. Complimentary nut bowls. Think about it.

gross gif

7. Asking me on a date over the phone

Not enough men have the confidence to call instead of text- so props to those who don’t hide behind the keys. Calling is impressive. That being said, if you ask me on a date over the phone, I’m pretty much obligated to say yes. So it’s charming, but also kind of rude. I need to research how women of the pre-text era handled these kinds of situations.

no thank you please

8. Offering for me to go first in the bathroom line

Nobody wants to go first, feeling all rushed and self-conscious about noises and smells. [Unless I’ve had four beers. You know that beautiful expression by John Green, “I fell in love like you fall asleep- slowly, then all at once”? That’s kind of how needing to pee happens after four beers. In that case, pleasepleaseplease let me go first.]

scaring taylor swift

Or you can just sneak into the bathroom first like Ellen DeGeneres…and hope someone behind you is as spastic as Taylor Swift.

9. Standing up to let me into my seat

I know there’s really not a better option in rows of seats, but the “polite” thing to do in this case is definitely no less awkward than the alternative (staying seated).

grinding

10. Asking for me to pass the salt

Reaching over someone is the rude thing to do, but I really don’t want to put down my perfectly assembled bite right now to pass you what you need. You should really just reach.

bite

11. Saying that I don’t have to buy you a birthday present

You know what, I would have happily not bought you a gift since I had no idea your birthday was coming up. But now that I know, I obviously have to get you a present. This is the ultimate “no means yes” situation. Well, maybe not the ultimate.

dontknow

12. Not talking in the elevator

Where did this custom come from? I’m not going to tell anyone your secrets. You and your friend can keep talking. And if it’s just us, ask me about the weather or something. I’m a human worthy of acknowledgment.

elevator

13. Offering to sit in the back seat

When someone insists I sit shotgun, it usually means that the driver is questionable company. Thanks a lot.

kill me

 

You can stop doing these things now.

Please and thank you.

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Filed under Humor, Lists

Weight Loss Solutions and Other Answers You Don’t Want to Hear

“Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to.”

I’ve been told that a lot. For some reason, I really love knowing the intimate details of scenarios or opinions that stab me right through the heart. So, did you guys have a really fun time at that wedding I wasn’t invited to? Did my ex bring a date? Was there an open bar? How about instead of getting these answers, I just assume that the wedding was unmemorable, my ex looked around the room and realized he’d never find someone as awesome as me, and it was a cash bar only. But, no. I always need to get the real scoop, then subsequently fight off all kinds of unwanted emotion. Really healthy.

When it comes to asking questions with unwanted answers, I tend to stick to the personal/relational/heartbreaking sort. I’ve noticed, however, that a lot of people don’t want the answers to general self-improvement questions. As a big proponent of the Change-It-If-You’re-Not-Happy Lifestyle (hence why I’ve moved 8,347 times since graduating college), I don’t really understand why people ask how to further their careers, attract more dates, or lose 20lbs if they’re not actually willing to do anything differently. Haven’t you heard the definition of insanity? Doing the same the over and over again and expecting different results. Come on, people.

When people ask me for advice, it’s usually on one of three topics:

  1. Dating (the irony is astounding)
  2. Wine (so proud)
  3. Weight (flattering)

I’m going to focus on #3 here because my answers to #1 and #2 are really, really simple. I’ll get them out of the way quickly:

  1. On getting more dates: Shower and be social. Give your number to someone if you think he’s decent looking/not a serial killer. Say yes when he asks you out. If he doesn’t ask you out, be a confident superstar and casually suggest meeting for drinks. Then meet him for drinks/whatever he suggests. Congratulations, you just went on a date.
  2. On wine: Drink whatever you think tastes good.

So, onto #3. Let me start by saying that I am acutely aware that I am not the most qualified person to answer questions about weight loss and health. I’m going to lay the facts out there, just so you know who’s talking here:

Full Name: Shannon Marie Oliver

Height: 5’7 ¾”

Current weight: 128lbs (though when I weighed myself yesterday morning, I was pretty dehydrated from all the wine I drank the night before…so you may want to add a pound or two. Just keepin’ it real.)

Heaviest weight: 149lbs (sophomore year of college)

Lightest weight: 118lbs (Miss Virginia 2011)

Favorite food(s): Velveeta Shells & Cheese, Guacamole, or Brie cheese. Can’t decide.

fat

Workout regimen: 4-6 months of cardio 4-6 days a week. Followed by 2 months of forgetting the gym exists. Followed by 1 month of trying to decide if I should just cancel my membership. Followed by 1 month of building back up my routine. Repeat.

When people tell me that they want to lose weight, then ask me how I stay thin (oh, stop, not really, tell me more), I notice that 99% of them don’t actually want the answer. Which is to eat less and move more. It’s not rocket science. Unfortunately, particularly in our society, my definition of “eat less” seems really extreme to most people, as does my definition of “move more.” Sure, cutting out french fries or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are technically examples “eating less” and “moving more,” but that’s really not going to take a big dent out of the number on the scale. I’m not suggesting you starve yourself or become a marathon runner, but this is going to take a little more effort than not putting creamer in your coffee.

Losing weight is a numbers game- you have to burn more calories than you consume. And people would be shocked if they knew how many calories they unknowingly consume per day. 1500 calories/day (the number that works for most women to lose weight) is a medium latte (200 cals), a burrito bowl at Chipotle (900+cals if you get sour cream, cheese, and guac), and a small serving of chicken and veggies at dinner (3-400 cals). Most people eat those three things, along with an egg sammy for breakfast, some pita chips and hummus in the afternoon, an extra serving of meat at dinner, and usually some kettle chips while watching TV before bed. Plus a couple hundred calories worth of beverages. When I try to explain that they have to stop consuming so much, people spout off all the “healthy” reasons for everything they eat. “You’re supposed to eat a big breakfast.” “Guacamole is healthy fat.” “You’re supposed to eat six times a day to keep your metabolism going.” “I have to energize before doing a workout.” I mean, keep telling yourself that you’re making healthy choices, but it’s not my fault your pants don’t fit.

Yes, breakfast is important. Yes, guac has nutrients. Yes, you can manipulate your metabolism with food. Yes, you need to fuel your body for a workout. HOWEVER, there’s no getting around the fact that if you eat a big breakfast, you’re still consuming much of your daily allotment of calories before 9 a.m. If you must eat a giant breakfast, prepare yourself to show some self-control at lunch and dinner. There’s also no getting around the fact that guacamole contains more calories than chocolate ice cream. Fact. And I hate being the bearer of bad news, but eating six meals a day will make you overweight. Six “meals” really means six “snacks,” if you’re looking at food intake through the eyes of an average American. Also, a “workout” does not mean taking a casual stroll through the park with some hills. Walking is an awesome way to start if you’re severely overweight, but if you only need to lose 20lbs, get your butt moving a little faster than that. And keep in mind that even running three miles only burns off some of the toppings on your Chipotle. Diet will affect your results a whole lot more than working out (though they do and should work in tandem).

As you can tell by my favorite foods and workout regimen, I’m obviously not a fitness guru who loves yoga and crossfit and never sees the scale fluctuate. When the scale does jump up 5lbs, I’m very aware that it’s simply because I’m eating too much and cobwebs are beginning to form in my sneakers. The key to weight loss and maintenance is being honest with yourself and catching a backslide early. For me, cutting out entire food groups or following diet plans just leads to binge eating. I’m an excellent and impressive binge eater. Because of not wanting to perpetuate that talent, I’ve never been on a technical “diet” and the only time I cut out a food group was leading up to Miss Virginia. (I stopped eating starchy carbs. Getting on stage in a bikini and heels will make you do crazy things.) Anyway, when I gained weight my sophomore year of college and during my first five months in NYC, I didn’t really change what I ate. I just ate more of it. When I lost weight, I just stopped eating portions designed for NFL linebackers. Truth: it’s not necessarily what you eat, it’s how much you eat.

In my current stage of maintenance, I am aware of what I put in my body, but don’t overthink it. If I want fries, I get fries and eat as many as my little heart desires (which is usually all of them). But if I do that at lunch, I eat less than usual at dinner. Since that tends to be my routine (big lunch, tiny dinner), my coworkers think I have the metabolism of a hummingbird and my roommates think I’m borderline anorexic. I’ve stopped caring what they think and just do what works for me.

When people ask you how to achieve something, most of the time they don’t want the answer because the answer challenges their lifestyle. In this case, it’s “Oh, the way you stay thin isn’t how I want to do it” or “You just snap your fingers and lose weight because you had to do that when you were in pageants” or “You don’t indulge enough.” Alright, that’s totally cool if you want to think that. I know I’m not a poster child for healthy choices, but at least I’m honest, not at war with food, and apparently look decent enough for you to ask for my advice.

Listen, improving your life is not easy. And weight loss/maintenance holds unique challenges for everyone (plus we all look good at different weights, thanks to differing body types). No one escapes the temptation to make excuses about one or more areas of life- some people just entertain their excuses longer than others. For all of us, though, it’s time we start asking questions and actually acting upon the answers.

(I’m talking strictly the self-improvement questions, here. Still haven’t learned my lesson about those pesky personal/relational/heartbreaking questions. I’ll stop asking them someday. Maybe.)

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Filed under Food and Health