“Dad, are you there? How do I get my oil changed?”

Picture 3Nothing makes a girl feel more like a girl than asking about any sort of mechanical anything. I raced to Jiffy Lube (there’s a first time for every phrase) right after work, as I was already 4,000 miles over when I was supposed to get an oil change. Hey, how was I supposed to notice that little sticker on the corner of my windshield? That is so not in my peripheral.

Once arrived, I’m greeted by a man in a jacket who clearly mugged Danny Zuko, and he says an oil change is a quick job and I can wait in the lounge. I’m speculative until he tells me the coffee is free and the magazines are fresh. Not 15 minutes later, I’m greeted by the mechanic and facing an internal challenge wondering if I can call him a grease monkey. It was our first meeting, so I decided against it. He’s telling me about my car and I’m nodding my head, vacantly staring at him wondering who set him up to this. (Old math teachers, probably.) Okay he’s talking to me for longer than he actually worked on my car. It’s gotta be $15 tops.

$50?!!!!?!!????. Um, excuse me JOHN-whose-name-I-know because it’s embroidered in cursive on your onesie, I am not made of diamonds. Sensing my distress, John told me my license plate lights were also out, but he had replaced them fo free. “Better to be safe than sorry, especially after having a few beers,” he said. Ugh, John. You’re adorable. But everyone knows I’m a G&T girl.

(Seriously though, thank goodness for John and his Jiffy Lube hospitality.)

My desire to learn about cars reached a forceful halt at age 16 when I realized I didn’t need to know anything. I took my car to the place I always took it when my parents told me to. I didn’t know after how many miles I brought it there, I just always knew it was at a super inconvenient time usually when the Bachelor was on. See, my car and I have been like FB friends. We’re a little awkward around each other because I don’t know much about who they really are, but when the time comes and I’m craving McDonald’s and need someone to get me there…yeah, I’m gonna FB message them and pretend we’re besties.

I thought about oil changes the way I thought about 1st cuts of Varieties: why have them? But do you know what kind of things happen to your car if you don’t take care of it?! It can wreak more havoc than Vodka_Sam in a distillery. Something I’m now face-palming for not doing: ask around! I know we’re all conditioned to resort to Google, but ask around your office to see where they go to get oil changes (or hair cuts… massages… Gateway Market salads for a black market price…) because people have a one-up on Google. They have experience.

So from here on out, I’ll pay more attention to my car because I feel kinda violated when it blinks and makes noises at me to change it. Like, can’t you just be you, oil? Why do you want to change? But cars need a check-up just like we do. Pass the oil can and the credit card – God knows I don’t just have 50 bucks on me.

Explaining a Selfie to My Middle-age Co-worker

Picture 3I got caught mid-snap this morning. How foolish of me to think that my own cubicle could be a safe haven. We know how to click out of Facebook as fast as humanly possible; we know the perfect amount of time to put a Pop-Tart in the toaster; we know just how many times we can hit snooze before we absolutely have to wake up. Yet we somehow can’t bring our bodies to stop the selfie  – it’s a chemical unbalance, probably.

Luckily the awkwardness alleviated itself by a random act of God. My co-worker a.k.a. the witness a.k.a. the spy didn’t bring up any questions. The following is only what I can assume may have pursued if the situation went in the other direction:

“It’s like a greeting card. Of your face.”

“No I don’t think Hallmark feels threatened. I haven’t asked though.”

“It’s just a more interesting way to communicate your emotions.”

“All the kids are doing it.”

“What do you mean how am I going to explain selfies to my future kids?”

“Snapchat? It lets you send a photo for a selected amount of time before it deletes itself.”

“Yes it’s an ‘app.’” (air quotes included.)

“No it’s not illegal. Except in somewhere foreign. Like Vermont maybe.”

“You’re right, selfies probably do deserve their own documentary or at least a Lifetime movie warning teens about weird forms of cyber bullying.”

“No I’ve never been cyber bullied. No I’m not a teenager.”

“Seriously. I have a degree, like from college.”

“I don’t think cats take their own selfies. I think humans help them out.”

“You bring up an interesting point – I’m not sure if that still qualifies as a selfie.”

“I’m not sure why cats got so popular on the Internet.”

“Yes I made that face on purpose.”

“No you can’t be in the next one with me.”

Why It’s Okay If Running Isn’t Your Thang

nike running shoes in fall leavesEvery day on my way home from work, I see runners. They trot by on a crosswalk they invented, giving me the passively friendly wave — the Midwestern middle finger. I’m just thinking “Yep, go ahead. After you. I have nowhere to be. No pins to pin. No cats to pet. No denials to deny.”

But now running has been on my mind. And for the last month, I’ve been doing an okay job about running around a few times a week. But does that make me a runner? I feel like I don’t fit in. I mean, I obviously can’t wear a visor because I lack the spiky hair necessary to wear said visor.

Wanting to look the part, I went home to the heartland last month and paid a trip to MOA — the favorite place of anyone who doesn’t live in Minnesota. I had debated for three previous stores whether or not I would go into Lululemon. OH WHAT I WOULD GIVE TO HAVE THAT UPSIDE DOWN MINIATURE “U” WITH WINGS ON THE SIDE OF MY ASS. I’ll tell you what I would give — $80. Flat. Minnesota, hollaatcha no clothing tax.

I immediately sensed I was in a hostile environment. With 16-year-olds aplenty in their spandex and sweatbands (clearly at the MOA on a break from the best vball tourney eva), I couldn’t help but think: really? You’re going to pay a crisp bill for a pair of super stretched out yoga pants? I grinned, thinking I had the upper hand. Hah. I am an adult, with a paycheck and goals. Lost in my daydream of scooping Subway’s tunafish mix onto adolescents’ flawless shiny hair, the Lululemon worker caught me off guard.

“Hi! Do you need a dressing room?”

Little did she know I lived in a sorority for two years and actually preferred to strip down in the hallways. With a hazy remembrance of social norms, I decided to take her up on her gracious offer.

“Uhm……yeah?” Confident. Nice.

“Okay!” She bounced around, her blonde curls bouncing behind her. “What’s your name?” She smiled at me, pen-poised and ready to write my name on the dressing room door.

Hope you studied your consonants, girl.

Past this spelling-of-my-name hurdle that I come across all too often, I thought I was safe to retreat into my 3×7 box. I thought wrong. “Okay, Merritt!” So energetic. “What’s your favorite way to work out?!” Emphasis on the favorite, as if I had multiple activities to choose from.

Is this a trick question? I’m picturing wearing these with no shoes while I move from chair to couch in my apartment. I knew I couldn’t fake yoga. She’d probably make me say my favorite position. And while Happy Baby is one of the best stretches in the world, it wasn’t one I was about to pull out in front of all the Eden Prairie MILFs. Hmm could I go with an organized sport? Softball? I remember being good at that. #glorydays. Ugh no, then my new retail friend would want to set me up with a “really motivated girlfriend” of hers.

“I like to run.”


She wrote it on the board, underneath her best attempt at my name.

I’ve tried running countless times. But you wanna know the problem with running? It’s not fun. Blah blah, “It feels so good when you’re done though!” Ever topped off a bottle of wine with your best friends? Talk about endorphins.

I tried on pairs of leggings in my personal box. You’d think that for 80 bucks they could’ve made my butt look way better. Discouraged, I peeled off the jet black layer of new skin and tossed them on the ground (and immediately picked them up. Hello they’re Lululemon.) But as I’m no longer a student, I couldn’t justify buying this pair of leggings. I’m not a runner, and I can’t wear them to work like I could’ve worn them to class. So I left the store, bagless.

When I decided that I wanted to pursue writing as more than just a hobby, I found solace in a book (for writers) by Monica Wood. She said it doesn’t matter if you’re published. It doesn’t matter if you write short stories, novels, feature stories or poems. If you write anything, anything at all, you are a writer. So don’t feel bad if you don’t “hit the pavement” every night; every night that you are out there and running is a night you are a runner.

During my run tonight, I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt that said, “To be your best, you have to forget the rest.” Normally, I’d throw up at that sort of cheesy phrase. But she smiled at me as we passed, and it made sense. Running isn’t for everyone else ever. If you’re doing it, it’s gotta be for you – just like anything that requires motivation. If going for a run makes you feel better, then you gotta do that. If doing 20 jumping jacks makes you feel better, then you gotta do that. If making an egg sandwich mixed with that sweet & sour sauce from Fong’s Pizza that’s been in our fridge for a week makes you feel good, you gotta eat that. As our Pawnee friends say, “Treat yo’self.” Whether that means to a run or to something else is up to you.

Saturdaze: Des Moines Farmers Market

DSM Farmers MarketWelcome to the first of many Saturdaze posts! I don’t know if it was the perfect chilly morning, all the little babies bundled up, or the police officer who actually had coffee and a donut in hand that made today feel like a scene out of a movie. Court Avenue in Des Moines took on an entirely different persona than the one I’ve grown accustomed to on Friday and Saturday nights (not to say that’s a bad thing.) Homemade apple cider took the place of apple pie shots. Fresh cream-filled Danishes took the place of 1:30 a.m. cheese balls. And pink-cheeked children took the place of, for lack of a better term, drunk betches.

Des Moines is ranked the #2 best Farmers Market in the country. On top of Midwestern food favorites, there is a ton of live music, kids activities, handmade jewelry, and fresh flowers. To be honest, I haven’t always been interested in these types of events. I cringed at the words “fair” or “market.” I would’ve much rather been at a Starbucks or the mall. Maybe I’m intrigued by Farmers Markets now because it’s such a stereotypical blogger thing to do, like there’s some weird mold a blogger needs to fit into — someone who swears by organic food or really likes to eat kale; someone who finds time for yoga and running every day in between a full-time job; and someone whose gorgeous hair takes no effort at all; and someone who makes regular appearances at a downtown Farmers Market.

I’m happy to say none of these stereotypes need to be true, nor is a Farmers Market meant to be for a particular type of audience. My bf and I saw everything from Iowa State/Iowa fanatics to Lululemon lovers to kids to adults to dogs. No rules. Just awesomeness.

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Though it was aesthetically pleasing to see all the pumpkins and gourds, I couldn’t keep myself from having horrific Halloween costume flashbacks – Princess Jasmine (complete with wig, circa 1997), Josie from Josie & the Pussycats (complete with purple fuzzy leopard print heels, circa 2000,) and a pair of Halloween pajama pants with a t-shirt that said “This is My Costume” (complete with zero creativity, circa 2006.)

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Then we found the breakfast. GOOD GOD.  With slices bigger than Jeff’s, how could we say no? It’s atypical for either of us to turn down bacon, but as soon as we saw how fresh and bright the vegetables looked, we could not resist. Although it lacked my favorite pizza ingredient (red pizza SAWCE), everything came together perfectly with a simple garlic butter sauce. Tomatoes, spinach, eggs, and banana peppers topped it all off. (Literally. They were the toppings.) RIley and I may have picked off the mushrooms and olives. What can I say? We’re children.

photo (18)The best find of the day? A tent filled with dahlias that were grown right in Ames. It looked like a garden out of Whoville. (I had to take one home.) As we meandered through the tents, I reveled in the hard work of all the vendors. I was just here, slightly hung over and enjoying my first time at the Farmers Market. But they were here every Saturday, pre-sunrise to post-lunch. They sold items that they put hours of work into. They greeted every person with a friendly face and kind word. Looks like Minnesota nice has traveled south!

Why People are More Attractive in the Fall

photoWith October officially upon us (#thanksObama), we’ve settled into routines and maybe some relationships. Thinking back to my old college days, it seemed that relationships came out of nowhere after just a few weeks of school. All of these new couples were so wrapped up in each other, literally and figuratively, and I had to push in between hand-holding to get to Caribo…ahem, class, on time. I thought things might be different once out of school, but I’m finding the truth about this season remains the same: people are more attractive in the fall.

There’s a feel-good feeling about fall that’s more irresistible than guys who wear their sleeves rolled up. It’s more than the rush guys get once they see girls tweeting that it’s yoga pants season. It’s more than a debate of: are scarves getting bigger or are women’s heads getting smaller? Checking people out is a habit for both men and women, but the “fantasies” seem to change in these cooler months. Thoughts shift from, “He/she makes me want to BOMO at a house party,” to “He/she makes me want to go on a date to Noodles,” to “He/she makes me want to cook dinner and drink wine by a fireplace, while curled up next to kittens and listening to John Mayer.”

What causes this shift in romantic-thinking?

1. People are inherently in better moods during the fall. If you’re not into football than you’re at least into tailgating, which makes everyone happy. The weight of mid-terms hasn’t hit you yet. And if you’re a post-grad, it still hasn’t dawned on you that working lasts the rest of your life. (Sorry for the spoiler alert.) Everyone’s looking forward to the good things, and that’s enough to grab anyone’s attention.

2. There’s something about a fall wardrobe. While low-cut crop tops definitely show off your personality, there’s something about layers that make you want to get to know someone. We get invitingly lost in a sea of flannel, cardigans, scarves and boots, wondering what kind of person hones that type of style. People look cleaner, fresher, more put together; they look like they’re going somewhere with a purpose.

3. Fall is the most beautiful time of the year. Yeah, yeah, every season has its perks. But is there anything better than walking past someone whose hair is blowing in the breeze, vibrant leaves flying everywhere, while a gust of wind puts their sexy scent straight to your face? No. And while every interaction might not channel that much Pocahontas, it’s way more enjoyable than walking past sweaty bodies in the summer or seeing the red nose/dry skin combo in the winter. The summer tan is just fading away, giving everyone an autumnal glow that’s impossible to ignore.

Maybe, if you’re just starting college, being in a relationship is what you feel like you should/need to do. Maybe, if you’re out of college, it’s still what you feel like you should/need to do. Or maybe it’s because we can all admit that we just don’t want to drink our pumpkin spice lattes alone during the best part of the year.