Monday, October 24, 2016

On Fear

When I was young I made the Powers-That-Be turn on the lights inside the Haunted Mansion.

I know.  Cool, right?

Except it was my terror that made them do it.  Memory is faulty, and I was very, very, very young, so I don't remember much about it.  Here is what I can recall:

Sitting on someone's shoulders (my mind says my Grandpa's?  But that seems crazy....So maybe an uncle?) as we walked from the elevator to the Doom Buggies, clutching at his forehead in horror as I sobbed, "Turn on the lights!  Make them turn on the lights!" over and over and over again until suddenly the lights flickered on.  I remember my Grandpa saying, "Looks like you're in luck."  And I remember the relief.  That's it. I don't know if we all left the Haunted Mansion or if it was just a parent and me.

Just terror, searching for something to ground me to reality (in this case the feel of skin beneath my fingertips), and then relief.

A few years later I made them stop Star Tours mid-ride.  It was the same sort of thing, although this time just my mom and I left the ride, and I definitely recall that walk back to meet up with the rest of the family.

We've all been there, guys.  Don't deny it  (Love you, Mama!) 

I'm not bragging at the power I apparently hold over Disney ride operators.  (Not much, I mean.)  No, my point is this:  My fear is big, and loud, and demands to be heard.

Now, I have mixed feelings about fear.  I mean, if you look over the history of our species, fear has been a good thing.  Fear keeps you from stepping too close to the edge of a high cliff.  Fear redirects your steps when you hear a roar from out in the darkness, assuredly saving you from ending up in the belly of some great beast.

Or, if you're a small girl with a vivid imagination...
And impeccable fashion sense, clearly.

...Who has against her better judgement entered a Haunted Mansion, been herded into a secret elevator and then told - essentially - the only way out is to follow the choice of a hanging skeleton...

...Been plunged into a darkness filled by screaming people...

...And then suddenly finds herself in a dark hallway with pictures that only prove the house is, indeed, haunted...
It's waaaaay scarier with the lights out, folks.

Well...Fear steps up to the plate.  Fear reminds you there are GHOSTS INSIDE.

Fear is there to warn you when something may hurt you.

There are many who will tell you that fear is a liar.  I disagree.  I just think fear is really good at its job.  Seriously, Employee of the Month, time after time after time.  And let's be very real here - fear is good at its job because there is no way to be a human being and not be hurt.

One of my favorite quotes from Welcome to Night Vale
Fear has had a lot of practice.  Fear has been hardwired into our DNA as surely as joy, sorrow, delight, or anger have.  Fear may go even deeper, existing on the same level as thirst, hunger, the need to breathe.  Personally, I believe those who say they have no fear are either lying or foolish - or both.

Fear is not the voice to be shut up and ignored!  Fear is that friend who has your best interests at heart but just never quite hits the mark.  You know the one.  Maybe the Christmas gift is never right, but is given with a good spirit.

Maybe words are awkwardly phrased and the hug too tight/loose/long/whatever - but you can tell the intention is there.

Fear isn't out to get us, it's out to help us.  So instead of ignoring its voice, we instead need to turn and face it and say, "I hear you, fear, and you're not in charge here."


That's it.  It is as simple and as difficult as that.

So whether I'm walking the sinister hallway toward the Doom Buggies and am feeling that familiar lick of terror along my spine (every time, guys), or I'm finally telling people that yeah, my agent has put the pitch out to a few editors and some have asked to read the complete manuscript - fear doesn't get to keep me from doing something I know is good.

Remember that time I said guilt could hand me the roadmap but didn't get to come along for the ride?  (No?  Let's change that.  Check it out here.)   It's kind of like that, except that fear has a seat in the car.  The backseat...and fear is an avid backseat driver.

Ideally fear will be passed out, though...just sleeping the drive away.

I just don't have to follow its direction.

Another winner from WTNV

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Quilt Square

I visited my grandma today.

It was a spur of the moment decision; I happened to be in the neighborhood and had a few extra minutes, so I stopped by.  Because it was a last minute thing I didn't follow my normal routine of visiting her.  Usually I stop by Starbucks and pick up some coffee - decaf, because it's always so late in the day.  But today, sadly sans coffee, I followed the now familiar turns and lowered the volume of my radio out of respect for anyone else who happened to be around.  I parked in my usual spot and walked the short distance, wondering, as always, why I even bothered to lock my car. After all, it's not as though my little, red Bug would be out of my sight.

And then, with a quick glance to Grandma's neighbors, I lowered myself to the ground.  "Sorry I don't have any coffee for you," I said, and I touched a hand to her headstone.

This is usually the point when I say (out loud, because I think she would get a kick out of it), "Pour one out for my homegirl," and tip the coffee cup upside down.  We share that coffee as I talk about what's going on in my life.  I alternate between taking sips and pouring some beside her name, and I always feel a gentle swell of pleasure in the knowledge that my love of coffee is something that came from her and Grandpa.  It is not groundbreaking or earth shattering.  It will never save a life or change the world, but it is a part of the legacy I have inherited from her.

I've been thinking about that word a lot lately.  Legacy.  I'll spare you the sordid details, but "legacy" has been something of a hot topic in some recent drama.  Truthfully, "drama" doesn't at all capture the reality of the pain caused, but that's not currently my story to tell.

Legacy, though, that is mine, though I share it with many.  Legacy is like a blanket - a quilt - which lays over many, offering warmth and comfort, and unique in each individual space.  I've been inspecting my quilt square, trying to see clearly which pieces of each of my grandparents have made it into my little portion.

Mama Bear from The Berenstain Bears and Mama's New Job.  LOVE those quilts!

So today I sat at my grandma's graveside and I thought.

I thought about the moment my grandpa mentioned Grandma's great love of Christmas, when my brother leaned over to me and whispered, "That's where we get it."

I thought about jumping excitedly onto the couch when Granddaddy was GOING TO TELL HIS MICKEY MOUSE STORIES!!!!  And then laughing years later when kids I babysat asked me to please tell a Mickey Mouse story? 

I thought about Mimi and her sense of humor - the moment during our Easter service when she just could. not. handle. the way someone was chanting.  She and I covered our mouths with our hands and laughed and laughed and laughed as silently as possible.  Even now I get a flash of that memory when I notice something ridiculous.

I thought about Grandpa's great love of family, the way you can tell he is soaking up the chaos around him when we're all together, and I remembered moments at family events when I just looked around, in awe of and grateful for all these crazy people around me.

Webster's dictionary describes "legacy" in the following way:

I am going to ignore the first definition, because my family has taught me that while money is nice and helpful and certainly not evil, it is by no means the most important thing in life.  So let's move on to the second definition:

Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.

This.  Yes.

This resonates with me.  Because when I think of my legacy, I don't think of property or money - unless we're joking about how our inheritance was used to buy Beanie Babies.  

Wait!  This is actually my legacy! ;)

No.  Money, properties, or things are not a part of the quilt laid over me.  My legacy is a strong sense of justice, loyalty, and family.  It is a goofy and silly sense of humor, and a sardonic delight in the ridiculous.  It is standing in front of people and feeling comfortable speaking to them.  It is yelling at other drivers.  It is whistling - a lot.  It is a tendency to assume that I know exactly what's best, even when I have no idea what's actually going on.  It is caring about my appearance.  It is wanting to know who is in church this morning - not to judge...just to know.   It is taking everything so hard.  It is being incredibly self-critical.  It is my storytelling.  It is the sound of my exhale when dismissing something.  It is the shape of my mouth and the slope of my nose.  It is the sound of my laugh.

My quilt square is not perfect, but it keeps me warm.  

And I love it dearly.

Photo credit: Aunt Judy Braun

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fear and Worth: An Update

I know this update is overdue.  Really.  And I'm sorry its taken so long to post.  The thing is, it's taken a long time to sift through the chaos that is my brain as of late.

sometimes i wish i could be a little simpler...think a little less:
Seriously.  Chaos.  
I've been processing a lot of new stuff, and - in case there was ever any doubt - it all circles back to my writing.

The other day I was making some guacamole at work and was imagining out what I would say if I were speaking to a group about writing.  (Incidentally, this is not just vain daydreaming, folks: Doxacon.   August 2017. Washington, D.C.  Be there.)  I kept coming back to the idea of talents, specifically the biblical parable of The Talents.

For those who are unfamiliar, there is, in the Bible, a story Jesus tells about servants who were given talents (a type of money).  Those who invested and used the talents were rewarded, while the poor sap who was so afraid of losing it he buried it in the ground was definitely not rewarded.  He was cast out into a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Just a quick side note here.  At the time this parable was told, weeping and gnashing of teeth were expressions of grief.  As with anything biblical, there's a plethora of ways to interpret this story, but the most straightforward seems to be this:

We are given talents.  If we use the talents we are further blessed.  If we hide our talents we become grief stricken.  

I am a writer.  Writing is one of my talents.  It always has been.  In elementary school I crafted stories out of those, "write a sentence for each spelling word" assignments.  In high school I could certainly write essays well, but the creative writing was where I excelled.  And I have always, somehow, known that someday my words would be in print.  Back when Border's bookstores were still around I used to go and find exactly where my book would sit on the shelf.  It was my sacred ritual.  I couldn't leave the store without at least visiting my books' future home.  Even now, in the jumbo makeup store that has since taken its place, my eyes flick to that spot on the wall as I enter.  

My identity as "a writer" has always been there, whether I have actively used and invested (in) my talent or have hidden it away, buried deep beneath the surface.

Remember this picture?

Taken right after a rare manicure, apparently.

I posted it a few months ago.  I gave it a silly caption about being nervous to send my work off and said that even though it didn't necessarily count as a submission, it was the first move of a game called, "How Many Times Do I Get To Submit This?"

Well, I have an answer.


One submission.

In a twist I was not even remotely expecting, my first submission resulted in representation.  I went to a conference to meet my tribe and to gain some guidance from a real, live agent as to how I should go about taking my next step.

Now, barely three months later, I am googling terms like, "comp titles," and asking my agent - my agent!! - questions that must seem obvious and remedial.  I am telling my friends and family that, oh yeah, we'll start pitching at the end of this month, and will see where things go from there.


I am so excited - SO EXCITED!!! - I can hardly think straight.  It's difficult to stay in this current moment.  And I am terrified.  Which is why I haven't posted anything about this until now.


I am afraid.

I am afraid that I'll talk about this most recent update - signing with an agent - and then, poof! it'll disappear.  Deals fall through all the time.  I am afraid this will be one of those.

I am afraid that I have forgotten how to write a book.  The book I've written is the first of a series.  I have to write the rest of it.  And what if somehow I can't?  What if I've forgotten what it takes to put one word after another after another after another...?  What if I only had one book in me?

I am afraid to put myself out there.  In writing one must be real, must be true.  Even in fiction.  Especially in fiction.  I am afraid to show people my insides and have them find me wanting.

Which leads me to my main fear, the one that drives the others:  I am afraid I am not worthy.  I am afraid that there's been some crazy mistake.  I wonder, Who am I to be so presumptuous as to assume that my work is good enough?  


I'm shocked that someone believes in this story enough to help it get published.


I'm just Steph, standing here, holding this freaky, little story - and it is a freaky, little story.  But I am also a writer.  And it is time for me to uncover my talent, and to take that risk of using and investing it.  Who knows how long this ride will be?  I certainly don't.  But I promise now that I will ride it out.  I will keep sifting and processing and facing those fears.  And though I and my words are works in progress, we'll get there someday.
Taking a page from Stuart Smalley's book now.

Current goal.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Let's Talk About Guilt, Baby

I've been intending to post for...oh, about 2 weeks. I've had great experiences to draw on, too. Good things are happening with my writing. I just spent a long weekend at a conference in New Orleans. I'm currently in Nashville visiting my sister and her family.

Doin' the Nashville hipster photo pose

So, so much.

I actually wrote a little something about NOLA, but couldn't shake the feeling that it was off.  Not bad, but not the right post at the right time.

But really, how cool is NOLA?  I will write about it soon.  Promise.

And then - well, then something relatively minor happened and I became afraid that I had hurt someone I love dearly. Suddenly I felt guilty. Oh, so guilty.

You know the feeling: pressure in your chest, churning in your stomach, the inability to focus on anything else for long...that horrible assurance that you are truly the worst friend/daughter/sister/HUMAN in the history of the world.

You know. Guilt.

It's a crappy feeling.

However, I've learned Guilt is like any other uncomfortable feeling: it's kind of hinged in the middle.

Guilt lets us know when we've taken a misstep. It's our alert for when we act in ways that are incongruous with who we are. It lets us know when we are being selfish, careless, self-centered -- when we are in danger of wandering far and away from our Truth.

To understate it, Guilt can serve us well.

But Guilt has a much more sinister side. It often overstays its welcome.  It can keep us down. It can whisper dark lies in our ear, keeping us away from Good. It can call over its big brother, Shame, and convince us that we are not worthy.

To understate it, Guilt can serve us poorly.

There are some who would claim I feel guilt because of my religion, my faith. They state that I have been conditioned to feel this way anytime I step outside the accepted rules of the establishment. Keep 'em down, keep 'em in line.

I don't agree. In fact, to those who say my misguided guilt is put upon me by my church, I kindly and gently call BS.

Sure, sometimes people suck, and due to suckiness will try to impose harmful rules on us. But that's a people problem, not a God problem.

You see, my God straight up said that I don't need to be kept downtrodden by Guilt.
"It is finished."

That's what He said.
"It is finished."

Hanging on the cross, enduring the worst humanity could offer, being mocked and scorned for His sacrifice.

"It is finished."

There is no need to keep opening up the door to the past. No need to pick off the scab. No need to stay in the gutter of our mistakes. We are not too dirty, too broken, too ANYTHING to move on. We deserve forgiveness. We deserve love.

It is finished.

Thank you, Jon Acuff.  And Pinterest, for the photo.

So I know that when Guilt comes to visit, bringing along any of his family members - Shame, Fear, Despair - I can say hello, hear the lesson, and then let him know he is not welcome.

Guilt can drop off the road map, but he does not get to come on the journey back to myself.

Photo from

And that is totally okay.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Not Cinderella

I'm a shoe girl.


I know, I know!  It's cliche.  But, hey!  I'm a redhead whose favorite color is red, and while I don't mind a margarita or glass of wine, I'm definitely a whiskey girl.  I'm used to being a cliche.

My shoe closet pretty much holds the spectrum of colors and patterns: glittery ruby slippers, blue suede wedges, black patent leather stilettos...heck!  I even have a pair of pumps that have The Avengers all over them.
And they glow under a black light!

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that a certain pair of glass slippers crosses my mind on a fairly regular basis.  Glass.  Slippers.  (Or possibly fur slippers, if you're sticking with the original telling.  There's some controversy over the translation.)  There's no doubt in my mind that if I had a pair of those suckers they would be in my regular rotation.  Because functional glass slippers?  Yes, please!

But even with my slight shoe obsession (fetish?  No...okay, yes) it hit me the other day that I am not Cinderella.

Now, before I get to the moment in which I had this epiphany, I feel the need to say something:  I don't hate Cinderella.  I don't dislike Cinderella.  I don't have anything against Cinderella.


In some ways Cinderella is a perfect symbol of fairy tale princesses.  I would love her for that alone, but there's more.  Whether we're talking the Disney version or the Perrault (and then Grimm) version, or even the Egyptian story of Rhodopis, I am a fan.  She has incredible grace under pressure, is an example of perseverance and kindness in the face of hardship and hatred, and it's great that those traits are rewarded at the end of the story.  I think, "Go back!  Go back!  There's blood on the trail!" is an awesome - if Grimm -  refrain, and "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" is equally wonderful.

And don't even get me started on statements like this:

Who says these ideas are mutually exclusive?  Why can't I love fairy tales and dreaming and whimsy and still be a strong, successful woman?  I will make it rain shards of glass while wearing glass slippers.  I will chase my dreams in my cutest pair of shoes.  When I have kids they will be taught to dance and dream and demolish that glass ceiling.  You do not have to sacrifice one at the expense of the other.


Anyway, all that to say: I love Cinderella.

But I am not Cinderella.

Some of you may know that I've been doing the online dating thing for a bit.  While it's cool to meet new people and I always enjoy getting dressed up, I'm not stoked on it.  The guys are nice enough (barring, of course, those who think it's alright to ask for naked pictures right off the bat), but I find I'm in a strange mindset about relationships right now.  I don't want anything serious - but I'm open to that if it happens - and I definitely am not looking for a one night thing.  So something casual and with no pressure, but with the option to explore more if there's a connection.  And no hookups.

See?  It's not fair.  It's kind of setting the poor guys up for failure.

A couple days ago I got a perfectly nice message from a perfectly nice guy who was wishing me a good day at work.  I suddenly felt very clearly and heavily in my heart that while he may be Prince Charming I am certainly not Cinderella.  I looked at my phone and sighed, "I'm not The One, guy," before I typed a short and cheerful response thanking him for the kind thoughts.

Cinderella is delicate and strong, persevering and gentle.  She is faith in good things and working solidly and steadily at the task that has been set before her, all while never giving up on the dream of something better.

I am a temper that is contained 96% of the time and fierce the other 4.
I am constant vigilance against the threat of bedbugs.
I am a laugh that is just a touch too loud.
I am bottles of kombucha abandoned with 1/4 of the drink left.
I am Christmas music year round.
I am lying on the floor when writing feels too hard.
I am SO EXCITED to go to Disneyland.  Always.
I am quiet moments at my grandma's grave, telling her about everything going on in my life, and listening for the little bell of her answer.
I am always going to laugh at a fart joke...and most raunchy humor.
I am a dirty mind (*ahem* sexy imagination) that hangs out behind an innocent face.
I am incensed when anyone implies - or states - that I need to dress in a more modest/conservative/ladylike/whatever way.  Incensed.
I am not quite afraid of the dark, but I sleep much better with just a little light in the room.
I am conversations with random strangers about what on earth it means that they dreamt about that weird thing.  And also they swear they saw their grandfather after he passed away.

I am not Cinderella.

And so when well-meaning people tell me to have faith, that my perfect Prince Charming, with his pristine background and white steed, will come soon, well...I cringe.  Because I don't have time for you, Prince Charming - for you or your perfect posture and bizarre insistence that you will marry a woman you danced one silent dance with.

No.  For as much as I love fairy tales, and believe in fairies (well, faeries), I'm not looking for a fairy tale romance.  I need someone who will suit up and show up.  Someone who will don his armor and step into the gladiator ring to fight alongside me.  Someone who will push me to try new things and who doesn't care that "delicate" is a word that has never been used to describe me.  Someone who will embrace and explore life with me, who will hold my hand when it's scary or hard, or simply just because.
Frank and Sadie from Beyond Belief (Thrilling Adventure Hour)...Relationship goals.

So, until I find him - until we find each other - I'll just keep putting one well-shod foot in front of the other.  And to all you Princes Charming or Fairy Godmothers, I will never turn down the gift of a great pair of shoes.


Any pictures that are not mine were found on Pinterest, and as such photo credit is not given.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


It's been a long time since I've opened this blog and done anything.  I'm not even going to try to fill anyone in on what's been going on in my life for the past year and a half.  That's overwhelming to even think about.  So, in the nature of friends who can simply pick up again after going years without visiting, I am going to simply move forward.  (Consider it to be a reboot of sorts, because I'm certainly thinking of it that way.)

And that's my goal, you know.  To move forward.  To live.  You see, I got so tired of feeling like I was in a rut.  Unhappy and feeling serious discontent, I decided to do something about it.  I decided to leap outside my comfort zone and do amazing things.  And then I hit a small snag: life outside the comfort zone is scary and kind of overwhelming.  Rather than leaping I simply stepped a toe out, and as soon as I felt the discomfort I curled back in.  Nope.  I don't need to change anything.  Not really.  I questioned whether or not people really need to dwell anywhere but their comfort zones.  I could survive where I was.

But friends, as I thought about that I hit another snag.  I found that, though it was frightening and slightly overwhelming, I had developed a taste for that unknown space.  Sure, I could survive where I had been before, but I couldn't thrive.  Survival is important, and we all go through times of surviving, where we can only put one foot in front of the other until we get out of the jungle, or the desert, or the valley, or whichever figurative geographical situation we're stuck in.  Survival is good.  It's crucial.  It's instructive.  But, unless you live in a fairy tale, there's no magic in survival.

As many of you know, I believe in magic.  With this in mind I had to ask myself a very important question: If I believe in magic, then why, for heaven's sake, and I living life as though trying to avoid it??

I dwelled on this for a while, and then the answer hit me:


Suddenly my comfort zone felt uncomfortable.  Very uncomfortable.  I doubt many people really like to admit they live fearful lives.  And, unhappy with this conclusion I decided that I would no longer be fearful.  Right from that moment I would not only be brave, but I would be fearless.  

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I'm sure you can imagine how that went.  My fear went from a steady, low-level hum to a constant scream.  I can't remember a period of time in which I have felt more fearful or vulnerable.  Now, I hope no one has the idea that I was suffering from paranoia or anything like that.  Because I wasn't.  But I was hesitant to try things, to do anything new or different.  And I was unhappy.  

But God is good, and through the conversation of family and good friends I came to a realization - an incredible and liberating realization: to live is to fear.  

WHAT?  I'm sure you're wondering where I'm going with this, but don't X out of your browser yet!  Hear me out.  I'll explain myself.

Feeling fear is a human trait, not just a personal one.  And if you look back on the span of mankind's history, it can be a helpful trait, as well.  Fear can, in some instances, keep you alive.  Denying that we feel fear is like denying that we feel joy, or sorrow, or anything else.  It's there.  On the heels of that realization came another: fear doesn't need to keep me from living.  

I can almost hear you right now, telling me to hold up for a minute!  You just said to live is to fear, and now you're saying fear shouldn't keep us from living?  Make up your mind already!

I have a response to that.  We all know there is a difference between living and living.  To live is to have a beating heart, and a brain.  To live is to eat, and sleep, and exist.  It's a physiologic thing.  To live is to thrive, to experience this world and life as a gift and an adventure.  I don't know about you, but while I am (incredibly) grateful to live, I have a great desire to live.  

Are you still with me?

I'm about to shift gears for a minute, so do your best to keep up, please.  I'll connect it all.

About a week ago I was messaging a friend of mine about taking writing inspiration from potentially tragic events, and does that make us weird or bad people?  (Answer: No, it doesn't.  It makes us writers.)  I confessed a great love for fierce winds and storms and wildfires because I somehow felt an echoing wildness inside me.  (I feel the need to clarify that I don't ever want anyone to get hurt or suffer.  Truly.)  She agreed with the sentiment and then the conversation went a little something like this:

Me: Other confession: I like wearing my hair down because it is the only part of me that is really uncontained.  But when I wear it down often I start to feel in danger of becoming uncontained, myself.
C: Then you should should never wear your hair up.  NO CONTAINERS IN LIFE (except for Tupperware.  That stuff is legit.)

No containers in life.  Think about that for a minute.  That's a powerful statement.  And I thought on that idea for a bit, and realized that the main thing keeping me from allowing myself to completely be, well, myself, was FEAR.  

And I am not okay with that.  As I said earlier, I don't have a problem with feeling the fear, but I have a problem with letting it keep me from living.  And I made a decision: rather than trying to live a fearless life, I am going to live through the fear.  

And I have begun doing that, in two very simple ways. 
1) Leave my hair down. 
2) Don't leave the grocery store without buying an ingredient I've never worked with before.  

In the parking lot of the grocery store WITH MY HAIR DOWN.  Accidental selfies sometimes turn out so well. 

It'll be a journey to step completely out of the comfort zone.  To keep FEAR from holding me hostage.  And while I make no promises about how often I'll be documenting the journey, I hope you will join me. Let's do it.  Let's live life uncontained.  Let's live through fear.  Let's live.

Author's note:  Let's all take a moment and be grateful for our Mamas today.  They very literally allowed us to live, and they deserve so much love and respect and affection.  HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to all the mommies out there, especially to mine.  I love you!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Adventures in Party-Going -- OR -- Don't Ever Trust A Chatty Bank Teller

The bank teller smiled and began printing out my receipts.  I smiled back and gave my normal answer to the typical and thoughtless question of, "How are you doing today?"

"Oh, I'm fine, thank you." Winsome smile.  "How are you?"

He was alright.  His feet were hurting.  He was pretty sure he fractured his finger but he decided against going to the doctor because, after all, what can they do about fingers except ice and tape?  He was having surgery next week.  Oh, it was alright, just a part of life.  He wasn't looking forward to being laid up in bed for recovery, tough.  This would be knee surgery.  Yeah, knee surgery wouldn't be too fun, you know.  But it's cool, it's alright.  No big deal.  "Oh, hey, next week we're having a little kick-off party here.  It'll be really fun: we're going to block off the parking lot, we'll set up tents and tables and have food and stuff.  It will be really low-key, like an open house.  You should stop by."

A party?  I thought it sounded great, so I said, "Sure!  I'll tell the people at my office, and we'll check it out." 

I walked back to the office and told the others about the kick-off party.

"Umm...We should go."
"There will probably be free stuff."
"I wonder who is catering..."
"Yeah, let's be sure to do it!"

The week passed and yesterday, at about 3:15, I realized it was the day of the party.  No one else in the office could make it - people were very busy - but I decided I would brave it on my own.

"Be sure to bring back stuff for us!"
"Do you want a bag?" - "A bag??  I'm not showing up with a bag to bring back goodies.  Sheesh.  Honestly."

Shaking my head at the idea of bringing a bag to put goodies in, I walked the short distance to the bank, without a second thought to my outfit: yoga pants, an Oxnard Fire t-shirt, tennis shoes, and a neon green running jacket.  After all, I was only heading to an outdoor open house.  No biggie.

I saw the Country Catering truck in the parking lot and smiled.  At least the food would be good.  I couldn't see any tents or tables, though, but that didn't concern me because I am a doofus.  I kept heading toward the bank.

As I walked closer I noticed the people around me seemed very well-dressed.

Very well-dressed.

I suddenly started thinking about my workout clothes.  Steph.  Turn around.  I ignored the little voice in my head.  No, I told myself.  This can be salvaged.  Just act like you belong and you'll be fine.  I saw people had name-tags, so I figured I would go inside, get a name-tag, make a charming little joke about being under-dressed, and then hob nob with a few people before grabbing whatever stuff they had and heading back to the office. 

I was inside the bank, which was full to overflowing with formally attired grown-ups, and had just grabbed a sandwich and was looking around to see who I should talk to about getting a name-tag when someone coughed into a microphone.

"Umm, excuse me?  Is this thing even working?  Yes, everyone.  Everyone!  EXCUSE ME!"  Alarmed laugh.  "Yes, it's time for us all to go outside for the ribbon cutting ceremony."

At first no one moved.  People shrugged and went back to their conversations.  Then I saw a cheerful-looking woman holding a Corona move to the door.  People began moving out, and before I could find a plate for my sandwich I was hustled out the door.

"So, are you here to put out a fire in case one gets started?" A woman asked me.
"Oh, no, haha my office sent me over to represent them at this little shindig."
"Oh, good for you!"

I nodded - incredibly confused by that little exchange - and walked out the door, into the parking lot.  I walked between two parked cars, and was going to keep walking away when from out of nowhere people were suddenly filling in the space around me.  There was nowhere to turn, except back toward the bank.  Stuck, still holding my sandwich, I tried to pay attention to what was being said.

The same woman who had directed us outside was saying something about the bank, how it was opening, blah blah blah, the mayor of Goleta will say a few things.  Mayor?

The mayor.  Of course.  And there I was in my lime green workout clothes.  Awesome.  I clapped by patting my free hand on the top of my sandwich holding hand and ignored the confused glances that were being sent my way.  The mayor said some things, people tittered and chuckled, and then as I thought I would be able to make my escape, more people spoke.  Just as I was in the process of imagining myself in a really lovely pencil skirt and blouse - with rocking heels, of course - the man next to me raised his hand and smiled at the people.  Every face was turned toward us.  I turned and smiled at him, barely able to hold back the laugh that was building inside me.

I leaned against the car I was standing next to so people could see him.  What, exactly, was this car I was leaning against?  It was certainly smooth...Oh!  A Lamborghini.  Neat.  Why not?  There was a Porsche on my other side.

I leaned to the guy standing beside me and whispered, "My office sent the wrong representative to this thing."  He laughed, but I could see what he was really thinking:  This is obviously some person who walked by and is here for the food.

I looked down to see the sandwich still held in my hand.

I smiled - because the newspaper was there taking pictures - and kept my chin lifted.  I laughed when people made jokes.  I nodded sympathetically as people prophesied the amazing things this bank would do in the community.  And then, just as soon as the pictures were taken, the words were spoken, and the people were ushered back inside, I walked briskly away, holding my sandwich.

I was back in my office by 4:15.

I don't know that I will ever trust that teller.  Ever.  Again.  Who knows at what fancy event I'll end up under-dressed next?

But the sandwich was good.