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The Future Car Talk Host

Nikki was kinda expecting a phone on her birthday. She knew she’d be getting a flip phone either for her birthday or Christmas as we’re easing into the whole “home alone” phase of our life and we don’t want to start with 30-minute trips to the grocery store until she has proved she can keep a phone charged for emergencies. Because we’ve had to discuss this (and dash her expectations of getting a smart phone) I knew it wouldn’t be much of a surprise, although I was doing my best to still keep saying, “Christmas” when we referenced when it would happen.

Well, I bought her flip phone last week and had it hidden in a bag in the back of the van.

Fast-forward to Tuesday when I was driving around town and heard a weird beep – I THOUGHT – coming from my dashboard. The only thing I could think of was that my service appointment a few days earlier had alerted me to a recall in my dash. I wondered if the two were related and made a mental note to call Toyota at some point.

Later that day I was picking Nikki up from daycare before a soccer game when I heard it again and thought, Weird. That time it sounded like it was coming from the back of the van. But I didn’t think too much about it until it happened again after I had Nikki in the car and then it hit me: THE DAMN PHONE.

“What is that beeping?”
Me…panicking and saying the first thing that popped into my head…
“Yeah…they told me there was a dashboard recall when I had my car serviced, I guess it has something to do with that.”

Now. This is where any normal person would have left it. But now that I knew it was the phone, I was convinced she was going to figure it out. And it had started beeping more often (it felt) and to me it was suddenly SO OBVIOUS that it was a phone. So! I just kept talking about it the entire 40-minute drive to her soccer game.

“Oh, man. That’s annoying. I’ll have to call Toyota tomorrow. It’s weird that the beeping is coming from the back even though it’s about my dashboard. Must be because the spark plugs are back there and the computer sensor needs the spark plugs to work. Maybe I’ll mess around with the spark plugs when we get to your game and see if I can make it stop beeping.”

Now. Imagine this same soliloquoy but elaborated on to a weird degree because I just wanted to KEEP MAKING SURE SHE WAS THINKING IT WAS RELATED TO THE CAR. I told random stories of other times my car has beeped and how I was able to fix those. I told stories about sensors and spark plugs in the back of the van and how I had seen them because my mechanic showed me. I COULD NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT MY FAKE SPARK PLUGS AND BEEPING SENSORS. It was like I was having a weird psychotic breakdown.

We finally made it to the field and I told her I was going to “work on the car” before the game. I dug out the phone and powered it down (it looked like there were activations messages that’s why it was beeping) and went to the game. When we got back in the car later I told her, “I figured out how to turn off the sensor so the beeping won’t keep making us crazy.”

“What sensor?”

SHE HADN’T EVEN BEEN LISTENING TO ME PRATTLE ON ABOUT FAKE CAR STUFF.

The moral of the story is? My daughter is going to be forever confused about cars.

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Game Changer

We all know I’m a high-anxiety driver. I ended up on another size of the mountain from where I live the other day simply avoided a left-hand turn. I called Donnie from my route back and said, “I know this won’t surprise you but I am leaving Hampton Cove which I ended up in trying to avoid a left-hand turn.” See – if I encounter a dangerous/stressful left-hand turn that I didn’t plan for by AVOIDING ALL TOGETHER…I just take a right. And then I wait until I either find another right into some place that will bring me out at a Left Green Arrow Light or I wait until I find a safer left and then take a right back out in the direction I meant to be going in the first place. Well…that day? There was a lot of traffic and I basically ended up outside the Huntsville City Limits before I felt comfortable with my turn options.

ANYWAY…

You can imagine my panic when my gas light comes on. I know that – in theory – I should have at least a gallon left when it comes on. But I drive a gas guzzler from 2008 so that might only be 15 miles. AND – I have to find the right gas station. It has to be on the right side of the road and it can’t be a BP. So sometimes I’m cutting it close and I’m always panicking about it. ALWAYS.

Then when I was pulling out of my garage this week I accidentally pushed the wrong button and changed the display on my Temp/Direction screen instead. I do this a lot and then just push it several times until it goes back to Temp/Direction. But then I thought, “What else does it offer? I’ve never really paid attention?” And do you know what I found? A DTE screen! Do you know what DTE means? “DISTANCE TO EMPTY.” I’ve been driving that van for 8 years, panicking every time the gas light comes on, and all along I had a setting that would give me at least an estimate as to how many miles I have left.

#MindBlown

Sometimes on this blog we talk about mental health, or empathy in relationships. Sometimes we discuss the best way to deal with conflict during the political season. Sometimes we discuss anger management and anxiety in our children. And then sometimes? We just discuss how smart Zoot is. This is obviously one of those times.

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The Anatomy Of A Brain Fart.

This is for all of you people who love someone with a bad habit of doing stupid stuff on a daily basis. Like myself.

I lost stuff ALL THE TIME growing up. I actually had a special spot in the lost and found at my high school for my purse because I left it behind in so many classrooms. I have several great stories of wallets full of cash (remember cash?) getting lost and I almost always got them back thanks to lovely Good Samaritans. All of this drove my Dad KRAZEE, obviously. He would get SO ANGRY every time I lost something major and y’all? There was a lot he didn’t know about. I got a pair of Ray Ban Aviators for my birthday one year – and it was like my ONLY birthday present that year and I lost them and I knew my Dad would kill me. So I hoarded lunch money for several weeks, living off packs of crackers, until I could replace them.

And then I lost them again. OF COURSE.

When Dad wasn’t ANGRY at me for this trait, he would comment that it was because I always had too many things swirling around in my brain at any given time. It was rarely important things…I wasn’t pontificating on solving the AIDS crisis or the underlying themes of William Blake’s poetry…I was mostly just thinking about my crushes. Does Brooke think I’m cute? Is Doug going to ask me out? Why does no one agree with my that Pump Up The Volume is the best movie ever? My mind was always moving around from one topic to the next. And that meant anything that wasn’t a “habit” got forgotten. And I had a hard time making anything useful a “habit” up until I graduated from college and got my first 9-5 type job. I got better in college, learning how to use calendars and lists, but I was still bad. I LOST A PROFESSOR’S RESEARCH DATA ONCE AT A CAR WASH. That is not even a joke and it’s still such a traumatic memory I don’t even like talking about it. But once I graduated and got my first 9-5 job, I really started building useful routines and learning the value of lists. I was finally able to structure my life in a way to try to QUIT FORGETTING SHIT.

I’m not perfect, I still forget things, but NOTHING compared age 12 through age 22. I have always relied heaviliy on planners and lists which is why I’m such a bullet journal nut. It helps me keep things NOT part of my “habit” at the forefront of my mind.

MOST DAYS.

But any time my habits and routines get shaken and I can’t make note of it in any way in my bullet journal? I’m screwed. YESTERDAY WAS ONE OF THOSE DAYS.

I do a lot of stuff before I leave the house in the mornings. I’m not a night person so all of the things most people do before bed: Wash dishes, do laundry, pack lunches…I do in the morning. I also blog (Hi!) and check Facebook and pack my running clothes if I’m going to the Y to run. I change the kitty litter and feed the animals. These are all MOSTLY part of my morning routine (which is why I wake up at 3am) so most things don’t get forgotten. On Mondays – I have to take the recycling to the street – which disrupts the habit slightly, but it’s a Monday so it’s in my brain as part of Monday’s routine.

But yesterday there was enough weird stuff going on that my morning got shattered. First? I was going to take my car into be serviced after the Y, on the way to work. This had me having to think about packing up my day and my car differently than usual. And I had to make sure my car was kinda cleaned out just so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed. Then, it was warm, so I didn’t need to warm up my car – which was a weird shift from recently. So as I was packing stuff up everything was just slightly different and that’s when my brain gets frazzled and shit gets lost or forgotten. I NEED MY ROUTINE, or I need my list. And this wasn’t enough of a shakeup to make a list, just enough to frazzle my brain.

SO. I’m making the last trip down to the van and I’m putting things in the bags they need to be in so I can leave some stuff in the van while it’s serviced but take some stuff on the shuttle to work. I get everything organized and I think shit…where are my keys? Did I accidentally pack them in one of the bags? I checked all the bags. Nope. Did I put them on that shelf with the recycling? Nope. I retraced my steps around my van to every door I used, Nope. And here’s the thing: I knew they had to be down there because going to my van with my keys is a HABIT. I would never have walked out of the house without my keys to head to the van because my van is always locked so I always have to push the button to unlock the van. THAT IS A HABIT. My habits save me. My keys HAD to be somewhere around the van or in the van. I TORE THE PLACE UP. I was just laughing maniacally at one point thinking HOW DID I LOSE MY KEYS IN MY VAN?

I was freaking about having to wake up Donnie (we don’t have a spare set due to another long story involving one of my children) to get him to help me find my keys. I was GOING To be early to the Y but I was now LATE and I was panicking. WHERE ARE MY DAMN KEYS?

But I’m 41, I’ve been fighting this trend for a long time so I started thinking again about my habit of getting my keys and going to the van and it hit me: WAIT. It’s Winter. My morning habit is SLIGHTLY different in winter. Usually, my first trip to the van is to warm it up. My LAST trip to the van NEVER REQUIRES KEYS because they keys are already in the van. But yesterday was different, I decided not to warm it up because it was 50 degrees out. So I brought the keys back upstairs with me. But my brain probably didn’t consider that on the LAST trip to the van because my subconscious is out of that habit during the winter when the car is usually already running on the last trip of the morning.

So…I went back upstairs and there they were. Sitting on the kitchen table.

My winter time brain has already built the habit of NOT grabbing the keys on the last trip to the van, so my brain evidently has TWO different routines built into the whole “going to the van” mentality and I didn’t realize it. I thought I was working within the confines of my normal habits by searching for the keys around the van, not even realizing my subconscious brain had already developed a new routine for winter…WE DO NOT NEED THE KEYS ON THE LAST TRIP TO THE VAN.

The hilarious part is that I recently recognized the formation of this new habit because when it first started getting cold, twice I had similar mornings where I was frantically looked for my keys INSIDE when they were in the van already – warming it up. And like a week ago I realized I hadn’t done that in a while so obviously my brain was relearning to consider the fact that the keys were in the van on cold mornings. That’s the only reason why I went back upstairs to look because I had just noticed that it had been a couple weeks since I did that stupid, “OH MY GOD WHERE ARE MY KEYS” thing in the morning, forgetting they were already in the van.

Routines are CRITICAL. And sometimes my brain develops routines I don’t even realize. And when any of the routines are shifted slightly? The Stupid Things Kim Does multiply exponentially.

I know you wish you had a dollar every time we frantically looked for our keys, or our purses, or our children…thank you for loving us anyway.

That Time I Said Something Dumb.

I was on a real estate shoot one day last week and I was tired as we had soccer tournament and just chaos in general was pervasive post wedding and birthdays and I had been shooting the outside of the house when the agent drove up and said, “Did you see our friend?”

I looked where she was looking and there was a giant snake right by the driveway where I had been standing moments before. THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER BE TIRED.

“I think it’s dead,” she said and upon closer (from very far away) inspection it seemed to be. It didn’t look damaged but there were flies on it and it wasn’t moving.

I took a picture (from very far away) and sent my husband. “COOL!” he replied. And I rolled my eyes. Boys. They’re so predictable.

(I know! Snakes are great! But I’m the girl who is scared of left turns. OF COURSE I AM SCARED OF SNAKES.)

12196218_10201131939096437_487797801900877620_nLater that night we were waiting for a soccer game to start and I saw the agent I had been working with had loaded a much better picture of the snake onto Facebook. She was obviously more brave than I was because my picture was from VERY VERY VERY FAR AWAY and hers was from right up close. I scrolled through the comments on the photo and then showed it to Donnie.

“Here’s a better picture of the snake from today.”

“Oh, jeez. That’s huge. Did you find out what kind it was?”

“Yeah,” (I had just read one of the responses on Facebook with the answer,) “it’s a Trouser Snake.”

And the look he gave me, y’all. It was a mixture of humor, embarrassment (on my behalf), and shame. I could tell he was also stifling a laugh and I thought to myself, What did I say? What’s funny about a Trou…oh shit.

TROUSER SNAKE? COME ON, KIM.

I mean, I know I’ve heard that as a euphemism dozens of times in my 40 years on this planet. WHY DID IT NOT REGISTER AS A JOKE WHEN I READ IT BEFORE? Obviously it was a joke in an unexpected place so it just seemed totally legit.

“Oh, duh. Sorry. Probably not a Trouser Snake. I just heard what I said in my head. My bad.”

To which Donnie laughed hysterically for the rest of the night.

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Showing My Geography Dork Side

When I studied Geography in college (Remember, in my past life I made maps!), we talked a lot about “spatial awareness” as it related to understanding how things fit into a bigger picture of “space”. Not in OUTER space, of course, but just in the landscape of a community, of a country, of a planet. And it was during all of those studies that I came to realize that I have no natural spatial awareness…just like I have no natural sense of direction.

I think the two must be related, but I think most of us understand the sense of direction better than spatial awareness. In terms of no sense of direction? I am sitting at the desk of my house in a town I’ve lived in for 14 years and I still couldn’t point what direction the Space and Rocket Center is. When I’m running trails I memorize which trails to turn on and I learn distances on those trails. Some of them I’ve run 100 times. Yet, if you stopped me in the middle of the trail, blindfolded me, spun me around 20 times and then told me to go back to the car? It would be a 50/50 shot whether or not I started in the right direction. Once I got to an intersection I’d be able to pull up my mental map that I had memorized and make a good guess as to where I was, but that initial step? Would be nothing more than a shot in the dark.

I believe this also relates to how I understand size. I have to memorize numbers to give me a reference point for measuring things, my natural ability to understand the size of something is WAY off. For example, when I was in college I knew that my city had a population of about 35,000 people. I knew that Neyland Stadium (in Knoxville, where the VOLS play) held 108,000 people (back then, I’m sure it’s more now) so if you said, “How many cities of Florence, AL could fit into Neyland Stadium?” I’d easily say, “Almost 3!”

But if I did not know those 2 numbers to begin with? I would have said, “Eh…I’d say half of the city of Florence could fit into Neyland Stadium.” Because my only reference would be the size of the city itself, and while logically I knew you could cram people tighter into the stadium, I’d not be able to really grasp how many people that would make.

Donnie – in contrast – would have answered the question right on day one and could always make it back to the car in the woods, even blindfolded.

Once, in college, I gave a presentation about a GPS mapping project at a local park. I was super nervous and memorized all of my methods and data to read off in front of the crowd. But then someone asked a question I wasn’t prepared for: “How big is the park?” SHIT. SHIT. SHIT. I had no idea. I knew about how many miles of trails, but that didn’t give me a point of reference. I knew my Dad’s house was on about half of an acre of land, so I used that reference and tried to imaging how many of my yards could fit in the park.

“8 or 9 acres?”

Turns out? It was 80 acres. I was off by a factor of 10.

I have a really hard time understand how small businesses stay afloat because I have a hard time grasping how a city that FEELS small could harness enough business to profit. If no one I know personally ate at my favorite restaurant today, then how do they stay in business? Because I know a LOT of people.

I think it’s the same as how people are born with a strong sense of empathy, or how they’re bad at math. (Interestingly, I’m good a math. Just like I was good at reading/understanding maps. I think some traits I developed to balance out a natural lack of others traits.) And I really believe this concept of “spatial awareness” is related to “sense of direction” but it just doesn’t come up as much. But here’s a good test:

How many people do you think live in NYC as it relates to Alabama? I’ve learned that my natural tendency is to grossly underestimate these type of things so I probably would have guessed they were equal if I didn’t know the numbers. But you know what? There are TWICE as many people in NYC as in the entire state of Alabama. WHICH BLOWS MY DAMN MIND.

My husband? He’s all, Eh. I’d say double and entirely would be entirely unfazed. He gets it right AND is not impressed at all. Whereas I’m blown away because my ability to understand size in that kind of situation is completely off.

I’ve gotten a lot better with local distances, because I run in this town. I know my house is about 4.5 miles from Target because I’ve run that stretch before. I know two of our marathon courses locally and 2 half marathon courses, so there are several numbers and references I can use when I’m guessing distance between things around town.

BUT. If you asked me about Knoxville, a city I grew up in but never ran in and only drove in for two years before I moved? I’d be screwed. I think it was about 20 miles from my Dad’s house to my Mom’s old house when I lived there. And keep in mind – I’ve learned that my initial instinct is always too little, so I adjust. Part of me says 20 miles is NOT ENOUGH.

I just looked it up? 15 miles. And I drove that distance a million times when I lived there. And I was still like 25% off.

SO! Where do you fall? Do you have a good understanding of size? Distance? Direction? I used to think Chattanooga was SO much bigger than Huntsville because the downtown is so much bigger. But – in terms of the population in the city limits? Huntsville is actually BIGGER. (Huntsville: Approx 180K, Chattanooga Approx 175K.) Now, Metro populations are different and Chattanooga is about 528K Metro and Huntsville is like 440K Metro, but still…THAT IS WAY CLOSER THAN I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT.

How about you? Think about cities you know or acreage of parks you’ve been too and try to calculate those numbers. How close are you? Do you know how many people are in the US? How about the UK? How about on the whole planet? The only reason why I know these things is because I’ve memorized them to give me a point of reference so as to try not to humiliate myself when I’m guessing things in the future.