You Don’t Have To

There’s a lot of guilt and obligation floating around both online and off. And while you don’t have to believe a word that I say—trust me, I don’t always believe these myself—just for today, try.

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You don’t have to hide your quirks. They make you unique.

You don’t have to drink coffee, and if you do, it doesn’t have to be designer Arabica beans or a $6 latte from Starbucks.

You don’t have to love a certain food because everyone else seems to love it. You can if you want, but do it for you. Not for any other reasons.

You don’t have to check your phone right this minute. Remember how life was a decade ago? Whatever it is can wait.

You don’t have to be the best parent, spouse or friend, but you do have to be there when those people need you.

You don’t have to love yoga or CrossFit or running. Try to be healthy, but be healthy for you. We all need to find out what works.

You don’t have to like everyone and everyone doesn’t have to like you.

You don’t have to cook complicated meals with a lot of ingredients. Microwaves were made for a reason.

You don’t have to make Pinterest-worthy desserts. Bakeries are there for a reason, as are Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines mixes.

You don’t have to pin a damn thing.

You don’t have to hide your successes, but it’s far more impressive when others discover your charm without you having to tell them.

You don’t have to tweet a damn thing.

You don’t have to be mean to be funny. In fact, you don’t have to be mean at all.

You don’t have to love your job. You don’t have to hate your job. But you should do a good job when your name and your rep are attached.

You don’t have to tell everything you know because you have a spare minute.

You don’t have to undervalue your strengths or overvalue your mistakes.

You don’t have to hide your scars. They show that you have survived.

You don’t have to take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

You don’t have to write a book. You don’t have to read a book, but if you don’t, you’re missing out.

You do not have to complain each time you’re annoyed, but silent gratitude feels rather wasted.

You don’t have to love being a parent all the time. You don’t have to feel guilty for that.

You don’t have to complain about being a parent all the time. Nobody likes a martyr.

You don’t have to write if you really don’t want to, and when you do, write for yourself.

You don’t have to compare yourself to others. You are you. That is enough.

You don’t have to be inspirational—life isn’t unicorns and glitter—but everyone has their own junk. Try and provide some relief.

You don’t have to click on the link and read through. In fact, you can log off.

You don’t have to make the bed, fold the laundry or clean every day. A house is meant to be lived in.

You don’t have to have it all figured out. Nobody does, and you don’t have to believe them if they tell you they do.

You don’t have to take the road others have taken. Just make sure the path is your own.

And most of all, you don’t have to be the exception.

You are worthy of happiness in your life.

You are worthy of laughter, good food and good friends.

You are worthy of love and support.

You don’t have to do it alone.

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P.S.  I created a new “Illustrated Issues” tab to the top of my blog where I added some of the most popular images from Facebook and Twitter. Enjoy!

Kelley from ‘Kelley’s Break Room’ Has Issues

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to showcase another fabulous blogger’s issues. I’ve even added a tab up at the top so you can catch up because I’m super fancy like that.

But today, it’s all about Twitter queen Kelley.

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Name: Kelley Nettles

Blog: Kelley’s Break Room

Where, what and why do you write?

Where: Many times I write my posts out using the app on my iPhone. It’s sort of a pain, but it allows me to write things out while I’m in the car at a baseball practice or having my 6-year-old shine my shoes or something. If I’m not writing on that, I use my laptop and write while I’m watching The First 48 or The Bachelorette. That means that I stop and start a gazillion times and then fall asleep with my laptop charring my thighs.

What: I write about random things that happen to me or random observations, everything from Chinese foot massages to being stuck in The Home Depot forever.

Why: It’s part of my Witness Protection Program Agreement. If I can write things up to lead people to believe that I actually live this life, they’re less likely to recognize me as the Russian lady who shoplifted over 1,429,302 KitKats by hiding them in MC Hammer pants in a period of one month back in 1991.

First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.

“I hope my 6-year-old found something to eat for breakfast.” My 9-year-old is a pro at getting a bowl of cereal made or heating up a Toaster Strudel, but he sometimes leaves his brother hanging. This is probably because my 6-year-old is a little high maintenance. “I WANT EGGS ON TOAST” (a fried egg over buttered toast.) He thinks he’s a pharaoh.

What’s the one “issue” or frustration annoying you the most right now?

That it is the middle of the summer and I still haven’t done half of the things on my “summer to do list”. It’s all cleaning and organizing and decorating related. This is the ugly side of life.

Three websites you visit every day.

Get ready to fall asleep. I visit Facebook, Gmail and chron.com (the Houston Chronicle website) every day. I have to visit that last one so that I can stay on the up and up about which convenience stores have been robbed. The Dollar General really got it handed to them recently. (Pretty sure The Dollar General needs to go back to boot camp and learn how to protect himself from thugs.)

Favorite place to be?

This one is a tough one. On the one hand, I want to say my favorite place to be is at my grandmother’s house while all the family is around and we are laughing or reminiscing or at a table playing Scrabble with my dad or floating down a river with my husband and boys, but the truth is that I really like being in front of a fully stocked refrigerator and freezer with a bib around my neck.

If you could rule the land for one day, what laws would you create and enforce?

I would totally make it illegal to steal things out of people’s cars and I would also make it illegal to break into their houses. That mess has got to stop.

Hold on minute. That’s already illegal? Well, I’ll be…

Okay, um, I would make it illegal for people to lightly tap me on the shoulder. Ohhhhhhh, I can’t stand that. I need a firm pressing of the shoulder or I need you to take a few steps back while I get in my Kung Fu stance.

What TV show would you want to appear on?

SNL, SNL, SNL. The freedom to act the fool and make crazy faces all night while getting paid THE BUCKS is almost intoxicating.

Best and worst things I could find in your refrigerator right now?

You should’ve asked me this yesterday when I cleaned out my refrigerator after being gone a week. If I had cleaned it before we left, I wouldn’t have found some really old broccoli gettin’ his stank on. The best thing you can find is Noosa yogurt. I am so in love with it. It is the best yogurt ever. We may elope.

What question do you wish I had asked you and what would be your reply?

I was hoping you’d ask me what I was thinking of RIGHT AT THIS VERY MINUTE. I would have told you that I was thinking about my brick mailbox. It leans slightly to the left. I was having visions of it being programmed to sing “Come on, Eileen” any time someone got near it. It would be on a motion sensor. The little door that you lift up and down to put mail in the mailbox would be the mailbox’s mouth. This would then result in mail people throwing our mail into our front yard in disgust day after day.

See? She’s hilarious. Be sure to check out her blog and her links. Who will be featured next week? You’ll just have to wait and see. (Jimmy Fallon, have your people call my people…that would be me.)

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The Tao of Abby

I recently read “The Tao of Martha” by Jen Lancaster in which she attempts to live her life according to the advice of Martha Stewart with everything from closet organization to party planning. It was an okay read, but that’s not the point.

The point is that as evidenced by my issues with sheets and vacuums, I’m no Martha Stewart.

In fact, the only thing me and M-dawg have in common is that she’s an ex-felon and I commit crimes on a daily basis that would keep the Fashion Police busy if they had any actual authority.

But I would like to think that most people tend to lean a little bit more towards “drawer of shame” instead of “bedazzled closet hangers” on a daily basis. As such, I have decided to do a “modified Martha” version of some of her tips for those other domestically disabled divas out there.

They might not exactly be helpful in a “Watch out, Martha!” sort of way, but at least they’ll help you feel less alone.

Cleaning a Mini-Blind

Martha: If blinds are very dirty, remove them from the window and lay them flat on a drop cloth outside. Scrub closed blinds with a soft brush and warm soapy water. Repeat on the other side; rinse. Open and hang outside to dry.

Me: miniblind

Cleaning a Shower Curtain Liner

Martha: A homemade curtain of ripstop nylon works well. Curtains and plastic liners can be cleaned with laundry detergent in the washing machine, on the gentle cycle.

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Me: We’ve been over this before. Cut down the $5 liner from Target and replace it with a new $5 liner from Target. Much like the mini-blind situation, don’t be a hero.

Making a Cup of Tea

Martha: Gather leaves from a Darjeeling bush. Warm your pot first with steaming water, dump it out, refill it and let it boil. Warm your cups, strain your tea and add a lychee nut to the cup before you sip.

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Me: Fill Hot Shot with water, get impatient before realizing you forgot to hit “start.” Hit start, dispense water and tea bag into cup 1 minute later. Use all available methods for not burning your mouth with the exception of actually waiting for the tea to cool.

Readying Clothes for the Laundry

Martha: Empty pockets and turn them inside out, unfurl socks, and unroll cuffs. Tie sashes and strings to prevent tangling. Place delicate items like lingerie and fine knitwear in zippered mesh bags. Turn delicate items, sweaters, and cotton T-shirts inside out to prevent pilling.

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Me: Throw dirty clothes in the vicinity of the laundry basket and congratulate myself if it goes in. Eventually notice that I’m out of socks, gather laundry surrounding the basket and shove it all in the washer. Forget about it, wash it again and then eventually throw in the dryer.

Making a Cake

Martha: Fancy flourishes and pretty piping really are the icing on the cupcakes. Faux bois, or imitation wood grain, is a favorite motif of Martha’s; it can be applied to chocolate using a wood-graining rocker, found at paint-supply stores.

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Me: Go to the bakery. If you ask really nice, they’ll even decorate it for you.

I think her empire is safe.

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That Sinking Feeling

Despite what this post might suggest, I’m not high-maintenance. I just have severe OCD and like my routine, not to mention a house that functions as it should and remains rather clean.

With that said, any disruption to my basic necessities — water, food, Internet, baseball, power, mostly food again — are classified as mini-catastrophes in my world, a world where I’m not proficient in plumbing or electrical work where hummus flows freely like water.

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So when I walked into the kitchen the other night and noticed my previously functional faucet releasing a small but steady stream of water, I started to lose my crap.

After taking a deep breath, I called an old handyman friend of my uncle that sometimes helps me with things and found out he could stop by the next day. I knew this was good, but I also knew this meant tons of more stress for my dysfunctional mind.

If I don’t have a sink, how can I make my tea? Use my steamer? Would he take so long that my normal dinner routine would be shattered? And what about my semi-clean floors? How am I supposed to survive?!?

Part of my frustration with these things comes from not being able to fix them myself, but 99.9 percent of my frustration comes from the series of events that follow after someone comes over to fix them.*

*Yes, I am most appreciative, but I am also OCD with no patience for putzing or lack of respect for the Lysol.

So without further putzing, let’s take a look at how this went (all times are approximate, as I’m still recovering from the trauma.)


9 pm—Enter kitchen and notice sink is running. Push on all the handles and scream at it to stop.

9:01—Express puzzlement over said dripping to inanimate objects within earshot and then try to will it to stop streaming down.

9:05—Call old handyman guy and learn a) he really wants to engage in a “to make a short story long” type of discussion and b) he can come by the next afternoon around 3.

9:25—Call mom and ask her to meet him at my house until I can get home from work.

9:26—Ignore problem for the rest of the night.

Next Day

5:30 am—Enter kitchen and notice sink is still running. Push on all the handles and scream at it to stop.

5:31—Express puzzlement over said dripping to inanimate objects within earshot and then try to will it to stop streaming down.

5:35—Leave for work and stress about sink.

4 pm—Arrive home, find mom in my garden and give her a 6-pack as a thank you.

4:05—Full of dread, enter the house and notice he didn’t heed the “Please take shoes off. Thanks!” post-it note I so carefully placed on the door. And that he moved the blanket I had down over the kitchen rug. And that he was using my favorite coffee cup and dish towel to catch the dripping water OH MY GOD!

4:05:10—Remind myself he’s helping me out. Deep breaths are taken and possibly exhaled as a loud sigh—this part is sketchy.

4:10—Make small talk and pretend to care what plumbing parts are called while discreetly moving the blanket over the rug and his tools onto paper towel.

4:15—Learn he’ll be done in about half an hour and decide I’m pretty much a revolutionary for my survival skills in times of such stress.

4:16 to 4:45—Distract myself in the form of preparing soon-to-be used cleaning products and plan how I can clean and get dinner ready on OCD time.

4:46—He’s still putzing. Start freaking out and immediately change my mind on revolutionary status.

4:55—While searching for Xanax salt lick, I’m informed it’s fixed. Pleasantries and payment are exchanged, as is the information that his wife read my first book after my uncle gave him a copy.

4:56—Feelings of annoyance wane as I gently lead him outside my house.

5:00—Begin manic Lysol/Swiffer sweeps of the counters and floors while prepping dinner at the same time, once again applauding my survival skills.

5:05—Enter bathroom. Notice the toilet seat is up, meaning his dirty shoes and everything attached to them paraded throughout my house and used my toilet.

5:06—Manic feelings return. Cleaning commences.

5:15—Smoke detector goes off, signaling that dinner is done.

5:20—Revolutionary status restored, but my sanity? Still MIA.

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Patriotic Pyromania

I hold these truths to be self evident, that I love sleeping in the summer.

Well, I also love sleeping in the winter, spring and fall—I love sleeping—but I especially love sleeping in the summer. The windows open, a gentle breeze blowing through, the sounds of nature serving as a gentle lullaby. Minus the occasional manic cricket cackle, I consider summer sleeping quite possibly one of my favorite activities.

In fact, I actually think about these things mid-winter when I’m huddled in bed under blankets in the fetal position with the windows sealed shut and the humidifier/heater going full blast. The promise of summer sleeping—along with the promise of baseball season and fresh green beans— is what gets me through.

So imagine my displeasure every year around this time when my peaceful nights are no more, when I climb on top of the covers only to be jolted out of my meditative trance five minutes later by what is assumed to be either an apparent drive-by or carpet bombing.

I do not live in either a ghetto or a war zone, so that leaves one other option—pyromaniacs celebrating their independence from maturity and common sense by blowing crap up.

After all, what’s more American than purchasing illegal fireworks and lighting them off in the middle of the night—or even the middle of the day—the two weeks before and the two months after the Fourth of July?

I can answer that—just about anything.

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I’m not anti-fireworks.

I’m not talking about the normal explosives people go downtown to see on the actual Fourth of July. (Although I’m not too into that either. At first I go “oooh, ahhh, pretty” then near the end when the dog is terrified and I’m tired from lack of sleep due to constant booming for two weeks prior to that day, I’m pretty much over it and feel ready for a Valium salt lick.)

I’m talking about the idiots that shoot off bottle rockets, M80s and firecrackers, the result of which could result in either the burning down of my house or torching of my sanity.

Along with the aforementioned noise pollution, pieces of the blasted things—actual litter— will be found throughout my backyard and neighboring streets for at least the next week.

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but I just don’t see the appeal of spending large amounts of money on things that go “boom” from a shady man on the side of a road in a striped tent blasting “Born in the USA” from his mobile home.

They want loud noises?

Keeping blowing crap up at 2am, causing me to wake up and hit the deck with “Gangstas Paradise” stuck in my head. If they stop over about one minute after this happens, not only will I give them loud noises, but I can guarantee that my language will be colorful as well (“oooh, ahhh, pretty” will not be included.)

I’m not suggesting people have to stick to sparklers, colored smoke bombs and those creepy snake things that completely ruin the sidewalks forever. All I’m suggesting is that they abide by normal explosive etiquette and keep the pyromania and possible arson with a sonic boom soundtrack to the weekend of the holiday.

After all, this is a holiday to celebrate certain unalienable rights—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In other words, a good summer night’s sleep.

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The Anatomy of a Garage Sale

Since we’re officially into summer now, I figured it was a good time to revisit my thoughts on the garage sale. I don’t know how it is where you live, but it seems I can’t drive 100 feet without seeing a cardboard sign with an arrow pointing me towards the sale of the century each weekend.

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If you’ve never actually put on a garage sale yourself and tried to convince people they need to buy the crap you just don’t want, allow me to clue you in as to just how much fun they can be. I conducted a yard sale myself a couple years ago and feel I’ve recovered enough to talk about my experience.

The Night Before: You stay up late making tiny price tag stickers for all the junk you’re hoping people will buy. You’re naively psychotically optimistic, calculating the total value of your “inventory” at slightly over $5,000, give or take what you can get for those old curtains that came with the house you found stored in the attic.

6:30 a.m. The garage sale is scheduled to begin at 8 am, but a woman pounds on your door and tell you she “likes to get an early start.”  When you walk outside to let her “window shop,” you notice that there are five other cars in your driveway.

6:35 a.m. One of those cars is your crazy uncle—a black belt in flea markets, weekend auctions and roaming the beach with a metal detector—who is there to help manage the situation. He immediately lays claim to a yard tool he forgot he gave you last week.

9:30 a.m. You’ve sold a few things but are already annoyed with the fact that everything isn’t sold and you’re not counting your riches. A shopper offers you a dollar for your lawnmower that is brand new and not for sale.

You ask him to leave.

10 a.m. You look for your uncle and find him drinking Busch Light in a can and offering extras to shoppers for $1 a piece. He tells you he has sold three beers. At 10 a.m.

Noon: You leave the operation in the hands of your uncle/concession seller and go inside to get some lunch. A stranger knocks on your back door and asks to try on some T-shirts for sale, and another wants to know if you have “weenies to go with the beer.”

You ask them to leave.

12:30 p.m. When you return to the sale, you find your uncle slightly manic because he has sold a shovel, a set of garden tools and a hose for 50 cents each. You tell him that they weren’t for sale in the first place. He replies that he wondered why there were no price tags.

You ask him to leave. Of course, he won’t.

2 p.m. A group of college boys will stop by and start trying on some of your clothes in the driveway, conducting their own drag queen fashion show. Your mom will attempt to stuff dollar bills into their bejeweled belts (priced at 50 cents) and your uncle will offer them beer.

They are cute. You will not ask them to leave. In fact, you will give them the clothes, a few other items and several pathetic come-hither stares.

2:30 p.m. You decide things are taking entirely too long and start drastically slashing prices like an overzealous mattress salesman who does his own commercials. In fact, you just start giving stuff away and find that’s entirely more fun, especially because it pisses off your crazy neighbor lady who is trying to sell a holographic palm tree for $50.

4 p.m. You’re done. It’s hard to know what your take is for the day because at some point your uncle apparently sold the cash box. However, you find a dollar your mom dropped during the impromptu frat boy fashion show and seek out your uncle, who is digging through your “junk I’m throwing away” pile.

4:05 p.m. You buy a beer.

4:06 p.m. You vow never to do this again.

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Lisa Newlin Has Issues

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another blogger to share their issues, and I have a great lineup for these next couple of weeks. But since next Friday is July 4, it was suggested that I don’t post one of these because no one but me will be on the Internet, so I guess we’re skipping next week.

However, I will still blog next week for the three people online–come back and keep me company!–and we’ll resume the series on July 11 because this is fun and I want to. With that said, it’s time to present Lisa Newlin!

I love Lisa not just because she’s funny and childless, but also because she has an affinity for garden gnomes like I do. There’s really no place like gnome.

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Name: Lisa Newlin

Blog: Lisa Newlin—Seriously?

Where, what and why do you write?

I live in St Louis and I’m a lawyer in real life but prefer to live in the world of fantasy and making people laugh. Although I’m not a mom, I write for NickMom, which is an anomaly in itself. Please don’t tell them I’m not a mom.

I write for the comedic release. My job is intense and stressful and before I started my blog, I was working constantly. Writing pushes me to take a break and see the funnier sides of things. It also gives me an avenue to mock my husband, so that’s a plus.

I’m working on my first book and hoping to finish it by the end if the year. The blog keeps me fresh on writing and will hopefully snag me some readers so more than just my mom will buy my book.

First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.

Did I seriously just drool that much?

What’s the one “issue” or frustration annoying you the most right now?

I have shingles on my face and eye and although it sounds glamorous, it’s really not. I do, however, have to wear an eye patch, so I guess that’s the silver lining. I’m surprised at how good I look in it. Granted, I can only see myself out of one eye, but the view is good.

Three websites you visit every day.

Facebook. Yes, I realize this is lame but I’m guilty of checking it. I don’t have an excuse other than to peruse it to make sure people aren’t posting embarrassing pictures of me.

Google. I’d like to say it’s because of my never ending search for knowledge but it’s most likely just to search for things like “how to get gum out of your hair.”

Lisanewlin.com. Duh. That woman is hilarious.

What’s an unusual talent and/or accomplishment you could never put on a resume?

I can eat half of a cookie cake (with icing) without batting an eye. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why that isn’t on my resume.

I was also a cell and molecular biology major in college and I worked for a large company conducting research on cow stomachs and how they digest varying types of food. I realize this sounds completely ludicrous but I really did do this, even if solely because I only heard the word “food” when I accepted the job.

Favorite place to be?

The beach. Despite my less-than-swimsuit ready physique, I love lounging in the sun listening to the waves crash. (I do my best to ignore the squealing children.)

My house, but only if it’s clean. We have three dogs so the house gets dirty quickly. I also spill a lot which adds to the problem. I love my clean house even more if I’m not the one who cleaned it.

At the pool, or anywhere with ice cream.

If you could rule the land for one day, what laws would you create and enforce?

No one would be allowed to drive PT Cruisers. All animal abusers would be tortured. I would be the one doing the torturing. I would take out the Kardashians and Kanye, too. It needs to be done for the betterment of humanity.

I would make it illegal for people to ask me about when I’m going to have kids and then convince me to try to have them. It’s not only offensive; it annoys the shit out of me.

What TV show would you want to appear on?

Big Brother. It’s one of my favorite vices and since I’m a lawyer, I love strategy (and some occasional deception). I wouldn’t be good at any of the physical competitions but I can complete a logic puzzle like a savant. The only problem would be the amount of time they spend in bikinis. I’m not comfortable baring my bulges on national TV. It’s taped in L.A. in the summer so a parka is not an option.

Best and worst things I could find in your refrigerator right now?

Best: Diet coke. It’s my life line and without it I would go into seizures from with withdrawal. Then again, why would I ever allow that to happen?

Worst: Kale. I have no idea what that is or why it’s in our fridge but I think my husband is to blame.

What question do you wish I had asked you and what would be your reply?

Are you a crazy dog lady? Yes, I have three rescues and would have a million more if it was socially acceptable and if my yard could sustain any more dogs pooping in it. I love dogs more than most people.

Also, can you sing “Sweet Caroline” at a karaoke bar? No. I don’t sing it. I perform it. I can rock this song like a boss.


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P.S. Scary Mommy shared my grocery shopping post and it was shared more than 150,000 times, so thank you for your support!

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