Salty Stories

Thirty-Two Out of the Blue

*Editors Note: This is a disgustingly long blog and I certainly didn’t intend for it to be this lengthy but about halfway through I realized writing out my experiences (good, bad, and ugly) was more cathartic for me than anything else so I’m gonna let it rip anyway. No offense taken if not a soul reads this. I also learned in a memoir class last winter that everyone’s story is unique and worth telling, and you never know who it might reach. So, YOLO.

I’ve been going through a rough season of my life. I’m calling it a season, even though it seems to have lasted much longer than a season because I’m hoping that if I say it enough, we’ll get closer to those dead ass leaves of sadness and loneliness falling off and a new season will bloom. Metaphors, BB! As a side effect of these challenging chapters, every time my birthday rolls around, I tend to hyperfocus on the fact that I’m another year older (greyer, fatter, & wrinklier) and yet have not gotten to where I pictured myself to be at this age. As it turns out, pointing out your failures on a celebratory day, does not create a let’s pop off party atmosphere unless you count pity parties as real bangerz. For several years in a row now, I’ve ugly cried on my birthday. It has become somewhat of a new tradition. Expectations are high for the day itself (how it’s celebrated, who is willing to celebrate it with me, what makes the day special, who I hear or do not hear from, etc.) and I blame my mother exclusively for this. I was raised with a great deal of hoopla for my birthday, coming down the stairs in the morning to a custom poster that she or my sisters made, flowers, balloons, themed decorations, fanfare at school, family dinners at my favorite restaurant or fun parties with friends, gifts, and desserts. In my college and post-college years, my birthday became the unofficial kickoff to summer and was rung in with a big ole Beer-B-Q full of lawn games, wieners & sunshine. Soon after, the social media era shuffled in full blown Instagram collages from all your besties. And then once I started moving around and making different friends (losing lots of friends) and becoming a real adult, that all stops. It’s a cold, harsh day when you don’t stumble down the stairs to a fresh birthday poster complete with curling ribbon. (Peep my birthday celly’s through the years below for a little taste of the spoiled life)

Once I made it past the quarter century epic boozy scav hunt, I started to be coy about my birthday, making it seem like I’m easy breezy and don’t care that much, but really just wanting someone to plan something fun and cool for me. JUST CELEBRATE ME AND PRETEND I’M NOT INSUFFERABLE, GAWD. Welp, that pretty much only works when you have a significant other who loves you so much that they’re willing to smother you to death with birthday affection and festivities. Or in some cases, not even then because perhaps your boyfriend buckles under pressure and feels like he doesn’t really know how to plan things and pretends you’re out of pancakes so he couldn’t make you breakfast and then takes NyQuil before dinner because he has a sniffle and doesn’t even notice when you’re literally choking from a raw veggie tossed down your throat by a Hibachi Chef who should have his veggie table play certification revoked. Just you know, as a general example of how things could maybe go on a birthday as an adult, definitely not based on real events and certainly not the reason I’ll never do hibachi again for any sort of celebration.

So, I’ve got sky high expectations for the day (again, thanks a lot, MOM) but also for my life in general. I think you might have realized from reading this blog, I’m a real judgmental and snarky B. I mean, you can’t give yourself the moniker “The Salty Ju” without being saltier than movie theater popcorn. But what you might NOT realize is that as quick as I am to dole out harsh judgments for everyone else, I’m even quicker to hammer on myself. Although it may seem like I’m constantly yapping about myself and my accomplishments, that’s something I force myself to do in order to look at the positives and how far I’ve come instead of harp on the things I haven’t achieved yet. And guess what? Life is a balance of both. There will always be moments that will make you want to sob your eyes out and give up, and moments that make you feel overjoyed, grateful, and fully present. I think the goal here, is to get to a place where the joy outweighs the sads.

First order of business: I’m going to actively try NOT to cry on my birthday this year. WE BREAK THE TRADISH AT 32. (*Hopefully*) I’m also going to cut myself a break. Three birthdays ago I was unemployed and living at home with absolutely no clue what was next other than that it had to be getting out of my parents house and standing on my own two feet again. Two birthdays ago I could afford my own apartment (on unemployment, shout out to the govvy on that one) and was able to swing a trip to LA for the occasion. And on my last birthday, I could afford a two bedroom apartment (UPGRADE! Shout out to my stable state job that I got on my own merit after grinding and interviewing for 2 years) and I was able to adopt a dog to give me all the birthday smooches. So maybe I didn’t have any friends to take me out on the town, but I also picked up my life and moved to a completely new state without knowing anyone and work remotely the majority of the time. Overall I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and put myself out there more in the past couple of years than ever before. And that’s certainly something worth celebrating. But, I also can’t call myself a #NoFilter blog without revealing the dirt as well. I hate that we only see highlight reels in this social media generation. So here’s an unfiltered peek at what made me a blubbering mess in my 31st year and what brought me joy. My wish for my 32nd year is more smiles, less tears, and honestly when I look at the breakdown, I’m already on the right track.

Things That Caused Waterworks:

The movie Dog with Channing Tatum – it has a happy ending and yet I was laying on the floor with Charlee SOBBING every time this dog so much as whined. Netflix series From Scratch – I was unwell from this one, literally didn’t know if I could pick myself up and go on from a fictional television series yet somehow I found the strength to stop scream crying and move on with my real life. Shockingly for how much my eye sockets leaked throughout, I still would recommend it. Hulu’s Tiny Beautiful Things…it’s one of those messy series where you don’t really want to root for the main character because she’s such a disaster, but ooh baby this one snuck up on me as a real doozy. These are the three things that stick out that I cried an abnormal amount to. Like, these meant for entertainment pieces of art produced an alarming amount of sadness and tears for me, which is why they’re being listed. There were many other shows, commercials, movies, books, etc that made me tear up a normal human amount that was appropriate for the circumstances.

Giving $20 to a Facebook crackhead scamming me for Taylor Swift tickets. Not one of my finest hours and since it was a particularly low point, I’m obligated in full transparency to share my tale so that we can laugh at it after the fact. Obviously I desperately wanted tickets to Taylor Swift’s Era’s Tour, like every other human on the planet. I’ve never seen her live in concert, I’ve been a devoted fan since I was 16, I’m probably on my last leg of super fandom with her and I loved that this tour is a highlight reel of her career, so to speak. Natch, with things that I want so desperately, it all had to go to shit when she crashed Ticketmaster and allowed all of the scalpers in the world to scoop up her tickets and put them back on sale for quadruple the price. Since I’m not willing to drop a down payment for a house to sit in nosebleeds that were initially valued at $80, I accepted the crushing of this dream. UNTIL, a Facebooker posted in the Asbury Park Neighbors group (which I had only joined for apartment hunting purposes) that they were selling a couple of tickets. I inquired via private message how much and where they were located. They were selling the tickets for $200 a piece (unheard of), sent me a screenshot of the stadium layout and the seats were good, then asked me to send my email so they could transfer them from Ticketmaster and the full amount. Obviously, I’m not stupid and I would never just send a stranger $400. I told them I’d pass because there was no way to do this in a fair way. The next day they messaged me again asking if I was still interested. It seemed weird to push someone to buy tickets and there were certainly red flags here but I’m also hopeful to a fault. And on the RARE chance that these were actually legit tickets and I passed up the opportunity to have them, I knew I couldn’t live with myself. That’s why I set a budget of $20, something I’ve blown on far worse things to find out if it was a scam or not. The back and forth leading up to the exchange of money was full of “??” and grammatical errors and was somewhat erratic. I ignored it. The Zelle username was a completely different name than the Facebook profile, different gender, and the email was a third different name. I didn’t ignore it, I laughed at it and said wow this is probably a scam. I was strongly advised by my two friends who I was with at the time of transaction, not to do it. And yet my stubborn when I set my mind to it, hopeful that there’s actually good people in the world ass hit send on that Zelle transfer anyway. And wouldn’t you know it, it was very much a scam and I IMMEDIATELY felt like an idiot. I was fully prepared to insert screenshots of the entire exchange below for extra laughs but the scammer ended the exchange with “Your Papa” (his dirtbag calling card I presume) and deleted his Facebook profile probably so I couldn’t report him, thus deleting the message thread. I cried for the rest of the day. Since then, I have entered multiple radio and social media contests, followed a Twitter account that sells LEGIT tickets and check third party sites regularly to see if the prices have come down. As of publish date, I will not be seeing Taylor Swift live this year or probably ever.

My wig party was cancelled. Last year’s birthday was a real doozy of snots and cries. I had planned to go home so I didn’t have to be alone on the big day, and have always wanted to do a Bachelorette style night out with funky wigs (it has been on the bucket list for ages.) So I recruited my sister and my mom, we all ordered Amazon’s finest wigs and planned to go to the local pub and look like idiots and share some laughs. This plan fell through probably because my sister never had any desire to put a colored wig on and go out in public but also because she has a lot on her plate right now with two little needy grubbers AKA children. And I handled it like a champ. If by handling it like a champ you mean having a tantrum fit for a 4 year old and crying so hard that my mom asked if I should be on medication. It can only go up from here, folks.

Dating. I have for the first time in my life joined a dating app, it is as grim as everyone says it is, and yet I forced myself to at least go on one date from the app to dust off the ole cobwebs. Believe it or not, ya girl has never dated. I’ve had exactly one boyfriend and I met him through work. And ya know what I realized? Ya girl does not WANT to date. Swiping through profiles of men that are doing their absolute best to market themselves and they still look like disasters? No thanks. I’ll take organically meeting, forming a crush, texting all day everyday and building the basis of a friendship THEN finding out your red flags and deciding I’m already too far in to reject you over looking at a profile and seeing all of your red flags proudly displayed ANY DAY OF THE WEEK AND TWICE ON SUNDAY. Dating apps are not for me. I also don’t want to kiss strangers. I’ve been there. I dabbled in the making out at bars after a brown-out phase of my life real hard in college. I smooched a lot of strange. And I usually regretted it the next day. I’m too old for that shit now. I do not want a strange man’s mouth near mine. And as it turns out, that’s exactly what men want after they buy you dinner. So after a first date off of Hinge where I learned the gentleman in front of me was my age and has never lived anywhere other than with his parents, I took a breather from Hinge. And then a friend of mine set me up on a blind date, and on the second date, when I realized that I absolutely did not want a smooch from this individual, I bolted to my car and sobbed the whole drive home. And that’s it for me on dating, y’all! Call me an Old Maid because I will absolutely die alone probably wearing a hat.

My first ever interaction on Hinge. ‘Twas an omen.

My shower going cold every single day this winter. I pay an ungodly amount in rent to be having hot water issues. And yet, after getting 2 new hot water heaters, a third larger hot water heater, having a plumber come, changing the shower head, having the hot water heater adjusted, having an electrician come, and finally having the faucet taken off and dabbled with, the conclusion that my apartment maintenance came to was “we don’t know what the problem is” with a heavy side of “we think you’re making this up.” Nothing like being gaslit about my hot water sitch! I have hot water for exactly 10 minutes. And then it’s freezing cold. Guess who takes a 15-20 minute shower? This girl. So for an entire winter, I’ve started my day RUSHING to get the conditioner out of my hair or finish shaving in ice cold water. Many tears were shed, which actually helped as they were warmer than the water coming out of the shower head. Please pray to the apartment Gods that I find something else by July 31st because I cannot do another year of the shivers.

Not having anyone to watch Christmas movies with. Christmas is my favorite festive holiday season and I love getting in the Christmas spirit by decorating the tree, walking around looking at twinkly lights and of course, watching every trash hometown holiday movie that I can get my peepers on. This year hit extra hard that I had no one to share the joy of roasting Hallmark movies with. It’s like how can I even enjoy a spontaneous Christmas singalong at a hometown pageant if I have no one to look across the couch at and burst into laughter while simultaneously cringing out of my skin?

My ex-boyfriend coming back into my life, apologizing for blocking me, saying he’ll never do it again, telling me I’m his best friend and basically family at this point then a couple months later telling me to fuck off forever and blocking me again. I mean this one seems pretty self-explanatory (sorry but also not really that sorry for cursing.) Nothing like having a soft spot for the only guy you’ve ever loved and letting this exact scenario play out on a seasonal cycle for the past three years! Why? Feel free to scroll back to the aforementioned “hopeful to a fault” personality trait. I’m a work in progress. But also, the whiplash from being pulled in for a warm hug of comfort, ease, and best friendship when you’re in a place where you don’t really know anyone else to suddenly be dropkicked off the top of that rollercoaster? Big fat tears are pretty justified, so this was one of my more legit boohoo’s. And for those of you reading who are like damn, she really went there…

Having no one that lives nearby to take me to a colonoscopy. No one wants to have health problems, it’s always going to suck to have procedures done or not be sure what’s going on with your body. But I’ll tell you what, it definitely makes the situation a milli times worse when you have to calculate the price of taking an Uber home post-butthole examination. Realizing that in order to not Uber home while coming off of anesthesia, I’d have to as a grown adult ask one of my parents to drive 5 hours to take me to the procedure was a tough moment. Even tougher was how stubborn I was about trying to do it by myself and getting halfway through the fasting day before finally calling it knowing that even an over the counter cough medicine makes me ill-suited to operate a motor vehicle and there’s no chance I would’ve been able to get myself home afterward. I snotted all over my plain cheeseburger, chicken sammy and medium fry as I attempted to re-nourish my body and also work through the feeling of having no one to call. (Of course if you’re a loyal reader, you’ll know I had a lot of big feelings about this particular issue and ended up writing a blog about it to laugh away the tears.)

Anytime I had a whole weekend by myself with no plans. I think what’s so interesting about life is how everyone is in a completely different place. Anytime I would text my sister and say I’ve got a wide open weekend to fill with everything Netflix has ever produced, she’d quickly reply that she was jealous. To a mom with two young kids, that is the ULTIMATE dream of a weekend. To a young(ish) single gal, it’s boring and torturously long. I know, I know, you get the point, I’ve got a real case of the lonelies. You try moving to a different state as a grown up and making grown up friends who have time to hang out and also have similar interests as you…YOU WON’T. There were many a weekend (mostly in the dead of winter) where I saw those two free, uninterrupted days as something to get through. Sometimes I slept more to fill up the empty time (I realize that is basically the pure definition of depression) but shout out to our Mother Earth for going into meltdown mode lately because the mild weather this winter meant many more beach trips when there was nothing else to do.

Constructive Criticism. After two years of non-stop rejections, I thought I had grown thicker skin and could get down with any critique to be tossed my way. I learned that was not the case when I took my first ever month-long humor writing course. After introductions were made in week 1, I realized that I was way out of my league. I felt like a kindergartener who stumbled into a college course. Everyone else was more experienced, the jokes they pitched were all hilarious, their drafts were crushing it effortlessly, and when it came time to read mine it felt like everyone was like you can go shave your back now. They weren’t, but I had a bad case of imposter syndrome and rather than getting energized by this class to start kicking ass and getting published more frequently and move my way up the ladder to websites that are harder to get accepted at…I crumbled and wah wah’ed about how I have no business calling myself a humor writer. Apparently people who are *good* humor writers, go through SEVERAL drafts and iterations of a piece, getting feedback from all sorts of people before even submitting. YIKES am I amateur hour. Even the feedback that I gave, the instructor of the class would completely contradict. So I’m not even good at that part! Naturally, I’ve handled all of this really well by avoiding writing satire since then.

Giving my dog a bath and barely surviving as she clawed at me in fear. I have a small bathroom and I weigh twice as much as my dog so I was really confident I could give her anxious ass a bath on my own. I figured you gotta fake it til you make it (much like I faked being a comedy writer for the past few years) and if I was strong-willed enough to hold my dog down in the tub WWE style, we’d make it happen. After just shutting her into the bathroom caused her to have a full blown shaking-like-a-leaf panic attack, I knew I was fucked. What ensued after is a nightmare that I never want to relive again. What followed was bringing her to Petsmart every week for a month after that for “happy visits” to “let her walk around the grooming area, get treats and get comfortable with the idea” which is code for tipping a chick each time who never actually gave my dog a damn bath. I finally found a groomer who’s up to the task of working with my melodramatic little woofer who howls and shakes while being hosed down but is perfectly content to splash around in a dirty puddle like it’s her own little spa oasis. I learned my lesson here. Also that scratch hurt like a bitch.


Somehow convinced myself that I could conquer Charlee’s debilitating bath anxiety. It..did not go well. #DogMomFail #ThatsGonnaLeaveAMark

♬ Oh No – Kreepa

Getting told by a Walmart tax guy that I owed $1200 and another $400 to him for telling me so. Again, when something is shocking and a real tearjerker in the moment, often I am able to take a step back and find the absurdity in it for some laughs. Having my most expensive tax return come from a blue tent across from a Subway in Walmart checks all the boxes for a highly entertaining blog. And I can laugh even harder now that I’ve actually received my tax return, it was the opposite of what this jabrone told me and a fraction of the cost for someone who’s not a complete quack to do it.

Finding out what egg freezing costs these days. My biological clock started ticking so loud I couldn’t ignore it when I hit 30. So by 31, I felt it was time to ask my Gynecologist what she thought. She handed over some pamphlets for specialists that do egg retrieval and freezing procedures and told me to call and find out more about it if I wanted to. She also reassured me that the average age that women are when they have their first child has increased over the years and she’s delivered many healthy babies to women in their forties. Isn’t it some ripe shit that women were created to dry right up, with their most fertile years and healthiest shape for child bearing occurring in their early twenties. EARLY TWENTIES. I didn’t have sex for the first time until I was 23. I literally was PASSING MY PRIME PREGNANCY YEARS the first time I even did the thing that makes a baby. And don’t get me started on how men can reproduce until they’re 6 feet under. Robert DeNiro just had his 7th child at 79. BARF ALL OVER ME. Hey, let’s make men immature and not really looking to settle down until late thirties/early forties and women dried up old cactuses unable to make a baby at that same age. MAKES PERFECT SENSE. Anyway, long story short I waited an entire year to call that specialist because I was afraid to know the truth. And the truth hurts: “The current cost for one cycle of egg freezing at our center is $7,150 plus the cost of medications at a pharmacy which can be between $4,000 – $8,000.  The first year of storage for the eggs are included and after that you the fee is $750 per year.” So even if I had a kewl $15K lying around, I’d also need to cough up another $750 for every year that my eggs sit in some laboratory’s Frigidaire chest. Can’t I just toss those bad boys in my own freezer free of charge? I’ve got the perfect spot in between the Trader Joe’s hash browns and the thing I got at a craft fair that you shove into your cleavage to cool down when you’re a sweaty betty.

Things That Made Me Smile:

Watching Charlee run full speed off leash. It’s a good thing I had so many open-ended boring weekends, because I decided to unleash (pun intended) my inner Cesar Milan and train my dog to be let out into the wild otherwise known as the beach. Starting with a 20 ft leash that in hindsight was a pretty stupid purchase (I was going for a baby steps approach) because it gave me a bitchin leash burn when she took off running and I only used it one time before just switching to trial and error. Working with her on something and seeing her not only get better each time with her listening and recall but watching the happiest dog in the world let it rip full speed after a flock of seagulls was rewarding AF and gave me all of the smiles. Although we’re still working out the kinks and can’t walk the beach when it’s crowded (too many people she MUST say hello to), and after an incident jumping on a Hasidic Jewish couple and terrorizing them in what some may unfortunately categorize as a hate crime (she truly thought they were playing and she’s sorry), I promise we HAVE made major progress.

Watching Charlee learn to love the ocean. There will be many dog-related joys here because THAT’S WHY YOU GET A DOG…to smother it with unconditional love and think everything it does is adorable and perfect. When I brought Charlee to the beach for the first time a month after I adopted her, I walked her closer to the water and she immediately backed away as if the ocean was trying to swallow her whole. I get it, as someone who has recently become too scared to swim in the ocean, I wasn’t going to force her to be a sea lion. But I knew I wanted her to be comfortable at the beach because it is the place I visit the most and so each time we worked on off leash training, I got closer and closer to the water. And each time she got more and more comfortable until she was letting it touch her feet. Last weekend she graduated from a wet paw to a full head dunk and I nearly cried tears of joy. MY BABY IS ALL GROWN UP! Look at her frolick her face off in the sea. Bitch will be surfing by end of summer, mark my words. (Yet still afraid of baths…makes total sense.)

Forming a VIP dog park circle. All it took was about 8 months of small talk with my neighbors in the dog park every night after work and one power outage in January to form a VIP dog park circle. If I’m going to be involved in anything, obviously it’s going to get a stupid nickname. The power went out, I was too scared to sit in the dark in my apartment, so my neighbor started a group text asking if I wanted to meet at the dog park and the rest as they say, is history. I made two besties that I don’t have a whole lot in common with other than dogs and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They’ve been more willing to hang out, talk, or listen than any of the other casual acquaintances I’ve made since I moved here. They even witnessed my vacation from sanity when I wire transferred money to an obvious scammer while we were all taking a nice long mental health walk at the beach and then broke down in tears afterward. And guess what? They’re still my friends! (For now.) We’ve laughed, we’ve I’ve cried, we’ve talked shit about the weirdos at the dog park, cause nothing bonds humans like hot goss. I’ve been envious of Charlee’s ability to make friends wherever she goes, but in this case, homegirl helped me out and it made a huge difference this winter to have pals to lean on and get me out of the apartment to socialize.

Spring Training Redemption in Florida. When I was 23 at my very first full-time job working side by side with my dear ole sis, we came up with the grand idea to take a long weekend in St. Jetersberg to watch that toight ass play in a Spring Training game. Realistically, my dad wanted to go and we invited ourselves and made it about Jeets. I hadn’t even earned vacation time yet, so I asked my boss if I could use sick time instead and he approved. Then I went to Parade Day, did Irish Car Bombs from what I can only assume was a dirty glass and got Mono. (I know, I didn’t even get it from a solid Irish tongue sesh.) Unfortunately for all, I didn’t know I had mono, I just knew I felt and looked like death, so off to Florida we went. I thought it was a little sus that I got off of a 3 hour flight and then felt so drained and exhausted from sleeping on said flight that I put myself down for another 4 hour nap and barely had the energy to get dinner. Yet we soldiered on. On day 2 we sent photos of the gang grabbin mad sting rays at the Clearwater Aquarium to my mom and her reply was “Julia looks rough.” Understatement of the century. Shoutout to my dream team for pulling a Weekend at Bernie’s to get me through the weekend. This year, I finally got to run it back without a contagious disease ravaging my body and making me look like I went a few rounds with Mike Tyson. Although I missed my twin dearly, it was banger of a redo as I attended 3 games, nearly sizzled the skin off of my upper knee to mid thigh region, and got clocked with a softly lobbed ball by Yanks player DJ LeMahieu. Don’t call it a comeback, call it a glowup. (Also used real vacay time, cause I got plenty of that to go around now.)

The Year of Ballparks. This is somewhat piggybacking off of the last one, but still counts as it brought me joy this year. My dad always tried to take us to a ball game whenever we visited a new city. Since I’ve been to most of the parks in the Northeast, I suggested to my dad that we start mixing it up and visiting new ones to add to the list. Of course I was quickly humbled when we sat next to a woman at a Yanks spring training game and she told me she was on her way to Miami for opening day because it’ll be the grand opening of their “new park” and therefore it was one she hasn’t visited yet. Naturally she has been to the rest. But now we’ve got a father/daughter goal and boy do I love a damn checklist. This year I added Citi Field, Citizens Bank Park, Baycare Ballpark & Cool Today BallPark to the list of parks I’ve seen a game at and in a month I’ll tack Wrigley onto that. I also annoyed every single IG follower I have by never letting a “baseball hot dog selfie” bit die and for that I am truly grateful. But seriously though, there’s absolutely nothing better than a beautiful day, the crack of a baseball bat (preferably when the ball isn’t heading toward my body), an ice cold beer, and a juicy wiener. I’ve gone to games with different friends and family each time and it has been one of my new favorite fun activities now that I live within train distance to the city and decided to become a Mets fan because who doesn’t love an underdog story and also because I spent 3+ years getting Mets superfan facts spit at me all hours of the day and night and it would be a shame for all of that to go to waste much like my prime child-birthing years did.

Sunrise at the beach. Simply put, I am a #1 fan of the sun waking up at the beach. Whether I’m taking a walk with the dog or biking the boardwalk, there’s no other feeling that matches watching the sun rise over the water and seeing all of the different variations of colors. It’s the same every damn day and yet it’s a unique view every time. Now all I gotta do is get that beach apt and I can watch that big fiery tamale ascend into the sky until my eyes fall out of my head.

Being the cool aunt. This year my niece has been all about declaring that she wants to come live with me in my “compartment” when she gets older. And I take that as the highest compliment. I’m cool Auntie Juj who lives on her own near fun things at the beach. Watching her live it up on her first shore vacation here was fun as hell and I love that through a 5 year old’s eyes I’m giving off cool roomie vibes. Of course I told her Auntie Juj doesn’t do roommates, but we’ll cross that bridge when she runs away from her parents house for the first time and I take her to Bar A for Beat the Clock.

Climbing a donut wall meant for toddlers. My second favorite thing about being an Aunt, other than having street cred and being able to tell the kids to get away from me when they’re being annoying, is doing things that are completely geared toward small children and pretending it’s all about them. I can assure you that as the below video was being taken, my niece was whining the entire time that I was ruining her day and she was over rock climbing and just wanted to go home and I HAD to climb the donut wall. Tough shit, kid. I went from not knowing how to clip my harness and getting one step up on a bumblebee before crapping myself and giving up when I first got there to scaling this entire wall of do-do’s. GROWTH. Also it was super fun and if anyone wants to lend me their child for a Saturday so I can work on getting up a level 3 without looking like a real creep, I’d appreciate that.

Entering my Shania Twain era. On a real whim, I happened upon a pair of acid wash, high waisted, mom style jorts (the tag said mom, I SWEAR.) They fit like a glove and were on clearance for $11 and without a doubt were the item of clothing I treasured most this year. Everything tucks in nice and tight, my bits are very conservatively covered, and most importantly, my sister HATED them and roasted me the hardest for buying them. Which only made me want to wear them around her even more. Get me a Dodge Caravan and a box of Hamburger Helper because I’m a 90’s mom in these shorts and I’m not afraid to admit it. If the waistline on a pair of jorts doesn’t hit the bottom of my bra from now on, I don’t want it. Say it with me now, LET’S GO GIRLS.

Christmas in NY. There’s a reason so many songs, movies, and books are written about Christmas in NY. It’s MAGIC. I’d never been able to make it to the city during holiday season, mostly because the season lasts about 5 seconds and I’m busy spending all of my money on getting gifts for other people. Also, I was never conveniently adjacent to the big Apple. This year I finally got to see the Rockefeller tree which hailed from good ole Queensbury, I watched light shows and looked and window displays and literally gasped at every block when there was a new tree or decoration to take pictures of. I may not have had anyone to watch Hallmark movies with, but Christmas in NY made up for that in a big way.

Finishing a puzzle. Again a real depends on how you look at the glass moment. Was I sad about not having people to socialize with on the weekends? For sure. But was it also satisfying as hell putting the last piece of the puzzle in as I ripped through a new 500 piecer every weekend? Hell yea.

Hearing Grayson finally learn how to say Jujy. How can you not love a tiny little voice taking attendance of everyone at the dinner table once he’s finally learned how to say all of their names? Since his yappy older sister did all of his negotiating for him, he really didn’t need to learn how to talk as early as she did. So we’ve had a slow simmer waiting for him to learn words and it was music to my dang dong ears when he finally nailed “Jujy.”

Getting buzz lightyear with my sister and taking 100 Snapchat’s with stupid filters. Don’t know how it started or why, but every time my sister and I are tossing back adult bevvies, we’ll open up Snapchat and see what’s cooking in the weird filter department then sit there and fire off 16,000 photos to take them all for a test drive. Slays every time.

Touring the Jersey Shore house solo dolo. Driving down to Seaside I was on a mission to buy a future guido his first Shore Store onesie. I didn’t anticipate being completely overwhelmed in the store and lurking for far too long. Luckily this gave plenty of time to be talked into a private tour of the house from Shore Store Danny’s childhood BFF, who assured me it wasn’t weird to do it by myself and understood the assignment to snap 100 pics of me doing so. $10 well spent. It wasn’t a coincidence that I was wearing my mom jorts, or leopard.

When the children accepted my child (the dog) and stopped being terrified of her. Banner day for me when the sight of my dog didn’t illicit shouts of terror from Mackenzie. Took a solid 5-8 months but we made it to the other side and all of the children get along now (mostly) so looks like we’re going to keep them all.

Seeing whales frolicking in the water off the beach. If you missed it, I paid $90 for the shittiest whale watching experience of my life and I’ll never let anyone forget about it. What I should’ve done was walk the beach every single morning because guess what hangs out at the beach? FREAKING WHALES. Got my peepers on a pack of blubbers just having a grand ole time one October morning in Belmar and what a way to start the day! I turned around to say DID YOU SEE THAT?! And realized no one was near me and I was talking to my dog.

Wall Murals. That’s it. That’s the tweet. I love the shit out of a painted wall and I’ll never stop getting wide-eyed and running toward one for a selfie. Thankfully Asbury Park pops out new ones on the reg, and most cities feature an array of them because the world loves an Insta moment!

Getting Published. After crying from my humor writing class and feeling like I was the charity case of the group, I did manage to get published from a piece I worked on in that class. This made me happy mostly because it’s based on a real running list that I keep in my life. Here’s the satire version that seasoned comedy writers thought was funny. If you want the real version, you’ll have to wait until I croak as my sister has strict instructions to release it at my funeral like it’s the latest edition of Lady Whistledown. I want my funeral to be ABSOLUTE mayhem of people wondering if they’re on the list and finding out as they’re mourning me that I actually hated their stinkin guts for some minor (or major) inconvenience they caused in my life. PS if you’re wondering if you’re dead to me…you probably are.

Flower Hangs with Cin. Tulips, Sunflowers, what have you, if I’m able to appreciate fields of colorful flowers with the woman who taught me to take an abundance of flower pics everywhere you go, it’s gonna be a great time.

Pulling off the Thanksgiving charcutes masterpiece. I felt a lot of pressure to perform when my sister went on and on about her new friend Kim and how she makes the most bangin charcutes boards that look like an influencers and then asked me to step up and create one for Turkey day. I bought all of the bougie meats cheeses nuts and crackers Aldi had to offer and then almost buckled on the day when I realized I’d be happy as a clam to shove salami into my salami hole straight from the package and didn’t know a thing about presentation. BUT TEAM WORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK. Gotta love cousin Ray Ray, Aunt Wendy & my sister for all stepping up in the time of need and accomplishing this beaut. The men were not allowed in the room as we tinkered with placement and barked at them to keep their hands away until we’d properly photographed it. Honestly we made everyone terrified to even eat off of this board and that’s the sign of a true success.

Going back and forth with a Facebook cr33p bartering a price for my feet pics. Facebook taketh and Facebook giveth away. I should’ve known I’d be scammed for Taylor Swift tickets after taking such pure delight in an exchange about selling feet pics after I posted a pair of wedges for sale. I posted the breakdown at the very end of my One Year As the Jersey Ju blog, so I won’t repeat content. But I did really love dabbling in the foot game and even went so far as to consider joining Feet Finder as a supplemental income. Mostly because I want to live at the beach and that shit ain’t cheap, yo.

Going to more comedy shows. Wanna know what combats the sads? Going to see professionals who have made their sads into hilarious jokes. I love standup comedy and I was able to see a handful of shows this year, including a local basement show that I took my mom to where we got called on and both immediately tried to burrow into the ground to make the attention go away AND a preview of someone’s taped special in a Vegan bakery with an *intimate* crowd. I’m basically Lorne Michaels now.

Charlee acting like the mayor of the beach, visiting with everyone, shaking hands and kissing babies. May we end on the greatest joy and source of laughter and smiles in my 31st year. My perfect angel baby pup. My first month with her was such a tear-filled nightmare and I specifically remember telling my therapist, “I adopted a dog to enhance my life and she’s currently making it worse.” Sorry, Charlee. Thankfully she only wreaked havoc for a month to make sure I was really going to keep her. And boy am I glad I did. She’s the most social butterfly I’ve ever known and the beach has become her favorite place to greet the masses. We can’t walk the boardwalk without people stopping to tell her she’s like, really pretty, and at the end of our visit to the dog beach people know her by name and are offering to dogsit her if I ever need it. There’s a reason that homeless drifter wanted to keep her around and I bet she’d make a killing for me if I ever decided to panhandle. Obviously I’d never stoop that low if I needed quick cash, I’d just hit up Facebook marketplace with some well-lit shots of my tootsies. But anyway, back to my dog (not to be confused with my dogs), she’s a ray of sunshine that has connected me to so many people this year and I don’t know what I’d do without her.

For anyone who has gotten a lengthy birthday text from me slobbering them with compliments and how lucky I am to have them in my life, you can blame Bob Saget dying unexpectedly and EVERYONE saying what an amazing and great guy he is and how he always told people what they meant to him and how much he loved them. WE NEED MORE BOB SAGETS IN THE WORLD. We also need to stop waiting until people die to tell all these great stories about them. So henceforth, I’ve declared the birthday rule. Make people feel special and loved on their day of birth, not their day of death when they’re already a ghost and can’t talk back. Kthxbye.