Author Archives: joanna


A year ago, I published a blog post about turning 26. It was one of my more serious posts, as it was the first time I’d ever opened up about having an anxiety disorder. **Cue the line of eligible bachelors**

Since writing that post, I’ve done a lot of work on my anxiety. I’m by no means cured, but I’ve definitely become more lax about sharing drinks with people. I even ate a fish taco off a hotel floor, which, by anyone’s standards, is downright irresponsible. A death wish, some might say. (Full disclosure: I spent the next day googling variations of: “Do microwaves kill herpes?”)

Since writing that post, I’ve been working on myself. Working on the ability to speak my mind, the ability to let things go, and the ability to get up and talk to people, even when I feel like they hate me.

But perhaps one of the hardest things I’m working on is learning how to value and appreciate myself. I spent a good part of last year thinking, “What the hell is wrong with me? What do they have that I don’t? Am I not ____ enough?” I leave this blank because, depending on the day, I’d fill in any number of descriptors. Spontaneous enough, confident enough, cool enough, pretty enough, funny enough, bold enough, open enough, creative enough. I didn’t feel enough. Period. I felt like an inconvenience in someone’s day, an intruder in their “group.” And while these fears have always lived in the back of my mind, I suddenly found them catapulted to the forefront. It felt like everything I’d feared about myself – my lowest, most self-hating thoughts – were proved true. And that felt terrible.

But today, more than a year later, I’m able to ask myself why. Why does someone else get to dictate how I feel about myself? Why do they get all the power? All of my power?

I’m also starting to realize that people come and go. Friends, boyfriends, lovahs, even husbands – they come and go. There’s only one person I can count on spending the rest of my life with. And that’s me. So isn’t it about time I came to peace with myself? Wouldn’t it make sense to start learning how to love myself? How to feel whole with myself, by myself?

This has been my focus. Which is why I nearly lost my mind when I came across the following:


If she’s hot and single, she’s crazy.


Now to be clear, I’m not saying I’m hot. I’m saying, as a single woman, “What the fuck?”

This meme hit me so hard because it is, quite specifically, the very thought I spent months beating myself up over. The fact that I am 27 and single baffles people, from my dentist to my relatives. I take this meme — even if it was made in jest — to mean there are those who view my singleness as an abnormality, like my childhood snaggletooth. I take it to mean that men must look at me and say, “Oh, she’s single? Well, what’s wrong with her then?”

Why does something have to be wrong with me? There are so many reasons why a woman would be single — why do we automatically assume that she’s a compulsive car keyer?

Maybe she likes being independent. Maybe she’s focused on other things. Maybe she’s just having fun. Maybe she doesn’t feel like doting on anyone, save her cats, friends and family. Yeah, maybe she got her ass dumped. But maybe he was unfaithful.

Maybe she’s just not into you, brah.

Why does a girl need to be spoken for in order for others to believe she’s cool? Why is a woman seen as worthy, valuable, “a catch,” or sane only when a man deems her fit for marriage? 

I realize this post might have crossed the line (several lines, really) from thoughtful to impassioned. And if you thought you were getting into another post about cats or germs, my sincerest apologizes, as I’ve certainly led you astray. To be clear, I’m not making sweeping judgments about men or any other group of people, and I’m certainly not trying to brand myself as a wronged woman in pursuit of justice. I love being single. I also loved being a relationship, when it was healthy. There’s nothing wrong with being in or out of a relationship, as long as you’re happy.

Happy is what I’m focused on. Not who makes me happy. Just being happy. Period. And if THAT’S what makes me crazy, cool. At least it’s not my cats.

The Great Escape

A few days after I published my Mother of Cats post, I found myself (quite ironically) missing a cat. Joan stepped out on me. I suspect it was in protest to my public acknowledgment of another feline, though I can’t be sure. She’s a fickle creature, my Joan.

People have suggested I write a post from her point of view. Where she went, things she saw, raccoons she met. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I feel like the father of a teenage daughter. It all goes by so fast. One day, she’s reading Animorphs to her pet rats. The next, she’s wearing velour pantsuits and dating a boy with an Astro Van. Much like my dad must have felt during this time, I don’t want to know the intimate details of Joan’s escapades. All I want to know is that she made it home relatively unscathed.

So instead of giving Joan’s account of The Incident, I’ll give my own.

Re: slithering.

Re: slithering.

It happened when some men came to install a new AC/heating unit in my apartment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay home to supervise them, though they assured me it wouldn’t be a problem.

The day before they came, I called to give them the rundown: two indoor cats, both of whom would perish in the wild (I’ve raised them on a strict grain-free organic diet. The fault lies with me). Keep all doors closed, and leave the baby-gate up in the hallway in case Joan manages to slither past the first round of blockades.


The next morning, I called them to go over Joan’s security detail one last time. I then taped a huge reminder note on my door and left for the day.

The note

Fast forward to 7 p.m., when I came home to find another note taped beneath my own.

The response

They left this note at 10:30 a.m. and made no attempt to call me, even though they knew I’d be at work until later that evening.

I ran into the first floor apartment. She wasn’t there.

Cue my complete and utter mind loss. Tears, screaming, sweating, the works. To make matters worse, I had a date that night. And he arrived not five minutes into my tantrum (to his credit, he stayed to help me look).

After an extensive sweeping of the grounds, I determined that Joan was nowhere to be found. Thus, I opened my first-ever missing persons investigation. First order of business: assemble the witnesses and begin the interrogation.

I called the owner of the AC company and did my best to crack him. When did you last see her? Where did you last see her? Did you actually see her run into the first floor apartment or are you just assuming that’s where she is? Have you always hated animals or do you also kidnap children?

I should note that at this point in time, I was days deep into a Serial binge, which meant I thought myself something of an investigative reporter. It also meant that everything he said sounded suspicious, inconsistent. So by the end of our conversation, I’d convinced myself that he’d orchestrated the whole thing just to cover for an employee, who’d stolen Joan for himself. (It’s a valid concern. She has a beautiful coat.)

The guys at work made this awesome yard sign for me.

The guys at work made this awesome yard sign for me. Unexpected bonus: she’s now a potential gubernatorial candidate.

Four days I looked for her. Night after night, I crawled around the neighborhood, rummaging through people’s backyards, gardens and tool sheds. I contracted such an assortment of bug bites I was certain they would kill me, if grief didn’t do me in first.

And then one dark and rainy night, she returned. Just like that. She just showed up at my door, crying and howling, though it was soon impossible to tell where her yowling ended and mine began. It was a miracle.

To this day, we haven’t discussed her whereabouts. The things she saw, the tool sheds she pooped in…nothing. Not a word. I’m confident that she’ll tell me when she’s ready. But until then, I’m just glad to have her home.


Three friends. And a forehead vein.

Three friends and a forehead vein.

Reunited at last.

“Give us a moment, will ya?”


Reunited at last.


Mother of Cats

A few weeks ago, I made a very important decision that will undoubtedly change the course of my life. I adopted another cat.

My Crazy Cat Lady Halloween costume a few years ago. The front of my sweater is dedicated to cats currently living, the back to those who have sadly passed on. For the record, I do not smoke (asthma), thus this cig is unlit.

And so it begins.

When I made the news public (after a private meet-and-greet with family and close friends) the first question I got from nearly EVERY PERSON I told was:

“So how many does this make?”

Oddly enough, this is the same question I faced upon adopting my first cat, Joan. It really makes me wonder what people think of my home life. I imagine they picture my apartment to be a wasteland of shag carpet and empty tuna cans. Perhaps it’s filled with Precious Moment figurines, or a series of portraits honoring cats that have since passed on. But I’m just spitballing here.

James. A cat without a care in the world.

James. A cat without a care in the world.

Anyways, the purpose of this post is to introduce the world to James, my new son and heir. Now, I understand what this looks like. “Two cats?!,” you might say. “What’s to stop her from getting a third? A forth? A fortieth?!”

Though you’re right about the slippery slopeidness of my situation, the truth is that I adopted James as a gift to please m’Lady Joan. You see, I did not want to make room in my heart for another critter. Joan is my sun and stars. The Albuterol to my asthma. The Eucerin to my eczema. But Joan is also a very high maintenance being — thanks in part to my helicopter parenting and incessant pampering — and thus I felt she needed someone to keep her company in my absence. Someone who could withstand her rough-and-tumble play, but who would also readily adopt the role of her humble servant.

But even though I was offering James to Joan in good faith, I knew it wouldn’t be a smooth transition. Joan has grown accustomed to my unhealthily undivided attention, and James would prove a disturbance in the force.

Exhibit A.

Unhealthy attention exhibit A

Exhibit B.

Unhealthy attention exhibit B.

So to avoid the full force of Joan’s wrath (which typically ends in strategically placed dingle berries), I decided that the safest POA would be to facilitate a gradual introduction. For the first few days, I’d keep James in one room and Joan in the other. That way, they could safely get to know each other via under-the-door sniffing — a practice often employed by the parochial school system in high puberty years.

What is this plebeian doing to my castle??

“What has this plebeian done to my castle?!”

That plan, however, failed the moment I brought James into the house. Why? Because I forgot to account for the fact that my entire apartment is actually one giant room. Separation is impossible. Thus, I had to resort to Plan B: Throw them together and intervene only when bloodshed appeared imminent.

Needless to say, it was a rough first few days. Joan was clearly disappointed in me, and I’d be lying if I said she didn’t make me cry a few times. But as time passed, their hatred subsided. Now, instead of stalking and striking poor little James, Joan pins him down and gives him regular full body lickings. I take this to mean that things are looking up.

Where we started. James pictured center, Joan pictured atop the window for fear of her life.

Where we started. James on the bed, Joan fearing contamination.

Where we are now. Joan pictured big spoon, James pictured little.

Where we are now. Joan pictured big spoon, James pictured little.

Work Quirks

Last week marked my three-year anniversary at work. Crazy how time flies. It feels like just yesterday I was power-washing homes and hunting squirrels for rent. But for better or for worse, I’ve now been a bonafide businessman for three years. And though I still look like a science fair entrant in business pants (or “trousers,” as my fancy friend calls them), I’ll concede that I’ve slowly matured in other ways, some of which both puzzle and frighten me.

Hot for per.
I knew I was in trouble the day “per” cropped up in my everyday dialect. I don’t remember our first encounter, but I do – embarrassingly enough – remember thinking “My God, where have you been?” It didn’t take long for me to develop a sick sort of satisfaction in its abuse. It felt so easy. So natural. So trousery. For example, rather than send my friends an email about “that cat video we talked about at lunch,” I found myself saying things like, “Per our discussion over sandwiches,” or “Per our conversation re: cats.” (More to come on re:) I was totally out of control. The only time I can remember obsessing in such a way was when I was eight and discovered the word “bastard.” To be sure, I hadn’t yet discovered the meaning of bastard, so I used it interchangeably with “friend(s)” or “guy(s).” E.g.: “Come on, you bastards! Let’s get some snacks!”

Picture of my finest creek-walking gear.

Around the same age I discovered “bastard,” Can you believe it?

Re: the ridiculousness of re:
After readily adopting “per,” it was only a matter of time before I began exploring the darker, more formal morsels of jargon at my disposal. Though I experimented with several options – most notably the notion of signing my emails with “Best,” – I eventually landed on re:. Re:, as in, “I got your voicemail re: the peanut butter.” Or “Your email re: the trouser sale was well received by all.” I knew it was terrible sentence structure. I knew it was pretentious. But I didn’t care. It felt good to be bad. And if I’m being totally honest here, it made me feel a hair grayer (in a well-respected wizard sort of way, that is).

The Hello Whisper.
I find something very uncomfortable about passing people in hallways. They’re at one end, you’re at the other, and you have no choice but to surmount a full-frontal approach before meeting your respective destinations.

To handle these situations, I’ve developed two coping strategies: The Hello Whisper and the Captain’s Wave. Certainly, each has become somewhat irrelevant as I’ve grown more comfortable in my company, but they’ve both served me well.

The Hello Whisper came to me in the first year of my career, presumably born out of shyness and insecurity. It happens like this: upon noticing an approaching coworker, I tuck my pelvis under, focus intently on the carpet and quicken my pace, as if I’m late to a very important meeting. Once I feel that my coworker and I have reached an appropriate distance from each other, I look up, smile, and silently mouth “Hi” Like I’m very excited to see them, but also quietly respectful of the hardworking businessmen around me.

The Captain’s Wave.
As seasons changed, I began to replace my meek Hello Whisper with something a little bolder, a little more dramatic — the Captain’s Wave. It came to me when I realized that what I hated most about hallway encounters was the anticipation. Do I say hi? When should I say hi? How do I say hi? Where should I look until I say hi? What if I have chocolate on my face? What if it’s my boss and I have chocolate on my face? 

So, I decided to avoid said discomfort by asserting myself from the get-go. If I notice a coworker at the opposite end of the hallway, I throw up my hand and give them a big, slow half-circular wave, like I’m saluting them from the helm of my ship. It seems to work quite nicely. After a few months testing it in the market, I’ve found that it gets about a 55 percent response rate, depending on how backlit I am.

So there you have it. A small taste of my more unfortunate work quirks. Also, for my own vanity, I must note that I’ve weaned myself off “per” and “re:,” though you have every right to judge our brief affair.

As you can see, I've grown quite comfortable in my work environment.

As you can see, I’ve grown quite comfortable in my work environment.

Friday Night Bubbles

This winter, I started a bit of an embarrassing Friday night habit. To be totally honest, I only call it “embarrassing” to save whatever bit of coolness I have left in this world because, in reality, I kind of love it.

Bourbon and BubblesAfter a few brutal weeks at work, I started thinking about how nice it would be to throw myself an ultimate relaxation party, a night to pamper myself like the Bravo! Housewives I know and love (knew* and loved*, really, as I can no longer afford a lavish life of cable). I decided that a bubble bath made the most sense, particularly as my apartment didn’t seem to be getting any sort of heat at the time (or ever, for that matter).

But I didn’t want this to be just any kind of bubble bath. No, it needed to be something special. Something fancy. And perhaps most importantly, something that would look good on Instagram.

So I splurged on organic bubbles, face masks, hair masks, candles, single barrel bourbon and a closet full of cleaning materials to properly prepare the tub. Had Kroger sold kitty life-jackets or swimming trunks, I would have certainly added them to my cart. Only the best for m’Lady Joan.

IMG_1641The day of my inaugural bath, I went to yoga (again, keeping up with the whole Real Housewives theme) and came home ready to soak like a true elitist. I scrubbed the tub until it fit my personal health code, and filled it to the brim with hot water and nearly a 2-liter of bubble bath solution. I poured myself a stout glass of bourbon, slapped on my face and hair masks, lit the candles and – for perhaps the worst and most embarrassing part of my tale – switched on the Enya Pandora station (which, for the record, is basically a Lord of the Rings playlist. And that’s more than fine by me).

Deliverer of said tooth marks.

Deliverer of said tooth marks.

As I slunk into the tub, I felt any remaining shred of street cred slip from my bones, like I’d just performed my own baptism into the lonely Church of Catladydom. I sipped my bourbon – gripping it carefully with my dry, winter witch hands – as the water gently stung the tooth marks on my wrists and shoulders. It was at that moment that I knew – I’d never be cool again.

– End Scene –

Car Shopping

If you’ve ever talked to me for more than 20 minutes, you’ll know that I am utterly illiterate in the field of mathematics. Numbers, percentages, financial speak, it all goes in one ear and out the other. It’s quite amazing really, my ability to retain absolutely zero information with a number in it. I can’t even tell time under pressure, a shortcoming my boss discovered when he asked me to read from my watch (which, as it turns out, had been wrong for months).

The reason I’m explaining all of this is because I want to illustrate just how poorly prepared I am for the car buying process. The mere sight of me walking into a dealership is the stuff of a car salesman’s dreams. Single female, mid-20s, walks in with a calculator, notepad and the definition of APR scribbled on her palm. You get the point. I’m a delicate flower, as my parents say.

Found quite a few relics when I finally cleaned out the trunk. Perhaps my favorite find was the trunk-rattling subwoofer I used in high school.

Found quite a few relics when I finally cleaned out the trunk. Perhaps my favorite find was the trunk-rattling subwoofer I used in high school.

I didn’t want a new car, to be clear. I was perfectly happy with my Altima. Sure, it stalled at stoplights when the AC was running, but it pepped right back up if you bounced on the trunk (another clever fix brought to you by Richard Clark). I liked my car. And, most importantly, I didn’t feel like cleaning it out.

But at the urging of several concerned parties, I decided to begin the hunt. First up: a test drive.

Now, I’d never test driven a car before, so I had no idea what to expect. Judging by its name (test drive) I assumed it was something akin to a restaurant review. Drive it, mull over every detail, and offer brutally honest feedback. So as we pulled out of the lot, I began my oral review.

“The brakes are weird,” I said, using the most technical language in my toolbox.

“It’s been sitting in the lot. They’ll warm up. Turn right,” replied the salesman.

As we continued about our journey, he began to ask some personal questions. What kind of music I liked, where I was from, where I went to high school, etc. He was pussyfooting around. And it threw me off. Wasn’t this the time to talk shop? The time to talk about what I liked and didn’t like about the car? To shoot the breeze about horsepower, brake pads and torque*?

I certainly thought so. Which is why I began to pepper the conversation with comments like, “It feels heavy,” and “The nose is a tad long for my liking.” Never show them too much interest, as my dad has probably said at one point.

When we got back to the dealership, the salesman drafted paperwork to sell me the car on the spot, as if I didn’t have a hair appointment to get to. But before I could make my exit, he started in on the trade-in.

“Okay. How many miles on your Altima, Ms. Clark?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe like one hundred something.” (Another thing to know: I can’t say big numbers with commas in them, so I do my best to avoid them.)

“Alrighty then. Last oil change?”

“It was supposed to be changed in April. I have a sticker.”

“Any special features?”

“Oh, yes. It has great sound. And tinted windows. And, you know, air conditioning.”

We continued this charade back and forth for a while. He, appropriately baffled at how I’d made it this far in life. Me, making awkward jokes and struggling to control the volume of my voice.

I ended up leaving the dealership empty-handed, though I’ve since had some better luck. I like to think it’s because I managed to seem shrewd and intimidating, but really, it’s because my dad came along for the ride.

Closing note: when it finally came time to trade in my Altima, I had to move my belongings over to the new car. Fortunately, I’d done a somewhat decent job of cleaning my car a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, these were the three items that remained.

Several pounds of cat litter and organic grain-free cat food and a yoga mat (my one redeeming item, I hope). My dad was too embarrassed to help unload them.

Several pounds of cat litter, organic grain-free cat food and a yoga mat (my one redeeming item). My dad was too embarrassed to help unload them. I’d like to say it was the first time he called me a loser, but that ship sailed long, long ago.

*I haven’t the slightest clue what torque is. But it sounds impressive. 

So, about last night.

“Did I say anything weird last night?” It’s a question my friends have become quite accustomed to hearing from me. I find myself asking it on any given weekend morning, whether I’ve had one beer or seven. Why is that?

I know what you're thinking. What's there to worry about?

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s there to worry about? Looks like a normal girl to me.”

I started thinking about this the other day, particularly about the question itself. Why do we ask things like that? Questions that – to be completely honest – you don’t really want your friends to answer completely honestly. Sort of like, “Did I totally f-up that presentation? Be honest.” Or: “Does this haircut make me look like a Muppet? Be honest.” No matter what your friend says, what’s done is done. The presentation? It’s over. Your hair? It’s cut. Ain’t no answer — no matter how honest it may be — that can fix a bang situation beyond repair.

Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, but I attribute my abuse of this question to insecurity. Because – in my big “aha” moment that inspired this post – I realized that I say weird stuff all the time. Day, night, it makes no difference. Whether I’m telling my boss about my cat’s birthday cake, or telling a man at the bar about my career as an up-and-coming apothecary, there is always something regrettable coming out of my mouth. So why do I even ask? Why do I even care? What’s done is done. That story about sea lion cataract surgery? Told it. That pick-up line about his neck veins? Used it.

So if I’m trying to find a point to this blog post, I guess it’s that I’m going to try to stop harassing my friends for reassurance. Because statistically speaking, I probably did say something weird. But at the end of the day, I’d much rather talk to someone about manatees or Megalodon than…well, pretty much anything.


The day I stumbled upon the word “Mockumentary” was a sad day indeed.