Ghostwriting: Real Estate – Good vs Great

Scottsdale, Arizona has been coined the “Most Livable” city, and just about every resident will nod their head in agreement when they cruise past the eastern and western city line signage touting this remarkable claim. Pondering what sets Scottsdale apart from other Phoenix cities?  Quite honestly and unabashedly, there are several reasons – including the nicety of clean, navigable streets and purple mountain views speckled with water bottle clad hikers in pursuit of a fresh perspective  – but today, it’s one local small business that inspired this idea of good vs great in real estate terms, and will hopefully inspire our listing pursuit.

The city of Scottsdale originated in Old Town Scottsdale, located towards the southern end of the city, in 1888. It was Indian Trading Posts, citrus groves, and wide open space back then.  Today, Old Town residents and tourists enjoy diverse, delicious dining options; a higher concentration of art galleries, studios, and museums within walking distance to one another than anywhere else in the valley; an eclectic entertainment industry including bars, nightclubs, theater, special events and festivals; and a gym that not only whips your physique into better shape, but it motivates your mind to be better, too.
Amenzone, a local gym founded by a Belgium-born and West African-raised man named Amen Iseghohi, uses tires for physical fitness training and mental motivation.  Picture this: you’re squatting over tires; lifting tires; tossing tires; lunging with tires; tug-o-war-ing with tires; developing a love / hate relationship with your tire; and just when you hope that there’s nothing else your inexplicably strong and inventive instructor can dream up, he or she says, “Put your tires away,” and closes the sweaty class with a positive message – this is the love part of the tire relationship.
A recent message was simple, yet spoke to me in a big way: Good versus great.  The Monday morning instructor said that we can be good at things, which is, well, good.  Or we can strive to be great – which is, of course, better.  This got me thinking about real estate.  I feel much more fulfilled when I am able to do a great job for my clients, and my clients love their new home that much more when it’s a great property.
So what sets a good property apart from a great one?  Tons of reasons, which will be different for all sorts of people, but these three greats conquer that mediocre good for even the most discerning home-hunter.
No joke, I recently ran out of gas in 112 degree weather while on my way to an Arizona Diamondbacks game. Luckily I was in Arcadia, a neighborhood nestled comfortably in-between eastern Phoenix and western Scottsdale, just south of Camelback Mountain.  The great majority of Arcadia homes are ranch style and famously detailed with well-appointed entry ways, coordinated shutters, and irrigated lawns that are lush and landscaped with care.  I have the great fortune of selling real estate across the valley, but this part of town happens to be my favorite.
It’s something about the way it really feels like a neighborhood.  Folks sit out front on their benches and truly Arcadian Adirondack chairs, kids play in the streets and sell lemonade on the weekends, and forget the sugar – you can borrow a few gallons of gas when you’re on E.  A long time Arcadia resident and muscle car enthusiast, whom I’d never met before, generously offered up his “premium gasoline” when my bike exerted its last bit of power in front of his home, because he considered me a “neighbor in need.”  In my experience, a great neighborhood consists of character and community – Arcadia has plenty of both.
Arcadia may have set the mold, but these communities have great neighborhoods, too:
  • Arcadia Lite
  • Old Town
  • Biltmore
A lot of my buyers are down with upgrades.  Who can blame them?  A shiny space with all the bells and whistles of custom, upgraded stainless steel appliances, high-end flooring, built-out his and her closets, vaulted ceilings, a formal foyer, three and four-car garages, and several other design details that kept the homeowner in mind is certainly appealing.  You’ll enjoy christening your gourmet kitchen with home-cooked meals and enhancing smooth walls with nail holes to house your framed memories.  Great upgrades like these are common in properties found in:
  • DC Ranch
  • Grayhawk
  • Ancala
When home shopping, we often make a list of must-haves.  For those who won’t compromise on having a view, and I cant say I blame you at all, Scottsdale and its surrounding towns have a number of picturesque communities that your gaze will appreciate:
  • Paradise Valley = Camelback Mountain, Mummy Mountain, Downtown Phoenix
  • Arcadia = Camelback Mountain, Papago Park
  • Biltmore = Downtown Phoenix, Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak
  • Carefree (which is actually north of Scottsdale, but too beautiful not to mention) = Black Mountain, most of Phoenix
  • McDowell Mountain Ranch = McDowell Mountains
  • Troon = Pinnacle Peak Mountain
You deserve a great home.  Give me a call today and we’ll find it!



Back in the days of binge drinking and blacking out, oh wait a second, I suppose I should be more specific – back in the days of “Temp, Temp, Temp, Temp, Tempe Roll Call,” an Arizona State University masculinized mantra – so we’re talking freshman year, my older male friends, whom I’d known since braces and natural, unbleached hair, formed an exclusive all boys club to both quantify and qualify their sexual conquests.  They called it QnQ.

Decoding the acronym?  Don’t be fooled by the aforementioned ‘Q’ words above.  I’m not saying I didn’t hang with smart young guys who’d grow up to become successful men, because a decent number of them did; what I am saying is that their clever club name was rooted in shallow male bravado and simple math.  Proud members, clearly in an attempt to brand themselves, slapped oversized QnQ decals in the windows of their Honda Civics and, if memory serves me correctly, they even had shirts made.  At that time, I actually wished I was a dude, because I thought I could bring value to their image.  I was also dying to know what in the world QnQ meant.  And I’d always been a fan of t-shirts, I just wanted a damn t-shirt.

I was never privy to any official QnQ mission statement, hell I was only told what the letters actually meant after months of begging one member I’d known the longest and respected the most.  And I suspect that he only told me in an effort to shut me up.  You see, after some careful, albeit inebriated observation, I could tell that whatever those letters meant, they weren’t positive and my newly single, promiscuous ass was worried it’d been receiving negative Q reviews.

Thankfully, my ally assured me that I had nothing to feel shameful about and confessed this: “It means quantity, not quality.”

Ahh ha.  Now there is value in this meaning, but not the kind I’d want to admittedly contribute to.  Boys – they lead such different lives.


Being a Smilfy to two young children has its challenges and its joys.  Most days, I feel like I’m teetering between the two trying to make sure that one doesn’t greatly outweigh the other because then I might lose my little, learning Smilfy mind.

I simply want this: To be a good role model and a dependable friend, someone the kids can count on.  I also strive to be their advocate – their parents define the term polar opposites.  It’s also important that I be respected and demonstrate basic disciplinary responsibilities so that I may keep some order on our lives.

So when Caroline was getting ready to start elementary school, she struggled with the fear of leaving her old friends at her intimate private school and making new ones in a gigantic public school.  She expressed this worry with wide eyes and such veracity that even I, an adult, was made to believe that this really was “the end of the world.”    Goodness, the girl does worry.  We’re sort of connected in that way.  I’m what you’d call a seasoned worry warrior.  It’s important that I keep my cool for her.   

In the wake of her worry, Caroline started noticing that her daddy and I seemed to have “a lot of friends.”  She was taking note that when we had parties plenty of guests arrived and that when we mentioned a friend it was never the one she thought it was.  It was cute to see her try and keep the names straight.  Then one day she just imploded, “I just want lots of friends like you!”

It’s sort of strange to write, but that college QnQ experience sprang to mind, so I gave it a Smilfy twist and explained this:

“It’s QnQ, Caroline.  That stands for quality not quantity.  One amazing, genuine friend is better than a bunch of bratty ones who don’t really care about us.  Having a friend is one of life’s greatest joys.  This friend is a person to laugh with when something silly happens; cry with when things don’t go your way; call upon when no one else is around; and share life with.”  I emphasized the word with because friendship is a partnership.

I continued, “The best part about a friend is that you don’t ever have to break up.  You don’t need to dump one friend to be with another.  You can literally be friends with countless people you vibe with and keep the best ones for decades.  You’re going to spend a lifetime slowly accumulating a great collection of dependable people who you’ll be proud to call your friends.  So for now, focus on finding one special one to have slumber parties with and be happy knowing that later in life you’ll have a few more to go to the movies with.”

In true Caroline fashion, she impatiently rolled her eyes at me, but agreed to go with the QnQ roll,  “Smilf, Smilf, Smilf, Smilf, Smilfy Roll Call.”

The Fall

Since I spent my high school days as a student government kid, I’m currently cramming in extra hours post work and during daily life to help plan and promote my 10-year high school reunion.  It’s crazy it’s been 10 years already.  Amidst flipping the pages of my senior yearbook and accepting that I live a very different live than the one I had planned for myself when my whole life was this school and these pages, I randomly and suddenly remember a scene from the WB’s hit show Dawson’s Creek.   This particular scene is more vivid than others and doesn’t even include any of the leading stars.  Here’s how I remember it:

Dawson’s dad discovers that his wife, the love of his life, has been hiking her pencil skirt up for a co-worker.  He tells her, while standing on a bridge, probably near the creek, that he remembers falling in love with her.  I remember how inspired, and heartbroken, it made me feel.

He then proceeds to tell her, and with an impressive amount of strength considering the situation, that he just fell out of love with her – and not a single thing about it is empowering.

When this episode aired, my parents had already divorced and my boyfriend was a dick.  This scene has resonated with and bewildered me ever since.

How in the world can someone pinpoint the exact moment his or her heart quit yearning for another?  And why did they let is stop?  I’m not questioning the ability to fall out of love; I am just genuinely awe-struck by the fact that someone can recognize the exact moment.  The only firm recollection I have of truly “falling out of love” with something I absolutely dug are things like: Taco Bell after having eaten it twice daily throughout freshman year at ASU, or MySpace once I was introduced to Facebook, or pineapple mind erasers after four too many mornings of not really recalling the night prior.  I don’t need any of those things ever again.  But loving a person, I will always want that.

I’m a Libra – I’m said to be in love with love.  I have had several boyfriends.  And like my four-times-married great grandmother was once quoted, “I loved them all for their differences.”  I’ve just always been guilty of allowing a love affair to slowly wither away, similar to the way I keep dead, welted bouquets of flowers on my table for days longer than I should – I keep them, although scentless and completely color deprived, simply because I love having flowers in my home.

Some people pray for clarity.  Those are the patient ones.  Others are impulsive and say precisely how they feel when they feel it, and act decidedly so.  Me, the Libra, is somewhere balancing in the middle searching for inspiration as if it were a dim fishing boat in the middle of a dark, raging sea.  The boat just keeps floating forward because it’s hopeful that there’s calm just over that wave.  But what if the boat is going the wrong way? A Libra might wonder if the journey is wrong, but the destination, that being love, will always be right.  A Libra leans into love, even if she falls.

Lady Marlin

Something really grown up is happening.  In fact, I’ve been heard gasping, “life is happening!” on numerous occasions to several wonderful people who make my world go round.  And on the contrary, it’s also been brought to my attention that some things haven’t happened at all.  Here’s the mature yet static line-up:

My oldest and longest best friend, the one I used to play motorcycle mamas with, is getting married to an older, successful man.  When that day comes, I know she’ll be the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen and her walk down the aisle will be perfection – I mean we’ve only been practicing “the walk” since we were three.

My most fun friend, my crazy counterpart, the one I’ve danced with in tutus on tops of furniture in after hours nightclubs and other louder-than-life establishments is considering starting a non-profit, and might even leave Sin City in her Jordan hightops’ dust once and for all.

The number of friends with babies is really starting to rival the number of those without.  And as far as I’m concerned, you really shouldn’t have a baby in a bar.

Men look at me like I’m supposed to be someone’s wonderful wife, and are completely baffled to learn that no one has locked me down yet. They also vocalize that all my boyfriends should have known better.  I accept the compliment and ponder the reality.

And my guy’s little guy, we’ll call him Kyle, wishes I’d turn 30 because he feels like that’s a “nice age” for me to “become a wife and mom.”  It is currently 8 days before my 29th birthday.

Yes, I’m pretty wide-eyed and in awe of all of this life happening before me.  I also keep myself quite busy reassuring everyone else that I really am OK with my unwed relationship status and unused childbearing hips, which is actually a great relief – this contentment just might be the single thing I’m not bat shit crazy about.   I’m calm and going with the flow, I just don’t see what the big rush is.  So after the fourth, “when are you going to marry my dad?” inquiry of the summer, I took a stab at real talk.  I explained to Kyle that I like being a girlfriend and dating, because once we get married, I’ll never date again, and I really enjoy dating.  His mind was blown to bits; and as he skipped off, the way all small 6-year olds do, he looked at me like, “You pick up my confused bits, Smilfy.”  And so I did.  I know he’ll need them for the next time he tries to will a marriage on me.

People, children especially, crave structure and tradition and stability.  I get that.  I also feel it – on occasion, about some things.  Thinking back, I know that I shared Kyle’s enthusiasm for marriage when I was young and wore an unbroken heart on all my sleeves, but like I said, life happens – things like divorce, infidelity, career ambition, and newly single moms who don’t know who they are at age 42 because they’ve been married since they were 18 tend to tarnish the shine that matrimony used to gleam when my best friend and I took turns playing the dashing groom and white pillow case veiled bride. I’d like to say that all of this romantic experience and observation has made me vigilant, because it sounds more eloquent, but the truth of it is, I’m just scared.

My boyfriend, the one I’m enjoying dating and calling my bf, recently compared me to a marlin.  He says it took him well over a year to reel me in; I just wouldn’t come aboard.  And that even now, it occasionally looks like I might just jump ship with no notice, for no clear reason at all.  I looked into his soft, lash-lined blue eyes and gripping, expressive eyebrows and felt equal parts guilty and glad.  Guilty, because, in hindsight, I probably didn’t need to put up such a long fight; especially when I could feel his adoration for me from the moment we met.  My gladness though, that was a proud feeling.  I could picture it – I was a majestic marlin thrashing in a sea of house music, resisting his affection for fear of losing my sense of self, my independence, my balance, my single status.  Aren’t all fish afraid of getting hooked?  I was actively fighting for me – the only person who I could ever really rely on.  I fought and I fought.  And then I let myself get caught.

I watched Kyle walk ahead of me – kicking rocks in his path, still shaking off bits of his mind – and made a Smilfy promise to fortify his big heart in the same way I have learned to protect mine.  He will grow to know that love is as grand and real as it feels; more important than even the best storybook could detail; more special than a box of candy; feels more magical than a bear hug; more fun than riding with no handlebars; and worth waiting for, because when you’re beautiful and independent – even if you are a little scared – only the strongest fisherman will do, and in the mean time, it’s best to enjoy the waves, they’re the journey that majesty is made of.

Saint She

When a young woman flies an airline with zero status a few unfamiliar things happen: she boards nearly last and undergoes/ignores curious and bored stares from sardined passengers who have already fastened themselves into their seat belt as if claiming uncharted land; she gets to sit in the window seat instead of the coveted aisle – which has always felt like such a trap; and she, quite surprisingly, re-discovers herself.

Today she wears sunglasses, as all cool yet aloof girls do, and she actually looks beyond her smoky lenses and through the window her new seat has afforded her.  Alas, this real estate may be more “excuse mes” away from the lavoratory than a hydrated young lady would prefer, but it also offers something unexpected, and splendid – the great wide world in the shape of an oblong rectangle for as far as little brown eyes can see, which is plenty far for her.  And today, she just so happens to need to see her world.  As her anomalous aircraft takes-off she numbingly looks down at the routes she cruises, the places she frequents, the mountain she hikes, the life she lives and the memories she makes.   Today she is leaving most of what she knows behind for a new world she knows nothing of.  A world of splendor, religion, and tradition – a far away world that she knows nothing about and this makes her heart skip a beat.

There’s always been love, to some capacity at least.  To her, love is all there is.  It can take her places, and then bring her home again.  It is as right as the rain couples embrace under, as true as the beat in her fighting heart and as extraordinary as an Arizona sunset.  Love is what makes her world at peace.  She isn’t a hippy.  Not really, anyway.  She is, however, an absolute romantic, sort of a heartbreaker and, even though she wouldn’t know what to do with a beautiful ending, an inconsistent ever-after seeker.

She has always brought love, evoked love, made love.  She’s even made a few men pine for and fall in love with her in just a single night’s time – quite frankly, this is most of all she’s ever known.  And this inspires her.  You see, to her there is no “happy ending,” because that concept is yet to exist, assuming that it really does, of course.  She revels in the now so hold on tight.  She is the woman who reveres her past even if it’s sticky for the simple truth that it’s made her who she is today; impulsively and passionately makes the most of her present; and bashfully throws out a rope to wrangle her future half accepting that it might not catch anything proud or pretty.   Despite all this, she is an opportunist; she is heartfelt and kind, playful and fun; and she loves.

She is the type of lover who smiles at her suitor; finds the good in him, and commends him so; she laughs with him; encourages his story-telling; cheerleads his dreams, caresses his arm; leans on his shoulder; and looks longingly into his eyes as if she’s been searching for him all along.  No, she isn’t methodically misleading him into serving her the full moon on a silver plated platter; she’s simply exercising all the female finesse she’s ever known and expecting nothing but the very best from “the one.”

If you’re in search of her, find her.  If you’ve just met her, don’t stop getting to know her.   If you have her, keep her. If she’s left you for another world, ask her to come home.   If you’ve already lost her, hope that the next man realizes her worth.  May there always be red roses and blue violets in her Valentine’s Day.  And may you find your Saint She.

Tick-Tock SMILFy Not

Thoughtfully, and quite obviously in a pursuit to persuade, last Christmas my mama gave me another charm for my Pandora bracelet.  I laughed aloud when I laid eyes on a silver clock that comically resembles the clock character from the Disney masterpiece Beauty and the Beast, which is, coincidently, her favorite flick and my 2nd grade stocking stuffer.  It sat shiny and ominously in my jewelry box.  I knew without cue that this lovely gift was a small sterling reminder that I should be a more punctual young woman.  Today, nearly one year later and despite that cute clock on my right wrist bone, I still underestimate 15 minutes and am genuinely apologetic when I am tardy to your event – god bless that mama for trying though. 


Time and I have rarely played nice.  There’s either been too much of it or not enough; it’s the $1.99 app that underwhelms or the free advice you should deny even if you’re paid.  Either way, we’re never in the same zone.  As of late, my creativity has been challenged by time – my inescapable fault – and fear.  Talk about a conquering humdinger.  It’s been one year since I emotionally and vocally committed to launching my SMILFy blog – and beyond buying the domain and some unfinished, unpublished blogs, I am yet to show anything for it.  Truthfully, I believe in this blog.  I consider it a creative outlet for myself and a resource for other women like me; I even have faith in its brand power and fully intend on cultivating this concept (consider this a warning to those who may try to highjack this business opportunity).  All I have to do is take the first step, post the first blog.  But this step has transformed from visions of rainbow arches to thorny detours – there’s just always been an outside force that’s stronger than time to slow me down. 


I fear that launching this expressive blog/potential business may further anger my unpleasant counterpart, thereby flooding my life, as well as my new family’s life, with even more chaos and compromise.  Or worse yet, I fear I will proclaim this endeavor, but never be able to deliver because I wasn’t meant to be a SMILFy after all.  All the while, through all the contemplation, worrywart tendencies, and a collection of content inspiration, the SMILFy blog remains blank and the time on my wrist rests unchanged.   

Layered Love

I am the 6th grandchild to Nonna Constance “Connie” Alford and Grandpa Russell “Bud” Alford.  I wrote this for Nonna’s 75th birthday, and in honor of their unwavering love for one another.  Image

The definition of love is quite simple: an intense or deep affection, a romantic or sexual attachment to another person.  It is both a noun and a verb.  The word itself is readily used to describe something or someone we take pleasure in.  Perhaps its most incredible quality is its ability to challenge, and often conquer, its counterpart hate.  Love is just that powerful.

The complexities of love are that it’s a choice and a commitment.   It takes time, requires respect, commands communication, and trust had better come standard.  I’m of the belief that love is a gift.  Not everyone will be fortunate enough to experience it – some people lose it, some just never find it.  But Grandma Connie and Grandpa Bud are two people who not only found it, but they fostered it, put faith into it, and continue to have it today.

Although I have witnessed but half of the 58-years my Grandpa and Grandma have been loving each other, simplicities and complexities alike, I can discern that their love, rather their true love, has defied the odds and stood the test of time.

It was recently explained to me that a person changes every ten years or so.  Typically, their values stay intact with what they’ve always believed, but as a person they grow and evolve differently with each passing year.  Since then I have wondered how couples manage to stay together for decades – what have they accomplished that other couples simply can’t, or won’t?  How do we ensure that when we change, we welcome this growth, but that we change with our partner?  Now I can’t pretend to know the details of the work my Grandpa and Grandma have obviously dedicated to their love life, but I do commend them for all their efforts and commitment to one another.  It’s the kind of love that the romantic in me looks-on with admiration and expectation for my own future.  It’s also the kind of love that the small logical part of my heart recognizes as a layered love.

Allow me to reveal their wonderful layers.

In 2008, sometime in between Grandma’s 71st birthday and Great Grandpa Babe’s 95th, Nonna and I sat side-by-side in Northern Italy.  Beyond our tour bus’s oversized windows laid enchanting, picturesque hills of Tuscany.  I’m not sure if it was the romanticism this land evoked, the love letters and poetry our tour guide was regularly passing me, the wine we undoubtedly enjoyed with our lunch, or perhaps a combination of the three, but Nonna got to talking about life and love, and I happily hung on every single word.  She smiled, and even giggled that grandma-giggle as she told me about her and Grandpa’s unexpected first date.  Apparently Grandma accepted a date with some other lucky lad who was pining for her love, but he was too nervous to come to the door to meet her mom and dad so his friend, my brave and handsome Grandpa, went to the door for him. It was here on this amazing trip that I learned fate really does have a little something to do with true love.

Fate is the layer that brought them together, and it’s certainly the layer that pulls at your heartstrings in a “they were meant to be” sort of way.  But Grandma and Grandpa’s true love is filled with fun and consumed with chemistry, too.

Chemistry is often described as passion, a deep desire, a spark.  Boil it down and you’ll find that chemistry is rooted in and outwardly professed with affection.  Affection is the most conspicuous expression of love.  It’s important to show our partner that we love him or her; we should hold him and touch him and never think twice about being as close as we can.

As a child my cousin Ashley and I would play dress-up in Grandma’s long, silky nightgowns.  It never dawned on my innocent mind that these fabulous “dresses” were her lingerie; I only cared that we looked like beautiful ladies who could rule the world.  As an adult, I consider that lace and silk-stuffed drawer the spark that a couple works to keep ignited.  And I see that Grandma has been Grandpa’s world all this time.

When I close my eyes to think fondly of my Grandparents, I see smiles and I hear laughter.  Now I’ve never done anything for 58-years, but I got to believe that if he’s still having fun goosing her booty, and she’s still laughing about it – well then, they’ve got that vital thing called chemistry.

An affinity to one another is essential, especially after years upon years of matrimony, but a layered love like this is also about an emotional connection, a special bond, a friendship.  This is the part of love that keeps couples strong when the fate seems distant and the chemistry is out of reach.

I wholeheartedly believe that my grandparents are each other’s best friends.  They travel together, play games together, have made houses homes together, and have spent a lifetime raising one big ole family, together.  They made four children, who made 10 children, who have made 15 children so far.  I said it before, and I’ll say it again, love is a powerful thing.

Now, Grandpa set the bar pretty high, and Grandma is pretty wonderful, but may we all strive to have a layered love like theirs.

Here’s to fate, to chemistry, to friendship and to family; and if I ever get to meet the man who chickened out on his date with Nonna, I’ll give him a grateful hug and wow him with the greatest love story there’s ever been.

I’ve Allied with Mr. Big?

Although I gravitate towards expressing my happy, hopeful, sometimes sad, always honest, ‘Just Jamie’ heart with written words, I know I’m no Carrie Bradshaw.  I can’t run in heels; I seldom squeal; and if it were me, I don’t think I would have let Aiden go so easily.  But, I also never in a million Manolo Blahnik’s thought I had anything in common with Big….

Truth be told, this whole “Shacking Up” business is full of surprises.

Rewind your Bradshaw-mind to Sex and the City – The Movie part 2.  Now, recall when Big so casually offended Carrie with the concept of scheduling their days apart from one another.  He thought that her single-gal place might be a nice retreat for her now-and-again.  I can so candidly recall the feeling in my gut that that Not-Aiden man made me feel.  After all their years of sleeping together, breaking up, then reuniting only to argue about the scent of his cigars in her bed and her peeled oranges in his, calling it quits again, all the etcetera in between I’ll spare us right now, and even an alter-ditching, they finally cut through the bull shit, and committed to love and marriage – with each other.  So I just couldn’t understand how he could ever ask her for more time apart??

Until now.

Spring has sprung, and I am boxing, bubble wrapping and good willing my life up.  Emphasis on “up,” as in up, up and away.  The packing started out really strong.  I was moving quickly, making decisions in a snap, unlike my Libra-self, and moving forward with my life.  But as the “forward” more quickly approaches, I am taking note of the things I am choosing to pack very last: one wine glass, waters, face wash and a toothbrush, the slouchy couch I retreat to when I’m on SMILFy-overload, my great grandmother’s table where nearly all my blog ideas came to fruition, and my queen size bed that, even on my loneliest nights, really only fits a diagonal me.  And I just keep thinking about how I wish it could all stay – just the stuff, not me.

I want to shack up with my boyfriend, and make a life, and share our days, and make memories.  But I also don’t see the harm in having a little place for a little me-time every now and then.  After all, this is where I write; this is where I miss him; this is where I laugh out loud all by myself because my book is funny; this is where I overfeed my girlfriends because I have little concept of modifying recipes; this is where I finally conquered my fear of the dark (most nights); this is where I do all the chores because I know no one else will; this is where I learned how to be comfortable in complete silence.  This place is where I made peace with being all by myself.  This place is Just Jamie.

And so here I offer unsolicited, honest advice to all my single ladies out there: live alone, even just once.  You owe it to yourself, and your future partner.

Independence and Love are righteous and courageous things.  I am thankful that I have been afforded both.  And now, it’s my sincerest hope that I can find the balance to continue enjoying both of these empowering blessings, together.  I mean I have worked too hard and lost too much sleep to roll over and lose my independence, but I also revel in my girlfriend experiences and welcome a dandy future.  So here I go: one couch, under one roof.

But yah, you bet your ass, if this was a movie, and I had Big’s bankroll, the ink on a new lease would already be dry.

The Single Girl is Getting Domesticated

Come spring, life is getting more dandy with Andy. That’s right, we have decided to take the next big step: we are going to co-habitat; move in together; shack up; share a roof. Either way you say it, at the end of day, what’s mine is his, and vice verse. I don’t mean to brag, but he says that “what we have is special, and this is just the next big step for us moving forward.” I could have melted.

In preparation for this life-changing leap, I am spending a little more time in my little, humble abode, that mind you, is just rock throwing distance from the stereo vibrations of Scottsdale’s finest clubs (I will always miss this proximity). I figure I need to spend some time here in my lonesome. Enjoy the silence and solitude, if you get my drift. Remember, I am accepting 3 new roomies into my life. I’ve also decided to host some girly gatherings. I think Andy thinks this sort of odd, but I consider it normal, and mandatory for that matter. I mean if all goes well, if I get all that I’ve been wishing for since I asked my Daddy when I could get married and was totally disappointed that he said I had to wait until I was 22 (guess I missed that boat), this will be the very last time I ever live alone. Com-plete-ly A-lone.

This realization gets me thinking about how coveted seclusion truly is. After all, I did just escape to my place to “clean.” And I will in fact clean, but there’s something blissful about the fact that all this mess is just mine; there’s no one trailing behind me to make a messy mockery of all my elbow grease. Besides, when you’re all by yourself, in your own “mess” of a life, cleaning can be quite entertaining: because in between dusting, folding and Good Willing, I am responding to Facebook posts, pouring a little more wine, admiring photos hung on my walls (I’ve lived a good life thus far), and sliding around on my spick-and-span, slick tile in my loud, knee-high Christmas socks; which I swear will make it into the holiday storage bin next wash. Amidst all this fun, Andy calls to see what I’m up to, and I’m literally panting when I answer the phone. This is because I’m doing what only truly single, alone girls can do when they “clean.” You see, “cleaning” is code for drinking and dancing while I do some cleaning. It really is one of life’s greatest joys.

I have loved and appreciated living by myself; the personal growth I’ve experienced is indescribable, even for my jabber jaw, but why not go out with a bang?! Why not party until the very end?! So I’ve decided to move forward with my girly gathering idea and have my former roommates, Jennifer & Shannon, over for a night of wine, apps, and girl talk. I think Andy is mainly curious what the “girl talk” entails, and if I’ll bring over leftovers. But if I know my college roomies and I, we will devour every last drop, and crumb. Speaking of last drops, I’ve decided to assess my bona-fide bachelorette pad’s refrigerator to properly welcome my guests. I swing the door open…. and there isn’t much to look at. It is sparse, and seriously lacking some basic comforts I’ve grown accustomed to sleeping the better part of my ZZZZs at Andy’s. For instance, my fridge’s shelves have the following items: 3 bottles of water; 1 bottle of wine, that I have already broken into because I am rationing my precious water; applesauce because it comes up as easily as it goes down; tuna fish because my physique is an ongoing obsession, and I make a mean tuna melt; Skinny Girl margarita mix because that stuff is delicious; pickles because I entered this world addicted to them; more condiments than I’ve ever had entrees; and lest not forget the oversized bottle of Grey Goose on the counter patiently awaiting the diet cranberry on the top shelf.

Don’t get me wrong; I used to shop and shelf nutritional things like eggs, yogurt and fresh fruit, but when a single girl’s little place morphs into a crash pad for when she wanders home from those stereo bumps I previously mentioned, the grocery store is just a waste of time, bc spoiled food is a waste of money. And that my friends, is a frugal mentality at its finest. Besides, Andy being the best Daddy, second to my Daddy, of course, always keeps a stocked fridge, and always makes sure we eat well. So although my stomach is a little vocal at the moment, I am kind of digging drinking my dinner tonight. I deem it a final farewell to the single, live alone me.
Thanks for everything Self; you were a great roomie.

For more tales from my even dandier shacked up & SMILFy life, please read my new blog all about my adventures in being a bonus mama:
Oh and in case it’s gone over your head, this means I am a stepmom in training. SMILF is like MILF, but better because I am younger, and cooler. And we throw the ‘y’ on at the end to make it a term of endearment. Bam. Super SMILFy.

Happiness is the New Black

I recently flew on Southwest flight #1006. Destination: Baltimore, MD. Then onwards to our nation’s capital. Biz trip.

Upon cozying into my exit row seat, courtesy of my business select fare, I pick up the Spirit magazine to kill some time, and more importantly, avoid glares from men whose legs are longer than mine. Sorry suckers – you get what you pay for (in my lucky case, I get what my company pays for).

The Spirit cover, featuring a glad girl with a bouquet of bright balloons, prompts me to immediately flip to an article called Perk Up!, written by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. The article features various fascinating theories about happiness: how to measure it and what it really means. It reminds me of the several blog notes I’ve been collecting and how much my Happiness has evolved in only one years time. I recommend you google it – I feel confident that it’ll inform you. Who knows, it may even inspire you. It inspired me to write this:

“Everybody knows that the sweetest thing you’ll ever see, is a happy girl.” Well at least that’s what Martina McBride’s lovely lungs proclaim in her song Happy Girl.
There’s no debating that Happiness is highly sought out. Walt Disney makes a killing off that fact. And our fore fathers gave us the right to pursue it, so why not wrangle what’s rightfully ours?

Many of us spend money, attend therapy, read self-help books, write encouraging notes on our mirrors (OK, maybe that’s just me), pray, toast cocktails, write and even dance our way into Happiness’ embrace. That’s all well and fine, I’m no expert after all, but I do know this much: the biggest mistake one can make is to wait for Happiness to waltz through the door all wonderful and sparkly. Trust me.

Here is my tango with Happiness:

On New Years Day 2010 I laid in a dark Vegas hotel room, all by myself, and begged and pleaded for Happiness. I just needed it to find me, and fix me. I wept as I imagined all the people beyond my chosen confinement laughing, hugging and making new years resolutions – those happy assholes. I reasoned that everyone else in the world was forging ahead with aspirations like: claiming the corner office, losing weight, getting back into the gym, planning an amazing vacation, mastering a new meal, getting pregnant, learning an instrument or a new language, falling in love….the list goes on-and-on. And I found everything about them and their wishful/ambitious thinking ridiculous, if not a little insulting.

All I wanted was to be happy; yet my resolution seemed more far-fetched than all of theirs combined. I was miserable beyond description. I had no appetite for life, much less food. The hotel phone rang and I picked it up only to deliberately, and passionately, hang it up. Texts buzzed and I ignored them. My facebook app taunted me with well wishes and I despised it. I sobbed in the bed diagonally. I sobbed face-down. I sobbed sitting up. I even watched myself sobbing in the mirror (like I’ve said before, I must be a masochist). I quit sobbing only long enough to gain the strength to sob some more. Not even the allure of Sin City could make me smile a real Jamie-smile, because even when I tried to fake it, I could taste my failure. (Just in case this depression is news to you, here’s a little backstory to my misery: another failed relationship, lack of career, zero zest for life and at 25 years of age, I had just moved back into my mother’s home. You’d have a break-down too. And if not, you’re a stronger human than I, and I kindly ask you to have mercy on my formally sad soul.)

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but somewhere in between my sob-fest and self-pity party for one, I had a rude, but very significant awakening: the ball was back in my court – just waiting, patiently, for my next play. I realized that I am the dictator of my emotion. It was Just Jamie now. So my tears, smiles, and everything in-between were all up to me. This realization was both terrifying, and liberating.

So I bravely decided right then and there, in what’s arguably the happiest place on earth, for adults that is (so why the hell did I just hang up on my mama’s loving, “Get up, go out and get fresh air, come hang out, I bet you’ll find fun in no time! I love you,” plea), that this year had to be different. No trivial resolutions, no preposterous ones either. I wanted, and desperately needed, only one thing: you guessed it, Happiness. This was the shortest list I’d ever created, surely it was possible.

I won’t lie to you and say that I popped right up out of bed, threw open those perfectly thick curtains and began my pursuit immediately. In all honesty, 2010 was an emotional roller coaster. But it was also a year of grand self-discovery. I made decisions and surrounded myself with people and things that bettered me as a person, healed my heart, enhanced my positive qualities and made me excited to be me.

I didn’t even check Happiness off my list until sometime in December. I had to be sure it wouldn’t slip through my fingertips. I also wanted to make certain that I continued to strive for it’s presence every single day. And to that end, I’d like to share that Happiness tops my list for 2011 too. This year I’ll focus on maintaining it and seeking more of it – some girls just want it all.

I should also add that later in the year I penciled-in another resolution on my record-short list. Nothing dumb, nothing unrealistic: Get a great job. I’m happy to say that I’m typing this from 30,000 feet because I successfully checked that off my list last summer. However, I recognize that I could have easily erased that resolution if I hadn’t diligently focused on Happiness every single day. It’s amazing to me how life seems to fall perfectly into place when I’m the best me. For 2011, I have boldly sharpied-in a career goal: be a better asset to my company.

I have learned, and accepted, that Happiness is a choice. It is a conscious effort. And it isn’t always easy either. Somedays it’s there the moment I open my brown eyes. Other days it’s something I literally add to my To-Do List. But it’s always right there, waiting for me to acknowledge it, and wrap myself in all it’s splendor.

One thing’s for sure: like a little black dress, Happiness will never go out of style – it’s better than black.

My Happiness Holler-Back List: These wonderful people ignited, contributed to and even fostered my happiness when I briefly misplaced it.

-Bobby Royal. The best damn server at Zipps. She embodies a sense of realism I think I’ll always admire. She coined the term “Just Jamie.” She spoke me straight on several down days. And she has one of the most genuine laughs I’ve ever heard.

-April Alford. The greatest mama a girl could have. She endured numerous late night texts of sadness and always responded with something positive.

-Sara Amsberry. An inspiring spirit, a dear girlfriend. She made it her personal mission to keep me busy, make me smile and help me put the pieces of me together again for 6 solid months (my Happiness was not built over night). She taught me to be kinder to strangers and welcome new friendships. I can honestly say that I’m a much cooler,calmer, more positive Jamie because of her. She’s also one of the most fun people I know.

-Jennifer White. My soulmate and bestie for 23 years and counting. We don’t speak everyday, but I feel her love all the time.

-You. My readers. Writing has been my therapy, your support has been my salvation. I sincerely hope that you are treating 2011 well and that you create Happiness in your life on a daily basis.

Sent from my iPad