The Food Network Effect

may have a minor addiction to the Food Network. It isn’t bad. Just “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”. Oh, and that other show he does, “Guy’s Grocery Games”. But that’s totally it.

Except for “Cake Wars”. And the holiday competitions shows. And anything labeled “Kids _______ Championship”.

And “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen”.

“Beat Bobby Flay” might be on the list, too.

So few of my friends seem to share my affinity for the Food Network. Just the other day, I recounted the results of the latest “Food Network Star” episode to a friend, and he didn’t seem to get it. Others enjoy Food Network, but they don’t really like to cook. It’s sad to watch that channel all alone. It’s hard to have your mind blown by a mind-boggling four foot tall cake and have no one to share with.

Every once and a while, I am blessed with a friend who also watches the Food Network. Perhaps not in the same dosage as myself, but still, they watch it. When this rare miracle occurs, I sometimes am given the utmost pleasure in watching a show with my friend.

Sure, they’re actually two hours away and we aren’t technically “hanging out”, but sometimes, guessing who’s getting chopped or conversing about carrying a giant stuffed monkey is as close as you’re gonna get.

I accept this. Unfortunately, this “Let’s watch the Food Network together” doesn’t happen nearly as often as I hope. In my strategic mindset, I love to pick apart competitors successes and mistakes. I even enjoy analyzing the cuts the producers have chosen to feature.

However, I mainly keep these things bottled up inside of me, since no one seems to understand.

Seriously, though. It’s a “Beauty and the Beast” cake with an accurate, doll-sized Belle and it looks amazing, how are people not fascinated by this?

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The Suitcase

“How long are you staying?” they laugh, openly gawking at my suitcase. “Aren’t you only leaving your house for one day?”

Every trip I take, I am faced with this nosy inquiry. What do people expect me to reply with? Is this simply a joke at my expense, or do they expect legitimate, intelligible responses to these questions? If it is the latter…these are the things I want to say.

“Wait–you mean you aren’t adopting me?”

“Shhh, I’m running away to join the circus.”

“This is where I keep my spare siblings / inflatable boyfriend.”

“Actually, I brought you a goat.”

“Suitcase? I don’t see a suitcase. Now, do you have a shovel? I’ll meet you in the backyard.”

“Watch this. It’s like a Russian nesting doll. I fit all of my belongings into a bag the size of a toaster oven. Guess how many layers there are. Just guess!”

“I never know how sanitary my potential sleeping quarters will be, so I just curl right up in here. No offense. I mean…you have a lovely home.”

“We aren’t going to that all-you-can-eat buffet? Drat.”

Somehow, these snappy retorts never slip off my tongue. Instead, I’m left floundering, trying to defend my luggage choices. The questions and the tone always seem to assume the worst of me. So, here and now, with my wits about me, I’d like to explain myself.

1. I am not lazy.

No, I didn’t choose this enormous bag because I was too lazy to transfer my toiletries out the last time I went on a two week trip. Actually, I like keeping and using this big bag for travel because I have become familiar with it. That doesn’t make me lazy, that makes me resourceful. If you’ve ever had to try to navigate your belongings in a dark hotel room, you should understand. Would you rather try to rely on your groggy brain, or the thorough memories of your standard baggage?

2. I am not stupid.

Yes, I understand that I will be back inside my house in twenty-four hours. Yes, I know that even in the worst case scenarios, I don’t need to bring my entire closet along for this trip. Yes, I have comprehended the volume of the suitcase. I may not display constant, flawless decision-making, but I don’t regularly act like a village idiot. If I do make a dumb mistake, it’s spur of the moment. Packing isn’t spur of the moment. I know what I’m doing.

3. I am not frivolous.

I’m not a girly girl. I didn’t decide to drag along this TARDIS of a luggage collection to house fifteen pairs of shoes. I didn’t pack ten shirts and four pairs of slacks so I could “make up my mind in the morning”. I didn’t fold up my entire bathroom to ensure a glamorous face. No, sometimes I don’t even bring full-sized toiletries. I pack just as much as I need, with allowance for one disaster. If it isn’t snowing, I’ll wear the same raggy pair of flipflops for every occasion.

At the end of the day, my giant gray plastic suitcase isn’t any of your business. Sure, you’re free to comment however much you’d like to. However, maybe the next time you go to whip out your incredibly insightful observations about my luggage, consider why you’re bothering to in the first place. Are you trying to make me feel stupid? Then it probably isn’t worth your time. Are you genuinely curious? Communicate that with your tone, and I’ll be happy to laugh with you. Do you want a legitimate answer to this question that is clearly burning within your heart and soul? Well, since you asked…

“Tell Franzisco zat I have ze goods. I vill be vaiting in ze limozene for ze payment. He muzt come alone: I vill not be crozzed again.”

The Reign

“Leave him,” Pog said. “We have little food as it is, and he is too weak.”

The heavy rain poured down around them, occasionally dripping inside of their hut to remind them that they were still a party to the outside world. Pog ignored the summoning of his conscience, which pricked at him with every gentle plop against his freckled skin.

The boy would die without his help; without a roof, dry clothes, and some sustenance. The rain continued to patter, rebuking him.

Pog ignored it all, turning from the open doorway.

Every member of their small band did the same, except for Eleanor.

“Bring her inside, quickly!” Pog had shouted. “She’ll die out in the cold!”

He and Olsen had dashed into the rainstorm, their feet splashing in the mud with every step. They had braced her between them, dragging her into the safety of their hut.

Siehara had spread a blanket over the newcomer, and Tabitha had handed her a crust of bread.

“You’re safe now,” Pog had said, crouching beside her. “What’s your name?”

Eleanor stared into the rainstorm, her heart shattering for the boy who was being left for dead. Slowly rising from her corner, she stepped outside of the hut. She approached the small boy lying in the mud and scooped him into her thin arms.

Eleanor walked back into the hut. She settled them into her corner, spreading her blanket over him and offering him her ration of bread.

“What’s your name?” she whispered.

The boy’s teeth chattered. “Jerick.”

“You’re safe now,” Eleanor smiled, squeezing his hand. “You’re safe, Jerick.”

The rest of the children tore their eyes from their laps and stole glances at Pog, who was slowly approaching the two.

“Welcome,” Pog said, looking over the muddy boy coldly.

Jerick shivered.

“He would have died out there,” Eleanor whispered. “You did the same for me.”

Pog’s eyes softened. “I know.”

Goodbye to an Era

Today, I said goodbye to my school. I’ve been there my whole life, and as of now, I am no longer a student there.

I said goodbye to some friendships. I know that even if I try to hold on and keep going, they will slip out of my grasp.

I said goodbye to wonderful teachers. I’m going to miss them and their classes dreadfully.

I said goodbye to an era. It was hard.

It’s harder to know that my school friends are all boys, and they don’t understand the emotions I’m moving through right now. They don’t understand their role in those emotions.

Today, I met so many people that I’ve only ever known as names on screens. I put faces to classmates. Some I hadn’t interacted with in years. Some I call my friends. However, none of my friends were particularly good to me. They have all let me down, one way or another. As a whole, they’ve each left me with the burden of maintaining our friendship.

Perhaps that was why the most striking moment of my day came from someone I never called friend. Someone I never saw eye to eye with.

I was walking back through the halls after the ceremony. I’d collected my diploma and was passing the line of students still awaiting theirs.

He stretched his hand out to me for a shake. “Congratulations, Lexi,” he said.

I’m sure my face reflected the surprise I felt, but I shook his hand. “Thanks, Matt, you too.”

How is it that those I called friend could feel like anything but friends on this day: our high school graduation? And yet, some people I never took the time to know blew me away.

I can’t help but be sad to wave goodbye to a precious time in my life. My sadness doubles when I realize I have no one to talk to about it. It triples when I remember those I should be able to talk to don’t actually care. I’m finally pushed to tears when I acknowledge those I call friend aren’t really friends after all.

It was a good day. Dear friends and family made the long drive to come watch me wobble across a stage in heels. The ceremony was shorter than I expected, and it was sweet. The speeches were humble and honorable. The video I contributed to was well received. I sat beside two wonderful people. However, the greatest part of my day was being called onto the stage with seven other students to receive specialized department awards; being wrapped up in a hug with my favorite teacher. Finally feeling…justified, in front of my peers.

I am ready for the new era. I’m ready for deep and meaningful friendships. I’m ready for college and trying to be a grown-up.

Deep inside, I will always miss my childhood and my school. But I think that it’s a good sign that I feel ready to fly away.