Thursday, May 11, 2017

I Thought I Was a Cat Person

Growing up, my family had a lot of animals. Reptiles, fish, dogs, birds, rabbits, you name it. One thing my family did not love: cats. My parents weren't cat people. And then Shibbs showed up on our doorstep with his momma.

We loved Shibbs, and he loved us. I guess I thought this made me a cat person. But no. It just made me a Shibbs person.

Because back in September 2015, I adopted a cat. His name is Max. He's a bloody nightmare. Sweet. But super naughty and tragically needy.



I'm sure you all can take a stab as to why I picked a cat over a dog: not as needy. Doesn't care about your existence. Doesn't need walks. Doesn't bark. Doesn't need a yard. Could be left alone all day at home. Cleans itself. No picking up poop. Etc. Etc.

Sadly, Max doesn't fit any of your typical cat descriptors. Allow me to give a description of my cat and his behaviors (which you've likely seen on Snapchat or Instagram stories).
- He begs for food and stares at you while you eat
- He destroys and eats plants
- He scratched up the leather portion of my once perfect couch
- He jumps up on the counters and table and eats people food (Chicken I understand. But rice, people. He ate freaking rice.)
- He jumps on the fridge and on the highest cabinets
- He follows you even if you move just a few feet
- He loves to rub up against your legs constantly
- He stands behind you so you'll trip over him
- He walks directly in front of your line of motion so you kick him, and then he gets upset at you
- He chases you down the hallway
- If you're really lucky, he bites your ankles as he chases you down the hallway
- He rubs up on you constantly, especially when you're sweaty or wet so that his black hair gets stuck to you
- If you're not attentive enough, he will bite your knee--he'd rather be smacked than ignored
- He loves to rub up against your legs constantly
- He meows between 5 and 6am almost every day, but his favorite is on Saturdays
- He meows pretty much constantly
- He greets you at the door when you get home
- He loves anyone and everyone; he is not skittish
- He loses his toys under the oven or couch
- He runs outside but then gets afraid and upset and meows like he's dying
- He kicks poop out of his litter box (I clean it every day, so don't advise me)
- He loves to rub up against your legs constantly
- He once ate a roommate's drawstring and pooped it out while darting all over the house as it slowly emerged
- He once ate part of a raw packge of ground beef a roommate left out
- He leaves weird spots all over the couch; I'm not even sure I want to know what they're from
- He digs my blush brush out of my purse to play with and chew on (he's done this three times now)
- He will shove his head under your resting hand to force you to touch him
- He pretty much must be touched always if you are present
- He loves to rub up against your legs constantly
- He will crawl into any open door, cabinet, or cupboard
- He sheds a ton (I buy him expensive grain free food, so don't even start with that)
- He purrs loudly and readily
- He loves to rub up against bags and purses (and also get into them)
- He runs a little obstacle course every night, back and forth between the entryway and living room
- He has scratched up a brand new table I put underneath the window
- He gets paw marks all over the window
- He loves to rub up against your legs constantly
- He jumps into the kitchen windowsill if the blinds are up
- He jumps on your clean clothes as you're folding them
- He will try to jump into the dryer if it's open
- He does not think 3+ hours of snuggling is enough
- He tries to get in the fridge if it's open
- He loves to eat and tear up paper, especially tissue, and has gotten into the roommates' garbage a couple of times
- He has torn up a section of my carpet that apparently had a loose string
- Did I mention he loves to rub up against your legs constantly?

I seriously don't know why I still have this creature. He drives me absolutely insane. He honestly is fine to have around when he isn't being needy or naughty, but I'm not sure that occurs often enough for me to really appreciate his presence.

I know a lot of people really like needy cats and think this kind of excessive affection is cute. But I don't. Call me a heartless witch. I seriously don't know how much longer I can handle this guy. It's been almost two years, and while some things have gotten better, others have not. I feel guilty for keeping him when I know someone else would love to have his love. But I'd feel guilty getting rid of him because it's like a responsibility I accepted, so I feel like I'm facing the consequences. And I also feel like at this point I just have so much stress and damage invested, that it would have all been a waste if I give him away. I don't know if that makes any sense at all. It feels a lot like making excuses to stay in an abusive relationship. Does it sound that way to you?

Anyway, it should come as no surprise that the burden of cleaning a litter box is only icing on the cake when you have a cat like mine. So the best day of my month was the day I got this amazing thing:


A litter genie. I have hidden it in the utility closet next to his litter box. I no longer have to collect plastic bags or go to the trash every single day. I used it for the first time this morning, and it was awesome.

My other great animal investment was that $5 bed you see him sitting in above. It's on the couch and has really cut down on the amount of fur he leaves on my couch (not completely, but a lot).

I honestly do not know if I love this cat. I mean I think I'd be sad if he got lost or died. I'm pretty sure I would. Maybe. Mostly I find him incredibly obnoxious and only good company when I'm sick (which is like... never, so...). I know I need to devote more time to playing with him. But even when I do that regularly (or snuggle with him for HOURS), it's not enough. His behavior is the same. He makes me curse and yell about 5x more often than he makes me laugh. So I have pretty much resigned myself to a life of misery with the neediest creature that ever walked the earth.

Well, no matter what happens with this guy, at least now there is a blog entry devoted to his existence, so he's not like an omitted chapter of my life someday.

If anyone would like a super needy cat, let me know. Just kidding. But seriously...

Friday, March 17, 2017

My Road Rage

I have to write some quick thoughts in order to focus on some things I need to get done at work today. If I don't write about it, I'll have underlying anxiety distracting me from what I need to do.

I'll just come out and say it. I have road rage.


It is something I try to be conscious of. I try to relax and tell myself I'll get there in good time, and it's better to be safe than save a minute or two. I mean really, this is a concerted effort I make to relax.

I've been called out a couple of times on my tailgating. Can I say how much I hate when people ride my tail? I hate it. I think everyone hates it. So this is another thing I try to be conscious of.

There's a long stretch of road alongside the freeway to get to my work where there are no signals or stops. It's 40 here, so naturally I go 45. It stinks getting stuck behind slow folks on that road. But when it happens, I do my best to keep a car length or two between me and that person.

Today I was afraid coming around that initial bend that the person in front of me would be slow down that road. I wasn't at a point where I was upset or conscious of any frustration, but the worry was there.

It appeared that instead of going down that road, she was going to turn into the first parking lot on the right. But she was just letting me pass.

And it's here where my guilty blue personality comes into play. When someone moves out of the way, I immediately go, "Oh no. Was I following too closely? I feel bad."



As I flew down the road, that crossover SUV far behind, the possibility of that person being someone at my company haunted me. I made my left onto my work street, and there she was in my rear view mirror, making the same turn. As I parked, I crossed my fingers that she wouldn't pull into my company's parking lot. Sure enough, there she was. I parked. And just seconds later, she parked right next to me. The guilt I already felt about riding the rear end of a stranger would have been enough today. But it was a very kind older lady I work with and say hello to every morning.

I smiled as she pulled up, guilt forming in a ball in the pit of my stomach. I could've just walked in to work and brushed it off. But again, being an accountable person, I got right out and asked her, "Was I following you too closely?" She explained that she's been rear ended twice, so she's especially paranoid and sensitive about it. I told her I was sorry, and I really try not to do that. She told me her kids tell her she'll get into an accident just because she's paranoid and does things like that. And she didn't know it was me behind her. Because there are so many red Mazda 3s with a Hawaiian sticker on them, I'm sure she wouldn't have figured it out. :) She told me I didn't need to say sorry. But man. I felt like a jerk.

She asked me to please hold the office doors for her as she carried in a crock pot. I closed her trunk door for her and held open all the office doors as well. I would have anyway and any other day, but then I was attaching those tasks to my guilt, trying to redeem myself somehow.

I know she's not upset. But I'm still kicking myself for the impatience I let myself be consumed by. These humbling situations are always good gut checks for me. I need to be better in so many areas of my life. I just need to learn from it immediately instead of feeling like a jerk all day long. Does anyone else struggle with eternal guilt? So frustrating and stressful.

Anyway. Lesson learned. Challenge accepted. I will attempt to move on with my day now.

Monday, March 13, 2017

My Birthday Recap

Well, I'd love to say my 30th birthday was everything I'd hoped for and more. But it just wasn't. I got fewer birthday cards in the mail than I've probably ever gotten. A grandparent even forgot. Another grandparent was late. A couple of friends forgot to wish me happy birthday or to send a card. Probably for the first time in a few years, since having roommates in 2012, my apartment wasn't decorated for me. Honestly, it just wasn't awesome.

On the bright side, I did get a lot of birthday letters--most of them from people I wouldn't have expected at all--and then no letters from people I would've expected one from. It was an awesome experience reading them and seeing the things people remembered about me or thought about me. I will treasure them.

Me before going out
I had a big party planned a month in advance at Keys on Main downtown--I reserved room for 16. And since I had said that significant others or spouses were invited, I decided I needed to cut the dinner group down to just the single ladies.

Unfortunately, downtown is really difficult and stressful on Friday night with parking and crowds, so I sat alone at Settebello for about 45 minutes before anyone showed up. I got some texts from frustrated friends, which wasn't fun. The first who arrived were Brittney and Kristine. Kristen and Julie came next. Rachel came last. Joyce didn't make it.

The pizza was delicious. Since we got done later than I had anticipated, we didn't have time for dessert. Sadly, two of my friends weren't feeling well and left after dinner instead of coming to Keys on Main (and one carpooled with another, so I was down three people).

The dinner group
Britt and Kristine rode with me. I had the great idea to park at City Creek, and thankfully those two were troopers in walking with me to Keys.

For a while at Keys it was just us three. And then cute Kirsty and Jacob got there. They were followed by Alli and her friend; her cute sister came later on. And that was the crowd. Another friend and her man had backed out earlier in the day. Another had told me "maybe not," earlier in the week. And another couple of friends had a family emergency.

So I don't know. I guess it just wasn't in the cards for this birthday. Things didn't line up, people didn't feel well. I am grateful for the people who showed up for me in whatever capacity they could. It meant so much.





Keys was really fun. They played Wannabe by the Spice Girls for my birthday request. They're funny about it; I had to request it.

I fearfully walked to my car around 11:30 pm and had to figure out if I could even get back into the parking lot at dark and dead City Creek, so that was scary. I had a friend on the phone to keep me company and make sure I didn't get robbed and killed, even though he was half asleep.

On February 9, I had dinner at Village Baker with that same friend. He got me some super thoughtful gifts, including the Karate Kid movies, The Secret desk day calendar, popcorn and Haribos, and Ghirardelli chocolate. It was cute.

On my actual day of birth, February 10, I woke up and took a picture of my 30 year old legs before I ran five miles to celebrate my good health and my good life.

I wonder how many miles these legs have walked? 
After my run and after packing and getting ready, I went and picked up Rachel. We had breakfast at Black Bear Diner in Draper on our way down to Las Vegas. I got a few birthday phone calls including my annual serenade from my friend Brianne, and a voicemail from the only of my three brothers who called me: Jason. I got lots of texts--even from all three of my bosses--and lots of Facebook posts.

We checked in at the Hard Rock Hotel and got to our room, admiring memorabilia on display throughout the lobby and hallways. Even the elevator had lyrics from rock stars etched into the railing.

Our room at the Hard Rock



I forgot about the time change, and I had made dinner reservations at Hard Rock Cafe. We were starving and still had a couple hours to wait. They were able to move our reservation up, thankfully. But I didn't realize the Cafe was on the strip, so I had to drive us there. With Rachel navigating, it was easy to find parking. And the parking lot gave us this view.


The Elvis wall at the Hard Rock Cafe
Ashleigh had a hard time finding parking, so she joined us a little later for dinner. I was happy to see her, and she got me the coolest Harry Potter socks.

Unfortunately, dinner wasn't very good. Service was absolutely awful. Our server was trying to be playful but was actually pretty rude. Our food took forever and just wasn't very good. The people at the table next to us didn't even get asked for their orders and left after 45 minutes. I felt bad. Most expensive worst dinner I've ever had.

Rachel, Ashleigh, and I traipsing through the town
We decided to walk the strip after dinner, but my real plan was to see the fountains and to find dessert at the Bellagio.

Bellagio fountains, of course


They had so many amazing looking treats. Here's where we went if you want to go sometime.

Gelato at the Bellagio
Saturday morning we drove out to Henderson to try Hash House a Go Go. Thankfully there was no wait. We got seated right away. Service was great, as our server wanted to help us try different things while saving us money. I appreciated that.

Saturday breakfast at Hash House A Go Go

Banana pecan French toast--a personal highlight
I had booked us a chocolate tasting at Ethel M. Chocolate Factory in Henderson for Saturday around 11:30am. But when I showed up they had no record of this event ever occurring. Thankfully they could just throw something together on the fly.

Chocolate tasting at Ethel M. Chocolate Factory
We watched them make some candy through the windows. I ended up getting a little baggy of four treats--some kind of espresso truffle, an almond cluster, a peanut butter centered treat, and something else delicious.

A free and cool part of the factory is their cactus gardens. We wandered around that for a little while.

Rachel in the Cactus Garden at the chocolate factory

Yours truly


We headed back to the strip and got our touristy pictures per my request. It was super windy.

I've never gotten a picture at the Welcome sign in my whole life. It had to be done. 
We went back to the hotel to rest a little bit, but probably should've taken that non-rainy chance to walk the strip some more like I had planned.

We wandered around the hotel making sure we saw every piece of memorabilia in every hallway so that we didn't miss anything cool. We stopped and had tea at a little cafe in the hotel and chilled for a little bit. It was here that I had a strange encounter with a creepy dude which I'll just let rest in my memory to haunt me forever.

We left again to wander the strip. We parked at New York, New York. We hit up M&Ms world and the Coca Cola store. That part was my favorite.


Unfortunately, it started to rain. I had wanted to maybe see the conservatory at Bellagio, the waterfall/atrium at the Palazzo, or the Atlantis Show at Caesars. Ultimately, I had hoped we'd eat some good food and head to north Las Vegas to Fremont Street. But the rain and cold and distance ahead to do all those things sort of put a damper on my plans.

We ended up back at the hotel, eating at a restaurant there, which was decent (but incredibly slow), watching The Proposal on TV, and going to sleep.

The next morning before heading home, I had one more restaurant I wanted to try. It was called Eat. It did not disappoint.

We headed back to Salt Lake, and I was home before 5pm.

Overall, it was a fun weekend full of good food.

My mom and grandma put together a family birthday party for me, complete with a German chocolate AND homemade carrot cakes.




I really appreciated my mom and grandma's efforts, and the cakes and food were so yummy. My aunts and uncles got me some gift cards, which was super nice and thoughtful.

I am certainly grateful for those who remembered me and sent me good wishes and letters. I feel like the birthday gods generally frowned on the festivities of my 30th year, what with everyone's illnesses and inability to show up, and the rain and wind in Vegas, but I'm trying not to let it determine how my 30th year of existence will go.

I've already signed up for a half marathon in May, am volunteering as a running buddy for Girls on the Run again, and am seriously contemplating a full marathon in October. I'm approaching this year with the mindset that anything is possible. Take that, age 30. Oh, and bring me a husband. K thanks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My 30th Birthday Wish List

So several years ago, somebody I know posted a blog requesting something kind of different for his birthday.

I've loved the idea ever since. And since my love language is "words of affirmation," I thought that it would be a perfect gift to ask for. And what better age to ask than the monumental age 30? Since it's a month away, I wanted to write this post to give you some time to put together my birthday present.

It would be the most precious thing in the world to me if you'd email me a personal letter at janaebalibrea@gmail.com. Either as a straight email, as a Word doc, a PDF, or whatever. I'm going to try not to read the letters until February 10! It'll make it the best birthday ever.

I would love if you shared how I have impacted you or your life, or maybe share some kind of story, memory, or interaction that we've had.

I will save them, and probably print them and bind them somehow. Then I can pull it out on a day or at a time where I need to so I can feel encouraged and inspired by your words.

If you know anyone who also knows me, I'd love to hear from everyone! Please share my request or my blog post.

I feel this is a pivotal time in my life. I am not where I thought I would be at this age, but I am hoping to keep moving forward and being the best version of myself I can. I'm a serious work in progress. Hearing any of my strengths and how they've affected you would be so helpful in encouraging me to know what things to keep doing. (I promise I already know what things not to do, probably more so than it appears.)

I am excited to read these letters and to feel your love on my birthday. I am excited for what this year will bring and for who I will become. I promise I won't disappoint you!

Thank you guys so much!


P.S. In the event that you're not comfortable writing a letter because "words aren't your thing," no worries. I can be tacky and send you my Amazon wish list if you want! ;) I'm really grateful for a text or card just because you remembered.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Inventory

This year was a very unconventional Christmas for me. I did some Christmas baking and gave plates to friends and coworkers. That means that loved ones in Glendora didn't get a plate.

My parents came up here, so I got to spend some time with them. We hung out at my grandma's on Wednesday night. I went with my dad to Mo Bettah and Swig (mom stayed at grandma's to see the twins) on Thursday night. I went to PF Chang's and the Harry Potter Symphony with my dad on Friday. Dad and I went to Smashburger and saw Fantastic Beasts on Saturday (mom was running errands), and I helped mom prepare a little bit for dinner. I helped cook for Christmas dinner on Sunday. I Face Timed two of my brothers for opening their gifts, and got to talk to the other one on the phone. We hung out and went bowling on Monday. They left on Tuesday and got home on Wednesday. It was a short and good trip, I think, for everyone.

Every year I make a list of what I got. And every year I explain that it's not because I'm materialistic. For whatever reason, I like to make lists. I make to-do lists. I make lists of places I've been or want to go. I make lists of restaurants that are close by. I even make lists of gifts I gave to people (the past few years of Christmas are all in one notepad). I just make lists. It's who I am I guess.

So here goes!

From boss 1: a Megaplex gift card
From boss 2: a Starbucks gift card
From Pam, a coworker: black gloves and a story
From Jeff, a coworker: a Bath & Body Works gift card
From Greg, a coworker: a family card
From Claire, my tenant: a red velvet Nothing Bundt Cakes bundtlet

From Brittney F: a cute necklace, Swig gift card, and stove top potpourri
From Allyn: a homemade cookie mix and recipe in a Mason jar
From Jon & Kjarinda: mini coconut banana bread loaf
From Raytch: a cake pop maker and all the necessary utensils (measuring cups, etc.), Ritter macaroon bar, and clotted cream and jam!
From Patrick: Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool on Blu-Ray, Abbey Road on vinyl, See's nuts & chews box, valance clips (couldn't find the right ones anywhere), bamboo cutting boards, glowing arm bands for running, extra wide headbands for workouts

From grandpa Gabe: card and money
From grandpa Mike: card and money
From grandma Carrie: card and Cinemark gift card
From Carmen: a card
From parents: money, lava lamp Bluetooth speaker, candy, nail polishes, a magnification pocket mirror, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, pumpkin candle, naughty/nice list pads, In-N-Out gift card
From Jared: a Harry Potter sweater. It is amazing. A. Mazing.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

My 2016 Christmas Letter

My mom used to do annual updates on our family—things we did, new and exciting things on the horizon, talents we had developed, that kind of thing. If I wrote a Christmas letter (if people actually wanted to read that much about me), this is what I’d say.

While a lot of people have said 2016 was rough, I feel it’s all in how you look at it. I also tend to go day by day, or even on a weekly scale. I find that once in a while, like maybe four times a year, I’ll say, “It’s been a rough week,” or “this week has been a doozy.” Some years there’s been enough bad, especially toward the end, where it does sort of taint the feeling of the year.

But this was not that year. This was a good year. It was mostly because I decided to make it that way.

This year was my first full year in my condo, and I didn’t have anything major break or need repair. It's been an adventure with five different tenants in a year and four months. 

This year I read lots of personal development books and have dabbled off and on in running health challenge groups via Facebook. I loved providing support in helping people achieve their goals. I accomplished my own goal in running my third half marathon in May. 

This year in January, I started an online course to become a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. 

This year in May, I bought a plane ticket to England. I skipped down the hall at school and told everyone. 

This year on May 28, I became a certified personal trainer. I didn’t think I’d make it; I stink at anatomy, and the test was hard. But good things happen to those who work for it.

This year in June, I started working as a personal trainer at the gym I’ve gone to for the past 6.5 years. It was a cool experience, but short lived. I voluntarily resigned in December because I couldn’t meet sales expectations. Still, I got some good experience and gained the courage to train people on my own in the future.



This year on July 1, I started a new position as executive secretary for a local durable medical equipment company called Alpine Home Medical. I work for great men and with great people. I feel blessed. The schedule has been a big adjustment for me. I still get up at 6am, but it’s to work out instead of to go to work. Getting done at 5pm leaves you with a lot less time to do what you need and love to do. 

This year in September, I went skydiving with my uncle (who’s 9 months older than me). It wasn’t what I expected, and I don’t know if I’d do it again. Mind you, that is mostly due to discomfort and not due to fear. I wasn’t afraid.



This year in November, I spent 10 awesome days in the U.K.—seven in England, 2 in Scotland, 1 in Dublin. I was able to bring my best friend along as my tour guide. It was beautiful and amazing and all the things a first foreign trip should be. 



This year in December, I learned how to wash my hair less (and embrace the dirtiness). I stayed in Utah instead of going home for Christmas. My parents came up to Utah. I took my dad to the Utah Symphony for the live performance of the Harry Potter music, accompanying the first film. It was beautiful. 


This year, I learned a lot about what I’m capable of. This year, I re-learned that I can be happy. I can do the things that I enjoy, and I can accomplish the goals that I set. I can live fearlessly. I’ve learned the importance of self-love. My faith has been tested, but I think I’m back on the right track and am learning to trust my Creator to lead the way.

This year, I changed. I grew. And that’s really all it takes to make it a good year.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

To Those I Left Behind

A lot of people ask me if I miss teaching.

I don’t think much about it right when they ask. My answer comes almost instantly and without restraint: no.

I don’t miss being told all the ways I’m failing. I don’t miss not being told thank you. I don’t miss lesson planning on Sundays and being told my class was boring. I don’t miss making seating charts. I don’t miss grading essays. I don’t miss the excuses from parents. I don’t miss lies from students. I don’t miss the teacher “trainings.” I don’t miss the early mornings. I don’t miss testing. I don’t miss bad attitudes. I don’t miss teenage drama. I don’t miss seeing teens making out, and I don’t miss hearing them swear. I don’t miss the bells or the drills. I don’t miss trying to convince them that reading and writing are important in “real life” but also in their personal lives. I don’t miss the noise. I don’t miss the rude and disrespectful ones.

Here are some things I do miss, though: Vacations. Seeing a student work really hard. Hearing a student tell me that s/he didn’t used to like English, but now they love it. Hearing the occasional ‘thank you’ or ‘this is my favorite class!’ Laughing at the many ridiculous things students would do or say, sometimes not until after they left class. Reading the occasional intelligent thought. Watching them perform at talent shows. Asking kids hard life questions and making them really uncomfortable. Pushing kids to think. Having kids laugh at my nerdy jokes. Making them laugh during Faculty Follies. Getting some sweet and thoughtful cards and gifts. Showing kids that their lives really aren’t that hard (read: Holocaust). Witnessing them realize that some books are good. Trying to show them that they’ll just have to work harder at some things, but they’ll get there.

One of the biggest things I miss, though? The community.

I had dessert with some teacher friends last night. I miss the feeling that these people knew exactly what I dealt with every single day. Teaching was hard. But at least everyone around me felt the same way. There was an unmatched support system between teachers. A knowing nod. A sympathetic glance. A supportive sounding board. Equal frustration. Just that comforting feeling that you were not alone in the battle of every class period, every day, every week for 40 weeks. We linked arms and marched forward in strength to the battlefield of the classroom, picking each other up when we fell. And that is one of the greatest parts of teaching that they don’t tell you when you go to school.

That’s the part that they don’t tell you you’ll miss when you leave: the friends you won’t find anywhere else.


My heart is with those of you in the field that I so readily abandoned. You are doing a great work. Just know you’ve got someone in the stands cheering you on.