Friday, June 24, 2016

Diggin' up roots.

About a month ago, I was fortunate enough to receive some plants from my neighbor, who has a very green thumb. She brought them over and gave me instructions (knowing I'm not the best with plants). "Don't worry, it's impossible to kill these," she said. Sounded good to me. A week passed and my husband was on my heels every day, "Did you get those plants in the ground yet? They're going to die, babe!" "Don't worry," I told him, "Cathy said I could wait a little while to plant as long as I keep the plants in the shade and don't let the roots dry before I plant them." "Well, have you been wetting the roots?" Me: "Ummm...I'm going to do it right now!"

I knew I had to prove to my husband that I could get those plants in the ground and keep them alive for a while at least. So the Saturday after I received them, I put on my shortest jorts (you know, jean shorts), swimsuit top, rubber boots, Grandma-looking straw hat, gardening gloves and sunscreen, and declared, "Today is the day." With music in full force to give me the energy I needed, I started
digging with a very small gardening tool. Not smart. Apparently there were some TOUGH existing roots that did not want to give way to my new (half dead) plant life. Having no luck finding our shovel, I was able to borrow one from our other neighbors (I know, our neighbors totally take care of us youngins!). The job was a true feat even with the shovel. It was seriously stressing me. As sweat mixed with sunscreen and dirt, it poured into my eyes. I thought to myself, "Some of these roots are so strong and deep but don't serve any purpose. How in the world am I ever going to make room for these new plant roots?" Chop and dig them up. That's how.

As I continued to chop and dig like a mad woman, it made me realize how much we refer to our "roots" in life. For as long as I can remember, I have been using phrases like, "My roots run deep..." or "I get that trait from my roots." Or's because I'm a country bumpkin, and only country bumpkins make comments like that. Whatever the case, I evaluated the term, the way I use it and how I have heard other people use it. I believe I have only heard the term used positively because people use it to show their pride in where they come from or how they grew into the person they are. I think this is commendable, but let's get serious: Are ALL of our deep-running roots ones we are proud of and should carry on?

Yep, dirty sunscreen sweat pouring into my eyes and other crevices didn't stop my mind from going to town. How often do we develop bad habits and instead of "getting to the root of the problem," we try to just cover with a new habit? Putting a new healthier habit into place is a grand idea, but only if you identify the existing roots, dig them up and give the new plant plenty of room to spread good roots. Roots of life. Roots you desire to keep.

Learned habits (or roots) are hard to dig up for sure. My parents, who have instilled many strong roots in me that I wish to keep and pass on to our seed (Haha...see what I did there?), have never been the best at being on time. I'm not saying they can't make it anywhere on time, but most know our family is typically running five minutes behind schedule rather than five minutes ahead. As I've grown older, I realize this is a root I want to dig up in my own life. What does this mean for me? Getting rid of the excuses and making a conscious effort to plan more time in my schedule to ensure I am the person who arrives 10 minutes early (so basically tricking myself by setting the clock ahead).

The struggle is real, peeps. What stubborn roots do you have that are preventing new healthy roots from growing in your own life? Is it that secret stash of candy that's preventing you from staying on your healthy eating kick (Don't get me wrong, I am FOR sweets and secret stashes to hide them. How else do you make the good stuff last? This is only capable, however, if you have enough self discipline to eat one...okay...two pieces at the time. Also, secret candy stashes are why exercising exists, so get your yoga pants on and actually use them for something besides watching TV on the couch!)? Maybe you're a natural-born gossiper, whose joy thrives on digging up other people's dirty roots? If that's the case, get God involved and start digging up those roots pronto because the plant you're growing might be alive, but it's poisonous. I think you get the point here through all my plant analogies. Above all, keep on keepin' on being proud of who you are and where you come from...just don't forget those roots we don't want to share can be conquered. It's not an easy task, but you'll be a better person for it in the end!

With Love,


(Who was dirty from digging up roots when she wrote this, but delivered the post 10 minutes ahead of schedule!)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cinco de Mayo: The new Mother's Day.

What does a margarita and homemade guacamole have to do with creation? Other than creating a full belly and perhaps a slight headache the following day, nothing. I got a little confused about this as I sat in choir practice last Wednesday night and listened to the choir director's prayer: "...and Dear Lord, please be with us in the upcoming holiday as we celebrate the beauty of life..." Okay, so maybe it didn't go exactly like that, but close was more than a week ago. Don't think just because my head was bowed and my eyes were closed that there weren't some thoughts stirring under my "big top." It was May 4, and me, mentally prepared for a tasty margarita, guacamole and steak tacos the next day, automatically assumed he was praying for Cinco de Mayo. This short internal conversation took place in my head: "Seriously?!? We are in God's House and this so-called 'leader' of the church is praying for Cinco de Mayo? Well...I do enjoy Cinco de Mayo and have high hopes for my perfectly crafted margarita, but really? And since when is this holiday associated with celebrating life? I guess it is a celebration of winning a battle, but can we really compare this to life and pray for it? Oh wait...hahahahaha...he's referring to Mother's Day. Yep, better get those Hallmarks in the mail before my margarita tomorrow..."

It was this particular instance that made me think harder about perceptions. A lot of times we all think we are on the same page, and even though someone could be saying something plain as day, we perceive that message based on many different factors. For instance, I had not enjoyed a good margarita in a while and had just gone shopping that morning for my Fiesta feast, so while I was silently criticizing the choir director in my head for being crazy, it turns out I was the one who needed to keep fiesta thoughts in check.

On my run the next morning, I contemplated other times I have been quick to react (in my head, at least) solely due to how I perceived a message or situation. Many of these instances were sparked by email. I will say that while email is my preferred source of communication because I love to write, Old Soul Torie truly believes in the power of communicating via phone or face-to-face. Why? Email is a real pot stirrer when it comes to communicating because of three reasons: 1) Tone of the conversation is much harder to detect; 2) The tone is determined by someone whose perception may be altered negatively by the very horrible day, week or year they're having; and 3) Due to many different personality styles, someone who is the queen of exclamation points and smiley faces may be reading an email written by the queen of periods (grammatically speaking...Lord, wouldn't it be a curse to be the queen of menstrual periods?!?)  and no nonsense. So while I am ashamed to say I have been a repeat offender of the email battle, I am aware and actively working on just picking up the phone before it gets to that point. I challenge you to do the same. Most of the time the conversation ends in a "Ohhhhhh!!! That's what you meant! Sorry, I totally misunderstood where you were going with that one!" And then of course that is followed with heads tilted back, belly chuckles...maybe some knee slapping.

You know, I thought about adding some more very deep thoughts to this post, but have decided it's grown long enough. And...I need to run some errands. So a few lessons learned before I yell "Yota!" (because that's what cool Toyota drivers do when they peel and squeal out of their quiet neighborhoods to run errands): 1. Mother's Day has not been replaced by Cinco de Mayo, and my choir director is a much better human than me; 2. Email can be a very effective communication tool but can also cause unnecessary human anger explosions if used incorrectly; and 3. Embrace different personality styles and learn how you can best communicate with each individual, not just what suits your preference. Isn't going a little out of our own communication comfort zone totally worth avoiding walking into a war zone?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Things to be learned from a sweet tooth

I can't remember a time when I didn't love dessert. Cookies, candy, cakes, chocolate...let's just say I don't discriminate. Actually, it would be more on point to say I incriminate myself with dessert calorie overload at times. Whatever the case, I thought deeper on my need to indulge in dessert today.

Proud of myself for making a lot of very healthy lunch decisions at a fresh salad and wrap restaurant called Salata, I finished my salad thinking, "Now, I just need one little sweet something to finish out my meal..." I wasn't looking for a chocolate lava cake (but let's be honest, I would've been all over that cake like a fat kid, given the opportunity). I just wanted one little bite of something sweet.

Taking a bite of an individually wrapped chocolate caramel candy, I felt complete and let out an "Ahhhh" as the delectable chocolate-caramel mixture took effect. Then I started thinking, "Why did that make things so much better?" It's not like I hadn't given my body a full, healthy meal. I wasn't starving. In fact, I could've gotten along with my day just fine if I'd not had anything sweet at my fingertips, but...I felt so much happier.

Looking back on my relationship with my husband, I'm starting to see how the sweet tooth game applies to marriage, or really any relationship. The other day, we had a long drive together in the truck, and David surprised me when he silently put his hand on mine. It melted my heart. Why? Not because he's a jerk who never does nice, considerate things for me. I actually consider myself pretty lucky that he is such a considerate husband. Although there was no bad blood brewing between us, that simple sweet gesture made that very moment just the right amount of perfect.

I think we can all find ways within our marriages and friendships to take advantage of our innate sweet tooth. We don't have to indulge others in showy displays of affection (aka the lava cake effect) for this to start working positively. Simple acts like complimenting someone on a special talent they have, verbally acknowledging something nice they've done for you or someone else, or simply by giving them a great big hug or kiss and expressing your thankfulness that they're in your life, have a lot of power. Just remember, dessert is rich. A little bit goes a long way. Ain't life sweet?  

Friday, February 19, 2016

That deer just eyeballed me too long for comfort.

I recently had the awesome opportunity to meet up with some old friends in the cattle industry at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Conference in San Diego. My blog was the last thing I imagined would pop up in conversation, yet someone brought attention to it saying that while he enjoyed all of my posts, he sure did miss my sense of humor...that my recent posts were too serious. He identified my sense of humor as "neat," but I know he just thinks I'm weird and wanted to see what crazy thing I would dare to say next. What can I say? I aim to please my humble crowd of blog admirers, so here ya go, Mr. Jim (yeah, you know who you are!)...

I'd like to preface this post with the following statement: My sense of humor is odd. If it in any way offends you, I kindly ask you to not read any of my future blog posts. Or...heck, feel free to unfriend me altogether. We probably shouldn't be friends if you don't find me amusing. I don't have a lot else to offer unfortunately (Except I have been told I'm fun to watch dancing...and my husband thinks I'm an excellent lover...but sorry, the latter mentioned skill is reserved for him alone).

My husband once told me I look mean when I run. Now don't think my husband is mean to me (besides that one time he gave me a black eye and told me to blame it on a gorilla), I'm pretty sure there is some truth to this. Why? Because I'm competitive. When he and I would go for jogs together back in Florida, he would totally outpace me (longer legs = longer stride = more ground covered) and would turn around smiling, running backward about a quarter of a mile ahead of me, just checking to see where I was. If he had been running on a regular basis, this probably wouldn't have bothered me so much, but no, he would come out fresh off the dairy and would blow me out of the water. Not cool.

I've recently picked back up on my running because I've found it is the one exercise that can lean me up like I want. Unfortunately, I have a two-year commitment to a nice gym in town to which I only attend if it's raining and I can't run outside. Whenever I get in gym mode, you might as well call me a beast. Actually, some Canadian girl my brother dated short term (thank goodness for us all that it was short) called me a beast at one point. Perhaps it was because my brother clued her in to the fact that he's teased me for years about having big traps. Whatever the case, it's true. When I work out with weights, I look like a mini, more feminine (I hope) version of the Hulk (less green...I forgot that part). So yeah, running it is for me.

Today I went for a four-mile run right around sunset. Weather was beautiful, so I took off to a ritzy neighborhood where the most scared I was bound to be was from a rich family's gardener chasing me off because I looked like a sweaty hobbit (but not a jacked hobbit...because I haven't been lifting weights recently). I was just through the entrance of the neighborhood, when I spotted three bucks. These guys had decent racks (that's not normally paired together, huh?). My first thought was, "Oh, I hope I don't look too feminine right now. They might try to mount me thinking I'm a doe. I am kinda hairy like an animal." Then my husband's words, of how mean I look when I run, popped into my head, and I was relieved. "Oh crap. Sure, I don't have anything to worry about looking feminine right now," I said as I wiped some runner's drool from my face, "but what if they see my muscular traps and think I'm a buck competing for the REAL does?!?" Luckily, my country upbringing reminded me that I have a human scent. I wasn't wearing my deer urine during my run, so I should be considered just another human to these city deer. Run on.

Next event: I found a running partner. Did he know he was running with me? No. In fact, it was probably a bit creepy for him if he'd known how long I'd been pursuing him (in good old-fashioned running sport, of course...C'mon, my husband can read this if he wants. Do you really think I want to have to use that gorilla excuse with my friends and family next time? I'm pretty sure they won't believe it a second time...). It was funny that not knowing this guy from Adam, he boosted my running spirit halfway through because I felt like I was part of a team. And then I passed him. And I lost my running buddy. Lesson to be learned: sometimes if you get too ambitious, you can quickly lose friends...even if they don't realize they're your friends. Friendship takes time and nurturing to grow.

Hmmm...and, I ate a couple of bugs on accident (maybe...or maybe I needed an immediate source of protein on mile 3. No need to pass judgement, that's Jesus' job.)

So the moral of this story is...nothing. Absolutely nothing, but hopefully it made you smile, giggle, LOL or even pee your pants a bit (again, I'm not Jesus, so I can't judge, but please change your pants. You smell grossly of urine at this point.). I guess if we HAD to pull a moral out, it would be...sometimes what you think you seem in your head, is not actually how you represent yourself. For example, I feel empowered when I run. I just know I look like one of those strong, confident women in the Nike's commercials "Just Doin' It!" (you know, scaring city deer, stalking neighborhood runners, eating bugs...), but in fact, I look like an angry thirteen-year-old boy with oversized traps. I'm cool with that as long as I look like a SKINNY thirteen-year-old boy...and the deer don't make any moves on me.

WORD to your mother. And word to mine. Hello, mom!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Scared brave.

Last week, my husband surprised me with tickets to the Texas A&M and LSU basketball game. It was a great time, though I'll have to be honest, one of the highlights of the night wasn't the game itself. The crowd witnessed an Aggie college student win $5,000 making a half-court shot during halftime. Everyone went wild, excited for the luck of this potentially broke college student. I couldn't help but think, "What if he hadn't taken the shot because of fear he would humiliate himself in front of a crowd (the school broke a record that night for basketball game attendance, by the way)?"

This got me thinking about my own life. Within the last year, I've had several people comment on how brave I am for trying new things, talking to complete strangers, going somewhere like a movie or a meal out by myself. What's funny to me is that I know these people must think I have confidence just oozing out of my ears. It's actually the exact opposite. It's fear that drives my bravery.

When I was a junior in high school, I remember being in my first "real" boyfriend's truck (first kiss makes him a "real" one, right?) when we were discussing my plans for after graduation. He was a senior, a year ahead of me, and I was always a bit intimidated by that at the time. I told him that upon acceptance, I was planning to attend TROY University, a university in Alabama five and a half hours from my small, very rural Florida hometown. I remember him laughing, telling me I would never go to school so far from home. It wasn't that he didn't think I was smart or that I could afford to go to college in another state, it was that he simply didn't think I had it in me to move so far from home. I would be too scared.

We broke up not long after. And I'm not ashamed to say I was the one who got the boot. Him soon going to the college about 45 minutes away, and me being in high school still for another year was just "too different." I also think that me having the ability to keep my panties on through that relationship probably didn't help my odds of getting broken up with, too (haha!). I don't have any resentment towards the guy. In fact, I should thank him. His inability to see my inner strength and bravery is partly responsible for the person I have become today. And it also helped me realize not to be anyone but myself in a relationship..."Full Torie" as my mom calls it...because why waste time with someone who doesn't appreciate the real you?

Back on topic...I went on to TROY University for four of the best years of my life. I made life-long friends and received a great education. Sure, I was scared the first couple of weeks not knowing anyone, but I quickly learned the only way to enjoy my time was to get outside of my comfort zone and kick my own fear's butt. To force bravery on myself.

To this day, I still have moments when I'm afraid (For the record, I will never trump my fear of mice, snakes, roaches and flying squirrels, and I'm okay with that). Scared I won't be accepted in a group (even at this age of life women can be so dang mean sometimes!), scared my strange sense of humor will bring on an awkward silence when I'm meeting folks for the first time, scared I'll hit a wrong note in choir practice and people will wonder, "Who invited her?" During these times, I reflect back on the friendships I've made and the great experiences I've had simply from "taking the shot" when I knew the outcome could be one not so great. I can't say I've won $5,000, but the people I've met and memories made were well worth my stage fright.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Parenting tricks learned in a college town

It has been awhile! I apologize for disappearing. Strange and wonderful thoughts I would peg as perfect blog topics have continued to cross my mind over the course of the past two years. I guess somewhere in the process of getting married, starting a new job twice...and becoming a resident of two new states within three years, has kept me occupied. But don't worry, I have a feeling those strange blog-worthy thoughts will never leave me, and I have good intentions of documenting them 'Under the Big Top' more frequently.

The second move (mentioned above) has led my handsome hubby and me to the great state of Texas. While we did leave some top-notch folks behind in Iowa, we drove away from the icy roads as quickly as we could without slipping off the road. Our move, which has resulted in us living in a small condo for the time being, has provided some awesome blog material. Why? We are now living in the middle of college students again, and our son (cat Mick) and daughter (dog Jess) both live inside our tiny condo with us. 

I began a new job last week, so until then, I stayed at home doing contract work for my former employer. Anyone who knows my need for social interaction would probably wonder how I did not go crazy staying inside all day. The answer: our children. 

Mick and Jess met when David and I were dating. Mick, an only child, was not pleased at a young slobbering dog invading his space. Poor Jess, only wishing to play, got hissed at and swatted with razor paws. That has been a few years ago, so we were hoping our condo (with no yard) would work out for the short term. We have been pleasantly surprised at how well our furry kids are getting along. I have been more surprised by the parenting skills I've learned while being home with the two. I'm quite sure when we make our own less furry children (hopefully they will be less furry...I have a lot of hair), I will be an excellent mother from the observations Mick and Jess have provided. 

Parenting skills brought to you by Mickolas Stink-Butt Hardee-Noellsch and Jess Piglet Noellsch:

1. If you burn food while frying it, your kid WILL jump out the window.

One night I was trying the best I could to be a good Southern wife, and make David one of his favorite side dishes: fried okra. My mother has always done a beautiful job at frying okra, so I knew deep down it must be in my blood. I cut up over a pound of okra knowing I would probably burn most of it. When this thought crossed my mind, I probably should have also thought about the fact that we were living in a tiny condo and the smoke would have nowhere to go. I will say that we ended up having more than enough perfect fried okra to eat after I left the kitchen. I will also say my mascara was running and David's eyes were red because I'd officially smoked us out with the first burned batch. David had a great idea...opening the two windows in the living and kitchen areas. It did cross our minds that one of the windows was where Mick sat fairly often to people watch (the very fine parking lot view) and sunbathe, but we just thought we'd keep an eye on him. An hour or so later, we awoke on the couch to find...or rather not find Mick anywhere. Sure enough, we run downstairs (oh yeah, did I not mention that we are on the second floor?!?) with flashlights, and using my super detective work, I shined the light directly under both open windows and find cat paw tracks. We found him alive with eight lives to spare (maybe seven...we had a scare in Iowa with him eating a couple feet of gift wrapping ribbon) hunkered down under a parked car.

2. Kids get major props from siblings for doing stupidly courageous things.

In continuing the story from above, Mick was cold, wet and scared when we retrieved him from the parking lot. We dried him off and observed him in the kitchen to make sure he was okay. Scared Mick disappeared, but "Yeah, I'm the cool cat who just took a two-story leap into the parking lot, show me some respect, dawg" Mick was strutting around like a hero. And Jess showed him major respect.

3. If you leave something tempting on the counter, your kid will get into it.

David recently celebrated his 29th birthday. He loves chocolate and peanut butter, so I just knew he would love a recipe I saw a friend post on Facebook: a chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter cheesecake with a brownie crust. Everything was going well, but the cheesecake portion was still chilling in the fridge when we were ready to go out for David's birthday dinner. We got back home and saw orange wrappers everywhere. Yes, Jess had managed to get 14 Reese's Cups off the counter (to be used for decorating the cake), and had eaten every last one. She received punishment, but I know she'd do it again. Oh yeah...a few days later, orange wrapper evidence showed up in her poo. BUSTED!

4. If you feed your kid crap, he/she will poop on your floor.

This one is straight forward. David tried to feed Jess cheaper dog food, and she couldn't control her BMs. 

5. Kids are annoyingly persistent.

Maybe he has short-term memory problems, but if a door is open that Mick knows he's not supposed to enter, he will try to enter. He runs out when he sees me...but 10 seconds later, and he's back.

6. Something kids can't have is always more desirable (that goes for all ages, actually).

Day two of Texas we went to one of David's favorite places: Sam's Club. We decided we needed to get Jess a baller dog bed if we were going to keep her off the furniture. We found one spacious enough even I could fit in (and have actually tried out). It was so comfy! We both agreed there was no way she could resist. Sure enough, the next couple of times we came in the condo we found Jess on the humans' couch. She's gotten better, but I still see paw prints now and then.

7. Don't rely on an automatic feeder to feed your kids.

Sometimes the batteries go dead and your kid is whining for a legit reason. If they're chunky and need to go on a diet, this is a good option because you don't look like you're starving them on purpose. That was a joke. I repeat: that was a joke.


I strangely felt like that was a good one to end on. If there has to be an end, end strong...or making people wonder.

Well, I thought I wanted to tie in another college-related topic into this post, but I have rambled on long enough. Yep, I haven't changed. But I've learned when I've said to much, and seven paragraphs ago was probably it.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Save a Debbie Downer. Dance like you're on crack.

Just last week, I did a crazy thing (okay, so it's really not so crazy for me, but others would probably think I was crazy if they witnessed it). You see, I get strange thrills out of doing outlandish things to make others' days a tad more interesting (and happier, if possible). You know that Walmart cashier who acts like her world is ending by scanning one more can of corn (you're asking why I picked a can of corn, right...out of all the things in a grocery store? Truth is...I don't really know either. Maybe it's because I'm marrying a Midwest boy from the land of corn?). Anyhow, we all know this person. Tell me, what are you doing to give them a little bit of fun for their day?

Back to last week. So I'm driving down the road and catch a glimpse of young man in his 20's, twirling some sort of "We Buy Gold!" sign. He looked bored out of his mind. I thought about flashing him and really giving him a story to tell his pawn shop friends. Luckily, one of my other personalities told me I needed to use better judgement...that I would probably wreck my truck if I was only driving with one hand (just kidding...of course I have more self respect than that! C'mon, people!). I followed my second instinct to shamelessly flail around like I was smoking crack (I have never smoked crack, but I believe I have a pretty good imitation of someone who does...just ask sometime, I will show you) and throw up some "raise the roof!" signs to him. My new found pawn shop friend's face instantly turned from one of boredom to one of hysteria. His huge smile and laugh, as he watched my truck disappear down the road, made me giggle and instantly made my day happier. I didn't even know this guy and hadn't said a word to him, but we had shared a personal connection that had a positive effect on us both.

Not much longer after that incidence, the Torie wheels began churning. I know it's not a rocket science thought, but I began to think about how much people thrive on having personal connections with others. Some people, by nature, are more outspoken and quicker to strike up an actual conversation, but we all rely on some kind of human connection to really keep us in a positive frame of mind. Think about the airplane experience. You board the plane and find your seat before your neighbors. In my experience, those neighbors typically consist of two types: the "I just want to sleep...and I'm going to pretend like we aren't sitting less than a foot from each other" type, and the "I want to know all about you, and you're going to know all about me in one hour" type. Sometimes, I am fortunate enough to find a balance of the two types. These people, are the perfect neighbors...friendly enough, yet observant enough to realize you are yawning and it is a 6 a.m. flight. However, I find that even when I was hoping for sleep...or at least some reading time...God places some stranger next to me, and I leave the plane a better person than when I boarded. Well, saying a "better person" might not be the thought I'm aiming for. I walk away with different perspectives, making me a more understanding person of others and why they act/react as they do.

To capture the thought of the paragraph above, let me explain a recent flight experience I was fortunate enough to have. I boarded the plane, and a man probably in his mid 40's motioned that he was the window seat. I took him for the "sleeping" neighbor, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Not long after we buckled in, he began talking to me. It didn't take but one sentence before I realized he had a severe stuttering problem. I tried to act as normal as possible, patiently waiting for him to finish his thoughts. Initially, I thought maybe he had a mental illness, but I soon realized I didn't know what his stuttering was a result of, but this cat was a sharp dude. He was a retired child and family psychologist, and had some very deep questions to ask and thoughts to share (perhaps I was being analyzed right where I sat, the joke was on me...either way, it was a free therapy session). After we went our separate ways, I thought about how brave my window seat buddy was. If I had a stutter that bad, would I pretend like I was asleep on every flight to hide my embarrassment? Harold didn't. Maybe, he was never embarrassed of it...or maybe, his need for a personal connection finally told his embarrassment to take a hike. Whatever it was, I felt blessed to have sat beside and learned from such a remarkable human being. His triumphs reminded me of simple blessings I take for granted everyday.

While my friend Harold opted for the personal experience, there are many people who act withdrawn for one reason or another. They wear a frown all the time, and take the attitude that they don't need anyone for anything. I'm calling BS. I've had positive exchanges with these types of people, and have actually been able to evoke a smile out of them. You can approach these people two ways: A. they're miserable souls and you don't want anything to do with them, or B. maybe they've had something horrible happen in their lives, and they're trying to bounce back from it. Maybe, just maybe, through a simple smile and light conversation, you could be the light they see at the end of some dark tunnel.

With that, I challenge you to take the "Torie Challenge": do something fun/crazy/uplifting, and make an effort to brighten someone's day if you see them down and out. Dancing in your vehicle like you're on crack may just be one of those things that works for me, but feel free to give it a try! You may not always get the huge grin you're looking for, but I guarantee the personal connection will be rewarding for both you and Debbie Downer.