Inspiration

Inspiration is such a bitch. I hate her.  This blog started because I felt overwhelmed with everything I wanted to say about wings and life. It all went away so fast and there would be moments that I would think, ” Damn, I should get back to writing about chicken.” After that, I would try and think of exactly what I wanted to say then I would be worn out and not do it.

Wings Across Atlanta started when I was working at a desk job where my bosses openly told me that I would not be busy every day and to feel free to do what I want as long as the work got done. Obviously, I still have a tinge of my former rule follower, goody two-shoes nature so my tasks were accomplished and I would embark on my writing.

I lucky got to then transition into an entertainment industry where my job was non-stop, no off time unless I was on stage or dead. I would have loved to say that I was super motivated during this time and that I was thriving by being around entertainment 24/7 but that just wasn’t the case. I would force times to be open to inspiration during lunch or right before going on stage but it felt like I was trying to speak a language that I wasn’t fluent in.

I had to make a change and frankly, I do not need to explain it to anyone which is an incredibly new feeling for me. Now, I am have put myself in a place where I cannot make any excuses for what I truly want to do and working towards inspiration to write and create. My choices now lead me to sit down every day and write. Writing now feels like the biggest gift (and I am incredibly fortunate to have those closest to me undoubtably support my decisions).

All of this to say, I am so delighted to feel that spark again. I need to be here and my desire is so deep.

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I’m back

I really want to start this post with a witty and insightful quip about why I haven’t had something to say about wings in my life lately.

“Life has it’s way of making itself a public toilet that continues to over flow and you keep plunging it and sometimes the Easter Bunny pops out and hands you a basket of Reese’s Eggs but some are unwrapped and you don’t know if they are turds or not.”

You know, deep life, toilet thoughts.

I have been neglecting my wing pursuit in lieu of catching up on life.

The start of any calendar year, I get really introspective and the worst part is, it gets worse over a month later when I have a birthday.

Each birthday, I reflect on my previous year and my aspirations for the year ahead. It’s a great calorie burner.  This year, my intention was deeply set on reflecting on how far I have come since the start of 2017.

Last year, I was in the worst pain of my life and finally reached a diagnosis for my IIH. The thoughts I had 340 odd days or so ago I had were along the lines of, “Am I ever going to be able to do comedy the way I want to? Will this invisible pain keep me from having a challenging career? How will this wear on relationship with my boyfriend?”

I felt defeated this time last year. I felt alone in my pain and felt the tides of my pain sweeping me out further to sea, and further away from comedy and everything I love.

I’m so grateful to be on the other side of pain, not to say my IIH couldn’t possible resurface; like some kind of ex-boyfriend that you’re always afraid will show up everywhere you go.

It was only weeks ago I removed my medication from my purse and my nightstand. Since mid-summer, I have held that life preserver in case that tide of pain comes back. Oddly, that fear drove me to appreciate life and expect more out of it. In return, my attitude is a bullshit intolerance. I have felt the side effects of pain: mostly not being booked on shows because I wasn’t able to be who I truly am.  Now I am beyond grateful to get to be on stage. I am grateful for the clarity my therapist has been able to guide me to. My “new found lease on life” (Trademark every make-over TV show) has revealed how little time I want to waste on bullshit or things that cause me pain. Also, I’m now really into roasting the shit out of people. So watch yourself if you plan on interrupting me or just being an annoying man. I cannot tell you how empowered this healing has been to my attitude. If I had video clips of all of the moments I felt in control enough to tell off a man talking down to me or negging me, it would be a Ken Burns documentary. I would have never done this pre-IIH.

Of course, this clarity about my healing is only a new reveal. It’s odd how we, humans, have rare moments of true self-awareness. The most challenging part is when you have positive self-awareness: I am funny, I am good at my job, I am a hard worker. Southern upbringing teaches that you downplay your own good things to appear humble and “uplift” whomever you are speaking with. “Annie, great job tonight!” “Stop, I should have done x,y,z. You’re so much funnier than me.” We all have to help ourselves and stop doing this. We have to choose to revel in moments of true, positive self-awareness. We are all critical and aware of our downfalls and issues.

Since I moved to my hipster neighborhood, I have gotten really in to the woo-woo new -age-y stuff. I now drink Kombucha, I bought stupid crystals, I do cupping, and I’m actively doing hypnosis and dream studies with my therapist. Dear Lord, I’m like a pair of Birkenstocks and 3 reusable shopping bags away from starting an organic urban, community garden.  Since opening myself up to hypnosis (not what you have seen at the County Fair main stage), my subconscious is open to creativity and my dreams are becoming oddly revealing. Dreams of me doing exactly what I desire to do on stage. Dreams of what I aspire in my relationship. Dreams of creativity that  never had before. I completely credit the pain I endured with this new opening in my life.

In summation, I  know I’m doing a lot of hipster weird crap and I have yet to mention wings… so I know what you’re thinking… No, I have not gone vegan. I don’t plan on it. Life feels good, open, creative, and hopeful.

I can’t wait to recommit myself to my love of wings and pursuit of a meaningful life.

 

 

Happy Moments

Last weekend was one of those weekends where we had something fun to do the entire weekend. This weekend was our first East Atlanta Strut as residents. I had been several times but this was B’s first time at the strut. Getting to be around my neighbors and people who care about our community made me really proud that I’m an EAV dweller. It was rows of artisans booths, food, music, beer, and comedy! Getting to watch the parade was so delightful; seeing elementary schoolers, drag queens, politicians, and marching bands does the soul good. We walked around before my set at the comedy tent and started getting hungry. The rows of temporary vendors was appealing but wings were calling our name. B made the wise call, to go to Wing Bar.

I have had countless people recommend Wing Bar to me but I just hadn’t made it there yet for a number of illegitimate reasons. For one, the window clings on Wing Bar make it so that its hard to determine whether or not they are open. My own fault indeed for not just walking up to the door and trying to open it.

I had to check in at the comedy tent and so left it up to B to pick the right sauce. He passed with flying colors. He settled on Mild which is not my typical go to but once I got them, I was glad he did. As you all may know, I usually order medium wings because its hard for restaurants to get a medium heat on a wing. It’s not hard to make something fiery hot and its not hard to melt butter and put a few drops of hot sauce so make a typical mild. These mild wings I would classify as a medium, a wimp may describe them as hot. The sauce was beautiful and creamy and clung to the wings really well. The chicken was on the smaller side but I’d rather them be small than packed full of steroids. The skin had a nice crispness that wasn’t over fried or not crunchy enough and a flavor that came through the sauce nicely.

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Writing this, I want them for dinner tonight. My mouth is salivating thinking about those wings. They are hands down some of the best I have ever had.

I rarely eat before I get on stage but after being in the hot sun with a few refreshing beers, I really needed to eat them before performing. We ate them out of the Styrofoam box behind the stage, ohhing and ahhing over how good the wings were. It doesn’t seem like much but moments like that are special to me. Just the energy of the Strut, eating wings with B, and getting to perform, created this little window of time where things are just good. Lately, I have had a hard time finding those moments, where things are just good and happy. Where everything else that had been bothering me was absent from my mind.

Past to Present

B (my boyfriend) and I have fallen into the time honored relationship trap: the where do you want to go? I don’t know. What are you hungry for? I don’t know…

This past weekend that dubious conversation arose; both of us too tired to make a decision but both wanted wings and a patio. We live in a neighborhood brimming with wings. Each restaurant in East Atlanta Village has wings on the menu and several fast food spots with choice wings too. But when you live in a poultry paradise, you don’t want to burn out on the obvious options. We got so desperate to not to have to pick a spot that we settled on Taco Mac… faithful readers, I know. Out of all the places in Atlanta, why did we decide to settle on the regional Baron of chain wings? We just talked ourselves out of trying to find a new place or one with a wait or one with tons of Friday traffic surrounding it.

As we hit the road, I get the bright idea for us to (literally) shift gears and go to Augustine’s on Memorial. I hadn’t been in over 2 years and knew they had wings and a patio! It was such a nice departure from what were were planning on having: a blah meal for the sake of eating outside.

My previous trips to Augustine’s have been with guys that I no longer speak to: a former friend who had a dramatic break-up with stand-up and his friends, a former guy I dated, and a tinder match that Augustine’s held the entirety of our interaction. So I had a flash of old memories of men long gone by when we arrived, and then a feeling of gratitude that I’m there with someone who is there for the long haul. The new memory I made at Augustine’s wiped away the dreadful ones of years gone by.

Augustine’s offers two types of wings: traditional and smoked. I let B pick and he chose smoked (I know how to pick ’em!) The came out piping hot and very pretty. Pretty doesn’t sound like the appropriate word but they truly are!

They came out with their house hot sauce on the side along with some blue cheese.

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They were fine. They didn’t have that crispiness that other smoked wings around town have. The smoke taste wasn’t as prevalent as my Fox Brother’s favorite smokies or even the Local’s smoked wings.

Side note: I went to the Local for a friend’s birthday on Tuesday and they ran out of smoked wings. I haven’t been that disappointed since I found out since  Luann (of Real Housewives of New York) and Tom (of “It’s about Tom.” and Page 6 fame) filed for divorce.

The tenderness of the chicken outweighed the disappointment of the lack of smoke flavor. I felt less guilty eating those wings than others because it was like I was having a flavorful tender,  grilled wing. Which, I perceive as probably less unhealthy than the fried ones I love so dearly.

After we split those wings, we went in on a hot dog combo. I went for the chili variety. Damn. That hotdog made me want to write a whole ‘nother blog about that frank. The chili on the plump Kosher dog in a warm, toasted poppy seed bun, dripping in yellow mustard  and covered with a blanket of cheese was what weenie dreams are made of. I didn’t even think to take a picture of it.

As I write this, I feel like I cheated on wings. I’m a wing woman… not a weenie woman. I never would pick a dog over a bird wing! But something about that hotdog and the delight of spending a nice evening on the patio with my man was just what the end of summer should be. New memories replacing old ones is even better with a solid hotdog and wings.

The Ideal Girl

There is this ideal of women in our culture: a petite, gorgeous woman who is naturally beautiful, barely looks like she has make up yet glows like a ray of sunshine, but can drink beer and wings while talking about football with the guys. This picture pops up a lot on Instagram: a woman with a waist so small that an onion ring can fit around it, noshing on a fat slice of pizza or wings with the caption: “OMG I love food! I’m so bad!”

Ugh.

This image of a girl next door is one that I grapple with. I am a wing lover by and large and I have a really hard time coping this this distorted reality of how, we as a culture, look at a woman’s appearance and what they eat.  There have been time in my life where I thought being this ultra-likable Instagram girl in a “I look like I didn’t try but I tried” outfit scarfing down wings and still being a waif, would get me what I wanted in life and relationships. I thought that playing into a trope of sexy contradictions would mystify that I could being so gorgeous but eat wings.

Why should there be a “gorgeous but eats wings”? It should be and.

We all know, intellectually, that what we see on social media and every other facet of media is not reality. But, I especially, sometimes lose track of reality and fantasize about being borderline frail with a basket full of wings and fries, hoping people will think…she’s so lucky to be so petite and can eat whatever she wants. I bet guys love that she’s so ladylike but “doesn’t care!”
I know these holograms of women probably work out all of the time, never eat anything besides avocados and chia power bowls, and took two bites of their wings and resisted eating the fries. Even imagining that kind of discipline makes my mind do advanced calculus to figure out how to balance working out, work, comedy, social life, a relationship, and resisting eating wings as often as I want. While looking like a hunky guy could just toss me over his shoulder and run a marathon.

In an ideal world, I could stop thinking about the hot Instagram girl I could be if I didn’t eat wings. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t compare myself to overly filtered images or absorb this love affair with hot girls who eat junk food.

Honestly, I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have an idealized image of who they would like to be in their heads. It’s my greatest struggle to get out of my head and love the present and just eat wings. I want to truly not care, not just pretend like it.

Roller Coaster

June has been the biggest month of change in my life in a long time. It has manifested itself as a roller coaster. Here has what has transpired in June: moved into a new (to me) house, had some job adjustment, my father had surgery,  had a few incredible shows, changed medication a few times, had some serious IIH lows, and had another lumbar puncture this week.

And I’m still on the ride with my seat belt on and my hands up.

I could not have predicted the ride I have been on this month. The moments of uncertainty have been met with 20/20 clarity and the moments of sheer frustration have been met with encouragement.

The scary and wonderful thing about being on a roller coaster is that when you’re climbing up the hill, unsure if there’s a cork screw after the drop, you have to let go and let the roller coaster do it’s thing. You can’t stop the car. You can’t choose what happens next. You can’t change the pace.

Putting my hands up is the opposite of how I would choose to operate. Usually, I am in the car of the roller coaster trying to change the tracks and frantically calling the operator to make changes I see fit for my ride.

There were set backs this month, being on Prednisone for two plus weeks was like having a kid sitting behind me barfing on the back of my head making everything terrible. I hate that kid for barfing on me but things got better once that bend in the track was over.

Luckily, I’m feeling better, post lumbar puncture, though I still have a lot of unanswered questions. Looking forward, I’m making conscious efforts to just put my hands up and go along for the ride. I’m ordering the wings I’ve never had. I’m traveling to places I have never been. And I’m finally excited and about to get back on the train.

 

 

Skin Deep

I can make a lot of excuses and all of them are very valid as to why my well of thoughtful meanderings has run dry. The progress I have made on my IIH road has been wrought with twists and turns and peaks and valleys. The hard part about it, is it is not visible to the naked eye. There are days where I can be present and perform and throw down some wings but they now come at a price.

A few weeks ago, my medicine was giving me the most distasteful side effect: rage and anger. Every single inconvenience and annoyance added to the weight on my shoulders and pain in my head. My doctor had prescribed me a  different medicine but my pharmacy had run out of it on the day I asked my boss to leave early to pick it up before their 5PM close time. (Yes, my pharmacy closes at 5PM because I am on an affordable plan that I chose from the Healthcare Marketplace, part of the Affordable Care Act, and it’s the only way I could get my prescription without having to pay, because I met my deductible in February.) After a dump truck full of inconveniences, men asking about my shirt, and the frustration of feeling desperate to have medicine that would ease my pain; I drove straight to Sephora.

I may be in pain but I am still vain. I was so unhappy with how everything was going in my life and to make everything even worse in my world, my make up was smeary and gross. All I wanted to do was dunk my head in a tub of make up remover and vodka.  I am thankful for my crippling make up addiction which affords me to be a “V.ery I.mportant B.eautyInsider Rouge” so I had a 20% off coupon that was burning a hole in my pocket. My favorite person at Sephora was there and I swatch make up all over my hands and neck and we talked about the newest pallets and about sun protection. I felt like I went to therapy. The radiant beams from the make up displays and smell of designer fragrances transported me away from my reality. I didn’t feel aggressive and angry. I felt pretty and like a better version of myself, even if I was to wash it off at the end of the day.

The following weekend, my new medicine is kicked in and I sensed the tension loosen up. I do an 8PM show then B (my boyfriend) and I grab a late dinner at Holeman & Finch before the 1AM Secret Show. We both were having trouble focusing on our meal with neighbors inches away from our shoulders but we enjoy the moment. We ordered a few plates that were fine and B suggested we order the buffalo chicken skins. So, is it like a pork rind but with chicken? Or more like the skin from a chicken wing? It was the latter, and the irony was not lost on me that we were just eating the surface of a chicken wing with buffalo sauce. We paid for just chicken skin with wing sauce. They were good, don’t get me wrong. But it felt fake, it felt like Ulta to me. If you have not been, Ulta is a large make-up and hair care chain of stores usually in shopping centers. They carry a lot of the same brands as Sephora but with the glamour and sophistication of a Khol’s. They also carry a lot of drug store brands. The experience is inferior to Sephora; like eating chicken skin when you could go somewhere else and have the MEAT AND BONE INSIDE OF THE CHICKEN. Sure, Ulta is great when you happen to be in a shopping center with one in it and you want just a NYX matte lipstick but you are missing out on the best parts of shopping for make up.

We left Holeman & Finch, happy to get time together but not raving about coming back. It’s definitely a place to say you have been but I have been to better places with a better overall experience. I guess what I am getting at is, just bring me some wings to a Sephora and I will be in heaven.

 

Set Your Goals

I have always been a goal oriented person. Even as a kid, I had goals. My very first church league basketball game, my goal was to slam dunk on the six foot goal. It seemed probable: I was already 5′ and I had seen Michael Jordan do it, so how hard could it be? I mean I was called Tigger in class because of how well I Jumped Rope For Heart! I didn’t slam dunk in the church gymnasium and I was crushed. I cried into my Capri Sun all the way home that I didn’t reach my goal.

As an adult, I have goals of all sizes and at times they feel like I am trying to slam dunk but I keep pressing on. Keep my head down and get work done.

For almost five months, I was walking around in a fog and joy was gone from my life. Everything was gray and the ringing in my ears made music that was once sweet, sour. My brain was clouded with pain and frustration. The poison cloud that filled every corner of my head, put my goals farther and farther away. The pain took away my drive and even took away my love of wings. I would eat them and it just tasted like chicken.

It’s a really difficult thing to explain how you have a headache but you know it’s something else. I did everything I could: countless tests, vials upon vials of blood were taken, physical therapy done, and beginning “therapy” therapy. I kept my goals small, hoping that each test would give me an answer. But I wasn’t making progress, I was just crossing out things to do on a list. I stopped making goals for my health. I just didn’t care anymore, I was fed up with misdiagnosis and fed up with everything else in my life. The hardest part was getting on stage and feeling like I shouldn’t have been up there.

February 21! The BIG Day! I was optimistic again. I got a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap). I knew this was the end all, be all of tests to diagnose whats happening. I was told, that if I have Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (Learn More About It Here), the lumbar puncture could give me immediate relief!

I do have to say, it’s really surreal laying on the X-Ray table and watching the screen as they put the tap in. Pretty much I was a maple tree they were extracting syrup from.

The doctor used a tool to measure the opening pressure of the tap and I was at a 31. Typical opening pressure is between 5 and 20. It was instant gratification knowing that there was a cause! When I was left alone after the procedure before the nurse came in to roll me to recovery, I just cried. The tears were from relief and hope.

The following days I was relegated to laying down because of all of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) they took out. I ended up in the ER days later due to the low pressure in my head and possible leak of CSF from the puncture. Here I put my hope in this lumbar puncture to alleviate my pain but it has taken my pain to a whole new threshold. The ER doctors were dismissive and made me so furious by saying, “I’m sorry you have a headache.”  Really? I am getting fired up again just typing it. I felt hopeless.

Fortunately, after being in severe pain for almost a week and everything gray, my neurologist recommends a blood patch. A blood patch is when they take your blood and inject it into the opening that was made by the lumbar puncture to seal it. I tried to get my spirits up, I tried to believe my doctor that I will feel better as soon as the procedure is over. At this point, I would do anything to feel better. I had no goals.

I felt better for a few hours and got excited then the following 48 hours were a miserable let down. It was like a really mean joke a popular kid would play on a nerd in the locker room. It was brutal. I set a goal for myself; that I wanted to be well enough to take my man to Monster Jam, which I had gotten him tickets for our anniversary. Slowly but surely, I felt the color coming back into my world and I got the call that I indeed have Idiopathic intracranial hypertension a.k.a. Pseudotumor Cerebri. Feeling excited about life and reaching the goal of not only going to see monster trucks do back flips but being an active participant in my life once again. The fog dissipated.

I have a lot right now that is up in the air and the uncertainty is pretty scary but I am so grateful to an amazing support system. I share all of this not wing related stuff because my journey to eat ALL the wings can’t happen when I’m not able to be myself: physically or emotionally.

My new goal is to eat more wings with people I care about and do what I love.

Wait

I’m going to be really honest. Things aren’t great right now, but I am hopeful that things will get better. I have to be.

I’m saddened and so upset about what is going on in the White House. It all feels overwhelming and like I can’t affect any change. Outside of politics, there are a lot of serious things in my life that are up in the air. Serious things that I cannot control, but I have to wait. It’s hard thinking that in a few weeks, or months, or (hopefully) never my life maybe could be turned upside down. I just don’t know. And I HATE not knowing. 

I still struggle with anxiety on a daily basis, my anxiety manifests itself as an insatiable desire for control. I need all the information I can get. I need knowledge to satisfy my cravings for control.

And right now, I have to give up control. I feel like I am in a kitchen watching a chef make wings but I am tied to a chair with duct tape on my mouth so that I cannot tell the chef how to toss the wings how they should be. I have to stop trying to hold on to things that I can’t.

The need for control has especially been hard with my head. As you may have read before, I am still dealing with severe head pain, dizziness, ringing in my ears, blurred and double vision, and onset depression. I have been working for months to figure out what is going on and how to treat it. I have been to quite a few doctors, tried quite a few medications and treatments, and now I will be getting a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) in a few weeks. It’s hard when your brain (for a comic and writer, your most valuable asset) is hurting and you have to wait until the medicine kicks in or wait for it to stop. It feels like all I do is wait: for a new treatment, for a new referral, or for the pain to go away.

I keep trying to focus on the good ahead. I am going to continue to force myself to be patient and think about wings in the oven, about to come out. Wings that are so tasty and worth the wait.

 

Winning or Losing?

I didn’t know I was competitive until I started exercising regularly and doing stand up more frequently. Growing up, my little sister always wanted to make mundane activities a competition: who can put on their seat belt the fastest, who could swing the highest, who could run the fastest…and I frankly didn’t care about winning so I usually let my sister win unless she pissed me off.

I got bit by the competition bug when I started going to spin classes in 2013. If a skinnier girl than me started adding gear, so did I. If a tiny waif started spinning harder than me, I picked up my pace. I wasn’t going to let them win a race they knew nothing about as I silently sweated next to them. Comedy became a competition within myself: how can I do better than I did last time I was on stage, how can I write more, and how can I get closer to hitting my goals.

The competitor side of me can also cause me to lose…a lot. I get so caught up in winning that I end up beating myself. I didn’t realize the hold it had on me until I started getting this on going tension headache. Amidst the pain, I was punishing myself for an injury putting me on the sideline of my comedy game. Recently being diagnosed with vertigo hasn’t helped either.

My sister and I went up to my parents to celebrate Christmas. It was very relaxing with watching football being the only competition. Frankly, I do not really enjoy watching football, but I appreciate the social aspect. The one game I was committed to watching was my sister’s Alma Mater vs. her ex-boyfriend’s university. It was a game that meant more than just guys pushing each other and running around…it felt bigger and almost as if my sister and her ex were on the field. To prepare for the match up, we assembled appetizers and finger foods to eat while we watch slabs of meat on a patch of grass.

I have written before about my sister and I’s bond with wings. My mom knew that wings would be perfect for the game. My mom loves Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. She has a few of her cookbooks and found a wing recipe she wanted to try for the football game.IMG_0070.JPG

I appreciate my mom making wings. They are not in her wheel house but she knew that my sister and I would enjoy them. These are not typically a style of wing I would enjoy but it was good and satisfied my spicy craving. They were like a spicy rotisserie chicken.

After we loaded up our plates with wings and snacks, we sit down to watch the game in our team apparel and start chanting and casting spells for my sister’s ex to be devastated and know what scum he is.

Well, actually, we just were cheerful and I pretended to know what was happening in the game. I had a glass of red wine and an adult coloring book to help. Even if I was not actively trying to figure out what a “down” is, I wanted my sister to know that she had me on her team and that I wanted to beat that clown’s stupid college.

It was sad that my sister’s team ended up not winning, it felt personal. But it wasn’t. It was a competition we put on ourselves. It was a reminder to me that, I am going to lose. I am going to suck, but I have to be grateful that I get to compete. I have to remember that not winning, only makes opportunities to win even sweeter and more meaningful. That football game or being sidelined does not mean failure, it means an opportunity to get better.