Inspirational Videos Make Me Sad

I’ve mentioned it before: my friend Joey telling me once, “I think you feel things more deeply than most people do.” I remember feeling doomed when he said it, because I’d always thought everyone else was just like me and I, for some reason, just couldn’t handle Normal and had to compensate accordingly. But no. Joey says I’m not Normal. Joey says I’m Different.

I realized it kind of explained a lot. It explained depression in my teenaged years (not the typical teen angster, I—writer of poetry, listener to Pink Floyd in the early ’90s, singer of classical music—everything was just slightly to the wrong side of typical). It explained anxiety in my adult years. It explained my tendency to shut down emotion so I can function without feeling like I’m at the bottom of a dark hole by myself, or at the highest point in the world, but knowing I’m soon going to be in that hole. (This is different from depression. This is existentialism. One is a medical condition, the other a philosophy. Admittedly, they’re probably linked. And I’m actually kind of a rational existentialist, which is, in itself, contradictory. Sigh.)

Which, really, explains the choice of my first career, one in which you can only thrive if you’re jaded and cynical, because letting humanity enter in will basically ruin your faith in it or make you cry all damn day, every day, for various reasons you can’t always pinpoint.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I’d like to believe it made me Exceptional, like Woolf or Van Gogh. But though I do buy the flowers myself, my writing isn’t required for tens of thousands of students. I still have both my ears and would probably never lop one of them off of my own volition, and I can’t paint for shit. I’m worse than Bush 43. Way, way worse.

I actually think he’s pretty good.

I don’t understand why people will stop their day to watch something they know is going to make them cry. I don’t want to cry. I think I overdosed on it when I was younger. So I skip over those videos that are supposed to inspire you, because I prefer Sweet Brown memes. Sweet Brown memes do not bring my day to a screeching halt, never to be restarted, because I can’t get out of my own head.

Apparently, for the people who watch the tearjerker videos, it’s just for a minute, and it actually kind of makes them feel good, and then they go about their day. But for me, it creates this whole thread of thinking, and suddenly the really beautiful Thai Life Insurance commercial that will totally get you if you have even a shred of a soul becomes an entire internal debate about how much of my money I should give away and why I can’t keep a potted plant alive (obviously it has to do with my selfish inability to remember need when none can be voiced).

Really.

And then my whole day has gone to hell and I’m sad.

Also I fall in love with the guy in the commercial. Who is probably an actor in California only pretending to be the nicest guy in Thailand, but still. And then I think about why I can’t find a guy like that. Or why he would definitely, definitely dump me, even though he seemed really interested all along. Or why I probably wouldn’t like him if he stuck around, because I’m a heartless bitch.  Or something.

When really, the problem is that I’m not heartless at all. The problem is that if I let myself watch three-minute inspirational commercials for Thai Life Insurance too many times, I’ll just want to go to bed.

Existentialist bed. Not depression bed.

It’s really no wonder so many somewhat existential artists killed themselves or died some sort of sad, pathetic, poetic death. (Suicide and sad, pathetic, poetic death really are the pinnacles of existentialism, no?) Not me, though. I’m only an average existentialist. I’ll probably die falling down the steps with a basket of laundry in my arms after contemplating the pointlessness of laundry, my final thought being one of irritation at polyester, my face obscured by a small pile of panties when someone finds me days later. Someone who holds them up and says, “I never would have thought she’d wear leopard-print thongs.” Because they didn’t know the real me.

Or someone who holds them up and says, “I knew it. Damn!” Because he always thought I “oozed sex.”

(Somebody told me that once.)

Or my mother, who would find time in her overwhelming grief to be disappointed in my undergarment choices.

(They are not white. They do not cover everything. They’re probably not even really clean, because they can’t be washed in original formula Clorox. My house probably isn’t really clean, either. Clearly I’ve been sent to hell for wearing hoochie pants.)

Sigh.

And so this is why I don’t watch most of the inspiringly heartbreaking ads people post on Facebook. This is why I shut out sad realities in favor of unintentionally funny news soundbites that make frightening situations seem hilarious.

Because I cannot afford to fall in love with that guy from the Thai Life Insurance commercial, who will never love me back, and whose rejection will leave me despondent enough to listen to listen to “The Wall” again.

P.S. Check out this list of artists who have committed suicide. Some of the descriptions are kind of funny. This list was obviously complied by a cynic.

P.P.S. Seriously, though, watch that Thai Life Insurance commercial. 

P.P.P.S. Or this.

It Could Have Gone Either Way

My life cracks me up.

Last night I was at a fundraising event for a local charter school. I don’t have skin in the game, except that I care about kids’ education because it keeps them out of trouble and makes them productive citizens on the off-chance I happen to live past 70 and need a workforce to put something into the economy to help support those of us who can’t work anymore, in the interest of the humane treatment of the aged. Also my friend JW is on the board of the school, and, while dining at the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall the other night with Javier and me, he roped me into going to this thing. Having exactly $21 in my checking account and no cash, I made sure I could do the ticket and any auction bids on a credit card (don’t worry – I carry no credit card debt now, so this is okay for a month) and then agreed to go.

It was a lovely evening, of course. The art was an eclectic mix (as all art is wont to be) of local artists and kids who attend the school. All the proceeds from the auction went to the school, and the open beer & wine bar’s pours were all donated by a local establishment. The hors d’oeuvres were tasty, I won three pieces of handcrafted jewelry at auction—one of which is a 50th birthday gift for my friend Ali, who is presently an hour late for dinner at my house—and I was happy to contribute to the cause. And I’m only slightly pissed that I missed out on a beautiful necklace by five dollars because I was an idiot with my bid. And several of my friends were there, including Javier and his girlfriend, Lydia.

Lydia and I have a funny acquaintance, which I credit to the fact that Javi is a flirt and has, as you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a year or so, made overtures toward me a time or two, in small but fairly obvious ways. I’ve kept him at arm’s length because of Lydia and because I don’t want to fall for another charming deceiver. (Aside from his mild implications of willingness to deceive Lydia, don’t ask me why I know this, but Javi is divorced while claiming he’s never been married.)

Staring at the artwork of sweet, city-dwelling ten-year-olds juxtaposed with the artwork of odd grown-ups, Lydia and I caught up on life since we last saw each other. I can’t remember for sure, but that might have been at my house in the wee-bitty hours of New Year’s Day.

“So what’s new?” I asked her.

“Oh, you know… went on vacation, looking for a new job,” she said, smiling and nodding.

“Wait,” I said, thinking that, with the brash emcee yelling into the microphone on the other side of the room, I might have misheard her, “did you say you went on vacation, or you’re going on vacation?”

“Went,” she said.

“Oh! Where’d you go?” I asked.

“Colombia,” she said, as if “of course” were implicitly, but silently, added. Javier, being a Colombian native whose family is still there, had gone to visit for two weeks in February.

“Oh! You did go!” I responded, with absolutely no way of hiding my surprise.

See, the funny thing is, before Javier went, I asked him, “Is Lydia going to Colombia with you?”

“Uh-uh,” he replied.

There is a Colombian accent for this, and so I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly. Had that been negative or affirmative?

“Yes?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Oh,” I said.

But… yes, apparently.

Interesting. Why would he lie to me about that? That’s dumb.

A bit later, standing next to each other in front of a photograph of a backlit, vinyl-lettered, side-of-the-road sign with a pithy artist’s thought in typeface around it, Javier nudged me with his elbow. I turned to him, blinked, opened my mouth and then—

“No. Nevermind.”

“Wha?” he wanted to know.

“No. Another time.”

At the end of the event, with my three pairs of earrings, receipts, program, ticket, and invitation from Adhira (another neighborhood friend and Javi’s best female friend) for her board’s gala fundraiser in three weeks in hand, I cabbed it a couple miles to a bar where Paul’s band was playing. Around the corner from the bar, my phone buzzed with a text message from Elaine. “Are you coming?” Paul’s band was about 15 minutes into their set when I walked in, to much welcome from Elaine. Within minutes, I found myself chatting with a young woman who’d also come to hear them play. She asked how I knew Paul and Elaine, and after I answered, she said, “I used to date”

I knew, somehow, the next words—

“Paul’s old neighbor, Liam”

 This is hilarious.

“He’s apparently all hung-over, so he’s not coming tonight”

Okay…

“It’s cool, we’re still friends and all”

I don’t… why are you…?

                                                                                                         “But maybe”

saying this?

“it’s good that he’s not coming out, you know?”

 It’s not cool at ALL, is it? No, I don’t think it is. Oh, awful. I’ve been there.

I am standing next to, and chatting with, Liam’s ex-girlfriend, who, no matter how hard she tries to sell it, is not over him, and who has no idea, nor will I tell her, that I, too, dated Liam recently. 

Oh, this is rich.

She is NOTHING like me!

Who does this happen to in life? 

Well, at least he isn’t dead. I half-wondered if he’d died in Australia during his business trip and that was why I’d heard nothing since his last message, which had said, mixed in with some other words, “I’m going to send you some pictures when I get to Sydney… Maybe we’ll be able to chat via Skype… I look forward to talking with you…”

And then vanished.

(And yes, I did breezily offer two messages in the three weeks since. Nothin’.)

Elaine turned to another friend.

“Lisa, this is Jen—”

“Oh, yeah!” Lisa reacted to Jen, “you used to date Liam!”

Ha! Holy crap, this is happening! 

At no point did I say anything to Jen about having gone out with Liam. There was absolutely no reason for it, and I’m not upset about the situation. I mean, look. We had two dates and an attempted third, some lovely conversations on the phone,  and a few contacts while he was overseas. I thought for sure we’d continue to see each other at least for a little while, based on the level of interest he showed and which I reciprocated proportionately, but there wasn’t a lot invested in this thing. But how often does it happen that you run into that guy’s ex while you’re watching the friend who set you up rip a sweet riff on an electric guitar, so soon after that guy disappeared?

Hilarious!

A little while later, with Jen on the other side of the bar, Elaine leaned toward me and asked, as though she knew the answer, “So what’s going on with Liam?”

I casually said that I hadn’t heard from him in a while, but that it was funny to find myself standing next to his ex-girlfriend tonight.

“Yeah, that was kinda weird,” Elaine said with a squished-up face, “but I didn’t know what to do.”

Well… you invited us both… 

I assured her of the truth, which was that it didn’t bother me in the slightest.

“Well, maybe that’s the problem, then,” she said, without offering an established problem for her theory. “Maybe that’s just what he does.” She gestured toward where Jen had been.

I had no idea what this meant, and I didn’t care to know.

Looking up at the televisions in the corners of the bar, I saw that Wisconsin had just lost the NCAA semi-final basketball game to Kentucky by one point. Which meant I had just lost a $360 pot in which I had made everyone nervous by being the only top ten player to pick Wisconsin to win it all. Eight of the ten had picked Florida, who’d been bounced the round before.

Saturday night. And so much that could have gone either way.

What was that thing I used to do sometimes? Blogging?

A month. A whole entire month since I posted.

That, my (remaining) friends, is the longest I have ever gone. Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of my blog, and this is my gift to those of you who have been here almost all that time. Admittedly, it’s not much of a gift, and all you had to do to open it was click on the headline, but if we’re being honest, that’s all you’ve had to do to get anything from me in that three years.

I have thought of you. Oh, I have. I have thought, “I should write a post about that!” or “It’s been forever since I posted… and I feel like I had an idea… that one day…”

Mostly, though? Life. You know. You’ve had it. Not bad. Not amazingly good. Not whisked-away-to-an-awesome-deserted-island. Just living. Trying to stay above water. Trying to write, in one weekend, despite all best efforts at head starts, two 10+ page papers for grad school when it’s been 14 years since you wrote more than a page and a half. And doing it while possibly also having had a martini.

I swear to God, I wrote five paragraphs I didn’t remember writing. And they were good. The martini was merely average, and I so completely forgot I’d written them that I actually made a note to myself to write about the stuff that, it turned out, I had already written about.

I don’t know if that’s alcohol or age.

Also? It occurs to me that the paragraph up there was eerily disrespectful of the Malaysian Airlines situation right now, with its deserted island and above water references. Except if they’re on a deserted island, it’s probably not awesome.

See? I’m still a bad person. That hasn’t changed.

Speaking of that, though, my new fun game is playing Whack-A-Conspiracy-Theorist. My father thinks the plane was stolen for ransom. I’d like to know where he thinks some asshole landed a 777 full of people without anyone noticing, and how he thinks said asshole was gonna get picked up from wherever that was and delivered to his reward.

I personally am pretty sure it was hijacked, the flight crew was overcome or forced to fly a new route, and then the plane ran out of fuel and is now in the water. Nothing that’s real becomes an ABC series that pisses everyone off in its finale. Mini-series, tops.

You’d think I would have stopped being disrespectful when I actually noted that I was being disrespectful. Huh.

In other news: Bill O’Reilly should go away. Did you see this thing with his simmering disappointment about the president going on Zack Galifiniakis’ web show and degrading the presidency? Like nobody’s ever done that before. I mean I’m pretty sure that breaking into an opposite party’s office to steal stuff during a re-election campaign or getting blown in the hallway outside the Oval or being a general moron “decider” aren’t things that do favors to the institution. You know? But here’s Bill-O, Mr. Falafel, flatly stating about the president’s appearance on the web show that “Abe Lincoln would not have done it.” 

Well, no shit. There are a lot of things Old Abe would not have done. He wouldn’t have tweeted, sent an email, flown in a plane, driven a car, ridden in a car, used a telephone, taken penicillin…

You see where I’m going with this.

…wouldn’t have read “Killing Lincoln” by Bill O’Reilly…

…and not just because he would have to be alive to read it…

I’m saying “Abe Lincoln would not have done it” is not valid unless the “it” was done by James Buchanan or Andrew Johnson. And they were both dull, so there’s a lot of wiggle room there, too.

For those who may be wondering, Liam is presently out of the country on business in Madrid. To be followed by a quick layover in Singapore en route to Sydney. By which I mean there is basically nothing that is “en route” to Sydney, but anyway, that’s the itinerary. We’ve had two dates and a third attempt, thwarted by family obligations on both sides. He’s not back for another week and a half, but he may be in touch before then.

Since I’ve been gone, Shiny New Niece turned a year old and Neph 2 informed me essentially that I suck at Super Mario Brothers. Also I beasted “Killing In the Name” on the easy setting of Guitar Hero and am now seriously thinking about joining a band. Both aforementioned papers were finished, if not good, and I await grades. I enrolled in a summer class, a political science elective about public policy. Oh! And I testified in the senate judiciary committee of my state legislature in favor of a bill my state delegate wrote at my behest, asking that offenders who have violated terms of home detention not be granted eligibility for home detention in the future. It seems like a common sense thing, but the bill isn’t going anywhere. It’s not written well. But that’s okay. We keep on.

I am well.

I hope you are, too.

If not, I hope you’re completely nuts and leave an amusing comment.

All It Has To Be

The message popped up on Facebook a week and a half ago, the day after I’d gone to Paul and Elaine’s house for game night with some other neighborhood folks.

“Paul and I just ran into one of Paul’s old friends, and we thought we’d love to introduce you. He’s a really smart, good looking, nice guy. Sorry if we’re out of line here, just tell us to back off if so here’s-his-facebook-pagecheckitout.”

Alright, so that last part with the words all running together isn’t how she wrote the message, but it was how I read it because I know her, and this was probably how she tried to just casually toss out that I could view his photo.

Well. Hello Liam. What might be wrong with you?

I know it sounds terrible, and I know it’s probably what other people think when they’re first introduced to me as an available woman in her mid-30s (I’m not quite 37 yet). But Liam is 40 (I know because his apparent sister mentioned it on his page) and single, attractive and professional, and seemingly never married. Which generally means fucked up in some hidden but very significant way.

I’m not saying that’s not the case for me as well. Seuss probably had it right when he said we’re all a little weird and if we find someone with whom our weird is compatible, we fall in mutual weirdness and call it love. Therefore, I do subscribe to the belief that some people just have a hard time finding their Compatibly Weird Person. But by and large, in my dating life, I have found that if a guy is never-married and not with someone at this point, there’s a reason, and that reason is eventually going to make me really sad or really bitchy. Possibly both.

And so I wonder what might be wrong with Liam. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to meet people and I have no real reason to avoid it. Just last week I found out that Jack sold his condo two miles and a body of water away from me, and now lives in Gwyneth’s house, one mile and a park away. This affirms that I will eventually run over them nearby.

Into. I mean into them. Damn. I always make that mistake. *shifts eyes*

The point is, the last guy I loved is dangerously close-by and, by some absolutely insane twist, married—to a child, comparatively speaking—and I know he’s Fucked Up In Some Hidden But Very Significant Way. The last time I had a date that I knew was a date was in April of 2013. Javier is still with Lydia and is presently visiting Colombia (without her), and it’s been relatively easy to dismiss his mild advances as unconvincing. I’ve learned some pretty important lessons. And I’ve been really comfortable not-dating and not-looking. I’ve enjoyed that. What harm can it do to meet someone? Especially if he’s been endorsed by friends who have known him for years? We don’t have to date.

Stll, the winds of fate seemed a little dramatic when they decided we should meet the night of an epic snowstorm and preceding Valentine’s Day by 12 hours.

Elaine had decided to have us both over for dinner. My only question was whether Liam knew this was a set-up, because how awkward would that be? But she replied yes, he’d seen my picture and heard their descriptions of my personality and wanted to meet me.

So I slopped two blocks through a snowy mess, wearing jeans and an enormous, heavily-pocketed, highly unflattering coat (hood up to defend against large drops of freezing rain) out of necessity, carrying a spare pair of shoes in a bag along with a bottle of Bordeaux, and praying my armpits wouldn’t sweat through my curve-appreciating but cleavage-covering shirt. (Hyperhydrosis of the underarms. Thanks, Dad. Cool trait.) Dramatically misjudging how long this walk would take, I got to Paul and Elaine’s a few minutes early. Liam arrived a few minutes late, having caught a cab from his house because the idea of finding parking in our neighborhoods right now is nothing short of hilarious, and a mile is too far to carry a six-pack of craft beer through slop to get to a set-up dinner.

The liberating thing about having been through the six-bladed blender of misguided love is that it makes you stop trying so hard. I looked as nice as I could under the circumstances, but refused to obsess. I was with other people I knew, so I couldn’t act like anyone other than myself. And I honest-to-God could not have cared less if this guy wasn’t into me. Beef stew, sourdough, multiple tiny cups of amazingly delicious mousse and some red wine were all perfectly lovely reasons to spend an evening with friends and their friend, and I didn’t need it to go beyond that. I quite literally have no fucks to give. So I guess thanks for that, Jack.

Result: zero awkwardness, zero discomfort, zero anxiety and only a teensy bit more wine than I maybe should have had in this circumstance. Which was Elaine’s fault, and barely had an effect on me at all, while Paul was rather suddenly overtaken by Dr. Feelgood. Always best for the hosts to get blitzed and the guests to remain comfortably in control of themselves.

Things were casual and maybe a little cautious before dinner. Dinner itself was delicious and comfortable. The after-dinner showing off of the delightfully retro basement saw us divided girl-girl and guy-guy for conversation, but without any sense that something was going wrong. Sampling the mousses Elaine brought home from an event she organized was a stand-up affair, and maybe the first sign that there was a little chemistry; Liam seemed to deliberately cross to my side of the kitchen-to-dining-room pass-through, to stand next to me while we faced Elaine, and only hesitated for a second when I offered for him to get a spoonful of the chocolate coffee mousse I was trying not to wolf down like a fiend. He recommended that I try the chocolate-chocolate-chocolate version he’d just eaten. He loves chocolate and coffee. Excellent.

After dinner, sitting in the living room, the conversation continued to flow freely and we got to talk about his travel (he’s in international sales, which means I am madly jealous of his trips) and my music (a previous topic had revealed to the room my classical training, and Paul had been trying insistently to convince me to sing with his rock-blues band). I was embarrassed by my passion as I described a moment singing Mozart’s Requiem in a Parisian church, but Liam seemed to fully appreciate it and reciprocated with other interests.

Also we talked about how the skeleton event at the Olympics is fucking insane, and then discussed which slightly less crazy things we’d want to do. He thinks it’s nuts that I’d do time in a cage while sharks swam around me. Elaine said everybody thinks they want to parasail until they see a guy get hanged by the cords and watch the crew reel in his body.

That was a kind of weird moment.

As we were re-suiting ourselves in winter paraphernalia to gird against the sleet that was now pummeling the neighborhood, Liam flat-out asked if he could call me sometime. In front of Paul and Elaine. This is the kind of stuff most guys don’t do; they try to play it a little quieter. But I guess since we both knew this was a set-up, he didn’t feel the need. I babbled about how my phone isn’t working as a phone at the moment so he wouldn’t be able to hear me if he called me, and he said, “…Okay, but I can text you, right?” and I told myself to stop talking and just say yes and give him my number.

But the best part is that I’m not waiting for the text. I had a lovely evening with friends and their friend. And that’s all it really ever had to be.

In Soviet Russia, Lucky Get YOU

This is a thing that really actually happened and I can’t embed it as a video because I’m seriously not upgrading my WP account for that, but you have to watch it, HAVE TO WATCH IT, both because it will make your life better and because you won’t understand this post if you don’t.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.
.
..

….
…..
……
…….
………
……….
………..

OMFG, right?! Can you even breathe right now? Do I need to call someone?

This is my favorite thing now. When I first stumbled across it (posted on Facebook by a more-than-slightly-weird young opera singer I know), I thought it couldn’t possibly be real. I thought it was a spoof. Like Fred Armisen had returned to SNL and was doing a brilliant skit. But then I realized that the source for this was the NBC Olympics website, and if you want to talk about harsh punishment for minor crimes, I can tell you that NBC is as close to the Russian Police as you can get when it comes to sharing their Olympic content anywhere else. This clip does not exist in full anywhere but on that site. It cannot be YouTubed or embedded on another source or Vladimir Putin’s American cousin Lenny will come to your house and break you like a little bird.

I have watched it about five times now, and though the NBC Olympic site will not allow for frivolity, the comments on Gawker and Deadspin are nothing short of brilliant. And then I started watching it full-screen and discovered the choking, sobbing-with-laughter joy of interpreting the priceless facial expressions. And since the NBC Olympics site will not allow for frivolity (you gotta wonder who’s worse, Putin or NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel), I have wasted a great deal of the time I intended for doing my taxes and cleaning on making screen-grabs and accompanying thought bubbles. And then I cocked that whole operation up because I’m not that good at stuff like that, so you’re going to have to be okay with just pictures and captions.

"I am sorry, Mother. Please, no shoot while on TV, ok? Mother watches."

“I am sorry, Mother.
Please, no shoot while on TV, ok? Mother watches.”

(Guy on left actually WAS up all  night, actually DID get lucky.)

(Guy on left actually WAS up all night, actually DID get lucky.)

"Maybe American talent scout sees me, gives me part as handsome, brooding bad guy, eh?"

“Maybe American talent scout sees me, gives me part as handsome, brooding bad guy, eh?”

"Goddamned Apple Maps. How the hell did I wind up in Russia?!"

“Goddamned Apple Maps. How the hell did I wind up in Russia?!”

"Old Russia NEVER do this. Everybody think Putin sooo scaarrrry. Bah. Stalin! Stalin scary."

“Old Russia NEVER do this. Everybody think Putin sooo scaarrrry. Bah. Stalin! Stalin scary.”

"Oooh! Heehee! You see what he just did with his hips? Wowee."

“Oooh! Heehee! You see what he just did with his hips? Wowee.”

"Finally... I am STAR!"

“Finally… I am STAR!”

"Please, no shoot. I do good job. Look! I dance for you."

“Please, no shoot. I do good job. Look! I dance for you.”

     -"Oh my God. You see that? Shit." -"I saw, I saw. Act natural. "Shit."

-”Oh my God. You see that? Shit.”
-”I saw, I saw. Act natural…Shit.”

-"This is best day of my life. Better than day I got out of gulag. Better than day I fight bear. I am STAR!"           -"I hate this guy. Guy is... how you say? ...Douchey."

-”This is best day of my life. Better than day I got out of gulag. Better than day I fight bear. I am STAR!”
-”I hate this guy. Guy is… how you say? …Douchey.”

As Sochi's mayor said, there are no gay people in his town. So these guys had to be brought in from St. Petersburg.

As Sochi’s mayor said, there are no gay people in his town. So these guys had to be brought in from St. Petersburg.

This sweet old man isn't even a member of the Russian Police. They covered his head with burlap, dragged him in off the street and trussed him up to make their group look more "perestroika-y."

This sweet old man isn’t even a member of the Russian Police. They covered his head with burlap, dragged him in off the street and trussed him up to make their group look more “perestroika-y.”

"Anybody notice yet I no sing at all?"

“Anybody notice yet I no sing at all?”

"Oh, God. Is Kalashnikov rifle..."

“Oh, God. Is Kalashnikov rifle…”

"Wait, THAT guy is star? Where is polonium?!"

“Wait, THAT guy is star? Where is polonium?!”

The Lost Art of Being An Ass. Or Maybe Not Lost. Because History.

Of all the ways to try to insult people, of all the ways to convey displeasure, of all the ways to express anger, I have the biggest issue with one simple gesture.

The Finger.

I actually looked it up, and Wikipedia (Online Knower Of All Facts) says it is “roughly equivalent in meaning to ‘fuck off’, ‘fuck you’, ‘shove it up your ass’, ‘up yours’ or ‘go fuck yourself.’ It is performed by showing the back of a closed fist that has only the middle finger extended upwards, though in some locales the thumb is also extended.”

I had no idea about the third and fourth definitions, which now has me questioning my previous definitions of those phrases and the antecedent for “it.” But I rather enjoyed the academic approach to the gesture’s implications and mechanics.

Whatever its intention, I find it to be, frankly, the least intelligent,  least creative way possible to share one’s unhappiness with another person’s behavior.

I’ve always had a beef with the finger. I can honestly say I have not once in my life used it in anger, irritation or frustration. In fact, rarely have I even used it ironically. I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to express exactly why I refuse to use it, but this morning, on my way to work, I think it finally gelled:

The only people who ever flip someone the bird are the people who are in the wrong.

I was proceeding in an orderly fashion in a westerly direction on a main road in my city when a woman decided she would neglect entirely the laws of traffic and attempt—nay, complete—a right turn from her southerly orientation across several lanes of westerly-traveling traffic so that she might arrive in the lane of her choosing at the time of her choosing. (The lane of her choosing was the second-to-left on a four-lane road.) In order to do this, you’ll perhaps not be surprised to learn that she wound up perpendicular to the westerly flow across 2+ lanes for a period of time, blocking said lanes from proceeding in their orderly fashion.

I laid on the horn.

Admittedly, I find that to be an irritating behavior, as well.

She looked over at me and I put my hands up on either side of my body, at shoulder level, palms up, and said aloud, “What are you doing?”

And she gave me the finger.

No. No, no, no. No. Sorry. You. Are. WRONG. You are in the wrong here. You do NOT get to do that. I don’t care that your gloves are cute. No.

After she had gotten to where she wanted to go at her will and against that of the rest of us, and after I had made it onto the expressway for which I was aiming, I kept contemplating that thought. And I realized… Hey, you know what? Every time anybody flips anybody else off, it’s because the flipper is the ass and the flippee is pointing that out. Ipso facto: all flippers are wrong, and usually selfish.

Think  about it: if you’re a finger-flipper, what makes you do it? Do you do it when you know you’ve done the right thing and someone is mistreating you for it? Probably not. You probably do it when someone shows you you’ve done or said or maybe just thought something wrong, and you don’t feel like addressing your conscience and correcting the matter. The finger is not the gesture of a martyr. It is the gesture of an ass. It is the witless expression of one too lazy to find a more creative, intelligent approach, or of one too self-absorbed to admit fault and simply wave in a gesture of apology.

Sorry. I like you and all, but still.

And since we are a community of writers, my dear frogs bliends froggers blienders bloends blog friends, I feel sure that we are a community with better ways of expressing ourselves. Or… you know… controlling ourselves.

Turns out, the finger dates back to The Proverbial Day in Ancient Greece and Rome. I had no idea humankind has been so afraid to use their words for so long. And the Greeks and Romans had some damned fine words—words from which our present-day language emerged. The finger was meant to symbolize the penis, with the fingers on either side representing the testicles (which makes one wonder what the extended thumb referenced above was all about, and which also confirms that one is always larger than the other, as implied by the two fingers to one side, one finger to the other orientation). Apparently it was also used as an implication that a man submitted to anal penetration.

I’m guessing the recipient of the gesture might have found that an offensive implication.

*Eye roll*

So, if or when tempted to use the gesture, keep that in mind.

But really, folks. Even if you do feel entitled to make this move, isn’t there some other, more creative, less over-used, more intelligent way you could find to make your feelings clear? It may seem odd, but I might actually prefer someone to actually say “Fuck you” aloud. At least then they’re using words. I realize that my preferences are diametrically opposite the flipper’s cares,  but most people don’t want others to find them imbecilic—particularly people who frequently use this gesture. So maybe try not to look imbecilic.

There are better ways to be an ass. Is what I’m saying. If all else fails, go with this movie clip’s method.

 

Random Observations As Re: Going Back To School In One’s 30s

So now that I’m expert at being in graduate school (read: I am exactly one week into my second term, taking two classes after having taken one class in the previous term—only 15 more weeks and then 11 more courses til I get my degree!), I’m beginning to realize some things about the unique challenges, rewards and like-such-as of this undertaking.

For example, I’m totally supposed to be reading some shit right now.

What? I read a chapter. I’m taking a break. I worked 11.5 hours today.

Observation #2 (because the thing about writing a blog post when I’m supposed to be reading an assignment was #1): Where am I supposed to do this homework, anyway?
In undergrad, we all sat on our beds. Because… where else? Now I can’t sit on my bed because my back will go out or I will lie down and go to sleep. It’s either the couch or the kitchen table, and neither of those seem to be particularly diligence-inducing locations. The kitchen table worked when I was eight. Not since.

Observation #3: I have forgotten how to outline. 
See the whole #1/#2 fiasco above as evidence. Be glad I can’t draw arrows on my blog post. That’s apparently what I do now when I want to elaborate on a point I’ve written down seven lines ago.

Observation #4: The best part about this whole graduate-school-in-my-30s thing? Drinking wine while reading the textbook.
Obviously.

Although I have been warned not to drink too much, or I’ll end up highlighting entire chapters. Since tonight’s reading was uploaded to an online educational server, I had to keep the marker tightly capped to avoid drawing on my computer screen.

Observation #5: It is much easier to get distracted now.
This seems like it shouldn’t be the case. I mean, there was a lot more streaking going on in undergrad, for one thing, and I lived across the street from the park for my upperclassman years. But now, instead of “I forgot to call mom,” “Why do I have to do this stupid paper?” “Instant mashed potatoes or mac & cheese for dinner?” “The fire alarm? Again?!” and “I’m so broke I can’t pay for the copies I have to make,” the distractions have multiplied to include: “What is that noise in the wall?” “Has that clock always ticked so loudly?” “Did I pay the mortgage?” “My hand hurts. Wait, do people still take notes?” “Reading while taking notes takes so much longer than I remember,” “I need gas,” “What time is my morning meeting?” “Did the boss say it’s not due tomorrow, or it is due tomorrow?” “I forgot to take out the trash,” “I forgot to call mom,” “I’m so broke I can’t even afford the copies I have to make,” “I can’t sit like this anymore; my back is going to kill me tomorrow,” and “I’m out of wine.”

Observation #6: No all-nighters. Ever. I have a job.
To be honest, I never pulled all-nighters in undergrad, either, but at least then I had the luxury of falling drooling-on-the-couch asleep in the middle of the day if I needed to.

Observation #7: Published academics need to get over themselves.
Here’s the thing about writing and editing for a living: it’s really, really hard to read academic works without wanting to ruthlessly slash their lengthy, innumerable paragraphs. I just read an entire paragraph of word salad that essentially boiled down to: No one understands exactly what this profession is. We’re going to talk about that for the next 600 pages. By the end, we will have affected exactly no change at all. We will have merely explained at length our thesis statement above. And this criticism is coming from someone who can write a damned lengthy blog post. But at least those make you shoot coffee out of your nose sometimes, amirite?

Observation #8: Can I even still write a 25-page research paper?
Alright, that’s more of a question. But you take my point. Sure, they’re double-spaced and include citations for reference, but still… writing papers now is very different from writing them as an undergrad. Aside from the fact that I was well-versed in it then, I also had little problem bullshitting my way through them and making them sound pretty great. Now? Bullshit capacity exceeded. Everything has to matter. 

Stupid paycheck-enforced accountability standards.

Out of curiosity, I pulled a 952-word blog post up, copied and pasted it into a Word doc and made it double-spaced. 

Not quite two pages.

Yep. I’m screwed.

Observation #9: I find research materials where?
Apparently I don’t have to go to the library anymore. The limitless expanse of the internet as a source of academic information is somehow terrifying. Oh look! Justin Bieber!

Observation #10: To Do has me done in.
I have a habit at work of spending the last minutes at my desk in the evening making a to-do list for the following day on a Post-It note and sticking it on the next day’s block of my desk calendar (yes, I have one of those). This is a habit that started—minus the desk calendar—in undergrad. Back then, I stuck the notes up on my shelf next to my bed. There were never fewer than two at a time, but it’s how I kept everything straight. Back then, the to-do list was always limited only to school. Now? Work to-do, house to-do, interpersonal human to-do and school to-do. Fuck.

(That one should be on a to-do list.)

Observation #11: I thought college kids were lazy. Turns out, I was way more motivated then. 
In undergrad, I don’t really remember feeling like I didn’t want to do something I had to do. I’m sure I felt like that. I just don’t remember it. Mostly it was really my only purpose in life, so I’d better get my ass to the library and find the microfiche I need for the research paper. Now, aside from apparently not even having to go to the library, I am overcome by what I can only imagine is Senioritis after 14 years dormant in my body. Back then I got up when I needed to (though I have been a snooze-slapper since God invented Snooze), traipsed around in all kinds of weather, did my full-time student thing, worked a part-time job and handled internships that often had me there for at least 25 hours a week. When I was a senior, between the job I got in my industry and the internship credit I was still able to earn, it was damn near 40 hours. How the hell did I do that?

This is the part of the post where I should go on, flesh out the theme, find a way to wrap it up… but I’m tired. Failing that, I should save it and finish it later, but I know I’m not going to be able to maintain the voice and the thought pattern. So you get this. 

Doesn’t bode well for those 25-page papers.

Eight Months of Exile

There’s this thing that happens when my favorite football team has clearly lost its game. I can spend the whole time they’re on the field yelling, clapping, covering my face with my hands, bouncing my knee, standing, swaying, leaning forward on the couch and generally being ridiculous for reasons that affect the outcome not at all… but when they’re obviously going to lose and there’s just no way to avoid it, there’s a consistent phenomenon that comes over me: I fall completely silent and go completely still.

For those of you who don’t follow football, don’t watch the Eagles or hate them with the passion that only a Giants fan can summon (right back atcha, by the way), the Birds started out the season horribly. They beat the Redskins in the opening salvo of Monday Night Football while my poor demented neighbor, Miss Ella, seemingly locked herself out of her house (not really – the back door was open – but my three friends who summoned me didn’t realize that). After that, though, the team finished the first half of the 16-game regular season with a pathetic record of 3-5 and such inconsistent play that nobody knew what it would take to get them on track.

Miss Ella was taken to a nursing home weeks before they got out of the basement of the NFC East. She passed away right around the time Mike Vick pulled a hamstring.

And then everything changed. The neighborhood got a lot quieter and the Eagles got a lot better.

Nick Foles, a second-year, second-string quarterback who had only started five games in the NFL before the midway point of this season, came in to take over for Vick… and all of a sudden, the Eagles had an offense. The second half of the regular season, with Vick suited and watching supportively on the sidelines, they went 7-1. Though every blasted game made me nervous (a symptom of a lifelong allegiance to the team), they managed not only to wrap up the regular term with more Ws than Ls—they also wound up beating the Dallas Cowdung… I mean Cowboys… to confirm their spot atop the NFC East conference and head to the playoffs.

Nevermind that the NFC East has been the weakest conference in the NFL for a few years now.

And so we came to last night. Me, alone on my couch after guests had left, because you really shouldn’t watch a consequential Eagles game with me, lest your opinion of me as a woman and a person in control of herself change dramatically. I had taken off the shirt I’d been wearing earlier in loyalty to a college team and was waiting anxiously to see if I was going to have to put on my Eagles t-shirt. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever owned any Eagles merch, and it had proven magical a few weeks before when, while decorating my Christmas tree and unable to see the game because it wasn’t being aired in my market, my sister was texting me play-by-play and told me to put the shirt on in the 3rd quarter when the Eagles were down by two TDs. Exactly one minute after I’d donned the shirt, the team scored, and began their comeback to win. In the ensuing weeks, I hadn’t had to wear it – though I thought about it – because it was clear it could only be used if the Eagles were down in the 3rd, and that hadn’t happened. They were precariously close to losing their lead more than once – and even in the game preceding the Cowboys matchup, when they were up 40 – 11, I wasn’t sure they’d really win. (They eventually did, by 43 points.)

As a fan, the last thing you want to do is screw up your team’s performance by putting on their shirt at the wrong time. In the immortal words of whoever wrote the Bud Light commercials: It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

But last night, in the third quarter, the Eagles suddenly found themselves trailing. Eighty years as a ball club have demonstrated that when they’re down at this point in the game, they’re not getting back up. The only time I can remember when that hasn’t proven true was the week I put the shirt on.

Ding went my cell phone, signaling a new text message.

Sister 2: Put the shirt on.

Me: Literally just got off the couch to do it.

A tense few minutes of play later, it was obvious that there was some sort of disruption in the Force.

Me to Sister 2: Maybe they don’t know I put my shirt on.

Sister 2: Maybe you should take it off and put it back on.

Me: That’s unprecedented. I fear the potential fallout.

I held firm. Sure enough, it started to work. I didn’t feel a tingle and nothing started to glow, but as I sat bolt upright on the front half of my couch cushion through all play and commercials, bladder and thirst (in diametric opposition) be damned, the team started to come back. It started to look like they might do this thing. They wound up in the lead: 24-23. My hands hurt from hard-clapping.

And then the Saints got the ball with a few minutes left in the game. They weren’t passing. Drew Brees, their annoyingly illustrious quarterback who is two years younger than me and who I remember watching at Purdue when I was in undergrad in Ohio and my friends attended there, was running a ground game. They had decent field position and, perhaps most critical of all, a ground game the Eagles couldn’t seem to stop. No interceptions possible. Less chance of a fumble forced by a hard hit, or of stripping the ball from a receiver’s hands as he tries to control it. First down after first down (could the Eagles not hear me yelling at them not to let the Saints convert?), and exactly the right amount of time on the clock to go the yardage needed. There was no way the Eagles were going to get the ball back without committing some serious penalty that would cost them yardage. The Saints had previously mounted an effective defense run by former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan’s evil son, Rob, whose eyes, I swear, shoot lasers sometimes. Now with the ball, they could run the clock down, get themselves into good field goal position, kick an easy one and win the game by two.

I could see it all unfolding, like I was predicting the future. Which I tend to do when I watch the Eagles.

At the 2:00 warning, I knew it was over. After 58 field minutes of anxious shouting and twitching, I fell silent and still. Nothing the shirt could do.

With :03 left, the Saints lined up for a field goal.

Ding.

It occurred to me briefly that I shouldn’t read the message.

I clicked the Read button.

My friend Sam: He’ll miss it.

Nnnnnoooooo! Why did you SAY that?!

And with that, the Saints’ kicker sent the ball through the uprights.

Ding.

Sam: Next year. He’ll miss it next year. 

Oh, Sam. How could you?

Me: You had to go and say it.

Sam: The dude’s about to get his AARP card. I thought there was a decent chance he’d shank it.

Maybe if Miss Ella had died again…

Or if I had my hair down, like last time, instead of up…

Maybe if the game hadn’t been broadcast in my market (impossible for a playoff), or if I had been undecorating my tree…

The shirt had worked. The team had come back and taken the lead. But Sam. Sam had effed it up via text.

Sigh.

I guess I can wash the shirt now.

 

It was almost like a Thomas Kinkade painting around here.

I spent New Year’s Eve doing one of the things that makes me the happiest in life: cooking and serving a big meal for a bunch of people.

Before I bought my house, I couldn’t really have a bunch of people over. Now, I can have maybe a dozen before it starts getting really cozy. (And by “really cozy” I mean “more than two people sitting on my stairs to eat.”) I had 10 Tuesday night. At least five of them were mystified by the countertop roaster I was using to make the three pork tenderloins I was going to serve. (It had occurred to me that every item on my menu needed to be roasted and I only have one oven. Happily, when I mentioned this to my parents during my Christmas visit, they offered me use of the roaster I forgot they had.) Before I’d turned it on, people were slowly approaching it, lifting the lid and and gazing at it like it was the eighth wonder of the world. It’s a Hamilton Beach contraption, and it doesn’t look particularly old. I don’t know when my parents bought it, but I believe it was so they could make two turkeys for either Thanksgiving or Christmas to feed our crowd, which varies between 22 and 34 people, depending on who’s spending which holiday with which side of their own families. They used it for Thanksgiving; my aunt and uncle used it for Christmas, and the morning after, my uncle delivered it back to my parents so I could take it.

Everyone had dressed up. This was such a delight. I had planned to be dressy because I’ve never hosted New Year’s Eve and I haven’t been to a NYE party since 2006/7 (And that one was boring, featured me overhearing someone tell my then-boyfriend-of-two-months, Mitch, “Your wife is hot,” and hearing him reply, “She’s not my wife. Yet,” and ended with his brother-in-law, who I had met one time before this, drunkenly hugging me goodbye and saying, “Please love him.” I should have known then that Mitch was a jerk.) But I hadn’t told anyone what to wear; I truly wanted it to be whatever they liked. Eliza texted me earlier in the day:

E: Attire?
Me: I’ll probably be dressy because that’s my mood, but wear whatever you want.
E: So, pajamas.
Me: Totally acceptable. I might change my clothes at some point. Toga? Possible.
E: Bikini.
Me: That would make things interesting…
E: Why not?
Me: It IS nye…

When I opened the door to their knock, Eliza was in an awesome cocktail dress, hair did, makeup on, heels, her glasses reflecting the twinkle of the lit garland around my door. Her husband was in a sportcoat and tie. They looked dashing. As did everyone else who showed up without asking at all what to wear. I was honored that they wanted to look nice. Even wee bitty Rosemary, all of two years old, was in a pretty dress and tights, walking around sipping ginger ale from a plastic champagne flute and saying “Cheers!” to everyone.

It’s possible that her father, Blaine, scoped out the situation when he came over early to drop off the veggie tray. I was already dressed. He may well have gone back and reported to Erica that the dress code was fancy. He was in a suit. A full-on suit. The man has a master’s degree in physics and is unemployed (cruel twist to being super-smart and educated). I have no idea the last time he wore a suit.

My tree was lit up, almost every light in the house was on and my friends were complimenting my Christmas decor while Rosemary played with the sheep in my nativity scene. (I had wondered if I should put it away – Rosemary tends to be sweetly destructive – but how could I hide the nativity scene and still call myself a good Christian woman, all sins to the contrary aside?) There was so much good cheer I could hardly contain myself.

Then Rosemary got hold of the remotes and now I can’t control my TV with any of them. The evening included about 30 minutes of four people trying to figure out how to get it to respond to button-pushing. I was crouched behind-beside it, maneuvering my wrap dress to stay wrapped while reaching through a tangle of cable-box-blu-ray-player-phone-TV-router-modem cords trying to sort out which was which so I could unplug the TV, hoping it might re-set. Because kicking it to make it work is probably ill-advised when you’re dealing with a TV. Is what the four of us had worked out. This includes the guy with the M.S. in physics.

My grandmother, when she hosted holiday meals, always served Pepperidge Farm Piroutte cookies… little, buttery, crisp, light straws streaked with chocolate. I remember them clearly from my childhood. When I had been shopping, I came across them and thought they’d be a pretty addition to the berries & sparkling wine I planned to serve for dessert. The berries went into my grandmother’s sliver-rimmed bone china bowls, topped with a little bit of still-fizzing bubbly, and I laid a Pirouette across each one. It was so simple and so pretty, and it made me smile to know that my grandmother was with us, even if I was the only one aware of it.

She probably smiled too, but she prefered the sweet Asti Spumanti to the Gruet Brut I was serving. We buried her with a bottle of Asti. True story. My cousin accidentally bumped the casket during the viewing and the bottle loudly clunked to the bottom, sending my cousin shooting away from my grandmother’s remains with an expression of terror. It was hysterical. I believe my mother and several aunts peed themselves a little.

When the countdown clock ticked down to midnight, old acquaintance was not forgot, but these friends of mine in this home I’ve made lifted plastic flutes of sparkling wine and bade each other good for the year, after being a very big part of what made the last one good for me.

Here’s to 2014, and friends. And family who linger long after they’re gone. Eat, drink, and be merry. Show love.

And occasionally, knock a bottle of cheap booze around a dead body. Can’t hurt.

What Kind of Year Has It Been?

Oh heeeyyyy 2014! We had quite a welcoming party for you last night. I, for one, spent the first four hours of your existence awake and talking and listening and wearing heels, trying not to think about the dishes that were piled in the sink. We said goodbye to your ancestor, 2013, with quite the yummy meal and lots of laughs and hugs and smiles. The old Irish toasted wish that my house be too small to hold all my friends came true.

So now as I sit next to my increasingly brittle Christmas tree (it has volunteered in tribute—this thing has a death wish which apparently involves taking in no water at all despite the fresh cut in its trunk and in absolute defiance of the special stuff I put in the water to help it live longer), knowing full well that I haven’t posted a blog entry in many, many days (despite taking my laptop with me to my parents’ house for the Christmas visit), it occurs to me that I made a list one year ago today of things I wanted to learn in 2013. (I posted it a year ago tomorrow, probably because I worked late on the 1st.) Let’s see how I did.

1. How to make a really, truly good lasagna
I did not learn how to make a really, truly good lasagna. In fact, I only made lasagna once in 2013, and it was the Tyler Florence recipe that bubbled over in the oven. I did, however, eat some really, truly good lasagna. So maybe I’ll just get the recipe from the neighbor who made it. 1/3 credit.

2. More arias by Puccini.
I did not sing more arias by Puccini. But I listened to them. This counts as learning. Half credit.

3. How to get paint out of carpet.
I heard a few suggestions for how to get paint out of carpet. They did not work. Item voided.

4. My own worth.
It didn’t occur to me a year ago that I wouldn’t have a yardstick by which to measure that. But I know I’ve learned more about my worth than I knew in 2012. And I’m very grateful for that. Credit.

5. More about history.
I learned much more about history even though I still can’t quite get past page 100 in “Lincoln: Team of Rivals”. Credit.

6. How to better identify and let go of lost causes.
I’m trying to think of what the lost causes were in 2013. I know the biggest one, and I certainly finally recognized it. I’m definitely working on letting it go, and I’m getting there. That’s pretty huge. There’s another one I haven’t quite admitted yet, but I’m pretty close. Maybe I don’t see things in the frame of the phrase “lost cause.” I kind of like that I don’t see things that way—it seems so dire and blah. Oh, but I accepted that my car will look like a piece of crap until it no longer belongs to me, because it will cost too much to fix it. And the tree is probably a lost cause at this point. Credit.

7. How to be a more effective and prolific advocate for crime victims.
After waiting for about a year for a response from the state senator with whom I worked on our first legislative effort for crime victims, I gave up (lost cause recognized) and approached another lawmaker. He and I are due for a follow-up conversation in the next few days to find out whether there’s something we can do to change home detention eligibility requirements so that persons who have been served with a protective order while on home detention forfeit their eligibility. And the state’s system for issuing protective orders now provides information to complainants so that they know exactly when those orders have been delivered to the respondent (it takes longer than you might think, and this is typically the most dangerous time in a volatile situation). Credit.

PS: As soon as I started working with the other lawmaker, the state senator emailed me and asked me if we could talk about my ideas. I told him who I was talking with and the senator immediately contacted him. Rick finds this hilarious.

8. How to paint the nails on my right hand as well as I paint the nails on my left hand.
This is almost a reality. Sometimes. Half credit.

9. How to let other people see me vulnerable (in non-blog form). 
I’m still working on this. Old habits. But I’ve gotten better. I’m just not where I should be yet. Half credit.

10. What it means to be truly loved.
I have friends and family who truly love me, and I have more of them than I deserve, and I am more grateful for that than I used to be. But I know that, when I put this item on the list, I meant romantic love, and there was very little of that in 2013. The only person I dated was Rick. But I’m okay with that, because I’ve needed the time, and I’ve needed to work on #4. So… maybe I’m set up better for 2014. Half credit awarded, half suspended indefinitely.

11. How to get red wine splatter of a white ceiling without repainting the whole damned thing.
Whatever. Item revoked.

12. What yet another country looks like, in person.
Didn’t happen. No credit.

13. Where I left my step stool.
I found that thing a week after I wrote the post. It was behind my bedroom door, which I never close. Credit for finding it negated by credit subtracted for being a jackass.

14. More about my community and who lives in it.
Definitely accomplished this. Particularly last week when I heard a terrible car accident. By the time I got to the corner of my block, where it happened, there must have been 50 people milling around. I have no idea where they all came from.

15. What it would take to fix Congress… because just voting everyone out is both unrealistic and probably a really, really bad idea.
Well, I have my thoughts. We know this. But I think they might have come to a bit of an understanding up there on Capitol Hill recently. Everybody lost in 2013. Credit awarded for being smarter than most of those people.

16. To be more open to new things.
Well, I think I am more open to new things… I just can’t think of any new things I did. Oh, wait—new career, new chapter as a graduate student, first full year as a homeowner, just accepted my first freelance writing gig, new friends, hosted a holiday dinner for the first time… and I’ve let spiders live in my basement. That never happened before. Credit.

17. A new, really good soup recipe.
Just made it two days ago for the second time. It’s just chicken noodle, but damn, it’s good chicken noodle. It’s also the only thing I’ve eaten today. Credit.

18. How to clean my house the way Mary Poppins cleaned Jane and Michael Banks’ room.
Nope. But I did see “Saving Mr. Banks,” and apparently, Mary Poppins was never meant to be a housekeeper, so I had the wrong premise. Item voided.

19. A magic trick that makes laundry fold itself.
Negative. But I did leave it unfolded for a long time, piled in heaps. No credit.

20. To be more productive and feel more purposed.
This might be the most unexpected gift of my new career. Or maybe it’s just because, in that new career, I am constantly making To Do lists and then crossing things off. Sure, I don’t even get started on them until 4pm on any given day, but that’s even better, in a way, because the reason I don’t get started until 4pm is that I’ve spent the previous hours doing other stuff that was more pressing and had come up in the course of the day. I almost never get everything on the list done, but let’s face it: a bunch of the stuff is just there so I don’t forget it needs to be done at some point, not necessarily that day. Crossing items off those lists is truly one of the most satisfying little things in life. And to be appreciated for my work makes me feel more purposed. Credit. 

21. Better ways to get and keep my back healthier.
It was better in 2013, and I was more mindful of how to keep it from freaking out. I stopped seeing the chiropractor in January. That seems to have helped. Credit… and a knock on wood.

22. More grace.
Thank God, this is an ongoing effort. But when I feel grace, or I feel myself using grace in response to a less-than-gracious situation, I feel great peace. And since I didn’t quantify this as anything other than “more,” even just a tiny bit counts. Credit.

23. When to keep my mouth shut.
I’m actually doing pretty well with this. Especially because it’s limited to keeping my mouth shut and not keeping my typing fingers still. You’re welcome, blog. Credit.

24. More about where I came from.
This was accomplished unexpectedly. My friend loves to get lost in ancestry records. I now know my mother’s great-grandparents’ names and what they looked like. I know there was a third child in a photo taken in 1895, but no one knows who it is. I know and have seen photos of the ships my great-grandparents immigrated on, and I know that my great-grandfather held at least two patents for textile design, which was one of his goals in immigrating (his company in Germany took all his ideas and claimed them as theirs). I know my grandfather’s father was in a soldiers’ orphans’ home by the time he was 15, but I’m still working on finding out why. If we can find who his parents were, we will have unlocked a very long family mystery. Credit.

Now, the following are not resolutions, but they’re things I’d like to do in 2014. Here goes:

Read more books.

Help my division work more effectively.

Make more friends.

Fall in love, be fallen in love with… and keep him for a while!

Go to the movies more. (I think I went twice in 2013, and one of those was the day after Christmas.)

Figure out what the hell my two-year-old neighbor did to my remote last night that rendered it useless for controlling the TV’s power and volume. (This might be the hardest one to accomplish. Several people tried already.)

Enjoy more moments.

Take six graduate classes. (Two lined up for next term.)

Be of service.

Show love.

Buy a Christmas tree that accepts water as sustenance.
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A happy, healthy 2014 full of the best words to all of you!