Let Go. Make Something.

The Menacing Kitten: We stand against pegacorn discrimination.

[Originally posted on July 29, 2012. This post was very popular thanks to the amazing group of creatives known collectively as OK Go. They were kind enough to tweet and Facebook this to their fans, and they completely made my day. Okay, they made my month. I  credit a lot of good in my life to the power of their music. Also? they are very, very good to their fans. BUY THEIR ALBUMS, SEE THEM ON TOUR! They are good people.]

About a year and a half ago, I went on an OK Go video-watching binge on YouTube because I really, really love them and their stuff makes me happy.  On this particular night, I watched “A Million Ways” and “Here it Goes Again.” I have watched both of these videos many times without incident, but on this particular occasion I developed an itch in my brain.  It occurred to me that wonderful things are created when you allow your mind to wander outside of the expectations and the “shoulds” that are imposed on you.  Rock bands don’t dance;  they definitely aren’t supposed to incorporate West Side Story moves or twirl each other around in their videos. OK Go made these fun videos despite all the shoulds and shouldn’ts, and you can argue their success is found in their commitment to defying convention and following crazy ideas down the rabbit hole.  After watching these videos on this night, I finally got it:  Let go.  Make something. Just start with one thing.

At the time, I struggled with my first love, music.  Over the years, I made it mean too much to me and the piano became a stranger.  Art? I felt so out of practice, and was afraid to see what years of typing did to my ability to draw.  I decided to give writing a shot, so I tried writing a novel.  31,846 words later, I realized my story sucked.  On the positive side, the story allowed me to dive into a really weird and dark part of my personality and I got to handcuff myself to a chair in the name of research.

On the negative side, once again, Anne-Marie started a project she couldn’t finish.  It was like that Origami kit stuffed in my office closet, or paper quilling, or trying to learn the cello, or the million songs I have in Garage Band I just can’t figure out an ending to.  I wanted to actually finish something for once.  I also wanted to brush up my writing skills.  That itch still needed to be scratched.  So? I created The Menacing Kitten.

One year later, I am still here and I confirmed what I suspected about the Itch: once you let go and try, wonderful things start happening all over the place.  In the year I started this site, I:

  • Bought a guitar and wrote a couple of songs
  • Bought a graphics tablet and drew a pegacorn (as seen above, and yes, I’m re-posting it just to see the disgruntled look on my husband’s face)
  • Made an afghan

  • Made a bunch of hats and scarves that I donated to a homeless shelter (I kept a couple for myself so I could look all hipster chic on the three nights a year it isn’t sweltering hot in the desert)
  • Made an ass of myself promoting my site by singing a song on a phone line set up by OK Go for one of their band member’s birthdays. On the plus side, as a result of my mortification, I created Business Rule Number One for The Menacing Kitten: “If it feels dirty, it’s not worth it.”
  • Got something published on one of my favorite web sites (and I heard from a bunch of amazing people as a result)
  • Started to write about stuff I never had the courage to write about before
  • Started playing piano again
  • Wrote more songs
  • Wrote over 70 posts for this web site (and kept a set schedule!)
  • Began another novel and it might suck less than the other one
  • Finished my Woman Cave

This is where the magic happens. And by “magic,” I mean fumbling through “Maple Leaf Rag” whilst giving a Drunken History of Scott Joplin to guests.

  • Started an international cooking club (and discovered I make a killer ribollita and chicken mole)
  • Opened my site up to submissions
  • Joined Instagram with the goal of taking at least one photo a day with my iPhone of something I think is beautiful (@themenacingkitten, if you’re nasty)

  • Did all this while being promoted to senior management at my full-time job

 

So one year later, thanks to a video of four guys who aren’t afraid to do this:

I don’t think you’ll ever see Maroon 5 do the Cowboy-Horsie in a video.

I’m getting back in touch with a part of me I thought died years ago in the dusty corner of an office cubicle.  To date, I have made $0 from my site (I haven’t crossed the Amazon threshold for cutting a check yet, but I guarantee you I’ll post a picture of my first deposit), I have a modest number of people visiting my site (and I love every single one of you – even you, Person Who Found My Site by Searching “how does a virgin poussy look like” [sic and, sick]), yet because of this site, I have so many ideas swirling around in my head.  I’ve learned to let go and make things.  My hope is to one day create something so beautiful it will bring you to tears.  Maybe that’s for next year’s post.

And to the person who found my site searching for “peak elevation of the hike between monterosso and vernazza?”  I am so sorry you found a story about me taking a massive poop in a quaint Italian village.

The Reach Out Project

[Originally posted on May 5, 2013]

Death does strange things to a person.

My father passed away right before the 4th of July in 2009. We were never close, but we didn’t have a strained relationship either. Years prior, I realized what our relationship was, and I was fine with that. Yet his death changed me. It came at a time when I was growing apathetic to my faith. It also came at a time when all of the walls I put up around me over the years left me with few people in my life. I had no problem moving on and not keeping in touch; it was easy.

After he died, I went through what Chris and I jokingly called “The Existential Crisis.” It was the first time in my life I really confronted the idea that when we die, That’s It. Prior to my father’s death, the thought would briefly enter my mind in the darkest part of night and I’d quickly push it out. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit. After he died, the idea consumed every “quiet” moment of my life. I’d lie in bed at night and look outside the window, nearly panicking at the prospect of ceasing to exist. I’d think about the science of it all; how my previous view of the afterlife made no sense, but I believed it like a kid believes in Santa Claus. If there was an afterlife, what would it be like, really? Would we just be this floating soul in the breeze, unable to touch velvet, hear Schumann, or watch the sun set ever again? Unable to interact with the world we’re trapped in? It all seemed so dismal to me, and yet it consumed me for months.

I wanted to fill my mind with other things, so I began doing little 30 day experimentations to challenge myself. One of them was as simple as watching no more than five hours of TV a week (basically, watching the Daily Show and Colbert, plus an hour for Sunday news shows). Another was using no electronics (TV, laptop, phone, etc) from 7:30pm until bedtime.

As I did these experiments, my previous decisions began to look different. I began to see the walls I put up around me as a faulty time capsule. Those imaginary walls were a way for me to act like I could preserve My World, protecting myself and everyone in it. Yeah, that doesn’t work. The walls now looked like a crutch and I began to desire to step out of that time capsule and enjoy the gifts of the Present. From this desire came the most important change in my life: The Reach Out Project.

Despite my social anxiety and natural tendency towards introversion, I decided that every day for 30 days, I was going to reach out to someone in my life. Whether it was emailing or calling an old friend, sending a meaningful message on Facebook to someone I didn’t normally chat with, asking a co-worker out to lunch, or inviting people over to the house, each day I had to do one thing to reach out to someone. See, part of what made those walls was my taking a passive approach to friendship. I assumed people didn’t ask me out to lunch, or didn’t email me because they didn’t like me or just didn’t have room in their life for me. Rather than my typical wallowing in self-pity/self-loathing, believing I was completely unlikeable, I instead gave a good, hearty, “oh what the fuck?”, threw caution to the wind and started reaching out to people.

I emailed, called and invited people to things and I accepted invitations to things – even things I didn’t want to do – with my heart open. Sure, I missed a couple days here and there, and sure, initially I still felt that nervousness and discomfort that accompanies my shyness and insecurity. But I persisted, and gradually I made new close friends and reconnected. I began to see that I had an incredible group of people around me. Inspiring, funny, quirky, caring…the people I allowed into my life lifted me out of my Existential Crisis (which is now in the current and likely permanent state of Existential Conundrum). Through them I realized that a lot of adults take a passive approach to friendship – we feel uncomfortable taking that initial step or we don’t allow ourselves to take the lead in setting things up with people. But someone’s got to do it – why not me? And why not you?

Fast forward a couple of years. This past March, a few of my friends put together a “Girls’ Night Sleepover” as a sendoff to me before I left for California. Girls’ Night was one of my later Reach Out ideas: once a month, invite the ladies in my life to a restaurant for a night of drinks, food and conversation. No boyfriends or husbands allowed (with the one-time exception of my friend Steven, who is the kind of friend you can count on when you need a chaperone and let’s face it – sometimes you do). For Girls’ Night Sleepover, my friend Jennie made a killer butternut squash risotto and we all brought wine and an insane amount of booze and snacks. Before we devoured the risotto, my friends toasted me. In summary, they thanked me for organizing things that brought people together – Girls’ night, Le Nom…and said Chris and I created quite the network of friends in our time in Arizona. I looked around the table and smiled at these wonderful people I was so grateful to have in my life. We proceeded to eat, drink and laugh so hard at each other’s stories our faces hurt. That’s what I live for.

I can point to the moment my Existential Crisis lifted. It was in a dream: I looked outside my bedroom window at night, watching helicopters flying overhead, shining spotlights on the ground in search of a Dangerous Man. I looked over to my pool and my heart stopped – the Dangerous Man was lying on one of my lounge chairs. Rather than retreat, I knew I had to talk to him. I walked through the wall and approached him. As I got closer, I saw that the Dangerous Man was an old man. He looked at me as if he knew what I was going to ask.  I asked anyway.

“What happens when we die?”

“I know the answer, but I can’t tell you.”

“They’re looking for you…” I pointed to the helicopters.

“I know.”

We talked about death and the importance of living for the moment. I wasn’t afraid of the Dangerous Man. He got up and looked at the back wall of my property. “It’s time for me to go now.”  As he walked towards the wall, I remembered the most important thing I wanted to know.

“Wait! I don’t know if there is a god or not. If I live my life the way I know in my heart I should live it, and it turns out there really is a god, does it matter if I have doubt?”

The man turned around and he was a beautiful young Spanish woman with long dark hair. She laughed as if my question had an obvious answer. “He won’t care.”

She hopped the wall, and I woke up. No, I don’t think it was God speaking to me. That doesn’t matter – what matters is the common sense presented in the dream: be the person you know you should be, surround yourself with goodness, and experience love wherever you can. Nothing else matters beyond that, does it?

Image courtesy of twobee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Menacing Kitten Services You Part II: The Everyone is Tacky Wedding Edition

Hello, fair felines, to my second edition of The Menacing Kitten Services You. Through the thick storm clouds of writer’s block and moving stress, a beacon of inspiration has cracked through thanks to this lovely article appearing on Jezebel which involves the tackiest people ever to both give and receive a gift. To summarize if you aren’t up for reading the link: a former boss was invited to a wedding and gave the blushing brides a basket of grocery store items. Well, to be specific:

“As a gift, my Girlfriend and I gave [the couple] a wicker box with a hinged lid, filled with food items, most of them PC Black Label, including: tri-color pasta, salsas, Balsamic vinegar and Olive, Gourmet croutons, Panko Breading, Pesto, some baking ingredients, Biscuits from Godiva and a few ‘Fun’ items like Marshmallow Fluff, Sour Patch Kids and Butterscotch sauce.”

Bride #1 requested a receipt from the gift-giver, explaining she was gluten-intolerant. The former boss didn’t have a receipt to give, so Bride #2 told him that a basket of fluff and sourpatch kids isn’t a good gift for a $100-a-plate wedding. Well, to be specific:

“Hey it’s [Bride 1's] wife Laura. I want to thank you for coming to the wedding Friday. I’m not sure if it’s the first wedding you have been to, but for your next wedding… People give envelopes. I lost out on $200 covering you and your dates plate… And got fluffy whip and sour patch kids in return Just a heads up for the future :)”

They then got into a passive-aggressive war over etiquette, which basically is the same as when the Real Housewives of Botoxville start throwing overpriced tequila and electric plug-in dildos at each other while arguing over who is klassier.

While the bride side of things is pretty abhorrent, both sides present us with teachable moments in the art of wedding gift-giving and gift-receiving. When discussing etiquette, rule number one should always be:

ETIQUETTE IS NOT AN EXPECTATION YOU FORCE ON ANOTHER PERSON, BUT THE STANDARD YOU HOLD YOURSELF TO.

But Anne-Marie, you say, you’re placing an expectation on other people just by posting this very thing. To this I say, YES! But that’s because I’m better than them, as are you, dear reader. We are third party observers and have no personal stake in this matter. This is the internet – an anonymous, unnecessary collective that joins together from across the globe to pass judgement on viral stories with minimal perspective and even less fact-checking. You and I are but two lion heads in a Shame-Voltron.

Plus, I’ve been uninspired to write lately, and this story just tickled my sarcastic side. So this is happening.

Let’s start with the lesser of two evils (in my opinion), the Gift-Giver. Let’s walk through his missteps in this matter, remembering that we are discussing what he has control over – the brides’ missteps will be covered later. We’re spending a little more time on this side because it’s a bit more nuanced:

  • As an attendee, the polite thing to do is to provide (if you can afford it) a gift or gift of services that roughly equals the expected cost of your meal. Even when couples are established, weddings are not cheap. More graceful couples than Bridezilla2 are inviting you to share in their special day at a great expense to themselves; as a friend, consider helping them offset that cost in some way.
  • You know how I placed “if you can afford it” in parentheses above? Don’t let that part go unnoticed. Not everyone can afford a $100+ gift, and a graceful couple usually knows that. If you are a close friend or family member to the couple, it can be assumed that they have at least an inkling of your financial situation. I would argue that it means more to the couple that you are there than that you gave them an expensive gift. If you do fall into this category, I guarantee the graceful couple would be honored to receive something you made or designed, or accept a service you can provide – perhaps you can arrange the flowers, pick people up at the airport for the event, or even housesit for them when they’re on their honeymoon. Here is the fact of the matter – a graceful couple should expect nothing, but that doesn’t mean it’s proper for you to take advantage of them.
  • The food gift basket the gift-giver gave them is a tricky thing; why? Because he states he didn’t know them all that well. That sort of gift takes on a different meaning if you know the couple and you know they love those things; for example, one of my sisters gave me this amazing marriage-themed Penzey Spice Box. I love baking and I love Penzey’s. Plus, the spice box was filled with certain spices and a description of how they represent marital bliss, love, etc. in different cultures. That is a well thought-out gift and an excellent gesture. I loved it so much, I bought one for another couple.
    There is one other problem with the gift-giver’s homemade basket: it doesn’t make any fucking sense. You’ve got tri-color pasta, balsamic vinegar, pesto and olive oil. Italian. Then you’ve got salsas. Mexican. Then croutons and panko crumbs? Okay… “some baking ingredients” – flour? Extract? Huh? Godiva biscuits, and…fluff, Sour Patch Kids and butterscotch sauce. And a card that says “life is delicious.” This is such a random hodgepodge of food with such a lazy cliché attached, Mr. Gift-Giver, that it tells a story of you running down the grocery store aisle an hour before the wedding in panic mode, throwing random crap in your wicker basket that you’re probably re-using from a gift you received along with the original straw that came with it. I’ll bet you the straw was still molded in the shape of a wine bottle and glasses. I probably sound like a bitch on this point, but here’s why – I’m seeing zero sentimental value or thought behind this gift. If there was some real thought, at least tell a story that ties all this shit together – a story that doesn’t involve you sweating in your cheap suit in the Cost Plus parking lot with your trunk open, desperately trying to reshape the straw in the basket while bags of Korean-labeled Lemonheads and Israeli couscous spill everywhere. Effort and thought? That actually would have made this gift A-OK.
  • This takes me to my third suggestion: if you don’t know someone that well and you don’t feel they are worth a thoughtful gift, why are you bothering to go to this wedding?  I’m just throwing that out there.
  • I’d go into the etiquette of their text exchange, but there is just so.much.wrong.happening. I can’t say I disagree with him on a few of his points, but there are a few too many low blows made for me to approve of his handling of the matter.

Now, onto Bridezilla2:

  • So after Rule Number One, which applies to both gift-giver, and gift-receiver, you, dear Bridezilla have a Rule Number Two: NEVER HAVE A WEDDING YOU CANNOT AFFORD BECAUSE YOU SHOULD NEVER INVITE SOMEONE TO MAKE MONEY OFF OF THEM. This ties into Rule Number One. See, a gracious host (which is what you strive to be since this is the grandest event you will likely ever host) wants to share an experience with others. That’s your end-game; not how many envelopes you’ll get at the end of the night. My favorite weddings were the ones that were basically giant celebrations filled with food, drinks and laughter. My least favorite weddings were ones where you can see every corner cut, every mini-quiche counted, and a couple who only interacted with 70% of their guests during the Money Dance. And people – can we please stop with the Money Dance? It is SO FUCKING TACKY. If you really need money, start up a fucking Kickstarter or something so I don’t have to treat you like a freaking stripper on YOUR SPECIAL DAY. It’s ridiculous. Unless you offer a lap dance option. Then it suddenly just turned into a hilarious crazed Hedonistic Awesomefest fully worth the price of admission.
  • Following Your Special Day, when you find out you got a few shitty gifts, do you know what you do? YOU WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE. “Thanks for the Marshmallow Fluff and croutons! We smeared them all over each other and had sexy sex on the basket! I’m so glad it had hinges! Life IS delicious, Pasta Boy!” It’s that simple. Now wait a minute; did you write thank you notes to your other gift-givers? You know, the ones who apparently gave you the dollas that make you holla? I’m guessing you didn’t. Call it a hunch. Sit down and write your damn thank you notes! I know it forces you to open your Precious Wedding Kitty filled with its sweet, sweet cash (and a half-eaten Sour Patch Kid), but it is what you do.
  • A quote from Bridezilla’s message: “Weddings are to make money for your future.” Please read Rule Number Two. No, they’re not. If they were, I would have skipped college and just married myself every couple of years. It definitely would have been a better return on investment than a Music degree with an Art History minor. Another quote: “People haven’t gave gifts since like 50 years ago!” Coincidentally 1963 was the last year grammar books were handed out as gifts.
  • Keeping all of this in mind, do you know what you don’t do? You don’t tell people what to gift you at your wedding, and for God’s sake, you don’t tell someone how cheap they are and proceed to give them an etiquette lesson. Now, the closest thing to telling people what to gift you and having it be acceptable is to set up a couple of bridal registries. If Bridezilla2 did this (I’m assuming they didn’t since it’s not 50 YEARS AGOOO), they probably only put expensive things on there, like I don’t know, Jimmy Choo pillow cases (I don’t know if that’s a thing; probably not). Please don’t do this. If you want to put a few nice items on there, by all means, go ahead; but please, give your guests affordable options as well. And don’t force the registry on people – if they want to go off a registry, they’ll ask you where you’re registered.

There is something I tell people when I talk about my philosophy on weddings: A wedding is just a day, a honeymoon is just a vacation, but a marriage is a lifetime. People spend way too much time, money and drama on the one day. If you’re going to make that level of effort, think of it as a gift you are sharing with others. If you are viewing Your Special Day as a giant G-string for people to stick their hard-earned dollars into, perhaps you need to reevaluate your priorities. And your friendships. Likewise, if your friend is getting married, celebrate it with them. Give them something thoughtful and nice. Like two jars of maraschino cherries. Black Label.

Menacing Kitten Headquarters Melts Down, Cries Glowing Chernobyl Tears

No one is this happy.

As you know, I am moving. What you may not know is my shit is moving out six weeks before I do, nothing is working the way it’s supposed to, nothing is happening on time, everything sucks and hatehatehatemeltdowncry.

Allow me to back this up a little.

So, we put a bid on a beautiful home. Here’s a picture of it:

The walls, ceiling and crown molding are all plaster and I love it. Here is a picture of the crown molding:

We were supposed to close on said house last Friday. Our mortgage is going through a large banking outfit we will simply call Bells Cargo. We’ve used Bells in the past and had zero problems with them; since our last dealing with them, they instituted a corporate policy of spiking the water cooler with Ambien.  Our initial documents were way, way off: misspellings, incorrect zip codes, years of employment that only make sense if you have been a companion on the TARDIS, and financial numbers that didn’t add up. After a few iterations of documents, a checklist of things to correct and finally a “fuck it, I’ll just scratch it out” resignation, we signed off on a bunch of things. We did inspections and appraisals with three weeks to spare. Periodically, we’d get an email stating something like, “Bells Cargo needs this really important thing in half an hour that we knew about since God touched Adam’s finger, but we thought it would be really fun to wait until now to tell you this.” We panicked, cursed and delivered emergency documents. Things continued to move forward.

We set up movers to come out on Thursday for packing, Friday for loading. The move takes a few days, so we figured that would be a decent amount of time between the Friday closing and getting our stuff at the new house. I’m still not entirely clear why we chose to move the stuff out so early, leaving me with an air mattress and my keyboard to keep me company until the end of March, but I’m fine with it. I don’t need much, and my husband has suffered through rental furniture in his apartment for the past few months. At any rate, the movers seem to be good people who are on top of their shit. Chris booked his flight for the week with the intention to help with the move and get a few estimates to fix up our Arizona house. The movers called me a week out to confirm everything was set up, and called 24 hours before to confirm again. All was good.

Not long after the 24 hour confirmation from the movers, we get another notice from Bells: “That appraisal you reported to us three weeks ago? Yeah, we have this cool algorithm built into our mortgage program that says something like this:
IF AppraisalValue = BidValue, THEN wait >=3 weeks AND RETURN ‘HAHA Fuckers, Closing is delayed.’
And yes, consistent with our reps, our syntax is jacked up.”

So we call the movers and do a change order to delay moving by a week, because storing everything is crazy expensive. We panic, because there is a lot at stake when you get that type of message less than 72 hours before closing. We wait.

The next day, Bells lets us know, 80s style, “PSYYYYEEEK! Appraisal is good.” So…now what? “We want to look at three other random things that didn’t matter previously and can’t give you a timeline yet.”

Awesome.

On Thursday, someone who was supposed to come out and give us an estimate on fixing up the house told us he was double-booked and couldn’t make it out. I’m just adding this because it officially meant Chris came out here for almost no reason.

On Friday, we finally get the final sign-offs from Bells. Friday evening? The Escrow person tells us, regretfully, Bells didn’t send them the loan documents. Color us shocked.

On Saturday, we have an early birthday party for me with our friends. Everyone was amazing as always and I’m reminded how much I love my friends and am going to miss them. Late into Saturday evening partying, I had a drink that included cinnamon whiskey, Crispin hard apple cider, and some kind of schnapps in it. I think. It was very tasty. Someone placed a second one of these drinks in front of me. When a third came out, I vaguely recall telling someone I absolutely could not drink another one and recall a friend double fisting (or rather, double-strawing) the beverage along with his own. My awesome friend Steven was DD for the night and drove Chris and I home. I fell asleep within 30 seconds.

Early Sunday morning. 4:30 a.m. My stomach is killing me. I have cotton mouth, and decide to get a glass of water and powder my nose. This action was clearly too much for my body to handle, and I break out into a cold sweat. After urination is complete, I lie on the floor, lifting the bathmat so I can put my face against the tile. Ahhhh, cool tile. I feel like it is a small miracle I didn’t throw up, but kind of wish I did to get the cinnamon whiskey alien out of my stomach. I crawl back into bed. For two hours I have nightmares where I see drinks being placed down in front of me, and I’m crying out, “No, no! No more!” while still tasting cinnamon whiskey residue in my esophagus. Shot glass with something and lime. No! Tall glass with a straw. Nooo! Limes! Straws! Glasses! Booze! Noooooooooo!

I think I need to curb my drinking a skooch.

Later in the morning on Sunday, I’m feeling a little better despite a lingering taste of cinnamon whiskey I can’t lose. A carpet guy comes over to give us an estimate on replacing the carpet. We schedule them for next Saturday. So, Thursday – packing, Friday – loading, Saturday – Carpets. Okay. I feel like I should put my dog somewhere during all this and still don’t know what to do about that. She’s sensitive. Sunday afternoon, Chris removes a zillion wires and cables that are hooked up to the TV and drops them on the floor. He leaves for California. I organize the cables so they aren’t all over the place.

Monday. I was supposed to get my windshield on my car replaced. They have the wrong windshield and don’t call me back to reschedule. I go home and realize Chris didn’t prep any of his stuff for the movers – we’re not taking all of it, so I need to make sure the right stuff is put aside. I get on a ladder to lift another ladder off the garage wall. It’s heavy, awkward and I’m cursing up a storm. I organize his tool box. There is all sorts of shit around his tool box – screws, wood glue, multi-tools in multi-tools like some Voltron-style nightmare, and I get frustrated. I at least get his tool box to the point where it can close. Chris’ desk isn’t going to California. I have to get it out of his office so the carpet guy can replace the carpet in there, so I first have to remove all of the shit he left behind in the desk. There’s a lot of junk and it annoys me. I have to move one of his towers to get behind his desk and the tower is far heavier than you’d expect it to be. I also have to remove the top part of the desk, because it won’t fit through the door with the top on. I unscrew everything, but the top part alone is 150 pounds of particle board and awkward lifting and I realize I’ll break it and myself if I try to move it. There is a ton to do, and I crumple into a ball and weep.  My dog looks at me like, “bitch, please,” and goes to sleep in the living room. She’s so done with this.

I don’t know when our house is going to close or even when I’m going to get the paperwork to sign (which will need to be FedEx-ed to California when I’m done for Chris to sign). I don’t know if the sellers are even okay with the delay and I hope to god they are. I don’t know when my windshield will be replaced. I don’t know what to do with my dog or my husband’s desk. No matter how much you try and prepare, crazy things happen to throw you for a loop.

I hate moving. Cinnamon whiskey can suck it, too.

Top Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As Romeo Void Once Said…

No, I don’t think I’d like you better if we slept together, but that’s actually more of a compliment because I really like you in a completely platonic way. If you don’t know the song, this post will take an immediate turn for the awkward and I’ll feel incredibly old. No, Romeo Void once said…

Never Say Never.

After living in Arizona for nearly half my life, it is time to hitch the ponies to the wagon and start a new journey.

You’ll never guess where I’m going.

Oh, wait, there is a ginormous, obvious picture accompanying this post hinting at it.

That’s right, we are moving to sunny San Francisco! Okay, we’re  actually looking at the suburban bedroom community of Alameda Island, where the speed limit never exceeds 25mph, but that doesn’t photograph as well and no one knows where Alameda is.

My husband will be a director for an up-and-coming software company located in the SOMA district of San Francisco, and I am incredibly proud of him and excited for this new opportunity and OMG WE’RE MOVING!

Here’s the funny thing – I lived in southern California for two years of my life, and while I enjoyed my time there, I never thought I would return to California.  Compared to Arizona it was super-expensive, and the area I lived in was all chain stores and few mom-and-pops.  I really loved Arizona, and despite the fact that my politics is opposite than a good chunk of the state, I still love Arizona.  As you can tell from Le Nom and many other posts, we love our friends here.  Arizona residents are mostly friendly, there are a lot of fun things to do, it’s affordable, and from November to April, you can’t beat the weather.  I didn’t think I’d ever leave or ever want to leave.

I certainly never thought I’d move to the Bay area.  When I vacationed there, I would always think, “San Francisco is one of the great American cities; too bad it’s so expensive.”  Of course, we won’t be living in San Fran because of the 1) lack of dog-friendly places 2) cost 3) recent purchase of a nice car that shouldn’t be parked on streets known for car theft and vandalism. Alameda is an inexpensive option in comparison, and it is very pedestrian and biker-friendly.  It is a 20 minute ferry commute to San Francisco, dropping my husband off just two blocks from his work.  They actually serve alcohol on the afternoon ferries – how many places can you say your daily commute involves watching the sun set over the water while drinking a beer or a glass of wine?

These “nevers” we create – I guess they really do create barriers to seeing opportunity.  Once that’s lifted, amazing things can happen.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself – my husband will be commuting up there starting some time in October, and I’m staying put in Arizona for the next several months for a host of reasons. But the wheels are in motion – this is happening.  Never say never.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Depression-Anxiety Club

Welcome to the Depression-Anxiety Club.  Here we celebrate the cycle of self-defeating behavior exhibited by all of our members.  I know Depression-Anxiety sounds like an oxymoron, but these two problems actually go hand-in-hand.  It’s kind of like Professor Xavier and Magneto are having a chess match in your head, except it’s far less awesome.  Here is how Depression-Anxiety works:

Step One:  Be too depressed to get out of bed.

Step Two:  Realize that during extended bed time, you didn’t do That Thing You Were Supposed To Do.

Step Three:  Experience extreme stress and shame.

Step Four: Pathetically try to fulfill said duty in a belated, half-assed manner.

Step Five: Feel like an asshole.

Step Six: Go to bed.

Step Seven: Repeat steps one through seven, ad nauseum.

While I am in a much better place in life now, back in the day I was the Grand Poobah of the Depression-Anxiety Club.  If we were more productive members of society, we would have designed special fezzes and a secret handshake, but instead, we all stayed in bed and wept.  It’s kind of a crappy club in that respect, but at least we kick the freemasons’ asses in membership.  Plus? We are open to all genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, and political leanings.  The more I talk to people, the more I realize how many members have joined the club at one point or another.

How do we even get to that point? That is way too long for the short attention span of a blog posting.  Often, you don’t even really know you’re heading down that road.  Life starts to feel a little less enjoyable each day.  A couple of bad things might happen – you might go through an ugly break up, you might have a health scare, and you might experience difficulty in an area you are used to breezing through.  You might find that you’re disrespecting yourself because the few anchors you counted on are floating away when you need them the most.  Sometimes, it’s a chemical imbalance that decides to sprout at the most inopportune of times.

Sometimes, the depression kind of “works” for you.  As someone who is an emotionally-driven songwriter, there is this creative “sweet spot” where I’m slightly depressed but not completely depressed.  I have extreme difficulty writing music when I’m happy.  When I’m in this “sweet spot,” I write decent music and hands-down my best lyrics.  I feel like I can make the world rhyme and tell you amazing stories in perfect meter.  If I fall too far into the depression, I lose it all, and the keyboard looks like a stranger to me.  That caused a 6 years-long writer’s block towards the end of school, and pretty much destroyed me on a music level.  So in short, if I tell you, “hey guys, I just wrote a song! :D”  It is perfectly acceptable if you respond with, “yay…I guess? : /”

Depression is a very seductive beast – when it starts to tug you down, it feels easier to succumb to it than to fight it.  Once you give in, it is difficult to dig your way out.  Then the anxiety starts.  In a strange way, the anxiety almost saves you – between the constant pushing and pulling between these two forces, you get to a point where you can’t stand yourself.  I know what you are wondering – how exactly is that a good thing?  For me, the depression was a cozy little do-nothing blanket that made me dead to the world.  By itself, it made me slip further and further away from caring about anything.  Anxiety made me hate that feeling.  Each time I dove into the Depression-Anxiety Club, it was the anxiety that drove me to seek help.  I could deal with my heart flat-lining; I couldn’t deal with it racing – how screwed up is that?

I am in a better place now because the anxiety drove me to seek help.  I spent years in therapy, although I refused to go on medication because I incorrectly felt like that was a cop out.  Don’t make my mistake – if your therapist feels it would help you, consider giving it a shot.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be on pills all your life – in fact, many people are only on them for a short period of time until the worst of the illness has passed.  The other piece of the puzzle is you.  No one can pull you out of this except for you – you need to make a commitment to yourself and force yourself through it, no matter how hard it may seem.  This means you need to recognize the seduction of depression and fight it with everything you have.  How do you fight it?  When you hear that little voice that says, “I don’t want to hang out with my friends tonight” – call a friend and go out.  Yeah, you’ll feel like you’re going through the motions, but it beats isolating yourself, trust me.  And you know what? There are people who love you.  They really, really love you, and they would be honored if you picked up the phone and confided in them.

And don’t forget, you’ve got the Club.  No matter where we are in life, this is a lifetime membership, and no matter who you are or where you are, we are all right here with you.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Queens of the In Crowd

*Names with an asterisk have been changed

Our bus rolled up to the campgrounds, and we all filed out of the bus in the most angsty teenager way possible.  Too cool for school, too cool for nature.  I looked around.  For one week, I’d be stuck in the middle of the woods with a bunch of kids I tried to avoid every day.  Great.

They had let us know ahead of time that there would be two cabins per gender, and we got to pick our bunkmate.  I shared a bunk with my best friend Rachel, who gave me the top bunk.  That’s a good friend, because everyone knows the top bunk is the shit. We crossed our fingers hoping we’d get to bunk with our friends Jenique and Kelly, but we wound up being placed in a cabin with some of the Queens of the In Crowd and girls from some school in Vermont.

When dinnertime came, the teachers and counselors called us up to the common area.  We entered in, selecting our seats at long tables.  The counselor-type people explained the rules of Nature’s Classroom.  For example, we couldn’t add sugar to anything, because they wanted to torture us.  They also made a big deal of ort.  Per Merriam-Webster, ort is a morsel (or morsels) of leftover food.  They told us that all of the ort we left on our plates would be weighed, then placed in a trough and given to the pigs.  Even though it likely made the pigs happy, ort was a bad word; it was waste.  It was evidence of our spoiled culture of over-consumption.
During the ort speech, I looked over to watch one of my teachers, Mr. Leed*, standing alongside the counselor-type people at Nature’s Classroom.  I knew he was totally eating this up, leaving no ort behind.  If he had his way, he’d live at Nature’s Classroom and never leave.  Mr. Leed was an ex-hippie who often would break from his teaching to yell at us for being so spoiled and horrible.  A lot of what he said was true, but the lectures would get tiring and somewhat insulting to some of us who weren’t wealthy.  He’d go off on a rant that usually started off with, “you all go home to your four televisions and three VCRs…” Rachel would literally plug her ears.  He would often ask to see a show of hands for those of us who had cable or more than one television, then berate us for being so over-privileged – as if everyone who raised their hand told the truth.  There were a lot of well-off kids in our school, and your family’s perceived lack of wealth could be used against you.  In Nature’s Classroom, however, we were all equals – until we decided we were better than the kids from Vermont.

After eating and braving through a gaggle of 13 year-old girls trying to shower with a limited hot water supply, Rachel and I arrived back in our cabin.  The Vermont Girls were on one side of the cabin, and the Queens of the In Crowd were on the other.  There was a lot of whispering and sneering.  One of the Queens who usually looked me over as if I wore a dirty potato sack gave us a catty smile and waved us over to the group.  “Hey guys, come over here!”  We walked towards the circle, and they filled us in on the atrocities the Vermont Girls had committed in the short amount of time it took us to take a shower.  “They looked at us and rolled their eyes!” One said.  “I tried to talk to one of them and they were all like, ‘ugh’” Said another, mimicking extreme snootiness.  Even though a little voice in my head was warning me that these girls were up to no good, the larger voice in my head thought, “the popular girls are talking to us; This is our chance to get ‘in’ and be perceived as normal! Maybe they’re not so bad!” So I widened my eyes, and replied with astonishment.  “Oh, my God; Really?? How rude!”  The battle lines were drawn.

We all side-eyed each other until the lights went out.  Once it was dark, the nastiness began.  It started with whispering, chatting and giggling even though we were supposed to go to sleep.  The chaperone in the room was a teacher from the Vermont school, so clearly she was the enemy.  When the Vermont Girls would giggle, one of our girls would giggle back loudly, mocking them.  One Queen threw something over to their side of the cabin.  This went on for a couple of hours, despite being yelled at by the chaperone several times.

The next morning, I felt bad.  I’ve had my moments of nastiness before, believe me – but I did not want to be a Mean Girl.  I just wanted to have a lot of friends, and I felt pretty horrible that I stepped on a couple of seemingly nice strangers to try to get there.  Rachel engaged in this activity the least, because she was an awesome person.  She listened to the Queens and smiled, but she never engaged in cattiness.  I, on the other hand, laughed at the jabs, and woke up knowing I was a jerk.  Why did we attack these girls?

As we began to assemble for a very important and educational class on bubble-making, two of the Vermont Girls walked up to me.  “Why is everyone being so mean to us? We didn’t do anything.”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. I think we thought that you were being mean to us? It’s really stupid, isn’t it?”  Yes. I appointed myself Ambassador of the In Crowd.

A couple of Queens walked up to join us.  Before you know it, everyone was laughing and chirping, and everyone suddenly acted as if we were all the bestest of friends.  A détente had been reached.

Once Nutmegger v. Green Mountaineer was settled, we had other moments of drama to contend with.  As usual, the sub-group I was placed in for a number of activities was punished for being horrible human beings.  The worst punishment occurred during a nature walk while it was raining.  The counselor had it with people acting up, and she made us get in a “human knot” to get us to work better as a team.  We were drenched, annoyed, and weren’t allowed to head back for dinner until we could get out of the human knot.  My aversion to any and all team-building activities can be traced directly back to this moment.

The majority of activities we had to do were your typical summer camp activities; we had nature walks, put on a talent show, and had an archaeology dig where we excavated a mud-caked can of Schlitz and a cigarette butt.  The highlight of the activities was learning how to sign to the song “The Rose,” which we all showed off and performed for our classmates.  This appealed to many of us, because every young girl wants to learn sign language and/or Braille after reading a book on Helen Keller or watching Mary go blind on Little House on the Prairie.

As Nature’s Classroom progressed, the mood deteriorated.  Rachel and I got snippy with each other because quite frankly, I was a bitch.  Jenique and Kelly were getting irritated as bunkmates because Kelly had to crack every last joint in her body before she went to sleep each night.  It rained too much, and the shower situation was on the verge of creating an all-out pimp-slapdown.  Then there was the ort.  Oh, yes, that freaking ort.

After a meal on one of our last days, the counselors stood in the front of the commons area looking devastated.  Mr. Leed was slowly morphing into the Incredible Hippie Hulk.  A Sadface Counselor made the announcement – the ort weighed in at a whopping 10 pounds.  Our waste was the size of a large baby; a large, granola-crusted, raisin-eyed, sugarless baby.  According to them, this was unprecedented in the history of Nature’s Classroom.  Sadface Counselor looked like we just sacrificed a baby polar bear before her eyes.  Mr. Leed, ever the bastion of self-restraint, couldn’t hold back his wrath for another second.  He tore into his most impassioned “6 televisions, 4 VCRs” speech yet, craftily working in global hunger and the destruction of mankind, attributing all impending evil in the world to my selfish, wasteful, ortful generation.  We were evil.  We were horrible, evil children with too many VCRs!  It was one of those rage-induced speeches where the room is so awkwardly quiet at the end, your Asshole Brain wants you to say something incredibly inappropriate and sarcastic just to see if the screamer completely loses their shit and starts flipping tables or throwing chairs.  Even in my preadolescent angst, a.k.a. the Golden Age of Asshole Brain, I valued my life enough to remain quiet and pretended to look shamed and mournful.  It’s not that Mr. Leed was completely wrong in his message; it’s just that it’s inappropriate to blame an entire group for things a few people do.  Or conversely, blame a few people for the ills of their entire generation.  You’d think an ex-hippie would get that.

On the last night of Nature’s Classroom, as usual Vermont hung out on their side, and we hung out on our side.  Despite the giggly détente earlier in the week, the damage was done.  We sat on a Queen’s bed and talked about things.  We sang “Kokomo,” and told secrets.  We talked about the boys we had a crush on.  They prodded Rachel and me for our crushes – Rachel never gave in, but of course, I did.  I’ve always said that I was a naïve kid; if you told me you’d keep a secret, I’d believe you.  I felt like I bonded with the Queens; I didn’t think we’d all exchange phone numbers and become besties, but I figured I talked enough with them to earn “fellow breathing human” status.

The morning after Ortgate, we were all overly conscious of what was on our plates.  No one wanted to be yelled at for 20 minutes again.  A couple of the Vermont girls sat across from Rachel and me and we chatted over breakfast.  We talked about music, and one of the girls said her two favorite bands were The Cars and Van Halen – my two favorite bands, both decidedly “uncool” in my junior high (it was Van Hagar era, mind you).  As we talked, I realized that I really blew an opportunity to get to know a very nice person who shared my interests.  I was the worst kind of Mean Girl – I was a follower.

At the end of the meal, Mr. Leed had the look of supreme self-satisfaction.  The counselors stood up to make a joyful announcement:  We hardly left ANY ort, and it weighed in at an unprecedented low number.  Do you ever feel this sort of thing is planned? Anyway, I guess the pigs starved.  Yay, nature!

We said goodbye to the Vermont Girls, who were probably (and rightfully) thinking, “whatever, bitches,” and hopped on the bus to go home.  As we pulled away from Nature’s Classroom and made our way back home, our lives slowly morphed into the people we were prior to the trip.  We turned on 7 of our 8 televisions, kicked 3 of our 4 VCRs, took long, hot showers, and still had occasional food fights in the cafeteria.  I apparently put my dirty potato sack back on as we all went our separate ways and fell back into the cliques we were meant to be in.  I’d say I was disappointed, but it didn’t really bother me.  Everything I really wanted in friendship I found in Rachel and my other friends, and I didn’t have to laugh at other people to stay in their good graces.  So, I accepted my potato sack status, shrugged my shoulders, and learned that some people just won’t accept you as you are; and you know what? That’s their problem.  I was lucky to have friends that did, and truthfully I didn’t want it any other way.

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tales of an Almost Runaway

I was very young when I first wanted to run away.

When I was two or three, my mom bought me a black raspberry ice cream cone at Friendly’s while she chatted with one of her friends for lunch.  The ice cream was delicious and the prettiest color of purple I had seen.  I joyfully ate the treat while my mom and her friend talked grown up stuff that was of no concern to me.  Once ice cream time was over, we walked out of the restaurant and the most id, primitive thought entered my little mind – what would happen if I ran?  I was right beside my mother as she was chatting her goodbyes to her friend.  She wasn’t holding my hand – she had no reason to distrust me.  Until now, muahahaha.

Without any further thought I ran with all my might down a pathway.  I heard my mother call after me, and I began to laugh.  I did it! I did it! I had no idea where I’d go, but it would be new and fun and different.  It felt like I ran a block, but in reality I probably ran about 15 feet.  My mom’s friend jumped out in front of me.  I hit the brakes and turned in the other direction, only to find my mother standing over me, her arms extended.  Trapped! I sighed, and my mother scooped me up.  She was more amused than angry, surprisingly.  Knowing what a wuss I was as a kid, I probably cried when I realized my plan was foiled, however I don’t remember that part of it.

This is the earliest memory I can recall of my desire to run away.  From that point on, as I went from toddler to child, I fantasized about all the adventures I could have if only I could cross the street. Whenever a flood warning came on the television, I would excitedly go to my playroom in the basement to make an ark for myself and my stuffed animals.  I’d string together a bunch of cardboard boxes and milk crates to make my boat, placing only my most beloved and trusted confidants in the same box as me – Fifi the cat, Ricky the raccoon and Herman the monkey.  After Fifi’s frequent weddings and divorces to both Ricky and Herman, one would think this would be a bad living arrangement for a long journey to the unknown, but I understood relationships about as much as I understood buoyant materials.

As I built my ark, I would imagine it being lifted by the flood waters, carrying me and my animals away to some place I had never been before.  Maybe they would take me across the Sound to New York! It seemed so exciting.  Much to my disappointment, the floods never came and my cardboard boat would never be tested on the rough seas.

Once I got past my ark stage, I entered the runaway stage.  Around the same time I read about dinosaurs and outer space, I began to look at things differently.  I suddenly became aware that the universe was large but my world was small.  When my family would go to visit relatives, we’d hop on the Merrit Parkway and I’d look out the car window longingly.  I’d see the endless forests and wonder if anyone would ever find you if you hid in them.  I’d see cliff-like hills carved out by dynamite to make room for the freeway, and I wanted to jump out and climb them like a jungle gym.  Hills and mountains begged to be traversed.  I wanted to take roads to their end.  I wanted to see the larger universe.

When I felt like I had to get out and find those hills to climb, I would grab a baby blanket to put my things in and tie it to the end of an aluminum curtain rod – only in middle class Connecticut would a hobo purse be constructed in this way.  I’d take my favorite Underroos our of my dresser, grab socks and a shirt, a few stuffed animals, and I’d prepare two butter sandwiches for my journey.  Sometimes, my mother would ask me what I was doing.  I’d tell her I was running away, and she’d give a disinterested “okay,” puff on her cigarette and return to reading her book.  You could say I did this sort of thing fairly often.

I’d start packing my blanket with all of these items and quickly realize very few things fit in a hobo purse, and I wouldn’t use a bigger blanket because well, that would look stupid, wouldn’t it?  Ultimately, my plan would end with me staring at a pile of junk atop my blanket while eating both butter sandwiches in one sitting.

As I got older, my runaway plans became grand and wonderful.  My friend Jenique always seemed to be my partner in crime around this time.  Our adventurous spirits were temporarily satisfied by cutting through people’s yards to get to each other’s houses; we’d climb fences, fight our way through pricker bushes, and stealthily avoid getting caught by the homeowners (most of the time).  Soon, the adventure became routine, and it only made sense that we’d want to run away.  We both wanted to see that world that existed across the street and wanted to live by our own rules.  We decided it would be ideal to live in a forest somewhere far away, eating berries, mushrooms and fish.  We’d get a tent and make it our home, live off the land and be free.  Probably thanks to Mork and Mindy, I decided our magical location would be Boulder, Colorado.  When I pulled up the entry for Colorado in my family’s 1967 Encyclopedia Americana, the map of Colorado looked like there was a huge forest around Boulder, and it was also near the mountains! You can’t beat that.

We looked at JC Penney catalogs and decided what kind of tent we wanted.  We decided to create a runaway fund and went around the neighborhood trying to sell my father’s old books.  Being seasoned lying liars, we claimed we were girl scouts trying to raise money for our troop. No one bought the story or our old, musty books.  We had a plan for how to get to Boulder – her parents had an old, beat up Porsche that sat on the curb next to her house.  They weren’t using it – we’d just take it and go! Never mind we obviously couldn’t drive, wouldn’t pass for a legal driving age, and I think the Porsche had a bees’ nest in it…when you’re young you don’t think of logistics or obstacles; you are simply certain you can make it so.

As I grew up, my runaway fantasies mostly subsided, replaced by more practical adventures and grown-up responsibilities.  I’d have a spark here and there – like when I stood on the western side of Hanalei Bay on Kauai’i.  I watched ten-foot waves crash onto the shore’s soft sand, and I thought for a moment that I would love to live on this isolated stretch of the island in a little hut surrounded by mango and avocado trees, walking barefoot and allowing the crashing waves to sing me to sleep every night.  Grown-up reality set in when I recognized a tiny hut on Hanalei Bay costs at least twice as much as my current home, and my romantic runaway fantasy didn’t include working an 8 to 5 for a living.

Despite that realization, it occurred to me that the world offers so much more than what we allow ourselves to have.  As kids,we want to have it all simply because it’s there.  As teenagers, we want it because someone said we couldn’t have it.  As adults, well, we get so caught up in our lives we don’t even see that it’s there anymore.

We don’t need to be beach bums in Hanalei Bay to live our adventure – there are still forests to explore and mountains to climb in our backyard.  We may have forgotten they were there, but they’ve been waiting for our arrival since we were children.

The next time you’re driving somewhere and an old road captures your attention, or you see a field of daisies or dandelions, and that little voice in you that tells you “explore”? Allow that voice to be heard and be the adventurer you dreamed of being for just a few minutes of your life – it’s okay to be a kid sometimes.

The Boob Tube

College? I was so kicking ass.  3.8 my first semester and I procured a good-looking boyfriend – not bad for someone who didn’t have a date to Senior prom, eh?  I killed it in my non-performance music classes.  I was solid in my Gen Ed. Classes.  Yeah, I was a rock star.  When I was in junior high school, one of my family members made a crack that the only “A” I’d ever see was the one in my name, and the rest of my family chuckled knowingly.  Now? 6 As and one B on my first report card from college.  Hell yeah! I thought I had the college thing figured out.

Of course, figuring out college wasn’t just about getting good grades and attractive boyfriend procurement; like other freshman, I had to figure out how to live on my own.  I had to figure out how to do my laundry without getting clumps of detergent stuck on my clothes, or how to eat when all sorts of fried and Alfredo-dipped options lay out in front of me.  I had to figure out how to live in a 10X10 cell with another human being without shanking them or being shanked.  Finally, I had to figure out what was essential, and what was non-essential.

There was one thing I deemed essential that was sorely lacking from our dorm room fall semester: a television.  For four months, I lived without my beloved soap opera – the soap opera everyone’s grandma watched since 1937: “Guiding Light.”  The summer prior to college was one of the finest in GL’s history, and damn it, I was missing out on all the plot resolution.  What happened with Bridget and Hart? Did he learn about her having his baby in secret?  Did he return her affections? I needed to know these things.  I missed out on a variety of plot points, and in soap opera years, a few months meant you missed out on someone’s entire childhood.  Jesus, Bridget’s little baby was probably running Spaulding Enterprises now, and I was missing it!

Following winter break, I flew back to Arizona and walked back into my little cell in the Manzi-Mo dorm.  Emily and her boyfriend Tony were in the process of setting up a small television on her desk.  My eyes widened with glee.  I felt like I was transported back to the 50s, when a television was the centerpiece of one’s living room and social life.  Emily and I could finally reconnect with the world outside of campus!  We excitedly discussed what we’d watch – Fresh Prince, Animaniacs, Guiding Light!  Well, I was excited about Guiding Light.  Emily was not a fan of soap operas, but she was kind enough to give me 2-3pm to watch my show.  I had Music Literature at that time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that was fine – everyone knows the best soap days are Fridays and Mondays.

As soon as the antenna was adjusted, a warm, seductive glow filled the room.  Emily and I stopped our conversation mid-sentence and stared at the moving pictures in awe.  Oh, Television…where have you been?

Catching up on lost time, I started watching my soap again.  I was surprised to find out goody-two-shoes Julie turned bad after sleeping with Hart on her wedding day and was promptly dumped by then-fiancée Dylan.  She now had her sights set on Frank, who was going through a rough patch in his marriage to Eleni (played by the lovely Melina Kanekredes).  When I first watched, Emily rolled her eyes, but surely enough, she began to get engaged.  “Eleni’s pretty…” she said.  “How did she wind up with Frank?” I told her the torrid history of boring, dopey Frank, amazing Eleni, and their entire wacky family, gladly answering every question to come my way.  After coming back from Music Lit one day, Emily nearly tackled me when I walked in the room.  “Girl, you won’t believe what happened today!” She proceeded to tell me about the results of the beauty pageant that pitted sweet Lucy (Frank’s kid sister) against evil Julie, and all the chaos and underhandedness that ensued.  Yes – I had her hooked!

In reality, we both became addicted to television – before you know it, soap operas, Rikki Lake and The Price Is Right became a higher priority than class; I mean, what if they played Plinko today? You don’t want to miss that, do you?  We became fond of the NBC affiliate’s elderly weather guy.  Every Friday night, he’d celebrate the weekend by pulling five pieces of confetti out of his beige blazer pocket and let out a mild “yay” as confetti and old blazer lint unceremoniously scattered across the news desk.  Within a month, we went from a reaction of “what the hell is this?” to declaring him a national treasure.  We were Podlings and TV was our Dark Crystal – it captured our gaze, and we were unable to turn away until the last drop of essence was sucked out of us.

One afternoon, Emily and I lay on our beds and stared like zombies at the television.  A rerun of MASH came on.  To most people, that would indicate there was nothing left on television.  The natural response to this predicament would be to go to class and get the education we were paying so dearly for.  But that would involve getting up and leaving the Boob Tube for a couple of hours.

As the theme for MASH played in the background, Emily and I looked at each other somewhat desperately.  “Doot do-do doot do doot do…” No.  No.  Can. Not. Watch.  Where’s the remote?  “Doot do-do doot do doot do…” Damn, it’s on top of the television – who put it there?? Hurry!  Emily weakly lifted her arm up and attempted to retrieve the remote via Jedi Mind powers.  She released a meek “ehhh,” expending all of her energy to will the remote into her hands.  It was not working.  The force was weak within us.  “Doot do-do-doot-doo, doot do-doot doot! Doot!”  Shit, I don’t want to watch Alan Alda! DO SOMETHING, DAMN IT.

Emily was still frozen, fully focusing on her Jedi powers, letting out a more desperate “ehhh!!!” with her fingers outstretched.  In a jolt of energy, I burst out of bed and ran to the television, simultaneously grabbing the remote and hitting the “down channel” button on the television.  I tossed the remote to Emily and collapsed back on my bed, exhausted from my effort.  Emily’s arm relaxed and fell over the remote.  She sighed in relief, as if her Jedi powers worked after all.  Our panic over the prospect of watching MASH put us in a semi-catatonic state, so we settled on the channel I had switched it to.  Tucson PBS.  Sigh.

We stared quietly as a forgettable, non-offensive melody on the acoustic guitar played and cheap font lettering appeared on the screen: “Sewing with Nancy.”  A blonde woman in an 80s-era blouse came on to tell us in a soft, monotonous voice that today we would be making a children’s quilt with little wagons on it.  She pronounced “wagons” as “waygins,” which immediately qualified her for mocking by Emily and I.  Way better than MASH.  Nancy was gifted with the whole sewing thing – she was most certainly a Publicly-Funded Martha Stewart, except she seemed terrified of the camera.  We watched and giggled at the cheap production and “waygin”-making.  At one point, Emily lifted the remote to switch the channel and I protested.  “Wait! I want to see how this ends.”  Ultimately, Emily won, and she found an infomercial for us.  We regained our strength, reassured that we now had an alternative to MASH.

We continued in our Podling state well into the night, watching Conan O’Brien and whatever extra late night show they had beyond him.  A few infomercials and Bewitched episodes later and we were stunned.  A US Flag came on the screen and the national anthem began to play.  It shook us out of our state.  I turned to Emily, confused.  “What?

She calmly watched the screen, deeply analyzing what was happening.  I was in denial.  What’s going on? What’s happening?  Something seems wrong here.

Then? Bars of color.  Is this a new show? What is this?  Nothing else happened.  No sound, no moving pictures.  My jaw dropped.  We came to the end of television!  What the hell is this, 1977 Romania?  This is America – television doesn’t just end!  I turned to Emily, baffled.  “I…I didn’t know this could happen in this day and age.”

Emily shook her head.  “Tucson.”

Tucson?  Tucson?!? That’s it?  “But…where did the television go?”

“There’s no more programming!”

My mouth remained agape.  “They can’t put an infomercial on? There isn’t a rerun they can show?  The Honeymooners?  The Odd Couple? Something?” …Just not MASH.

“All the old people in this town are in bed by now, so they turn the station off.”  Her lack of concern was upsetting.

“Who does that??”

“Tucson.”

Arghhh! What are we going to do?”

Emily turned off the television and hopped into her bed.  “We sleep.”

I crawled into bed and we turned out the lights.  The room was quiet and dark for about five minutes.  “Anne-Ma-RIE?” Emily would often say my name with an amusing rhythmic cadence when she wanted something or was about to tease me.

“Yes?”

“Do your Sewing with Nancy Voice!”

“I have to turn the light back on, because you have to see my face.”

“Okay!”

I turned on the light on my side of the room.  I touched my comforter like it was going under a machine.  “…and then you put the little way-gins on the quilt…”

We laughed and mocked our TV shows for a good hour until we finally fell asleep.  In our slumber, the stations magically turned back on, resumed programming, and the universe seemingly returned to its proper order.

Every so often, I’ll come across something that reminds me of one of the classes I didn’t attend; I’ll hear a musical piece that I crammed in my brain before a test in Music Lit, yet I can’t quite place it and can’t tell you anything interesting about it.  A news item will cover something in the world of anthropology – the topic will seem vague to me, yet I have no real knowledge to provide background or insight on the news item.  In those moments, I sit and wonder about that semester; I wonder if all those hours watching “The Price is Right” was worth it.  I mean, if someone actually won the 25 grand in Plinko, it totally would have been for sure… but obviously that didn’t happen. [Total side note here:  a Virgin to Life Mini-Event is when Plinko goes from being the best game on The Price is Right to the worst game on The Price is Right.  I think that moment is the first indicator you’re becoming a grown-up.]

I then think about my friendship with Emily.  In some odd way, as we were delighting in Julie’s conniving ways on Guiding Light or mocking an inarticulate self-righteous audience member on Rikki Lake, we formed a family-like bond.  Because of that television, we actually chose to hang out together in that 10 x 10 cell.  In our mocking and joking, we’d start to talk about life – where we came from, where we wanted to go, and where we didn’t want to end up.  Emily became that rare kind of friend you can lose contact with for long periods of time, but pick up right where you left off at any time.  Just like a re-run of The Fresh Prince.

So, yeah, the TV was worth it.

A Bucket List for 2012

When I was 20 years old, I sat down and created a list called “The Things I Want to Do Before I Die.”  Many years later, someone called this sort of thing a “bucket list.”  It is a two-page list of everything I wanted to accomplish and experience, and every place I wanted to go.  When I created it, I asked myself, “when I’m 80 years old and I look back on my life, what would an interesting, accomplished life look like?”  It has simple things on it like, “visit Hawaii,” “pat a dolphin,” or “get something substantial published.”  It has more difficult things on it, like “meet Oprah Winfrey.”  It has a number of things I inexplicably wanted to do at the time, but no longer have any desire to do: “Shoot and kill a deer,” “Join the RNC.”  It excludes things that I was afraid to do but have done anyway, like go Skydiving.  Every so often I take it out and peruse it.  I never delete anything from this list because I think one of the lessons to be learned is that our goals and desires change over the years.  While certain hopes and dreams are solid as rock, others are fluid and constantly changing.  A happy life isn’t a rigid life, but a flexible one.

Regardless, I love checking things off of the list.  Sometimes the accomplishments were even more valuable than I imagined (visiting Italy), and other times they are less thrilling than I expected them to be.  “Have a credit on a CD.”  Done.  It was a minor credit. It wasn’t the accomplishment I thought it would be.   As a whole however, it has been a wonderful experience living with this list for so many years.

With this in mind, I’m going to take a different approach to 2012.  Like many, I typically create a list of resolutions every year that are nothing more than corrections on my shortcomings – I want to live healthier, floss more and be a kinder person.  These are simple resolutions and they will continue to be in my mind for 2012, but this year I’d like to create accomplishments.  The “Things to Do Before I Die” list is a macro list; I’m creating a micro list for 2012.  Below is my list, and a little background as to why each accomplishment is on the list:

Start an international cooking club

As you can probably tell, I really like food.  I also enjoy cooking, but I don’t give myself the time to really experiment with new recipes.  A couple of months ago, I asked on Facebook if any of my friends would like to start an international cooking club, where we would meet once a month and focus on a particular region for food.  I received a very positive response, which tells me I have potential members! The next step is to get the ball rolling and send the invitations out.  Plus, if I start a cooking club I’ll likely be able to knock “make a difficult dish” off my lifetime bucket list.

Do a DIY/repurposing project

This sounds like a really simple task, but I am awful at hobbies and projects.  I typically get all gung-ho at a concept, spend a shitload of money on supplies, and wind up sobbing with a clump of glue and wires and a crumpled up pamphlet of instructions beside me.  The project then sits in the Valley of Lost Hobbies (aka my home office) until I finally admit defeat and throw it away three years later.  I am going to read Lifehacker this year, find a project that looks like fun and is reasonably simple, and damn it, I’m going to do it.

Make 100 hats and/or blankets for the homeless

Believe it or not, southern Arizona can get really cold in the winter. This past year, one of the organizations in town offering services to the homeless requested warm clothing, hats and blankets to distribute through the winter.  I was able to give them 8 hats.  This past year, I spent a day volunteering for a soup kitchen, and when I drove up to the building a few hours before they opened, there were a lot of people lined up on the street looking for a warm meal; way more than 8 hats are needed to help a part of our community in Arizona.  I’d love to make even more hats than 100, I just don’t know if that’s possible.  We’ll see.

Do one thing I’ve been afraid or resistant to do

I’m much better about it at this point in my life, but I have issues with social anxiety and bringing attention to myself.  This blog is a little quiet piece of therapy, but I’d like to step out more.  I’m not sure what this thing will be – maybe I’ll finally have the guts to post one of my songs online.  Maybe I’ll gain the confidence to try playing craps (the crowd at the table and the rules of engagement with getting and cashing out chips is intimidating).  Maybe I’ll take up ballroom dancing.  Maybe I’ll do all three.  I’m not sure.

Learn all three movements to “Moonlight Sonata”

This is a big one.  The quick and simple story of Anne-Marie and piano playing: I am entirely self-taught, and growing up I was severely lacking in discipline.  I was a wiz at theory, but my performance ability was semi-pathetic.  I didn’t have the discipline to learn a full piece.  I didn’t bother to study proper fingering on the piano.  I was above average when learning by ear and used it as a crutch when attempting to sight-read on the piano.  When I got to college level, I was so far behind my peers in the area of performance it became a humiliating experience worthy of its own blog entry.  I developed stage fright as a weird offshoot of chronic depression and anxiety, yet I somehow managed to get through my juries.  I felt like a hack, and I felt like everyone knew it.  The thing I loved became a mutated monster that made me angry with myself, and I pushed it out of my life for years.

It’s made its way back in my life, and even though I am all too aware I once knew a lot more than I do now, I’m feeling an intrinsic satisfaction that I haven’t felt since I was little and secretive about my love of playing.  I want to learn a full piece, and I want to learn how to play it properly.  Why not “Moonlight Sonata?” It’s a beautiful piece and was my dad’s favorite.

Run a race and hike a mountain

When I was healthier, I enjoyed running and hiking.  It would be nice to get back to a point where I can do them again.  “Hiking a Mountain” is also on my lifetime bucket list.

Find a way to get my blog to average 100 visitors a day for a week

Time has been the greatest challenge I’ve had with this blog.  The most important thing is for me to do my best to be a good writer and storyteller with every entry.  I want to do more than that – I want you, the reader to enjoy what I write so much, you want to share it with people.  I want to write something that is such quality that I want you to look forward to reading every entry I put out.  Maybe it’s because I’m a performer at heart, but I enjoy the thought of creating something and having people enjoy it.  I’m going to gradually roll out changes to make this site better.  I want to entertain you every single week of 2012.

I guess that sounds a little like a resolution.

Is there anything you want to accomplish in 2012? Do you want to learn to play an instrument or learn to watercolor? Do you want to create an app for your iPhone? Do you want to take tap dancing lessons, or learn calculus? I want to hear about it!