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

Hope for a Beautiful America: A Road Trip for Independence Day

[Originally posted on Jul 1, 2012]

On this fourth of July week, I look out at a blue sky with cotton-like cumulus clouds floating over the Rockies – the majestic range of purple mountains we sing about this time of year in praise of the beautiful country we live in.  We arrived here after taking a road trip up from Phoenix to the Vail Valley.  I can’t think of a better way to spend this holiday than by experiencing 800 miles of the American Southwest by car.

We left the sweltering heat of Phoenix and headed up the I-17, a route familiar to many Phoenicians who escape the heat by traveling to to the cooler, smaller town of Flagstaff, Arizona.  As anyone in the southwest will tell you, the government’s definition of “forest” is a loose one when you see the national forest signs and nothing but two foot tall brush as far as the eye can see.  On this trip between the two cities, you experience the change of climates and see the forests truly develop – the brush become bushes, the bushes become six foot tall trees, and the trees become enormous pine trees, greeting you as you enter Flagstaff.

We headed east on the I-40 to pick up the US-89, driving past dormant and extinct volcanos that make up much of northern Arizona.  One of the areas we drove past is a favorite destination of ours – Sunset Crater National Park.  At Sunset Crater, you still see the black lava from an eruption that took place less than 1000 years ago, along with the forest life that found a way to grow beyond its ashes.  Next to Sunset Crater, you also have Wupatki National Monument – ruins of a civilization who thrived after the eruption, thanks to fertile soil created from volcanic ash.  When my parents saw this area a few years ago, my father commented that it goes to show that specific things die and species become extinct, but Mother Nature always has a greater plan, and there’s nothing we can do that will get in her way.

Past Flagstaff and just past the easternmost part of Grand Canyon National Park, we hopped onto the US-160, which takes you into deep into the Navajo Nation.  In a few days we will celebrate our freedom and independence, yet the history of this land serves as a reminder of how easily it can be to move from the oppressed to the oppressor.  By the mid-to-late 1800s, the U.S. Government and the Navajos had ongoing problems with raids, violence and violated treaties.  The U.S. rounded up the Navajos and placed them in an internment camp with other tribes – 10,000 people living in an inhospitable area that was only 10 square miles.  Food was in short supply, the water wasn’t clean, and disease ravaged the camp.  Eventually, the U.S. established a larger boundary for reservation land, giving the Navajos back a lot of the land they were taken from, and those who survived were allowed to return home.

I know this time of year we don’t want to talk about our country’s historic failures such as this, but I think we need to – what makes America great is that it is in the hands of the people.  No matter how badly Texas lawmakers don’t want you to think critically, it is human nature to do so, and the success of this country lies in our ability to think for ourselves and to take a stand when we see oppression.  If you are on the left or the right, that previous sentence has got you thinking of two completely different things.  That’s fine, I suppose, but as we watch the fireworks, as we sing “Yankee Doodle,” let us remind ourselves of the founding fathers and the revolutionaries who died not for our complacency, but for our activism.  They fought for the belief in a government for the people and by the people.  Not for and by the 1%, corporations or lobbyists, and not so we can passively elect political party caricatures to represent the signer of their largest campaign check.  As I drove through land that tells a tale of a darker American history, I’m reminded we cannot afford to sit idly by when a government supports fear mongering and inhumanity.  As all of history has shown, one thing always leads to another, and complacency will ultimately lead to an inhumanity comparable to the Long Walk of the Navajo.

History is a combination of triumph and loss, hope and despair.  This road trip through history is no exception, as evidenced by the wonderful national parks we encounter.

Author Wallace Stegner once wrote, “National parks are the best idea we ever had.  Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”  Following this road trip from Phoenix to Colorado, you encounter some of the most exceptional national parks in the country.  In addition to Sunset Crater and Wapatki, you’re reasonably close to the eastern end of the Grand Canyon, and aren’t too far of a drive from the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.  After driving through Navajo Nation and onto the 191, you end up in Moab – a quintessentially charming Utah town once famous for its uranium mining back in the Cold War days.  Moab serves as a gateway to two other great national parks, Canyonlands and Arches.  These parks represent the love and respect we have for our land.  As we drove past deep red rock formations and copper-rich green mountains, I felt grateful for living in a country with such a variety of beauty within its borders.  Our geology is as diverse as our people, and we are inherently lucky for both.

The Colorado wildfires remained on our minds through the trip.  We took a brief detour around the Four Corners to go into southern Colorado, and the hazy air and smoke plumes were heartbreaking to see – it really seemed as if the entire state was on fire.  As Arizonans, we are all too familiar with the danger and devastation of wildfires – to date, Arizona has lost land greater than the size of Connecticut to wildfires.  Even considering that, what is happening in Colorado is like nothing we have ever seen.  Our hearts go out to the communities affected by these fires, and we hope for fast containment as well as the safety of the firefighters.

Driving past Grand Junction on the I-70 gave us a remarkable view of the Pine Ridge Fire, a fire believed to be caused by a discarded cigarette.  As we drove east on the 70, we saw white and black plumes fill the sky.  Freeway signs warned that the fire was nearby, but we were not in danger by any means.  As we headed into De Beque Canyon, we were surprised to see exactly how close we were to the outer edge of the fire – you could clearly see the flames from the freeway, small pockets of them, gradually cascading down the steep slopes of the mountain.  We spotted two helicopters doing remarkable work to fight this fire.  The pilots would lower the chopper down to the Colorado River, which separates the mountain from the freeway, to the point the chopper would be level with the cars on the freeway.  They would scoop up water from the river, then carry it over to the fire line, piloting perilously close to the edge of the mountain to attempt to aim the giant bucket of water to fight the flames.  These choppers were doing this over and over, for who knows how long.  Just imagine – these pilots are putting their lives at risk because someone mindlessly threw a cigarette out of a car.  This is a typical story for wildfires – it seems when they are not caused by arson, they are caused by self-centeredness; a discarded cigarette, a campfire improperly extinguished… the beautiful America we sing about is taken for granted far too often.

Now that we are at our destination for our fourth of July, I am glad we decided to trek through the hauntings of our history and our present to get here.  Like all history, the history in this region is one of beauty and ugliness, greatness and shame. We must accept it all and embrace the spirit of those before us who took a stand for better life and better government.  We must continue to show commitment to preserve the beauty of our land, live consciously rather than mindlessly, and speak loudly when the voices of others have been muted.

In other words, as we celebrate this fourth of July, let’s all be great Americans.

Photos copyright 2004-2012 Anne-Marie Pleau and Chris Giard.

The Other 90%

So, I am now officially moved to the Bay Area – yay!  I am still temporarily tied to my job in Arizona, so there is only so much I can say about that experience for the time being, however I feel like things are finally getting better. It’s been a rough 6 months with new experiences I would be happy to never encounter again. I’m recovering, and part of that recovery is dusting off the Kitten. That does not quite sound right. Anyhooz, for today, I want to talk about assholes.

I recently witnessed an exchange between two strangers where it was clear one of them made an honest mistake and apologized profusely for it, whereas the other person chose to be an asshole.  It got me thinking: what qualities make up an asshole, and what percentage of the world is made up of them, really?

I conducted a highly scientific study where I hypothesized that the world is probably 20-30% Asshole. Recalling my experience as a waitress, I decided to round that down to 20% – it just seems there should be more because assholes take up a lot more time, space and energy than your average human. Then I thought, “20%; that’s like 1 in 5.  There’s no way there is one asshole to every five people…is there?” I then thought about every place I’ve ever worked. I figure work creates a good cross-section of people; I wouldn’t be friends with assholes, and the average family dynamic is far too complex to determine who is an asshole (plus, I wouldn’t classify anyone in my family is an asshole; mental? Yes. Asshole? Nah ;)).

Upon assessing every former co-worker I’ve ever dealt with, I realized that while there were certain people I certainly didn’t like, most weren’t assholes.  I mentally went through each person I didn’t care for: Slacker. Con artist. Pain in the Ass. Complainer. Rich brat. Psycho. Gossiper. Person Obsessed with Self-Help Groups Who Cannot Be Counted On. Narcissist. Liar. Eggshell-Walking Condescender. To be fair, I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years.  At any rate, it turns out that none of those people could be classified as assholes; there were aspects of each of them I liked and in most cases, they were genuinely decent people. The actual assholes accounted for only 10% of the people I’ve ever worked with.

What was it about this 10% that made me classify them as assholes?  There is a common criteria among all of them:

  • A persistent victimhood where they believe every person around them is angling to attack them
  • An assumption that there is a selfish/hurtful motive behind everything a person says or does
  • A complete disrespect and lack of consideration for others while demanding to be treated like they are King or Queen of the World. This is usually done by belittling, yelling, unnecessary defensiveness and passhole-aggressholery.
  • Anger. Just constant anger over the dumbest, smallest shit.

When you write it all down like this, assholes are a pretty sad lot.  Yet, we give them so much power.  I mentioned earlier about being a waitress.  In my ever-so-brief stint at Friendly’s, I took something from that experience that I still carry with me to this day. No, not the peanut butter fudge ice cream I pilfered when I found out they weren’t paying me my credit card tips – that shit went straight down the piehole three seconds after I walked out the door.

No, I learned that the 10% took up 90% of my time and energy because I only wanted to make them feel satisfied. They were volcanos of anger just waiting to erupt, and I shoved ice cream and attention into their giant, gaping calderas as an offering in the hopes of appeasing them. Silly me. Every time – let me emphasize that – EVERY TIME – it didn’t make a difference. They weren’t looking to enjoy the food I gave them or appreciate my service; they went there looking for problems, free food, and the opportunity to feel superior. This happens all throughout service industries and all throughout life, yet no matter where you go it’s the 10% that get 90% of the attention. It’s the 10% that ruin your day. It’s the 10% that make you throw a phone across the room or take an extra moment in the bathroom to catch your breath. It’s the 10% that make you briefly forget that there are plenty of good, non-asshole humans around you.

In my own experience, I’ve had the most success flicking assholes out of my life by following certain guidelines. When encountering the asshole in your life, consider these tips:

  1. Recognize that an asshole is going to be an asshole no matter what you do, so the first thing you need to realize is their anger is not about you.  Their life is an ongoing flow of rage and negativity and you just happen to be next in a long line of people they are going to rage on.
  2. The best weapons against assholery are patience and kindness. Nothing makes an asshole lose their mind more than another person’s refusal to play their game. I personally believe that at the heart of it all, assholes are assholes because it’s the only way they know how to control their environment and/or feel important. Their power is only what you give them. Be kind, be you, love you, and trust yourself.
  3. There’s a temptation to question yourself after you experienced someone’s rage. Promise yourself that you will take accountability for the mistakes you actually made, but recognize the difference between someone looking for a solution versus someone who wants to just yell for 20 minutes. True story: I once had someone yell at me for 20 minutes over the phone because their health plan gym membership card said “middle name” but it only showed their middle initial. She was rude, sarcastic and of course, pissed. I let her speak, but I remained politely firm that there was nothing that would be done about the situation. After about 10 minutes, I asked, “is there anything else I can help you with today?” She went on ranting for another 10 minutes about how her middle name isn’t “E”, and after she got tired of ranting in circles and not getting a rise out of me, I responded with a pleasant, “well, I thank you for calling; is there anything else I can help you with today?” She finally got off the phone, and for once, I felt perfectly fine after a negative phone call.  It was a transformative moment for me, because it is my tendency to want to please everyone. At that moment I realized some people only want to be displeased, and they want to make you displeased too. Those are the 10%.
  4. Finally, if you are in a situation to do so, just ignore them. As they say on the interwebz, don’t feed the trolls. It sounds like such an elementary school approach to it all, but their behavior is childish.

The biggest challenge for me is when I see examples like the exchange I referenced above. It’s very strange – I am naturally shy and have that whole social anxiety thing going on, but all of that goes out the window when I see an asshole picking on someone. My gut desire is to fucking destroy them. But if I do that, then I’m playing into their game. I’m giving them the attention they crave while letting them control the situation. They win. Instead, take the best of who you are and share it with the people around you – take your compassion, your kindness and your goodwill to the people who will appreciate it as well as the people who haven’t had the opportunity to appreciate it. Randomly pay for a coffee or a toll, say “hello” to people you pass by on the street (people in larger metro areas will look at you suspiciously, but don’t worry about that – just keep at it, I am).

We’re not going to change the world with our kindness, but if we all work to remind each other that there are 9 of us to every 1 asshole, we’ll at least take 90% of our lives back to spend on the things we enjoy and the people we love.  That’s worth it, isn’t it?

Image courtesy of chrisroll/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2013 Bucket List: Get the Funk Out

Naturally, my bucket list is held in an ice bucket.

At the beginning of 2012, I decided to create a bucket list of things to accomplish for the year. Looking at the original blog post, I actually didn’t do so bad:

Start an international cooking club
Did I do it? YES! It was a hit, and I had a blast experimenting with different dishes – Kalua pork, ribollita, pots de creme, chicken molé … unfortunately, since we are in the process of moving, I had to discontinue my participation. My husband is currently recruiting Bay Area people to take part once I move up there, so hopefully we can start it up again.
What did I learn?
1. It’s okay to screw something up.  I totally messed up my garlic aioli. It was inedible. Surprisingly, I was okay with this; I had a back-up plan (gruyere sauce), and failing is a necessary part of experimentation.
2. A good party, even a food-oriented party, is about the people. Pretty design and delicious food is great, but the most important thing to do is to make sure everyone is relaxed and having a good time.  We had a ton of laughs with our friends over good food and wine.

Do a DIY/Repurposing project
Did I do it? Yeah, no. Bless all of you who have the patience and ability to do this sort of thing. I pretty much lost interest in this task within a month or two.

Make 100 hats for the homeless
Did I do it? Not really. I’ve made about 30 or so. It’s not bad, but it’s not 100.
What did I learn? Doing something – anything is valuable. And hands get all crampy when you’re knitting or crocheting constantly.

Do one thing I’ve been afraid or resistant to do
Did I do it? Yes! After a few chicken moments, I stepped out of my comfort zone a few times. I got braces – something I’ve always needed, but was hesitant to do. I’m an adult – it felt weird doing it at my age.  The cost is also astronomical, as most plans don’t cover adult orthodontia. I’m super self-conscious about them, but hopefully it will pay off when I’m done with them next February. I also submitted a few articles to various places – something I was afraid to do for a while.
What did I learn? I am an overthinker. Sometimes, overthinkers need to just cannonball into the damn pool rather than stand at the edge for 20 minutes.

Learn all three movements to “Moonlight Sonata”
Did I do it? I got the first one down…
What did I learn?
1. Don’t commit to all three movements until you have looked at the sheet music. Because the third movement? Holy shit.
2. After years away from the piano, I discovered that I still have that tendency to meander away from practicing to create my own music.
3. I’m okay with that.

Run a race and hike a mountain
HHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHahahaha….
Heh.
*sobs*
*Eats a piece of leftover port wine cheeseball*
nnooommmmm

Get my blog to average 100 visitors a day for a week
Did I do it? YES! Thanks to Jezebel and my beloved OK Go.
What did I learn? Quick story time: Just before OK Go retweeted and Facebooked my creativity post, I was dealt a pretty crushing blow at work. I expressed interest in an internal job I would have been FREAKING AWESOME in, and they gave me the “we’re looking for someone with more experience” line. Without even bothering to look at my resume. This was pretty crushing because my instincts (correctly) told me this position would have been my only real chance to have a long term role in the company. See, I’m in middle management and my company was absorbed by a larger company the year prior. What does that mean? Ginormous target on my back. Despite my ninja-style ass-kicking abilities on a number of projects, ultimately I was nothing more than a name to be crossed off.
I was pretty crestfallen and cried in a bathroom stall for several minutes. I returned to my desk, unsure of how I could get through the day without letting on how upset I was. No one wants to cry at work. There, I discovered the retweet and Facebook post. No, it didn’t change my life, but it got me through the day with a smile on my face. I knew it wouldn’t mean fame or riches or anything ridiculous like that, but seeing the warm responses from all involved reminded me that there’s a lot more to me than being a manager or a data analyst.  I deserve better than bullshit (so do you).  I need to keep reminding myself of that, even now.

What’s Next?
You will notice the title for this is “Get the Funk Out.” You will also notice that my posting schedule is all over the place.  I’ve got a lot going on in my life and in my brain. Rather than being Supergirl and doing it all whilst rocking that sex-ay red and blue unitard, Asshole Brain decided to be depressed, non-productive and unable to string a bunch of sentences together. Seriously, I feel like I’m getting dumber by the day. Damn you, Asshole Brain. So for 2013? I’m keeping it simple:

1. Get out of this funk. Especially by the end of March when my job is done. It’s a blessing I’m going to have the ability to take a little time off and I don’t want to waste it sleeping until 11am and watching The Doctors and shit. I have no idea how I’m going to do this, but I have to. If I want to have success outside of the 9 to 5, office drone BS, I absolutely have to get out of this and make the most of my time off.

2. Start posting my music online. I have a goal of doing the RPM Challenge next month. If I can’t make that happen, I still need to post something. I’m writing a decent amount of music right now and there is one song in particular I am really proud of. I don’t expect anything to come of it, I just feel like I need to put it out there and hope people who would like this sort of music can find me and enjoy my stuff.

3. And um, I guess I need to figure out what the hell happened to my Amazon Affiliates link? When did that happen?

So, that’s my 2013. Easy, right?

An Apology and a Travelogue

With most writings on this blog, I have the luxury of hindsight and distance to reflect on the events in my life.  This week I experienced a roller coaster ride of emotions that I’m not far enough away from yet to appreciate.  I believe I will appreciate this one day, just not right now.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may have felt like I haven’t been on top of my game as of late.  I know I’ve felt rather distracted and less creative in recent months.  This evening, I started writing a blog explaining what is going on in my life but I realized that it would not be in my best interests professionally to write about it at this time.  I know this comes off as cryptic and makes for a really shitty story, but it is going to have to be a story to tell at a later date.  I know I’ll be fine, and I’m hoping this is going to be one of those turning points in life that leads to something wonderful.  Sometimes you don’t see your path until you fall face first onto it.

In the meantime, I do apologize – I didn’t write last week for two weeks, and I’m really struggling to turn on the “writer switch” in my head.  It’s funny – I write music when I’m sad, but I write articles and stories when I’m happy.  I’d be really prolific if only I could time this all out properly.  I hate phoning it in, but at the same time I feel a need to keep this blog going.  I don’t want this to be an abandoned project, yet I’m afraid I’m going to suck so badly at writing it would have the same effect.  I’m going to push through this and keep trying.  I ask you to bear with me.  Let’s consider this an experiment to fight against my anxiety, depression and all those pessimistic, doomsday feelings that resurface when things turn to shit.

So that is the cryptic and lousy storytelling portion discussing the lows of the roller coaster;  let me tell you a little about the highs this week so we can end this thing on a positive note.

Chris flew up to Alameda on Thursday to move into his apartment and get ready for the new job.  I flew out Friday evening to spend the weekend with him and help him get settled.  I’ve joked about this being a “bachelor pad” of sorts for him.  After seeing the apartment, it really has more of a Halfway House vibe to it.  Maybe it just needs a lava lamp and a Fathead.

We walked all over the island on Saturday, enjoying the sunny weather and cute neighborhoods.  We drooled over some huge homes that were well out of our price range; it’s good to dream a little.

Some friends of our recently moved to the SoMa area of San Francisco, so we decided to check out the ferry and meet them for dinner.  We sat up top, hair be damned, enjoying views of the Bay as we crossed over to the Embarcadero.  Chris was pleased that this method of commuting would not suck for him.  I took the above picture of the Bay Bridge along the way.

We then met with our friends to eat at Luce, and I had an excellent meal that featured creative and delicious combinations of flavors.  I started with an artichoke velouté with hazelnuts, cocoa and pears.  It was amazing – creamy but light and very flavorful.  For my main dish, I had Lobster with lemon verbena foam, green strawberries and corn velouté.  It was one of those dishes where everything not only highlighted the main ingredient but enhanced its flavor.  We’re going to love eating out in San Fran.

We headed back on the ferry, watching the reflection of city lights dance against the water:

I smiled at Chris.  “Just imagine, eventually you’re going to do this so much you’ll take this view for granted.”

He smiled “I hope I don’t. But you’re probably right.”

As I sit here in Arizona and he sits in Alameda, knowing I will only see him for a couple of days every two weeks for the next several months, I realize how easy it is to take a beautiful view for granted.

P.S. So much for me ending on a high note…

P.P.S Holy crap, I guess it’s been two weeks since I posted.  Blogger fail.

A 2012 Bucket List Update: Thank You

[Note: While looking for possible images to post with this, coming across "gondola accidents" and "ski lift fall" did not reduce my gondola-anxiety in the slightest.  Thank you Google, for making scaring the shit out of myself one easy click away...]

After my 2012 bucket list post, I had an epiphany that started with an imaginary gondola.  Chris and I booked a trip to Colorado in January because we wanted to learn how to snowboard and/or ski.  By the time we arrived, I put a lot of obstacles in my way – I didn’t book or reserve anything that week.  I didn’t look into pricing.  I didn’t do any cardio, balance or flexibility exercises leading up to the trip to prepare myself.  When we got there, I had a nice array of valid excuses to select from.  Even though all those excuses were waiting for me, I kept thinking about the damn gondola.  I pictured myself having a hard time hopping off and getting out of the way, and all the imaginary angry ski bunnies in my mind were mad and inconvenienced.  The imaginary gorgeous athletic ski instructor (who looks remarkably like James Marsden) grumbled and sighed, as he did some crazy maneuver to get me out of the way before the next gondola smacked me in the back of the head, or before I caused someone else to have an accident.  Some people have anxiety over the very real fear of breaking bones while skiing; my anxiety is about inconveniencing people.  The cast of characters in my little imaginary world consists of every asshole I have ever come across in my life, when reality shows me that there are at least 100 amazing people to each asshole.  Why is that?

Needless to say, we backed out.  Sure, lift tickets were $110 a piece, and a private lesson was a whopping $500, and sure, I still had fun and the poor husband came down with Mongolian Death Worm anyway, but it ate away at me.  I knew this was my “do something you’re afraid of” moment, and I let it pass by.  I made a promise to myself years ago that I would not let my life be dictated by fear, and yet here I was, avoiding things.

Since then, every hesitation I’ve had nagged at me.  It never occurred to me that so many little things have been avoided because of some level of fear.  I had to confront each of them to make up for my not-a-ski trip.  In the time since, I attended a great webinar despite having a mini-panic attack when it was suggested there would be audience participation, I finally got desperately-needed braces, and the biggest of all, I decided to express my opinion on something and submitted it to one of my favorite web sites for publishing.  It got published, and I was blown away by the positive response to it – in 24 hours, it was read by over 40,000 people on Jezebel, and my own web site saw visitors from 35 countries and 47 states (evidently Idaho isn’t big on Whitney Houston).  Most of the comments were positive, and almost all of the comments against it were more constructive and thoughtful than truly negative.  As a result of this particular confrontation with fear, I’ve met one of my other goals for the year and hit a lifetime bucket list goal – I definitely averaged over 100 visitors a day for a week on my site, and I got something published that had mass-reach.

I definitely need to thank all of you for helping me reach these goals – not only from the support and encouragement I received when I first brought this web site online, but by the recent number of tweets, emails, and facebook shares.  As I write this, I realize how much I have to learn as a writer, because I cannot find the right words to express my gratitude or how much I’ve appreciated the comments and kind words.  I really want to do good by you, the reader, and I’m going to bring my best to you every damn week.

As I suggested in my previous bucket list post, with each accomplishment or failure on my list, I have something to take away from the experience.  My takeaway feels a bit unexpected – I learned this week if I really want to succeed as a writer, I need to write fearlessly.  I can live with chickening out on skiing (for now – I AM going to learn to ski or snowboard), but I will not accept chickening out on my writing.  The truth is, no matter how much I people-please in my life, I will never be good at this if I people-please as a writer.

I’ll continue telling stories and being an overall goof, but there’s even more I can do here.  I’m not going to ever force it or become something akin to an internet ambulance-chaser to gain views, but if I’ve got something of value to say, I’m not going to be afraid to say it.

And I’ve got ideas.  Stay tuned…