LE FAIL

I FAIL as a blogger.

Cats-Shall-Decide-Your-Level-of-Fail

A conversation last night reminded me I do in fact have a blog, and said blog has not been updated in freaking forever.

Two things:

  1. I did actually have an epic, like 7 page blog post about Jim Bob Duggar & the clown car vag with a gazillion clever images (GIFs EVEN, PEOPLE) and then I remembered WordPress doesn’t auto-save unless you tell it to save the draft first. Halfway through the first edit Chrome crashed and it was gone. And I was pretty much done with everything from then on.
  2. Life.

That said, I always tend to be more creative and expressive in the fall, and the fall is coming up fast. I’ll try to remember this thing exists and fill you in on the super exciting shit that goes down day to day in House Salty Mama.

Ten more things:

  1. A man may need a maid, but I need one worse.

    Stylin'

    Stylin’

  2. That thing, you know what I mean? That one. I’m so over it.
  3. Look at this thing. LOOK AT IT.

    Look at this thing. LOOK AT IT.

  4. Too many dicks.
  5. New B-sides omfgggggggggggggg.
  6. I have actual real plants that I give actual real water and actual real sunlight and they are actually really still alive.
  7. +1 bonus to household cats (bottom story here).
  8. I just realized I don’t have the time or inclination to make it to 10. How the hell are top 10 lists still a thing, anyhow?
  9. Why the fuck not.

    Why the fuck not.

  10. Am I the only one who thinks this is actually really practical?

    Am I the only one who thinks this is actually really practical?

  11. BONUS MATERIAL: I’m actually getting into beards a little.

For the Love of Imperfection: Why Face-Hiding Bushy Beards May Never Be My Thing

So I had a million holes in my sleep last night, and took one of those Buzzfeed type quizzes that claims to be able to guess the type of man you’re attracted to in a few ridiculous questions. It told me that I’m attracted to big bushy-bearded manly men (which is a bit of a joke since most bushy-bearded men these days are hipsters or live in Brooklyn, or both – and not particularly Paul Bunyan-esque).

Here’s the kind of man the quiz thought I might be into:

Paul-Bunyan1

But here’s what most bearded men these days really look like:

flower-beards-hipster-trend-18

AND EITHER WAY THE QUIZ WAS SUPER WRONG. Let me tell you why.

Before I launch into this post in earnest, I want to add a sort of disclaimer. I don’t dislike men with enormous bushy beards as in I’d never be friends with one. I actually know some guys with big beards, and they’re great people! And I’m a never-say-never type girl, so if the right beard walked into my life, you never know. Generally I’ve found, especially in hipster heaven, most men with beards and I would not have any mutual interest in gettin’ dirty. Read on before you take offense – the reason why is not what you think. (Unless you tie your beard up with rubber bands, braid it or decorate it like a Christmas tree.)

If you happen to adore the full-bearded male face then more power to you! Variety is the spice of life, etc. (I may come across as a sarcastic, sometimes cynical, occasionally judgmental bitch, but I’m actually a live-and-let-live girl at heart. I promise. I’m nice.)

When I look at men, my thing about faces is IMPERFECTION. Specifically things like asymmetry, quirks like unusual dimples or chin clefts (but not John Travolta, sorry), marks of character like scars, or anything distinguishing that a big bushy beard totally hides. I don’t mind stubble – it can be sexy as all get out – or even a trimmed beard or a goatee. But once you start going Billy Mays on me, you deprive me of the ability to see the things that make you perfectly human, perfectly imperfect and, in fact, just plain perfect.

HI, BILLY MAYS' BEARD HERE

HI, BILLY MAYS’ BEARD HERE FOR A LINT BRUSH (?)

Before I jump into specific examples of what I find attractive, here’s a really good example of what an out-of-control bushy beard can do to a face. Mandy Patinkin was pretty hot in The Princess Bride, remember? Not Wesley hot, but still hot – the kind of guy who’d spear a dude through the heart for failing the hold the door open for you in public. Which, let’s face it, is REALLY REALLY RUDE. (The door part.) And remember him in Chicago Hope? He was a stud! That time he went batshit nuts and started screaming the lyrics to “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody”? Unforgettable! (Though I think they got the inspiration from his 1994 Letterman appearance.) But despite his amazing acting chops and his even more amazing singing voice, a bushy beard robs Mandy Patinkin of that certain something. Unless, of course, the something that turns you on is, well, let’s have a look…

No Beardtinkin

No Beardtinkin

Beardtinkin

Beardtinkin

All that handsome face, just…GONE! Where is that cute dimple under his bottom lip? IT’S BEEN EATEN BY A TRIBBLE, THAT’S WHERE.

This is exactly how beards are grown.

This is exactly how beards are grown.

If you don’t believe me, watch this classic from Kids in the Hall.

So what do I love about a male face? Here’s what the quiz should have revealed.

1) This man is Stephen Dillane. He’s an actor. He’s gorgeous. When you meet him, his eyes see right through to your soul. How do I know this? BECAUSE HE HELD THE DOOR OPEN FOR ME IN PUBLIC. I am not joking. This is the face of an angel.

Hell to the yeah.

So what would be missing if he had a big beard? That mole, for one thing. Those dimples. The way his lips are skewed ever so slightly to one side. The crease above his chin. Here’s proof – because he actually has, briefly, worn a bushy beard- and that’s OK.

Stephen-Dillane-biographya-com-4

By the way, he’s a good example of the #2 thing I love about a guy – his eyes.

Not unlike…

2) David Wenham. Also an actor.

David Wenham

I have met this man too. It went very well.

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A full beard would obscure his fabulously quirky jawline and possibly the incredible fullness of his bottom lip. Proof in the pudding, the beard he wore to portray St. Damien in Molokai (as with everything he’s ever been in, it’s a movie worth tracking down).

Possibly the only time I'd date a priest.

Possibly the only time I’d date a priest.

3) Captain Edgar Hansen.

edgar.hansen

Sometimes a little beard is just right, especially when there’s no way in hell a Bering Sea fisherman is going to take what precious down time he has to shave his face (or anything else, presumably). Edgar’s Norwegian (though American-born) and keeps well in the long-held tradition of gorgeous, rugged Norwegian fishermen. Sometimes he’s got a bit of a beard, and sometimes he’s sculpted his stubble to perfection.

captedgar

Either way, if he grew his beard to epic proportions, I’d sure miss the way his lips curl at the edges or the cleft in his chin…and OK this one is becoming genuinely awkward because he’s someone I periodically interact with and MEN ARE MORE THAN MEAT so really, shame on me. I apologize. Like everyone on this list (actually, I’m not sure about Dillane?), he’s happily partnered, so I’d like to take a moment to point out I intend no disrespect to the ladies in the lives of these lovely men.

And Edgar is about as lovely as they come. One of the funniest, most genuine and most genuinely kind people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting along life’s little journey.

4) Justin Warfield, the first musician to hit the list. Formerly of She Wants Revenge (RIP, one of my favorites) and now of the brand new Dream Club.

Justin-Warfield

Can you to see the features that would be lost with a Tom-Hanks-in-Castaway style beard? How about the wee valley above his lips? His finely pointed jaw? He seems to regularly cycle through varying types of facial hair, from none at all to soul patches to thick mustaches to even – gasp – a beard.

By the end, this was the best looking man on the island.

By the end, this was the best looking man on the island.

I actually don’t mind if a guy experiments with varying styles of facial hair, because ultimately it’s up to him to decide what makes him feel good about himself. I’ve dated men who’ve grown beards. I’ve been happy they remembered they have a trimmer and/or razors to shake things up, though.

I do draw the line, however, at:

Shit like this. Is he a preschool teacher?

Shit like this. Is he a preschool teacher?

And shit like this, described as a

And shit like this, described as a “monkey tail.” I don’t like monkeys. They creep me out.

Christmas is canceled forever.

Christmas is canceled forever.

Oh what the hell is going on here.

Oh what the hell is going on here.

I hate that this is a thing.

I hate that this is a thing.

Fucking no.

Fucking no.

This is actually perfect, because it gives you an automatic excuse for vomiting at the sight. Blame it on the noodles, when in fact it's the beard.

Go ahead, ruin ramen.

At what point did this become OK.

Saddam Hussein chic.

I have holly bushes outside my house, I just never knew they were a perfect place to bury hipsters.

I have holly bushes outside my house, I just never knew they were a perfect place to bury hipsters.

Oh what the shit is this, now I'm just getting upset.

What the shit is this, now I’m just getting upset. This guy has so much wasted potential.

I give up on everything.

I give up on everything.

5) Last but not least, God’s magnum opus, Julian Hamilton.

ROLLING_STONE-_Julian_The_Presets

So good he gets two pictures.

So good he gets two pictures.

Or three.

Or three.

One half of my favorite band, The Presets, Julian has a heavenly voice and is, to me, pretty much aesthetic perfection. Slightly asymmetrical jawline? Check. Exotic lip shape? Check. Adorably round chin? Check. Chin dimple? Check. Chiseled features? Check. Check check check check check. (And the eyes? Don’t get me started.)

The other half of the band, Kim (left), is also adorbs. Their incredible musical talent is my primary care...the fact that they're so cute just adds to the fabulousness of the overall package.

The other half of the band, Kim (left), is also completely adorbable. Their incredible musical talent is my primary care…the fact that they’re so cute just adds to the fabulousness of the overall package.

I don't know what's about to happen here but please, don't let me interrupt you.

I don’t know what’s about to happen here but please, don’t let me interrupt you.

At the end of the day, if any of the above decided he was really into shaggy facial hair, I wouldn’t stop adoring him. I wouldn’t stop seeing his movies or buying his albums or eating crab and salmon. But I might just be a smidge happier if he went with a beard like this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

db38d59b636a4a32744d58eb3d287170

So at the end of the day, he could simply go back to this:

972368-the-presets

Or this:

Daisy_02

Or this:

151-m

Because no man should hide a beautifully imperfect face.

Unless he’s just really into beards. In which case, for the sake of humanity, just don’t turn it into a potpourri dish for wildflowers and noodles.

Please.

Kicking 2014 to the Curb #SomeYearsSuck #HelloFuture

Here’s the deal – 2014 sucked for lots of us.

Sure, there were some happy moments, some inspiring moments, some moments of sheer brilliance.

But there were also many sad moments, heartbreaking moments, frustrating moments, terrifying moments, some moments that made you so angry you wanted to pound your fist through a wall.

Goodbye-2014-image-and-hello-2015-photo

Collectively, 2014 was a troubled year around the world. Reflecting on it not only from the perspective of my personal life, but the perspective of national and global affairs, it’s ending up a year that, for the most part, we’d really rather forget. But it’s sort of shitty to go out on just a low note. So let’s take a look at 2014 – the good, the bad and the ugly – how it really was, holistically. And feel free to add your personal and/or national/global observations in comments, as I’m sure to have missed many.

Crappy stuff that happened in 2014: (aka why we should be REALLY HAPPY to kick 2014 to the curb)

  • The rise of ISIS & all that’s come with it
  • Everything about Ferguson (and beyond) and systemic racism
  • Everything about the revenge murders of the NYPD cops
  • The Sydney siege
  • The suicide of Robin Williams
  • Ebola crossing borders in new and dramatic ways
  • That freaking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie
  • Shirley Temple died
  • The Bill Cosby allegations
  • James Garner died
  • Joan Rivers died
  • Gamergate
  • Stephen Collins admitted he is a child molester
  • Elk River water was poisoned in WV
  • So much general moral erosion in national sports – from Sterling to Rice and many others
  • Companies refused contraception for religious regions – legally
  • The overdose of Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • Hideously botched (death penalty) executions
  • Everything about the infrastructure of the Sochi Olympics (underscoring a much bigger problem)
  • Flight 370 disappeared
  • Richard Attenborough died
  • Casey Kasem died
  • Pete Seeger died
  • Conflict in Ukraine
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report – it’s not good, folks
  • Boko Haram kidnapped 270 girls
  • Harold Ramos died
  • Lauren Bacall died
  • Sewol ferry disaster
  • Israel vs. Palestine, again
  • America ran out of Velveeta, for a while
  • Flight 17 was shot down
  • Flight 5017 crashed
  • The Taliban killed over 100 school children and presumably innocent adults
  • Flight 8501 crashed
  • Maya Angelou died
  • Joe Cocker died
  • Edward Herrmann died
  • We clocked that laparoscopic morcellators could actually spread uterine cancer
  • Everything about Kim Kardashian
  • The Colbert Report ended 😦
  • We witnessed the end of the cinematic era of Middle Earth
  • 22 animals went extinct
  • Leelah Alcorn‘s suicide – and the way we treat trans people in general

Good stuff that happened in 2014: (aka things we should probably remember instead of the list above)

  • The “I’ll ride with you” campaign after the Sydney siege
  • The successful test launch of Orion
  • The successful Rosetta mission
  • The Pope’s Synod ignited real discussion about some pretty important (and long-overdue for reevaluation) aspects of Catholicism
  • Gas prices fell
  • The US economy began to stabilize
  • Everything about North Korea – because some good actually came out of our “diplomatic” relations with them this year (e.g. release of prisoners), and the bad stuff was absolutely hilarious (not the movie, but the actual events surrounding it)
  • Same-sex marriage became legal in more states
  • The Affordable Care Act became a thing, and helped a lot of people
  • Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize and inspired us all
  • The shoddy treatment of US veterans finally came to light, opening the door for improvement – though when (or if) things will be fixed remains unknown
  • Some states raised the minimum wage
  • While annoying, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised a lot of money for ALS/motorneuron disease
  • The Cold War may finally be ending, as we tentatively start talking to Cuba again
  • President Obama implemented the largest ocean sanctuary in the Pacific
  • Broadway broke barriers with an African American Cinderella, and an African American Phantom
  • Mo’ne Davis redefined throwing like a girl
  • 200 countries made an effort to stem climate change
  • Costa Concordia refloated – a pretty cool feat of engineering
  • Pebble Mine was defeated
  • According to the FAO less of the world’s population lives in hunger and malnourishment than ever before
  • West Ham ended the year in the top half of the table (if you’re a Hammer, this will impress you)

6a00d83451a3df69e2019b03f9d857970d-580wi

There’s a lot more in the bad column than the good column. I really did look hard for happier stories but I got tired. (Here’s where you can help me in comments, maybe?) Perhaps I’m colored by my own overall pessimism about the year. It hasn’t been a humdinger for me, but it’s had its moments. Here are my personal ups and downs:

Downers:

  • My kid’s massive allergic reaction to amoxicillin, 2 weeks of hell
  • My kid became a very picky eater (largely as a result of the regression during that 2 week reaction)
  • Tremendous job-related stress in the 1st half of the year
  • My kid went through a lot of stuff that’d put most adults on edge – and he’s only 2 (I’ll talk more about this soon, maybe – it’s been a long and private struggle)
  • I proved I’m getting old by requiring my first podiatrist appointment
  • I felt lonely a lot of the time
  • That whole thing with the Wal-Mart fish
  • I had no real down time for myself (this hasn’t eased up much, but I’m getting used to it – I can steal a few minutes here and there, like just before I sleep I can read a book for a bit, and that helps me decompress)
  • I’ve wanted to take a proper bubble bath for a year but haven’t had the time/opportunity or really felt as if I could afford the time it’d take for the luxury
  • I ended the year in absolute agony for the week over Christmas, as a sinus infection inflamed what was apparently a dead tooth (that didn’t show up on X-ray in that state previously), which required emergency root canal nobody had time to do – leaving me with the world’s worst, 10-day toothache (and all told, I’ll be about $1200-1500 poorer for it)
  • I got sick with every possible germ, likely exacerbated by my 2 year old getting lots of colds (as is age appropriate); one episode turned into bronchitis so severe I nearly ended up in hospital
  • Deaths in the family
  • Incredible amounts of stress through the spring/summer related to something I’m just not going to talk about publicly, but suffice to say it was of vital importance, and it scared me to death for 6 solid months
  • I’d actually really like to end the year with a New Year’s kiss, but it won’t happen

Uppers:

  • My kid made lots of developmental strides, and talked more
  • I got a great new job and I love my boss (and worked two jobs for much of the year – all in marketing as usual)
  • I had an amazing weekend vacation in Cape May with my family, so I could introduce my son to my love the sea, and it still makes me happy to think about that weekend
  • I finally saw The Presets, and it still makes me happy to think about that night
  • I watched my son explore new things and master new skills, and generally just had the blessing of him in my life
  • My family remained very supportive, and I wouldn’t be able to do this single working motherhood thing without their help
  • I took my son for his first steam train ride (and his second was riding Thomas!)
  • I took my son to his first aquarium visit during Shark Week
  • I got an awesome signed CD from She Wants Revenge (sometimes the little things really matter!)
  • I got a great new mattress and box spring (but am $900 poorer for it)
  • I saw my first Broadway show in years (Wicked) and had fun in the city
  • I spent some Christmas $$ on a new pro headset and am now able to listen to my music the way God intended – it’s stunning
  • I found a beautiful special needs kitty I’m going to meet soon to see if we hit it off – if so, she’ll come live with us in a foster-to-adopt arrangement
  • I made some neat new friends, mostly through social media, but even distant friends are nice to have
  • I learned a lot of new things…and I learned that some things it’s better to forget

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I’m interested to see what 2015 brings. I hope it brings more peace and love and responsibility on the national/global scale. I’m sure it’ll be a rollercoaster. Personally, I mostly hope this is the year things really come together for my son as he starts his preschool adventures. As for me, well… Even if 2015 is utter shit, I’ll survive that, too.

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Want some more perspective on 2014? Try these.

The Year in Poems

The Year in Instagram

Dave Barry’s Year in Review

Good Stuff in 2014 – by the Data

Note: you’re perfectly within your rights to disagree with what I’ve put in the good vs. bad columns here, but I refuse to argue about it, because this is my corner of cyberspace and you can go get your own. I’m actually not a “bleeding heart liberal,” I’m Jeffersonian, but also happen to be a decent human being. Besides, this isn’t about politics – this is about our shared experiences, even if we look at them from different angles. Peace.

I forgot to do an annual ‘top 10’ list for 35 consecutive years. So, here they are.

From looking at Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, apparently we’re all contractually obliged to make top 10 lists at the end of the year. You know, a “top 10 moments of 2014” sort of deal. I never realized this before, so now I owe 35 years of top 10 lists. That’s 350 top things that happened in every year of my life. Sad face.

I don’t have that kind of time, so I’ll just pull together the things I remember clearly, just like they were yesterday. They may not necessarily be top moments and there may not be 10 for each year, but they live forever in the annals of my mind, and sometimes, my heart.

I hope I won’t be fined too heavily for this irregularity. Concerned face.

Top 10 Things About 1979

  1. I was born
  2. Margaret Thatcher was elected PM
  3. Michael Jackson released Off the Wall
  4. Three Mile Island got angry
Despite having worn this hat in 1970.

Despite having worn this hat in 1970.

Top 10 Things About 1980

  1. Discovered Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins
  2. The average men’s 3 piece suit cost $89.95
  3. Ronald Reagan was elected President
  4. Mount St. Helens got angry
Still a good look.

Still a good look.

Top 10 Things About 1981

  1. It was 1981
  2. They found the Titanic
  3. Pope shot, ushered in the era of bubble-Pope
  4. Di and Charles officially became a thing
And just like that, puffy sleeves on wedding gowns were mandatory.

And just like that, puffy sleeves on wedding gowns were mandatory.

Top 10 Things About 1982

  1. My sister was born
  2. USA Today published its first issue
  3. Italy won the World Cup
Borat had the winning goal.

Borat scored the winning goal.

Top 10 Things About 1983

  1. I had my birthday party at an amusement park
  2. The UK made seatbelts mandatory for drivers and front seat passengers
  3. Sally Ride became the first woman in space
There was fun in the dark.

There was fun in the dark.

Top 10 Things About 1984

  1. Kindergarten, I think
  2. Bacon cost $1.69/lb
  3. Virgin Atlantic launched (in later years the airline would allow me to drink cola from tiny cans with Richard Branson’s photo on them)
  4. I was Rainbow Brite for Halloween
  5. I went on a trip to Disney World
  6. We lived in a converted garage while our house was being built (and bathed in the sink)
My sister was the unicorn, I shit you not.

My sister was the unicorn, I shit you not.

Top 10 Things About 1985

  1. We lived in a guest house behind a hotel while our real house was (still) being built
  2. A 2 bedroom lakeview condo in Elyria, OH cost $59,900
  3. My favorite space shuttle, Atlantis, made its debut
  4. First ever mobile phone call was made (not by me, mind)
  5. Windows 1.0 launched
  6. The hole in the Ozone layer was discovered
  7. I was She-Ra for Halloween
Unicorn/pegasus not included.

Unicorn/pegasus not included.

Top 10 Things About 1986

  1. Bacon cost $1.75/lb
  2. I accidentally slept through Halley’s comet
  3. I discovered the musical CATS and never shut up about it

I also sang “Memory.” A lot.

Top 10 Things About 1987

  1. We moved into our new house
  2. The world’s population reached 5 billion
  3. Margaret Thatcher got a third term
  4. A “baggy dress” cost $52.00
Women paid $52 to look like this.

Women paid $52 to look like this.

Top 10 Things About 1988

  1. Australia celebrated its bicentennial
  2. Crack became a thing (not in my household, fortunately)
  3. Shuttle program began again after post-Challenger hiatus (Challenger is definitely sad face.)
  4. I forged my mother’s signature on homework for the first (and last) time
Be still my heart.

Be still my heart.

Top 10 Things About 1989

  1. A gallon of gas cost $.97
  2. I had my first serious crush on an older boy (who found out about it, thus totally ruining my life)
  3. Cold War ended
  4. Game Boy happened
  5. Tim Berners-Lee created a little thing called the World Wide Web
  6. “Love Shack” baybeeeeeeeee
  7. I discovered The Little Mermaid and never shut up about it
If only!

If only!

Top 10 Things About 1990

  1. Beverly Hills 90210, O.M.G.
  2. Home Alone, O.M.G.
  3. The Sci/Fi channel started broadcasting (though I wouldn’t fully appreciate it for several years)
  4. I asked for a Furby, then almost immediately regretted it
  5. Margaret Thatcher resigned
  6. The Hubble telescope went into orbit
  7. I was becoming an inexcusably huge nerd
Mind. Blown.

Mind. Blown.

Top 10 Things About 1991

  1. I slow danced with a boy for the first time (the song was “Take My Breath Away”, of course it was)
  2. Bacon cost $1.12/lb
  3. We saw a Dead Sea Scroll
  4. Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested, and I realized I have no inclination whatsoever to eat another human’s flesh
  5. I requested “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” on the radio an average of 13 times a day
  6. I began vocal lessons
  7. MS Dos 5.0 made it to computer class (at home, I was still on Mac)
  8. Read Tolkien for the first time
Just while that song was hot.

Just while that song was hot, then I got over him.

Top 10 Things About 1992

  1. I learned how to play “Bohemian Rhapsody” perfectly on the piano and I just wouldn’t stop
  2. I transferred to an all-girls, private Catholic school housed in a nunnery
  3. I saw Guns N’ Roses live (someone nailed Axl in the nads with a lighter and he stormed offstage, causing a minor riot)
  4. The EU officially became a thing
  5. Bill Clinton was elected President (his presidency would later introduce me to some pretty radical concepts, vis-à-vis Monica Lewinsky)
  6. I got a guitar

I also learned “Stairway to Heaven” and “November Rain”; for every pop song I requested my piano teacher made me learn a ragtime song. Still not sure it was worth it.

Top 10 Things About 1993

  1. I graduated 8th grade wearing a cap made out of a coffee filter (not by choice)
  2. I sang “Longer Than” at my uncle’s wedding; an attendee promised to make me a recording star, which never happened
  3. I discovered punk rock
  4. I discovered world music
  5. A movie ticket cost $4.14, on average
  6. Beanie Babies hit the market, prompting my first obsessive-compulsive collection
  7. Duran Duran came back!
I was rollin', yo.

I was rollin’, yo.

Top 10 Things About 1994

  1. I discovered Britpop
  2. The Chunnel
  3. I had my first major surgery (removing a tumor in my right ovary)
  4. A beautiful Irishman kissed me on the cheek at midnight on my birthday and told me my 15th year would be the best yet
  5. Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan
  6. I went to my first World Cup match (Ireland vs. Norway)
  7. I wore my makeup like Nancy Spungen, every single day
Is there an emoji for this?

Is there an emoji for this?

Top 10 Things About 1995

  1. I saw David Bowie perform live
  2. I wore vintage 1982 silver disco heels to every social function
  3. I spent a month traveling the Philippines, Macau, Hong Kong and China
  4. I began my classical training in opera
  5. I learned about Ebola for the first time, and was suitably terrified
  6. If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit
  7. I played Lady Thiang in The King and I (and it became my fondest role)
  8. I got my first job (working at a New Age shop)

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Top 10 Things About 1996

  1. I was invited to an audience with the Pope, and for some insane reason I turned it down
  2. I almost flunked Chemistry
  3. Minimum wage was raised to $5.15/hour, and I got my first raise
  4. I went online for the first time and found out about AOL chat rooms
  5. Di and Charles officially became a former thing
  6. Mad Cow
  7. eBay occurred
  8. Blur was everything

internet-meme-1

Top 10 Things About 1997

  1. I met Peter Tork, which led to a long and winding adventure in the behind-the-scenes side of music biz
  2. I graduated high school and left my blackwatch plaid Catholic girl school uniform in the dust
  3. I began a long love affair with vinyl records and spent all my cash in the vinyl shop
  4. I decided I was pretty crazy about electronic music
  5. Hamburger meat cost $1.38/lb
  6. Hong Kong became Chinese again
  7. Bird Flu
  8. Dolly the sheep
  9. Hale-Bopp failed to herald the end of the world
  10. I loved everything about The Full Monty
Can't clone photogenic.

Can’t clone photogenic.

Top 10 Things About 1998

  1. I redesigned a website for Joan Jett
  2. I experienced my first (and only) male stripper performance
  3. I found out about online RPGs
  4. Hamburger meat cost $1.40/lb
  5. Bacon cost $2.53/lb
  6. New $20 bill was revealed and I had surprisingly strong feelings about it
  7. Windows 98
  8. Shakespeare in Love gave me the horrible realization that I have the capacity to be a hopeless romantic
TELNET.

TELNET.

Top 10 Things About 1999

  1. I was offered an internship working directly with the VP of the 4th largest PR firm in NYC, and for some insane reason I turned it down
  2. I took my first trip to France and what would be my first of six trips to the UK (so far) – I even used the Chunnel
  3. I celebrated my 20th birthday atop the Eiffel Tower
  4. The world’s population hit 6 billion
  5. For the first and last time in my life, I witnessed the end of a century
  6. West Nile Virus
  7. Napster happened
  8. I got my first mobile phone
  9. We all violated the first rule of Fight Club

ohfucklars

Top 10 Things About 2000

  1. The world didn’t end with Y2K
  2. Bacon cost $2.97/lb
  3. Bye bye, DotCom Bubble
  4. The London Eye opened (later giving rise to budget-busting CGI in the regrettable Fantastic Four film franchise)
  5. I watched my first and last season of Survivor

359

Top 10 Things About 2001

  1. Bacon cost $3.22/lb
  2. The IRA dismantled its weapons
  3. Anthrax (not the band)
  4. I learned about terrorism firsthand for the first time, and all it did was make me more resolved to love
  5. Wikipedia happened
  6. The iPod hit the market, and I still don’t have one
  7. Windows XP became my OS of choice (for the next 13 years)
  8. The Lord of the Rings trilogy debuted

2b1

Top 10 Things About 2002

  1. Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City
  2. Water on Mars!
  3. American Idol debuted (and I still haven’t watched it)
  4. I decided to marry David Wenham, though he didn’t know it
Yup.

Yup.

Top 10 Things About 2003

  1. Love Actually was everything
  2. A gallon of gas cost $1.83
  3. The Do Not Call List became a thing
  4. SARS
  5. The human genome was successfully mapped
  6. Prometea the horse
Cloning just keeps getting cuter.

Cloning just keeps getting cuter.

Top 10 Things About 2004

  1. A gallon of gas cost $2.10
  2. Richard Branson privatized space, unsure if cola cans with his face were included
  3. For the first time I regretted not buying Google stock (I still do)
  4. Wardrobe malfunction
  5. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

GXznZ

Top 10 Things About 2005

  1. I had my wisdom teeth removed, which sucked beyond comprehension, but they removed so much of my jaw bone I got a nice, slimmer jawline for the trouble
  2. The IRA gave up its weapons…again
  3. Deadliest Catch premiered
  4. I decided to go back to college for another major, psychology
  5. I spent ~14 hours a day on statistics homework but passed that class with an A
  6. Second Life

200_s

Top 10 Things About 2006

  1. I went to my first Lord of the Rings convention
  2. Boytown was everything
  3. North Korea became a meme
  4. I got a Wii (which eventually led to me becoming a Wii ski jump champion)
  5. I honed my education on two areas, human development and crisis intervention -the latter of which was my absolute favorite, the former of which has come in handy as a mom
Population 5.

Population 5.

Top 10 Things About 2007

  1. I met David Wenham, but did not tell him about our wedding plans
  2. 1st Second Life hiatus
  3. The Presets were quickly replacing Blur as my favorite band
  4. I graduated Magna Cum Laude
  5. I got my first job in marketing
  6. A gallon of gas cost $3.38
  7. I saw 300 in theatres 6 times

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Top 10 Things About 2008

  1. I decided I absolutely had to see The Presets live (it would take me 6 years)
  2. America elected its first African American president
  3. I actually made money writing about David Beckham every day
  4. HBO’s John Adams made me feel more patriotic than ever
  5. I discovered the Omega Institute & spent a weekend seminar with the divine Ilana Rubenfeld being educated, inspired, refreshed & renewed (incidentally, this is also where I literally bumped into one of the Queer Eyes, Kyan, and he was a golden god)

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Top 10 Things About 2009

  1. I came to the conclusion that Second Life was a pretty good option to escape from some very devastating real life pain
  2. I met Stephen Dillane and broke it off with Wenham to marry him instead
  3. Bacon cost $3.19/lb
  4. An average movie ticket cost $7.50
  5. The Presets decided (of their own design) to pose for this pic for brilliant photog Robin Roemer:
Somebody forgot to leave room for the Holy Ghost.

Somebody forgot to leave room for the Holy Spirit.
Thank you thank you thank you.

Top 10 Things About 2010

  1. I had my gallbladder removed so, you know, one less organ to worry about
  2. The Trip premiered
  3. A postage stamp cost $.44
And it makes you hungry, too.

And it makes you hungry, too. Don’t watch after taking an Ambien/Stilnox, you’ll start popping open ten year old cans of refried beans and thinking it’s gourmet.

Top 10 Things About 2011

  1. Annie, Merry and Pippin the kitties were born, and I hand reared them
  2. I had a banging (cat proof) Christmas tree
  3. Kate and Wills officially became a thing
  4. I got my first Android smartphone
  5. An average movie ticket cost $8.20
  6. For the first time, I owed the IRS back taxes on an error from 2008 (I paid promptly and courteously, of course)

cn_image.size.kate-middleton-meme-1

Top 10 Things About 2012

  1. My son was born – making me a mom for the first time
  2. Hurricane Sandy taught me about the things that mattered most (not gonna lie, electricity is one of them)
  3. Fall” took my breath away
  4. Derek aired
  5. I got my second job in marketing, a really good gig
  6. Stephen Dillane joined Game of Thrones, still had no idea about our wedding plans
  7. I got my first tablet, immediately started stalking real estate and designing houses I could never afford, because Trulia and because Houzz
  8. The world did not end with the Mayan calendar, proving the movie 2012 really was just science fiction, after all – damn you, Cusack, fooled again!
2 seasons & a special - the Gervais formula - but man did Derek make me UGLY CRY.

2 seasons & a special – the Gervais formula – but man did Derek make me UGLY CRY. I’ll miss it.

Top 10 Things About 2013

  1. My son and I moved into our little flat, along with our cats Merry & Pippin and our betta fish Nami
  2. Met Sig & Edgar Hansen, felt more Norwegian than ever before
  3. Beat Plague, Inc.
  4. Upgraded to a Note 2
I hugged this. Jealous?

I hugged this. Jealous?

Top 10 Things About 2014

  1. I revisited Cape May again after too long, and introduced my son to my great love, the ocean
  2. I finally saw The Presets live, and it was everything
  3. Hung my son’s first piece of “school art” on my fridge
  4. Pluto maybe possibly kinda sorta became a planet again…?
  5. My sister got me Tim Gunn’s autograph – personalized, with “make it work”
  6. I got my third & favorite job in marketing (integrated marketing communications)
  7. As of December 24th (the time of writing), my beloved West Ham was still 4th place in the EPL
  8. The dawn of Orion – my son’s and my name went up on that first flight
  9. Upgraded to a Note 4 and it pretty much completes me
  10. My son was Edgar Hansen for Halloween; it was perfection

Sincerly-Pluto_o_94661

Of course, even if I could accurately remember 350 things to post, it’d be hard to pinpoint exact dates for some of the biggest memories – the first time I ever performed solo, the first time I fell in love, the first time I ever got drunk, the first time I saw the sea, the first time I used a computer as a kid, the first live show I ever saw, my first piano lesson, etc. Suffice to say those things happened, and they’re memorable, even if it’s in a vague sort of way.

So long, 35 years of life.

2015, come on in. I’ve been waiting for you.

Christmas Miracle

Almost exactly one year ago I posted this to my Facebook account. Since it pertains to Christmas and brings me happy memories, I’ve decided to dust it off, edit it a bit, and post here – now with photos!

Vagabond John came back into my life ever so briefly last year.

Some years ago now – easily 11 – a haggard ginger tom cat starting coming around. He’d lived hard, was pretty well beat up, and decided to call our porch his home. Initially he was wild and untouchable, but I spent a long time out there just sitting, quietly waiting for him to decide I was OK. And one day, he did. Just like that, I was his human. My parents didn’t want him inside for a number of understandable reasons, but even on freezing cold winter days I would spend hours outside with him curled up in my lap, giving him a warm place to sleep. He also had very warm, weatherproof accommodations on the porch and a constant supply of food and water.

Because it seemed fitting, I named him “Vagabond John”, after one of my favorite of Peter Tork’s songs.

It wasn’t too long before I learned his name was actually Mikey (my name was so much better), and he belonged to an old man at the other end of the street. But a nasty cat had moved in across the street from our house. Vagabond John, John for short, had wandered to our house and couldn’t get back to his regular home. For three years this went on, an aging John unable to fight his way back into his initial territory.

Then one day, some way, that changed. And just like that my Vagabond John was gone. I figured he’d gone home, and I was sad he wasn’t around all the time anymore, but it didn’t take long before another ginger tom moved in on the porch…it’s been a pretty constant string for me no matter where I live.

Well one Christmas a solid year after John disappeared, I opened the door to a cold and snowy night…and there was John on the doormat. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know if he was a ghost, it just seemed unreal. A whole year had gone by and he chose Christmas night to visit. I broke all the rules and brought him inside, gave him food and many cuddles, before letting him back into the night to return to his home.

The next year, he returned on Christmas again.

Once I visited him at his regular abode. He saw me and came bounding up the walkway. We hugged and cuddled there half in the street. When it was time for me to go, he tried to follow me home.

I never made it back to visit. Life got as busy as life often does. And then one day I saw an old cat carrier in the garbage at the side of the road. And I knew that Vagabond John was gone.

A year ago I took advantage of unseasonably warm weather to walk with my son. And at John’s old house, a lady was walking to her car. I stopped her and asked, “by any chance, did you used to have an orange cat?”

She half shrugged. “There used to be an orange cat that would hang out here.”

“For three years he was mine, living on my porch, and I found out that his ‘real’ home was here,” I said, trying not to cry. Though to be honest, I’ve cried a little since.

“He came and he went,” she said. She smiled, but it was obvious that the attachment I had always imagined – his owner absolutely distraught when he disappeared, only to be overjoyed when his Mikey returned years later – was not there.

But then I realized, it was. For me, and for John – for us. For the years we huddled together and cuddled. For the Christmases he came home to me. For the final lingering look as we parted company for the last time.

And that’s what it’s like to love a cat.

Christmas Music

You would think that with all the years of Christmas pageants and choral performances, plus all the Christmas masses, holiday ensemble gigs and years of opera training culminating in endless Christmas-themed recitals, that I am something of an expert on the subject of Christmas music. And you would be correct. You are very astute!

Being a certified Christmas Music Expert, I have to be picky about the Christmas music I consume each year. There are some songs that are an annual tradition and other songs that it’s an annual tradition to avoid at all costs. Usually I fire up the Songza app on my phone or tablet and tell the concierge to play me indie Christmas music; it’s always delightful and unlike Pandora, ad-free.

I thought I’d share some of my Christmas music recommendations here, since surely everyone can benefit from the advice of an official Christmas Music Expert.

First, I have to establish some ground rules. The following songs are right out:

  • Paul McCartney, “Wonderful Christmastime.” Really, Paul? You were in The Beatles.
  • Anyone, “Winter Wonderland.” No, we will not build a snowman and ask him to marry us. This is not Frozen.
  • Anyone, “Sleigh Ride.” Want to see me turn homicidal?

Now that’s out of the way, on to the songs.

1) Glasvegas, “A Snowflake Fell.” Like most Scottish things this walks a thin line between depressing and stirring, but either way it’s a beautiful melody. And his accent is amazeballs.

2) John Lennon, “Happy Christmas.” Admittedly this is desperately overplayed every year, but I still love it. I even love it despite John Lennon’s questionable moral character and the general ridiculousness that is Yoko Ono. Paul McCartney heard this song and eight years later he still wrote “Wonderful Christmastime.” There is no excuse. By the way, “Happy Christmas” has the most depressing official music video in the entire history of people combining pictures and music. Enjoy.

3) Mannheim Steamroller, “Silent Night,” AKA “OH MY GOD WHY DID I LISTEN TO THIS SONG I CAN’T STOP CRYING IT’S LIKE SOMEBODY PUT EVERY CHRISTMAS MEMORY FROM MY ENTIRE LIFE INTO ONE MONTAGE AND THEN ERASED ALL THE HAPPY PARTS AND INSTEAD REPLACED THEM WITH GUT-WRENCHING SORROW BUT I CAN’T STOP LISTENING IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL SOMEONE MAKE IT STOP.”

4) Traditional, “O Come, Emmanuel.” I have lost track of how many times I’ve performed this song, but it never gets old. I’m on the fence about Lindsey Stirling, but she does a pretty nice job with this song and it’s accompanied beautifully by a blind 17 year old, self-taught piano prodigy. And she is not in a costume, though she is dancing. And there are waves.

5) David Bowie & Bing Crosby, “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” Who doesn’t love a good quodlibet? Who doesn’t love Bing Crosby? Who doesn’t love David Bowie? If these two men don’t go down in the annals of history as two of the best voices ever to have graced music, it will be a crime.

6) Eric Cartman, “O Holy Night.” I’ll just leave this here.

7) The Monkees, “Riu Chiu.” So much for “just a fake band.” Respect.

8) Judy Garland, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” My favorite Christmas song. So melancholy, so hopeful, so…perfect.

9) Angela Lansbury, “We Need a Little Christmas.” Mame is a masterpiece of a musical, and Angela Lansbury is a masterful theatre artist. While I could go with the original cast recording so you can hear her in her prime, something about this live version, filmed years after, is just charming.

10) She Wants Revenge, “Kidnap the Sandy Claws.” The Nightmare Before Christmas should be required viewing at this time of year. One of my favorite bands, a ‘darkwave’ band called She Wants Revenge, covered one of the most memorable songs from the movie…and the results were amazing.

11) All About Eve, “Last Christmas.” Wham’s “Last Christmas” is one of those songs everybody loves and most people are ashamed to admit it. But you don’t have to be ashamed anymore. All About Eve has done a really really REALLY good cover, making the song a perfectly legitimate and relevant holiday tune once again. And no George Michael.

12) Loreena McKennitt, “Snow.” Loreena McKennitt is an astounding folk singer known for her Celtic music and her incredible original songs and lovely orchestrations of classic poems to music. “Snow” is a poem by Archibald Lampman which Loreena set to music. This is the result. Gives me chills every time. (Album version here, MUST be heard as well.)

13) The Killers, “Don’t Shoot Me Santa.” Adorbs. Also, Brandon Flowers. ❤ ❤ ❤

14) Joni Mitchell, “River.” Another one of those Christmas songs that’s so melancholy and so beautiful, and really just a simple, pretty song. Whether you’re going through a rough time in your relationship (or have ever been through a rough patch in a relationship) or just a human being with feelings that include empathy, this is a song that moves you.

15) The Pretenders, “2000 Miles.” It’s sweet, it’s optimistic and it’s meaningful for any of us who’ve ever been far apart from loved ones.

16) Sting, “Christmas at Sea.” This song combines three things I love (poetry, the ocean/commercial fishing & Celtic folk) and one thing I like (Sting’s voice). It’s a Robert Louis Stevenson poem set to music, and wonderfully done so by Sting and Mary Macmaster. I grew so fond of this song I actually bought his Christmas album If on a Winter’s Night but I haven’t listened to it yet. It’s been three years.

Well, now that you’ve heard the recommendations of a fully qualified Christmas Music Expert, what else would you add to the list of songs worth hearing, or songs to avoid?

Christmas Crafts

I will freely admit that I love a bit of DIY and crafting, although I have time for neither these days. I am sure that somehow the world is coping with a few less things unnecessarily coated in glitter and disastrous attempts at crochet.

I took up crochet for a while in my early 20s. By “took up” I mean “read a tutorial on a website that taught me one stitch, which I then used exclusively”. The actual result of crocheting with a single stitch and no additional skill whatsoever is that you crochet in circles. Having no plan for roughly 8 dozen tiny crocheted circles, I decided to stitch them together and call the end result “free form crochet art”. I was a bit of a dick back then.

Not unlike this, which now just triggers my Trypophobia.

Not unlike this, which now just triggers my Trypophobia.

My cat (God bless her heroic soul), seeing no other choice in the matter, managed to drag my bag of crochet hooks to some unknown parts I have still not discovered. Bereft of my hooks, I stopped creating free form crochet art and turned instead to whiskey and poetry.

If there’s one time of year that makes me wish I had time for crafting, it’s Christmas. This was not an urge that I felt prior to the invention of Pinterest, which is essentially the mother of all evils. Pinterest serves three purposes. They are:

  1. To let us keep track of ideas that we will never actually end up doing
  2. To make us feel badly about ourselves when our attempts at Pinterest creations go wrong
  3. To allow us all to plan fictitious weddings

oh-my-god

And yet I knowingly return to the site holiday after holiday, finding more and more ideas to gather onto pinboards that have become so large and unmanageable that they should technically qualify as hoarding and require therapeutic intervention. One of my favorites, cleverly named “Holidaze”, in the sense that it is not clever in the least, contains no less than three years’ worth of Christmas craft ideas that I have never – not even once – actually attempted.

I take that back. I have on one occasion attempted a Pinterest-inspired Christmas craft. But it was really an original in the end because the Pinterest version did not involve glitter. I, being exceptionally crafty, glittered the living shit out of it. It glinted so brightly astronauts on the I.S.S. were able to take photographs and pin them to their own Christmas pinboards.

Armed with the basic concept – an ornament emblazoned with my son’s tiny fingerprint which would through the magic of paint pens be turned into a reindeer – I stormed into Michael’s, found a number of clear plastic ornaments, diligently used my customary 40% off coupon and returned home to work on assembling my masterpiece.

baby-handprint-ornament-nailed-it2-400x573

Years before I had learned a technique (on Pinterest) for glittering the inside of a vessel, so that it the glitter isn’t on the outside and continuously shedding like some kind of unusually festive dandruff. The technique involves swishing Pledge floor polish (clear oil) around inside said vessel until all the walls are coated in a film of oil. You then dump a metric ton of glitter on top of the oil-coated surface and jiggle it around until it evenly distributes, creating a beautiful glittered effect from the inside out.

I first practiced this technique on a trio of dollar store vases when my son was about 3 months old. We’d just moved into a new house and I really wanted to put my personal stamp on it. Nothing says “Dina’s personal stamp” like useless decor that glitters. They sat on shelves in the bathroom until I moved out, forgetting to take them with me. Fast forward two years, and the glittered vases arrived in a box along with a number of other personal possessions.

It was as if someone had dropped the Hiroshima equivalent of a glitter bomb inside a 16×16″ square box. Everything was coated in glitter because – and this is what the pin never told you – the moment you turn the thing you’ve just glittered upside down, the glitter loses its grip on the oil and falls out in a spectacular mess. I now own unintentionally glittered shoes, handbags, notebooks, cat toys, Windows OS emergency backup CDs and a cardboard desktop caddy, as well as three exceptionally greasy vases.

Thankfully the Christmas ornaments I found would not have this problem, because they were sealed on the top where the ornament hanger goes. So I set to work, happily swishing floor polish, shaking around glitter and creating three virtually indestructible ornaments on which I would imprint three tiny little almost-one-year-old thumbprints and create adorable reindeer for each of his grandmothers, and one for me to keep.

My first problem occurred when I remembered my son did not like to have paint applied to his hands. I learned this the hard way when I attempted another pin which involved hand prints on a tree (“family tree”); instead I had to do footprints in a tree, which doesn’t quite have the same sentimental appeal. But I could immobilize my son long enough to paint his feet and dab them on a piece of paper containing some clip art of a tree that I’d enlarged and printed for the occasion. This was to be a Mother’s Day gift for each of his grandmothers. Really, it’s amazing they’re both still talking to me.

The second problem occurred almost simultaneously – we didn’t have any appropriate paint apart from a dark brown acrylic that may have been too thick to show the unique lines and curves of his thumbprint.

In the end, I miserably failed at getting a clear thumbprint, and resorted instead to painting his big toe, and improvising with a smudged toe print. Given the hue of the brown and the indistinguishable features of the toe print, I had just created three ornaments with brown turds on them. Turds that were not going to become any less turd-like when I added eyes, a Rudolph-red nose and antlers.

I was, in essence, giving the gift of Christmas-themed fecal art, only more hygienic.

Undaunted, I added antlers, eyes, nose and text that bore my son’s name and the year. It was only later that I realized I’d failed to explain to anyone what the brown smudge was. They seemed very relieved when I told them it was in fact just the imprint of a toe.

mrhankey

I should have known better than to tackle Christmas crafts after the largest non-Pinterest-inspired Christmas craft fail of my life: the year I made everybody wreaths.

I was pregnant with my son and ridiculously strapped for cash (and ideas), so I made my family a rather attractive wreath with ornaments that befitted their lakeside setting – wooden ducks, canoes, oars, that sort of thing. I strung miniature LED lights and tied ribbons throughout. It actually passed for a decent wreath, and so it went to my family, who have to my memory never displayed it in the years since I returned home, and barely spoke about it at the time. It was, perhaps, not such a decent wreath after all.

My magnum opus was a wreath for my OB/GYN to display in his office. I bought a small evergreen wreath and set out to coat pacifiers, baby spoons, wooden blocks and other small baby goods in Mod Podge and acrylic paint so that they were all in varying shades of red and green. Do you know how many coats of acrylic it takes to paint a plastic baby spoon any color other than the one it started out with? No? Good. Don’t ever try to find out.

The problem with this wreath-making kick was that one of the most troublesome pregnancy symptoms I suffered was severe carpal tunnel. And there was such a force of extra blood flow in my hands that a capillary quite literally made its way through to the surface of my skin and popped up like an ugly red tumor that would without warning start bleeding profusely and require medical intervention until the bleeding stopped. This was the state of my hands, and yet, I was still crafting.

Due to pain and lack of time I never did finish the wreath for my doctor. But I found it recently in a 16×16″ box of personal belongings sent to me. It was unintentionally covered in glitter.

Christmas Tree

Every year I put out my tiny little tabletop tree (2′ tall) and decorate it beautifully. Every year I take it down before Christmas, even though I really would like a tree up until after the Epiphany. This is because I have two cats who can’t help themselves when it comes to miniature Christmas trees. They can’t help themselves with big trees either but they don’t destroy big trees. With a big tree, they are proportionately sized for minimum damage. With a mini tree, they are basically Godzilla.

So my tree lasted all of 36 hours before it came down this year – up on Thanksgiving morning, down on Black Friday. I was really enjoying looking at the lights but oh well. I still have all my ornaments (plastic, cat and kid safe) for when I am able to put up a proper tree (one of those tall, skinny 6′ fake prelit ones from Walmart that cost less than $50 – because if the cats do wreck it, I don’t have to have a fit). I just don’t have room right now.

There is a tabletop Christmas tree (4′ tall) and a train where my family live, but I barely go down to that part of the house since my son and I are established in our apartment. So I guess I can visit that tree from time to time but I like the ability to just enjoy the ambience of a tree, you know? Sit with some tea or cocoa in the warm light?

This is what my tree looked like on Thursday night. I won’t show you a picture of what it looked like when I took it down this morning!

I decided to find some photos of trees that I love and post here so I can enjoy vicariously.

Nautical and pastel, a good combo.

Nautical and pastel, a good combo.

If I had this view, I'd definitely go with white for contrast. You could see it from at sea...

If I had this view, I’d definitely go with white for contrast. You could see it from at sea…

Faux starfish, preferably.

Faux starfish, preferably.

Ocean blues and greens clearly work for me.

Ocean blues and greens clearly work for me.

I'd go with a different color light and the flowers would all have to be fake (because cats) but this is rather pretty.

I’d go with a different color light and the flowers would all have to be fake (because cats) but this is rather pretty.

Creative. Wouldn't necessarily solve my problem, though.

Creative. Wouldn’t necessarily solve my problem, though.

Alright I’m done looking for trees, this is actually more depressing than I anticipated.

On a lighter note, I received an adorable Christmas ornament from Kim, Dru & Jules that’s personalized for this year & Chatterbugs. So sweet – thank you guys! I may not have a tree for it right now but it’ll go with my ornaments (for the “top of the tree” that the cats can’t reach!) once I have space for a bigger tree. 🙂

Christmas Pageant

If you’ve ever had a child, or indeed ever been a child, chances are you’ve been exposed to some form of Christmas pageantry, whether it’s at your church (as it was at mine), your school (as it was at mine) or at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular (they had live elephants on stage which as a child I found enchanting, whereas now I just consider it exploitation – Merry Christmas!).

I have had more than my recommended lifetime exposure.

My hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps.

My hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps.

I attended an all-girls Catholic private school from the ages of 11-17, and while I have nothing negative to say about the curriculum and the overall experience, the fact that it was an arts-focused school did tend to create some uncomfortable situations quite literally in the spotlight. The entire student body was expected to participate in annual choral festivities and musical theatre, either on stage or operating lighting, painting scenery or sewing costumes. With an average cast of 220 girls, scenes contained so many extras that during one memorable run of The Wizard of Oz we technically outnumbered the dwarves in the film version of Munchkin Land 4 to 1.

Our Lollipop Guild could have qualified as a union.

Our Lollipop Guild could have qualified as a union.

A yearly yet rather insufferable tradition at the school – and indeed in Catholic institutions everywhere – was the live nativity scene. This is the part of any Catholic mass or performance when the only people interested in what’s going on are the parents of the participants. Students were dressed as the usual nativity figures and someone’s newborn baby brother or sister was cast as the infant Jesus. One of my sister’s friends, whom I adored for her abiding love of Cornholio and uncanny impressions of same, was cast as an angel and managed to make an early exit by fainting while trying to remain perfectly still and in character during a choral performance. It was one of the most exciting things to ever happen at a chorus event. If presented with the terrible “fell from heaven” pick-up line, she can accurately answer “not quite from heaven, but approximately four feet and beside a bewildered infant who may have been cross-dressing.” Also, it gave us a much-needed break from the tense stuff that was waiting for baby Jesus to start crying inconsolably because the 12 year old pretending to be his mother did not in fact give birth to him (as far as anyone knew).

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I once portrayed an angel in a nativity play, as evidenced by otherwise bewildering photographs of me as a young girl with tinsel on my head. My excitement at being cast as an angel was eclipsed only by my excitement at being cast as Lúcia Santos in the story of Fátima, and I may have been involved with a passion play as well. My memory of that is somewhat hazy, possibly because casting a group of children to reenact torture and a crucifixion likely caused our tiny brains to employ selective amnesia as a coping mechanism.

But returning to high school, picture, if you will, over 200 girls staged on risers, all dressed in floor-length black skirts and button-down white blouses. (Except for the 7th and 8th graders, who had to wear empire-waist, white polyester gowns with biting elastic at the cuffs, for reasons unknown apart from giving people another reason to laugh at awkward junior high schoolers.) There was an elite chorus comprised of those of us noted either for particular vocal talent or for marked lack of interest or aptitude in anything athletic. We were distinguished from the rest by cummerbunds, which my own mother had to sew for every girl. They were green and red tartan and even a profoundly alcoholic Scotsman suffering from some sort of brain damage would have refused to wear them in a darkened room. My mother’s craftsmanship was of course impeccable, but to this day I will never understand the practical or aesthetic purpose of a cummerbund.

Not even lamé can make cummerbunds fabulous.

Cummerbunds: the only thing ever to steal the ‘fabulous’ from lamé.

Since I remain a Catholic and am now a mom, the likelihood of encountering a Christmas pageant of some sort remains at a steady orange on the Christmas Pageant Threat Advisory Scale. But if my son is ever cast as Joseph (but I can only hope that as in Love Actually, he’s cast to play the first lobster), you can be sure I’ll be riveted by every moment, just as my family was when I was on stage.

It’s the circle of life, really.

Halloween with @ThePresets – a Superfan’s Personal Perspective (#NonStopParty)

So I saw The Presets on Halloween, if you haven’t heard the news shouted from EVERY FREAKIN’ ROOFTOP IN THE WORLD by now.

It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, which I know seems dramatic to say about a concert. But, when you’ve wanted to see a band as much as I’ve wanted to see them for as long as I’ve wanted to see them, and when said band’s music has been so deeply woven into the soundtrack of your daily life since you discovered them the greater part of a decade ago, it’s pretty epic.

It was the most fun I’ve possibly ever had, and I danced and sang at the top of my lungs for close to two hours straight. I simply decided life’s too short to stand still and those two men are the men who make my body want to move like nobody else. I swear they play me like an instrument.

I danced with and sang at total strangers who might as well have been best friends in the moment. Maybe it was the beat, maybe it was the euphoria from an entire room of people dancing and partying, or maybe it was just the utter magic that is The Presets, but the whole room was filled with this incredible feeling of love and acceptance. We were all in the moment and the moment was amazing. It was pure joy and I can’t wait for my next chance to see them again. (I am not the only person to have said this “love” and “joy” stuff about The Presets. They are universally adored as a live act and respected as tremendous musicians…both being classically trained, they’ve earned it. I know how classical training goes from my personal experience [lyric coloratura soprano in da house!].)

Since we're getting personal, this is me.

Since we’re getting personal, this is me.

I’m going to take a second, if you’ll indulge me, to talk particularly personally about why this concert, and The Presets in general, are so important to me. A friend recently referred to me as a “superfan”, which I think is great, and is absolutely true. The Presets have been together some 10 years and for most of that time they’ve been one of my favorite bands (in actuality, they are now just my favorite band, full stop). Their music has been the soundtrack to my life – a life that has had some major ups and downs, major unrest, major adventure, major heartbreak, major surprises…all set to the music Kim and Julian have made (and continue to make – as long as they keep putting out tunes, they’ll keep aligning with moments and memories, for me). I first put seeing them live on my bucket list back in 2008 – I’d been a fan for a while, but that’s when I started getting really passionate about seeing them live. It just never worked out, until this past Halloween.

My life has changed a lot in the years that I’ve been listening to The Presets. And I’ve ended up in a situation that I never could have imagined. Anybody who has read this blog or knows me knows that I’m a 35 year old single mom, working two jobs from home while caring for my kid, blah blah blah, ad infinitum. I bore myself with it, honestly. (Though, I started writing this blog post on November 1st, and am just now completing it on November 12th…so that should give you some idea what my days are like.) I’m grateful to be employed and more than anything grateful to have an awesome soon-to-be 3 year old son who’s the light of my life. But there are a lot of days…a whole lot…when I look in the mirror and I don’t really recognize the person I see. It’s not that the person I see is bad. It’s just somebody different, somebody other than the person I’d expected to be. And that’s OK. But The Presets…sometimes when I’m listening to them, I remember. And it feels comfortable and comforting. And then other days they inspire me to discover more about the new somebody I’ve become. So yeah, I’m a superfan. And this concert was meaningful to me in more ways than I can express.

Now. Apologies in advance if I get any of my recollections wrong. For anyone who knows their music, they opened with Push, ended with Talk Like That, came back to encore Surrender (I think – at that point it was all frenzy and I know I danced and I sang but I don’t recall every moment vividly because we were all going batcrap nuts) and ended the encore with Anywhere. Which was like a personal love letter they didn’t even realize they sent me, because Anywhere is an important song to me. (Well, they’re ALL important, really.)

Although not presented here in exact order, as far as I remember the set list included Push, Fall, Ghosts, No Fun, Goodbye Future, Youth in Trouble, My People, This Boy’s in Love, Anywhere, Surrender (I think…mothertrucking ‘mommy brain’…), Talk Like That…and I think that’s it, I wish I could have finished this post sooner because I’m so harried all the time my memory is crap even on a good day, so now I wonder if they also played I Go Hard, I Go Home or if I dreamed it…I probably dreamed it. Maybe. @*#% me. Does anybody have the entire set list? HMU.

None of the songs sounded exactly like their album counterparts but they rarely do. The Presets are known for remixing their own music for shows. In fact I bet the next time I see them (and there WILL be a next time even if I have to pack up the kiddo and fly to Australia for it) the songs sound completely different. I’ve watched a bajillion YouTube videos taken at concerts and none sounded exactly like what I heard on Halloween. Their entire set was awesomely heavy on the beat & bass…partially because the sound system was a wee bit dodgy at the venue (I could only make out a fraction of what Julian said when he was just speaking, but could hear everything he sang just fine)…and partially, I think, because they just had an edge that night.

It was Halloween after all, and they were fully in costume. I wasn’t – though the top I wore was so low-cut (completely off-the-shoulders all around and plunging in the back, required a special bra and everything!) I might as well have been, since I never dress like that in real life anymore. And I was wearing makeup, can you believe it? I never have time or inclination for that these days. Once upon a time, I was a girl who wore all kinds of fun makeup. So, I was her again for Halloween. I guess that was my costume.

The way the stage was setup, or maybe just because he was in costume and feelin’ it, Julian spent quite a lot of time out from his spot behind the synths and walking up and down the stage, engaging with the audience and giving us all a good look. I’ve watched entire 2 hour performances on YouTube and not seen quite as much “up close and personal” Julian time; that’s not to say he was neglecting his instrument duties in the least, he was playing plenty. But, we seemed to get the treat of a little more up-front time than usual (or maybe not – remember I popped my Presets live cherry on this one). Kim, delightfully, was entirely engaged with the audience, “conducting” us with his drum sticks, encouraging us to count down to beats and generally being really fun to watch. You cannot fault either man’s stage presence in the slightest. They are mesmerizing.

It was an intimate (and slightly odd) venue with an equally intimate crowd. It was the Warsaw, a rock club that comes out to play periodically in the Polish National Home, so…before the show we grabbed a $6 plate of homemade pierogies (made by little Polish ladies, one of whom was, I think, dressed up as Gary Glitter) and a $2 bottle of water (they have clearly never been to a cinema because they could get away with charging $4-5 for a bottle of water and people would shrug it off). My sister, who accompanied me, had a $6 ginormous Polish beer. The tickets were only $30 plus transaction fees…the whole thing was a stupidly inexpensive night out, especially for the incredible entertainment factor and fun.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention there were several supporting acts – when we arrived I believe a house band was playing (I never did catch the name), followed by Franki Chan, Chela & Antwon. The Presets didn’t take the stage until well after 11pm, and all told I didn’t get home until 3am (and was up at 7am with the kiddo), but it was totally worth it.

One thing I did not do – purposefully – was take many photos or any video. The reason for this is that I really wanted to absorb the show and enjoy it, and not worry about holding a camera still. I was there to dance and sing and take in The Presets’ magic! This is why I am so incredibly grateful to the people of Brooklyn for being utterly obsessed with Instagram. I was able to find loads of video clips and photos (including a few longer ones on YouTube) that let me preserve the memory.

So what follows here is a sort of scrapbook of everything I’ve found to date (feel free to contact me with other stuff if you’d like it here) that’ll help us superfans keep the night near and dear, ’til the next time we get to see The Presets.

Click the photos to view the videos/pics/etc. on their respective sites. P.S. video clips on Instagram load SO LOUD…

Photo of their Halloween costumes by @thepresets (is it just me or is that Kim’s mask from the cover of “Beams”? and not gonna lie, even if Julian’s hair was like that all the time, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers)

Video clip of, well, you’ll see…by @thepresets

Video clip of “Are You The One?” by @elizabethans_

Video clip of “Talk Like That” by @elizabethans_

Photo by @junio_nyc

Video clip of “Goodbye Future” by @elizabethans_

Photo by @pamelaashleyallen

Video clip of “Are You The One?” by @vctrpscl

Photo by @vctrpscl

Photo by @teresaelectro

Photo by @earth_ring

Photo by @alexloyal

Photo by @hannah_karenina

Video clip of “Ghosts” by @juergen_moonyos

Video clip of “This Boy’s In Love” by @psychicvisions_

Video clip of…everything? by @newpenzance1965

Photo by @juliadarrenkamp

Photo by @christinasapphire

Photo by @luigimazzel

Photo by @luigimazzel

Photo by @louise_la

Video clip of “Ghosts” by @itskaitykaity

Video clip of “My People” by @jaimepazos

Video clip of “Push” by @joseysantana

Photo by @taylormooreplease

Video clip of “Are You The One?” by @taylormooreplease

Photo by @taylormoreplease

Photo by @taylormooreplease

Video clip of “No Fun” by @taylormooreplease

Video clip of “Fall” by @nunar

Video clip of “My People” by @nunar

Video clip of “My People” by @nunar

Photo by @bryceaviano

Video clip of “My People” by @imuzza

Video clip of “Talk Like That” by @imuzza

Photo by @danapac_

Video clip of “Ghosts” by @beachy_chic

Photo by @ooodiana

Photo by @gracesgibson via @frankichan

Video clip of “My People” by @itskaitykaity

Photo by @mozhanistan

Personal mementos…

Remnants of the teal & black streaks I put in my hair for the occasion

Remnants of the teal & black streaks I put in my hair for the occasion

Fading entry hand stamp (smiley!) & my "this chick is old enough to get smashed" wristband

Fading entry hand stamp (smiley!) & my “this chick is old enough to get smashed” wristband

To anyone on the fence about seeing The Presets, just do it. Seriously…do it.

Thanks, Kim & Jules, for an incredible night…for making me feel young & carefree again…for all the years of music that have been so important to me…Congrats on a decade – let’s have many more. Undying love from me to you. xo

The Only Horse I’ve Ever Loved

(NOT ANNIE. Just a pretty bay.)

(NOT ANNIE. Just a pretty bay.)

Back when I was in high school – a junior maybe, going into senior year – I volunteered to help my family’s cleaning lady take care of her 3 horses (2 horses, 1 pony) because she was so busy during the day. Every day I’d make my way to the stable and help out at lunch time. I’d muck the stalls, feed the animals, make sure they had clean water, brush them, etc. It was a nice thing to be able to do because I’m mad about animals and I hadn’t really ever had the chance to bond with horses before. I’d been on horses, but never with a long-term relationship.

Tex, the pony, was ancient and blind. Just the sweetest and most patient thing. He knew enough by the “herd’s” movement and by sound where he had to go when to get fed, the rest of the time I’d lead him around.

Stutz, the gelded chestnut quarterhorse, was a little doll. Though he had a habit of scaring me to death, because he had a severe, chronic GI disorder and I constantly had to be on the lookout for signs of GI problems like obstruction. Sometimes I’d find him laying on his side motionless and think “OH MY GOD, HE’S DEAD AND IT’S MY FAULT”. He’d pop right up soon as he saw me.

The third was a bay mare named Annie. Annie was a special case. She was an abuse/neglect rescue. Born to be a racehorse – thrown from a line of considerably lucrative race horses – she was a thoroughbred quarterhorse but never raced. As I recall she didn’t have the right temperament. If I remember correctly her owners left her alone in a stable, barely paying her any attention, depriving her of contact with other horses (they are gregarious animals and need socialization) and treated her poorly. When she came into the care of my aforementioned cleaning lady friend, she was practically feral – had to be broken again for riding and had an extreme mistrust of people. She also had odd quirks like a total lack of comprehension of space. She was always stepping on toes (steel toed boots were a must) and smacking people with her head because she never had that innate sense of necessary space that must be kept between her and comparably fragile humans. I was warned she may be difficult to work with, but nothing could have prepared me for my experiences with Annie for the summer I spent with these horses.

Annie took to me almost immediately, and I to her. She would invite me to kiss her nose and stroke her, and I didn’t mind if I occasionally got stepped on or thwacked inadvertently. She liked to be close to me and I liked being close to her. When I brushed her mane she would arch her neck back and pull me close to her side in what felt like a big snuggle.

Every day when I arrived, the horses were out to pasture. The fields were hilly so I could never see them at the far end. I’d stand by the stable door, just outside the “safety” of the stable door, and whistle for them. Pretty soon I’d hear the hooves, and see them galloping over the hills, Tex just barely keeping up but managing, Stutz and Annie looking majestic as their coats shone in the sunlight.

Tex had his feeding area, Stutz had his own, Annie had her own. There were few fights over who’d get what when. They pretty much knew where to go.

Except Annie…she would gallop straight for me. And she wouldn’t stop. Long after the other two had put on the brakes, Annie was full speed ahead, bearing down on little me standing well within the range of being trampled. At the last second she’d put on the brakes and come to a stop right beside me. I think sometimes she liked to show off; she was bred to race, after all. Sometimes it was just that lack of understanding how to relate to the world around her. But I never minded, it was exhilarating. And I never once, ever, questioned whether or not she’d stop in time. Perhaps it was foolhardy but I knew in my heart she would never mean to hurt me and it left me breathless to have such a big, beautiful animal speeding towards me, safe in the understanding that it wasn’t her intent to cause harm, but simply an abundance of enthusiasm. I was her girl and I’d come to say hi.

Friends and family would watch me with Annie and remark how special it was to see us together. I’d imagine she was my steed in some parallel universe where I was a woman warrior who rode a wild horse named Aynne.

After that summer the horses were relocated to a stable too far for me to visit. I ran into our cleaning lady years later. Stutz had died, sadly. Tex was nearly there, but happy. Annie was still around. Hopefully she found someone else to be her girl, since our time together was so brief.

I always had a sense that Annie was like a soul mate to me. We understood each other on a level that was much deeper – more spiritual – that started with my empathy for what she’d gone through and grew into a mutual love that I have carried in my heart my whole life, and I always will. I like to think she did, too.

I found myself thinking of her the other day and wondering if I might be able to find out anything about her online. Because she’s registered, and I know her registered name – “Air Conditioner” – it was actually very easy to track down her D.O.B. and lineage. I wasn’t sure I had the right “Air Conditioner”, but how many of them can there be that are bay mares, born in NJ, bred to race but never raced?

I guess I thought Annie was younger than she was, because I was surprised – and a little saddened – to see her birth date was 11th May, 1979. She was born a couple months before me. A horse typically lives 25-30 years as I understand it, and I’m 35. So Annie’s time may well have come.

When I watch the summoning of Shadowfax in The Two Towers I am forever reminded how Annie would come to me when I whistled, galloping and whinnying over the hills toward me. The scene makes me pretty emotional sometimes because of those memories. It looks just like it (only Shadowfax shows a bit more restraint on the approach!).

Maybe someday I’ll see Annie again and get to ride her, free and happy to see each other again, to play and to share in the abundance of joy that comes beyond life. I guess we’ll see. But I’ll never forget her, one way or the other.

As a postscript, I find horse racing reprehensible. Not only does it endanger the horses but the horses who never “make the cut” can fall by the wayside in the cruelest of ways.

My Twitter Follow-Back Policy

Real+angry+bird_251f1c_3606014I’m seeing a lot more people publishing their formal follow-back policies for Twitter these days…most of them in marketing.

I guess there’s a sense that if you’re a marketer and you follow another marketer, that marketer is through some sort of blood oath dutifully bound to follow you back. I’ve been in marketing for many years and I never signed such a contract or cut my palm, and I’m guessing the other folks with written follow-back policies haven’t, either.

Every day people follow me, and unfollow me within 24-48 hours if I don’t follow back (THANKS ROBOTASTIC TWITTER TOOLS). Here’s what I have to say about that.

I’m okay with that.

If you aren’t following me just to follow me (and really why would you – my account is all over the place, though I do periodically post some good marketing communications stuff and retweet entertaining crap) but instead are expecting a follow in return (and won’t even wait more than 48 hours to see it happen), then we’re probably not a good fit for each other.

Just so you know, here are the reasons I follow someone back on Twitter, aka My Twitter Follow-Back Policy:

1) We look like we have a lot in common career-wise or interest-wise, and your bio/URL and tweets prove it.

2) Your tweets are interesting, funny, compelling or otherwise just get my attention.

3) You’ve given me more than 48 hours to make the freakin’ decision. Twitter isn’t speed dating. It takes a while to see if somebody tweets the kind of content you’re into on a regular basis.

Here are the reasons that I follow someone on Twitter regardless of whether or not I ever get a follow back:

1) I like him or her.

2) He or she is a musician who makes music that makes my heart go pitter patter (or is that twitter twatter? kinda like that better).

3) He or she is a marketer with good advice to share, or an agency or topical news site with same.

4) He or she is a celebrity I have an interest in following.

5) I have a mad, passionate crush on him or her.

6) I’m friends with him or her, or we’re acquainted in some way. Mutual acquaintances also count.

7) He or she is someone I know “in real life”. (oh my God, right?)

8) He or she makes me laugh.

9) He or she has a strong connection to the ocean, professionally or otherwise.

10) I want to see his or her content in my timeline. Really, that’s the biggie.

If I do follow you, you can usually expect to be listed, because I’m a little anal like that. I have 5 primary lists I use to categorize the people I am following:

1) So Many Things to See – Visuals, photographs, vines, videos, etc.

2) Of the Ocean – People who tweet about, work on or enjoy the sea. (My second largest list.)

3) La Musique – Musicians to follow.

4) IMC Magic – Marketing and/or elements of integrated marketing communications.

5) Funny, as in Ha Ha – It’s funny, you know. It’s a good story, it’s funny, you’re a funny guy. (This is my largest list.)

So you’re curious, here are the reasons I unfollow someone:

1) He or she has not been active on Twitter in ages. I usually count that as about 8-10 weeks or more.

2) SO. MANY. RETWEETS. If you are retweeting every single thing someone tweets at you, I am either going to mute your RTs or just unfollow you (the former if you’re someone I still care about seeing original tweets from, the latter if I’m not committed to you).

3) He or she is a celeb who only ever talks to other celebs. I may never send said celeb a tweet and if I do I never expect an interaction, but there are some people on Twitter who are notorious for using the site like a Hollywood daisy chain. I don’t actually follow any of those people to begin with, but…

4) I’m tired of you. Sorry. The good news is you’ll never get an explanation why I unfollowed you (unless you specifically ask, in which case I might just re-follow you for caring), so you’ll never have to know!

I don’t automate any of my following/unfollowing/account maintenance, FYI.

If you have followed me and you really, really want me to follow you back, and I have not yet done so, send me a DM. (@SheAndTheSea) I’m friendly! Chances are I may not have noticed you sneak in and I’d be willing to entertain keeping up with you.

And that’s it. Policy out!

Choose My Next Wireless Network Name For Me

nowifiRight now I’m on a shared cable and wireless connection (it’s an agreement, I’m not just leeching off someone). It’s pretty fast and I have no major complaints apart from my Roku having trouble connecting to the wireless extender sometimes. But, I know there will come a time when I get on my own cable plan and establish my own wireless network in the apartment. It’ll boost speed and reduce the strain on the other network.

But before I do that I want to make sure I have the perfect name for my wireless network. Remember, everybody in this part of the neighborhood is going to see it, so it really has to pop.

So I came up with some ideas and decided to open it up to the Internet for voting. Use the poll below to cast your vote for your favorite wireless network name (or the name that you’d least like to see – whatever floats your boat). Sadly PollDaddy only allows me to leave it open for voting for a week. Feel free to suggest your own names, too, and vote for as many as you’d like. Whenever I get my new wireless network going I’ll screen cap proof of the winning name in use.

Caveat: No idea how long my future router will allow its name to be, so, some of the longer options may be disqualified at the time of setup.

21 Things You Can Do Instead of Violating Your 21 Day Ebola Quarantine

Sometimes when you’re potentially (or most definitely) exposed to Ebola and you’re quarantined for 21 days, you just go a bit stir crazy. We’ve all been there. Endless 24/7 news coverage of your face on Fox News with talking heads screaming about how you put the country at risk simply by existing. People on Twitter calling for your execution. Sometimes you just want to get away from it all, amirite?

You just want your favorite soup to comfort you. You just want to put it all behind you and jet set off to start planning your wedding. Or you really want to go on that cruise you booked months in advance, even though there’s no way in hell they’d give you a hard time if you called and said “yo, I’m about to bring Ebola on board, can I reschedule?”.

But you’re either being “closely” monitored or you’re quarantined, albeit voluntarily, for 21 days, and you’re feeling a lot of pressure to stay inside your house. But rather than sneaking out with the rest of your Ebola-exposed crew for take-out food, or hopping on a plane with a low grade fever, or sailing the seven seas with some 4,000 other people who basically then become involuntarily quarantined with you, try these 21 things you can do at home instead of violating your Ebola quarantine.

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First, a few notes.

  • To the nurse who flew from Dallas to Cleveland to plan a wedding, your wedding is really important. TO YOU. The rest of the country doesn’t care, so don’t put them at risk. Great, now you have Ebola, and you flew on a plane with 130+ people. If a movie is ever made about this, Samuel L. Jackson is already cast to stop you. YOUR WEDDING PLANS CAN WAIT. I promise.
  • To the TV medical expert, aka an actual MD, who had a hankering for soup from a local deli, that soup is crazy delicious, I’m sure. Totally worth ditching quarantine and hiding in the back seat of a car while you sent your lackeys in for that sweet, sweet nectar. I’m sure, as a doctor, you realize that any time you dine out during cold and flu season at any restaurant, your soup may be made by a minimum wage worker who may have influenza but can’t afford to call in sick – hope you got your flu shot, just in case he sneezed in the broth. Ha ha! Just kidding, restaurant owners, don’t sue me.
  • To the lab worker from the Ebola-ridden hospital who hopped on a cruise ship with her hubby to just get away from it all: man those Caribbean cruises are so magical. Nothing says relaxation like causing mass panic in a captive audience who have only two options: jump overboard in the chaos and take their chances in the open water, or tear you apart limb-from-limb when the mob mentality sets in. Okay, so maybe neither of those scenarios are presently happening, but I’ve seen movies. Oh, and nevermind that minor political incident between the U.S. and Belize – oopsies! NBD.

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Now then, onto the 21 things you can if, you know, none of those scenarios sound particularly appealing to you.

  1. Don’t feel like cooking? Order delivery. Leave the money on the doorstep, ask the delivery guy to leave the food on the doorstep. Open the door after he’s gone, get your food, and enjoy.
  2. Binge-watch Netflix. You’re probably too busy being a journalist, nurse or lab director to watch all your favorite TV shows. GOOD NEWS! YOU HAVE 21 DAYS TO CATCH UP! You’re going to LOVE how the latest season of OITNB ends, man. And don’t forget Hulu and Amazon Prime! You are totally set.
  3. Missing your BFFs big time? FaceTime and Skype are on your side. Or do what Felicia Day does, get drunk and record a Google Hangout on Air about vaginas and literature (and specifically, the effect of literature on vaginas) with a few of your besties.
  4. Oh my God…you actually have time to try that thing on Pinterest. Go for it. Go for them all.
  5. CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!
    responsibility12(alternate)
  6. It’s fall! Get out the crock pot. Time to slow cook some stew up in this mutha. Think how good it’ll smell while you’re catching up on House of Cards, and seriously, don’t even blink when watching that shiz because you’ll be like “whaaa?” and have to rewind. It just happens that fast.

    SEE WHAT I DID THERE? Get it? Dr. Who? Blink?

    SEE WHAT I DID THERE? Get it? Dr. Who? Blink?

  7. Learn to knit. Don’t have yarn? Rip up an old t-shirt. Don’t have knitting needles? Use your arm. Apparently there is never an excuse for not knitting, ever.
  8. Decorate your house for Halloween. Take a white sheet and spray paint “EBOLA HOUSE” in black or red for maximum impact. Hang in the window. The neighborhood will love it!
  9. Watch the stock market. You’ll chuckle when you see how stocks in airfare took a plunge after you made everybody in America think twice about flying. The same will probably happen with cruises. And it would happen with fresh-made soup, except I don’t think there’s a stock market for that.
  10. Missing gym time? Dig out those Sweatin’ to the Oldies tapes that were, at one point, federally mandated in every American household. I swear doing the pony with Richard Simmons is as good as any elliptical. Can’t find your VHS player? GOOD NEWS: Sweatin to the Oldies: Disco Sweat (which critics unanimously agreed was the best Sweatin to the Oldies, apart from Roger Ebert who gave it a lukewarm reception) is on YouTube!
  11. Play a video game. Did you know Minecraft is still a thing? I know, right? And Destiny – shut up and take my money. Bonus: if you own an Xbox One, domestic spies can make sure you’re not violating your, er, voluntary quarantine!
    funny-pictures-minecraft-auto-465903
  12. Do a Reddit AMA. “I May or May Not Have Ebola, AMA.” Or just read this one.
  13. Donate to charity and do good right from the comfort of your desk, in your fuzzy PJs. I’ve heard there are some people in West Africa who need help.
  14. Meditate. I recommend Meditation for CRAZY BITCHES.
  15. Read a book. Or many. Gone Girl is supposed to have a crazy twist. I’ll never know, because I don’t read crap like that.
    o-GONEGIRL-facebook
  16. Button down shirt? Check. Socks? Check. Candlestick? Check. Ready. Set. Go.
    Duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh. Duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh.
    Just take those old records off the shelf.
    I’ll sit and listen to them by myself.
    (Which you very may well be doing if you end up in involuntary isolation.)
  17. Take selfies. In the bathroom mirror. In the shower. On the toilet. At the kitchen sink. In the linen closet. Take selfies with your dog. Take selfies with a cake. People freakin’ love selfies. Your Facebook friends will be all over that like white on rice. Oh those sweet, sweet ‘likes’.
  18. Vaguebook. I’ll give you some status updates to copy/paste:
    – Ugh.
    – Lol.
    – Wondering why I even bother.
    – Should I?
    – I’m over this.
    – One day at a time.
    – Just. Breathe.
    – When you text him and he doesn’t text back.
    – Thinking…
    – FML.
    – Don’t even ask, I don’t want to talk about it.
  19. Tweet Cher. Don’t forget the emoji.
    enhanced-9593-1407965314-8
  20. Plan your wedding on Pinterest. For the nurse actually planning a wedding, this is really good advice. But since the advent of secret pinboards, everybody has planned a wedding on Pinterest. Everybody.
    pinterest-social-media-bride-weddings-ecards-someecards
  21. Act like a grown up. Realize that YES, THIS IS HAPPENING TO YOU. You are being monitored by the CDC. You may be in voluntary quarantine. Ebola has touched your life – Ebola, a crazy African disease you thought would never, ever in a million years be at your doorstep. It’s here. This is not a dream. This is not a drill. Be a responsible adult. Be a responsible citizen. Don’t fly with a fever. Don’t put yourself on a cruise during the 21 days it takes for Ebola symptoms to manifest. Don’t go out for soup. Be reasonable. Don’t put others at risk. Think about somebody other than yourself. You’ll get through this. Even if you actually come down with Ebola, remember, you’re in America, and we have some hospitals that can handle this. (I think there are like 4. But don’t worry, you’ll end up in one of them. Maybe.) Your chances of surviving are far better here, because our medicine is more advanced. You may want to tear your hair out at the thought of sitting in your house for 21 days, stewing over the worry that you may or may not have Ebola virus inside of you. You may want to go anywhere, do anything, absolutely anything other than have to face that. It’s OK. Everybody will be on your side if you stay smart, and don’t be selfish. It’s that simple.

 

 

What Kind of Mother Forgets the Rape Whistle?

So we have a black bear.

I’m sure we’ve had them before – the woods across the street are dense and home to a ton of wildlife. They’re also protected green space so there’s not much back there to disrupt them.

Our trash cans are probably a little long in the tooth, and the ones that aren’t we don’t make a habit of tying shut with bungee cords. With this being the active season for bears foraging before the long winter’s sleep, it’s not surprising that one has decided to call our house his favorite take-out joint. (Even though he’s equally as likely to find a dirty diaper as he is to find leftovers. Toddler poo or hamburger bun? I’ll take what’s behind door #…)

It’s a little surprising, however, to see huge, heavy trash cans lifted up and deposited in other places. Or bags of trash dragged into the forest and dispersed, ironically, right beneath a sign that reads NO DUMPING.

Bungee cords have been obtained, the forest cleaned up, trash cans rearranged. Not a big deal in the long run.

What would be a substantially bigger deal would be if I were to run into said bear, or bears, on the street. It’s not completely out of the question, anything could happen. And being a worrier, and a mom, which is kind of redundant because all moms are worriers, I actually think about things like this when I’m out walking with my son. I notice the houses where I might find a good hiding spot to stash my son (in his wagon) while I deal with the bear. I watch the woods and look for easy access spots where a bear could sneak up on a single mother dragging a wagon full of a wiggly toddler down the road.

At my sister’s suggestion, I decided to carry a whistle. Except the only whistle I have is on my keychain. It’s a rape whistle. So, if God forbid a bear approaches, I’ll be blowing a rape whistle to fend him off. I guess if it gets the job done, that’s fine.

The problem is, I keep forgetting the rape whistle at home. I take a single house key when I go out as it’s easier to carry, because I collect key chains, so my keys weigh approximately 85 pounds in total. I have a dainty little wrist fob so I can “wear” my keys and it just sort of tugs my sleeve entirely out of shape from the sheer hulk and weight of the thing.

I stop and ask myself every time, what kind of neglectful mother am I to forget the rape whistle? What if a bear suddenly leaps out of the forest? I may have a few seconds to stash my kid out of sight, and then I have to start making as much noise as I can. A rape whistle would be REALLY HANDY right about then. I’d also turn up the volume on my phone and play music as loud as I could, grab trash can lids and bang them together, shout, bang rocks or bricks together, whatever I could do to make as much noise as possible.

All while making myself as big and tall as I can and glaring down the bear, because I’m a mama bear, too.

We wouldn’t even be worrying about this, even if a bear was rummaging regularly through our trash, had a hiker not been mauled to death not far from here last month. But, that happened, and now everyone thinks every black bear is a potential threat…even though that sad situation was about a one in a billion chance. He got unlucky. And it seems he didn’t know what to do if approached by a black bear.

There’s been a ton of media coverage since his death, and a lot of it focused on how to avoid being mauled to death by a black bear, which is actually a useful thing for the media to tell us.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version.

1) If it’s black, fight back.

2) If it’s brown, get down.

In NJ the bears we encounter are black bears, and they tend to be pussies. They may talk a good game, even get up in your face and fight, but if you fight back, as big and tall and LOUD as you can…kicking, punching, screaming, hitting with rocks and sticks, aiming mostly for the eyes and face and generally going primal, utterly ape shit on the bear, he’s more than likely going to back off and say “whoa bro, get some therapy”. And off he’ll go.

If you are unlucky enough to be the plaything of a grizzly bear, you need to play dead. Drop and don’t stop. Curl into a fetal position and protect your head and neck from injury while you do the roadkill routine. Just let him lose interest in your presumably-deceased body, and hope somebody sees you and calls for help. Then WAIT, because grizzlies are smart enough to hang around just in case you resurrect yourself. But they’ll eventually lose interest.

Whatever you do, black or brown, DO NOT RUN. This is the first instinct we have when faced with mortal danger. Ignore the flight part of your fight or flight response and fight to remain calm. Remember, black fight back, brown get down.

There is a third bear rule that applies to parts of the United States, and that is the polar bear rule. The polar bear rule goes:

3) You’re SO screwed.

Understand a few things about bears:

  • They attack when they feel territorial.
  • They attack when they have cubs (remember, mama bear).
  • They attack when they are surprised.
  • Or if they’re a polar bear, they’re a motherflippin’ polar bear, and they can do whatever they want.

Some things you can do to protect yourself:

  • DO. NOT. RUN. if you see a bear. Your best bet is to also make sure the bear sees you, so there’s no surprise factor. (Fact: Bears even hate surprise parties.)
  • Don’t leave trash around a camp site, especially food waste and empty packaging.
  • Don’t decide to try to play Christopher Robin to his Winnie the Pooh. It will not have a storybook ending. Bears are only cute if you’re looking at them from a safe distance, say, on a computer screen absolutely nowhere near an actual bear.
  • Carry pepper spray (it’s not just for rapists and muggers!)
  • Carry a gun (somewhat less advisable, in fact, disregard this advice entirely unless you’re licensed and it’s legal where you happen to be standing at the moment you encounter the bear)
  • Carry a rape whistle (I keep telling myself this will be useful, but there is really no evidence)

So the next time I leave the house to go for a walk, please remind me to bring my keys. Because I’m not sold on the idea that the rape whistle will help, but bludgeoning the bear in the face with my 85 pound wad of collectible key chains might just do the trick.

*Note: I am an animal activist and would never promote unprovoked, senseless violence against animals. However, if a bear is about to attack my child and/or me, all bets are off. I’ll donate the same day to save Arturo the Polar Bear or free bile bears in China, but I will have no qualms about whacking a black bear upside the head if he lunges at me or mine.

A Few of My Favorite Tweeple, v2

Quite some time ago I put together a list of Twitter accounts that I thought were worth following. There are many other accounts I love, so I thought I’d cobble together another list for anyone who’s on the big T!

@joshlaw81 – Josh Lawson, an Australian actor. He’s a nice guy and happens to be one of the funniest, most quick-witted people on the planet. Check it out for yourself. Also, back in 2006 or 2007 he hit on me on MySpace (remember that place?), which pretty much made my year. (He’s so good looking, it’d make anybody’s year.)

@mrtonymartin – Tony Martin, a New Zealand comedian/actor/director/author and also one of the funniest people you’ll ever encounter online or anywhere else. His tweets are frequently hilarious, though since he lives in Australia, they may be somewhat tailored to the Aussie audience.

@tldrwikipedia – TL;DR Wikipedia, possibly my favorite novelty account on all of Twitter. Seriously:

@WorstMuse – Fairly new to the novelty account scene, but screamingly funny to anyone who’s ever written fiction.

@happybirthtime – One of the most bizarre – and hilarious – accounts on Twitter. Pairs celebrity birthday celebrations with wildly funny inaccuracies.

@OnePerfectShot – Posts single, perfect screenshots from movies. Often stunning!

@DailyStaley – Ben Staley, who is a producer on Deadliest Catch but also a storyteller in photograph and word. I believe him to be this generation’s answer to Frank Sutcliffe. Ben’s photographs are just that good.

@b0ringtweets – Absolutely lives up to his handle, however he and Ricky Gervais get into some pretty brilliant conversations. Follow them both and watch the magic unfold.

@robfee – Rob Fee, a writer for Ellen DeGeneres and many others. His tweets never disappoint.

@NicestHippo – one of many Twitter comedians worth following.

@MYSADCAT – Why My Cat Is Sad. Funny tweets, adorable cat.

@yoyoha – another Twitter comedian worth following.

@TheNardvark – ditto.

@HonestToddler – MUST FOLLOW for parents. Truly some of the most amusing (and most true) stuff out there. If toddlers could tweet…

@AccidentalP – Accidental Partridge, a treasure trove of people accidentally sounding like Alan Partridge on Twitter. If you love Alan, you’ll love this.

@27bslash6 – David Thorne – oh my God he makes me laugh. Doesn’t tweet much but when he does it’s worth it. Follow the link to his website for insane amounts of hilarity.

And that’s it for this round. Though if you’re curious about the people I follow in general, you can always see all of them here!