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Few things in life thus far have hurt my feelings as much as Ann Taylor beginning to market to me.

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plastics and digital foils

January 30, 2018

At the ripe old age of thirty four I have obtained my first food handlers card. I am unreasonably proud.

nadie lo hace como yo

January 3, 2018

Some people after learning a second language apparently just have a dream in it one night, and then after that they continue to have occasional dreams where everything happens in that language.

I am by no means fluent which will maybe explain why my own first experience was so different. I’m not sure.

I dreamed (in English) that my university was requiring that all recent second language students come in for a final aptitude test to be allowed to keep their current standing. God damn it, I thought, and I went in to the testing center to see what it was about.

While I was waiting to speak to the advisor, I stood and looked out of floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall windows that overlooked the river; a river reminiscent of the Willamette as it flows past New Era. As I watched, three ducks flew in and settled into their nests on top of factory stacks. This was not in itself unusual, but I realized after a moment that it was odd that the ducks were large inflatable versions of themselves, like blow-up dolls, and that each had settled into a nest that was also an inflatable version of itself, like a plastic dinghy.

The advisor came to collect me, and told me that as a cultural capstone to my language education, I was being required to write an original poem in Spanish. Oh, I thought, well this will be easy. I’ll just write something about the ducks.

I sat down and wrote:

Los Patos están escribiendo un v en el cielo

V para la vida

(and then I woke up trying to remember the word for ‘wind)

Ellos viven libre en el viento

 

I am hoping that this exercise is my brain’s last required level of confidence in my abilities before it lets me start dreaming in Spanish for real. Fingers XING.

 

pond in the woods

What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

The single best thing that happened this year is that on my second work anniversary, my company offered me a 40 cent raise. Coming as this was at the end of a year where I had doubled both my workload and the efficiency and quality of my department, it pissed me off so profoundly that I could have powered an average sized city for a week with the energy generated from the pressure between my jaws as I clenched them. Eventually I pried my jaws apart, breathed, and gave my notice. I took out terrifying student loans, and I started going to school full time. It was absolutely petrifying leaving behind the safety net of a job. All throughout my twenties and early thirties I worked (usually full time) and went to school part time, and I enjoyed the variable, balanced lifestyle this gave me. I could feel like I was focusing on everything under my jurisdiction at once, and make steady if slow progress in every aspect of my life simultaneously. Nothing was being left unattended too long, and nothing was consuming me body and soul. In addition and probably most importantly, I could earn enough to pay my bills and have some spending money without taking out loans. It was scary crossing over into the world of (to me) staggering debt just to pay rent and car insurance. It was even scarier acquiring debt at the rate of current university tuition and fees, not to mention books. When I graduate I will owe about the amount of money my house was worth in the seventies. The soul suck has been strong, as well. Since I started school full time in March, I’ve eaten slept and breathed school. I’ve had an unprecedented issue with creating a work-life balance for myself. All of my relationships have felt the strain, as well as my hobbies and adventures and the amount of training the dog gets. I’m still working on creating this balance in my life; I have two more terms to get it figured out before it’ll no longer be relevant and instead the question will be how to balance my life with my awesome chosen-career job (fingers XING). But even with the stress of debt and of failing to keep a consistent good balance for myself while I study, changing to school full time has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made. It’s allowed me to learn with my whole mind from these incredibly valuable resources without the simultaneous distraction of workplace tasks and politics. It’s given me a full time pursuit that I am completely passionate about, even if sometimes I croak dismally about the frustration of non-core classes. And I’m suddenly closing on my end goal, a degree and a job that I desire where I will make real change in the world, with an almost dizzying speed. What I always assumed I would get around my fortieth birthday I am going to have well before my thirty-fifth. Not only does this get me to my dream life a lot faster, it opens up a whole new realm of goals and hopes for the more distant future. I’m living a life full of happy ambition and passionate work, a life that supports me in scanning the sky for the stars I want, and props me up while I reach for them. As I attain one goal another appears, along with renewed confidence in my ability to achieve it. I’ve spent this year runnin down a dream.

What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

Ramona.

And, I guess specifically and to be fair, arranging our life to include her.

We met her on the exact one year anniversary of Mia’s adoption date, so they have that in common, which is convenient. Most of the other things about the experience have not been. She is a good dog, a total sweetheart, but she has a lot of anxiety and before she came to us she had had no training whatsoever in her life. It showed. It has also been a struggle training two dogs at the same time. Mia has started acting out more since Momo came, so the past couple of months have seemed like one long exercise in trying to train dogs. Lately we’ve started reading dog training books and watching videos, and it’s been a big help. It’s so easy to misunderstand and miscommunicate with your dog, and we’re always learning to our chagrin about new things that we’ve been doing that confuses the dog or makes the dog think the wrong thing. It’s definitely a work in progress, an ongoing challenge. There are a lot of things to work on and improve, but I think overall we’re all slowly getting better at living together (and having other people over to the house). Lucky pretty much has control over the household again, which I consider  a good sign that even if the humans are not quite ruling the roost over here yet, the dogs are not either.

What was an unexpected joy this past year?

The entire eclipse experience. Camping in a big field with a central gathering area and lots of unknown neighbors in a non-festival setting was surprisingly chill and pleasant. The farm and the surrounding scenery were heart achingly beautiful and I felt special and privileged to be able to be there. And then the actual eclipse was way cooler than I thought it would be. I was vividly freaked out about the possibility of burning out my retinas because I had not personally painstakingly overseen the proper creation of my eclipse glasses so I only snuck short peeks during the waning and waxing periods, but during the moments of the total eclipse I stared at a dark planet that was both horrifyingly strange and intimately familiar. The quarter light was eerier than I could have imagined. It really got cold. The crickets started chirping, which really freaked me out. And as we watched the sunlight set in one direction, in the opposite we watched it rise and spill warmly back over the landscape. The crickets stopped, the birds started. It seemed like life flowed back into everything. It was the absolute shit.

What was an unexpected obstacle?

Crushing chronic depression at the sight of our country’s administration. Severe ongoing dampening of spirits due to all the battles we’re fighting and losing against the goddamn capitalists.

What is your happiest memory from the year?

Being drunk at a restaurant in Austin with Jason and reading our horoscopes to him out of the paper like we used to do at Clinton Corner, and then all the kitchen staff heard us and wanted theirs read too. We had good food and worked the crossword and I got a free mini milkshake.

Also, Christmas. It was just really mellow and cheerful and fun. Christmas eve it snowed, but in spite of that (because Jason is from the midwest so he can drive in snow) we went to Steven’s and ate chili. Then we went to pick up Victor and Marie from where they were stuck at a bus stop (for hours!) and spent the whole trip laughing at the very real possibility that we wouldn’t be able to make it back up Glisan. On Christmas morning I put the dogs in their nickname t-shirts first thing and we all went and woke Jason up and we had coffee and laughed at how cute and silly it was to put clothing on dogs. We bought a yuletide disco record to play on our new record player (SO EXCITING) and forgot to listen to it but its presence really glittered up the fireplace landscape. We had Nitya and Andy over, and Nitya cooked us pot roast while we ate cheese and crackers and cake all afternoon and watched Lilo and Stitch and the Office christmas episodes. As usual we got hooked on the office and ended the old year by beginning to watch it over from the beginning again.

What was your most stupid incident?

I would say that my most stupid incident was when I went girls camping with Holly and Dott and neither of us remembered to bring a can opener, but we did remember to bring delicious canned chili. The stupid part was what we did about it.

stupid

Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?

I am ashamed of not looking up how to harvest the pumpkins in time, so I just waited for them to look pumpkiny enough and then by the time I checked them the bottoms were rotten. Whoops. They were beautiful, though.

Also while we were in Austin I got mad at the dueling piano players for playing only popular songs and wanted them to play something soulful and lovely. Jason patiently explained to me that their job was to play fun things for drunk people, but I had a bad attitude about it for a long time.

What was your proudest moment of 2017?

My proudest moment was when I took the holiday gift bags up to Doernbecher for the kids and saw all the families walking up through the parking lot in the rain and I saw how tight their faces were and I knew how worried they felt and I also knew that my friends and I had done something together that was going to be able to make some of them smile for a little while.

Pick three words to describe 2017.

Revolutionary; experimental; baldly truthful.

What was the best book you read this year?

It’s dry but definitely my earth sciences book for my climatology and climate change classes. For the first time I learned about the way the planet and everything on it and everything influencing it have been shown to work up till this point, and how some of these things are changing with the changing climate. In addition, I finally got some pragmatic answers to practical questions like ‘what happens in a landfill’ and ‘where does my dookie go?’

I also received as a Christmas gift a baseball themed romance novel titled Pitch Perfect, because I had requested the card game Pitch Perfect, which wasn’t available. I have not looked into it very conclusively, but from what I’ve seen it may be a real good time if it’s true what they say about laughter being an aphrodisiac.

What was your favorite movie that you saw in 2017?

I was extremely affected by Get Out. It was a genuine genius thriller. It scared me and it gripped me. I was also super super excited to see the new Blade Runner, and I liked the movie. The first and most important thing that I loved about the original movie was the aesthetic of the city, and the sequel changed details but kept the same sort of murky, vivid, glamorous look. I also thought the story was pretty good. Like a lot of other media in 2017 it felt kind of overtly like a message vehicle, but hey this is not necessarily something I am against. I also absolutely loved I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore. Melanie Lynskey is totally my 2017 crush runner up, in a respectable second to my charming husband. I won’t tell you anything about it, I’ll just let you watch it and imagine my glee. It didn’t come out in 2017, but this was the year I discovered Finding Vivian Maier and have since watched it like twenty times with unabated delight. I am completely jealous of her sneaky camera. Someone should make an iPhone app or something. Okja also was incredible, and it was very fun and funny as well as being truth telling and gut wrenching.

What was your favorite record from 2017?

My favorite music discovery for this year is Portland’s first rapper, Amine. He’s that perfect Portland blend of sunny and gloomy, and his sound is new but comfortable at the same time. He has the best energy of pretty much any performer I’ve ever seen. His stuff is fun.

What was your favorite month of 2017?

March was good because we went to Austin on a business trip (mine!) and that town was a really cool experience. I was there to oversee a volunteer group at an Austin food kitchen, and was really impressed by how organized their system is and how much government support there is for people experiencing homelessness. In the evenings Jason and I wandered around and heard music drifting out of every open bar and restaurant door. We saw dueling pianos, and a bunch of amazing bands. We had the best barbecue I’ve ever had in my existence, and I formulated a life quest to replicated it before I die (I wish me godspeed). Also I got really drunk and after I got mad at the dueling piano players, I got mad at a guy on the street. Although I had previously promised myself several years before that as an adult I would no longer go around kicking people who deserve it, I kicked him. What happened is this. We were walking back to our hotel room, all happy and drunk because my work event was over and now we had relaxed, and we approached a couple with a girl lying on the ground and a guy standing over her. I walked over and asked him what was wrong with her. ‘She’s apologizing to me,’ he said. I looked at him for a moment and then I laid down on the sidewalk next to her and asked her what she was doing (keep in mind that we are all of us very drunk). She related a tearful tale of woe, wherein this dude is not very nice to her and she’s just laying down here until he cares about her and pays attention to her and asks her if she’s ok. I find this line of reasoning unacceptable. ‘Did you learn this from your mother?’ I ask her. ‘Nooooooo…..’ she says thoughtfully. ‘Well what would your mother think if she could see what you’re doing?’ I ask. She sits up. ‘She would be so mad at me!’ ‘Aha,’ I say, sitting up too. ‘Were you lying on the ground with me?’ she asks. ‘Yes,’ I say, and we both crack up. ‘Now,’ I say, ‘I am going to go away and I hope you will treat yourself the way your mother would want you to. And I am going to kick your boyfriend.’ And I got up, and I looked at her boyfriend, and I kicked him in the shins. And then we walked away and went to bed. It was a fabulous trip.

August was really great because we went eclipse camping with Evan and Kristen and Victor and Marie on a beautiful farm in Peoria, Oregon. This was also the first time that we boarded Mia with a dog sitter, and it turned out to be an amazing experience. She got to play with another dog her age, and go swimming in a lake.

September, because we got to to go Jason’s hometown in Kansas. I got to see the storefront that used to be the OK Barbershop. I saw the water tower that says Eat Beef Stay Slim. I saw feed lots for the first time and they seem nicer than I was afraid they would be. I saw about three hundred windmills, massive, turning slowly against the vast Colorado and Kansas skies. I saw all of the houses that Jason ever lived in in Kansas. I saw the corner where there used to be horses grazing in a yard, right in town. I saw Jason’s family photo albums. I saw Jason’s people.

December was also awesome, because I learned how to make both beeswax crayons and chocolate truffles, not at the same time.

What was the best thing you bought?

Amine tickets, for a Christmas present for Jason. Beeswax.

What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

I have begun to see mindless downtime as more of an intelligent use of time than a waste of time. But what I did in this time, as usual, was: rewatch Gilmore Girls endlessly, rewatch Downton Abbey endlessly, rewatch Poirot endlessly. I also went on several day sprees with Step By Step.

What was the best way you used your time this past year?

Learning.

Drinking beers and talking with Jason.

Painting the bedroom ceiling and walls what I thought was going to be a bright cream and a very pale blue, but what turned out in actuality to be two different kinds of white. Regardless, changing the wall to anything bright from that murky beige has been a real temperament saver on the dark winter mornings.

What was biggest thing you learned this past year?

The biggest thing I learned this past year is experimentation. I learned about mathematical hypothesis testing in statistics class, and the idea sort of bled over into my life. My mindset went from a vague notion that an answer might be out there and that’s nice but really has nothing to do with me to the concrete belief that a range of answers is out there for me and that I can isolate all of them given enough time and effort. And patience.  

Also, learning to speak Spanish correctly was incredibly huge for me. I really love language and words, and being able to study one intensely and comprehensively was fun and mind forming. Just like I could with learning math, I could feel learning a second language changing my brain. It’s adding more information and abilities, but it’s also changed a lot of old structures in ways that I am most likely not even aware of most of the time.

Also I am learning to darn, which given the amount of precious clothing that I have / amount of clothing with holes that I have, is looking like a very good and useful thing.

What is something you did this year that you think you will remember for the rest of your life?

I looked up at a cold dark sun and shivered.

What is something you accomplished this year that you are proud of?

This year I took sixteen credits over two and a half months and got all A’s. Then I died of nervous collapse, and learned my large lesson: never do that again. I also dug almost all of the agates out of the front garden bed and arranged them in neat size corresponding piles in the driveway. I am ashamed of the fact that those piles are still there; although to be fair we don’t have an idea of what to do with them yet. I am also proud of the fact that we (mostly Jason) caught six separate mice in our house and put them in tupperware with holes punched in the lid and drove them several miles away and released them into a field by Powell Butte. We did this multiple times. I have the best husband.

If you could change one thing that happened this year, what would it be?

I would have quit my job in time to start full time school in January, and then I would have been able to graduate this June instead of this September. Oh well. I also wouldn’t have been able to go to Texas, or cook lasagna for ninety men experiencing homelessness at Transition Projects.

What are the three most important things you learned this year?

I am constant as the northern star, as changeable as the colors of the sea.

Pumpernickel means ‘devil’s fart.’

Everything each one of us humans does, every choice each of us makes, ultimately matters. Even if we only ever contribute to history in a personal way within our intimate circle or in being our piece of a collective representation, what we do matters. This Horton Hears a Who perspective is for me a long sought leveling up of the atheistic, nihilistic, ‘screamed the dust speck’ perspective that has dominated my outlook for my entire adult life. I’ve got myself a belief system of sorts, something to buy into on a larger scale that makes me feel connected to the rest of life. Right now that’s looking very scientific, lots of thought about humanity’s issues with carbon, and trying to excel at endeavors like composting and reducing plastic consumption at the source. If the sporadic, spiritualesque bursts of love and gratitude and connectedness to the mother universe I’ve been having this year are any indication, it’s also going to become more and more joyful. One thing I’ve always missed about religion is having something to identify and associate with. Learning about the earth and how to take care of it gives me that. It gives me a sense of purpose and belonging, to think that my time alive is given to me to thoughtfully care for as much as I can, and to try to enrich everything within my reach.

What is something that was hard for you at the start of the year, but is easy now?

Ignoring the president.

In what area do you feel you made your biggest improvements?

This year was a great year for getting to know myself better and learning to reach for things that I want. I’m good at going with the flow and getting what I can out of the ride. This last year I made more progress in knowing what I wanted ahead of time, setting a range for what I find acceptable, and settling for nothing less.

Knowing what you know now, if you could write a letter to yourself that would travel back in time so that you would receive it at the start of the year, what advice would you give yourself?

C’s get degrees.

What was the nicest thing someone has done for you this year?

Jason bought me a record player for my birthday, and got me my favorite album of all time, American Beauty. My grandma told me that she doesn’t care if I don’t want to have kids, because she wouldn’t be able to love any of my kids as much as she loves me anyhow. There were a couple of times when Lucky let me sleep in past 8:30AM.

How many different states / provinces did you travel to in 2017?

We went to Texas, Colorado, and Kansas. I think that is all.

What did you do last year that you’d never done before?

I got my dna genotyped and while this did not tell me anything very specific about myself there were some interesting tidbits. Certain things were not surprising, like the fact that I am apparently 96% European, 40% of which is British and Irish. I figured. I actually wanted to know how much British and how much Irish. Oh well. 

ancestry

I was fascinated to learn that I have more neanderthal variants than 76% of all 23andMe customers; however, this apparently makes up less than 4% of my total dna, and I do not have any helpful traits like decreased likelihood to have back hair. I am also not likely to have a widow’s peak. Foo.

What would you like to have this year that you lacked last year?

A self directed, balanced routine. Dogs that let me sleep in and don’t jump up on houseguests. A job and some spending capital. A well planned, flourishing garden. Culottes. Nintendo controllers that work.

What date from last year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

August 21st, 2017. Total solar eclipse.

Where did most of your money go?

Tuition.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Volunteer projects! Climate science! Cooking edible collard greens! Finding Ramona!

What song will always remind you of last year?

This Is Hell by Elvis Costello. It’s the song that plays in Gilmore Girls when Jess first arrives in Stars Hollow (absolutely a defining moment in a favorite clump of episodes) and because of its frequent background presence in my life it’s the song I first translated into Spanish.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish I’d worked out more in a way that supported and gentled my musculoskeletal system to fitness.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

I wish I’d worked out less in a way that involved using every muscle in my body to restrain a sixty pound dog who is hell bent on going somewhere they’re not supposed to.

What did you do on your birthday?

On my birthday I woke up to a new record player and some of my all time favorite albums, and danced around the house a lot. In the evening we went to Zoiglhaus and saw a lot of friends and drank beer. Afterward a few stalwart companions made it over to Eagle Eye for karaoke.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Unlimited free building supplies from Home Depot.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept for last year?

Sandwiched unhappily between too little spending capital and too much dog contact. It was a shabby year, folks.

What kept you sane?

Writing, throwing myself into school, pub trivia, beers with Jason, going to the dog park, making things with my hands, analyzing my dreams, singing to the dogs, singing to a karaoke bar, singing to myself.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Every time the god damn republicans broke another long standing rule for keeping things fair and above board and just did whatever the hell they wanted. Niblet fucks.

Did you spend any time listening to yourself?

Yes.

What did you say?

I said holy crap, I never realized that before.

Well ok then.

What did you do over the summer?

Over the summer I took four classes, and studied myself nearly blind.

What news story sticks in your mind the most from 2017?

Tom Petty died. RIP.

What things do you appreciate most in your life at the moment?

Almost a month of down time between the end of fall term and the beginning of winter term. Municipal recycling and compost. My little family.

Where were you when 2017 began?

At Thatcher’s with Jason and Steven, but I have zero memory of how that night went. I think there were other very drunk people that we made fun of?

Where were you when 2018 began?

At the Lutz with Victor and Marie, drinking beers and talking about sexy knee pads and the personal attributes of Gregory Peck.

What are your plans for 2018?

I am going learn a lot of stuff in school, finish my degree, get a job that I’m stoked about, help Jason put a hardwood floor down, run a glorious garden, and train myself and the dogs to be better people together.

Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions of 2017?

Last year my resolution was to resemble a pudding filled water balloon less, and in this with the help of large bad dog(s), I emphatically succeeded. In addition to a lot of incidental dog related working out, I also cooked a lot more which meant that in general I ate more healthily. So yay me.

I also taught Mia to heel, but then we got Ramona and she apparently forgot everything she ever learned, so now I have to teach both of them to heel. Fabulous.

Unfortunately I did not leave the country, I did not make another hat, and I did not floss more. Win some lose some.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions for 2018?

To train the dogs well enough to be able invite people over for dinner and never once have a guest jumped up on or licked against their will. To train the dogs to walk on a leash without yanking person’s arms out of their sockets. To catch up on all those goddamn episodes of Jeopardy that we’ve recorded. To actually throw the free beer drinking party with all of our pub trivia winnings gift cards. To get tattoos. To get a haircut. To install a hardwood floor in the house. To find more home bars.  To not kick people that I think deserve it, we are all grownups here. To floss more.

Create a phrase or statement to take into 2018.

But there’s a full moon risin’

Let’s go dancin’ in the light

We know where the music’s playin’

Let’s go out and feel the night

with anthems sweet

December 24, 2017

Somebody adopt these astoundingly well behaved animals.

theirs

What it would look like if I attempted this at my house.

mine

Lucky might sit still long enough to portray the baby Christ, but we are lacking in any semblance of wise people. And Joseph and Mary would just eat their headdresses and wander off to see if anyone around appears to be doing anything food related.

visions of sugarplums

December 22, 2017

Last month I made a bunch of festive crayons. They look like candy and they smell like candy, and you could totally eat them and be just fine, but the main point is that you can color with them.

crayons

At my birthday party, each guest got a swag bag to fill with some crayons, coloring pages, and stickers – and most importantly they decorated a holiday card and wrote a special message in it.

station

creation

We made thirty altogether.

Today I drove them up to Doernbecher, and dropped them off. The ladies who were in charge of accepting donations were stoked, and said that they would pass them out to the kids today.

So, all of you who wrote a card and made a bag, today is your day. As we speak, or awhile ago, or in a little bit, this particular piece of your love is going to be delivered to a kid who’s refusing to be conquered by illness. Thank you so much for making this happen.

bags

pee self a little bit

December 21, 2017

Thanks to a pub conversation I am now trying to think of the funniest thing that has ever happened to me in my life. By which I mean, the thing that has cracked me up the absolute longest and hardest.

I’m betting I can’t come up with it, but it’s a fun thought project.

What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you in your life?