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Here’s to Making the Most of a New Year and to Trying Our Damnedest to Not F*ck It Up.

Well, it’s about that time.

You know what time I mean.

That time.

That time when we’re supposed to get all reflective and introspective and think about everything that happened (or didn’t happen) during the past year — about all of the goals we accomplished and how our lives changed because we achieved said goals and how we’ve miraculously become these emotionally centered, successful, zen-like people because we perfected the art of meditation somewhere in the time between attaining all of our hopes and dreams (which ironically isn’t the goal of meditation but just work with me here), and now, finally, we can enter the new year with a sense of peace, contentment, and, most important, sans resolutions.

Right.

Because that’s realistic.

Sadly, if the psychological distance on the self-satisfaction scale I’d hoped to travel during the last year was a mile, I’ve managed to physically propel myself forward a foot.  Maybe two feet, if I want to account for the fact that I’ve mostly emerged from a pretty uncomfortable bout of depression.

And why wouldn’t I want to account for that?

But still.  That means I fell 5,278 feet short.  I’m not disappointed, per se, because I’m not surprised.  I mean, it’s me we’re talking about here.  I frequently quote the Gin Blossoms in saying, “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.”  Genius.  Or demoralizing.  But whatever, it’s true, and it applies to me, too.  If *I* don’t expect too much from myself, I can’t let myself down.

…right?

If I were to look back on 2011 and come up with a single word to describe it, there’s really only one obvious choice:

 

 

 

anticlimactic.

 

 

 

I mean, really, Katie?  2010 was an all-around shit year, which lead to you losing your shit, quitting your respectable, well-paid job, and moving to Costa Rica for 2 months to make hot sauce.  Oh yeah, and to find yourself.  But really, all you found was the first decent tan of your life and the fact that you have to first know yourself in order to find yourself.

And what do I know about myself?

For starters, I’m happiest when I am traveling and meeting new people.

I have a passion for writing.

I like learning my way around a camera.

So, after a brief bout of the fire-under-the-ass kind of inspiration which led me to vehemently absorb a zillion books and articles on freelance writing and photography, submitting exactly one super professional official travel article pitch, receiving exactly one acceptance  after multiple follow-ups only to learn of an 80% decrease in the original advertised pay, and then working in a bar for a few months, I’ve settled, once again, into a job for which I have exactly zero passion except now my income is significantly reduced and my co-workers aren’t as fun.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  My co-workers and I are getting to know each other, which takes time, and my new job does allow me some of the freedom of creativity I lacked in the former — I do get to write, take pictures, and mingle with the townsfolk, which is a vast improvement from sitting for 8 hours a day in front of a computer monitor.

But this is not, to say the least, where I’d hoped to find myself with just a few days left in this 11th year of the new millennium.  I mean, it seems like just yesterday we were partying it up like it was 1999 because it was 1999, dammit, and we had all this time to become more awesome than we already were when we were only 17 frickin’ years old.

So.

It appears as though I need to take this goal thing a little more seriously this time around.

I’m not going to call them “resolutions,” because that has all kinds of negative, clichéd connotations about not following through or only lasting until the Christmas lights finally come down, which will probably be sometime in February, much to our neighbors’ dismay.

(Our Christmas lights, in all seriousness, are the most hideous display of half-assedness we’ve publicly flaunted in a while, my friends.  The thing is, after Justin finished installing new floors, smoking a turkey, and baking 2 cheesecakes for upcoming holiday festivities, for some reason he didn’t have the energy to commit to professionally stringing outdoor lights. Yet he still insisted on doing it.  And all I have to say is that the drooping, scalloped string of white lights hanging from our front porch — only our front porch — look something akin to a melting frosted gingerbread house.  But I didn’t have the heart to tell him.  At least, not until guests were arriving and I’d already had a glass of spiked cider and it was finally okay to just relax and laugh it out.)

Anyway.

This year I’m going to stick with the term “goals,” instead of resolutions, because it sounds more political and serious and spreadsheety.  There’s a sense of accountability, if you know what I mean.

And I’m going to follow these guidelines as written out by Nicole, from NicoleIsBetter.com.

Except maybe… not so anally.

And maybe… a little less intensely.

And probably… a lot more half-assedly.

Because that’s how I roll.

But I kind of feel ahead of the game because I’ve already done Step 1 and Step 2.  Step 1 is to make an “Eff Yeah” list for 2011.  That’s easy.  I survived depression, I went to Spain, I threw the best baby hot tub party ever, and I didn’t die.  Eff-to-the-Yeah.  Step 2 is to come up with a word or phrase that best represents my hopes and dreams for the coming year.  Again, that’s pretty easy.  If the word for 2011 was anticlimactic, especially when it comes to finding a sense of purpose, then there can only be one word for 2012:

 

 

 

ambition.

 

 

 

So.  We’ll see if I can actually make that happen.  Not that it will matter since the world is supposedly going to end at the end of the year anyway.

But, if I follow the steps, at least I’ll be able to say I tried, right?  And in the end — the real end of the end of the end of the world type end — that’s all that really matters.

About these ads

Apparently My House is the Island of Misfit Toys. Just Don’t Send Me Any Creepy Jack-in-the-Boxes.

If you celebrate Christmas, you probably fall into one of two categories:

1. Those who honor family tradition, cooking the same meals, drinking the same drinks, playing the same love-worn Harry Connick Jr. Christmas album year after year, and taking comfort in the thought that while everything else changes — people grow old, babies get born, the ovens are stainless, not avocado, and presents arrived pre-wrapped at the front door — these other things, the ones we can control, will stay the same.

2. Those who forego tradition and family gatherings to sip mai tais on a tropical island somewhere and forget that the world even exists.

Me?  I’d say I actually fall somewhere between the two extremes.  When I was younger, my family did the whole gathering thing.  We baked, played with cousins, sang carols, annoyed each other in that hate-you-yet-love-you way families do… the works.

Then it fell apart.

And I started moving.

And my sister started moving.

And we eventually came to learn that while some people really can go home again, it becomes a little impossible when home no longer exists.

When most of your belongings were sold while you were away.

When someone else is living in your room.

Sliding down your stairs.

Playing your sheet music like it’s theirs.

And we realized that traditions can break — will break — if the people you counted on to keep them going are no longer on speaking terms.

Then I met Justin.  The first year he invited me to his family’s Christmas gathering, I felt all crumpled.  Broken.  Out of place.  How come they could hold it together?  How could they be so happy?  Every year 40+ people, related by blood or by choice, all gather in a single house to eat Grandma’s famous lasagna, play a detested (yet loved) family trivia game, watch the children take turns opening gifts one-by-one, exchange white elephant gifts and laugh, once again, when the 20-year-old cousin tries to grab the one with the beer, Mom shakes the shake weight, and Grandpa wins the coveted gift card to Omaha Steaks.

Rinse, repeat.

Sure, there’s gossip.  There’s bickering.  There’s family tension.  But, in all of its stagnant predictability, it’s all kinds of wonderful.

So I started to love it — to look forward to hanging out with the “outlaw” aunts who speak my language, to see how many cousin’s names I could remember, and to absorb through the pores of my skin whatever the stuff is — egg whites, perhaps? — that makes his family stick.

But sometimes we don’t go.  Whether we can’t afford the tickets one year, can’t muster the energy for holiday travel another, or “accidentally” book a trip to Hawaii instead, some years we just don’t go.

And inevitably, we miss them.

I miss them.

Family via osmosis, not marriage.

But, for the years we’re not there, we’ve started our own tradition of sorts, maybe in honor of my own crumpled history.  We invite all of the misfit toys — those who can’t travel or have nowhere to go or just haven’t gone yet — to our house for a little dinner.  Only this year, it turned into a big dinner, where nothing was traditional:  The turkey was smoked, the lasagna was vegetarian, the potatoes were au gratin, and the stuffing was German.  There were meatballs.  And hummus.  And peach something-or-others.  And white chocolate cheesecake.  And mulled cider spiked with Southern Comfort.

And a new kind of family.

Not one we were born into or chose through marriage, but one we made on-the-fly, built purely from us leftovers who somehow managed to come together to make something worthwhile.

So, thanks to our motley crew of misfits on Christmas Eve and my friend Alaina for inviting us to her family dinner on Christmas, it felt, strangely enough, like ours.

THIS is what Christmas is All About.

I think maybe my last post was a little long.  It scared me away for a few days, and I apologize for that.

Also, my little sister is in town, and she keeps me busy doing stuff like cooking.  And then eating.  And then cooking again.

And I have a cold.

And what I originally intended to become our every-other-year small dinner gathering of Christmas misfits — an intimate dinner served family style with wine and board games for those who aren’t traveling “home” this year — is now turning into a full-blown party of sorts, and I’m kind of stuck wondering how the girl who doesn’t like throwing parties (that would be me, in case you’re new here) keeps ending up throwing parties.

Not that I totally mind.

I mean, the idea that people who have no where else to go this holiday are willing to settle for our little ol’ house that can barely squeeze a comfortable gathering of 6 is kind of a heartwarming thought.  I just hope they all don’t mind confined spaces.  And a really strange medley of food.  And not moving.  Like, at all.

Other than that, it should be fun.

And the good news is, they will have a floor to stand on.

Yeah… so please ignore the unpainted door trim, odd green tinge I can’t seem to get rid of and unfinished shoe molding, and just look at the floors.

Yes, that’s a giant gear.

I’m working on my style.

Don’t judge.

We still have a long way to go, but I’m thinking the floors are a step in the right direction, no?

If you’re not convinced, here’s a closer look:

Old Carpet

Yes, I’d definitely say we’ve improved.

This is Why We DIY

Did you catch what I did there?  I rhymed “why” with the “Y” in “DIY,” which is essentially the same as rhyming “I” with “FYI” or “IDK” with “OK” or any other equally un-clever device.

Also, it doesn’t even make sense.  Why would we do it yourself?

It’s grammatically incorrect.

It should say, “This is Why We DIO.”  DIO, of course, meaning “Do It Ourselves.”  But then it wouldn’t rhyme.  And no one would know what that means.  You’d read it and be like, This is why we… dance in offices?  Dine in orphanages?  Do it orally?

And although I probably could write about any of those things, it turns out that office dancing, orphanage dining, and anything-lingus is not what this post is about.

Sorry.

And, come to think of it, it’s not even about why we DIO.  If anything, it’s about why we shouldn’t DIO.

And it’s about this teeny, tiny, eensie, weensie little project that involves ripping up the flooring in the main living space of our home, and the fact that we decided to take it on ourselves.  To save money.

Which kind of brings to mind that little rant I made about Black Friday and the other one about couponing and how if people valued their time as much as the cash in their wallets, they wouldn’t do silly things like… say… spend 4 solid days installing laminate flooring just to save the cost of paying a professional.

Well.  I’d like to point out that I’m not a hypocrite, clearly, because Justin is the one doing the majority of the work (with the help of some neighbors on Sunday).  All I did was spend a couple of hours painting baseboards.

Don’t judge me.

It’s not that I didn’t want to help — it’s that my help wasn’t wanted.

See, clearly I’m way too intelligent to waste my brilliant brain cells doing collaborative menial labor with the boys, and my criticism suggestions input wasn’t appreciated.  So.  I stuck to the undervalued-yet-still-completely-necessary tasks that no one else wanted to do, like painting baseboards and pulling staples from the sub-floor.  And I took photos of the boys as they compared ball size were totally awesome and installed my floors.

Which brings me to the first reason you should probably think long and hard before taking on a major DIY project.

Reason 1:  It will test the limits of your marriage/partnership/friendship.  And not in a good way.  Seriously.  When we tiled our guest bathroom and laundry room floor, the work for which was much more evenly distributed, it almost ended in divorce.  Especially when, after Justin had spent a good 45-minutes intricately cutting the last of the tiles so it would fit around the door frame between the bathroom and laundry room, I knocked it over.  Onto the other tiles.  All of which were porcelain.

FYI, porcelain cracks when it’s dropped onto porcelain.  Into like… a million tiny pieces.

But it wasn’t my fault.  I was delirious after 2 straight days of measuring and stooping and troweling and why the hell would you lay such an intricately cut tile — the last tile — up against the frickin’ door frame anyway??!

Even if you think your relationship is solid — if he asked you to be nice to his mother during your last visit and you didn’t even react when she said that she better get cooking because he’s too skinny and clearly no one is feeding him — if you forced him to watch Titanic because you just couldn’t believe that the fact that he’d never seen it was a conscious decision on his part and he actually stayed awake for its entirety without making a joke about Rose’s weight when Jack couldn’t fit on the floating board —  if he asked you to try that thing with the feathers and the ball-gag and the nipple butter just that one time to “see how it went” and you did it because you love him and you forgave him when you couldn’t stand straight for several days — even if you’ve survived all of those things, do not, under any circumstances, fool yourself into thinking that a collaborative home improvement project will be easy.

Failblog.org

I’d be willing to bet that even John and Sherry sometimes want to smother each other while they sleep.

So.

Aside from the relationship turmoil they invoke, which I’m willing to risk, DIY projects are worth the time they take, right?

That depends.

Reason 2:  DIY projects always take more time than even the maximum amount of time you could possibly imagine.  Does that sound worth it to you?  If you think a project like laying a click-and-lock floating laminate floor in a small rectangular room and hallway should only take you a couple of days, think again.  First, there’s the prep work:  Remove furniture, clip dogs’ toenails one last time on carpet since you don’t have to vacuum it ever again, run around blotting and spraying carpet cleaner on blood spots because you clipped one nail too far then realize you don’t even have to clean up the blood spots because they’re getting removed with the carpet, run to Lowe’s to buy a table saw, tapping block, and various other supplies that somehow add up to way more money than you expected, cut and pull up carpet, cut and pull up padding, pull eight-and-a-half-million staples out of the sub-floor, realize sub-floor is uneven, run to local hardware store and find it closed, go home because you forgot your wallet anyway, run to Lowe’s again to buy floor leveler, level the sub-floor, start painting baseboards, realize the baseboards haven’t been cleaned in about 9 months, clean baseboards, paint baseboards, then, if you’re lucky, you might be able to start the actual work.

The point is, any major project — especially one where you might be exposing the sun-deprived underbelly of your beloved home — will likely result in the discovery of a hair-riddled muffin top where you thought for sure there would exist a 6-pack of baby-butt smooth abs.

So don’t be surprised.

Okay, so I might lose my marriage/boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend and it will take me running through all 6 seasons of Dexter plus 4 showings of Titanic plus every single episode of every Real Housewives show that’s ever existed to finish it, but it’s worth it to save the money, right?

Really?  You think you’re going to save money?

Reason 3:  After you buy all of the sh*t you need to finish the project, you may as well have swallowed your pride and paid for a professional.  Really.  Table saw.  Floor leveler.  Any other tools you don’t already own (many were used for this project).  Did you take time off from work for which you might not get paid?  Not to mention the time, my friends.  The time.  Oh, I mentioned that in Reason 2?  Well it’s worth mentioning again.

Reason 4:  If you screw up, there’s no one to blame but yourself.  Enough said.

And yet.

I do have some tips for not evading, but at least minimizing the DIY effects described above:

1:  When it becomes difficult to work together, stop working together.  Period.  Take a break, and step away from the stress.  Appoint one of you the role of tool-grabbber/back-rubber/wine-drinker, if necessary, and try your damnedest to keep your mouth shut as much as possible.

2:  Plan projects before a major holiday/event/guest arrival so that you are motivated to either finish the project or forced to explain to Aunt Geraldine exactly why you keep feeding her Jell-O shots while pulling staples out from the bottom of her foot.

3:  Okay, so you had to buy a few tools, and when you add up the cost of said tools and the time it took to complete the project, you really didn’t save any money at all.  But.  You’ll at least have those tools for the next time you take on a similar project, which will probably be a cold day in hell.

But at least your neighbors will think you’re cool.

And the good news is, not all is lost.  There’s a certain feeling one acquires when finishing a major house project — a sense of satisfaction that doesn’t come with hiring a professional installer.

It’s like when veteran mothers try to explain the feeling of motherhood to non-mothers in that annoying habit they have that they can’t seem to help.  (Kidding, mothers!  You know I love you for perpetuating the human race when I’m too lazy to do it.)

That is, you just have to experience it to know how it feels.

And, by the time you do, it doesn’t really matter how it feels because it’s too late to turn back.

Every Now And Then, You Just Have to Get Dirty

Yesterday, Justin slit open the belly of our living room carpet like a surgeon cracking the chest of a heart patient, exposing all of the bloody, oozing innards of our home’s structure.

Except there weren’t any bloody, oozing innards.  Thank God.

I imagine an FBI investigation would be a major setback when it comes to finishing these floors.  Selfish bastards.

However, as you so faithfully expressed in yesterday’s Facebook poll, it would make you accurate when it comes to what the majority of you believe to be the expected completion date — sometime in mid-to-late 2012.

At first, I thought surely you would be wrong.  I mean, even though our past procrastination would suggest otherwise (a fact that Justin and I apparently forgot, but not you — not you), I thought these would be complete before my sister arrives with her 2 dogs late Tuesday evening, for sure.  That is, until today.

We spent this morning painting baseboards and pulling staples from the sub-floor.

Some of our family members were less than enthused.

 

Others were downright bored.

Then we discovered some problems.  Problems like one piece of sub-floor sitting nearly 1/4″ higher than another piece of sub-floor.  Two trips to Lowe’s and a smelly cement-like concoction later, good things are happening.

Really good things.

And Tuesday might be a day for celebrating, after all.

Some Things You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way. Like How to Aptly Perform a Dismount.

Listen.  The lack of daylight hours in my life does not have positive effects on my psyche.

And for someone with an already questionable psyche, this is a dismal turn of events.

I get plenty of sleep, but I’m always tired.

My normal, chipper, morning self has been missing for days.

And trippy things have been happening.  Things that feel like they should be dreams, but they’re not.  And dreams that feel like they should be real, but no.  They never happened.  And sometimes it takes me entire days to figure out what’s a part of reality and what was made up, in my sleep, by my demented little mind.

It’s like I really have fallen down the rabbit hole, except so far no one’s handed me fun little flavored hash cakes or a hookah or some “herbal” tea that would explain this fishbowl feeling that’s been taking over, like I’m watching my life happen from outside of my head.

For example, last night I went grocery shopping.  Dream, or reality?

If you answered “reality,” you are WRONG.  That was a dream.  I dreamt about grocery shopping.  Because my life is that exciting.

Another example:  Last night, I pulled into my driveway after a long-ish commute home from work.  I noticed that 2 couples from across the street were gathered outside, and there was some kind of commotion.  As I emerged from my garage to check it out, a huge black dog with ice blue eyes trotted up to me, sat at my feet, and licked my hand.  Huh.  When I got to the bottom of the drive, I saw what my neighbors were staring at — 2 other dogs, standing butt-to-butt.

“What’s going on?” I asked, shifting my armload of jacket, purse, phone, and water bottle so I could pat the big, black dog, who seemed slightly concerned about her companions across the street.

“These dogs are stuck together,” laughed Brad.  “Like… stuck together.”

How horrible!  I thought.  Did some cruel kids experiment with super glue?  What would drive someone to do something so awful?

Kasey added, “I mean… the yellow dog’s balls are actually on top, now.  He’s so twisted around.”

Ohhhhh.

I stared for another minute.  Really, it was all I could do.

Clearly, he forgot to pull out before the dismount.  Crucial mistake.

“So… are we just going to leave them like that?”  I asked.  Somehow, pulling them apart didn’t seem like a wise idea.

“Google says it should take about 20 minutes, but it’ll eventually pop out,” Kasey informed me.

Thank God for Google.

“Oh.”

Is this really happening?  “How long has it been?”

“Twenty minutes,” she laughed.

Then, pop!

Right on time.

“Ewww, it’s purple!  Poor guy!”  I did not step closer to verify whether it was, in fact, purple.  But I’m guessing she wasn’t lying.  Both dogs licked their wounds for a minute, oblivious to passing vehicles and the 5 gawkers who really could do nothing helpful except wave traffic safely past the pups on the side of the road.

Move along, folks.  Nothing to see here.  Show’s over.

Then, just as suddenly as they’d arrived in our lives, the 3 dogs took off together, as though answering some silent whistle call beyond the limits of our human hearing, and then they were gone.

“Welp, I have to go make dinner,” I heard myself say.

“Yeah, us too,” said Kasey.

“See you guys,” said Brad.

I went inside.

Dream, or reality?

If you answered “dream” because the story involved public sex in a suburban neighborhood, you would be WRONG.

That most definitely happened, I’m pretty sure.  Maybe.  Though I will probably ask my neighbors tonight to verify.  I just hope I ask them while I’m awake, or we really could have problems.  And the good news is that I didn’t try to make a dish with food I’d dreamt I’d bought.  Because that would be cracking the thin ice of “crazy,” and I’m not quite ready to go swimming.

Also, do you ever feel like you maybe have a ghost?  A ghost who messes with your things just to f*ck with your head?  I have a winter ghost.  He likes to take advantage of my SAD.  So far he’s busted 2 computers and stolen my reusable gold coffee filter from the coffee machine.  It’s just gone.  And it probably won’t reappear until I order a new one.  He’s been stealing socks for years.

He tries to bust that crazy ice — to push me over the edge — but I won’t let him win.  He can have that filter.  I don’t need it.

What I do need is some coffee.  And maybe to avoid writing blog posts before I’ve had any.  Because this is what you get, and I apologize for that.

On a positive note, guess what’s arrived?

I’ll give you a hint:  It’s not boxes of brochures about practicing safe public suburban dog sex.

Although maybe I should get some of those, too.  It seems we have a need.

Anyway.

Big changes are coming for this Domestiphobic house.  Stay tuned.

*Some of you asked that I keep you notified when I publish House Tours on Re-Nest.com.  I haven’t.  Here are the 3 I’ve done so far, if you want to check them out!

Matthew’s Eclectic Park Avenue Pad
John and Jaime’s Contemporary Woodland Escape
BJ & Megan’s Traveling Farmhouse Homestead

If you know of anyone within a few hour drive of Fayetteville, NC who’d be interested in having their house photographed for the site, let me know. :)

O Alcohol, I Still Drink to Your Health

Last night I announced to Justin that I hadn’t had any wine — or any alcohol at all, for that matter — since Saturday.

He made me hold out my hand to determine whether I had the withdrawal shakes.

As I held my hand out, palm-down, and feigned an exaggerated shake accompanied by an even more exaggerated eye twitch, I realized that sometimes it’s good to listen to your body.  And, after Saturday’s night out for my boss’s birthday following Friday night at Justin’s work Christmas party with an open bar, my body was telling me that it’s time for a detox.

Since my drinking habits normally don’t involve more than a glass (or two) of wine in the evenings, a binger I am not.  With the exception of this past weekend, obviously.

But I recently noticed something… something disturbing.  It no longer seemed as though, when I poured a glass, that I was taking the time to enjoy it.  To notice its color.  Its scent.  The way its legs coated the sides of the glass and the flavor as it rolled over my tongue.

It was just a drink.

Something to wash down my food.

And if that’s going to be the case, I may as well drink water.  Or tea.

Fewer calories, you see.

So, my body will remain vino-free until it tells me its ready to enjoy it again.  Which I expect will be Friday, when I take a girlfriend out to a new wine bar in town for a much-needed drink.  On her part, not mine.

The Christmas party was at the fancy, dancy Pinehurst Club once again this year, and this year I actually managed to don a dress.  Although no Kindles were won on my part, I did manage to make tipsy best friends with a Colonel’s wife before we (Justin, me, and some other enlisted stragglers, that is — not the Colonel’s wife) worked our way over to a low-key pub (much more my style) for a nightcap.  All-in-all, I paced myself well, drank plenty of water, and managed to feel decent enough to help a friend move on Saturday morning.

Then Saturday night happened.

It was my boss’s birthday party.  Food was ordered.  Bottles of wine were bought.  And somehow — somehow — my glass stayed full, no matter how much I drank.  For dessert, someone handed me a vodka tonic.

Then we went dancing.  I can’t dance to save my life.  I’m pretty sure I probably looked like a pug trying to swim — all wiggly and uncoordinated and ultimately spinning in circles when I knew more should be happening, if I could only just get all of my parts to cooperate.

Don’t think about it so much!” yelled my dance partner for the evening over the blaring music.  “Just let it happen!

Sarah, who was my boss’s business partner’s stunningly adorable fiancée (picture a young Jenna Elfman and just as cool), had professional dancing experience, it turns out, which allowed her to describe dancing like it can just happen, like an orgasm, and managed to make me look even more doofy than normal standing all gangly and awkward next to the petit blonde with the pixie cut and flying feather earrings who was trying her damnedest to teach me how to Dougie but it just. wasn’t. happening.

(Cali Swag District – Teach Me How to Dougie)

So I took another slug of my frozen chocolaty concoction, and while it certainly didn’t improve my dancing, it somewhat took away the fact that I cared.

And this is why, on Sunday morning, I felt like maybe someone let a donkey into our bedroom in the middle of the night.  A donkey that proceeded to kick me in the head.

Repeatedly.

And by Sunday afternoon, when my body felt like that of a withered 90-year-old man, I thought that maybe it was time to reevaluate this whole drinking-to-get drunk concept.  At 22?  Sure, it was no problem.  I could bounce back and rally with the rest of ‘em.  But at 29?  Not so much.  It doesn’t help that my boss is 2 years younger than me.

Have I mentioned that?

It doesn’t really bother me.

Much.

So.  I’m making a declaration — it’s only like the 56th or 57th time I’ve done this — to not bother with drunkenness anymore.  A glass of wine?  Sure thing.  A healthy writer’s buzz?  Yessiree.  Attempting to dance with someone who knows how to dance and happens to be the only other white chick in the club?

No, thank you.

But that’s the thing about excessive alcohol.  Like a love-worn frenemy or a toxic relationship, you don’t even realize the bad stuff is happening until it feels too late to turn back.

Post title from the song Alcohol, by the Barenaked Ladies.  It’s surprisingly poignant.

Barenaked Ladies – Alcohol

I thought that Alcohol was just for those with nothing else to do
I thought that drinking just to get drunk was a waste of precious booze
But now I know that there’s a time and there’s a place where I can choose
To walk the fine line between self control… and self abuse

I’ve Got That Midas Touch

I’m pretty sure I have a curse.

Not that I’m personally afflicted by a curse, per se, but I carry a curse which affects things around me.

Electronic things, specifically.

Now.  I’m not one of those completely obtuse people when it comes to all things electronic.  The fact that there are wires connected to other wires connected to various pieces of equipment doesn’t scare me.  I know word processing and spreadsheets and file types and images and even a bit o’ HTML for you webpage tinkering types.  So.  While I’m no computer genius, I’m not completely oblivious, either.

They’re just machines, right?

There is no logical reason for them to succumb to my curse — to know that it’s me, not Justin, tapping away at their keyboards.

Yet somehow, they do.

It’s like I’m King Midas.  Except instead of everything I touch turning to gold (which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be all bad), every computer I touch turns to shit.  And I’m sorry I’m so addicted to swearing Mom, but there is no nicer way to put this.

Two — count ‘em, two computers have turned to steaming coils of doodoo just at the touch of my hands in the past week.

Thankfully I live with an un-cursed person who’s managed to save all of my data thus far, but the computers?  They’re dropping like flies on a bug zapper.  Minus the smoke and the funky smell.  Which, frankly, wouldn’t surprise me at this point.

And this little phenomenon isn’t exactly convenient for my job — my job which involves writing and photo editing and submitting to people who run a gigantic website and simply don’t have time to listen to my sob story about fried hard drives and cold, lifeless motherboards and how I would have my piece done except I’m waiting for a full version of PhotoShop to install on a dinosaur of a laptop — a laptop which, hopefully, doesn’t yet understand that it’s doomed at my hands and will hold out long enough for me to finish my latest submission to Re-Nest.

That is, if it doesn’t crash while I’m writing this post.

And it’s things like these that make me long for the days of the simple machines — of typewriters and corded phones cassette tapes and VHS — things that didn’t scratch or crack or short a fuse when you tossed ‘em around.  Back in the day, technology could take a beating.

It wasn’t all prissy and didn’t ask to be handled with silk-effing-gloves.

I know old technology had its own set of frustrations, but sometimes I just miss wrapping a coiled phone cord around my waist while standing in the kitchen talking to my friends.

So.  I have to buy a new computer now.  Preferably one that can stand up to my particular brand of curse.

Any suggestions?

Are You Sure You Don’t Just Want A Corkscrew for Christmas? Because I’m Pretty Sure I Can Make That Happen.

Here are my thoughts on gift-giving.  Because I know you care.

I think we all know, by this point, that an efficient shopper I am not.  This is why I’m terrified of Black Friday and why it took me approximately 5 hours to buy blinds for the kitchen online when I set out to buy curtains for the bedroom.

And why I still don’t have curtains for the bedroom.

The problem is that I love giving gifts.

I mean… who doesn’t like hearing that someone is happy because of something you gave them?

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say gift-giving is inherently selfish for that reason, but it’s completely awesome selfishness because the recipient happens to benefit as well.

But, when I set out to find some kind of appropriate gift for specific dates and events (ie. Christmas, birthdays, weddings, etc.), I feel all pressured and sweaty and confined and if I’m shopping in public, I might get a wily look in my eye that makes people — even crowds — give me a 3-foot berth and run the other direction when I try to ask them whether they think Aunt Betsy would prefer the red-knit socks from Macy’s, or if I should just go back and get the ones from Target because they’re $3 cheaper and she’ll never know anyway and CRAP did I just buy her socks last year because she’s always complaining that her feet are cold?, and I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to buy her anything red ever because it triggers the pyro tendencies and don’t-look-at-my-eye-twitch-because-clearly-everyone-ELSE-in-my-family-is-crazy-but-not-me-not-ME!

If I’m shopping online, the ordeal is even worse (though decidedly less detrimental to the general public).  I basically start with one idea, then spend hours following internet wormholes and reading reviews and finding the best deal without shipping and then with shipping and then one reviewer said I should maybe try this other item instead and the process starts all over until finally I throw my computer out of the window and pour a glass of wine.

And now, to complicate matters even more, all these babies are popping into my life.  (And they definitely didn’t come with kalamatas or 6-packs.)

Like *I* know what to buy for babies.

Look, kid.  Until your mom lets me take you to your first concert, Auntie Katie only gives out books (which you’ll probably hate until you’re in your 20’s), hugs (although they’ll probably feel awkward because I didn’t grow up in a huggy family), and advice about life (which you never asked for because you know it will be the truth, and no one wants to hear that).

Also, maybe one day I’ll let you borrow my cool thrift-store leather jacket.

Registries do make things easier when it comes to events like weddings and baby showers.  In fact, I’m kind of in love with registries and think that maybe people should keep one all of the time, like in the form of an Amazon.com wishlist, where I can just easily type in their name, see what they want, and a couple of clicks later I’m chillin’ on the sofa with the cerveza and olives that didn’t come with a baby.

But that does take the fun out of gift-giving.  After all, if the recipient already knows what she’s getting, and I don’t get to see that surprised-yet-thrilled look on her face or receive that thankyou-thankyou-thankyou phone call that makes giving gifts so damn gratifying.

Hey.  I’m just being honest.

So I really think we should just abolish this whole gift thing altogether.

Well, not all-together.  But we should stop with the obligatory gift-giving.

Sometimes, when I’m walking through a farmer’s market or a foreign book store or perusing pictures on Pinterest, I find the perfect gift for someone.

I mean, I’m pretty sure this person has to have this gift, and he has to have it right now.

The problem?  It’s June.

And his birthday was in May.

And Christmas isn’t for another 6 months.

And anyway, he’s Jewish.

So now I have to either save the darn thing until next year so I’m not short a gift when the nerves hit because there’s too much pressure, OR I can just give it to him now.  And now worry about whether or not I’ve found something for his next birthday.

And the thing about gift-giving excitement is, sometimes it doesn’t keep.  Maybe the recipient will no longer need this item next year, or maybe he’ll have new interests entirely, or maybe he’ll be dead, or maybe worse you’ll be dead, and the intended recipient will find the gift tucked away in your closet, and he’ll know who it was for because it was just that perfect, and now he can never get any enjoyment out of it because every time he sees it he’ll be reminded of how you were shot in a mall parking lot when you walked up to a patron muttering about red socks and arson and you twitched a lot so he thought maybe you had rabies so he did what he had to do to protect his family.

These things happen.

All because we’re supposed to give gifts when the time is right — not when the gift is right.

And really, what’s better than receiving a gift when you don’t expect it?

But I’m thinking that all of this is probably just me.

Because I’m an inefficient shopper.

Do they have support groups for this?

Apparently Alcoholism is the Least of My Worries. And Carrie Bradshaw is the Root of All Evil.

Well.

I’m just going to say it.

Apparently I can expect a big, fat lump of coal in my stocking this year, because apparently I have not been a good girl.

In fact, not only am I writing this post on stolen property (this is Justin’s computer — mine is still kaput), but I’m also obsessed with sex and swearing.

Yep.

This is what I’m told.

But the good news is, it’s not my fault.

Really, it all started with my mom’s vagina.

The Scene:  Thanksgiving Day, 2011.  My little sister’s adorable apartment is filled with smells from holidays past.  Her culinary skills unthwarted by working with limited tools and nonexistent lighting, the turkey has been roasted to a goldeny perfection, and it’s literally oozing the butter and garlic she’s been injecting into it for the past 6 hours.

Our table is tiny, but it has all the necessities:  Four plates full of Kelly’s avian delicacy, skin-on smashed potatoes, green bean casserole with fresh green beans, some kind of awesome stuffing I can’t even begin to describe, Mom’s homemade gravy, and my completely out of this world sweet potato casserole.

Except one plate — my brother’s plate — is missing the casserole.

I don’t want to talk about it.

But we also have wine.  It’s good wine, and everything feels okay thus far because Ma had only just arrived, right on time to make her famous gravy using primitive cookware and completely sans tupperware shaker, oh miracle of miracles, and this night in Fort Lauderdale is the first time the 4 of us have been together in as many years.  In fact, it’s the first time the 4 of us have been together unsupervised ever, I’m pretty sure.

I fill Ma’s glass.

So this is a family dinner, it dawns.  The conversation is pleasant.  We jibe and cajole — the things families do when it’s been a while, and the laughter is real.  I look around the table and think about how different we all are,  yet somehow the same.  We siblings have the same sense of humor — it’s crass.  But we make no apologies because life, after all, is too short.  The humor must be genetic because we weren’t together long enough to learn it.  Joel basically grew up alone with my mother, spending time with his father according to whatever arrangements the grown-ups had made, and then eventually my dad comes along, and Joel’s stepmother, and new families are created and he’s kind of stuck there in the middle dealing with that and who knows whatever else teenage boys deal with when the world is at its most confusing.  He escaped when he was 17.

I managed to float through adolescence with nary a scratch.  My father moved us to Nebraska (from Minnesota) when I was in 7th grade.  I was awkward, to be sure — I never went to prom or involved myself fully at school, though my grades were superb.  I flipped burgers when I was 15, then learned about the world of “white-collar” work when I accepted a 30-hour/week position at Best Buy during high school.  Ironically, my co-workers at the one job for which I’ve ever had to submit to a urine test are the co-workers who taught me to smoke from a water bong.  And the rest is a bit of a blur, until I emerged from the haze to attend college in Ohio, near-but-not-too-close to Joel.

Kelly is tough.  Though only 4 1/2 years apart, it might has well have been the world for how little we knew each other.  It seemed we were always pitted against one another — brains (me) versus beauty (her) in an all-out battle of who’s-gonna-make-it-out-of-this-with-an-ounce-of-self-esteem-intact?  I’m pretty sure most women can relate.

We weren’t close.  But then I ditched her for college, and somehow we became close, through the distance.  And then when Dad left but didn’t physically leave, an event that gave our mom a proverbial eye twitch — a twitch that must have somehow sent electrical signals to the place in depths of her brain where all logic exists and shorted a fuse and suddenly everything was emotion — all emotion, all the time (can you really blame her?), Kelly begged me to come home.  So I quit school, told Dad to move out, provided tissues for Ma’s spirals, and tried to convince Kelly that everything would be okay.  That really, whose parents don’t get divorced anymore?  But, at age 16, the damage had been done.

I’m pretty sure none of them remember any of it.  That haze was far more potent than anything I might have smoked in high school.

But we emerged, mostly, and while the stale stench still lingers, we’re all creating lives.  Pretty good ones, at that.

So we’re sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table and I’m thinking about how the lines between blood and upbringing are blurry, for sure, and I realize it’s strange how the lives of 3 siblings could have been so diverse when, after all, we all came from the same vagina.

So I say just that.

Only without all of the background context and qualifiers, so it just comes out as, “Isn’t it weird that we all came from the same vagina?”

Sometimes my thoughts run ahead of my mouth and the actual words can’t keep up, so they paraphrase.

It doesn’t always work out.

For a moment everyone is quiet, of course, because who doesn’t want to take a moment to contemplate a thought like that while eating roasted turkey with cranberry stuffing and mom’s gravy and — “EWWWWWW!”  (From my brother and sister simultaneously.)

Ma just looks at me — that knowing look — and says, “Katie, I know why you’re so obsessed with sex and swearing.”

Really?  This is news to me.  I mean, I like sex, and I have been known to cuss inappropriately from time to time (maybe more in front of Mom because I know it bugs her), but now I’m obsessed?  This is how it works?  You mention your mom’s vagina ONE time at the dinner table, and suddenly you’re a maniac?  And certainly, while I mentioned a certain unmentionable body part, I was definitely not talking about sex.

“And I know it’s my fault,” she continued.

Now I’m intrigued.  Because, while I’d argue ceaselessly about her use of the word “obsessed,” I’m willing to put that on hold to hear this.

“Well.  Remember when I bought those DVD’s?” she asked, her voice losing its laughter and growing somber.  “Those… Sex and the City DVD’s?”

Oh, wow.

“And you asked if you could watch them?  And I let you, even though I hadn’t seen them yet?”

Jesus.

“And then, when I finally watched them, I couldn’t believe I’d let you watch them…”

Is this really happening?

“And now you’re obsessed with sex and swearing and it’s all my fault!”

I’m pretty sure, at that point, that some cranberry stuffing flew out my nose.  We laughed.  But hard.

“Well,” I retorted while taking a sip of my wine, “thank God I became an alcoholic too, so I could deal with all of the trauma!  The trauma that was undoubtedly caused by Sex and the City!”

I mean, duh.  Obviously it’s Carrie Bradshaw’s fault.

In fact, I’m pretty sure this excuse will now work for everything:

Honey, I know we can’t afford those $300 curtains.  But Carrie Bradshaw made me buy them!

What?  I know you wanted to save that nice bottle of Cabernet for our anniversary, but Carrie Bradshaw told me to drink it!”

Okay, I know I’m not supposed to talk about my mom’s vagina during Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s Carrie who tells me to do these things! She’s all up in my head!

And now, should I ever decide to see a shrink again, I’ll know who to blame.