Thursday, December 31, 2015

Writing Lab: Exploring the Concept of Tradition

When I first decided to participate in regards to this month's Writing Lab theme, there was a part of me that thought it would be pointless for me to even bother. As I've touched on in previous posts, I've always felt kind of left out for one reason or another when other people are talking about their traditions, especially around the holidays, so I was worried that I'd have nothing of interest to say.

I don't feel like my family situation was like other people's, not when I was growing up and not as an adult. I'm not really even in touch with most of my family members at this point in time. Don't get me wrong. It's definitely for the better because some of the people in question are incredibly toxic, but the holidays always have a way of making you aware of what's missing in your life. Both things you used to have, but no longer do, and things that you've frankly never had in any form even if you thought differently at some point in the past.

I've since been working on making the holidays my own. Being with someone that I feel truly enjoys my company and accepts me for who I am has helped a lot. I don't know that I would have felt comfortable using the word "tradition" to describe any of what we do though. Or at least I wouldn't have before I was challenged to take a closer look at what it really means to have traditions in the first place. Even on the days when I elected not to write a response to the day's prompt for whatever reason, I still read it and considered it. That turned out to be a really positive thing for me.

So I suppose that's what I've learned about myself by spending this past month examining my traditions -- that I actually do have them in the first place. Some of them extend all the way back to my childhood in one way or another because of a memory or something that was first introduced to me by my mother or my friends when I was still young. Most are either completely unique to the past decade of my life or else are reboots of traditions from the past. A small handful are based on historical or cultural traditions I read about once and decided I'd like to try for myself.

I've discovered that there really aren't any rules as far as what a tradition can be or where it has to start in order to be worthy of the title. I've also learned that I'm not alone in that understanding. I struggle with feeling like my life must look insufferably boring to those on the outside looking in. That said, I was certain that no one else would be interested in reading about any of the things I had to say about tradition.

I decided to share anyway and I'm really glad I did. So many of the other bloggers participating in this wrote to me to tell me they liked my posts and found the things I had to say really interesting. I think that was just what I needed in order to rekindle some of my interest in blogging. I do fine on my own and I don't need other people's approval or encouragement just to continue living my life the way I want to... but I do kind of need it when it comes to actually sharing what I write about the experience.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Writing Lab: On Keeping One's Nose to the Grindstone

I've never been much of a New Year's resolution person. I'm a lot more spontaneous than that, so when I decide I want to change something about my life, I usually just go ahead and do it right then. When I'm sick of being fatter than I want to be, the diet starts at my next meal. When I'm tired of writing a certain type of content for my clients, you can bet the next project I pursue is the type of thing I'd rather be doing.

That said, on the rare occasion I even try to make a New Year's resolution, I don't keep it for very long -- maybe a couple of weeks or a month at most. I really need to be feeling things at the time, which is why I typically just try to ride the wave if I experience a sudden burst of motivation. Sometimes that happens around New Year's, but it could just as easily happen in the middle of August or around my birthday in March. The desire to change something about my life generally sets in the second some proverbial straw breaks the proverbial camel's back and all that.

I am, however, way more likely to actually stick with things if I can make what I'm doing part of a team effort. For instance, if Seth wants to try to lose a couple of pounds with me, I'm way more likely to say no to an urge to have that extra cocktail late at night or to choose a cookie over an apple the next time I have a sweet tooth. I wouldn't want to let him down or sabotage his own efforts by setting a bad example.

Announcing that I'm going to try doing things differently to my Facebook friends or social media circles in general can help as well. When I feel like other people are watching me, waiting to see the outcome of whatever positive decision I've just made, I feel more accountable. I don't want people to think of me as a quitter or to get the impression that I'm someone that can't ever finish what she starts. I have friends like that and I know what I tend to think when they give up on yet another goal. The last thing I want is for people to think of me as that kind of person.

Ultimately though, I've found that the best way to get myself to stick to resolutions is to actually give myself permission to fail for a change. I'm impulsive. I'm not good at forcing myself to keep my nose to the grindstone. By now, I've fully realized I may never be the kind of person that can do that, so I don't fight it so hard anymore. I try to remember that I don't have to throw all of my progress in the shitter just because I had a bad day and fell off the wagon for a second. When I was younger, I used to think that being a mature adult meant being perfect all the time and never, ever fucking up, even for a second... but maybe that's not it at all. Maybe it's actually the opposite.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Writing Lab: Mornings Are Tough No Matter What Time They Occur

I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. To be totally honest, I'm not even a day person. No, really. A lot of people say that, but I mean it to a much greater extent than they probably do.

Once upon a time, I worked an average, everyday job and kept to an average, everyday schedule. I slept at night and got up in the morning, just like most people. All of that's changed since I started working at home for myself as a freelance copywriter.

Being a team of one and not having to answer to anyone else has meant I can allow my body clock to settle into whatever pattern feels most natural. For me, that apparently means staying up most of the night and sleeping primarily during the day -- for the most part, anyway. (My typical bedtime is between 4AM and 6AM. I'm usually up for the day between noon and 2PM.)

Keeping such a schedule allows me to write when I have the most energy and feel the most creative -- in the evenings and at night. Seth is as serious a night owl as I am and also prefers that schedule, so my relationship doesn't suffer at all. Plus, I'm not even going to pretend I don't like that being a night owl makes it easier to avoid taking on very many social obligations (not to mention the evil, evil sun). I'm naturally reclusive anyway, but I go through these periods in my life where I feel like I'm in a cocoon of sorts -- too busy developing into whatever the hell person I'm going to be next to bother much with the outside world. That's kind of where I am now and being a night owl gels with that.

.......

You would think that getting up later in the day would make it easier for me to actually start my day, but it doesn't. "Mornings" are hard for me no matter what time they occur, so my start-of-the-day rituals are an important part of successfully making the transition. Seth and I call it "easing into the day". 

If at all possible, I give myself permission to sort of stay in bed for an hour or two so that my brain can get going before I try to make my body follow suit. I will check e-mail on my phone or tablet first thing so that I know right away if there are any client issues or emergencies I'll need to take care of once I'm up and at 'em. If necessary, I'll respond and let the person know when I can take care of whatever it is. 

Then I go right the fuck ahead and scroll through Facebook for a while. On days when I'm not in much of a social media mood, I'll read a couple of chapters of whatever book I'm working on, catch up with the news, or chew through a magazine instead. If Seth is already up, we'll usually just shoot the breeze or talk about what's going on with people we know for a while. All of that helps my brain kind of boot up, get in the mood to deal with clients, and write that day. 

That's about all I tend to do with any real consistency every single morning though (or at least weekday mornings). I will often get on the computer and start on the day's workload long before I think about eating anything. (I don't really eat breakfast or drink coffee in the mornings with any regularity.) Admittedly, my grooming routine isn't as meticulous as it used to be, since I no longer have to worry about going to an outside office or waiting on customers all day or anything, so there are many days when I skip the extraneous grooming altogether. Essentials like showering and whatnot usually happen when I feel like I want to take a break and come back to my work in a bit. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Writing Lab: It's Not Christmas without Our Duck

Christmas dinner wasn't a big deal in my home growing up, but it has become an extremely big deal to Seth and me since we've been together. Lots of different dishes have taken center stage over the years and they've all been delicious, but our favorite is definitely roast duck.

Although we absolutely love turkey, we're just not ready for another one so soon after Thanksgiving. We also love ham, but that just seems so much better suited to New Year's dinner, as it's considered good luck to eat pork as your main protein. Pheasants and geese can be expensive and hard to find. Chicken just doesn't seem special enough for Christmas dinner, as we eat chicken frequently throughout the year.

Where all of those other things just aren't quite the right fit, duck is perfect. It roasts long enough to make the entire house smell like Christmas. It's fancy enough to feel like a nice splurge and it generates just enough meat to feed the both of us. There's usually a bit of leftover duck -- enough to make the homemade duck chili Seth likes or a couple of wraps for lunch -- but not so much that we're still eating our way through it by the time New Year's rolls around and we want to make a ham or something.

So, yes. The holidays are not complete without our roasted duck. We knew after the first year we had it that it was going to be our new go-to Christmas meal. Then the next year, we waited to long to buy ours and we weren't able to get one. It just wasn't the same, so we've gone to great lengths to make sure we grab our duck the second they appear in the stores. I'm happy to report that we already have one patiently waiting in the freezer for its turn in the spotlight.

We stuff our bird full of citrus fruits, apples, onions, and herbs -- whatever we happen to have around at the time. Then I make a wonderful rich gravy to go with it. The sides we serve it with vary from year to year. Some years we go very traditional with mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables. Other years, we prefer to be more adventurous.

One year, I was going to do a mandarin-style duck with all Chinese sides (kind of an homage to A Christmas Story), but I don't think I ever quite got around to that. This year, I think we'll be going with Southern staples like baked macaroni and cheese, greens, and possibly biscuits. That is what I really love about duck. It's not just something delicious that feels worthy of being the centerpiece of a Christmas table. It's incredibly flexible as well. It can be anything and goes well with so many different flavor profiles.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Writing Lab: Of Late I Think of Germany

When it comes to my identity as a person, it's probably fair to say that I don't necessarily consider myself to have one at all. At least not in the same way I feel other people do. I'm not a down comforter or a wool blanket. I feel more like a patchwork quilt -- something that's quite literally made of very random bits all stitched together to create something else that is motley by definition.

For one thing, I'm very mixed ethnically. (My dad is African American and Blackfoot Indian. My mom is of Irish and Scottish descent.) My parents are two very different colors and are very obviously from different ethnic backgrounds. However, my brother and I were sort of raised to see ourselves as colorless -- just "American" without any further elaboration.

Ethnicity and culture were not concepts that were celebrated in our home the way they were in other people's households. I think the desired effect was for the two of us to grow up seeing ourselves as belonging everywhere and with everyone. I can't speak for my brother, but I think the opposite happened to me. Culturally speaking, I felt more like I belonged nowhere and around nobody, especially since I look so racially ambiguous that it's not immediately obvious to most people what my background might be. I'm clearly not white, but I confuse people. If they really want to know, they have to ask (and they always ask).

Since we were military, we moved a lot as well, so that made it difficult to form lasting connections with places or with other people. I don't really consider myself to have a hometown in any real sense and I don't have friendships that go all the way back to kindergarten or anything. Instead of being a person with clear roots and a cultural identity -- the usual things that dictate which foods make you feel the most nostalgic and rooted -- I feel like I'm lots of things all at the same time. Both everything and nothing all at once, so I suppose my personal "time travel" foods are chosen according to a different logic.

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Everyone has that one thing that they're so "into", so passionate about, that their entire face lights up if you ask them about it. That one thing that they never get tired of talking about. For me, that one thing is probably food. I feel really comfortable saying that I love everything to do with food. I love cooking it, eating it, reading about it, and studying it. 

Food is also quite possibly one of the only things that almost flawlessly allows me to connect to other people -- to cultures, places, and times. Places I've never been, but also places I have. It can bring me back to a high school friendship that I've forgotten all about or to a place I haven't visited in decades with spot-on accuracy. That said, little patchwork me could have come up with a million different ways to respond to this prompt, but I still immediately remembered my early childhood in Aschaffenburg,Germany. 

In particular, I remembered the intoxicating smell and taste of certain foods, especially those that you could count on running into at an outdoor market or a fair in the fall or winter. Juicy, fatty bratwursts practically bursting out of their skins and smelling like heaven on earth as they're tucked into soft, warm German rolls. Steamy soft pretzels with rock salt and German mustard. Spiced Christmas cookies dusted with powdered sugar and smelling faintly of licorice. All experienced along with the high, crisp, white scent of winter air and freshly fallen snow. 

I was born in Germany. We moved around a bit before coming back to Germany when I was around kindergarten age, but I remember having my first self-aware thoughts as a human being in Germany. My earliest memories all take place in Germany and Germany was where I was when I first started to consider food and notice details like the way a market smells when someone is grilling bratwurst or selling freshly baked pretzels. 

I haven't set foot on German soil since I was maybe seven years old, but every so often, I'll smell one of those smells and immediately exclaim: "Oh, man! This place smells like Germany." Or I'll eat one of those foods prepared just the right way to taste exactly the same as they did when I first had them as a child -- especially German bratwurst or knockwurst -- and I'll instantly remember so many wonderful things about living there. 

That happened when Seth and I made genuine beer brats for the first time a little while back and again when I tried whole grain European mustard for what I thought was the first time. (Nope! Apparently had it in Germany, because it brought the place flooding right back.) It happens every time there's a cookie included in a holiday assortment with the same flavor profile as pfeffernüsse. The foods I eat are always important ties to things I've done, places I've visited, or people I've known -- but there's something very special about the ones that are linked to Germany for me. 

Those foods and those memories stand out because they also remind me of what it was like to be a child that is so young as to still be stainlessly innocent and filled to bursting with childlike wonder. I remember what it was like to know beyond the shadow of any doubt that I could trust any adult to protect me. I remember how free and easy life was when my most pressing worry was what you wanted to be for Halloween or what to ask Santa Claus to bring you for Christmas. I miss that, as I'm sure most jaded adults do, so it's amazing to be able to bite into something as humble as a sausage and suddenly remember it all just like it was yesterday.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Writing Lab: New Traditions Have a Way of Sneaking Up on You

It occurs to me that I picked the strangest possible month to start participating in one of BlogHer's post-a-day challenges. As anyone that's read my responses to any of the other prompts is probably figuring out, I tend to feel like a fish out of water around the holidays.

Despite being on the threshold of middle age, I don't have children, nor do I have really close-knit, lifelong ties to most of my other family members. I don't have a busy social life that finds me entertaining friends (or letting them entertain me) every year either.

All I really have is my relationship with my fiancé. We're not exactly people of means, nor do we connect with many other people around the holidays. We are very much used to being a team of two at this point and when I picture holiday traditions, I tend to picture a coming together with lots of other people, particularly family. That picture doesn't really apply to our life as we know it, so for a long time, I didn't think the word "tradition" applied to anything we liked to do either. That said, I actually like how these prompts are challenging me to take a closer look at that point of view and reevaluate a few things. I'm beginning to realize that that's something I really needed to do.
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One thing I have discovered over the past decade or so is that traditions tend to start themselves. I never made an actual choice to reboot the way I feel about the holidays or attempt to create new traditions to replace the old or non-existent ones. There was no conscious decision to "start" doing thus-and-so every single year right from the first year we did it.

I literally just turned around one day and realized that I had things I actually looked forward to about this time of year for the first time in a long while. Things that were our own. Things we did because they meant something to us on an actual personal level. It took participating in this writing event and actually consciously thinking about the concept of tradition to realize that we actually do have that very thing in our lives now. Our Christmas duck, our neighborhood walks, our special way of ringing in the new year with White Castle burgers and stuffed jalapeños -- all of those things are traditions.

So how hard do I think it is to start new traditions? I guess I'm saying it's easy -- something that takes care of itself. It begins with something as simple as deciding to do something new one year because maybe you got an idea or seized a great opportunity to have a new experience. And then maybe you enjoy that experience so much that you decide to do it again the next year... and the next, and the next, and the next. That's how traditions are born, often without any planning or fanfare whatsoever. They're organic things that can spring up overnight or become what they are over a long time. Both, even.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Writing Lab: On Traditions, Family, and Filling the Void

I don't actually have children, nor have I ever wanted any. I've never developed even a hint of a maternal instinct or thought I would make a good mother. That said, I guess I'm realizing I've never really thought about anything to do with the holidays (or life in general) from that particular angle -- what it would all look like as one of the heads of a family.

I've never daydreamed about having someone to mentor and teach things to someday. I've never wondered what it would be like to have somebody else to inherit my traditions and keep them alive after I'm gone. I have no idea if it's odd for a 39-year-old woman to literally never have considered those things, but there it is just the same.

Seth has three children from his previous marriage. Back when we first got together, I assumed that sooner or later I would wind up developing some form of stepmother relationship with them at some point. But they're older now and seem to have little to no interest in either of us, so at this point, I pretty much just take it for granted that such relationships weren't part of God's plan for me. It's not even something that bothers me. It seldom to never crosses my mind and I don't feel like anything is missing from my life because I'm not really a parent in any capacity. It just is what it is like a lot of things in life.

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I'm not even sure there are that many honest-to-God traditions that were passed down to me by my family or anyone else, for that matter. My parents no longer cared about each other or got along since as long as I can remember, so while they certainly went through the motions of trying to give us a nice Christmas every year, I was very intuitive even as a child. I knew my parents weren't in love and were only still putting up with each other "for the kids". I know I felt like an obstacle that was in the way because of that as well -- a being that was supposed to have been part of another version of a relationship that just didn't work out. Not exactly like a mistake, but close.

Also, not only were we a military family that moved around constantly, but neither of my parents seemed to think it was terribly important that my brother and I form truly close relationships with extended family. For instance, my dad has two kids from a previous marriage that were and still are pretty much strangers to me. I apparently have cousins, uncles, aunts, and so forth living in various parts of the country, but I couldn't even really tell you who most of them are, how many there are, or what they're like. 

To my parents, a greeting card -- or possibly a quick phone call -- on important dates like Christmases or birthdays is enough to justify saying you're close with a given person. But the problem with that is I don't form bonds with people that are nothing but names in an address book -- people I've never met and don't spend time with. I need shared experiences, and deep conversations, and quality time spent living life together on a regular basis. A card or a token gift on Christmas isn't really enough to make up for the lack of those things.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that nothing about the dynamic I grew up with was exactly fertile ground for the development of lasting traditions. We did the things my parents thought were important and we did them the way they thought they should be done. Sometimes that was fine, but other times, it just really left me wanting and unsatisfied on some deep emotional level I didn't understand at the time.

........

As far as tradition fragments I probably did take away from my childhood, there are a few. 
  • Having a faux tree that my dad, my brother, and I would assemble each year. My brother and I would sort the branches, we'd all attach them to the trunk, and then my dad would put on the lights. After that he'd leave to go see his mistress, or hit the gym, or go to work and my mother would put the ornaments on with us later. To this day, a real tree just doesn't look, feel, or smell as much like Christmas as the fake ones do. I've preferred fake trees all my life for that reason.
  • Making Christmas lists of the things we wanted "Santa" to get us for Christmas. I'm not a big fan of Christmas gifts anymore, but when we were kids, we were rarely to never allowed to get new toys, or games, or anything during the year. We were always told we needed to wait for the next gift-giving occasion, so Christmases and birthdays were big deals to us for that reason. They were the days you might actually get that new She-Ra doll or My Little Pony you'd been dreaming about for months.
  • Watching my favorite Christmas movies, listening to Christmas carols, and reading Christmas stories like A Christmas Carol each and every year. I especially used to like to read on the floor under the tree and enjoy the lights while I soaked up my favorite stories.
  • Counting down the days until Christmas on an Advent calendar. There wasn't much attention paid to religion in our home growing up. We did have a nativity scene that used to belong to my grandmother though and we did hear the term "Advent" in conjunction with the calendars. 
One thing I remember incredibly clearly though is feeling like Christmas stopped short of being what I wanted it to be when I was a kid. I'd watch the Cratchit family, and the Griswolds, and all of the sitcom families on TV celebrating together and feel like there was a lot missing in our home. (I felt it every day, but especially strongly at Christmas time.) 

I craved the togetherness, and loyalty, and acceptance that I saw. I longed to see my family come together the way all of those fictional families always did, even when they bickered. I wanted Christmas dinner to be a big deal instead of just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because no one wanted to bother cooking. I wanted my family to sit together and sing Christmas carols. I wanted my dad to choose us instead of whomever else he was openly dating in front of us at the time. I wanted my mom to smile, and laugh, and bake piles of homemade Christmas cookies, and pies, and cakes like my friends' moms did. I wanted to know more about Mary and Jesus (because I already knew at a young age that Santa Claus was a load of bull). I just wanted... more... substance, maybe? Like "Christmas plus" or something.

And that's something I've had a lot of fun doing as an adult, especially since I met Seth. We roast the fancy bird and have the big, yummy dinner on Christmas Day. We don't just do an Advent calendar. We observe the actual season of Advent and do things like celebrate Vigil Mass and sign up for seasonal Bible study plans as well. We calorie-splurge on treats together -- candies, cookies, and Hickory Farms. We've undertaken fun projects that are vaguely Dickensian in nature like roasting chestnuts and making Smoking Bishop. We don't just watch movies or listen to Christmas music. We do those things together

And I finally feel like I've found my own version of what I felt was missing, not only when I was a kid but when I've been in past relationships as well. Christmas has always been special and fun in one capacity or another... but now it feels whole as well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Writing Lab: Lights, Legs, and Zombies

The funny thing about Seth and me around the holidays is we aren't always consistent about things like decorating. Although we may stay put in the same spot for years at a time, there's been a tone of impermanence to our lives as far as where we live for quite some time now.

Hardships like lay-offs and serious illness have seen us moving a lot, living with family members when/if we need to, and so forth. That said, it's been a long time since we lived somewhere that truly felt like "home" -- someplace that felt like it was ours to decorate and leave our stamp on however we chose.

There have been many, many holidays where we just haven't been able to get into the holiday spirit at all because of that. On the down years, we will still very likely watch our Christmas movies or make something delicious to eat for Christmas dinner, but we might not really bother decorating. It just depends on where we both are mentally and emotionally at the point where it's time to start thinking about it.

Thankfully, a bit of that malaise that's sometimes surrounded the holidays for us has been lifting a bit in recent years, so we've been doing at least a bit of decorating. As with everything we do in life, we have our own unique spin we put on things that really feels like us.

........

There are two kinds of people in this world -- those that think Halloween is a single day that comes once a year and those that treat Halloween like an all-the-time affair. Seth and I are the second type. We are very much into things like horror movies, Gothic novels, creepy folk tales, and ghost stories. (Seth actually runs a very popular horror website called MoreHorror.) A lot of our Halloween-themed items stay up all year round and get a special holiday treatment. 

For instance -- please turn your attention to the rubber zombie sitting on top of our lava lamp. His name's Herbert. One of Seth's horror clients sent us a box of Halloween goodies last year and we liked Herbert so much, we couldn't bear to put him away once Halloween was over. At first we just kept him up as is when it was time to break out the Christmas Story leg lamp. Then we decided he could use a little more holiday cheer. That's when he got the multi-colored Christmas light treatment.

We haven't quite finished our holiday decorating this year, so it's all still in progress. (These shots are actually from last year.) However, we're planning on making sure our bedroom gets enough attention this time around. Since both of us work at home, our bedroom doubles as our office, so we really want to make sure it feels cheerful for a change.

Seth put up our mini Christmas tree the other day and I ordered some new lights on Amazon that should be coming soon. We have an Advent calendar for what I think is the first time ever. It hangs out on my desk and then we open one of the little windows each night before sharing the little piece of chocolate hidden inside. We're working on clearing a space in the corner where we can put a card table and a couple of chairs as well. (We eat in here a lot, as we're pretty much always at least sort of working.) 

I still don't know how much I consider myself to be into decorating, but I have to admit that even a few decorations in places I tend to see them every day has really been helping me get into the holiday spirit for the first time in what I think is a long time. Hopefully that's a sign of good things to come as we move forward into 2016.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Writing Lab: End of the Year Traditions

I hemmed and hawed about it a bit like I do, but I eventually decided I did want to participate in NaBloPoMo this month. BlogHer apparently decided to repackage the monthly event as an ongoing Writing Lab with daily prompts though, so instead of making a commitment for a month, you're supposed to just pick up a prompt whenever you feel like it instead.

Personally speaking, I think I'd still like to at least try to stick with things all month. However, I might eventually find that I'm grateful not to have made an ongoing commitment. That way I don't feel like I have to quit altogether if I need to skip a few days because of work or whatever. I'm just going to play things by ear and see how it all works out.

I also decided to join the BlogHer Writing Lab Facebook group so I can share my progress and some of my posts if I feel like it. I've fallen way, way out of the habit of actually meeting and socializing with other bloggers and sometimes I wonder if that might be part of the reason I don't invest more energy in my personal writing. I tend to go back and forth between wanting an audience and not wanting one, so I hesitated to even mention I was doing this challenge to anyone. I eventually decided the worst thing that would happen is I make a couple of friends and discover some new blogs to be interested in though. So here we are.

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Holiday Art by Thomas Kincade
The year end traditions I look forward to the most don't go way back to my childhood or anything, as my fiancé and I started them together at some point over the past 10 years. We celebrate a spiritual Christmas, but not in a cloying, heavy-handed way. We observe the liturgical season of Advent. We celebrate Mass on either Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. We've recently started abstaining and fasting on Fridays and other liturgically significant occasions, so we usually won't eat meat on Christmas Eve. 

However, I do treat us to a seafood feast or a vegetarian pasta meal on Christmas Eve, as well as cook a relatively hearty Christmas dinner. Unless we're unable to find one for whatever reason, Christmas dinner is usually a duck. (We're just not ready for more turkey only a month after Thanksgiving.) Seth loves leftover duck like it's going out of style, especially when I use it to make his very favorite duck chili. Side dishes vary, although I think I'm leaning toward some Southern-style staples this year -- like homemade macaroni and cheese, greens, and biscuits. 

Unlike most people, we don't really do presents for Christmas. Not only do we not really have the money to go all out buying tons of presents for everyone we know, but we're not really about "things" at this point in our lives. We aren't really permanently rooted as far as where we live, so we never know when we might be moving next and it's not really prudent to collect a lot of belongings. Also, given the realities of our relationships with most of our family members, the whole gift thing has begun to strike me as really hollow and I don't enjoy it the way I probably did when I was a child. If I feel the need to let go of money around Christmas time, I do it with anonymous donations to charities and organizations I believe in. That just feels a bit more in keeping with the holiday spirit to me.

I'm a reading fool, so I also look forward to reading A Christmas Carol every year. Seth and I watch all of our favorite Christmas movies -- A Christmas Story, Bad Santa, Muppets Christmas Carol, Jingle All the Way, and Love Actually to name just a few. Both of us love Christmas music, so we listen to plenty of it. (Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, classical choral music -- we love it all!) Some years, we make hot spiked tea or coffee and then drink it while we walk around the neighborhood, checking out all the Christmas lights. We like reflecting on everything that happened the year before and waxing optimistic about everything that might occur in the year yet to come as well. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On the Holidays, the Circle of Life, and Owning One's Stories


Hrm... I had no earthly idea you could actually upload GIFs to Blogger and have them work. I suppose that opens up a whole new wealth of blogging possibilities, doesn't it. Sometimes you really just need to say it with a moving picture. But already, I digress. I'm really here to talk about the holidays and life in general.

I did fantastic this year, especially professionally. I made good money. I've been able to keep our bellies filled with good food without also feeling like I'm working myself half to death. I'm especially happy that I didn't have to take too many junk content assignments in order to make ends meet. The vast majority of the projects I worked on were honest jobs creating good content for legitimate businesses for a change. I literally can't remember the last time I wrote clickbait or advertising for some crappy snake oil product and that's the way I like it. I don't need to feel like I'm changing the world with what I do or anything, but I do need to feel good about how I earn my living on a basic level.

I'm looking forward to kicking back and enjoying my holiday weekend for sure. Cooking will be relatively hassle free. This year, I got us a turkey from Omaha Steaks that's already prepped and brined, so I really don't have to do much of anything beyond putting it in the oven when I'm ready to cook it. We went the fast and easy route with the sides, gravy, and pumpkin pie as well. Seth is picking up the rolls and butter at the store tonight and the produce man is bringing our veggies tomorrow afternoon sometime, so yeah. We're definitely set. 

I love our Thanksgivings. They're what I always wanted. Lots of good food, and booze, and laughter. They're free, and easy, and fun because we go to great lengths to make sure they're not stressful in the least. I'm not like a lot of wife types. I get nothing out of wringing my hands over whether or not there's enough food or enough things on the menu to please whatever picky eater is going to present that year. I don't need everything to be "just so". I don't rise to the occasion when it comes to being judged or critiqued on how I entertain or what my cooking is like. My holidays have none of that going on anymore, so they feel the way they're supposed to. Finally.

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In other news, Seth's grandmother passed away yesterday at the age of 89 after being ill for quite some time. His mother basically did the same thing to him that she did to me when Seth was in the hospital years ago, meaning she tried to forbid him to post anything about it on Facebook or speak to any of his friends about what was going on. She tried to claim she was just passing on the wishes Seth's grandfather, but unfortunately I know better just from actual experience. That is the exact same way she treated me when Seth was in the hospital.

I still remember exactly how that felt. Being told that I basically wasn't allowed to use any of my coping methods or have any kind of support system of my own when the person I basically consider to be my husband was very likely getting ready to die. She even tried to forbid me to speak to my own mother about what was going on. I always figured I was being treated that way mostly because I clearly wasn't the kind of person she wanted for her son or as part of her family, so it was pretty disappointing to see Seth -- the last person that should be seen as an outsider -- being treated the exact same way. 

I'm proud of him for not putting up with it and telling her where to go with that nonsense. This was his grandmother. He should feel absolutely free to discuss her death with whomever he pleases and post about it wherever he pleases. I don't know that he considers himself to be a writer to the same extent that I do, but he is, so putting things into written words -- even if it's just on social media -- is a big part of how he processes things. Telling him he's basically not allowed to do that and receive comfort, support, and well wishes from his friends is unacceptable.

It's like I've always said. People own the things that happen to them, the relationships they've been part of, and the feelings they have about all of it. Part of owning those things for a writer is putting them into written words and, quite possibly, sharing it with other people. If someone is worried about how they might eventually come across should they ever make an appearance in that writer's running narrative, they should treat that person better. They should treat everyone better. Reclaiming ownership of my own stories has been a big thing for me over the past several years. Clearly it's been a major motif in Seth's life as well.

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Speaking of owning one's stories, I miss writing challenges. At the beginning of the month, I seriously considered participating in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) over the course of November. There are prompts for all of the weekdays and then you freewrite on Saturdays and Sundays. I eventually decided to pass, but since it's something you can do every month if you want, I'm considering signing up to try it in December.

I miss the way blogging and journaling used to be habits for me. I miss writing more personal things about my life and just putting them out there for pretty much anyone to read. That's how I blogged a loooooooong time ago when I was still new to the Internet. That habit was responsible for bringing me my relationship, all of my current friendships, and -- eventually -- my career as a professional writer. I'd love to see what else might come my way if I went back to that.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In Which a Vase Gets Its Flowers

Lately I've become such a fan of subscription boxes and whatnot. There's honestly nothing I like getting in the mail more than food. Plus, I really enjoy expanding my horizons as far as what I eat, but I often have trouble making decisions about what to try next for myself. Some of the box options out there these days are awesome. For instance, we do Nature Box for healthy snack options and Try the World just because it's super fun to get a package in the mail every other month filled with edibles from around the world.

One thing I'd really been interested in for a while is some sort of produce box option, because Seth and I really need to be eating more fruits and vegetables. However, we don't always know what we'd like to try. Also, I really preferred the idea of finding a local farm to support, as well as getting into the habit of eating seasonal/organic produce as well. I finally found an option I'm really happy with and we've been having so much fun with all the fruits and veggies.



This same place also offers eggs and flowers as add-on extras. We'd been wanting to get into cooking and eating eggs more often for a long time, so we've been ordering them pretty consistently. I don't usually care that much about having fresh flowers in the house or anything, so I hadn't seriously thought much about getting those, but Seth asked if we could have some for our bedroom and I thought "yeah, why not -- it would be nice to have some seasonal flowers around for a change". Those are them in the picture above.

I have to say, flowers really do kind of brighten up a room and make it feel special. This bouquet came arranged so nicely, too. Someone really put a lot of thought into it. Obviously, I know that we ordered and paid for it ourselves, but it's kind of odd how "cared about" finding flowers waiting for you outside makes you feel regardless.



I put them in this jar/vase thing I bought in Las Vegas years ago and still happen to have around. If memory serves, I actually bought it when I was there on my honeymoon after marrying my ex. I was trying to get excited about building a home as a married woman and I just really thought this particular item was pretty and very "me". I got it at the Luxor, so it was sort of Egyptian looking, as you can see. Shiny, lots of colors, and with handles that look like cobras. (I've been nuts about anything to do with ancient Egypt since I was a kid.) It was so bright, cheerful, colorful, and different -- kind of like me at the time, back before I became really hard and cynical -- and I bought it specifically to put fresh flowers in.

My then-new-husband hated this poor vase to high heaven. In fact, he shit on this vase and on my tastes so badly, that I wound up sticking it on some out-of-the-way shelf when I got home and never once filling it with flowers the way I'd planned. Really, you don't even know how hurt my feelings were at the time. Well... guess what, mother fuckers. I still love this vase and (miraculously), so does Seth. And it has flowers in it. Finally. And it looks just as nice filled with flowers as I'd always imagined it would. Something kind of fitting about that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On Garbage

Some freak hacked into my Spotify account last night. As to why, I'm sure I don't know. I don't see how hacking into someone's premium account on a service like that is easier or more convenient than just pirating all the free music you like, but whatever. All's well, as I managed to regain control of my account and lock it down again so that they can't just get back in there. It's amazing how violated I still feel at the moment though.

I mean... I've been on the Internet a long time, so I've certainly had accounts hacked before, but there's just something about someone having hacked into my music account. He actually went to the trouble of deleting all of my custom playlists, as well as all of my follows as far as Spotify-made playlists. He replaced them with follows and playlists of his own. Whoever this person was, their taste in music is very different from mine. It's everything I don't really like or listen to myself -- gangsta rap, house music, Latin-based salsa stuff. Somehow that seems worse than if my account were hacked by someone with the same tastes.

Like most people, the music I listen to is meaningful to me. I have memories attached to it -- of places I've lived, experiences I've had, and different versions of myself that I've been. The music I listened to at ages 10... 17... 25... 30 is all so strongly tied to who I was at those points in my life. I literally feel like this dickhead nosed through all of those memories and little pieces of my identity, judged them, and threw them away like the trash he obviously thought they were. He literally hacked into my account and then treated my things like irritating garbage that was in his way.

Like I can actually picture it happening. The special "Burgers and Beer" playlist I saved for Seth to listen to while he's grilling one of these days -- garbage. My little list of special songs I like for rainy days -- garbage. My 90's grunge playlist that reminds me of all my friends from high school -- garbage. That just makes me really angry. My music is not garbage and neither are my memories. This person. This person is garbage. Human garbage. I hope that whoever that little piece of shit was gets hit by a bus on his way home later.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On Ferris Wheels, Corn Dogs, and Selfies

Ferris Wheel and Carousel

You'd never know that we're nine days into September at present. Labor Day has been and gone, but it's been super hot lately regardless. Indian summer -- how I hate it. Just when you think you're rid of the heat for another year, a nice hot front moves in and you're sweating your way through all your days again. 

Thankfully it wasn't this hot last week! I took a little over a week off from work the way I usually do around Labor Day. I spent a lot of time reading Game of Thrones and just fucking off in general, but Seth and I also spent three of those days at the Monterey County Fair. We were covering it as members of the press again, but we had so much fun, we really didn't even remember that we were technically working. We walked there and back, but the weather was somewhat merciful -- definitely warm, but not so hot you're sure you're about the fry to death. No one got heat stroke this year, anyway.

Ferris Wheel in Living Color
I don't get out a lot these days, so when I do, I take a lot of photos whether or not I actually have to. I've never considered myself to be much of a photographer (and really, that hasn't changed any), but even if I do say so myself, I think the quality of my photos is really improving. I'm getting better at spotting the potential in different compositions and post-editing in such a way that the colors actually stay pretty true to what I was actually seeing at the time. I like that.

Patriotic Paraglider Dropping in on the Rodeo

It's been a while since I really did anything visually creative with any consistency, so I've come to enjoy taking photos. I don't sell my photographs, do photography professionally, or have any "fans" that are into what I post on the level people were with my artwork at some point, so I can just enjoy it for what it is. It's nice to step back and rediscover a bit of that old feeling that comes when you realize you're becoming more skillful at something you enjoy for its own sake.

Someone on LiveJournal even commented on how good my photos were and asked if I was "a photographer". I'm sure she was just being friendly, but still. It's nice to be complimented on something you do that doesn't normally draw compliments. I even managed to simply accept the compliment in the spirit intended for a change as well. Imagine that.

Corn Dogs and Fries

As per usual when we go to the fair, we had plenty to eat. I don't know that we tried as many new foods as we did last year though. We didn't plan it that way, but mostly we stuck to corn dogs, fish and chips, pizza, nachos, and tasty sandwiches from the deli counter at Safeway. (We stopped there each day before setting out to make sure we had something in our bellies and I think it made a difference in our energy levels for sure.) 

In hindsight, I wish I'd explored a little more when it comes to the edibles, but sometimes you just want something you know you really like. I suppose we just weren't in as much of an exploring mood, but we've tried a lot more new things when we've cooked at home over this past year, so it probably all comes out in the wash.

Cat and Wolf Selfie

I treated myself to a fresh dye job before the fair so that I wouldn't have to look like I'd just crawled out from under a rock. (Working at home and not having much of a social life doesn't exactly encourage you to pretty up all that often.) Freshly dyed and styled hair combined with actual make-up is always a good reason to take a selfie, so I did that.

I'm not in the habit of thinking much about my looks anymore the way I did when I was younger. Everything is all words, and the future, and clients, and ideas -- brainstorming as to how I can make next year a better year security-wise than this year was. Whether or not my eyebrow game is on point doesn't seem very important in comparison. Maybe it's the whole "being middle-aged" thing, but I'm realizing that my everyday mental picture of myself has become that of someone plain that maybe used to be pretty but probably isn't anymore. That said, I tend to be surprised by my own attractiveness on the rare occasion I do bother to take pictures or spend some time looking in the mirror.

I know others feel differently, but truth be told, I've never thought of myself as particularly pretty and I definitely don't consider myself to be what most people would call a natural beauty. I consider myself to be good at styling people (including myself) -- picking out make-up, hair colors, and hairstyles that make the most of however much or little a given person has to work with. But whatever you call it, it's occasionally nice to remember I have it. I am not at all bad-looking for someone that will be 40 in less than half a year.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, Robin Williams


Last night, I dreamed that I met Robin Williams in the afterlife. He was hosting a party at his house in heaven. It had really huge glass windows, retro 60's furniture, and a fully stocked bar area. People were drinking martinis and lounging around on bean bag chairs. The walls were covered in dark green velvet and each guest was wearing blue, purple, or green. Some people were also wearing Mardi Gras beads. I had on a purple dress with green feather trim. I also had a fan made of peacock feathers.

Robin Williams was wearing this peacock blue suit and a striped tie. He was going around to everyone that was there, saying hello and welcoming them to his home. When he got to me, he told me I had the most radiant hair he'd ever seen and said: "It gets better, you know. Don't worry. You won't have to bring it either." He knew I was going to ask him how he was feeling -- particularly whether he'd been required to carry his depression to heaven.

Then he gave me a hug before moving on to speak to his other guests. That dream hug was somehow warmer and more sincere than any hug I've ever received in real life. He smelled nice. Some kind of cologne that smelled like mint, the ocean, and chocolate all at once. He would have been 64 today had he lived. RIP, sir. Thanks for inviting me to your party.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Best Things in Life

Goldie Hawn with Hamburger  in 1964
Sometimes I legitimately forget that I have blogs I can type in when I have thoughts I'd like to share or little tidbits of what I'd like to think of as wisdom to pass on to anyone that happens to be listening at the time. I still have lots of thoughts. I still share them. I guess I just did the thing and started doing most of my everyday sharing on Facebook like everyone else.

My thoughts tend to come to me spontaneously, usually while I'm busy absorbing someone else's content. Watching a movie, reading, catching up on the news, or looking at images that roll through my Facebook feed. If I have more to say on a topic, It doesn't occur to me to use them as jumping off points for longer posts somewhere else. I'll just add a two-sentence comment of my own and share it on Facebook.

But since today found me reading part of something brilliant penned by an extremely talented friend and immediately thinking "why doesn't he share this someplace other people can actually read it", I thought I might try practicing what I preach for a change. So here I am. Today, anyway.

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This picture of a young Goldie Hawn rolled through my Facebook feed a little earlier today and I liked it, of course. I always seem to like photos of people enjoying good food. Especially vintage photos. Especially vintage photos of beautiful, vivacious people enjoying what I like to think of as "real food". Most get a share from me without a second thought. It's more for personal reasons and less because I'm a connoisseur of great photography though (although I do appreciate that too).

I'm all for people caring about their health, watching their weight, and wanting to maintain their good looks. Those are normal, praise-worthy things to want to do. However, I legitimately don't understand the need so many people these days have to fill their lives with self-imposed limits if they aren't actually necessary on some practical level. This is especially the case when it comes to their food. Everyone seems to be vegetarian, or vegan, or gluten-free, or paleo, or whatever the fuck other silly label seems to be popular to wear these days. I'm sorry, but those lifestyles all look about as satisfying as an afternoon spent watching paint dry.

I'm hardly saying that I think we should all just be throwing caution to wind and not giving any kind of a fuck whether we're fat or unhealthy. I just don't see where swaying to the opposite extreme is any better or any healthier. I know and have known so many people that are saying "no" to experiences and relationships that could be incredible because they think there's more pride to be taken in having the willpower to turn their noses up at foods, activities, or pastimes considered "fun" or -- God forbid -- "indulgent". 

Everyone wants to be "special" these days. Everyone wants to single themselves out in an attempt to elevate their image above those of their peers, often by pointing to other people that are just happy doing their thing, sniffing derisively, and going "yeah I don't do that" as if refusing to appreciate life is something to be proud of. Do what? Stick a firework to the top of your head and light it? Well, good. I should hope not. Eat cheeseburgers and pizza on occasion? Have a healthy sex life? Appreciate Harry Potter? Laugh at off-color dick jokes? Yeah, not so much. I'm even inclined to say you're missing out. Why not pull the stick out of your ass and try something just because you've never done it before and it seems like a good time? You would have when you were a kid. What's stopping you as an adult?

........

A few summers ago, I choked on a chunk of grilled slider while Seth and I were outside grilling. I have a bad habit of eating my food pretty quickly and not really chewing it as well as I should. I guess that was the day I finally found out why you're not supposed to do that. Thankfully Seth knew the Heimlich and happened to be there to lend a hand at the time, but for the seconds that elapsed between me realizing I was choking and... well... realizing I wasn't choking anymore, I really thought I was going to die.

You know what my thoughts were? The first thought was definitely: "So this is how I go out. Choking to death on a hamburger." The second thought was actually a thought of relief that at least I was choking to death eating something that was damned tasty on a day spent enjoying life in the company of someone I love. What if I'd spent the prior 20 years of my life crash dieting and surviving on lettuce because I thought I had to in order to be beautiful and happy? What if I'd actually listened to my mother when she told me I should put off having a serious relationship until I'd "made it" in regards to some bullshit career I didn't want? That would have really sucked because I would have died knowing I'd missed out. 

All things considered, if that day had turned out to have been my last day on earth, it wouldn't have been the worst possible scenario. It would have been the last day of a life largely spent being true to myself and sharing things that made me happy with people I genuinely like. A life in which I've learned to flip the bird as hard as I can in the general direction of anyone telling me that's not an OK way to live. My life doesn't seem like much from the outside looking in, I'm sure, but it's been a life that I feel pretty good about on my better days. I've done some cool things and thunk some cool thoughts. I've created things and told stories. I've influenced other people for the better (I hope). I've been in love. I've had the human experience. 

See, I'm a really simple person. I've always been a simple person. I don't need a 20-room mansion, a sports car, expensive vacations, and multiple millions of dollars to be happy. What I do need is someone to love and laugh with. I need ways to express myself and to learn (thanks, Internet). I need to feel comfortable in my own imperfect skin. I need delicious meals to share in good company. In the end, they're the things I know I'd regret not having in my life if they weren't there.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Grower of Onions

In just a few weeks, it will be springtime again. And I will be 39 years old one week from Saturday. We're in the middle of our second Lent together. I do have additional thoughts and reflections on Lent in particular, but as some of you may already know, this particular blog isn't really the place where I prefer to keep them. Instead, I'll record some random goings on from life in general.

You know how you'll have a huge bag of onions and when you don't quite get to that last one in time, it winds up sprouting? Well, this time around, we elected not to throw the poor thing in the garbage for being resilient (and therefore less than edible). Instead, Seth planted it in a little pot and we named it Saul.

At present, Saul is hanging out on the little table we keep in the middle of our bedroom. I know he's just a sprouted onion, but I'm nevertheless reminded of how much I used to enjoy keeping plants and making things grow. I like observing the way Saul's little cylindrical onion leaves keep reaching out toward the sunlight wherever it happens to be at the time. (People really do forget that plants are living, amazing things.) We've been talking about maybe doing a little cleaning and straightening in our room so that we'll have places to keep more plants if we like -- some edible and others merely decorative.

........

I've been doing that Venus in Aquarius thing again, meaning I'm just not feeling the same way I used to about a lot of my current circle of friends. I'm changing. Yes, I'm still very much the person that doesn't really have any real goals or plans as far as life goes... but I'm also realizing that I'm growing up at the same time. The past ten years or so have changed me in certain ways and I'd like to think they're for the better. It's becoming harder and harder for me to relate to people that aren't really on the same page.

I don't have all the support I want (or deserve) in life by a long shot, but I do my best to be my best regardless. I take care of my responsibilities, even though I don't truly want any of them. I work hard to be an increasingly better writer and businesswoman. The more I grow in this area and the better I become at accepting responsibility for myself and for the people that are counting on me, the less tolerant I feel toward people that just aren't willing to make the same effort. That applies to a lot of people I once considered close friends at this point and I'm going to simply leave it at that.

I normally don't really want to see winter make its exit, but I don't feel too badly about it this time around. This spring, I'll be a recorder of lives and a grower of onions. And that's good enough for me at present.

Friday, January 16, 2015

January Musings

Much as it sometimes pains me to say it, I'm no longer really the kind of person that sets goals... if I ever was, that is. People that talk to me one-to-one on even a semi-regular basis hear this all the time from me, but I don't have this innate urge other people seem to have to "do something with my life" or "make something of myself". I don't particularly like being busy or having a lot to do. I'm not a big fan of attention or of knowing that others are counting on me either. If I didn't have to worry about earning money, I wouldn't even have a job or care much about getting anywhere practical with my writing.

I know how sad that sounds, but... that's me. I'm simple. I'm low-maintenance. There isn't a whole lot I need in order to be happy beyond the basics. All that said, I'm a hard person to motivate. I really do have to just have to decide I'm ready to do things in my own good time. That's exactly why New Year's resolutions aren't a huge thing for me. However, I do kind of like to touch base with myself at some point during the month of January anyway, the better to think about what's been working for me and what hassn't.

Despite not ever having made any concrete plans to do so, I actually accomplished quite a bit in 2014, especially considering how stagnant I've felt for years now.

  • I still can't stand copywriting and still don't see it as a permanent part of my future as writer, but I made some changes this past year that made work suck a hell of a lot less. To be more specific, I decided to raise my base prices so that they were even with what my highest-paying client was paying me at the time. Then I replaced everyone that wasn't willing to comply with the price hike. That said, while I still have to write copy and web content for a living for now, I've been able to drastically reduce the amount of time I spend doing it -- next best thing!
  • Once I fixed my schedule and reduced my workload, I actually found I had at least a little extra creative energy to work with. I've been feeling my long-stagnant creativity making the occasional brief appearance as well. I might not have followed through with NaNoWriMo, but I did complete a short story and something like... three poems regardless. I actually sketched a little bit, although I have yet to finish anything major. I cooked more. I blogged more. Like I said, it wasn't much, but it was a hell of a lot more than I've done in a while.
  • I lost quite a bit of weight -- around 60 pounds or so. I've been feeling a lot better health-wise as a result. I've also been sticking with the healthier eating habits Seth and I established together way back in July.
  • I've been working hard to reestablish and maintain more of a spiritual life -- not something that seems to be of value to many people these days, but still means a great deal to me. I've been reading and studying the Bible daily, as well as praying daily. It's been helping me immensely, especially when it comes to the persistent feelings of depression and worthlessness I've been dealing with in recent years. 
  • I've somehow (without really meaning to) gotten back into the habit of reading on a regular basis. I didn't meet my yearly Goodreads goal of 50 books, but I came really, really close instead of coming in pitifully behind as usual. Plus, I'm already maybe two books or so ahead in regards to this year's challenge. I've been reading a lot of magazines as well, so I actually know a thing or two about what's going on in current events, food trends, fashion trends, and music for the first time in a long time.
This year, I'd like to keep building on some of that progress and take it all to the next level if I can. I'd like to continue with all the reading and learning, as that's something that's greatly enriched my life over the past year or so. I want to maintain my weight loss, as well as lose more weight. Sooner or later, I'd like to buy a manual treadmill or something similar that I can use to reestablish a relaxed exercise routine. I sometimes get restless in the evenings or early afternoons and feel like I'd like to exercise a bit, but don't necessarily want to leave the house to go on an actual walk. An inexpensive treadmill would be a perfect solution and a good investment to make in our continued good health.

I'd like to maybe clean up some of my personal spaces and make them nice places to be again. I'd like to build on the good care I've been taking of my body lately and take better care of my hair and skin, too. I want to draw more and do more creative writing -- not necessarily with any intention to publish at this point, but just for myself. I'd like to cook more. I'd like to make it a point to take more pictures. It doesn't sound like much, really, but all of this would be a vast improvement for me at this point. I would even dare say I feel excited about a lot of it.