RAOK, Continued

At the beginning of the year, my sister challenged me to do 44 Random Acts of Kindness for my upcoming 44th birthday, and she would do 40 for hers, which falls on the same day in February.  That sounded like a great idea, and I sat down to plan it with relish.  I was in.  I’d spread so much kindness that I would be a one-woman rainbow and unicorn factory!

Reader, I failed.

The birthday came and went, and though I did do a few of them, I came nowhere near 44.  In fact, I don’t think I broke into double digits.

But, I have decided that the year is not over yet.  I wasn’t focused enough to make 44 of them happen by February, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop trying to drop a little bit of happiness into some average days.  I am going to keep going, and aim at finishing my 44 by the end of the year.  Who knows, maybe it will become a habit, and I’ll aim for 45 next year.

It’s a tough time in our world right now.  Anxiety is running high, and people seem to be very aware of slights and irritants.  Let’s spread a little light.  Restore someone’s faith in humanity.  Do something nice for someone today, and I will as well.

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My dirty Christmas secret

I hate Christmas gifts.  No, really.  I hate getting them, I hate giving them, I hate the whole culture around feeling you owe or are owed some ribbon-wrapped box of stuff that nobody really wants.  I have for several years now asked my family if we can’t just enjoy the lights and the music and the “Christmas magic” feeling, and can it with the gift.  Surprisingly, rather than allowing us to be free from gifts, this has given me the family reputation of being a heartless, stingy Scrooge.  My mom in particular cries when I suggest it.  She wants to imagine me opening boxes that make my eyes light up and wants to do the same, just like when we were kids.  But I’m 43, and I have a good job.  There is nothing that I don’t just buy for myself if I want it, and she is the same.  What I think she really wants  doesn’t come from Amazon.  You can’t recapture a happier youth by purchasing it.  Why can’t we just 86 the exchange of crap and just call each other or visit instead?  Why go into debt each December to create a feeling of faux-closeness? Nothing in the world can make us all be young again–and I wouldn’t choose to if it could.

So, I get more resentful of this each year, but I still fall in line and hand over my credit card and calculate shipping times, because I am not yet ready to just disappoint people I love who are seeking their magic in a gift bag.  Since none of us are going to move from the corners of the country where we live, this dynamic won’t change.  Bah!  Humbug!

dilbert-no-gift

Management sucks

I was older than I should have been when I realized that managers got paid well because management is a pain in the ass. You are being paid to handle hassle. You are always enforcing the will of the people above you on the people below you, even when you think what they are doing is dumb, or immoral, or unproductive, and everyone is always trying to sneak stuff past you, hoping you won’t notice them sliding by.  That includes the people above you, always tossing their work down, because the people above them did the same.  I think I don’t want to be a manager any more, at least not of people. Unfortunately, the career I have chosen seems to require being one, particularly if you want to make a living wage.  The parts of the job that I loved when I was a student assistant are, of course, things that are done by students, not actual librarians.  Stupid me to not realize that.

So, what does one do with a library degree that doesn’t require managing people?  Cat herding?  Manuscript illumination?  Barrista?  I need a new direction!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, people!

It’s been about a year since I wrote on here.  In that time, I lost my job, got a new one, had good friends move to town, got distanced from some other folks, saw the death of mom’s partner and participated in the craziest presidential election in my lifetime.  It seems like every couple of days there is some new level of insane in the world, and I feel buffeted by the crazy-making constant barrage of bad news.  I need some damn levity!

So what have you got to make me giggle?  Memes, jokes, funny pictures-I’ll take it.  Let’s lighten the mood, and remind each other that we mostly like each other.

Stay safe and warm out there, folks.

 

3.75%!

I never believed myself to be the sort of person who would get old enough to find mortgage rates exciting.  All my coversation when I got old would be about intelligent philosophical topics and current events analysis.  Who would be ecstatic about anything involving finance?

Someone with a mortgage, that’s who.  We are refinancing the house, and improving our interest rate enough that our payment will go down, and we can knock 5 years off the term of the loan.  Dear lord, that is worthy of cartwheels!  You don’t realize how much a mortgage impacts the way you live your life until you have that payment to make every month, regardless of what else happens.  We have just improved our next 20 years!

Besides, what current events topics right now are intelligent enough to talk about for real?

Reading actual books!

I have been making a conscious effort lately to carve out time to read books.  Actual books.  Remember those?  There used to be few things I loved more than a free afternoon and a good book.  I could sit in one spot for hours and live in whatever mind-world the author built for me.  I am not sure when that started to feel like an expendable luxury, but dang it, I’m putting down my phone and engaging with long-form writing this summer.  A girl cannot live on Tweets alone.

I spent a week with Jen Lancaster, reading Twisted Sisters, which was a fun romp through a super-dysfunctional family with a little magical realism thrown in, and a mostly happy ending. I have followed it up with We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman, which takes that theme and turns it up to 11.  I’m engaged in the story, though I am happy I don’t know any of these people. They all live up to the title.  I still have The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith on my Kindle for some future read, too.  And as soon as I pay my 60-cent fine to the York County Public Library (I know, a librarian who owes library fines: it’s a disgrace), I plan to put a hold on Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.  I follow her blog, so I feel like I know her, and I really look forward to reading that book before her next one comes out.

So what are you reading now?  What should I add to my bedside table to read next?

The best meal I ever ate

I normally think of fine dining as occurring either in my own house with fancy recipes we’ve tried for fun, or more likely at restaurants where the price point comes with three dollar signs.  I can be a food snob.  But I was reminded recently of what I still consider to be the best meal I ever ate, and how judgments like that can be completely situational.

Way back in 2005, Mr. L and I (who were not yet Mr. and Mrs.) decided that Michigan was no longer the place we wanted to be, so we loaded up a U-haul and moved to Carolina–Columbia, in fact.  That sentence makes it sound easy, but in fact, it was a bit of a nightmare.  We packed up our possessions, loading a U-haul, attaching a car carrier, and filling another car with all of our stuff.  We are procrastinators; we should have gotten going on packing and purging weeks before we did, but we were lazy.  The price was two solid days of saying, “Oh my god, why do we own so much stuff? How are we going to get all of this in the truck?”  This was punctuated more than once by my sitting on the tailgate of the truck crying.  It sounds pretty pathetic in hindsight, but at the time, it was simply awful.

We finally got everything loaded and our apartment cleaned, got the dogs and the cat in the car, and started driving south nearly an entire day late.  We rode for 17 hours, me in the car, Mr. L in the truck with car hauler attached.  My cat meowed pitifully from inside her carrier for all 17 hours.  All 17.  I love her to pieces, but jeez, Louise! I wanted her to shut up.

Finally, after what seemed an enternity of gas and brake, gas and brake, traffic jams, getting lost, stopping and starting and once turning the truck around on the side of a mountain, accompanied by that infernal yowling, we drove into Columbia, South Carolina, our new hometown.  We had never seen our new apartment, and had chosen it simply for the convenience of it being owned by the same management company so we could transfer our lease.  We arrived to find the office closed, and had to wait for someone to come open up to give us keys to the new place, after which all of that loading had to be unloaded.  Upstairs, since the new place was on the 2nd floor, a fact I had forgotten.  

Just at the point that I was again about to sit down to sob on the fender, Mr. L said, “Hey, didn’t I see a Cracker Barrel across the street?”  We tossed the critters in the new apartment, locked the car and truck, and walked on over.  We were a mess–sweaty, road rumpled, at the point of complete mental exhaustion.  The hostess took us to a back table right away and said, “You look like you need some coffee.  I’ll send the waitress right over.”  The kind waitress came quickly to take care of drinks, then when we told her we were moving, said sincerely, “Welcome to South Carolina.  We’re so glad you are here!”  I then proceeded to order the most comfort-foody meal I could find on the menu: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans, with little corn muffins on the side.   It was not gourmet food.  It was not fancy, or particularly creative, or organically grown and thoughtfully curated.  It was, however, an absolute balm to my weary soul.  It was a meal I will never forget, because it gave me respite and nourishment, and a sense that we were home now.  From here, it was all strawberry pie–which, by the way was also very good. We’d be okay.  And we have been, ever since.  

Meatloaf at Cracker Barrel.  A welcome port in life’s storm.  Best meal ever.

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Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Karen, the lovely seamstress over at Did You Make That?, had a pattern giveaway a couple of days ago, and guess who won!  That’s right, this girl!  So I now have a copy of Simplicity pattern 1606 on the way, which looks like this: 

1606

Oooh, now I get to go to the fabric store to pick out just the right thing to make it out of. I’m thinking it needs to be something light and summery, but with a good drape. Hooray!

Back on the wagon

I have gained 8 pounds in the last month. I don’t feel like I ate differently (okay, maybe we’ve eaten out more), but I’ve been lax about working the gym into my schedule, and the result is tight clothes. More worrying than that is that my husband’s quarterly blood checks for his diabetes control caused his doctor to be rather stern about standing on a precipice and needing to decide right now if he was going to back away from it, or fall over it and let the disease take its course.

I hate to be the bad guy. I hate to nag and say, “No, you really shouldn’t order fries.” And I have my own issues with seeking out convenient comfort foods in times of stress or low income, which means sweets, and starches, and fatty things. If only cucumbers could satisfy that comfort food itch, right? But since he tends to follow my lead and order salad if I’m ordering salad or dessert when I order dessert, or cook lunch at home if I’ve cooked breakfast at home, or go for a walk or bike ride if I’m going to the gym, I think it has to be on me to push us both back into better habits. After all, being the bad guy is way better than needing to be a kidney donor, right?

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