New Year’s Resolutions? What New Year’s Resolutions?

Another year has passed us by and the year coming… well, let’s just hope for the best, shall we?

They say you should welcome the New Year with a resounding declaration of “a new year, a new me!” This is excellent advice and I just want to take a moment to share my reflections on the past year and the personal changes I have in store for the coming… oh, who am I kidding?

A Cheerful Christmas Story, Or Not

Time for a rant. So, my daughter and I were at the local grocery store the other day and we saw this little girl, maybe 5 years old. Well, first we heard her. We didn’t see her till later. And that would be because she was in the walkway at the end of the cash registers on the floor. You really couldn’t see her unless you looked for her or were say, trying to leave the store (since she was blocking the walkway). You could certainly hear her though.

Being the time of year it is, it was about Christmas. Of course, I mean, it had to be, right? She was repeatedly yelling that she wanted presents for Christmas and for Santa to visit her – all in that whiney little voice that only a child’s own mother can tolerate. I was a little late to the party here, but I gathered from the cashier that this precious little light of mirth had demanded candy or whatever and her mother said no. Not only that, but the mother had chosen to pour a healthy amount of salt in that wound by additionally threatening that Santa wouldn’t visit unless she behaved. Bad move, mommy. That bold-faced lie unleashed the kraken hiding within her doe-eyed daughter turning what may have been a manageable tantrum into full on Krampus fodder displaying itself for all to see on the floor of this grocery store.

We all have our parenting style and I’m not (fully) criticizing what this mother did next. I’m just saying that it’s not something I would do and leave it at that. So, the kid is screaming full blast and this mom, rather than step away from her conversation with the cashier, decided instead to proclaim to the child, “NOW, Santa won’t visit or bring you presents unless you get up off the floor.”  Right.

Well, you would have thought that she’d sent an electric shock straight through the air to this child. The little girl splayed herself across the floor with flailing limbs that resembled an 80’s break-dancer and her voice reached a pitch of whine that I thought only possible in a machine shop. And, almost impossibly (but I swear it’s true), her repeated demand that Santa must visit her and must bring her presents, got even louder. It was truly a sight to behold.

Unfortunately, the first possible collateral damage entered the scene in the form of an elderly woman who had had enough and had decided that no matter how curious she might be to see if this demon girl’s head was going to start spinning she’s got other things to do and tried to make her way out of the store. She had to gingerly make her way past this kid without having a leg taken out from under her and breaking a hip. Wonder what Santa would’ve said about that!?

And the mom of this lovely floor ornament? Well, the mother, to her credit, was not the least bit fazed or concerned, certainly not enough to become a proactive participant in this wild scene. In fact, you’d barely know she had a child at all. Instead of physically removing the child from the aisle so the elderly woman could get by safely (which would have been the LEAST of my kids’ problems had this been them), she simply continued repeating her mantra… “Santa won’t visit unless you get off the floor” from the relative safety of the checkout line. What kind of idiotic bribery is this? Good grief, the parenting skills that people use today! Oh wait…skills imply talent or useful abilities. Scratch that. Good grief, what passes as parenting these days! Is this one of those feral children I’ve heard so much about?

I mean, really? Let’s do a little play-by-play. First the girl misbehaves. Next, mom pulls out the Santa’s Watching card. So of course, the girl’s natural reaction is to throw herself down on the floor. Santa’s watching after all, right? Magically though, now Santa visits tantrum throwing kids just so long as they don’t throw their tantrum while flailing about on the floor or take out the elderly woman trying to exit stage left. Oh wait. Okay, well, just so long as you don’t take out the elderly woman, you’re golden. Talk about a bit of holiday spirit perversion. I think Santa would be appalled if he knew he was being used in this manner. I’ve always had a thing for Krampus and I think this may be why.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall of that household when the natural dynamic of this mother and child hits the teenage years. Now that should be a party! Bet Santa’s invite to that one gets lost in the mail.

Living the Wrong Life

I’m a reasonably confident person. I mean, I’ve made it this far in life and am still alive and mostly well. That has to count for something, right? Right!? Oh, sure, I’m awkward and filled with anxiety, and social situations are not exactly my thing. I still can’t make homemade seitan, but I didn’t think I was doing something wrong at EVERY turn. Now, thanks to the internet and yahoos with too much time on their hands, I’m not so sure.

Unfortunately, we are probably all pretty familiar with the articles and videos telling us how we’ve been doing such and such all wrong. They’re everywhere you look, so you end up viewing them whether you want to or not. These helpful how-to PSAs break down even the most basic tasks and rub in our faces how we have totally misunderstood items and their functions, things obviously so simple.

Peeling a banana. Apparently, monkeys know how to do this right way; it’s most humans that don’t. Peel it from the bottom to avoid squishing it. Perhaps this says even less about me, but upon application I learned that I can squish this fine yellow (and I would say inherently squishy) fruit no matter which end I peel it from.

I guess the same goes for slicing French bread. Flip that baby over and slice from the bottom, so it doesn’t get mushed. Based on my performance with the banana, I’m guessing that won’t be the case for me. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’d rather not look too deeply into that one.

Hold a wine glass by the stem to avoid any unwanted warming from body heat. Okay, that one I knew. I do like my wine. But I still don’t follow this advice. Did I mention I’m awkward?  And clumsy?  And uncoordinated?  Yeah, it’s not a good idea for me to gracefully hold a wine glass by its stem… not if I want to maintain a steady grip on the delicate glassware, that is.  Because I have no grace. I think I’ve made that clear. And what tends to happen is the glass, much like myself when walking up steps, gets top heavy and tips over. Sometimes it happens slowly, which is pretty funny whether it’s me on the steps or the glass of wine on a white carpet, and then other times, it just happens with a sudden plop. Either way, it’s a mess. So, warm wine it is.

This one completely baffles me for a variety of reasons. Take the drawer under the oven, you know, the one where you store the pans and lids? Apparently, that is a warming drawer for keeping that green bean casserole warm while waiting for the main dish to finish baking. Now, I don’t know about your drawer, but mine seems to attract crumbs and dust, and other unsavory particles from the cooking, um, environment. How does a person keep those tidbits out of the drawer? I’d also rather not store any food I’m about to eat on the same level as my feet and dust bunnies, thank you very much. Also, perhaps a more relevant question, where in the hell do you keep all those pans and lids if not in that bottom drawer? Who has that kind of cabinet space?

Chinese take-out boxes are meant to be unfolded and used as a plate. I’ve seen countless actors and actresses on screen dig their forks and chopsticks into those boxes. Never once have I seen them unfold it and eat their dinner like a civilized person. I’m going to blame Hollywood for my ignorance there.

Speaking of messy foods, this next one is perhaps my favorite. I would argue there is no wrong way to eat a cupcake, but there is a way to avoid the icing mustache. This technique also lets you avoid the disappointment of being left with the not-as-exciting-and-delicious layer of un-frosted cake. Peel the paper, slice the cupcake halfway up from the bottom, take that bottom layer, flip it over on top of the icing, and press down. Voila, a cupcake sandwich!

You can go down your own rabbit hole of videos and articles on how wrong you’ve been doing things all your life. Of course, there are the classics like which way to set up the toilet paper roll and how to properly hang a shirt (apparently that little loop of fabric on the back is there for a reason), but I recently learned that I haven’t even been eating potato chips correctly! And with as much practice as I get, this revelation came as a surprise.

I try not to put too much stock into being told how wrong I am all the time by folks I don’t even know. I mean, hell, I get that enough from people I do know.  Seriously though, who needs the stress? I like to think I’ve lived a reasonably successful life. I mean, I get up in the morning and manage to make it through each day relatively well and sane despite eating squished bananas and drinking warm wine.

But, I do love the idea of cupcake sandwiches.

F___ this Sh__

So, the past couple of weeks have been tough. I lost my heart dog and I miss that sweet little face every damn day. Now, I’m in the process of moving. Yay, me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so they say. But what does that even mean?  As you know, my mind tends to wander off the rails quite often, so I’ve been thinking about these turns of phrase people often use. There’s a catchphrase for practically every situation.

Whoever said, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was obviously never in a crappy relationship. Or the victim of bullying. Or, you know, ever had a job dealing with people. Guess what? Words can and do hurt. Yet we throw this phrase around like it’s the North Star guiding us to a better place.

People employ phrases, aphorisms, idioms, metaphors, and clichés like they’re a dime a dozen. (See what I did there?) Seriously, these recurring collections of words are too often used as substitutes for real, honest, valuable conversation. I’m not even sure people understand what they are saying when using some of them.

Can’t see the forest for the trees. Two in the hand is worth one in the bush. He’s a fool who cannot conceal his wisdom. Don’t count your eggs before they hatch. By the time you puzzle your way through some of these, the topic of conversation has moved on, with some people none the wiser.

If the shoe fits, wear it. Just because it fits doesn’t mean I should put it on or that I even want to. Have you seen some of the heels out there? Whether they fit or not, I’d undoubtedly break an ankle. Then we’re back to sticks and stones… and now heels.

The best is yet to come. Really? ’Cause, it certainly feels like the older I get, the more tired and run down my body grows, the less “best” I feel. Not sure I’m turning that one around. I’d prefer to go back to childhood when I didn’t have bills and my mother chose my clothes and I didn’t have to decide what to make for dinner every freakin’ day.

And now we’re back to “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  This right here. This is the phrase that people love to spout at the worst times, when you are feeling so down in the dumps that one more stupid aphorism or euphemism or whatever literary label you put on it can’t hurt. Can it? (Refer back to sticks and stones, if you really want to know).

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Does it, though?

I experienced a devastating loss last week. I had to have my dog euthanized due to ongoing health issues. He was my heart dog, and my heart is broken. I miss his funny little face and soulful brown eyes more than any words, however witty, could express. My other dog is now sick with a collapsed trachea, which is getting worse, and I’m unsure what the future holds. I never was a fan of being kicked while I’m down.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m moving. That would be because my landlord is selling the condo. Finding a place in the age of a pandemic is challenging, to say the least. Not to mention that landlords and management companies have jacked all the prices up by HUNDREDS of dollars. The renting world is not what it was a year ago, that’s for sure.

Crap at work just keeps getting deeper. The powers that be keep piling on and piling on because hey, why not KEEP the salary of the two people we laid off a year ago but GIVE the work to someone else, namely me, and then keep adding to that the entire year and going forward. My boss has fantastic ideas on how to grow the business and wants me involved. Oh, that’s great, you might say. You’re a marketing whiz, you might proclaim. Yet, this translates to me continually starting new projects while maintaining my already overwhelming workload. Its. Exhausting.

I’ve just recently started putting serious effort into writing a book based on summers in WV and old family stories (à la Erma Bombeck in style). You’ve read some previews here in this very blog. The problem is that I’m too tired and too broke to give it the proper attention because I’m too busy making someone else rich.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But does it? Does it really? Or is it more like whatever doesn’t kill you gives you anxiety-ridden dysfunctional coping mechanisms? You won’t be dead, and the PTSD is a hoot!

Michael Brady, a University of Glasgow Philosophy professor, claims that Nietzsche meant to suggest that one should take suffering as an opportunity to build strength. But you know what? I’m good. I’m okay with my weaknesses. If not having to grow stronger means I can have my dogs here with me, alive and healthy, I’ll take it. I’d prefer to move where I damn well want, and have more time off work, or at least be paid well for the time and effort I’m putting in. I’d like to be writing more without fear, and I’d certainly like to stop spending so much time making someone else rich.

I don’t need to be stronger. Where’s the aphorism for that? The one I keep coming up with is an unappealing metaphor and 2/3 curse words. One guess as to what it is.

A Heart Broken

My heart is broken. Rufus the Invincible is gone. And the irony has not escaped me that the one little soul that would succeed in bringing a smile to my face in this time of indescribable sadness, is the one little soul that has caused me such anguish in its passing.  No amount of love or strength of resolve could fight Father Time or worsening health issues.  If only it were that easy.

Rufus

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Escaping the Carousel of Life

There is a reason that as we get older, we like carousels seemingly less and less. This kid-like wonder we had at the round-about motion has dissipated, and if we’re honest, we’re more likely to throw up than we are to have a good time.

But why is that?

Obviously, I’m not talking about just a carousel. I’m talking about the repetitive wheel of doing the same thing every day, over and over. It’s just as nauseating, but unfortunately many of us don’t have the option of just getting off the ride.

What got me thinking of this, you may wonder. Well, I was given this artwork for a writing prompt, and all I found myself thinking about was how everyone is really looking for the same thing: happiness.

How beautiful is this idea? Creatures who were trapped, literally chained down, breaking away from the life they were stuck in.

I wonder how many days they spent on that ride, going around and around. Seeing the same things every day, unable to change. I wonder how many people they served, blissfully unaware that their lives could mean more. And I wonder at what point did they decide enough was enough.

It isn’t easy to break away—to leave a job, a home, or a relationship. Whether it’s a mind-numbing and stressful job or an abusive relationship, some things in life can strip away what really makes you you—what you love about life. So even though breaking free is hard, sometimes it’s essential.

And once you do break away, you might even feel lost. The world becomes new, open to all kinds of possibilities. Like a wild carousel horse, you get to decide what direction to go in. At first, it might just be away. It can be scary, but that’s what real freedom is like. The catch though… I mean, there’s always a catch, amirite? The catch is that jumping off the carousel and riding into your own future isn’t as easy as it might seem because … money.

Some people say that money can’t buy happiness, but I’m on Ariana’s side: “Whoever said money can’t solve your problems / Must not have had enough money to solve ’em.

If you don’t have money, it’s really hard to better your life by breaking free. I don’t mean to be depressing, but it’s true. Think about someone who’s stuck living somewhere that’s less than ideal—with toxic family members or an emotionally unavailable partner. If you can’t afford to move, well, then, you can’t. Want to leave that soul-sucking job? Without another one lined up or a bank account full of money, you’re trapped.

Winning the lottery or hell, even landing the right job can be life-changing. Trust me. Breaking free is a choice, but money can change what options you have to choose between.

I want to move out to the West Coast, I have for a long time. With the past four years, abroad has been a very tempting idea. But up and moving across the country isn’t cheap. And when there are pets and kids in the picture, breaking free and moving is even harder, especially when it’s tough just getting through from payday to payday.  But I’m sure those carousel horses didn’t find it easy to break free, either.

This picture reminds me that no matter how impossible it may seem, you can always jump off the carousel and break the cycle. If you’re like me, it may take a looooot more plotting, but I have to believe that it’s achievable, because I refuse to believe that we belong on an endless ride to nowhere.

Stupid Games. Stupid Prizes.

This post was originally written way back in 2014.  I thought it was worth revisiting. Not because the show in question was re-aired recently but because in a general conversation I was having with someone this week, they mentioned that they’d like to travel to another country and they gave the exact same answer mocked in this very postBefore you roll your eyes at me and make excuses for them, you should know they live in the United States just like me. I weep for the future as we descend ever deeper into the plot of “Idiocracy.”  

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Family Feud, Where Facts Need Not Apply…

Sometimes the best way to win a game isn’t by swinging for the fences every time. Occasionally getting an answer “wrong” turns out to be the best way to the top of the leader board. It’s called strategy. Having trouble thinking of the kind of game that would reward not getting “correct” answers? I have one for you that my daughter and I would absolutely demolish if we ever got picked to participate.

Family Feud.

Not only are our minds deep, vast reservoirs of completely useless information, but we also understand how stupid the human population can really be. That’s really the key point that would give us an edge on the show we love to binge-watch. You see, Family Feud is not based on correct answers, it’s based on what other people think are correct answers.

If you’ve ever watched TV since the 1970s you’ve probably caught a show or two and know how it’s played. But just in case, here are the rules: 100 people are surveyed on pointless questions (If your house caught on fire what would be the one thing you’d save? What are the most relaxing things to do on vacation? When you get on a plane what is one of the first things you do? On a scale of 1 to 10 how pretty do you think you are without makeup?) On one episode I saw, five (yes, five) of the 100 people answered a question thinking Hawaii was a separate country. The question was this: Name an exotic country?

Now it bears repeating… five people (presumably Americans) out of 100 thought Hawaii was a country.

So you see how my daughter and I might etch out some wins. To succeed at Family Feud, you can’t simply give answers that make sense, because as it turns out, not all of them will. What you want to do is give answers based on what you think 100 people off the street might say. Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, just that someone said it. For instance, name an exotic country. Answer: Hawaii. Yeah, we know that’s not true, but according to the survey that doesn’t matter. A wrong answer can garner you $20,000 and a brand new car.

And this is our strategy for winning. Don’t presume that everyone roaming around out there isn’t grossly misinformed about the world they’re living in. Sad, but profitable.

Petty is as Petty Does

If I’ve heard it from one teacher, I’ve heard it from 1,000 “Wendy, you’re an underachiever!”  Or “You have so much potential, what is wrong with you!?”  Well. Those teachers would be eating crow today. For today, I achieved a feat almost unheard of in modern times. Are you ready?

I got kicked out of a Murdoch Mysteries discussion group on Facebook this morning. I know, I know, don’t all of you applaud at once… my ears, they’re aching! I don’t blame you for being awe-inspired though, it’s an impressive achievement, if I do say so myself.

Murdoch Mysteries is a show set in late 1890s to early 1900s Toronto. It’s a terrific show, I highly recommend it. My erstwhile Facebook discussion group, not so much.

I’ve always thought that Facebook was full of cliques if not clichés and there is nowhere that this more evident than in Facebook groups, regardless of the topic.

While boasting a large-ish following – and despite a name that implies participation (Murdoch Mysteries Discussion Group), this particular group allows just a small band of people – admins and presumably the admin’s friends – to post or otherwise participate in the commentary. Others are routinely muted or the post deemed off-topic or conversations simply disappear. I get that some group admins can feel an overwhelming sense of power given their seemingly complete control over their realm and its citizens. They smite members and create arbitrary rules on a whim. And yes, I also understand that it’s “their group, their rules.” I suppose I just assumed that a discussion group would have some form of … discussion.

Today, someone who is tight with the admins was bashing the members, as a whole, for constantly asking “when will the show be available in my area!?” A question that they can “basically google themselves if they weren’t so freakin’ lazy.”  It’s an annoying question, I’ll give them that. But bashing members is “against the rules” and besides, it was a stupid, self-serving post. There. I said it.  Anyone else, and it would’ve been gone almost before it hit the interwebs.

My comment of “How does a post like this help to further the discussion of Murdoch Mysteries?” was deemed, you guessed it, bashing a member.  Hence my ouster. It was really kind of funny, actually. The OP (original poster) immediately – but immediately – tagged her friend, the admin, and well, there you go. Tattling, adult-style.

Now, my feelings aren’t particularly hurt due to my ejection from the group. It’s not the first door to hit me in my… well, you know what, and it won’t be the last. Although, I assumed it would be over something a bit more dramatic and worthwhile. I disappointed myself in that regard.

 But it does leave me with one burning question:  Does high school ever end?