Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Current Rotation

I haven’t done a music post for a while.  As I wrote in a previous post, Spotify has changed my life.  That is not an exaggeration.  For someone whose sanity relies on the existence of music as much as mine does, Spotify is a Godsend.  Most of my friends whose musical taste I actually trust live far away now, and since I don’t generally get to talk to them all that often, I don’t get the music recommendations that I used to.  I don’t know anyone in this town whose taste I would trust.  Spotify has brought me home from the wilderness.

“Speedom” by Tech N9ne.  I have loved Tech N9ne since I first heard him back at Mizzou in 2002.  He’s kind of blowing up now, almost 15 years later, but he was a badass back then.  His rhymes are sick.  This is the song that made me think Eminem might still have it.  It’s going to be my new running song when the treadmill gets here.

“Graves” by Whiskey Shivers.  I’ve had a few murderous urges over the last few months.  This song has such a wonderfully spooky, threatening tone to it.  It’s almost theatrical and sounds like it could come at the end of a TV episode where you know the next installment is going to include a violent demise.  The climax of the song almost sounds like a hurly-burly of impending doom.  Love it.

“Long Way Home” by Tom Waits.  How can you not love that gravel-in-the-furnace voice he has?  This song makes me think of summers up at camp, for whatever reason.  Maybe it’s the “go out past the party lights” bit.  Makes me think of holding hands with a guy you just met at the camp social and thinking he might be your soul mate.  Not that I’d know anything about that.

 

 

“Cramm” by Three Trapped Tigers.  Another stellar recommendation from the desk of Dave Munson.  Dave can nearly always be counted on to point me towards something new and interesting.  This band incorporates a lot of elements into its music: metal, dark wave, electronica… Their drummer is really talented.  That’s the one thing that has stuck out the most to me.

“Work Song” by Hozier.  I just adore this song.  It’s so sweet and sexy.  Looking back up the list, I’m noticing that I seem to be going for stripped-down songs with deep, gravely voices doing the singing.  Hmm.  Whatever.  This song rocks.

“Windshield” by Greensky Bluegrass.   I’m also very into bluegrass-folk stuff at this particular juncture.  It’s been going on for a few years, and I’m solidly in the throes of it right now.  I guess it’s not that surprising that I’m also going for the darker-sounding stuff right now.  The banjo is what brightens up the sound of this song a bit, but it doesn’t give it that hokey sound that bluegrass often falls victim to.  (I like the hokey sound sometimes, in case you were curious.)

“Trap Queen” by Alyssa Poppin/not Tech N9ne.  Okay, I admit it: I freaking love that stupid song.  What could be trashier than a trap queen?  Nothing.  What is better than this stupid song + fingerpicking?  Nothing.  God, I love it.

“Blood and Wine” by Dustin Kensrue.  Now that I’ve tasted blood, this wine seems too thin.  Truer words.

“Emmylou” by First Aid Kit.  First of all, I love Emmylou Harris.  And June Carter.  And their guys.  Isn’t that all anyone wants?  To find someone who’ll be the Johnny Cash to their June Carter?  And who doesn’t mind if sometimes their voice doesn’t quite hit the note right?

“That Was a Crazy Game of Poker” by O.A.R.  I feel like I owe these guys a personal apology, on one level, for not loving them sooner, and part of me still feels guilty for liking them at all.  I have a bunch of old friends who liked them back in the day, and I wrote them off as a jam band for douchebag frat boys.  And they might be.  I’m actually not sure what crowd they attract these days.

It would be fair to say that these guys are getting me through the whole divorce thing.  They’re the right mix of “Let’s be happy and move it along” and “This blows, let’s be sad.”  And also drunken nights of stupid.  I enjoy those muchly.

I would actually really like to see them live.  Having listened to the studio and live recordings, I’m pretty sure they fall safely into that coveted “Way better live!” category.  That doesn’t happen too much anymore with bands, so I’m willing to buck a crowd of drunken frat boys to see them.

Also, don’t judge me, Marc Roberge’s voice is le sexe.  Live.  Not studio.  God.  … I think I have a thing for whiskey voice.

Anyway.  This song is excellent.  I have listened to this version often enough in the car lately that my three-year-old knows the chorus and will totally humor me on the “I say ‘Of,’ you say ‘A'” part.  It’s hilarious.  She gets a kick out of it.

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A Christmas Medley

I hope this helter skelter little post finds everyone in good spirits after Christmas.  I’m not a huge lover of Christmas, although there are elements that I enjoy.  The lights.  Clark W. Griswold, Jr.  My cousin’s peanut butter blossoms.  Christmas trees.

I did not put the tree up this year, however.  With two kids who will literally put anything in their mouths, the tree just seemed like a bad idea.  Also the living room is pathetically small and packed full of toys, and given those two conditions, I just decided that this year was going to have to be a miss.  I’m debating putting it up in the basement family room next year, even though we don’t use it anymore.

I did every last bit of my shopping online this year.  I hate crowds, and the Black Friday ads just weren’t that stupendous this year.  The deals have to be damn good to motivate me out into the throngs of pushy shoppers.  I frankly don’t know why anyone bothers to go out when you can lie in bed in your pajamas with a cup of whatever you like to drink and move the mouse to make your purchases.  Seriously.  Why go out?  It saves you the headache of standing in long lines, fighting with crazy people for TVs, toys, and home improvement items, and getting your car dented by the aforementioned crazies who inhabit the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Anyway, we had Christmas Eve at my cousin’s, as we usually do now.  We “cut back” on the food this year, although I’m not sure how because the entire kitchen was packed with food, and we all ate until we were ready to be sick.  Oh, she makes the best peanut butter blossoms.  I usually just park between my crockpot of buffalo chicken dip and those cookies and double fist all night.  I will also give my wholehearted endorsement to fried pickles this year.  I hate pickles, so this confirms my suspicion that everything tastes good if you fry it.  God bless America!

I’ve had some very fine Christmases over the years, but one in particular sticks out in my mind, from back when another cousin and her family still lived here in town.  They moved to the East Coast a few years ago.  When they started having more struggles in their immediate family, they grew apart from the rest of us, and now the relationship has degenerated to point where I expect that reconciliation will not happen.  It’s not that we don’t want it to, but a lot of things will have to change for it to happen, and I don’t see that change happening, at least in the near term.

But I remember a time when we were all still close, when those relationships were strong and we meant the world to each other.  I was 18 years old and a freshman at Mizzou, and I was happy to help when my cousin hissed in my ear as she and her husband packed up their three girls to head home, “Do you want to come over and help me wrap stuff for the girls?  I haven’t even started!”

I didn’t hesitate at all.  Getting stuff ready for the kids is the best part of Christmas.  Some people don’t believe in lying to their kids about Santa, but I find it a worthwhile exercise for children.  At whatever age they realize that they have been lied to about the existence of a physical Santa Claus, they have learned a valuable lesson about their parents specifically and authority figures in general: they lie.  But no less seriously, children have the ability to believe in true magic in a way that the vast majority of adults do not.  Why take that away?  They have their whole lives to play by reality’s rules.

So after riding home with the grandparents and picking up my faithful old Boris, God rest him, I headed over to my cousin’s house.  I found the kids were asleep and she was making popcorn and hot cocoa.  Her husband and one of her brothers were at Wal-Mart to search out some last-minute items.  The rest of us were left to pass a dutch around in the basement while we furiously wrapped gifts.

I have no idea what we laughed about that night, but we had a lot of fun taping and bedazzling boxes.  I do remember an inflatable pink chair bought for their eldest daughter.  We all tried and tried to get that damn thing blown up.  Two of the boys nearly passed out trying to get that thing to look like a chair before we gave up and got the bike pump.  Trust me when I say that it was hilarious watching two guys, six seven respectively and with lungs like a blacksmith’s billows, nearly pass out from trying to blow up a pink inflatable chair.  Silly, yes, but we had fun playing stoned Santa, and it was the stuff of great holiday memories.

Of course, there are some less-great but still hilarious holiday memories in the album, too.  When I was a freshman in high school, Grandma decided that we were going to have a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.  She entertained the idea of renting a horse-drawn sleigh.  I mean, she went balls-out.  The thing about my grandma was that she had a one-track mind, and she got nervous about big events like that, she she’d stew and dwell on it beyond all sense.  Sometimes it resulted in over thinking.

Well, everyone in the family showed up.  Grandma had reserved a block of hotel rooms for all the cousins.  But lucky me, I got to stay at home with the grandparents while everyone else partied at the hotel.  Or that was how I felt at the time.  In retrospect, I was the lucky one.

See, the thing about the Howe kids, if I’ve never mentioned it before, is that when we get together, shit happens.  It’s not a maybe, it’s a given.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, copious amounts of booze are involved.  Sometimes people get naked, sometimes they get chased from the bar by bikers, but I guarantee that something is going to do down.  Most of the time it’s fun, but occasionally it results in hard feelings the next day.  Or, you know, for years to come.

Well, I guess the of-age (and those in the zone) went out to the bars on Christmas Eve.  And in true Howe form, I guess they all got just shit-faced.  And chased by bikers…?  I’m fuzzy on the details, since I was 14 and locked in my room at 1835.  Whatever the case, people got into the booze, something happened at the bar, and everyone went back to the hotel.  I guess one of the older cousins started rough-housing with one of my younger cousins, which frankly wouldn’t have been okay because the younger one would’ve been in maybe 7th grade versus a thirty-something dude.  Hard feelings ensued.  Still not sure exactly what happened.

Fast forward to Christmas morning.  Everyone is hung over, and we have Christmas pictures and Grandpa’s birthday party in the afternoon.  Grandma, having never been drunk once in her life, has no idea (judging from appearances, anyway) that everyone was completely bombed last night and might still be drunk, in some cases.  So she decides to serve burgoo for lunch.

If you don’t know what burgoo is, it’s soup that’s unique to certain areas of the United States, including the Morgan county area of Illinois.  There’s an area of Kentucky that makes it, too.  Basically, it’s this stew that people cook in giant cauldrons overnight, stirring constantly.  In the old days, everything went in – vegetables, beef, chicken, ox tail, squirrel, squab… Everything.  Lots of places used to burgoo in the fall – Lynnville, Woodson, Arenzville (the big one), and several others, but these days only Arenzville is surviving, since the old timers that used to do it are mostly too far along in their years to stand outside all night and do it now.

When it was still the thing, my grandparents would pack up gallon buckets and hit every.  Single.  One.  They would line up at five in the morning to get that shit.  Grandma would freeze it and save it for when family came.  I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that there were three-year-old buckets of burgoo in our deep freezer and possibly some that were more aged still.  Age was never an issue for Grandma and Grandpa.  They would bust those things out, dump them in a mini-cauldron on the stove, melt it down, and serve it with crackers and gherkins.

I hate burgoo.

Anyway, that’s what Grandma served on that fateful Christmas afternoon.  I think everyone just about barfed at the sight of it.  I was always that way, but I can only imagine that an acidic, Jack-induced hangover would only intensify those feelings.  So we had lunch and pictures.  The guy arrived and started arranging us in three rows in the living room, tallest in the back.  It took forever, and everyone was cranky and uncomfortable.

At the time, my cousin only had her oldest daughter.  Kid was a brat – and grew up to be a huge bitch, incidentally – who cried constantly.  I rarely say a kid is flat mean, but this girl was a bad egg from day one.  Whatever the case, she started screaming as soon as we moved into place, and she screamed the whole time.  I was sitting right next to her, and I hated kids.  People are still amazed that I have kids because I was so vocal about hating them for years.  (I still do hate other people’s kids.)  But anyway, we have now arrived at two conditions: red-hot radiator and screaming toddler.

And this dude is taking forever to take the damn pictures.  He’s trying to happy my cousin’s kid up, and there was no making it better with her.  He should’ve just snapped a few and called it a day.  Instead, he was taking his sweet time, apparently oblivious to the fact that everyone was getting pissed off, hot, and in at least one case, sicker by the minute.

One of my uncles – the only one wearing a suit, the one who likes to make a good impression – starts saying some crap about taking the baby out of the picture “for the good of the team.”  What?  It’s a picture, not the Rose Bowl.  Of course, that pisses off my other uncle since it’s his grandkid.  Incidentally, suit uncle’s son is the one that made trouble with the seventh grader the night before, and the seventh grader happens to be grandpa uncle’s son.  Tensions are rising.

Then, out of nowhere, the back row just starts running down the hall like a stampede of elephants.

“Clear out!  Clear out!”

I turn around to see suit uncle’s son fainting across the back of the couch while simultaneously puking on Grandpa’s head.

Yes, this really happened.  Sometimes I still don’t believe it, even though I saw the whole thing – practically in slow motion, it seems.

Suit uncle grabs his drunk son about half a second before he hits the floor completely.

“He’s fine, he’s fine!  It’s the heat back in this corner!”

Grandpa uncle snarls, “It’s not the heat, it’s the hangover!”

“He’s not hung over!”

And there sits my dear old grandfather, completely oblivious and covered in barf.

One of my aunts runs to get a towel and get him cleaned up. The photographer is gaping at us like, “What the fuck are these crackheads smoking?!  Get me the hell outta here!”  He packed up his equipment and practically ran out the door.

As we’re toweling off Grandpa, he says to my cousin Julie, “Go get that passenger pigeon out of the hutch.  I want you all to see it.  It’s one of only two in the world.  The other is in the Smithsonian.”

What?!  Is Grandpa completely oblivious to the carnage around him?  Does he just not give a fuck?  Does he not give a fuck and want to make the day weirder and more surreal?  Julie obediently goes and gets the pigeon from the case.

In case you were curious, it was not a two-of-a-kind thing.  Stuffed passenger pigeons are somewhat rare but not completely unheard-of.  He bought the thing in an estate auction years before.  The Illinois government tried to get him to turn loose of it for free, so it could be in the natural history museum or something.  I don’t have to tell you how my grandpa felt about the government and giving things away for free because I did not get this way by coincidence.  The thing sold to, oddly enough, their neighbor at their estate auction.  He loves it, just like Grandpa loved it.  The thing met its end in 1897 or some such and had mold on its wing.  It was hideous beyond belief, rather proving that no matter how unattractive you are, there is someone out there who will appreciate your charms.  Whatever they are.

The Howe family Christmas picture was also hideous beyond belief.  I mean, it’s bad.  There’s Dan back there, looking like he’s posing for a football picture.  There’s me down in front, looking like a fat dyke with Anna Wintour’s bob.  There’s Grandpa – about to get barfed on.  And there’s Lily, a digital demon face superimposed over her screaming one.  Okay, it’s not a demon face – it’s a face from a good picture Photoshopped over the actual face from the picture. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

Grandma bought us all big prints of those family portraits, apparently choosing to ignore how big a shitshow it was.  She had that horrible thing hanging in her bedroom for years.  I don’t know if she actually liked it (improbable but possible) or if she hung it as a monument to the failure of that family reunion and as a constant reminder that, as a family, we really are an awful lot to deal with under one roof.

When we were cleaning out their house after they both passed away, there was an extra copy of that picture in a big frame sitting in a corner of Grandpa’s room.  We all hissed and drew back from it like vampires who had been drenched in holy water.

Not a single member of our family has that thing hanging up.  Mine is shoved in a back corner of the raw storage.  And every time I see it, I laugh and then shrink back and start hissing.

When we saw the picture at the house, my aunt said something like, “I almost can’t look at that thing.  It’s still too soon.”  It’s been 15 years.

So Grandma’s perfect, fun, old-fashioned family Christmas was neither perfect nor fun, but it is good for a laugh and stands as a tribute to the debacles that can ensue when you get too attached to the idea of how a thing should look rather than accepting, to some degree, how it actually looks.

Some families can probably get together and take a perfect portrait.  Some families can probably go out to the bar and not have the night end with a breaking and entering, running from the police, or getting involved in some kind of fight or weird sexual encounter in a public or semi-public place.  The Howes are not those perfect people.  To loosely quote Dr. Dan – the Ph.D. of chemical engineering whom the bars call when they run out of beer because his barn-housed brewing operation is so exemplary – the Howes are really just a bunch of scumbags who hide it better than your average delinquent.  I might have disagreed with him somewhat at the time, but you know… Yeah.  Scumbags.  The lot of us.  Not Grandma.  Grandma had class.

I miss those fancy, sit-down Christmases.  Grandma knew how to do it.  Even if it didn’t always go exactly the way she wanted it to, most years it went pretty well.

This year, Christmas was pretty low-key.  We spent Christmas Day with my aunt and uncle or, as the girls know them, Grandma and Grandpa.  They opened presents, and we sat around and talked about dead relatives whom we loved and who also did hilarious things.  We seem to be related to a lot of “characters.”  I hope when I’m a pile of ashes scattered in Lake Tomahawk, someone remembers me as having been a character.  Them’s the best.

Of course, my aunt also managed to make it known again that she thinks I need to be set up with their neighbor, Leonard.  Leonard is an old bachelor.  I think Leonard is an engineer.  Leonard has a dragon weathervane that is coming loose from the roof.  Leonard smokes a pipe.  Leonard reminds me vaguely of George R. R. Martin.  George is my aunt and uncle’s age.

“Oh, but he’d be so good to you and the girls!”

My uncle just looked at her and said, “The man is too lazy to regularly mow his yard.  On a riding mower.”  I like how that was the main issue he noticed with her proposition.

So I guess my aunt thinks I can’t do any better than an old man with a cockeyed dragon and an ill-kempt yard.  She “saved it” by adding, “Oh, Ike says you won’t have any trouble finding someone.  There are plenty of smart, nice guys around.  You just need a nice guy.”

I blinked and said, “Number one, there’s more to it than being nice.”

There’s having a decent personality, which includes but is not limited to being nice, having a decent sense of humor, honesty, and a reasonable sense of adventure and enjoyment in living.  There’s current wealth and future earnings potential based on ability to hold a decent job because not making that mistake again.  There’s also being reasonably attractive based on my own, completely subjective definition of what attractive is, enjoyment of music, and sexual compatibility.  Oh, and please be good with kids and not a child molester.  

“And number two, come on!  He’s like, sixty!  Forty-five is my limit!  That’s like Bobbie Jo’s daughter and her wife.”

“Would you be interested in that?  Dating a woman?”

“I’m thirty-one.  I think I’d know by now if I were into chicks.  Also, Christ no!  Women want to talk about feelings.  I hate feelings.  And weird diets.  Lesbians are always vegan or macrobiotic, and they want to cook all the time.  I hate veganism on principle, and I hate cooking.  No, women need not apply.”

Okay, I was just asking!”

God, woman.  I went down on some guy behind the pine trees at your Fourth of July party one year after a few too many shots of Jim Beam.  (Remember the remark about the Howes being scumbags?  We’re also big, big sluts when given half a chance and some alcohol.  Or just half a chance.)  What about me screams “I love pussy!”?  I get the older man thing, but Jesus.  No one drawing Social Security, and no women.

So that’s Christmas 2015.  May I set you up with an old man?   No?  Women’s Studies professor?  No?  God, Margaret, what do you want?  A miracle?  Yes, a Christmas miracle.  That elusive creature, a decent straight guy with a reasonable IQ and a bank account.  Actually, that wasn’t even what I wanted for Christmas, but I didn’t get what I really wanted (and thought I was actually going to get) either, and I’m still not officially divorced so yay, didn’t get either of the two things on my wish list.  Oh well.  Win some, lose some.

Christmas is a tough time for some people.  They’ve lost family, and they feel sad.  Maybe they’re far away from family and don’t have the time to travel home and so end up spending it alone or with a group of friends.  I’ve been in just about every situation imaginable at Christmas, and while this may not have been the most memorable Christmas on record, it certainly wasn’t a bad one.

Hopefully by next year, I’ll at least have the divorce crossed off the list.  I have no great expectation that my aunt will have fulfilled her apparent wish to set me up with a “nice man.”  I feel like Bridget Jones writing that.  Mum will try and set me up with some prematurely middle-aged bore at the annual turkey curry buffet.  Yup.  Sounds about right. Including the part where Mark Darcy turns to his mum and says, “I’m not interested in some verbally incontinent spinster who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, and dresses like her mother.”  God, I love the holidays!

The End.

God, I have had a shitty day.  A few days are great, most are mediocre, and some are just craptacular.  Today would be the latter most of the three.  I’m only sad that it’s just 17:20 as I sit down to write this because I really wish it were 00:01 tomorrow so that it wouldn’t be today anymore.

No, the roof didn’t blow off, the kids didn’t barf all over the house, and nobody died.  Or at least, nobody died.  Maybe something else did.

The kids have visitation with their dad on Sundays, when everything works out like it’s supposed to.  The success rate has been mixed on this, and it was late today, but at least they got to see each other.  I’m not in the business of begrudging the kids a visit with their dad.  It’s good that he wants to see them.

The problem has been that most of the time, he wants to see me too, and it just sucks.  He always wants to talk about us, and I keep trying to hit it home that there is no us anymore.  I haven’t wanted to talk about it – not the whole thing, not all the gory details, and the why and the why not, and the “I hate you,” and the “Why couldn’t you have said that before it was too late?”  Because there are a lot of things that we both should have said four, five, seven years ago.

There are also a lot of things that we shouldn’t have ignored about each other.  Maybe it was youth that made us do it.  Or love.  But he had some serious shortcomings and, to be honest, so did I.  Those shortcomings still exist for both of us.

In my case, there is one that I’m trying to be better about.  I’m a “yes” person.  I bet you wouldn’t believe it to hear me write, but I like to be liked.  I prefer harmony, and I don’t like to get crossways with people, if I can avoid it – especially people I genuinely care about.  Frankly, I have been anti-confrontational to the point that it’s detrimental to just about every area of my life.

I’ve never been able to figure out why I’m like that.  Maybe it’s just my personality.  Maybe it’s a moderate personal weakness with a heavy dusting of women being encouraged to go along to get along.  Maybe my grandma pounded the value of familial peace into my head so hard that I don’t know how to handle conflict.  Maybe I’m just immature.  I honestly don’t know the answer, but I think it’s largely a personality flaw.  Regardless of the why, I am the person who will ignore some glaring problems in favor of keeping the peace.  I boil silently and then eventually explode.

I guess that’s why I exploded and it ended in divorce.

I tell people what they want to hear, and it ends badly.  It would be better to just tell them the cold, hard truth and save everyone the heartache.  Kind of like the truth was that he really, really loved me, and I knew that he wasn’t “the one,” but I gave in when we were on the verge of splitting up to give it one more shot.  I told him then that I knew it was going to end, and he pushed, and I gave in.  Story of our entire relationship.

He says I’m selfish, and he’s right.  I am selfish.  I’m not sure if I ever presented myself differently.  Maybe I did.  Maybe the “go along to get along” bit masks it a little.  I think I can be generous.  I’m sure I can, actually, but I’m also sure that my default setting is self-absorbed.  That’s probably why I’m writing about myself.

He wanted everything to be about the nuclear family: the two of us and the kids.  He didn’t care about having friends or even really the extended family.  He never cared about having people over, and he was always kind of half-awkward in social settings.  You couldn’t take him to the bar – which I do enjoy on occasion – because get half a beer in him and he turns into an English football fan – totally nuts.

He never wanted to get out and get a fucking job.  In Korea, the land of easy money (in my opinion), he was the dude that had trouble holding a job.  He came back here and stayed home with the kids, which was fine while we were doing the green card stuff, but once that was over, he never made much of an attempt to get full-time work.  And as I’ve said before, work is important to me, and I like nice things and enjoy having money.  We were perpetually broke from living off of one income.  I kept telling him that he needed to get a job, but he never wanted to work on his resume or any of that stuff.  He wanted me to write his resume for him.  Seriously?  You’re grown.  Do it yourself.  I’ll proofread it.

And we never had fun.  That sounds sad, and it was, but we never did anything.  I like to travel.  I like concerts and festivals and pumpkin patches.  I like to stay out all night, on the off-chance I get to leave the house.  We never went on a honeymoon, and he didn’t really like to travel.  He thought “Now I’m a Believer” was a ballad for the ages, and I just… I still can’t get over that.  One of my best friends said to me once that she couldn’t believe we got married because she couldn’t envision me married to someone who didn’t love music as much or more than me.  You know, neither can I.  I need someone who thinks airports are a weird thrill and when I say “Of,” he says, “A…”  Fuck the Monkees.

But when you sit down “together” and unload nearly eight years’ worth of baggage laden with toxic waste and poorly made manure bombs, it just doesn’t make for a great day.  It makes for a day that exacerbates preexisting headaches and ends with both of you feeling like you’re horrible, shitty, messed up people with no regard for other members of humanity.

And then you say that you’re sorry and you cry a lot and at the end of it all, he says that he still loves you and wants to reconcile, and you say it will never happen.  Apparently I have to stay with him if I want child support.  Because your responsibility to your kids ends with your marriage, as long as you aren’t the one who filed, right?  I don’t get that logic at all, but to hear him tell it, everyone in England feels that way.  Maybe they even do.

But the worst part of the whole thing was when, towards the end of the conversation, it was like a stepping back.  It was almost palpable.  It was that moment when, if you were still together, you’d call it day.  You’d make up.  You’d say sorry.  You’d go crawl into bed together and make it better.

That moment doesn’t happen when you get divorced, at least if you’re us.  Instead, there’s a moment when you can physically feel the universe declaring it over, and you know that you’re never going to talk like this again.  You might as well be looking at a stranger.  And this time, when you say that you aren’t going to talk about yourselves or the divorce next week, you mean it.  There’s nothing left to discuss, and whatever feelings you have about it, you aren’t going to share again.  You unpacked your bags, and you unpacked in different rooms.  On different continents.

And that’s okay.

Well.  Not okay.  It fucking sucks.  But it will be.  It will be okay.  Maybe not tomorrow and maybe not next month, but it will be okay.

I told him I’d get the discovery papers finished up tonight (which I have), and he said that he’d get whatever came to him done ASAP so that we could get a court date and get a decree.  For maybe the last time, we’re in agreement on something that we need to do together.  It might be the last thing we ever do together.  And that’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s going to be okay.  Right?  It’ll be fine.  It’ll be better tomorrow.  Right?  …  Right?

Pandora’s (Ugly) Box

I love hatin’ on stuff.  Yeah, that probably makes me negative, but I prefer to think of it as giving my unsolicited yet important opinion on other people’s choices and behaviors.  Mostly, I don’t get other people.  That doesn’t make them bad or stupid.  Their choices might be, but hey, we all make mistakes.  Some us have really bad taste in men, just to pick something randomly out of thin air.

I work in an office with mostly women and, in the words of the great Ron Swanson, that also includes the men (generally).  There are three guys in my building right now.  One doesn’t speak.  I have literally heard him say words once in two weeks.  He sits across the cube wall from me.  One of them is my team lead.  I think he fears me, and that’s just how I want it.  The other is a fellow guitar player and nerd, and we hate a lot of the same things.  And also we both love to poke the weird, squishy window clings that we all have on our cubes.  It’s just so damn satisfying.  He also knows about strings and amps and guitar models.  Thank God someone does.

When you spend 8+ hours of your day with people, and you do that five days a week, you get to know them pretty well.  You’ll also talk about more random shit than you ever dreamed possible.  It’s like having a decent-to-good first dateyou have lunch together, you talk about some crap or something, and hopefully you don’t hate sitting next to each other.  Except that it’s drawn out over the course of possibly years, and there’s probably no romance.  I mean, c’mon, the guy who used to sit across from me (went to work for another AIP) scratched constantly.  Constantly.  When a grown man will scratch in front of the bosses, he’s got issues – possibly crabs.  So actually, it’s probably more like a dysfunctional family reunion that happens daily…

Anyway, the point that I’m making is that I hear people talk about random shit all day.  I care about approximately 1-3% of it, but hey, you gotta fake it to make it on occasion.  Work goes better if you’re likable.  That said, I’m kind of bad at disguising it when I think things are just preposterous.  And man, I have a list a half-mile long of the ridiculous crap that people have discussed at work lately.

Pandora bracelet charms

I had no clue what these things were until I went to work at my current company.  Well, it’s a “jewelry” company, and it makes tacky bracelets and tacky charms to put on those bracelets.  For the low-low price of $50/charm, you too can buy yourself or your significant other totally unique pieces that only ten bajillion other middle class white women own.  For the guy who has no fucking clue what his wife or girlfriend likes, there is Pandora.

I hate them.

To me, Pandora looks like something someone would have given me when I was 16.  Or six.  I had a Tiffany bracelet when I was 16.  Because I have taste.  And yes, cunt, I know that the girls who wear silver Tiffany jewelry also fall into a particular category (Future Gold Diggers of America, anyone?), but at least they’re made of real silver…  The bracelets, not the women, although all of us I know who wore them thought that everything we did was dipped in precious metal…

I guess people like these Pandora bracelets because they’re easy to customize.  Well, you can get your initials engraved on your Tiffany’s bracelet, too.  That’s about as customized as I like to get.  I don’t like teddy bears or angels or weirdly shaped donuts with not-gemstones in them.  So juvenile…

I can honestly say that if I were dating a man who gave me one of those, I would end it on the spot.  Buy me an old LP from the record store.  Take me to a concert.  Hell yes, buy me Tiffany’s.  No Pandora.  Don’t waste hundreds of bucks (over time, usually) on cheap crap when you could’ve bought me one nice thing from Tiffany’s.  It ain’t rocket science or even complex economics.  Yeah, if I opened a box with this stuff in it, I’d probably say, “Jesus, it’s like you don’t know me at all!”

And these cheap-o charms bring me around to something else that eludes me…

Home parties

I’d say 15% of the women I know are hawking wares.  Thirty-One bags.  Origami Owl.  Norwex.  Young Living essential oils.  Scentsy.  That one that sells kitchen stuff.  Mary Kay.  Stella & Dot.  The list is unending.

It’s time for the full disclosure: I bought Norwex stuff.  My old boss sells it, and I use microfiber cloths to clean and condition my 12-string.  (Side note: I think my guitar might be named Pogue Mahone.  Not the greatest album ever, but it fits, and “Love You ‘Til the End” is one I’ve been working on learning.)  I don’t know that they’re any better quality, but they’re readily available, and the small ones aren’t terribly expensive.  And I aim to take care of my guitar because frankly, that thing is like a friend to me.  It’s probably my dearest non-inherited material possession.  Ironically, my ex gave it to me, and I maintain it was the one gift he ever got me that I really loved because it was the one thing he ever gave me that said that he knew me, on some level.

But back to the subject: home parties.  I don’t get it.  I’m sure some people probably make money on these pyramid schemes, but most of the time, it strikes me as a way to get gullible people to throw down a lot of money for an initial product supply that they may never sell.  Most of the time it’s cute stuff, but it’s stuff that you don’t need, and it’s not high quality or anything.  Thirty-One and Origami Owl come to mind first.

Origami Owl is like Pandora, but the charms are cheaper, and you put them in these strange like, dish things that are attached to chains… I don’t even know how to explain it.  It seems like they were popular two years ago when I first started my current job, but I haven’t seen anyone wearing them lately or having parties for them.  I also have like, two friends, and those friends are no longer into it.

I have to admit that I’m moderately annoyed by the gals (and it’s only women, sorry) who junk up my Facebook feed with news about their “trunk shows” or whatever for their home parties.  They sucker you into inviting them to your house, having a bunch of friends over, and trying to sell them this stuff.  As the hostess, you get discounts on whatever you buy.   I’m baffled by it.

Maybe this is where my vaguely antisocial tendencies show through, or maybe it’s just straight common sense, but I hate those things.  I have been to exactly one, and it’s because my actual friend was having it.  Our kids like to play together.  (Okay, my daughter literally boots her son from his chair, and he then dotes on her while she bosses him around.  Poor, sweet lil’ sucker – he’s doomed.)  It was the worst night ever because it ran longer than I expected and my kids just lost it around 7:00, which spelled doom for me.  Never forget, never again.

Elf on the Shelf

Everyone with kids has an elf on the shelf except me.  If you don’t know what it is, the elf on the shelf is this freaking elf (shock) that you buy to use as a way to get your kids to behave the entire month of December.  Parents move the things around after the kids go to bed, and the kids think that their elf is watching and doing silly things and reporting to Santa.  Cute idea, not something I care to do.

Everything now is “all about the kids.”  Here’s my argument: it doesn’t need to be.  I’m strongly in favor of letting kids be kids, but I’m also in favor of training them up to be functional members of society.  Making everything “all about them” doesn’t train them to be functional – it trains them to be self-absorbed, demanding creatures who think the universe revolves around them.  Life will generally prove to you, at some point, that it doesn’t.  Better to learn it early than be devastated at 25 when your employer tells you that nobody cares about your feelings and to buck up and do a better job.  Assuming that happens these days.

Is the elf on the shelf single-handedly responsible for the demise of a generation?  Hardly.  But to me it’s symptomatic of helicopter parenting, which I can’t stand.  It’s all about the kids, all the time.  There is nothing wrong with letting it be about you or the grandparents or your friends – someone else, anyway.

Christmas largely revolves around children anyway, and Christmas is a million times more fun when there are kids around.  I much prefer to give gifts than receive them, and watching kids open their Christmas loot is fun.  Putting it out is fun.  I love all that stuff.

But isn’t that enough?  Isn’t it enough that we shower them with presents and delicious Christmas dinner and cookies and fun times with the family?  Do we really have to go to all this additional effort?  I’m great with having family traditions, and if it’s something that really adds to the family Christmas fine, but I can’t imagine that scenario being true in our house.

Interlude:  Oh, my hoot owl is back!  I love hoot owls!  The first time I ever heard one was in the old walnut tree up at the cabin, when I started sleeping out on the screened-in porch.  I was maybe three or four, and my mom used to sing me “Rocky Raccoon” before bed up there.  I thought for years that I’d dreamt it until I heard the song again.

Then there was one in the front yard on occasion at my folks’ house, and he was big and loud.  See, I don’t hate everything – I appreciate the little things!

Snapchat

Is this something that the sexting generation primarily uses to take dirty pictures of themselves, send it to their significant other, and then hope it disappears before (s)he can show it to their friends?  Because screenshots.

 

Now, with all that hatin’ out of the way, I have actually discovered a few things through work or that I use at work that are legitimately excellent.

Spotify

If you’re still listening to Pandora, stop.  Spotify.  Immediately.  My cousin turned me onto it, and I’ve never looked back.

I think we all know that I’m a music junkie, and I have found more awesome stuff off of Spotify than I have just about anywhere else.  It knows me, man.  And when it gets it wrong, I tell it no and it lets me choose.  Perfect relationship.

Rent the Runway (ladies only)

Contrary to popular belief, I love fashion.  It’s just that I’m really snotty about it, and I’d rather dress like shit than wear fake-expensive things.  Does that phrase even make sense?  “Fake expensive?”  Let me reword it: I’d rather carry a Target bag than a Coach purse because why spend $250 when what I really want is Louis Vuitton?  So I buy cheap unless I can afford the best.  Don’t half-ass anything.  Get your whole ass in the game.  (And yes, I would spend $1800 for Louis Vuitton because I carry my bags forever – we’re talking decades.  I have a bag in rotation that I’ve had for about 15 years.)

Anyway, this site lets you rent baller designer ware from your phone.  The size selection is shockingly good, and they have nice stuff.  You can rent a totally decent dress for like, $45.  If you’re someone who has friends that actually marry and marry often, or if you have a holiday party circuit but don’t want to actually buy things or would prefer not to wear the same thing to all of them, this place is where it’s at.  It’s also good if, like me, you live somewhere that it’s hard to find decent, truly nice formalwear.  My supervisor goes to about two weddings a month (it seems), and she uses it all the time.  Check it out, ladies.  You won’t look back.

Toyota

I can’t say enough good things about Toyota.  There are three Sienna “swagger wagons” in the DCIS parking lot, of which mine would be the ugly blue one with no options (but also no interest on the loan).  Now, I hate driving a van, BUT.  If you have to drive a van, the Toyota Sienna ain’t too bad.

The primary reason that I chose the Sienna was because Toyota has a great safety record.  And that van gets consistently excellent safety marks and reviews.  My cube mate, “Wilson,” also has a much nicer swagger wagon with many fun and un-van-like options.

We went out to Wal-Mart in her van on break one day to pick up something for Bosses’ Day, and an old man pulled out in front of her at an intersection.  She was doing right at 30, and there wasn’t enough room to stop.  T-boned him.  Airbags deployed, whole nine yards.  Biggest wreck I’ve ever been in.  It should have totaled her van, but Pekin Insurance (what he had) sucks, and also Toyotas hold their value like crazy.

Anyway, it was a pretty good impact, and we both walked away with nothing but some bruises.  Well, I banged my knee pretty good on the dashboard, and it still wants to get stiff sometimes if I sit or kneel too long, but it shakes out fast.  I suspect it would be tough to pinpoint where the injury even is.  But the point I’m making is that we took a good hit, and we didn’t get hurt.  We got lucky for sure, but also Toyota deserves the great crash ratings.  I definitely don’t regret buying mine.  I just wish that I hadn’t gotten to be an actual crash test dummy!

 

So yes, I also get good suggestions from the work crew.  More often, I’d say that I wind up listening to things that don’t interest me, but that’s life, right?  I  mean, I’m not interested in whole farm insurance plans, but I’ve had to sit through that section of the spring updates three times now.

And for all the time I spend bitching about this stuff, I genuinely like most of my coworkers.  We are like a big, stupid, dysfunctional family, but we also do care about each other.  This year would’ve been a hell of a lot harder without awesome bosses and great people in the department.  They’ve listened to copious amounts of insane, ridiculous crap from me this year.

So you guys get a pass for liking stupid, overpriced “jewelry,” talking about fantasy football just far too much, wearing weird shoes and scratching, and for making and using that ridiculous “SARCASM” sign whenever I’m around.  Apparently, despite the fact that I might be the most sarcastic person on the planet, I sometimes (frequently) miss it when it’s coming from other people.  I guess it’s possible that I’m kind of dumb and weird, too…

 

 

 

The Worst Case Scenario

If you find yourself in the midst of the oh-so-wonderful divorce process, chances are pretty good that you’ve felt, at one point or another, that you’re in the middle of the worst case scenario.  This person that you’ve spent some significant time of your life with, be it a short or long period, is no longer going to be a part of your daily existence.  You may have decided that you hate him/her, you may be devastated that they served you with papers, you may be broke, you may have a herd of children, or you and/or your spouse may be trying to date other people while you’re still sharing the family home because you’re both broke from paying your overpriced attorneys.  Yup, divorce sucks.

And it might, in fact, be the worst case scenario.

For me, divorce is far from being the worst thing that could’ve ever happened to me.  By the time I filed papers, I had been mostly checked out of our marriage for a good two years and completely checked out for the last year without question.  That doesn’t mean that I’ve totally moved on from it – you can’t ever completely move on from anything in your past because it’s part of who you are – but it does mean, I think, that I have a realistic handle on the situation.  I know that divorcing is the right thing to be doing, and it’s the right thing for both of us.  We weren’t happy.

I’m still sad sometimes.  It gets lonely, raising three kids by yourself.  And it sucks to have to admit that you failed at something, especially something as important as choosing your life partner.  You might as well walk around wearing a T-shirt that says, “I have terrible taste in men.”  Or women.  Such as the case may be.

So say you’re like me, and you’re pretty glad to be getting out of a crappy situation.  You can’t wait to sign the divorce papers and declare it officially over.  You’re going to throw a party and invite everyone you know.  You’re “consciously uncoupling.”  Whatever you’re calling it, however you’re doing it, you’re happy about it.  You’re ready to move on in the sense that you’re thinking about what comes next.

And then people start asking you about your love life.  Nope, I’m not evening kidding – this has happened to me already.  Not frequently – like every day – but it has happened often enough that I’ve started to notice.  Just today, someone asked me if I’ve tried online dating.  Wait, what?  Did you just imply that I need to try Match.com or something?  So I laugh and say something witty that shuts it down, and they act like, Oh, of course you’re too busy to date!  You have three young children!  Why would you ever want to do that?  Like I’m the one who suggested it – crazy Marge.

But then you start thinking about a little, as I obviously am now, and you realize that eventually, you’re going to want to get back in the saddle.  Whether that means saving a horse and riding a cowboy or getting set up on a *shudder* blind date, chances are pretty good that no matter how old or young you are, you’re going to want some companionship at some point, whether it’s for a night or a year or even forever.  And that gets you to thinking about what is the worst case scenario for a lot of people: being alone forever.

Most people don’t want to be alone.  We’re social creatures by nature, and I’d be willing to bet that none of my dear readers relish the thought of moving along into the twilight years without someone to hand you your spectacles when you want to look back on the more mobile years together.  Most people want to have someone around who will warm the bed, maybe warm their tea on occasion, fight them for the remote, and who, at one point or another, swept them off their feet.  It’s human to want to love someone.

But what if you never do?  You struck out once, possibly in truly spectacular fashion.  What if you meet someone, get remarried, and strike out again?  What if your kids hate you dating?  What if you got fat?  What if you got a great job that leaves you zero time for something as time-consuming as searching for a mate?  What if you’re just difficult and set in your ways after so many years that the thought of sharing your personal space with someone scares the shit out of you?

What if there really isn’t someone for everyone?  What if you are the someone who isn’t going to find someone?  For a lot of people, that is the worst case scenario.

Is that my worst case scenario?  I don’t think so.  I like to say publicly that I’ll never remarry.  Let’s be real – who’s going to tell everyone at work that they’re gagging for it and want to meet a tall, rich, handsome guy who was never married, loves kids, and is a chubby chaser?  Not something I would ever say without presenting it as a joke.  And I’m not interested in remarrying – not right now, anyway.  But then I think if I were being honest with people, the real truth is that I would eventually like to find someone to settle out with, be that in two years or ten.

Am I scared to be a little old lady all by herself, kids all grown with lives of their own?  Eh.  You could’ve been married to the same man your whole life and find yourself alone at 85.  Sorry guys, women live longer.  Testosterone does you in faster.  Proven fact.  You’ll notice, if you go to old folks’ homes, that the majority of the people there playing Bridge in the dining room are women.  So ladies, the odds are forever in your favor that you’re going to outlive your man.  But gentlemen, don’t feel left out – my grandpa outlived my grandma, although only by a few months.

No, for me, the worst case scenario is far different.  Not seeing one or all of my kids grow up, for whatever reason.  House burning down.  Blimp attack.  Werewolves are real.  All worse than not finding Mr. Perfect.  No, seriously, if werewolves exist, I will just… I don’t even know.

But yeah, dating.  Great.  We’ll do that.  Not today.  God.  I don’t even want to see myself naked, let alone subject someone else to that.  I’ve got a lot of miles to run on the treadmill that I still haven’t ordered before I’d feel remotely okay with that scenario.  And I’m not where I want to be with the whole career thing.  (I like money and pricey stuff, and I place a lot of importance on job satisfaction – as should you, since you probably spend most of your waking weekday hours at work.)  Also the kids are tiny, and who the hell wants to babysit three who are three and under while Mommy goes out for drinks with an average-looking guy with an ex-wife, two kids, and child support payments?  Let me tell you who: someone who does not place enough value on their sanity or hearing.

Really, I’d rather be right with myself before I’m right with (or for) someone else.  Because here’s the thing: you have to bring something to the table.  People don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth.  You have to be happy with yourself, and you owe it to yourself to put the best version of yourself out in the store window.  Everyone likes confident people with goals, drive, and enthusiasm.  You don’t have to be a size 4 millionaire with fake tits and a good dye job (although that would be amazeballs).  You could be a size 10 making a solid middle-class income with a good push-up bra and no roots showing.  But make that effort to do well for yourself, and other people will appreciate that about you.

To illustrate the point.  I have always struggled with my weight.  If food were a drug (and it is for me), I would be a freaking crackhead on her 37th trip to rehab.  I have lost and gained… Lord, who knows?  A lot of weight in my lifetime.  Like, maybe not a whole car, but probably the front end and a couple of seats.  …  Maybe a whole car.  Anyway, the point is, I yo-yo.

I lost a lot of weight in high school and got down pretty thin.  I gained some of it back the first year and a half of college, and then I set about losing it again, which I did.  And when I got back to where I wanted to be, I felt awesome.  And you know, I got laid real steady because I was a lot more willing to put myself out there.  I dressed better, was more amiable in social situations, and I think the vast majority appreciate someone who is fun and who obviously cares enough about themselves to invest some time in number one.  Most of the successful people I know dress well and have a good attitude.  It goes a long way.

So I’m going to order that treadmill this weekend when I finish my Christmas shopping.  I might get a weight bench too because I like weightlifting, and muscles burn more calories than fat.  I’m working on work (stay tuned), and the rest of it…  Well, it’ll come together, but not without some time and effort.

Whatever the case, I think I’m just going to avoid Match.com for now.  And blind dates.  Really just dating.  And if I can’t avoid the questions dreaded by singles everywhere (“How’s your love life?  You seeing anyone special?  Have you met anyone?  Have you tried online dating?”), well, at least I don’t have to ask myself why I’m still married to someone I can’t stand.  #Winning.