Category Archives: Uncategorized

Goodnight and Good Luck

I wanted to write a different post tonight, but what I want to write isn’t what I need to write.  I’m sitting here in my reading chair, watching Star Wars (I’m as surprised as anyone by this fact), working on my new website.  Yes, friends, I purchased a domain and am putting together a website.

I started this blog over five years ago with the aim to write about living the expat life in Korea.  My hope then was that it would be somewhat interesting to others living there and that maybe some of my experiences would help others along the way.  To that end, I would say the blog was only modestly successful, if even that.

As time moved me on, the blog became something different, more of a personal diary than anything else.  I’ve carried it with me through the big overseas move, settling my folks’ estate, three babies, and going through a bitter, ugly divorce.  I have used it as a vent and, in my own estimation, a bit of a psychological crutch, which was what I needed at that time in my life.  That time, fortunately, is coming to a close, and it is time to move on to other endeavors.

I went up to Chicago a couple of weeks ago to see Tokyo Dave, who was home for family events, and also to see some other old friends of mine.  I reconnected with people I love, made some new friends, and got a clearer picture of what I want for myself.

I do not want to stay in Jacksonville.  I can content myself here for a time because I have to, but I’m a city person, and I do better among city people.  For the first time since I can remember, I met people that truly, sincerely liked me and wanted to get to know me better, that want me to call when I get back to town.  I ate good food, saw wonderful art, and had conversations that made me think.  I stayed in a “grown-up” apartment.

These are all things that I want to be a part of my life again.  I want to do something with my life that makes me think.  I want to live in a grown-up space.  I want to be somewhere that I have real friends with the potential to make more.  I want to be somewhere that I can actually go on a date with the reasonable expectation that we would find each other mutually tolerable if not downright enjoyable.

I can’t stay where I am now.

To that end, I am shutting down this blog.  I will be leaving it active for a bit longer just so that I can cull out some of the writing that I want to keep for my own files, but I don’t see any point in keeping it active.  It no longer serves its original purpose.  Korea is over.  It also no longer serves me personally in any meaningful way.  Much in the way that I have been cleaning out the house and getting rid of the things that are no longer necessary, it is also time to get rid of the activities and projects that are just taking up space.

In place of the personal blog, I am in the process of building a website devoted entirely to anarcho-capitalist thought.  I will still be writing, but it will be at scheduled intervals.  I also hope, in the not-too-distant future, to run a podcast alongside it, but I need to get the website tweaked and get some writing done for it first.  I am really excited about this project and everything tangentially related to it.

Of course, there will still be some personal flavor to the new site, but my aim is to keep my personal life and my “political” life mostly separate.  I’m taking a cue from the millennial love of self-branding, I suppose.  I think this is a positive thing, and I’m ready to keep myself more or less to myself.  I have friends that are happy to hear me rant and vent about the ridiculousness of my daily existence.

To those out there that still read occasionally, I would like to say thank you for sticking with me, and I hope that at least a few of you will check out the new site.  I will include the link below.  It will take you to a subscription landing page, as the website isn’t fully built yet and isn’t ready for public consumption.  I’m hoping it will be ready in a couple more weeks or so, but that depends largely on how good or bad a website builder I prove to be.

It is nearly midnight, so this is where I pause to tell you all goodnight.  And good luck.

Peace, love, and anarchy.

Margaret.

www.themargarethowe.com

 

 

 

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Tu Ne Cede Malis

It’s been a month, and I’m back tonight with what I hope you will find to be a thoughtful, important post.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably been watching what has been going on in this country politically with various emotions.  Some of you may be happy that Trump is our president.  Some of you may be furious.  Some, like me, may be generally ambivalent, although I maintain that I sincerely fucking hate the Clintons.

You guys know by now that I’m an anarchist, and most specifically that I’m an anarcho-capitalist.  Ask most AnCaps and they will tell you that anarcho-capitalism is the only true anarchy.  I’m not going to hammer out the finer points of that argument because I know that probably none of you care, although I will say point-blank that you need to steer clear of anarcho-communists (or as your grampa called them, “Commies”) and anarcho-immoralists (“red marketeers” – think “A Clockwork Orange”).

It is entirely likely that a lot of you don’t really know what exactly an anarcho-capitalist is, beyond that it’s a far-out version of libertarianism.  In a nutshell, AnCaps do not believe in the state because the state must necessarily use coercion with people, and that violates the Non-Aggression Principle (the NAP).  They believe in free and voluntary association, property rights in the sense of self-ownership and land (homesteading) rights, and they believe that the functions of the state can be effectively privatized.  Whether or not you think any of this sounds crazy or not is irrelevant, as I’m just laying out the basics of what Ancapistan is all about.

I am proud to be an anarcho-capitalist.  I would never say otherwise because that would be dishonest.  I feel, in a lot of ways, that my anarchism was hard-won, from an intellectual standpoint.  It took me a long time to get where I am, and I have a lot further to go in my learning, but I love it, and it is something for which I feel a genuine passion.  I never felt like it was something that I needed to be ashamed of.

As it turns out, not everybody is enamored with the term “anarchist.”  Actually, a lot of people think of “anarchist,” and they hear The Sex Pistols start playing and the IRA hucking car bombs at people or some masked marauders in Eastern Europe burning down buildings, shooting policemen and soldiers, and raping women in alleys.  Perhaps not the most savory image.  But like it or not, that’s what people think of when you tell them that you’re an anarchist, at least most of the time.  I’m guilty of that, too – I assume they mean AnComms, and I don’t blame people for disliking them.

Well, with things going the way they have been in American politics, AnComms are far more welcome than AnCaps, apparently, even though the first group will burn out your business and break your car windows and the second will… Probably just write a blog, fight with some commies online, and then go work on the software that they’re writing.  AnCaps aren’t known for their propensity to even congregate.

The American left, however, has reached a point where they are, for the most part, clapping their hands over their ears and resorting to screeching about safe spaces, Hitler, and oppression whenever someone says something that they don’t like.  They shout down speakers at conservative events, march on Washington for rights they haven’t lost (and which government doesn’t grant, anyway), and just generally make a nuisance of themselves.  Or so I thought.

I thought that it was just a bunch of overprivileged college kids wanting something to bitch about.  I really did.  I thought it was going to go away.  I honestly never thought that I would see something like this.

anti-ancap-notice

This flier came out of the University of Kansas (KU).  I do not know who provided the picture, and I do not know whether this came from a left-leaning student group or from the university itself.  I only know that it is real, and it was being distributed around the campus last month.

I am on a list.

Did you read it?  Did you read what it said?  “Given the violent and dangerous nature of groups such as this…”  “Coded language.”  “…they are most susceptible to being recruited by neo-nazi (sic) and other hate groups.” “Call the Office of the Provost.”

I would be lying if I said this didn’t scare me when I first read it.  I actually read it several times and wondered how it came to be that I would be getting thrown in with neo-Nazis.  I honestly don’t even know what half of those symbols are or what they mean.  I just saw “anarcho-capitalist” in with “white supremacist” and “neo-Nazi” and it scared me.  Is this what they think I am?

The answer, of course, is yes.  There are people in this country that think, because I disapprove of safe spaces, think intersectional feminism is completely fucked, and because I don’t subscribe to statism or collectivism, that I am somehow akin to a German fascist.  If they knew or understood the first thing about those two concepts, they would know that if there is one thing a true anarchist cannot be, it is a statist or a collectivist.  I reject both of those notions absolutely.  I reject fascism absolutely.

For that, I am on a list.

Because I believe in free enterprise.  Because I don’t believe in tariffs.  Because I don’t believe in the aggressive American foreign policy.  Because I don’t believe we can tax ourselves into prosperity.  Because I want to audit the Fed.  Because I don’t want redistribution of wealth.  Because I believe that welfare has disproportionately harmed minority communities.  Because I believe that children should have two parents.  Because I like shooting guns.  Because I don’t believe campuses are unsafe places where men are lining up to rape women.  Because I don’t vote and don’t want a president.

For that, I am on a list.

I forwarded the flier to the Bro-Co a few hours ago.  His reaction was the same as mine: shock and yes, a little bit of fear.  We both expressed concern for our children.  How will they, likely having the same beliefs as their parents, navigate a world run by these kinds of people?  And I know what he was thinking but never said: What if we’re doing wrong by them?  What if we are making their lives worse and not better?  Worst of all, what if… What if it goes this way, to a real police state?  What if some day the brownshirts come knocking on our doors and take us away and take them somewhere else?  What if they throw us behind bars for thought crimes?  What if that happens?  Will we have failed them worse than if we had just let them grow up “normal?”

I thought about my grandpa, and the Bro-Co did, too.  He wondered if maybe this wasn’t the way Grandpa felt about the world we inherited, that he was a little bit afraid for us.  I’m glad, in a way, that he didn’t live to see this – not when he rubbed elbows with Death so many times fighting against it in WWII.  I think it sicken him to think that his grandkids were on a list, not because he was ashamed of us, but because he would be angry at the existence of such a thing in the first place.

Once I’d had a day or two to mull over my reaction, I decided that, although it made me nervous, I wasn’t going to be afraid.  I maintain what I said: I am proud to be an AnCap.  I know that I am not any of the things that the person(s) who made that poster wants you to think I am, and the people that know me will know by my actions what and who I am.  I will continue to call statists out on their bullshit lines, badly used statistics, logical fallacies, and egregious use of the terms “fascist,” “(neo-) Nazi,” and “Hitler.”

Ludwig von Mises left Austria because he was a Jew when the Nazis were coming into power, and not just a Jew, but a Jew that opposed statism.  He fled to Switzerland to continue his work in economics, but eventually he and his wife decided to immigrate to the U.S.  Within six years, he had written his magnum opus in a language previously quite foreign to him, and he laid the foundations for the modern advancement of economic liberty.  And so, in the grand tradition of the bravery of Mises speaking truth to power, I leave you with his personal motto: Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior.  Do not give in to evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it.

The Crazy Shit List

I think you all know by now that I adore Tim Ferriss.  The man can do no wrong, in my eyes.  I find him tremendously smart, and I love his interviews with awesome people.  I say without reservation that becoming a Ferriss fangirl has changed my life for the better.  If you are not listening to his podcast, you should be.  And even if you aren’t big on improvement – if you’re a human, you should be big on improvement, by the way – you can probably at least appreciate his year-end wrap-up.  He gives some really great ideas for objectively evaluating your life in the previous year.  I will link the podcast at the bottom of his post.

Two things he does that I have done, one of which I know that a certain Tokyo Dave has already done, too: calendar evaluation and the “crazy shit” list.  I’ll let you listen to the podcast for the calendar eval, but the crazy shit list is basically a list of random shit that seems totally crazy that you could, hypothetically, do.  Or not.  Give yourself a time limit.  Or not.  Write out a list of crazy shit.  You want to read some crazy shit?  Here’s my list.

  1. Sell the house or not and move to Florida or somewhere else warm with palm trees.
  2. Invite Tom Woods on the podcast I don’t have.
  3. Talk to as many “out of my league” hot dudes as humanly possible.  See what happens.
  4. Get rid of 80% of all of my personal belongings.
  5. Slice my eye a la “Un Chien Andalou.”  (This is totally insane and makes far more sense if you listen to the podcast.  Or not.  It actually doesn’t make any sense, but I have been thinking about watching that movie for the last couple of days.)
  6. Get rid of my bed and sleep on the floor.
  7. Take the kids and disappear to South America.
  8. Sell my soul to Milhouse for $1.00.
  9. Buy and easel and start painting.
  10. Sign up for a marathon 3-5 months from now.
  11. Air my grievances.  LOUDLY.
  12. Protest the government in town square for all to see.  With a bullhorn.
  13. Tell awful people that I alternately hate and forgive them.
  14. Have the whole family start sleeping on the floor in “my” room and leave the other two former bedrooms for a playroom and an office.
  15. Stop washing my hair.  Permanently.
  16. Give my savings away, sell the house, buy an RV, and take off.

Taken separately from each other, they seem just weird and stupid and in the case of #5, downright freaky.  Trust me, that movie is downright freaky.  It was playing one night in the background at the Blue Fugue when I was in college.  I was kind of drunk, and it scarred me, predictably.  So naturally, I want to watch it again.

Anyway, you probably noticed there seem to be some themes of getting rid of shit and moving.  I could be wrong, but I think my brain might be in a purge mode.  I have been cleaning closets all day today, deciding what to keep, what to donate, and what can honestly just be thrown out.  The “donate” pile is the biggest so far, I’m happy to report, but I’m nowhere near done yet.  In fact… I think I’m going to keep on keeping on and remove stuff from the entire house.

I was talking with Dave about this.  Dave is my “idea” guy.  Dave is the kind of guy who has all manner of “crazy” ideas.  Or at least, they seem crazy until they turn out to be genius.  The basic gist of the conversation was this: Why do we limit ourselves based on fear?  Think of all of the opportunity you have missed because you were afraid, on some level.  Are we that scared what other people think?  Other people are mostly idiots, and they won’t remember the stupid shit you did 10 minutes from now, let alone 10 weeks, 10 months, or 10 years from now.  They really won’t.  People are too self-involved.  Hell, you probably won’t remember what crazy shit you did today in 10 months’ time!  So what are we all so scared of?!

For whatever reason, it made me think of that episode of Parks and Rec where Ron Swanson brings a pig to the park to kill and put on a spit.  He produces a permit that is simply a white piece of paper with the words, “I can do what I want,” laid out in type print.  And you know what?  You really can.

What is stopping me from firing up the ole libertarian blog, starting a podcast, and making some money that way?  Nothing.  Me.  Because I can’t get out of my own way.  What is keeping me from traveling more?  Limited funds and the fact that I work for “the man.”  Well, again, whose fault is that?  I could be working for myself, doing something I’m good at and don’t get bored with, doing some traveling, and giving the kiddos a real education.  Need a permit for “home” schooling?  No problem.  “I can do what I want.”

Will any of this ever happen?  Well, the blog will, for sure.  I can’t speak to the rest of it, but it could.  Well.  Not the Andalusian dog part, but the rest of it could happen.  Given the fact that I am predictably unpredictable and have a knack for drastically altering course at the 23rd hour and 57th minute, you could probably make the argument that it’s even likely.  It is one of my great strengths and perhaps my most fatal flaw that I can’t seem to be satisfied in the same place for longer than three years.  I enjoy having a home base, but I value freedom a lot more.

Anyway, I’ll be interested to see what winds up on Tokyo Dave’s crazy shit list.  It will probably be crazier than mine because he’s more creative that way.  I will also be interested to see if they are things that potentially carry the seed for something bigger or ultimately less strange than they appear on the surface, taken individually.

Also, for my own part, I would like to add that I’m really happy to report that the main issue that ended up on the calendar list as a major problem in 2016 has already been taken out of the 2017 equation.  I am, in fact, excited to see the differences this yields up over the course of the next year.  I think it is going to result in some interpersonal relationship improvements, and I am positive that it is going to result in more vacation time.

In light of this fact, I am starting to block out my vacation time now because, as you might imagine, vacation  and friend time topped my list for shit that I enjoyed in 2016, and I had no more than one or two actual vacation days for my own use last year.  I am actually going to sit down tonight and look at package trips to Jamaica.  I’m getting my passport renewed.  I am serious about this tropical reading vacation that consists of an adults-only resort, a palm tree, all-inclusive, all I-my-liver-cares-to-handle drinks, and one solid day of reading.  I don’t know if it’s actually going to happen, but I’m going to try.

I swear I am not getting paid to plug Tim Ferriss because, as I have said before, he doesn’t need my endorsement.  However, if you hate resolutions but nevertheless see the benefit in committing to self-betterment and honest evaluations of your life, give this episode a listen.  At 45 minutes, it clocks in short for a Ferriss podcast.  You can listen to that while you’re stuck in traffic, although honestly, I’d recommend setting aside some time and making notes while you listen.  I have never walked away without new tidbits from Tim.

Oh, and my mantra for the year is as follows: “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes.  You are free.”  Jim Morrison.

Guten Rutsch to you all!

“What I Learned in 2016” – The Tim Ferriss Show

2016: Year in Review

Well, folks, we are effectively 14 days out from 2017, and you know what that means: it’s time for everyone to look back on the shit that they didn’t accomplish in the last year, moan and complain about it, and then continue on being the same cunts they’ve always been.  I would say that I’ll be no exception to that rule, but actually… I’ve come a long way this last year.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.  A lot of the time, I feel like I’m stuck in first gear, spinning my tires, rocking the damn car back and forth through the snow, trying to get myself unstuck.  Sometimes it feels like one step forward and two steps back.  I then have to remind myself that this is how it feels on the micro level, but when you allow yourself to step back and look at the macro – evaluate the big picture – suddenly things look a little bit different.

It would be easy to focus on the things that didn’t go right this year.  I’m still single.  I’m still fat.  I still suck at bringing in the mail every day.  I still need to tweak my budget tighter.  I still need to work on my focus, my patience, my gratitude, and getting the damn laundry folded every weekend.

There is a lot that has gone right this year, though.  I have taught myself how the Forex market works.  To someone who doesn’t know jack about Forex, that probably doesn’t seem like so much, but trust me, it is.  I have a really solid trading system that is reliable, although I need to exhibit more patience and pay more attention to some of the mathematical details.  I am training myself to be more conscientious in my work and less attached to the outcome in relation to my own self-image.  I am doing something that most people will not and, in some cases, cannot do.  I have learned so much, and I have infinitely more still to learn, but I am actually immensely proud of myself for coming as far as I have.  This is something I have done on my own.  It is mine and mine alone, and I am so glad that I stuck with it.

I have lost about 65-70 pounds.  I had hoped to lose more, but that’s okay.  I’m setting the goal to meet or exceed that amount for 2017.  That will bring me a lot closer to where I want to be.  I am happy with what I’ve accomplished.

One of the best things I have done, by miles, is buy the basic course for Gymnastic Bodies (gymnastic strength training).  I’m pretty sure this isn’t part of their advertising campaign, and I can’t technically vouch for it because, uh, you know, I don’t get out much, but I am 99% confident that you will have better sex if you do even the basic course.  Ever had wrist pain from topping?  This will take care of that without you having to lose weight.  You will feel your triceps again.  You will be able to contort yourself into interesting positions and plank like there’s no tomorrow.  Seriously, guys, I didn’t realize how much of a mess I was until I started doing it.  I love it, it’s fun, and if you do it, you’ll get results.  And possibly more ass, once your muscles start to show.

And oh hey, I got divorced.  Most people would call that a lose, but I’m calling that a major win.  I married someone who was totally wrong for me.  He’s an ass.  A miserable, delusional, emotionally abusive ass.  I love our kids, but I will never for a second regret getting that gorilla off my back.  If you are in a horrible relationship that you know isn’t going to get better, take it from me: get the fuck out.  Just do it.  Don’t wait.  Get out.  Life is so goddamn short.  We all owe it to ourselves to find the best possible happiness for ourselves, and we should not be in relationships (of any kind, romantic or otherwise) with people that don’t bring anything to the table.  You should be adding value to others’ lives, and they should be doing the same for you.

My kids are (mostly) healthy.  Yeah, they have colds and ear infections and the usual crap, but they are healthy.  There have been several families in the area this year lose young children to cancer or other horrible illnesses.  My kids are healthy and happy.  They are each others’ best friends, they laugh every day, they give hugs and kisses, and they are all three incredibly loving.  Huge.  So huge.  So important and so easy to take for granted.

I changed my name.  That is something I wanted to do for a long time.  I’m still getting used to it.  I ordered my new driver’s license back in November, and it still hasn’t gotten here.  I had to reorder it last week and got treated like a criminal for it, but hey. Government.  DMV.  Point is, I’m glad that I did that because I had wanted to do it for a long time, and I feel good about it.

I’m starting to work on restarting the libertarian blog that I used to write, way back before the kids.  I’m actually going to pay for site hosting and try to effectively monetize it this time around.  I’ll probably make some attempt to put together an a free ebook or something of that nature to go along with it to get it going, so it’s not going to happen immediately, as it’s going to take me some time to get the material written, proofread, and into a reasonably pleasing format.  I have no idea, realistically, how long that is going to take.  Probably quite a while.  Putting together quality content takes time, and with everything else I have going on, well, you can’t expect it overnight.  Unless I do get that Adderall prescription… Jokes, jokes!

I have spent enough time playing my guitar that I have learned a few new, recognizable songs.  I still suck, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of it, and I’m making decent progress, given how few hours I put into it.

I have started keeping a notebook.  Well, I have like, three (main, goals/meditation, Forex), but I have one main notebook that acts as a kind of datebook cum planner cum journal.  I write everything in it: grocery lists, to do lists, quotes, books I want to read, funny things I hear, new bands or singers I hear and want to add to the playlist, and whatever else I feel like putting in there.  I find that writing things down helps me remember them better, but it also gives me documentation for things that I’m doing that do or don’t work.  For someone who likes to write as much as I do, the notebook is immensely helpful.  I really want to buy a fountain pen to go with it.  I’m thinking the Lamy Safari will be a good investment.  I hear they’re bulletproof, and they get good ratings.

I survived a partial remodel of the house.  Okay, it was really just repainting and laying laminate floors, but with three kids, that basically qualifies.  One of the dumb girls at work, who is single and childless, said, “Well, that’s no big deal.  I know lots of people who do home remodeling projects with kids.”  Yeah, bitch, but they also have husbands helping out with moving the furniture around and who probably know more about how drills and hammers work than I do.  My grandfather taught me many manly arts, but home repair was not one of them.  Anyway, moral of the story is that I got new floors and new paint, and the house looks like something from this century now.

This is the point where I have to consider what I want for next year.  I’m not making resolutions because I don’t know that I want to change anything so much as improve upon what’s already happening.  … I guess for the sake of the argument, we can call them resolutions.

  1. Lose another 60-70 lbs.
  2. Continue making a profit in Forex demo and, after a few more months, fund a real account.
  3. Don’t lose the money invested in a real Forex account
  4. Run more consistently
  5. Get the AnCap blog back up and running and make sure it’s monetized from the start
  6. Write a small ebook to accompany said blog
  7. Continue practice of meditation
  8. Make my bed every day
  9. Do one thing per week that makes me uncomfortable
  10. Attach less personal meaning to outcomes
  11. Read more
  12. Tweak the budget
  13. Write more letters and send more cards to people
  14. Bring in the mail every day
  15. Find a nice guy to date who is preferably smarter than me, likes some of the same things, can talk on many subjects of general interest, and is good in bed.  I am not sure the man exists who fits this description and is willing to date me, but I’m nothing if not a persistent hunter.
  16. Finish outlining the narrative book that I have had in mind to write for at least five years now.  Maybe finish 1-3 chapters and then heavily edit.

These are all attainable goals.  Some are small.  Others are big.  I am really excited about all of the projects I have in mind to continue to take on afresh.  The main thing I want, however, is to keep my forward momentum.  Losing momentum is like stagnating or even going backwards, and that I can’t abide.

I don’t know where the holidays and New Year are finding all of you, but I hope that it’s a good place.  And if it’s not a good place, I hope that you will be able to get some headspace and turn things around.  Something I had heard before but never really believed until somewhat recently was that sometimes the greatest setbacks in our lives have a way of being the catalyst for the greatest successes.  If you are currently in the midst of a setback, I hope that you will come to see how the obstacle can be turned to your favor.

This last part that I would like to share is a transcription of something handwritten in “the notebook” from 12/13.  I have been doing a particular type of meditation the last several nights to help let go of some things that are overdue to be sent on down the river.  I wrote this for myself and had not intended, at the time I wrote it, to publish it in any way.  I have no idea what the title means; it just seemed right at the time.  In any case, there was a good lesson in it for me.  I hope at least one person will find it useful, interesting, helpful, or minimally pleasant to read and not too preachy.  (Remember, I did write it for/to myself, and I like to preach to myself.)  See you in 2017!  Peace, love, and anarchy.

 

“The Landing”

I have had two sessions of the […] meditation now, and in both sessions, the life lesson repeated to me was the same:

To thine own self be true.

This has so many meanings, and I’m just now putting it together: people love me best when I’m my honest, authentic self.  Don’t hide who you are.  Don’t change your own goals to suit someone else that doesn’t share and support your vision.  Be true to you.  Go after your stupid dreams, get after it every day, say what you really think/feel in a constructive way, leave room to get really fucking angry, and don’t ever, EVER settle for less than your market value.

This means that you will not please everybody all the time.  This means feelings will get hurt.  This means that people won’t always see your vision, understand your words, or share your goals.  That’s fine.  They are not writing the story: you are.

You are the author of this tale.  You alone will determine whether it is a tragedy or a comedy, an adventure or a doldrums, a few scribbles on a forgotten page, or a masterpiece destined for a space on the shelf of honored history.  This requires your authenticity.

Be you.  Every single day.

You may not attract the masses, but your cult following is already cut from the best cloth.  Birds of a feather… Your tapestry is woven.  Don’t relegate it to a dark corner; showcase it.

Love yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  Make time for yourself.  Most importantly, be your most authentic self.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

I can’t remember if I’ve brought it up on this particular forum, but I am a bit obsessed with Twin Peaks.  For those of you who haven’t gotten in on this cult classic, either because you aren’t old enough to have been watching much evening TV back in 1991 or because you have been seriously deprived as an adult, Twin Peaks was a short-lived show from 1990-1991 that was partially written and directed by David Lynch and Mark Frost.  It carries the Lynchian trademarks of having a surreal, dreamy quality, doppelgängers (a personal favorite theme of mine), and also of invoking the feeling that you want to laugh but know on some level that you really shouldn’t.  It’s an odd show and was, in my humble opinion, groundbreaking for its time.  Much emulated but never quite matched.  And it’s coming back to Showtime in 2017.  I will be unavailable during that time slot.

I’ve been a Lynch fan since I watched Lost Highway when I was 13 and didn’t know what the fuck just happened.  Actually, every time I watch that movie, I still wonder what the fuck just happened.  Twin Peaks leaves considerably less to the imagination than Lost Highway in that the plot is coherent and makes a modicum of sense, but make no mistake, it leaves plenty hanging up in the air.  My favorite thing about Twin Peaks, however, is the varied occult themes that run through it.

I’m pretty sure you all know that I love a good conspiracy theory.  I knew about the “ancient aliens” conspiracy about 10-12 years before it was actually popular.  I stumbled down the David Icke rabbit hole when I was 17.  (That was a night…!)  This is not to say that I believe every kooky conspiracy that I read or hear about because I don’t.  I remember, however, sitting and talking to my grandfather about some wild and wacky thing that I’d read once – something about planetary alignment and how there were sinister forces in the world conspiring to make things happen at certain times according to such things.  He looked at me and said, “Margaret, it’s not important that you believe it.  It’s only important that someone else believes it.”  I have, obviously, never forgotten that.

But I recognized many of the themes in Twin Peaks: Glastonbury Grove, owls, Biblical references, alien visitations, synchronicities, wizards… In fact, truth be told, there were moments as I was watching the series through the first time that I had to pause it and come back later because it put the hook in me.  It rang bells.  And I have wondered more than one if David Lynch doesn’t know more about the universe than he’s letting on.

The stories I’m about to relay to you are true.  They honestly occurred exactly as I’m telling them to you.  One of them scared me so badly that I still dread the week before Christmas because of it.  It is, in fact, one of the main reasons that I still believe in something beyond, something more than this.  To loosely quote another creepy series, Penny Dreadful, “I believe in Heaven, but I believe in the other place more.”

If you’d like to add a nice little Twin Peaks effect while reading this, as I am while I’m writing, feel free to listen to Jimmy Scott sing “Under the Sycamore Trees,” as performed in the finale of TP during the Black Lodge scene.

 

It has been 12 years ago now that this first happened to me.  I was 20 years old and living in Germany.  It was the week before Christmas.  I had broken up with my Hungarian boyfriend, been spurned by the beautiful German I so badly wanted, and had had my wallet lifted out of my bag while I was buying the makings for Mexican food in Karstadt.  My uncle had put a flag on my Social Security number.  I had lost all of my credit cards, my bus pass, and my Ferragamo wallet that I had bought myself for Christmas some years prior.  In short, it was not the best Christmas season on record.

I woke up one night at 12:59 a.m.  My room was dark and cold, and as I looked over at my clock, I felt a sense of relief that I didn’t have to be up for another five hours or so.  Herr Schmidt’s class didn’t start until 9:00, which gave me plenty of time to sleep.  I pulled the covers up over my head, and went back to sleep.

But then I woke up again with a start.  Something was on top of me, and it was clutching on to the covers.  For some reason, I glanced briefly over at the red numbers on my clock before yanking the duvet back over my head.  1:01 a.m.

Whatever was on my bed, it was moving up my torso and clutching at my throat, but it wasn’t especially heavy.  Then out of nowhere, I heard this voice – not a human voice, I was sure of that immediately – begin whispering in my left ear that dark wizards were coming to take me to Hell.

That was enough for me.  I threw the covers back and flipped on the light.  Lying there on my bed, grasping blindly for me, was a severed arm.  I screamed, picked it up, threw it aside, and started running for the door.  My keys hung, as they always were, on the little mushroom-shaped hook in the kitchenette.  I grabbed them and unlatched the deadbolt as  quickly as I could.  The arm began to grab me from behind just as I got the door open.  I snatched it up again, threw it into the hallway, and slammed the door shut.

Then I woke up.  I was 1:01 a.m.

I laid there, panting for a minute, staring into the darkness and wondering if I was alone.  I finally reached tentatively over to my bedside light and flipped it on.  There was nothing there – nothing out of the ordinary, anyway.  My room, messy though it always was, looked completely normal.

I sat up in my bed and just stared at the door, as though daring it to open, for maybe 15 minutes or so.  Finally, I unfolded my legs, stood up, and walked over to flip the overhead light on.  The switch was right next to the mushroom hook.  I went and sat back down on my bed with my back to the wall, and I didn’t go back to sleep that night.  In fact, I didn’t sleep all that well for about a week afterward.

Fast forward almost exactly one year – it may even have been a year to the day, though I couldn’t say that for certain.  I was back home on U.S. soil.  I had come back to Jacksonville a few days earlier than expected due to an unexpected and rather entertaining (for everyone else, anyway) allergic reaction to my Christmas tree.  I was covered in hives and had been instructed to vacate my apartment immediately.

So I was sleeping in my childhood bedroom, which admittedly always creeped me out, from the first night I spent there.  It had been my mother’s room growing up too, and the first night I spent in that room was with her, actually.  There were two twin beds in the room back then.  I was probably three years old – one of my earliest memories.  I had gone to bed at my mom’s house, and someone called after tuck-in.  My mom was yelling at whomever it was, and then suddenly she came into my room, dragged me out of bed, and instructed me to get my coat on, that we were going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  I told her I couldn’t go because I didn’t have my underwear on, and she said not to worry about that.

As it turned out, my father had been on the other end of the line.  He had called her drunk, saying that he’d bought a gun and that he was coming to our house to kill us both and that he was going to burn the house down.  So my mom packed me into the car, we drove the few blocks to the folks’ house, and we spent the night there.  I remember sitting tiredly at my mother’s feet in the living room, the gold shag carpet beneath me, but not really understanding what they were discussing.  My mom snored, as does everyone in the Howe family (including yours truly), and the whole night, her snoring scared me.  I knew that it was her, but it was still frightening somehow.  Maybe that whole incident soured me on the room.

Whatever the case, there was no lead-in this time.  No waking up and looking at the clock. It was just there, suddenly.

I was in a room with blank walls.  My hands were tied overhead, and I was hanging from a meat hook, like in a butcher’s shop.  I was observing myself, like in a movie, and whatever else was there was out of frame.  But the voice was the same.  And the warning it carried was the same: The dark wizards were coming to take me to Hell, but they were going to hurt me first.

I disagreed vehemently.  My hung self told them that they couldn’t hurt me because I wouldn’t let them.  I was terrified and also impressed that I had found the bravery to say no.  That seemed to work, because the scene then transformed.

I was sitting at the breakfast bar at my friend’s house.  She had her back to me, and she was making something at the counter.  There was a black and white photo of the two of us sitting to my right on the bar.  I picked it up and started looking at it, and as I looked, I knew immediately that something was wrong.  Suddenly our eyes turned black and the faces started melting like wax figures.

Then I was standing behind her, and that same voice said, “Just kidding!”  And she whipped around – her hair whipped my face – and she started to face me.  And I knew then that it wasn’t her; it was the thing, whatever it was.  But I never saw its face.

I was jarred from my sleep by hands on my throat.  It felt like a weight pressing down on my chest.  I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t open my eyes, and I couldn’t have possibly been more terrified.

And I prayed.  I almost never pray.  I never have.  But I prayed, and the only prayer I could think of was the Lord’s prayer.  Just as quickly as I had been grabbed, it was gone.

I opened my eyes, and the room was dark.  I was alone.

I immediately flipped my headboard light on.  I stayed there for maybe a minute or two, and then I hurled myself out of bed and ran for the stairs.  I went down to the kitchen, turned all the lights on, and sat at the table, staring down the hallway.  It was about 4:30 in the morning, so Granny wasn’t long from getting up, and she came ambling out into the kitchen maybe 10-15 minutes later, asking me what in the world I was doing up.

I told her what had happened and how terrifying the dream was.  She seemed concerned in the way that only mothers can, but I could tell that she thought I was overreacting.  But she hadn’t heard the voice.  Twice.

For the remainder of the time that I was home for Christmas, I slept downstairs on the couch with a light on and, in truth, I never slept more than a handful of nights in that room again.  It also wasn’t the last spooky experience I had in there.  I was awakened from my sleep once to a voice clearly whispering my name in my ear.  In fact, that happened the last night I ever spent in that house, down on the sofa.  It also said, “Fuck you!”

I have only had one similar experience since, and the dream took place in the living room of my grandparents’ house, although I was living in Korea at the time.  There was an old man sitting in my grandfather’s chair, and he was talking to me about strange things that I can’t remember.  He seemed kindly, but I kept getting the feeling that there was more to him than met the eye.  He reached out to touch me, and I shocked him.  In fact, it was visible; a blue light erupted around his hand.  That angered him, and then something grabbed my ankle from behind and threw me violently to the ground.

I woke up face-down on my stomach, a position I literally never sleep in – the position I had landed in during the dream.  My ankle hurt, and I was a little bit weirded out, but I wasn’t afraid.

Fast forward another few years.  I’m divorced with three kids, and I decide to start watching Twin Peaks one night.  I get a few episodes into the first season, and I hear the little chant from Mike, the one-armed man: “Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see.  One chants out between two worlds, ‘Fire walk with me.'”  It immediately reminded me of the voice, and it scared me a little.  I can identify with the weirdness inherent to having dreams that come true, hearing frightening voices while you sleep, etc.

You would think that this would deter me from watching Twin Peaks, but I love it, doppelgängers and all.  I believe in the Dweller on the Threshold.  In fact, I’m not entirely unsure that the faceless thing I have encountered in my sleep isn’t my own Dweller – the dark side of myself too frightening to look upon.  We all have a dark side, and it is scary to contemplate such things.  Invoking a bit of the conversation from the season two episode that killed Twin Peaks, does it really matter whether or not the darkness comes from within you or from somewhere else?  The effect is ultimately the same: it makes men do terrible things.  I would tend to side in with the argument, by the way, that it does matter whether it comes from within or without.

 

Interestingly one of my uncles had a similar experience in college.  He was living in a basement apartment in Bemidji, Minnesota with his best friend.  He experienced the choking sensation and all of that.  But instead of the dream and all that, he told me he heard a horror movie laugh, like something out of a Vincent Price movie.  He said it scared him to death, and as soon as he could move, he literally went running for his friend’s room.

This same uncle has had a lot of interesting dealings with a lot of interesting people and organizations, and one such dealing with a client who happened to be Mormon.  This Mormon friend had done at least part of his service to the church in Peru.  I guess he saw some shit.  Levitating objects kind of shit.  He told my uncle that the Mormons believe that everyone encounters the devil once in their life, and that sensation that I have described is, in their opinion, an otherworldly encounter.

This phenomenon is actually more commonly known as the “old hag,” and it appears in most all cultures around the world.  Modern medicine calls it sleep paralysis.  I don’t know what to make of it.  I would prefer it to have a perfectly rational explanation, frankly.  My problem is that dreams I have like that… Well… I’m not sure I’d call them dreams as much as visions, and if you buy into what Major Briggs says, there’s a difference between a dream and a vision.  I have seen some shit.

To be entirely truthful though, I don’t know what happened to me.  I must concede that it could have been a bad dream with a side of sleep paralysis.  I must concede that.  However, the feelings it evokes, even now, are such that part of me does believe a little bit that there was more vision to it than I would like.  But ultimately… I don’t know.

I do know that I was frightened.  More frightened than I’ve ever been in my life.  It scares me to think too long on it now.  These two events happened when I was 20 and 21 years old, respectively – over a decade ago now.  And I can see them as clearly as yesterday.  These things that stay with us, be they a naturally occurring part of life, supernatural, or something else entirely, cannot be dismissed as unimportant.  Anything that retains some hold over you and influences your thoughts and conclusions cannot be deemed anything but.

So that is my ghost of Christmas past.  It is a ghost that I’m afraid will haunt me for all my days.  I will always feel just a little bit uneasy in the few days leading up to Christmas.  And I still sleep with my headboard light on.  In fact, I have never changed the bulb.  I got the headboard when I was probably 15 years old – it was before I could drive – and I have been burning that light all night for many a long year.  Stalwart sentinel, it has been keeping the watch the whole while.

The spookier ghosts of Christmases past are not the only ones that now haunt my thoughts, though.  Since my teenage years, I haven’t been especially fond of Christmas.  I do not know why this is, but I just don’t find that I enjoy it too much.  I enjoy it less now that the folks are gone.  My grandmother, when she was in charge of it, always did it right. She set a fine table with silver, full china sets, crystal, a centerpiece, and great food.  There was a sense of occasion about the occasion.  Now that my folks are gone, it feels like nobody gives a fuck.

I personally don’t have the house to host a lot of people and, more to the point, I wouldn’t have anyone to host if I did.  My cousin and his wife split the holiday between our family and hers.  My aunt and uncle don’t particularly care about doing all that much, and everyone else is out of town.  It’s really just down to my own family, in that case, and the girls are still pretty young.  As much as Christmas isn’t really my thing, part of me longs for a day when perhaps there will be someone by my side, and we’ll have a nice table to set – I have the silver and the china and the glasses – and the kids will come home and it will be a little bit like it was before.  Where there was a sense of occasion, and the ghosts of Christmas past that come to the table are friendly shades.

I hope this eerie tale ended with a note of nostalgia finds all of you warm, healthy, and happy this holiday season, whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or the solstice.  Don’t wander too far into Glastonbury Grove, and remember… The owls are not what they seem.

My “Actual” OKC Profile

Yes, we’re back to online dating again.  It’s still a jungle out there.  I had a guy last week argue with me when I told him I wasn’t interested, ask for my number, and then tell me not to harass him if he gave me his.  What?  Needless to say, I never called.

Fast forward a week.  I’m in the throes of horrible, horrible SAD.  For those of you who don’t have it and don’t know anyone that does, that’s Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It’s been slowly tightening the noose since October.

Did any of you regulars notice that I didn’t do a Halloween post this year?  I think I’ve done a ghost story/weirdo post every year since I started this blog.  Not this year.  By the time Halloween rolled around, I was full-on SAD.  I struggle with it every year, but it usually doesn’t kick in until after the holidays are all over and we get into the deep freeze that is often the January-March run.  But this year?  Man, I was unhappy at the thought of fall.  I didn’t even decorate for Halloween because I was too sad at the prospect of what was coming after.

Now it’s dark until 7:30 a.m., it’s witch tit cold outside, it’s dark when I get off of work, and the kids are going stir crazy because they can’t go out and run around.  I’m finding it nearly impossible to get out of bed and get my shit done, which just makes me more depressed.  I’m tired constantly even though I’m getting way more sleep than I was before.  My weight has plateaued for a couple of months, and I’m over it.

And if all of that weren’t enough, I got a horrible, horrible email from my ex-husband.  I mean, it was just awful.  It wasn’t like he was taking a poke at me in between asking for visitation and saying something about his girlfriend.  No, he wrote this just to remind me – as though I’d forgotten – what a shitty, shitty human being he is.  I didn’t let it wreck everything, but it hardly brightened my week.

The whole situation has me contemplating what I should really write on my OKC profile.  What would it look like if I were being 100% honest?  I’ve got some ideas…

My Self-Summary

Overweight, single mom of three girls.  I have a job that bores me so badly that I have been known to fall asleep sitting up with my pen in my hand, but the insurance and other benefits are so good that I’ll probably never be able to afford to quit.  I’ve applied for three different promotions and been denied for all of them, even after being told in one of them that I effectively had the job.  I’m not at all bitter.

My ex-husband is a literal nutcase who harasses me continually via email, but hey!  At least he lives in England so that you’ll never have to see him in person!

I used to travel and have exciting adventures, but since I have really shitty taste in men, I married the wrong guy, got knocked up three fucking times, and now I live in a place that I hate, wishing every day that I could move to the city – preferably a warm one.  Oh, won’t you be my sugar daddy?

What I’m Doing With My Life

Well, today I spent three hours trying to put together a toddler bed.  I really suck at anything that requires screws. I didn’t do the dishes, and there’s a can of paint sitting by the back door because I still need to re-trim the girls’ rooms.  There’s a bag full of clothes in my room that has been sitting in my room for a month.  It’s going to the Salvation Army, and I need to throw it in the car so that I can drive around with it for a month before I remember to donate it.

When I’m not covered in children, fucking up something around the house, or crying myself to sleep in my room, I’m probably trying to make myself get out of bed at 4 a.m. and do it all again.  I try to run five days a week, but if I’m lucky, it looks like 2-3. I do gymnastic strength training, but it takes all of my strength to do one push-up.  If you knew what I weighed, you’d be amazed I can do one at all.

But before I do that, I sit down at the “dealing desk” and enter some demo Forex trades.  Yes, I like to play around with leveraged trading for fun.  Why, just a few days ago, I lost $1000 of “play” money in less than three hours!  Here’s hoping I can recreate my success when I fund a real account!

I’m Really Good at…

  • Writing.  Specifically, I’m really good at bitching to total strangers via this obscure blog that I write.
  • Making mix tapes that have an underlying theme that only I know/can see
  • Yelling at my kids
  • Not burning myself when I put flat iron curls in my hair
  • Not making any effort to contact men I’m interested in because, at the age of 32, I’m still terrified of romantic rejection
  • Scaring away most of the ones who might potentially be interested in me because if there’s one thing that’s scarier than leveraged trading, it’s using the words “anarchist” and “libertarian” in the same sentence.  Tell them you’re an AnCap and you might as well get the torches and pitchforks for the villagers yourself.  Kill the beast!

Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food

I will read anything, including the phone book in hotels.  (This is actually true.)  I have read books that you’ve probably never heard of.  Often I will read five of them at once so that I can’t remember what information came out of what book.

I don’t have time to go to the movies because I have three children that are four and under.  I did light the candles, crack open a twist-top bottle of Aldi’s wine, and get drunk watching “Apocalypse Now!” by myself about two months ago.  If you’re looking for a cheap date, I’m the girl for you!

I often watch “Twin Peaks” while I make dinner.  There’s nothing like watching a high schooler be brutally murdered in a train car while you stuff manicotti and your kids watch “The Little Mermaid” in the next room.

I don’t know what you listen to, but I can almost guarantee without looking that I have way better taste than you and more indie cred than the denizens of a Portland craft beer bar.  Never heard of Merzbow?  What?  You aren’t into grating, sometimes-disturbing Japanese noise “music?”  Piss off, plebe.  I use it to concentrate while I muddle through APH reviews at work.  (Also sadly true.)

As far as food goes, I’m a total health nut.  I never eat fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic, and all of the meat in my fridge is grass-fed and free range… Just kidding!  I’m sitting in bed eating animal crackers dipped in icing!  (Again, true.)  I drink 2-3 liters of coffee, tea, and diet soda every day because ephedrine and cocaine aren’t legal, and I’m contemplating getting an Adderall prescription so that I’ll get the house clean faster and stop eating ice cream in bed.

Six Things I Could Never Do Without

  1. Delusion
  2. Vacation days, so that my babysitter can fake sick at her leisure and rob me of the ability to ever get out of this Godforsaken town ever again.
  3. Family drama.  Because nothing makes me happier than having to deal with other people’s bullshit on top of my own.
  4. TV to keep the kids occupied while I cook dinner, clean the house, read, fuck around on the Internet, do laundry, paint the trim, fold and put away the laundry, sweep and Swiffer the floor, scrub the toilets, and run their bath.
  5. Coworkers who talk non-stop about vacations that they’re taking that I neither have the time off nor the money for.  Oh, and they had to get a babysitter once a week, and it’s fucking tragic that they have to spend $55 for that one day a week.  I’m so sad for them.  God.  Let’s get a collection plate going.
  6. Overpriced makeup to hide the fact that I’m 32 with wrinkles and acne, and a good stylist, to hide the fact that I’m 40% gray at 32.

I Spend a Lot of Time Thinking About…

Having sex with Tim Ferriss.

How morally and intellectually superior I am for being an anarcho-capitalist.

Spending a week in tropical paradise with a stack of books and several bottles of hard liquor.

Penises.

The bond bubble and the impending doom of modern civilization as it was foretold to me by my lord and savior, Dr. Ron Paul.

Why I get so many damn cracks in my fingers in the winter.

Hard penises.

Palm trees.

Money.

Sex.

The appropriate age to start getting Botox.

Whether or not Tim Ferriss would actually let me touch any part of him, let alone his hard penis.  Going with, “God, what?  Who the hell are you?  Stop that!  Jesus!  I’m calling the cops!  And why is my dick hard?!  You look like Quasimodo!”

You Should Message Me If…

If you like overweight single mothers that don’t sleep enough, hate cooking, aren’t girly, and don’t know how to use a drill properly, get in line.  Rich, handsome guys looking to raise kids that aren’t their own are welcome!

 

Great Expectations

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, but for whatever reason, the holidays have been bothering me more than usual this year.  I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until earlier today.  This is nothing groundbreaking, and it’s probably not going to come as a shock to anyone, but here it is: Christmas produces too many expectations.

It’s good to have expectations of yourself, of your kids, your friends, etc.  Those are less expectations and more goals, in my mind.  It’s good to have goals – necessary, even.  To me, expectations are the “should” statements in your life.  I should go to the office picnic and mingle with my coworkers and, more importantly, the bosses.  I should have a blowout birthday every year for my kids because everyone else does.  I should want this size house or that car because that’s what you’re supposed to want.

Friends, you all know that I don’t like to be told.  In fact, I resent it.  When it comes to Christmas, all I hear is, “Oh, you should want to do it for your kids!” or, “Why don’t you decorate now?  Everyone else is!” or, “Get an Elf on the Shelf!  The kids love it!”  I don’t care what everyone else is doing.  I don’t care in the rest of my life, so why would I care at the holidays?

Here’s the problem, though: They get you through the back door.  When you’re away at work, all of these hidden forces are working away at your kids without your knowledge.  TV.  Babysitter.  Kids at school.  Teachers.  Relatives.  And they’re all telling your kids what Christmas should look like.  All the emphasis is on Santa and presents and buying and shopping… It’s insane.

Now I love shopping as much as the next gal.  I don’t buy half the store in one sitting, though.  I can’t afford to do that, and even if I could, I wouldn’t.  My house isn’t big enough to house that much stuff, and honestly, I don’t want it.  I feel better when my house is clutter-free.

But the expectation is that you want to buy tons of stuff for your kids.  The implied mantra is that you aren’t a good parent if you don’t buy mountains of toys for your children.  You aren’t a good parent if you don’t get them an Elf on the Shelf.  You aren’t a good parent if you don’t take them to the mall and let them sit on some homeless guy’s lap while he wears a fake Santa suit.  You aren’t a good parent if you don’t do X, Y, and Z.

Well, I’m not buying that.  In the first place, I can’t afford to buy tons of stuff for my kids.  I’m not going to go into debt so that they swim in plastic.  Also, it doesn’t do them any favors to spoil them.  My grandparents were awesome and I loved them with all my heart, but they didn’t help me out in life by spoiling me.  Kids aren’t going to die if they don’t have an Elf on the Shelf or don’t get 100 toys.  Don’t even get me started about “Santa.”

This whole issue was giving me hives earlier today.  I was sitting in my room, bagging up old clothes and some toys to take to the Salvation Army.  We have so much shit, and so much of it we don’t need.  When I realized that I was cleaning out in order to buy more, it made me mad.  I like my house de-cluttered.  But I kept running up against the wall made of “should.”

I have a solution, and I can’t take credit for it.  I have an acquaintance – one who can afford to buy her kids tons of shit – who doesn’t do much for Christmas.  They have a tree and decorations and all that, but each of her children get three gifts: one toy, one book, and one thing they need.  That’s it.  No more, no less.  I am adopting this method, except it will be two toys (one from me, one from Santa) and something they need or a book, depending on age.

I think this is a fantastic compromise.  They get the excitement of opening gifts, but it’s not overboard.  They can still do Santa, but it’s only one gift.  And I can buy them things and meet that “should,” but I don’t have to break the bank doing it.  This is an arrangement that I can feel good about.

To clarify, at this point, I obviously have no problem with capitalism or buying things, inherently.  What I do have a problem with is gratuitous spending with no aim.  I read an Updike quote once, and the gist of it was that Americans can transmute every special occasion as a need to buy something.  Like I said, I’m all for having the means to do that, and I think it’s good to be able to satisfy whims now and then.

I think the problem that we’ve run into, culturally, is that we think that things are going to make us happy.  We have begun viewing happiness as a goal and not a practice, and we have created voids in our lives and begun expecting things to fill them.  People don’t understand that no thing, no matter how big or how expensive or how ostentatious, will fill that void.  The void will gape ever wider to accommodate the acquisition.  It’s like a funhouse that grows grotesquely in proportion to how much you have, and it will never be full.  You’ll run from room to room, trying to furnish them all.

The answer for a lot of people, in this case, is to make the holiday more religiously based.  That’s fine, if you’re Christian, which I am not.  I don’t go to church and, in fact, have serious beef with organized religion.  I think it’s a joke, and I think it’s a sham, although I do recognize that there is probably some value in the ceremonial part of it all.  And I do think churches can do good things, in the humanitarian sense, but I think you can do that absent religion, and I therefore don’t care to go to church.

So when you neuter the materialism and don’t care to incorporate Jesus, what is left of the holiday?  Family.  Togetherness.  A celebration based on traditions that go back millennia.  I don’t think that we have to make it about religion or presents.  I think it’s good to have that reminder to get together with your family and be grateful for the love and comfort they provide.  Of course, if none of that suits your taste, hell, go on a cruise.

But one thing I do know is that I feel more comfortable with Christmas, having made the decision to do it on my own terms.  Even in small ways, it’s not always easy to buck the trend, but I think it’s worth doing.

I hope you’re all having a fine start to the holiday season.  Stay away from the homeless dudes in Santa suits…

Trumped.

Good morning, America.

Are you dehydrated?  My guess is there are a lot of Trump supporters hung over from, well, the usual thing that causes hangovers.  I would also surmise that a lot of Hillary supporters are dehydrated from crying tears of anguish.

I am much happier at a Trump victory than I expected to be.  Well, to be perfectly honest, I never thought it was going to happen, so I never gave any thought to how I’d feel if it did.  But one of the very first headlines I saw when I went to scour the news sites was that Putin has already extended his hand and said he wants to break bread with Trump.  Folks, that is good news.  The best, in fact.  That is the kind of news we need.

Although I do think Trump is a loose cannon, or at least has been up to this point, he has been better on foreign policy than Hillary.  No, China isn’t going to like him, but to be honest, the bit about China manipulating the currency markets is 100% true.  China has been seeking to undermine the US dollar for a long, long time now.  Anyone with any brains at all should know that.  Trump was just being honest, like it or not.  (Apparently the Chinese didn’t like it.)

But I am extremely happy about Russia.  I was worried about what a Hillary presidency would bring us, in terms of a degenerating relationship with the Kremlin.  Although I don’t think that this Trump presidency guarantees a friendlier relationship, I do appreciate the fact that there is at least a chance there for that to happen.  The fact that Putin is at least willing to extend his hand back out to Trump is worth a lot.  And I think it says a lot about where we are coming from, that our enemies/detractors have been essentially unwilling to meet with us.

Here is something that people don’t understand: you don’t have to like someone to negotiate with them.  It is not necessary for someone to like you in order for you to hammer our agreements and at least have a drink.  In the arena of diplomacy it is, in fact, necessary that you negotiate with people that you don’t like – people you may actually find deplorable.  People don’t have to like you, but it is necessary that they respect you, in some basic way.

Yes,  I think the Trump victory sends a rather major signal, not just to the international community but to certain factions here at home.  There has been a major push over the last few years, with the help of the media, to undermine common sense, logic, and reason.  Left is right, up is down, war is peace, etc.  The state of the economy and the insistence of the political establishment on keeping it anemic has left people underemployed, with less disposable income, and less hope for retirement.  The extreme left-leaning rhetoric – the kind of rhetoric that accuses Joe Punchclock of being a racist and a homophobe because he doesn’t want to walk into the ghetto at night and feels some apprehension about men who dress as women and women who want to be men – has left people angry and perhaps not overtly, but it is simmering there, just beneath the surface.  People have been scared to speak out because they don’t want to carry the mantle of racist, homophobe, intolerant, or hater.  They fear for their reputations so they remain quiet in the hopes that they’ll be able to hang onto their little corner of the world as best they can.

Those are the people who came out yesterday.  The fact that Trump took the Rust Belt to me speaks volumes about what is going on in Middle America (or what’s left of it).  States like Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin should have been easy wins for Clinton.  Michigan?  Come on!  Those are the old union guys!  Unions vote Democrat!  But they didn’t.  They really, really didn’t.  The “blue dog Democrats” abandoned Hillary, and it feels like they may have just abandoned her completely.

And they abandoned her because they are tired.  They are tired of struggling to make ends meet.  They are tired of being told that they’re bad people because they aren’t totally enamored with socially liberal policies.  They are tired of feeling forgotten.  And who can really blame them for that?  Their way of life has been eroding for a generation now, at least.  They have felt, quite rightly, that nobody was listening.

I’m not suggesting, by the way, that Trump is.  I don’t think Trump knows what he believes.  I think he says whatever takes his fancy in the moment.  He is an ADD candidate.  He doesn’t have carefully formed opinions on much of anything because he can’t focus on any one thing long enough to really flesh it out.  My hope is that to compensate for that clear deficiency, he will surround himself with a competent brain trust, as any good businessman should.

Besides the potential for international negotiation, at least with some parties with whom it would be wise indeed to have meaningful discussion, I am happy – nay, thrilled – to see the end of the long night of the Clinton Dynasty.  They have been well and truly cut off at the knees in the most humiliating way.  Hillary has made two runs now and lost, and next time, she will be too old.  She has been routed.

I know, I know – I’m a traitor to my sex.  Except that I give respect where it’s due on the basis of morals as well as ability.  The Clintons have no morals, and I do not and have never felt obligated to side in with someone on the basis of some incidental commonality.  Ideas and actions are what matter, and I agree with exactly none of the Clintons’ ideas or actions.  I am proud of that.

I am officially out of time this morning – gotta take two of three kids to the doctor before work – but I leave you with the thought that this was historical, and it will be interesting.  I do not know what path we’re on.  I do not really believe that Trump can “make America great again” like he says he can.  But foolish, optimistic little anarchist that I am, I remain hopeful.

Ding dong, the witch is dead.

And the Winner Is…

It was eerily quiet at work today.  I was expecting a lot of kerfuffle about the election, but alas… The silence was deafening.  Even my cube mate who told me during the primaries that I wasn’t raised right was oddly silent.  She didn’t even have an “I Voted” sticker on.  None of my agents commented on it.  It was a little bit, well, weird.

Not that I’m complaining.  I think we all know I gave the polls a wide berth today.  Hell, I’m actually not sure where I’m even supposed to vote in my precinct.  Probably the senior center.

Despite my non-voting, I’m watching the results trickle in.  It’s early yet, and we don’t have the left coast in.  I hear Clinton was expected to be at an early disadvantage, and that may be true, but just looking at the electoral college, Trump is ahead by what I would consider a fairly significant margin right now, and he’s got Ohio and Michigan, and possibly North Carolina.  Florida, well… We all know how Florida is.  Missouri has long been called the bellwether state for accurately reflecting the election results for the past century, excepting 1956.  Missouri is showing up red.

I’ll be honest: I have never given a Trump presidency any actual consideration.  I always figured his odds of winning were so slim and, frankly, the Clintons so obviously criminal, that he wouldn’t have a snowball’s shot in hell.  Maybe I was wrong.  Heh.  Wouldn’t that be something?  The lil’ asshole in me thinks it would be hilarious if Donald J. Trump emerged the victor tomorrow.  I mean, seriously, who would Hillary have killed for that?  Would it vanquish her once and for all?  I have to think so; her health is clearly in decline.

Oh my God.  A world where Hillary Clinton didn’t get to be president.  Now that is an idea I don’t hate.  And no, it’s not because I’m a self-hating woman or something.  I just legit think she’s a murdering, evil bitch with no soul, and I don’t like her.  I don’t like her coke-snorting, philandering husband, either.  I also didn’t like the Bushes or Obama, and I’m not a slave to the Reagan cult.  Nope.  Just generally don’t like any of the presidents.  I do have a weird little soft spot for the ole Iron Lady, but she made her missteps.  Point is, I loathe Hillary Clinton.  Always have, always will.

Trump is just like a walking joke to me.  He’s like an orange marshmallow in a wig and a suit.  So strange.  I haven’t really even heard him speak because I have avoided all coverage of the election.  I will, however, make this observation: Holy shit, the media hates this guy.

Now, you all know that I’m not a secret Trump supporter.  I didn’t vote for either of them or Johnson or Stein or anyone else.  I don’t have a horse in the race because I ride my own damn horse, and I ride it in the opposite direction from Capitol Hill.  But the bias in the media is just… I mean, it’s kind of comical.  I feel like, as someone who honestly doesn’t care about either candidate for anything further than SNL joke fodder, they really are trying to sway the people against him – even though the votes are now, by and large, cast.

I have read through articles from several outlets, and all I’m seeing, even from Fox, is that Trump can’t win and that he is obviously behind.  Well… From where I’m sitting… It actually appears that he is, numerically anyway, winning.  Now that’s not to say that he will win.  I don’t know who will win, although my suspicion from day one has been that Clinton will have it and that she’ll steal it even if she doesn’t actually win it.  But I could be wrong.  I’m no pundit, and I’m no analyst.  But I can read polls and numbers, and I know that what my eyes are seeing do not match what I’m reading.

Whatever happened to just reporting?  Here is Trump.  He has x number of electoral votes.  Here is Clinton.  She has y number of electoral votes.  But there is so much speculation surrounding any little thing that it seems like this giant, overblown thing. Stick to the facts.  Let the people decide.  Stop trying to influence them.

Shifting gears a little bit, I was talking to my aunt for a minute when I went to pick the kids up.  She and my uncle went and voted after they dropped the kids off at preschool.  She asked me when I had gone to vote, and I pointed at my Emma Goldman shirt, and she remembered then.

She shrugged and smiled.  “Well… It’s just something you do.  My mom and dad always took us with them when they went to vote.  They said it was important.”

The notion that voting is important is so ingrained in the American psyche.  Even when you point out using actual, written-down numbers that a single vote doesn’t matter at all, people just laugh and say, “Well, it’s just something I do.” They make it sound as mundane as putting on underpants or brushing one’s teeth.  And actually, I think that’s the reaction that the system counts on us having.

Holy shit.  The states are closing out their counts, and damn if this isn’t actually a little bit exciting!  It’s like watching one of my Forex trades as it pushes closer to take profit.  … You know… Trump has it, if he can hang onto Michigan, Wisconsin, and NC.  He got Florida.

I was going to say some more smartly intelligent things about voting, but you know, I think I’m going to cut it off here.  I’m calling it: Donald Trump will be our next president.  I wouldn’t have thought it.  I will be surprised, at this point, if Hillary gets it.  I’m not going to lie, folks.  I am not excited about a Trump presidency (or any presidency), but there are very few things I would like more than to hear the demonic screams emanating from Sister Frigidaire tonight.

Objectively Romantic

Well, I had a date last night.  I have been on two dates since the divorce.  Neither of them has yielded up anything close to romance.  To the contrary, I would say that both experiences have left me generally glad that I’m single.

I told you all that I would do my own anthropological experiment in dating, and I have kept my promise, at least partly.  I am not on Bumble or Tinder because I deactivated my Facebook account for the duration of the election, and I’m actually thinking about keeping it inactive a bit longer.  I do, however, have an OKCupid account.  To say the least, it has been interesting.

I have never gotten a dick pic, but I have gotten some random stuff in my inbox.  Guys asking to be kicked in the balls.  Dudes who will blatantly tell you to sit on their face.  Men who think they’re saving time by typing “u” instead of “you.”  I have had a few genuinely nice messages, but so far only one of them as progressed beyond the messaging point.

I got a message from a guy we’re going to call Java.  He was from St. Louis, a programmer (because I’m the geek whisperer), married and divorced once, no kids, intensely intelligent, and seemingly sweet.  The whole thing took off very easily.  We had a lot in common – general opinions, likes and dislikes, mentally screwed up former exes, etc.  We agreed after about half a second that we needed to meet each other, so we made plans for the following Friday (last night), and kept talking.

Frankly, I was pretty convinced that I was finally going to break the dry spell.  In point of fact, I was counting on a torrential downpour.  Well, much like when the weather forecast is calling for massive amounts of rain and a tornado that doesn’t end up panning out, the forecast was incorrect, and we’re still enduring the drought.

We met for Mexican in south city, and it was okay.  No great shakes.  The conversation was pleasant – interesting, related to a variety of subjects, etc.  We had already decided that, because we’re both cheap and because we were expecting it to go off, we would just go back to his place and watch a movie.  That would have been great…

Except his place.

Now, let it be said that I am no neat freak.  I sweep the new laminate once or twice a week and then do a full Swiffering.  I try to do the dishes every night, but sometimes they age for a day or two.  I do laundry every day.  I change the kids’ sheets once a week or more, depending on variables.  I scrub the toilets and sinks on Saturday.  I wipe down the barrel of the washing machine. My room is a disaster.  Clothes on the floor.  Nightstand needs a dusting.  But my house smells like apple cinnamon Scentsy wax, and the overall environment is clean, if not moderately disorganized at times.

This apartment was awful.  Awful.  Awful.  First of all, he had dogs.  Now, we all know I don’t have much love lost for dogs or really indoor pets, generally.  They’re messy and smelly, and when you’d have to be crazy or love cleaning to want to add that on top of kids.  Anyway, his dogs were gross, and the house smelled like dog.  He’s in the process of moving, and there was stuff everywhere.  Clothes.  Books in boxes.  … But no furniture.  The only thing out was his giant computer desk in his office, his bed in his room, and an old futon mattress on the floor.  Not even joking.

I always thought that my executive function skills were poor, but this was next level.  This was him offering to get me something to drink and me refusing because I didn’t want to touch the glasses.  And I’m not a neat freak – not even a little bit.  I can deal with some mess.  Next.  Level.

And it’s really too bad because I honestly think that I would have been 50% more likely to have had good vibes about the whole thing, if it hadn’t been for that.  He was a genuinely sweet guy, and we were both geeky and nerdy.  We liked a lot of the same stuff.  And while he wasn’t really my physical ideal, I also realize that the odds of a 6’2″ stud who does gymnastic strength training religiously wanting to go out with me are almost nil, and I don’t hold being average against people.  I mean, I’m average.  We’re statistically in the majority.

But the fact of the mess… And it wasn’t clean mess, where the person dusts and vacuums but just has some clutter around. This was gross.  And it made me think less of him.  It made me think the things that came off slightly quirky on paper were legitimate issues in real life.  I am, in fact, almost certain of it.

For anyone out there who is doing the online dating thing – and I know most people are these days, if they’re trying to date – please bear this one thing in mind: don’t make your date your therapist.  You’re there to get to know each other and have fun.  You are not there to dump your problems on a total stranger.  Because no matter how well you get along on paper, you are strangers.  Don’t force someone who doesn’t know you to listen to every problem you’ve had since childhood.  No.  Not kosher.

Was it a night wasted?  No.  I learned some important lessons about online dating.  The first is that you cannot get emotionally invested in someone you haven’t met.  Let me repeat that because it’s really important: You cannot get emotionally invested in someone you haven’t met.  No matter how much you technically have in common, no matter what kind of “chemistry” you seem to have, there is no accounting for taste, and we never ultimately know who it’s going to be that lights our fire.  Sometimes there is just no rhyme or reason to it.

So in the interest of making online meeting – because it’s not dating until you’re face-to-face – a more objective practice for myself, I’m setting out to do with dating what I do with trading Forex: set up a “trading” system with the expectation that, applied correctly, it’s going to yield a given amount of positive results.  Take the guesswork out of dating.  Select down to people who are objectively a good match, get as many of them out on dates as possible, and go from there.

And that’s what dating sites are trying to do, right?  Well, I’m attempting to refine it.  There are a million questions that you can answer about yourself on OKC, and it does try to weight them, but ultimately some things are going to be more important to one person than another.  We all want someone we find attractive, but looks are more important for some than others.  Same with money, brains, kids, pets, etc.  We all have our deal breakers.

I know what my deal breakers are.  I know what I like in men, physically and mentally.  I know how to weight my preferences.  I am also learning what items are most likely to cause an otherwise good match to turn into a headache in fairly short order.  It doesn’t take long to figure this stuff out.

I am currently working on a mind map (thank you, Mind Maple) that outlines a points-based “trading strategy” that allows me to treat potential pairings like a Forex trade.  I know my trading strategy fairly well, at this point.  It’s simple, and it works.  More to the point trading, to the greatest extent that it can be, should be devoid of emotion.  You look at the chart, you do your analysis, and you decide whether or not a trade is likely to yield good results.  There ultimately no predicting the market, but you can surmise based on prior experience and movements how likely it may be.  That’s all you’re doing with online dating – or dating of any kind, actually.

The job of the trader is a simple one: choose a trade that has a higher probability of winning, and then determine the entry and exit points.  Where is your take profit going to be?  Where is your stop loss?  At what point are you willing to cut your losses and call the trade a bad one?  Are you rational enough to stick to your stop loss?  Because brother, let me tell you, you do not move your stop loss further out once it’s set.  You can tighten it up, for sure, but don’t you ever move it further out.  You will blow up your account and/or face ruin, if you do.

What are some of my deal breakers?  Distance.  Drugs.  Kids from multiple partners in a fairly short period of time.  No job.  Obvious lack of direction/goals, most especially when coupled with a general sense of unhappiness that is coming through even on the  modest amount of profile info.  Mental problems.  Extreme sloppiness.

That probably sounds like a long list, but let’s be honest here.  Who wants to date a bipolar slob with no job, no goals, and who smokes weed all day?  Nobody in his/her right mind, that’s who.  Set your stop loss, folks.  I know I’m going to.

I hope it doesn’t come across like I’m bitter from a couple of bombed dates because I’m not.  Actually, even when it’s bad, at least it’s entertaining.  I mean, sure, it disappointing because we’re all hoping to find someone to connect to on a deeper level, but honestly, some of the shit that you have to dig through to get to that is just comical.

I genuinely hope the guy I went out with last night can find the right person.  Because he is a good guy with some very particular positive characteristics.  I hope equally fervently that the things that he’s deficient in he can be self-aware enough to correct.

When I am done with the dating “trade system,” I will write a post about it and put the file up here for all to see.  I am genuinely interested to see if I can come up with a system that will statistically yield better dating success.  I don’t hold out much hope because people have been trying to do this forever, but hey.  My trading strategy has thus far been a good one.  I have a 71.4% success rate on my Forex trades, as of today.  If I can figure out currency trading, how hard can dating possibly be?  … Please don’t answer that.