I look just like Buddy Holly…

…and you’re Mary Tyler Moore.

When I was a kid, personal computers weren’t a thing. Well, I guess they were for some people, but not really out in the sticks where I lived. We got three Macs at school when I was in 4th grade (circa 1990). By the time I got to 6th grade, the school had built a little computer lap with half a dozen PCs and we had “computer class” regularly, but almost nobody in my school had their own computers at home. I remember our high school computer teacher, Mr. Waste (that was seriously his name, I’m not making that up), showing us all how to use Netscape Navigator to access something called The Internet, and all of us scoffing about how it was interesting enough but we’d probably never USE it for anything. We then all went back to competing for who could program their computer to play the most annoying sequence of MIDI tones and make Mr. Waste yell at us the fastest. We called that (highly unsanctioned) activity the Waste Race. I’m sure it will shock you to learn that none of us ended up at MIT.

Anyway.

We got a PC at our house around 1996. I’m pretty sure my mom got it from Sears. We didn’t have Internet at first, just the computer. It was meant for school work you see. None of that electronic mail or chat room nonsense. Even back then companies had started putting junk on computers that nobody really needed, though. On my model there was a folder called ‘Fun Stuff’ that had a bunch of sample photos, music clips, and much to my interest, several full-length music videos.

One of the videos that came pre-loaded was Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’.

bh

It was set in the diner from Happy Days and they made it look like The Fonz was jamming with the band at one point.

I swear, I must have watched that video about a thousand times…not necessarily out of any deep love of the song or band, but more just out of desire to somehow be connected to what was going on in the world outside of back-woods Vermont, maybe? Plus, in retrospect, at 16 years old I was really starting to hit my stride when it came to my talent for procrastination. Having a computer, even one without the Internet, offered a whole new universe of opportunities to fuck off and not get my algebra homework done. When I got sick of Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’, I could always drill down level after level of folders and files in the guts of Windows 95, building a mental map of where things went and why. I also got really good at Minesweeper and Solitaire. Best of all was the Encarta encyclopedia CD that came with the computer. I could load that up and read all about…well, everything. And I did. Often. That CD taught me how to say “my name is Michael” in Greek for instance. You wouldn’t think that a teenage girl in rural Vermont with no Greek family would need to know that for any reason, but you’d be WRONG because my dad’s name is Michael and he actually did some work for a guy who was married to a Greek lady back in ’97 and I TOTALLY came through in the clutch when my dad came home one day talking about how he wished he knew something in Greek that he could say to the lady.

smart

All those hours of trawling through Encarta instead of doing homework definitely paid off in the long run.

(This post brought to you by a) knowing I haven’t written in a while and feeling like I really should but not knowing what to write about and b) Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’ popping up on the playlist I was listening to an hour ago.)

origins

I started this blog three years ago today.

cake

OCD brain is annoyed that there are more than three candles in this picture. Calm your tits, OCD brain. We’ll just assume those blurry, far-away candles are for future blogiversaries off in the misty distance. Or past ones from other blogs. Who cares, just make like Elsa and let it go already. Gahd.

It doesn’t feel like that big of a deal to me because I’ve actually had a blog of some sort for close to fourteen years now. My original blog, which technically still exists but is pretty hard to find unless you know what you’re looking for, was started on 1/13/2004. I finally gave up posting there in  2009, then started my half-assed cooking blog in 2010. The half-assed cooking blog also still exists but I haven’t posted on it since July 2015. It was starting to feel like a chore, and it was also making me feel really inadequate in a lot of ways. Like, food blogs are all about good photography, and I had neither the time or the inclination to teach myself how to be a food stylist. I’m also really not good at measuring when I’m cooking, and I don’t always think in a linear fashion, so recipes are pretty hard for me to write…and that’s pretty much what people read food blogs for. There are only so many times someone is going to want to read about how good my meatloaf is before they’re like “OK, prove it. Either feed me meatloaf, give me your recipe so I can try it, or STFU”. In the end, I opted for S’ing the F.U.

I started How Bad Can It Go because a friend drew some casual similarities between my then Facebook-based rants about being a little touched in the head and the way Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) wrote about her own experiences with mental illness. The comparison was wildly flattering. I immediately started envisioning how I’d blog hilariously (but also earnestly) about my struggles with anxiety, depression, and ADHD for maybe a year or so, then be ‘discovered’ by some publisher. I’d be given a book deal and afforded the opportunity to tell my day job they could shove off.

Let’s just say the offers haven’t exactly been pouring in. Or trickling, even. Nary a drip. Not even the merest hint of moisture in the air. Dry as a 5,000 year old Egyptian’s desiccated, mummified femur buried under 47 feet of sand, in fact.

mummy

Ramses was the worst peek-a-boo partner EVER.

But that’s OK. I’ll keep on keepin’ on, because hey, how bad can it go?

inventory

note: sorry, I know the formatting is fucked up. I don’t know why WordPress does this sometimes, and I don’t know how to fix it without inserting break tags between paragraphs, which makes the spaces between them gigantic. Sorry, sorry. Please forward all complaints to the first person named Janet you have in your address book. She’ll love hearing them, I promise.

Hi, Hello, Guten Tag.

 

I haven’t jumped off a bridge, been abducted by Sasquatches (Sas…quati? Sasquaron? Sasquatillia? I could Google it but where’s the fun in that), or launched myself into space via the power of my own ass (YET). I’ve just been busy with getting caught up at work after vacation, trying to mentally adjust to no longer being on vacation, pining for more vacation, and wading through the daily struggle of trying not to think so much about why I exist. Those all take up a lot of time and mental energy, so I haven’t had much left of either to write.
BUT I’M HERE NOW!
There’s a post about GenCon coming, complete with discussions about the games I played, I swear…but this is not that.
This, amigos, is an exhaustive inventory of my purse. This post is being brought to you by the literal five minute struggle I had to find my work keys this morning as I pulled handful after handful of random fuckery out of my purse. At one point during the process I actually thought to myself, ‘maybe I should get a smaller shoulder-bag just for my work essentials. I could tuck it here into the bigger bag and everything would be contained right where I need it’.
Let that sink in for a minute. My bag is so big, and so full of shit, that I was seriously contemplating GETTING ANOTHER BAG to segregate the things I need to find easily, and putting it INSIDE THE TOO-BIG, TOO-FULL BAG.
nevermind_nathan_fillion

Exactly.

Here is the bag in question. It’s sitting on my size 11 shoes, which I didn’t actually do for scale, but feel free to make that connection if you’d like.
img_20180817_111011249_ll

It’s sort of Tardis blue, but it’s not really bigger on the inside.

I’m not actually a purse carrying type. When I’m leaving the house to run errands or something, I just grab my wallet, which is a checkbook clutch thing. I don’t like leaving my wallet hanging around unattended at work though, and I like the idea of it being unattended in my car even LESS, so I’ve always maintained some kind of smallish bag situation in order to tote the wallet, my keys, and my lunch back and forth to work. Sometimes it has been an actual purse, sometimes a messenger bag, and for a while I used one of those reusable bags you get for like $2.50 at the grocery store.
When I first got this blue bag many years ago, the intended use was as a carry-on for air travel, as it was big enough to fit even a large knitting project, a 1-liter bottle of water, my wallet, and my Kindle or a book, with a bit of room to spare. I’m not really sure quite how I ended up transitioning it from a carry-on to my daily lug-shit-around bag, honestly. It was probably after some trip we took where I was too tired and brain-dead to transfer my shit over from one bag to another the morning that I had to go back to work. That sounds like me.
Now, if you have ADHD or are close to someone who does, you may be able to see where this is going. The Second Law of ADHD Life is that The Mess Will Always Expand To Fill The Available Space. Get a bigger kitchen table because your old small one is always covered with piles of stuff? The mess will expand to fill the available space. Clean out the trash in the back seat of the car to build the illusion that you are a functioning adult? The mess will expand to fill the available space. Switch to a bigger hand bag for whatever reason? The mess will expand, blah blah blah. It’s like gravity, or my husband’s willingness to eat Taco Bell even though it makes him sick every time. It just IS. You can try to fight nature, but nature always wins. It doesn’t matter what kind of bag I end up with. I will always, ALWAYS, end up filling it with weird junk. I did it as a child, I did it even worse as a teenager, and I will likely continue to do it for as long as I have a bag that I leave the house with daily.
SO.
With all that said, here’s the full and truthful inventory of my bag as of this morning:
  • one ballpoint pen: click style, orange, emblazoned with the words ‘Riverbank Church’, which I have never attended and don’t know the actual location of.
  • lipstick: three different shades. I had a lip color phase which I have long since passed, but for some reason I still carry these around. Just in case of a pale lip emergency, I guess?
  • small bottle of tylenol: because ibuprofen doesn’t work on my headaches, and headaches make me anxious, which makes my headaches worse. Welcome to my world.
  • empty plastic bag from local grocery store: I think I might have used this to wrap a potentially leaky lunch container one day, and then felt bad about single-handedly ruining the environment if I threw it away, so back in the bag it went. I didn’t actually un-crumple it and check whether it contained remnants of leaked lunch. I haven’t developed a case of bag-ants, so I think it’s probably ok.
  • work keys: ironically, these are all keys to the old office that I haven’t given back yet, but there’s also a security token on the key ring that I need to do some of my daily functions, and is therefore about the only thing in the bag that I ACTUALLY need to have with me on a day to day basis.
  • small container of dental floss: having stuff stuck in my teeth makes me twitchy, so I like to have floss just in case.
  • three barrettes: pop-style metal ones. These are for keeping my hair out of my face at yoga class. I only use one at a time, but I carry backups because they’re small and very lose-able.
  • wallet: where all my plastic money access cards live. This is a hot mess too and could merit its own inventory post, frankly.
  • two copies of a bill I need to pay: I brought the first one to work with me to argue with them about the charges, realized I was wrong before I even called them (thankfully), stuffed it in my bag, forgot about it, and didn’t pay it. The next month they kindly sent me a reminder copy. I thought to myself that the best place to put it in order to remember to pay it would be my bag, so in it went two weeks ago. Sidenote: I threw away the older copy while doing this inventory. Remind me to write a check for the newer copy when I’m done with this.
  • Microsoft Office suite software box, empty: I have a semi-reasonable excuse for this one. It came from when I bought our laptop a couple years ago. All it has in it is the serial number for the copy of Office that I bought. I set up the new laptop at work so that my IT guy could do his VPN voodoo on it, entered the serial number for Office, then tossed the box in my desk drawer and forgot about it until we started moving the office and it came time to empty my drawers out. At that point I wasn’t sure whether the serial number was something I should keep a record of, so I saved the box to be on the safe side. Granted, that WAS like eight weeks ago, but still.
  • small bottle of ibuprofen: because tylenol doesn’t work on my period cramps.
  • passport: the last time I traveled internationally, I used this bag as my carry-on. That was April of 2017. Passport’s still in there.
  • brush and comb: because sometimes I try to make my hair all travel in sort of the same direction, just to see what it looks like.
  • sugar free honey lemon Ricola cough drops, half bag: these are another cleaning-out-old-desk holdover
  • 2016 W2 tax form: I think I had this with me to validate my 2016 adjusted gross income so that I could file my 2017 taxes online.  I did my taxes in February. It is now almost September.
  • 2017 W2 tax form: see above.
  • 2017 W2 tax form of my husband’s: see above.
  • small tube of refill erasers for a Pentel mechanical pencil: I bought these through work with the intention of using them in my clicky pencils at home. Haven’t gotten there yet. I still use the pencils…I just erase with a different eraser. Guess I didn’t need them that bad?
  • broken claw-style hair clip, small: it’s not completely broken – just one tooth got snapped off. Still totally viable in a hair emergency, which I feel the need to always be prepared for.
  • my copy of my mom’s advance directive paperwork: my mom got really sick for a while back in early 2017. They made her fill out advance directive (living will) paperwork and since I’m her only kid and I’m named for everything in it along with my dad, I had to be given a copy. It doesn’t have any sensitive information on it or anything…it’s just a super weird thing to have been carrying around for like 18 months.
  • letter from a friend, postmarked May 2017: When I went to renew my driver’s license in December 2017, I had to bring some pieces of mail with me to prove that I really do live where I say I live. Because, you know, that shit totally couldn’t be faked.
  • 2017 car registration (now long expired): I THINK this may have been related to the last item, but I’m not positive.
  • pay stub circa 12/2017: possibly also related to the license renewal thing? I get all my pay stubs electronically now, so at least I don’t have to worry about accumulating large piles of them anymore.
  • receipt for coach tickets dated April 2017: this was from our trip to the UK. It was actually tucked into my passport folio thing but must have worked its way out during one of my many pawing-through-layers-of-shit-to-find-keys sessions.
  • little card from flowers my husband sent me for our anniversary: which anniversary, I can’t be sure. Which number, I mean. I know that they were for our wedding anniversary, not like…the anniversary of that time I thought it would be a good idea to put raisins in the sweet potato mash (because trust me, that was NOT a celebratory experience for him).
  • job application for local grocery store, blank: this was given to me to give to my husband when the owner of the local grocery store was trying to get him to come work for her. The fact that it’s still in my bag like four months later should tell you what he thought of that idea.
  • book, entitled ‘Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself’: I bought this from Amazon and forgot to change my shipping address from work to home, so it got delivered at work. I took it out of the box, tucked it into my bag with the intention of starting it after I finished the book I was working on at the time. This was in January (I just checked Amazon). As you can clearly tell, I’ve not yet gotten over myself enough to actually crack this book.
  • reusable plastic carrier bag from Asda: this is circa April 2017 when we were in the UK. We went to Asda to stock up on British candy before we headed home. I had my usual guilt over trashing a plastic bag once I got home, and then realized this was actually a pretty decent reusable bag. Why I felt that keeping it folded up in my purse was an appropriate use for it, I couldn’t tell you.

There you go. I’ve now wasted just over 2,000 words telling you about all the junk in my bag. 2008 to be exact. Well, before I wrote that. And that. Ok, I gotta go.

hair today, gone tomorrow

To say my partner is a good guy would be a profound understatement. He is truly one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met…and I’m not just saying that because I have to share a bathroom with him. For as long as I have known him, he has always made a point of giving to others. Whether it’s his time, his money, or even his most treasured belongings, he’s always happy to step up and help someone in need, and to do it with a smile.

Mark’s most outstanding physical trademark has always been a very long ginger ponytail. He’s always been into heavy metal music and long hair tends to come with that territory. Plus, having a long ponytail was something polite society didn’t really want him to do in the time and place that he grew up, so maintaining it was always kind of an act of defiance for him, a little way of flipping off said polite society and all it stood for.

 

After 30+ years of maintaining the long hair, he’s now ready to give it up, all in the name of charity.  Because, like I said, he has a habit of taking being a good guy to a whole different level.

IMG_20150216_122952396

He was watching sports on the TV above us. I guarantee it.

The charity he’s choosing to support with this endeavor is the National Immigration Law Center. Unless you’ve been living under an actual rock for the past couple years (is there room under there for me? Seriously, I can bring snacks), you understand why NILC has become so important to so many people. Even so, I still encourage you to click the link above and read more about what they do and how they are helping some of the most vulnerable among us. They are a vital resource in these days of seemingly constant shifting interpretations of immigration law and, quite frankly, human rights.

I’m going to throw up the link for Mark’s GoFundMe campaign below, but I’d like to  point out here that NILC is a four star rated charity and has a direct funding agreement with GoFundMe, so any donations made to Mark’s campaign will go DIRECTLY to NILC, not to his or my bank account. I don’t want any ambiguity on this – we will not personally be benefiting financially from any donations made. Which, of course, is as it should be.

Here’s the campaign link.

If you want to throw a few bucks at it, we’ll love you forever. If you don’t have any money spare but you want to share the link around to get more eyeballs on it, again…undying love. If you want to shut your browser window and forget you ever heard of the NILC, well…you do you. I don’t have the time or energy to be mad about it.

Thanks for your consideration!

history

Once upon a time there was  a woman named Rhubarb. Her name wasn’t REALLY Rhubarb but she was paranoid about getting found out and losing her job so she started calling herself Rhubarb online because she liked the sound of it and also rhubarb was her favorite type of pie and besides she’d always had kind of a thing for hiding behind screen names that sound cooler than she ever hoped to be in real life.

Anyway.

Rhubarb’s brain was full of weasels. Not real weasels, but thought-weasels. The weasels gnawed away at her insides by whispering terrible things:

“You’ll never amount to anything. You’re not as smart as they said you were as a child. No one likes you. They just hang out with you because they feel bad for you. They feel bad for you because they see how you struggle with the simplest things. They laugh behind your back. You can’t even speak in complete sentences half the time! You’re too slow, you take up too much space, you’re in everyone’s way. You’re a burden to those you care about. You’d be better off just walling yourself off and becoming a hermit. Don’t kill yourself because that would make you even MORE of a burden to those you care about. Just push everything inward, keep compacting yourself until you implode, like a neutron star. Except you probably couldn’t even do that right because nothing you do is ever good enough…”

She went to the doctor and got some medicine to try and purge the weasels, but all it did was muffle them on an inconsistent basis. Their whispers still broke through. Their gnawing still drew blood. The doctor gave her some other medicine, and some other medicine, and some other medicine. Some of the medicine worked some of the time, some of the medicine worked none of the time. None of the medicine worked for very long.

Rhubarb got sick of dealing with medicines that only sometimes sort of worked. She went to a different doctor who wanted to talk instead. Rhubarb talked and cried, and talked some more and cried a LOT more, because the weasels fought and bit and thrashed. They were not fans of the talking.

One of the things talk-doctor asked Rhubarb was what she liked to do. Rhubarb liked to make things with her hands: things with string, things with paint, things with wood and music and words and whatever else she could get to hang together in some precarious way. Making things gave Rhubarb’s motor some steering and wheels, it gave her the means to distance herself from the weasels, even if only for a short while. The talk-doctor suggested that Rhubarb try to cultivate a habit of making as a way of keeping the weasels at bay. That seemed like a decent idea so Rhubarb gave it a try. She was already making things with string or paint or food most days, though. She needed something new.

When Rhubarb was a girl, writing had been one of her favorite things. A couple of her teachers made noise about how she was OK at it, which made her feel good. Writing fell by the wayside for her not long after high school, though. Rhubarb went to college and got pretty brain-sick with a big weasel infestation not long after, then got kicked out of college, had to become an Adult (not recommended), and didn’t  have the time or energy to write for a long time after that. It was something that she often missed and was sad about having given up. When talk-doctor told her to find something to make a habit of making, she decided that writing could maybe be her making thing. Her brain-weasel fighting thing.

Rhubarb started a blog about cooking, which was another making thing she really enjoyed and was pretty good at. That blog was fun for a while but the weasels eventually found a way in. Rhubarb started to feel like the blog would never be good enough and was pointless if she wasn’t going to try to turn it into some kind of actual enterprise. Because, you see, the weasels do a really good job of convincing Rhubarb that having fun isn’t as important as getting peoples’ approval. So, she quit. She ran away from the cooking blog, giving herself up to the weasels’ picking and gnawing for a while.

One afternoon many months later, Rhubarb wrote an account of something amusing that had happened to her and posted it on Facebook. A friend from childhood, one that she had only recently reconnected with via the dark magic of social media, commented on the story that it reminded them of The Bloggess, and suggested that Rhubarb should write a blog about her (mis?)adventures. Rhubarb had heard of The Bloggess but hadn’t read a ton of her writing, so off she went to look her up, and down the rabbit hole she fell. The Bloggess was weird and hilarious and dark, and she was honest about her brokenness. The Bloggess held her busted bits up for the light to shine through, and Rhubarb saw a constellation that looked a lot like herself. She wanted to do that – use stories about the ridiculousness of life to make people laugh, and stories about her own brain weasels to make people maybe not feel quite so all alone.

So, Rhubarb bought a domain name called How Bad Can It Go and started venting some of her spleen on the internet. She hasn’t made a single dollar doing so as of yet and thus must keep using her fake name so that she doesn’t get found out, get fired, have to file for bankruptcy, lose everything, move into a tarp-and-stick tent in the woods, and spend her days trying to figure out how to make herself eat grubs for nourishment.

The End.

****

This post came about because I got nominated for one of those chain-letter-esque “blogger recognition awards” (by the inimitable Non-Euclidean Sofa – you should read her blog, it’s very funny). Those things always come with rules, and one of the rules of this one was to give a brief story of how your blog started. A thousand words is brief, right? I mean, in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s the complete listing of rules:

Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.  (check)

Give a brief story of how your blog started.  (cheeeeeeck?)

Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.  (1. Don’t, there are already way too many of us and the box the internet lives in only has so much space. 2. This is more of a life tip than a specific blogging tip: be yourself and be OK with that not being interesting to some people. I fucking hate spiders, but some people like them. There’s no accounting for taste. Just do you and don’t base your sense of self worth on whether anyone else likes it because life is bound to be eternally disappointing to you otherwise. I’m old and I’ve learned the hard way. Trust me on this.)

Select 10 other bloggers you want to give this award to. (No. I don’t even fucking have time to read five other blogs, let alone ten. What do you think I am, a kept woman lounging with her tablet and her box of bonbons by the poolside day in and day out?)

Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created. (Not applicable because I’m a jerk who isn’t participating in the circle-jerk portion of the proceedings. Which is not to say that anyone who does is lame, mind you. I’m the lame one for not participating, but I’m ok with that. Like my Twitter bio says, I’m Next Level Awful. Which, as an aside, I’ve been considering using as a new name for this blog. It’s probably already taken, though. Kids these days, snapping up all the good domain names. YOU RUINED THE INTERNET. GET OFF MY LAWN.)

Alright, I think we’re done here. Thanks again to Non-Euclidean Sofa for the nod. I make a lot of noise about these things being silly, but it’s still nice to know someone other than my three meat-space friends (Pterodactyl club for the win!) is occasionally enjoying what I write.

Peace out.

ice

Word to your mother.

a month and a day

It’s been a month and a day since we lost Junior.

This morning on the way out the door to head to work, I almost turned to Mark and asked him to check if Junie’s water dish was full. The dish hasn’t been in its spot for a month and a day.

I don’t hear him anymore, at least. For the first few days, I’d swear I could hear him snuffling in the living room or at the foot of the bed at night. I think my brain just automatically knew what sounds he’d be making when, and was filling them in of its own accord. My brain only wants to be helpful with remembering things when it comes to me being haunted, I guess. Go figure.

We still have all of his stuff. His bowls got washed and tucked away in the cupboard almost as soon as we got home. His harness and leash are still on the back seat of the car, which seems perfectly fitting as going for rides was just about his favorite activity. Most of his toys are still piled up in the same place we always returned them to on the rare occasion we bothered to tidy them. A few of his special toys got put aside in other places – his little stuffed bantha sits atop the carved wooden box his ashes are in on the table-cum-altar in the living room. LeRoy, the wee squeaky giraffe whose squeaker gave out but who Junie still often picked up and tried to make squeak, now resides on the bookshelf with some other mementos. L’Alligator the stuffed alligator whose head I once had to surgically reattach due to Junie’s frequent, enthusiastic attentions, sits on the desk upstairs in our bedroom. He’s a far quieter night sentry than Junior ever was, but we do feel like he’s getting the job done OK so far.

His beds are still there, all four of them (one for each bedroom and two in the living room), though Mark moved the one from the foot of our bed into the spare bedroom, and I tucked the favorite living room bed under the other, deeply hated living room bed (he took after me and had a complicated relationship with beds), so that we wouldn’t have to see them empty. We really should get rid of at least two of the beds. One belonged to our old dog Buttons and predated Junior by several years. The faux sheepskin atop the other one bears the scars of much scuffing, as Maltese tend to like to scratch up their bedding into a suitable nest before settling down to nap. We should go through the dozens of toys and donate some of them to the local shelter as well…but we’re not there yet.

It’s only been a month and a day, after all.

 

 

cropped-dsc02958.jpg

L’Alligator and Junior

free fallin’

When I was a teenager, I had a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers greatest hits CD. I think I may actually still have it, in fact. Anyway – the CD had a defect that caused a tiny skip in the first track, ‘Free Fallin’ ‘:

All the vampires, walkin’ through the valley

move West down Ventura Boulevard

On my CD, the skip was in the word “boulevard”, making it sound like some kind of syncopated contraction….like Tom had taken all the vowels out and was literally singing the abbreviation, “blvd”.

I had heard the song on the radio plenty of times and I knew it didn’t actually go like that, that it was either a microscopic scratch or a manufacturing glitch causing it, but I listened to that CD and that song in particular so many times over the years that it got stuck in my head. To this day, when I hear ‘Free Fallin’ ‘ and the skip DOESN’T happen my brain notes it and judges that version of the song, that particular split-second sonic experience, as ever so slightly sub-standard.

I’m not a music critic or a biographer and I certainly didn’t know Tom Petty personally, so it feels silly to try and eulogize him. What I can say is that I loved Tom Petty for his plain-spoken lyrical style. I loved that he was smart and sly and also a stoner, and didn’t give a shit who knew it. I loved that he was so versatile, writing everything from hard-charging rock like ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’ to sensitive, almost bluegrassy-sounding diddies like ‘Wildflowers’. I loved his ridiculously nasal voice and his Scarecrow-goes-to-Hollywood looks, and I’ll miss him very, very much.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

‘Wildflowers’ by Tom Petty

wildflowers

sonic coping strategy

Music has always been important to me. Neither of my parents played instruments, at least not in my lifetime, but they both liked listening to music so it was a common feature in my early life. My mom liked contemporary rock – Bryan Adams, Tina Turner, John Cougar Mellencamp. Saturday mornings were for cleaning the house, and dancing around to ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ got us through many a post-cartoon bout of dusting and putting away laundry. My dad was into older, harder stuff – Z.Z. Top, Blue Oyster Cult, Cream, Pink Floyd, old Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin. He also liked country though, so I was just as likely to be singing along to ‘Mama, He’s Crazy’ by the Judds rather than Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ when I was with him.

When I was old enough to have my own little boombox as a kid, the first things I went for were pop – Michael Jackson (‘Bad’ was the very first tape I ever got) and Paula Abdul featured heavily – but I also started exploring a lot of my parents’ cassettes too. Albums like Aerosmith’s ‘Toys In The Attic’, The Grateful Dead’s ‘Shakedown Street’, and Billy Joel’s ‘An Innocent Man’, along with greatest hits compilations from Steppenwolf and The Beatles, all made it into my regular rotation. We didn’t have a lot of money so I couldn’t go out and buy new music very often, but it didn’t take me long to discover that time-honored 80’s tradition of taping music off the radio. I recorded the local rock station most often, as that’s what my little boom-box picked up with the best reception. This introduced me to such wonders as The Scorpions, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica. By middle school I had a part-time job and a little pocket money, almost all of which was usually spent on music. Hip-hop was just starting to show up in the music stores up here around that time, and I embraced acts like MC Hammer, C+C Music Factory, and Digital Underground with the fervor only a newly minted teenager looking to set herself apart from the tastes of her parents’ generation can muster. High school ushered in my (predictable, in retrospect) transition to harder rock and goth music. I was obsessed with The Crow (again, predictable), and the soundtrack to that movie introduced me to groups like Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots and Rage Against The Machine – all groups I still adore more than two decades on. When ADHD first reared its head and I started having trouble concentrating as a teenager, music helped considerably. Counting Crows’ ‘August and Everything After’ got me through many hours of homework, and the first short story I ever wrote was to an endless loop of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’.

Today, I’m a grumpy middle-aged woman with a very boring day job. Alas, all those fantasies of becoming a musician didn’t pan out (not that I tried to make them, admittedly), but music is still a deeply important part of my day-to-day life. It has become my main coping strategy, not just in terms of dealing with my ADHD symptoms, but also my depression and anxiety. When I’m having a particularly anxious day, I’ll listen to a lot of Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross, wonderful local bluegrass / folk artists whose shows I’ve attended many times and who serve as anchors to the here-and-now for me. When I’m angry, I go for the catharsis of Rage Against The Machine, Incubus or Audioslave (I hope you found peace,Chris. You will be missed so much more than you could ever have imagined). If I need to power through piles of particularly boring data entry, I like the flow of older hip-hop and rap like A Tribe Called Quest, WuTang Clan, and The Beastie Boys, or the driving, trance-like beats of EDM.

If you have any favorite artists or playlists that help get you through the day, I’d love to hear about them. I use Spotify at work and enjoy exploring new music. I’ll listen to anything once! My main playlist, which is a super mixed up mess of everything from funk to metal to rap to comedy tracks, can be found here if you want to do some exploring of your own, or just want to listen along with me at work.

 

supernom

I’d claim this is a self-portrait, but my nails are nowhere near that long.

We don’t need no stinkin’ Pilgrims

We don’t go around the table saying what we’re thankful for at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

We don’t say grace, we don’t make toasts. There’s no pontificating about the ‘founding fathers’ at our table because that’s not what Thanksgiving is about for us.

Our Thanksgiving is about laughing as much as it’s about eating.

It’s consistently sitting down to eat at least an hour after we said we would, no matter who is doing the cooking…and being totally fine with that because no one has anywhere else to be.

It’s dogs begging for table treats and people picking at leftovers long after they’ve proclaimed they couldn’t eat another bite.

It’s my husband and my dad watching football together – except my dad falls asleep about ten minutes after he sits down.

It’s my mom and I putting away leftovers and immediately doing all the dishes because that’s how my Nana rolled when my mom was growing up and some habits are worth keeping.

It’s three kinds of pie when we said we were only going to have two, because come on. More pie is ALWAYS better.

Pilgrims and Native Americans don’t factor into our Thanksgiving in the least. Some people might say that’s wrong – that we’re not remembering why we’re here in the first place, that we’ve lost the true meaning of the holiday. I don’t feel the least bit bad though, because I’ve got the three most important people in my life at my table eating and laughing together for another year. Life is short and often brutal, and time is our dearest commodity. Spending it with the people I love is always what I’ll be most thankful for.

Also, did I mention the third pie?

You CAN’T feel bad when there’s three pies available. Well, not mentally, anyway. Physically…maybe.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends…whatever that means to you.

IMG_20161124_130643945.jpg

This is one of the holiday cacti I inherited when my Nana passed away in September. This one was in full bloom for Thanksgiving. She always did like to be on time.

I’ll take ‘WTF Do We Do Now’ for $1,000, Alex

My family is all pretty close, at least in the geographic sense, if not the emotional sense. We all basically live within about ten minutes’ drive of each other. A strong love of place no doubt factors into why we’ve all stayed so close to the area we grew up in, but stronger still was the near-gravitational pull of my maternal grandmother Mary, aka: Nana.

It’s not that she ever made any of us feel like we couldn’t or shouldn’t move away and do our own things; she just had a way of making people want to be around her. She was funny, kind, welcoming and generous with her time. She liked nothing more than to have people stop by for a visit and tell her all about what they’d been up to. You could sit and talk her ear off for hours, but when you finally sighed and said you guessed it was time to go, she’d always say “well, you don’t have to hurry”, as if she’d be just fine with you going on about your boring-ass day for another hour or two. And she probably would have been, because that’s just how she was.

Nana was the force holding us all together around her, but she was also someone I looked up to and admired greatly. For all her softness, her generosity of spirit and her ability to make people feel comfortable, she also had extraordinary strength of will. She was whip smart, fiercely independent, and when that woman set her mind to do something, you had two choices: get on board or get the hell out of the way. She was born in the middle of the Great Depression to an already dirt-poor family of miners and subsistence farmers. Education and hard work were the only ways out of that situation, and she made a life-long habit of both. Her mantra was that you could do anything you put your mind to, and she was living proof of it. The stories she told affected me from a very early age, both directly from her tellings and indirectly via the way she had brought up my mother and aunts. Nana was a woman I aspired to be like; she was the stick I tried to measure myself against.

The call came early Monday morning that she had quite unexpectedly died. She had been fine the day before – she had gone out for her regular Sunday morning breakfast at the diner, she had done her grocery shopping and washed some windows, and she had spent the evening visiting and watching the Patriots game on TV with some family members. It had been pretty much her perfect day. At some point very early Monday morning she had woken up with chest pains, called my aunt (who lives next door), called the ambulance…and she was gone before they even got her halfway to the hospital. The whole ordeal probably lasted less than a couple hours, depending on how long she waffled before she decided to call my aunt for help. She had high blood pressure but she hadn’t had any serious heart problems above and beyond what would be expected of an 81 year old woman. She had suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis for more than a decade though, and while she didn’t generally speak of it much, she was in a lot of pain on a daily basis – sometimes to the point of being quite debilitated. In the past few weeks she had apparently expressed to several family members her desire to ‘just go to sleep’, and her worries about trying to make it through another tough winter. I don’t think that she would have decided to take something in order to end her own suffering, but I do very much believe in the power of will and the ability to talk one’s self into dying if that’s what they truly want…and I believe that’s what she did.

Nana wouldn’t have wanted a fuss to be made over her. She would have liked for us to take what we wanted of her stuff, give the rest away to people that it might help, and then get on with our lives.

So, that’s what I’ll try to do. It won’t be easy. But, like Nana taught me, I can do anything that I put my mind to.

fullsizerender

Mary Godfrey – 3/31/1935 – 9/12/2016 Photo credit: R. Williams