the boss of me

Scene: My living room, Thanksgiving eve. I’m sitting on the couch and Mark is sitting in the chair. Junior is on the floor between us.

Junior: *exasperated huff*

Mark: What’s wrong, buddy?

Me: It’s like 7:30. He probably wants a walk.

Mark: You want a walk, buddy? I can take you for a walk. Let me get some music going on my phone first.

Mark stands up and starts fiddling with his phone.

Mark: Pandora is trying to give me turkey recipes and dinner party music. Fuck you, Pandora. You’re not the boss of me! I’M not even the boss of me, so YOU don’t get to be the boss of me.

Me, in a supportive tone: You can be the boss of you!

Distracted by his phone, Mark slowly rounds the corner to go up the stairs and hits his leg on the baby gate set up across the bottom of the stairs. The gate makes a loud clunk.

Mark: Raaauuuuggggh!

Me: Maybe you shouldn’t be the boss of you, actually.

Mark: It may be for the best…

Mark disappears up the stairs while I laugh. Junior sits near the doorway to the kitchen, wondering how he ended up stuck with us.

-Fin-

*********

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving holiday was filled with delicious food, time spent with loved ones, a lack of family drama / fights over politics, and zero mentions of Pilgrims / forefathers / founders of this country.

And if you’re not American, then I hope your Thursday and Friday last week were everything you wanted, and I hope all us silly Muricans taking over social media with our public displays of #thankfulness (which seems a lot different than actual gratitude, at least for many) didn’t annoy you too much.

virtual reality

Last night my phone finally got sick of my procrastinating ass and forced me to install a system update. Along with the system update, there were also a bunch of updates to the apps I use, including the camera software. It looks a little bit different, but I can still find everything I need, so I didn’t think much of it.
This morning I took a selfie to show off my hand-knit neck wear to some like-minded friends, and I noticed that the camera automatically took two pictures, which seemed odd. I kept switching back and forth between the two pictures, trying to figure out why one looked slightly different than the other. One looked just a tiny bit eerie and it took me a minute to realize why.
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Do you see it? The program filtered out the freckles on my cheek and the scar on my nose, and made my skin just generally brighter / whiter.
AUTOMATICALLY.
It didn’t even give me a choice. It just assumed that I wouldn’t be happy with my face. Because who actually likes their face anymore, you know? Who WOULDN’T want to be touched up a little?
Yes, I’m making a leap by talking like my phone is making assumptions, but the simple fact is that while the phone itself can’t make assumptions, the people that write the programs that the phone runs absolutely can. They are collectively assuming that no one feels like their face is good enough anymore. They are collectively deciding to feed us an ALTERED version of reality FIRST…then offering the actual reality as an afterthought.
That’s not only sad to me, but scary as well. It’s SO easy to fake things nowadays. Altered pictures, fake social media accounts, news being spun to fit a network’s or publication’s bias. Who do we trust anymore? What do we grab on to in order to not get sucked into this crazy vortex of reality being constructed for us?
The way my head is wired, I need to check in with what’s real on a regular basis or I start to feel like I’m disassociated, detached…like I could happily float off into the deep end of the Crazy Town pool and let myself drown. To combat this, I go outside and spend time in nature. I visit friends in actual meatspace, face to face. I read about science because I find fact-based things grounding and soothing. I practice yoga and meditation, both of which remind me that I am here, right now, with each breath.
And I look at myself in the mirror or in pictures. Not like Narcissus gazing at himself in the pool, but looking at my own face for a moment and remembering that I am not just the constant barrage of feels pelting the inside of my skull. I am not actually a (mostly benevolent) ghost floating quietly in the background of all these rooms that I enter on a daily basis.
My wrinkles, my freckles, my scars…they all remind me that I am a person, piloting this meatsuit through space and time, having real experiences and doing real things.
I’d rather technology not decide to take those reminders away from me with the assumption that I value luminous, freckle-free skin over…you know…my actual face.

 

impotent rage, part 372

There’s a lot to be mad about lately, but I’ve got something specific stuck in my craw and I need to rant about it.

Yesterday morning I was listening to Morning Edition in the car, and they did a piece on the Country Music Awards, or CMAs, that had been televised the previous evening. They named off some people that got awards, but they also talked about how the Country Music Association, while organizing this year’s CMAs show, basically tried to put a gag order on people. They tried to tell journalists covering the show not to bring up guns, the mass shootings that have happened recently, or politics in general.

Because, you know, not talking about problems is the best method of resolving them. Obviously. 

The reporter went on to say that there was outcry from basically everybody, and that the Association ended up relenting, as well it should have. The story then turned to the various tributes that were performed at the CMAs in honor of the victims in Las Vegas and Texas. There was a clip of Eric Church singing a suitably emotional rendition of “Amazing Grace” to kick off the show, and one of Carrie Underwood singing some other hymn, with a mention of how her “voice turned to a whisper as the pictures of all 58 victims of the Las Vegas massacre flashed across a screen”, and the moment of silence that followed. Predictable trite thoughts-and-prayers stuff.

The report then pivoted to something so many mainstream country artists are NOT doing, which is speaking out about the need for gun control. Most artists at the CMAs wouldn’t even talk to reporters about the shootings at all, let alone bring up that we need a profound change in this country. There was a soundbite from an artist named Aaron Watson, who said “…we live in a world today where, if you say something, you know, someone’ll hang you out to dry”. The reported then mentioned that Watson is on a list of artists that are promoted by the NRA. Watson, according to the reporter, pointed out that bad people are going find ways to do bad things, so he won’t be campaigning for stricter gun laws.

That’s when I started rolling my eyes.

There was another soundbite from Watson at this point, where he said: “If I’m gonna start doin’ some preachin’ or some pickin’, it’ll be for our veterans, for our soldiers, for our school teachers, and for babies. I mean, those are things that are dear to my heart.”

THAT, friends, is when I fucking saw red.

This asshole is taking money from the NRA, first of all. He’s not an artist. He’s a fucking corporate shill. He’s a puppet with a hand up his ass, a mouthpiece the NRA uses to further embed gun culture into the psyches of Americans.

Second of all, how…and I mean FUCKING HOW…can someone claim to care for people like school teachers and babies, and be totally cool with the NRA? Does he think there were no veterans or school teachers that got killed at that festival in Las Vegas? Sorry, but the laws of probability are pretty firmly against you there, broseph. Did he forget all about the Newtown massacre, where all those little kids got blown away because some asshole had beef and was able to get ahold of guns and ammo? What about the babies…LITERAL BABIES…that were shot in Sutherland Springs? It’s easy for people like Aaron Watson to stand up after the fact and say they hold the memories of DEAD children dear, but the simple fact is that every child in this country is now unwittingly playing the odds every day when they attend school. Every teacher is playing those same odds when they go to work. All because of the fucking National Rifle Association and their insidious infiltration into so many aspects of our culture.

It’s not just country music stars, and that’s the depressing part. It’s sports team owners, it’s politicians…it’s the people who need help the least. They can afford home security, they can afford to send their babies to private schools where random people with guns would probably have a much harder time gaining access. The people with the money are not the people who need protection, and yet they are driving this culture of “I must protect my own” in this country and it’s NOT SANE.

Where does it end? How many more children, how many more people just living their lives, have to be shot and killed before the blood on the hands of those with power and influence stop being such incredible cowards? How many dollars in their bank accounts are enough before they finally start doing the right thing?

Let’s go back to that Aaron Watson quote from earlier: “…we live in a world today where, if you say something, you know, someone’ll hang you out to dry”.

Let that really marinate. What he’s saying, what they’re ALL saying, is that their incomes, their personal comfort, the lifestyles that they’ve become accustomed to, are more important than their fellow humans’ lives. 

I am not anti-gun. I grew up in a rural area with hunters all around me. I’ve gone target shooting and enjoyed it. I have no problem with responsible people owning reasonable (read: not automatic) firearms and reasonable quantities of ammunition. No one needs access to automatic weapons outside of an actual field of battle. No one needs to have hundreds of rounds of ammunition stockpiled in their home. No one with a history of violence should have legal access to firearms.

I don’t pretend to know how to fix the problem, but I do know that until the people with money and influence grow spines and stop being so god damned greedy, this shit is just going to keep happening.

If you got this far, here’s a picture of my dog and my messy living room for your troubles:

 

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“Just nod and smile. She’ll tire herself out faster than you think.” – 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

re: peanut butter

Peanut butter is basically the perfect food.

Unless you’re allergic to peanuts, in which case, we probably shouldn’t ever share close physical contact because I’m basically 68% peanut butter. Plus I don’t like strangers touching me, and respecting boundaries is important. But mostly because of the peanut butter thing.

Peanut butter is one of those foodstuffs that I don’t buy very often because, if it’s in the house, it calls my name until I have consumed it. All of it. In as short a time as possible. I’m like a peanut butter Hoover. All I need is a spoon and some privacy, and I can actually do without the privacy if necessary.

This sudden and frankly uncalled-for exposition about my peanut butter habits, by the way, is being brought to you by my having an apple left over from something I was baking earlier in the week. Because you see, if an apple isn’t being cut up and incorporated into a dish or baked good somehow, then its only other purpose is as a vehicle for peanut butter. I mean…I know there are people who eat apples out of hand without slathering them in peanut butter first, and that’s fine. It’s WRONG…but it’s fine. More peanut butter for me.

Apples aren’t the only foodstuffs I’ll use as peanut butter delivery devices, oh no! Bananas, banana bread, biscuits, brownies, carrots, celery, crackers, cookies, dates, ice cream…I’ve gleefully smeared peanut butter on, or stuffed peanut butter in, all of them. I’ve put peanut butter on pancakes, muffins, even tortillas (both flour ones and corn ones. The corn ones were a mistake, but hey, mistakes are how we learn).

The most holy form of peanut butter consumption is on toasted bread, of course. I have a deep and abiding love for English muffins and I feel their highest calling is to be toasted and smeared with peanut butter. Second to English muffins would be a good whole wheat or sourdough. I’m not afraid to put peanut butter on rye toast if my hand is forced, though. You think I won’t do it? Oh trust me, I will, and it will be DELICIOUS.

The only person I know who likes peanut butter almost as much as I do is my dad. Maybe it’s a genetic thing? Maybe our DNA has made it so that our brains register the taste of peanut butter as a magical explosion of delicious joy? Maybe we’ve got some kind of peanut butter werewolf curse, where instead of turning into werewolves on the full moon, we…just really like peanut butter a lot. That one might need some work. BUT STILL. You get my drift.

My preferred brand of peanut-based crack is Teddie, preferably the super chunky variety. Teddie is just roasted peanuts and salt. No added sugar, no hydrogenated oils, 100% amazing. This post isn’t sponsored by Teddie, but I’ve never in my blogging life wished more that a company would see me promoting their product and decide to send me some.

Teddie, if you’re reading this, drop me a line. I’m sure we could work something out.

 

teddie

*heavy breathing*

 

good enough

I keep writing blog posts and then not posting them because they’re not good enough. In reality they’re fine, but in my head they’re not funny enough, they don’t make sense, they’re boring, they make me sound dickish (which isn’t untrue, but still)…and who the fuck knows what else.

This is the brain weasels talking. That stuff about not being good enough, I mean. Not this right now. This is me. The weasels haven’t completely taken over. At least, I don’t THINK they have. Maybe they’ve gone all dark ops and actually HAVE taken over and I just don’t realize it. Shit, that’s terrifying. Let’s back away from that one.

Point being…I’m still here and doing the thing. I’m just kind of lacking in my follow-through lately. And that’s ok. It’s not ideal…but it’s ok. It could be worse.

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“Yeah, I mean, you could have some crazy lady with a camera stalking you like a fucking paparazzi when you’re just minding your own business, trying to get your clover munch on. GOD.”  *woodchuck huff*

 

creature of habit

The bathroom door isn’t allowed to be closed in our home. Not because there’s anything wrong with the door that prevents it from closing. Not because either of us harbor some kind of potty fetish. No, the bathroom door actually gets shut every time one of us goes in there…but then Junior comes along and kicks it open.

Why? Because he doesn’t want it closed. Plain and simple.

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“Mahm, do you ever feel, you know, not-so-fresh?”

At first we thought it was a separation thing. Like, “aww, Junie missed me so he came running into the bathroom to see me”. Except, he usually doesn’t. He’ll just come up the stairs, cuff the bathroom door until it swings open, and then walk away. He’ll do it to guests with an equal measure of nonchalance. He gives no fucks who’s IN there. He just doesn’t want that door closed.

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“HEY. HEY DO MY PARENTS KNOW YOU’RE IN HERE? DO YOU HAVE A PERMIT TO USE OUR TERLIT? I NEED TO SEE YOUR PAPERS RIGHT NOW MISTER.”

The bedroom door gets much the same treatment. If I go to bed earlier than Mark does, I’ll often shut the bedroom door like 90% so that I can’t see the light from the TV reflecting out in the hallway (it’s a small apartment and I’m a special snowflake when it comes to sleeping conditions). I always try to get Junior to come in and get on the bed while I’m changing into my pajamas or whatever, but he’ll often just mill around in the hallway or the spare bedroom looking offended. After a few minutes I give up, shutting the curtain and turning on the white noise machine, then crawling into bed. Just about the time my head hits the pillow, BAM. Junior cuffs the door and it swings open wide. He stands there in the doorway, a tiny white tyrant bathed in the somewhat eerie glow of the orange bulb in our bedside lamp, triumphant and unyielding. I can almost hear him declaring, Gandalf-like, “YOU. SHALL. NOT. CLOSE”.  Then I have to get back out of bed, go over to the door and try to find a balance between closing it enough that the light doesn’t bother me, but having it open enough to avoid further insult to His Royal Highness. While I’m doing this, by the way, that little fucker will sashay in, jump up on the bed and nest down in the covers I’ve thrown off while getting up. This in turn causes at least one round of tense blanket negotiations, several canine sighs that drip with disappointment, and the eventual Great Resettling, before I can shut the light off.

Closing the doors all the way (as in, until they latch) doesn’t do any good either, because when Junior can’t cuff a door open, he gets upset. “Let him fuss, he’ll eventually self-soothe and calm down”, you say, rolling your eyes. Oh no, dear reader. This dog does not self-soothe and calm down. THIS dog will whine, and when whining doesn’t work, he’ll bark. When barking at the problem door doesn’t work, he’ll go downstairs and start barking by the living room windows or the kitchen door, both of which are adjacent to close neighbors. He knows we’ll do just about anything to shut him up from barking where it’s going to bother the neighbors, so that’s his trump card, and he’s not afraid to play it.

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“She’s made of lies, everyone. I am a sweet tiny unicorn angel who does no wrong. Leave me now and let me rest. I must prepare for a long night of guarding my beloved parents from the terrors of the dark.”

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.

 

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

insert awkward title here

The other day I had to pick up a prescription. When I got to the pharmacy, I opted for the drive-through prescription pick-up window, because why the hell would you get out of the car if you don’t have to, am I right? MURICA!

Anyway.

I pulled around the corner of the building toward the pick-up window and chortled with glee because there was no one waiting in line. What luck! I reached into my bag to grab my wallet while I waited for the friendly face of the drug-dispensing angel to appear in the big plate-glass window. Something felt a little off about the car as I was rooting through my bag, so I glanced up and realized that the ‘off’ feeling was, in fact, the car continuing to move after I had come to a stop.

“OH SHIT. I guess I’m not in Park”, I yelped as I hit the brakes.  I put the car in reverse and backed up until I was even with the window again, just in time to see the tech behind the window losing her shit laughing at me. Apparently I had been loud enough to hear over the little speaker that lets them talk to the outside world.

With a cheerful smile, I commenced to explain to her how I had pulled up and forgotten to put the car in park while I was looking for my wallet. You know, despite the fact that she clearly saw the entire performance, heard me yell, etc.

Because I am THAT woman. The one that is not only impossibly awkward to begin with, but that also then feels she needs to explain the awkwardness (awkwardly, no doubt) to the observing parties. Then, to marinate a little longer in the extra awkward sauce, I write about these experiences on the Internet. Awkwardly.  And I’m OK with that nowadays. Well, more OK with it than I was as a kid, at least. Being awkward used to feel like the worst, most unbearable, most embarrassing thing ever. Now it’s a lot easier to take it in stride, to tell myself: “you could be a LOT worse things than weird. Like, you could be a serial killer. Or a puppy kicker. Or, OMG, a flat-Earth-er. An evolution denier! OK, stop, you’re getting yourself all wound up. Think of otters…”.

In the eternal words of Maurice Moss:

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Preach, Brother Moss.

one of these things is not like the others

Every once in a while I click over to the spam folder in my email to scan for non-spam emails, because computers are imperfect, etc.  Normally the subject lines are pretty predictable – lots of “OMG TEH WORLD IS ENDING” stuff from various political organizations I’ve been silly enough to give my address to, some promotions from various websites I’ve purchased things from, and the occasional offer for black-market Canadian boner pills or plea from a Nigerian prince to launder $2 million.

Today, however, there was something just a little bit different. See if you can spot it:

 

Capture

I…have questions. Chief among them being, ‘is this a list that anyone in the real world actually requires in 2017?’.

If the answer to that is yes, then I have more questions, which I’ll be asking once I have constructed and stocked my panic room.