The Fool-Proof Guide to Failing with Flair

Everything you need to know about getting it wrong.

Monthly Archives: October 2013

Bacon Part Two

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I have definitely had one of those weeks where you just want to step outside, raise your fist at the sky and yell, “OK Universe, I get it already! You hate me!” It’s actually been a little more than a week but who’s counting? The last five years or so have made cursing at “the powers that be” a common occurrence in my life, for all the good it has done. I haven’t actually gone outside to curse the skies, but only because it’s likely to be a dangerous undertaking. I think I have gotten a total of 40 hours of sleep in the last 10 days. I have lit two cigarettes at the wrong end, poked myself in the eye with my mascara wand, eaten an entire tray of macaroni and cheese in one sitting, consumed 3 large chocolate bars, run out of coffee twice, and forgotten to take off my underwear before getting in the shower. Yet again. The most upsetting small tragedy, however, was missing a piece of plastic packaging on the tray when I tried to cook bacon in the oven today. I cried. Seriously.

On the bright side, I did keep up with the dishes and prep work/interviews for an article I’m writing, got laundry done, and today I went grocery shopping. I bought 2 pounds of bacon and have one left, so I guess not everything is looking down. I also managed to forget, for several days, that tomorrow is Halloween, which resulted in neglecting to purchase gigantic bags of candy for no one but myself. It all goes on sale Friday, but maybe I won’t want any more sugar by then. Maybe. The fact that I haven’t crawled back under a rock pleases me, but I’m not a fan of the stress-eating-disorder I seem to have developed. I guess 5 pounds regained is a somewhat acceptable price to pay for maintaining my grip on the sliver of sanity I’ve reclaimed. Despite my crappy week or so, it’s good to know that although I am fat, klutzy, tired, and forgetful, I am still OK.

This is my first post in a week. The ghouls from my past have been tromping around on my good humor, and picking on myself hasn’t seemed all that appealing. I was too distracted by carbohydrates, nicotine, and sugar anyway. There may have been some wine involved as well . . .

I think the worst is over for the moment. There are more storms to come but apathy and pathos are things of the past. It is possible I will still waste the occasional half-day zoning out to The Voice, or that a Candy Crush relapse looms on the horizon, but there is still bacon in the fridge, a chocolate bar in the pantry, and I put laundry detergent next to the shower. Next time I get so distracted that I forget to remove my panties, I can use it as an opportunity for another clean pair. Life is full of silver linings!

Come Back Bunny

broccoli_xmas_tree

Image found on Pinterest, originally from todayiatearainbow.com

Halloween is just around the corner. Retail giants everywhere have begun their annual marketing ploys, aimed at getting us all excited about that Holiday extravaganza known as Black Friday, and inspiring some of us to act like fans at a 1979 Who concert.

I am not a humbug, but the Holidays often leave me a little flat. By January second I feel like a gypsy who got mugged by a bunch of CEOs, a pack of winos, and a group of small children. I’ve traveled halfway around New England and back at least 6 times, have a headache the size of Texas, a few bruises, and it’s nothing short of a miracle if I still have that $10 I tucked in my bra for a wine emergency.

My favorite day of the Holiday Season, by far, is pre-Thanksgiving. That’s the day my friend, The Meanest and her husband, Bad B, host their annual friends-version of Thanksgiving. Bad B has threatened to cancel the whole thing this year, but I am endeavoring to get him to change his mind by writing this blog post about the Holidays, and dedicating it to pre-Thanksgiving. I am going to use the threat of no broccoli casserole for him ever again, as a back-up tactic.

I am not ready for the Holidays. I have no idea what, if anything, I will be for Halloween. Costumes are not one of my creatives fortes. Pre-Thanksgiving is in dire jeopardy, Thanksgiving plans have not been solidified, and my Christmas shopping will undoubtedly all be done at the last possible moment. I’m not some kind of holiday overachiever. Getting things done ahead of time goes against my procrastinating nature. This holiday season will be no different in that respect but, under the threatened pain of lost dinner, I decided I should start thinking and writing about it now. Maybe this year I won’t be as far behind as usual.

Since my kids are all grown up and I live in a second-floor apartment with a locked main entrance, trick-or-treaters are none of my concern. Those gigantic bags of candy at the grocery store look mighty tempting though. No kids at home=no candy to purloin. I think one bag of mini chocolate bars ought to do it. And maybe a bag of candy corn just to assuage my sorrow over giving up Candy Crush. I can sit alone, giving myself cavities, and reminisce about the the first time I went to an event at The Meanest and Bad B’s. It was a Halloween party and costumes were mandatory so I dressed up as the Easter Bunny. I borrowed my costume from my stepson’s Boy Scout troupe, so it was the real deal: a furry white suit with mittens, foot coverings, and a hood with ears. I rocked that bunny suit but I forgot the address of the party. All I could remember was the street name and the number 97. When my husband and I got to #97 (on the correct street), we could tell there was a party going on, so we parked and started to walk towards the back of the house where we could see guests. We were half-way down the walk when I realized nobody else was wearing a costume and we were not at the right house. As we were turning to walk away, someone saw us and yelled, “Come back bunny!” I didn’t go back, and we did eventually find the correct party, but at his time of year I always wonder if the guy who saw me and yelled ever thinks about the night the Easter Bunny got lost.

On to Pre-Thanksgiving, which I am hoping Bad B has now decided to reinstate. I did give him the option to pick his own pseudonym but he declined. If he objects to the one I have assigned, I will expedite the review process this once and assign a new name before the middle of November. If Pre-Thanksgiving is back on the calendar, I will make my broccoli casserole. It is mostly a concoction of cheese and Ritz crackers, with a little broccoli thrown in just for kicks, but it is still upsetting to The Man in Tights that I insist on making it every year. He objects vehemently to having any cruciferous vegetables in close proximity to his person, and is typically on the list of dinner attendees. I suppose he might not be there but, if he is, it will really be a double win for me. Either way is fine though, because neither possibility affects my share of broccoli casserole.

Hopefully real Thanksgiving will be spent with my sister and her family. They are mostly vegetarian, bordering on vegan, in their eating habits. There is a tragic deficit of bacon in their lives. Thankfully they usually celebrate with her in-laws, who insist on having real turkey along with the lentil loaf. I don’t think I would like lentil loaf even if it was covered in an entire pig’s worth of bacon. Despite not eating things like real cheese, butter and Ritz crackers for the rest of the year, my sister will enjoy it if I bring broccoli casserole to that meal as well. That means the whole Thanksgiving holiday is looking like a potential triple win so far. Throw in the fact that a childhood friend, who now lives far away, will be home for three weeks, and Thanksgiving gets even sweeter. Halloween can definitely suck it.

That just leaves Christmas and New Years for consideration. I suppose I could throw in Hanukkah and Kwanza too, but I don’t celebrate those holidays personally. I could rethink my celebratory practices and squeeze in something extra this year, but that would require planning and research, or at least hitting up one of my Jewish friends for eight nights of dinner and gift exchanges. I can’t get myself organized enough to plan well for one night of dinner and presents, so that won’t work. And I don’t know anyone who celebrates Kwanza or what the particulars of that holiday require, so that’s out too.

Back to Christmas then.

I’m considering some decorations this year. I don’t really have space I’m willing to give up for a tree. Plus there’s the whole planning thing, getting stuff out of storage, and maneuvering a long, heavy object up my twisty stairs. I don’t even want to think about my black thumb. Live Christmas trees are going to shed needles in any event. Mine would be bare in a matter of hours. Yes, I could get a fake tree or a really small tree but I think a few strands of popcorn and some lights tacked up along the walls should be sufficient. If I leave the lights on all night I will be able to see where the popcorn is when I’m hungry.

New Years is a completely different animal. I’m working on myself already. I don’t need Father Time to coerce me into making some resolution I have no intention of keeping. I’m sure as heck not going to give up drinking. It would be too late to stop for the New Year anyway, as soon as I make that champagne (beer, wine, or whiskey) toast at midnight. I’m hardly going to drink all night, take a sip of champagne at the stroke of “Where the Hell did last year run off to in such a hurry?”, put my glass down and go home. And if I haven’t kicked my nasty smoking habit before then I’m even less likely to do it drunk, in the middle of the night. For all you relaxed, “it’s not really January first until you wake up” people, you are mistaken. It is January first as soon as the last second of December 31 scuttles off somewhere to conspire with my sobriety on how to best punish the night’s excesses. Some hair of the old dog may be the best way to bite back. It may be that the best I can do for New Years is to just come up with a list of new vices to explore.

Well, that’s my Holiday Season in a nutshell. Hopefully Pre-Thanksgiving is back on, and since I’ve gotten a mental jump on the coming chaos, perhaps the Holidays will all be winners. Hopefully yours will be too!

 

Out to Lunch

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For the record, I have never claimed to be mentally balanced. However, someone else’s lack of imagination does not disprove my sanity. Anyone inclined to hurl insults at me should be aware that I have honed the skill of cutting remarks to a fine edge. Calling me “crazy” simply demonstrates the dull wits of those who might attempt to cast aspersions. Even an effort to come up with a bad “your mama” put-down might suggest a bit of verbal inventiveness.

I’m not talking about anyone who laughingly refers to my thoughts and scribblings as “cracked”. I take those comments as compliments. I’m not shooting for intellectual dry-rot. And I don’t think most of you who read my deranged ramblings on a regular basis are inclined to be hateful about my mental health status. This post is not directed at you. I may be nuts, and prone to tart retorts when provoked, but I am not trying to berate or threaten my loyal audience. I love you guys. You put the light in my lexical day and the flourish in my fantasy.

I have a “campaign” with a search engine optimization company that, theoretically, is supposed to provide me with a wider audience. My site stats show me that I am getting lots of “hits” but I’m not sure this SEO has increased regular viewership. Yesterday I considered dropping my account after getting a nasty comment from someone who had obviously been reaped from my advertising efforts. It was only one comment out of thousands of views though, which makes the odds of receiving a lot more spiteful commentary pretty low, so I decided not to pull the plug. I couldn’t figure out how to respond to the comment without posting the thread, but I really did want to give this moron a piece of my mind since he doesn’t have much of one of his own. I don’t know if he will come back to troll my site for a response or if he decided I was too nuts for fruitcake, so this post might offer my only opportunity to quench my retaliative urges.

One of my flaws is getting easily riled by cruelty and stupidity. It’s something I need to work on. A lot. Because sometimes I’m just in a defensive mood for no good reason. I suppose I should welcome the less-flattering comments because it gives me the opportunity to work my natural frustrations out on strangers instead of people I would prefer to keep as friends. Rage therapy of a sort. I should take up yoga again or learn to meditate though, so I don’t let it bleed over into my personal life more than it already does.

Ohm.

A Thousand Words

Quote by Hunter S. Thompson

Quote by Hunter S. Thompson

 

You know that saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, I disagree. A picture can convey a lot of meaning but comparing pictures to words is a bit like the old “apples to oranges” idiom. Different people relate to the world in different ways. Some people prefer pictures as a method of communication and interpretation. Some people prefer words. Some people prefer other methods, but I’m not writing about any of those today. Words and pictures together often create a harmony of communication, but if I had to choose only one, I would go with words. I suppose that’s a bit like saying I would prefer to be blind as opposed to deaf. I don’t really want to be either of those things and I feel blessed that all my senses work. It may be open to debate how well I use them, but medically speaking, I am fully operational. I have noticed that some people with functional senses and measurable intelligence don’t favor any method of complex communication. This phenomenon baffles me. The ability to communicate in multiple ways is as essential to being human as having opposable thumbs. Why would anyone choose to remain an enigma of humanity?

I like words. I am a writer.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, duh. State the obvious much? I’m reading her blog. I know she’s a writer.”

Yes, sometimes I find it comforting to state the obvious. I also like to state the obscure and absurd. And I like to write. Lots of words and frequently. I love that this form of communication is, to the best of my knowledge, uniquely human. I’ve always thought that if I could write the perfect sentence, crafted in the perfect way, whomever I was trying to communicate with would be able to understand the totality of my intent and therefore, be able to understand the totality of me. Unfortunately, most of the time, I can’t even say I understand the smallest part of myself terribly well. It makes for a bit of a conundrum.

I have always been a writer. That is to say, I have always been partial to communicating by the written word. I grew up in a time before email, and text messages, and before shorthand, terse communication was all the rage. I feel like those things have become an excuse for people to be lazy with not only writing, but with conveying thoughts and intentions completely, in any way. I don’t tend to write short texts with abbreviations in place of words, and I have been known, when emotion prevails, to write long, manifesto-type emails. My penchant for communication via the written word seems to make me a dinosaur of sorts, and I think it annoys some people. Writing, reading and speaking thoughtfully, fully and deliberately, is a lost art and most people are too busy to be bothered. I miss phone conversations, which are also a rare commodity these days, but mostly I miss sending and receiving letters.

When I was a kid there was only one phone company, Ma Bell (colloquial-speak for the Bell Telephone Company, for those of you too young to remember). The entire central and eastern part of Massachusetts, where I grew up,  had the same area code (617). Any call outside that area code was long distance, and long distance was expensive. If I had a friend living outside of 617, we communicated through letters. At the end of first grade, a friend I had known since I was 3 moved out-of-state. I missed her so I wrote to her. We kept writing back and forth until we were both in college. We’ve lost touch over the last 20 odd years but she was my first pen pal. She was far from the last. When friends moved away or went on vacation, I wrote to them and they wrote to me. When we all went to college we wrote to each other. When I made friends at camp or traveling, we wrote. I wrote to cousins I barely knew who lived out of state. We wrote real letters with paper and stamps. We sent each other small, silly gifts and drew pictures on the envelopes. It used to be exciting to go to a stationary store. (Do those still exist?) It used to be exciting to go to the mailbox.

I didn’t just write to people who lived far away though. All through junior high and high school, my friends and I wrote notes. We passed them in the halls or stuck them in each others lockers. My sister and I wrote notes and letters to our next door neighbors. Sometimes we even wrote to each other. I still have boxes in storage that contain a portion of the letters I received during my younger and more prolific days. I go through them every so often, the same way I read old journals every few years. The letters, notes and journals are my history, all written down, like in the olden days. There are very few letters from the last 20 years and almost none from the last decade. How will my personal history be kept, and who will know and understand me for the rest of my life if there are no more letters? How will I understand myself? Email and texts are convenient, and a necessary part of life and business these days but they lack personality. They are disposable and temporary ways to communicate. I am guilty of losing motivation to communicate the long way around too, but it makes me sad that the art and emotion of telling our lives to loved ones through handwritten letters has become virtually (pun intended) defunct.

I suppose I have latched on to this blog-world of writing because it affords me the space to relate my thoughts without assaulting busy and less communication-driven friends with endless emails or texts. I have gotten out of the habit of making sure that I have physical addresses for everyone who lives out-of-state, never mind anyone who lives close by, and I rarely have stamps anyway. I have lots of email addresses and phone numbers (that I almost never call), and I can message people on Facebook, but the contacts made through those mediums almost always lack soul. It’s nice to be able to reach out or catch up almost instantly, but this new sound-bite-communication-world-order depresses me. And I hate sending texts or emails with information or queries and getting thoughtless, incomplete or one-word responses. It makes me feel like I wasn’t worth the time and effort. I can wait for a well-executed response. In fact, a thoughtfully written, longhand response, sent through the United States Postal Service would make for a nostalgic thrill. Of course no one has my home address either . . .

Crisp and Crunchy

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Crisp and crunchy
Red, gold and orange
Airy, earthy, light

Tangy morning
Sharp and clear
Coolness strays from night

Spice and sweetness
Knit and wool
Warmth and wings in flight

Nipping day
Green is brown
Yesterday I wish I might

Have more hours
Ocean’s roar
Off beyond my sight

Come a time
Around again
Everything’s all right

 

Yes, it’s Fall. Summer is gone. Tomorrow we celebrate Columbus’ bravery and poor navigation skills. No, this is not going to be another political post. I just couldn’t help myself. I’m pretty sure Columbus never even set foot on North American soil. I could be wrong. I’m not a historian, but I’m still fairly certain it was a different slew of European pilgrims who tried to claim these now United States for themselves, and who killed off the native population. Columbus mostly did his damage in South America.

Don’t get all upset with me. I’m not trying to take away your holiday or abuse poor Christopher’s memory too roughly. He was a bold and adventurous fellow, sailing without the benefit of satellite-enabled GPS. He had to make do with the stars, and sea-travel was a much riskier business in those days. Things might be quite different here if not for his daring and arrogance. There are pros and cons to that, like anything else. “Discovery”, however, is a relevant term. What I mean is that it matters only in relation to personal knowledge and experience. For instance, I was 20 before I “discovered” that I liked broccoli. Broccoli was around for ages and ages before I gave it a try. South America was around for more than a millennium before Columbus “found” it. Still, he discovered something new to him, and discovering new things should be encouraged. Just be careful not to run around causing chaos and genocide by claiming that you were the first. “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Yes, I just used a quote from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:9.)

I am willing to embrace Columbus’ legacy, but only insofar as it celebrates the spirit of discovery, and not the misconceptions and falsehoods we were taught in grammar school, or the murder of culture and people.

Although Fall is the season of nature’s twilight, it is also a season of new beginnings and often, the onset of journeys to self-discovery. The school year kicks off and fresh educational opportunities abound. I’m no longer a student in any academically official sense (and haven’t been for a long time), but this Fall feels like the New Year’s Eve of learning and self-discovery for me. I don’t have a list of resolutions (except maybe “keep all my teeth” just in case I ever want to date someone from Craigslist) but I am excited to sail the next ocean of my life, and to discover new intellectual continents. I promise not to kill any natives.

Must Have Teeth

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As human beings we are programmed, at the most basic level, to want to be part of a pair at some point in our lives. We are built to be social not solitary. Politics, science and religion can agree on this one fact, even if they are at odds over the why and how. Sociology, culture, nurture, nature and all else aside, most of us want to feel connected to other people. We want to love and be loved, both emotionally and physically. We want to find someone who satisfies the “other” in us, with whom we can share our life and experiences. After all, what’s the point of being here if we are forever alone?

I may be a bit jaded and gun-shy about intimate relationships just now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about them, or don’t want friends, or never want to have sex again.  I’ve already said that I don’t currently hold any relationship ideology for myself. I’ve got work to do on my own “house” before I even consider whether I want a new roommate. I know I’m a little broken and need some time on my own. Sometimes I need to entertain myself though.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

I don’t belong, and never have belonged, to any dating websites. I don’t want to try to establish romantic relationships via chat or text or email. I’m old enough to still think of stuff like that as the last resort of the needy, desperate, or socially repugnant. I know that isn’t the case so much these days but I have determined that my judgment skills for picking out appropriate partners are remedial enough face-to-face. How can I trust them to be accurate without being able to read body language, or seeing how another person functions in real social situations? I have friends that have profiles on dating sites and they are not ugly or sociopaths or otherwise socially impaired. They just don’t have lives that lend themselves to meeting a variety of available romantic partners. I get it. Maybe it will work for them. Maybe it already has. I just can’t bring myself to join in.

I do have a guilty pleasure though. I like to read personal ads. I have never answered any, or been even remotely tempted, until today, to do so, but I find them highly entertaining. Years ago, when I was bored or in need of a laugh, I would go through the personal ads in the local papers and magazines. Now I just go to Craigslist. It’s hilarious. There are the occasional well-written and seemingly sincere ads, and I feel sorry for those people, because I know most of the responses their ads generate will be from hookers, marketers and spam sites. I read the “men seeking women” section (now m4w) because I’m a heterosexual woman but I’m sure there are amusing ads in the other categories as well.

Today I was perusing the jobs section on Craigslist. The job listings on CL are mostly a crap-shoot but I check them out on occasion anyway. After frustrating myself there for a couple of hours I decided to take a break and click over to the personals. There were lots of poorly written ads. (I have to confess here that another reason I don’t want to start a relationship via email is because I am critical of people’s writing skills. If you can’t spell, form a complete sentence, or use punctuation properly, you have a BIG strike against you before I even meet you. In fact, I probably don’t want to meet you if that’s the case. Judgmental? Yup. Hypocritical? Quite likely.) There were a couple of sweet, well written ads but mostly there were ads from guys who said they were looking for women who have certain qualities: athletic, skinny, fat, sexy, big boobs, funny, “thrifty, brave and kind”, alive, etc. There was one requested quality that showed up on almost every one of those lists though: “Must have teeth.”

Huh? Who the heck have these guys been dating? I most definitely never want to meet any of those guys. Apparently their current dating pools are filled with dentally challenged women. That may offer some prurient advantage for the less-discerning male, but I guess these guys like to share a steak and a smile with their dates every now and again. They just haven’t had a lot of luck with it. On the plus side, if that’s their major romantic concern, as long as you’ve got a nice smile, they probably won’t care much if you just got out of prison, have 6 kids, or can’t spell your own name.

There was one ad today that set my mouth-full-of-teeth on edge. The ads that are just asking for sex, or written with desperation and clichés, or from married men looking for a little something extra on the side don’t bother me. They are honest, if not enticing. Most of the guys who have lists of preferred qualities also include self-descriptions, likes, and dislikes. Some even come with pictures. However, the ad that made me grind my teeth (and put me at risk of not meeting the standard for dental whole-ness) was just a list of “must haves” for a woman looking to receive romantic consideration. Yes, “teeth” was on the list. So was an IQ above 115 and showering at least once a day. The list was numbered and extensive. It was arrogant and offensive. It was so offensive that I had to stop myself from getting a new, anonymous email address so I could respond and tell this guy how arrogant he is. I stopped myself because it would have been a waste of my time and energy, but also because I realized this poor idiot must have had some pretty awful romantic experiences and didn’t need judgment and vitriol from some woman who had no intention of getting to know him. At least the ad wasn’t a grammatical nightmare. I guess he’s got that going for him.

I think I’m done with my personal ad fetish. I don’t want to be alone forever, but I won’t help myself get over my issues, or find a future partner by reading ads from men who need to specifically request that their dates have teeth. And I certainly don’t need to get myself all riled up over the jerks that lurk around those places.

So long Craigslist Personals. It’s been fun but I think we have different goals. I hope we can still be friends.

 

Sweet Promises

My very own chocolate bar. Photographed by lil' ol' me.

My very own chocolate bar. Photographed by lil’ ol’ me.

 

“They” say that chocolate is good for you. The darker the better, and in moderation of course. I have no idea if this is actually true. I’m not a medical researcher. I don’t even know if medical researchers constitute any part of “they”, but I LOVE dark chocolate so I don’t care one whit who “they” is, as long as “they” keep saying it. The idea that chocolate is good for me fits into my personal paradigm quite nicely. I have no wish to go poking around medical journals, or to take up reading scientific data that may tell me otherwise. My attitude may constitute willful blindness, but I am happy to suspend my chocolate-sight as long as someone can hand me that 70% cacao bar with caramel and sea salt.

I am choosing to believe “them” that chocolate contains the same nutritional goodies as berries, and in abundance. Whether “they” is a panel of biologists, a gang of botanists, a South American drug cartel, or Paris Hilton and friends makes no never-mind to me. Chocolate comes from a plant, right? Plants are good for me, aren’t they? So what if the plant gets processed and then mixed up with those nutritional thugs, sugar and cream? Still. A. Plant.

Broccoli is still green underneath a nice blanket of cheddar, isn’t it?. Does blue cheese dressing corrupt a salad? I vote yes on the first referendum and no on the second.

Yea plants!

Yea chocolate!

Yay “them”!

Now where’s my seeing eye dog?

Wedding Belle Blues

Wedding baby - OPEN BAR? DOES THAT MEAN YOU'RE GOING TOPLESS? drunk baby

Picture from Quick Meme. Caption by Effie.

 

Weddings make me anxious. No, it’s not because my own marriage didn’t work or because I have some feminist objection to the legal and religious origins of marriage that smack of ownership and patriarchy, though both of those things are true. There is still logic in marriage. If you are religious, weddings are public celebrations of union and family, sanctioned by God. If you are not religious, they are public celebrations of union and family sanctioned by the IRS and various other state and federal institutions. Either way, they are public celebrations of love and commitment and generally, happy occasions. Who doesn’t like to celebrate love and family, have a few drinks, and do the chicken dance? Don’t point an accusing finger at me. I am not a bitter, jaded curmudgeon. I really like all that stuff, and I like knowing that people are still hopeful and crazy enough to want to take on the world together. Still, weddings make me anxious because of my feet. Even on my best behavior, one of them invariably ends up in my mouth or gets broken. OK, OK, I am rarely on my best behavior after a few drinks and the Macarena but I can get through most other events that involve drinking and dancing without saying something stupid or injuring myself. (That may be a lie, but I’m going to run with it anyway.)

This foot-problem thing started years ago, when I was still young and never-been-married. I attended the wedding of a childhood friend, the first of us to tie the knot. There were several of us single, dateless girls, seated together at the reception, right in front of the band. I think I remember the lead singer making fun of us. I must have already been an anxious wedding-goer because I had several margaritas before we even sat down for dinner. The reception was held at a local country club and I have a hazy recollection, from later in the evening, of trying to convince some poor employee to let me take a golf cart on a joy ride. What is not vague in my memory is a particular remark I made in front of my friend’s conservative parents.

After dinner, the bride and groom made their greeting circuit around the room. By the time they reached the “singles” table, most of us had consumed a few too many and were joking, rather crudely, about “what marriage means”. My back was to the room while we poked fun at the couple in their new joint venture. They both found it amusing, and when my turn came to contribute to the ribbing, I remarked that marriage meant having sober sex for the first time. No one laughed. All eyes were focused above my head, on my friend’s parents, who had just arrived at our table and were standing directly behind me. Oh gawd! At least my foot tasted like tequila.

There have been any number of incidents like that over the years, at the weddings I have attended since then. Before we were married, my husband and I went to the wedding of one of his cousins. I didn’t know his extended family very well yet, or that the people at our table were all his cousins and their spouses or significant others. At one point I leaned over and made a comment to my future husband about the hair dye-jobs of an older couple at the next table. He quietly informed me that the couple was his aunt and uncle and that the man on my other side was their son. The sober sex comment from that first wedding may have been excusable. How could I have known that my friend’s parents would sneak up behind me just as I uttered a totally inappropriate and slutty comment? But honestly, how stupid or drunk was I, to be commenting about other guests at a family wedding of a relatively new beau? In front of people I didn’t know? Don’t answer that.

I went to a wedding a couple of weekends ago, once again, as a single, dateless woman. The wedding I attended before that had been the previous summer. I had a date for that wedding. Sort of. We sat next to each other at the reception and I went home with him at the end of the night the way I typically did when we were out drinking together. I even picked out the suit he wore. My “date” wasn’t much of a dance partner though, and spent a portion of the evening picking up other women. Literally. He carried one woman from the smoking area back to the dining area. True to wedding-form, I got drunk. Not having an enthusiastic (or available) dance partner didn’t stop me from joining the party though. I went right ahead and made a fool of myself by falling down and breaking my foot. I had kicked off my five-inch heels to avoid just such a disaster, but it was a wedding. Of course I was going to do something stupid.

This last wedding I attended, two weeks ago, was a little different. I don’t think I said anything inappropriate and I didn’t break any bones, but I completely lost track of time and forgot to send my RSVP by the requested date. The bride was gracious enough to text and give me a second chance. She also asked if I would be bringing a date. No, no, I would not. I showed up to the church alone and the usher gave me my very own pew to sit in. No one else had a whole pew to themselves. It was awkward. Because the bride was also a friend of my almost-ex-husband, he was there as well. He did have a date (his girlfriend of the last 4 years or so) and had to share his pew with her and a couple other people. Thankfully I was not seated at the “singles” table at the reception. I got to sit with my husband and his girlfriend. This was way less awkward than it sounds. I am friends with both of them and was quite relieved not to be sitting with complete strangers or with a group of unattached people ripe for ridicule by the DJ. I’m not sure everyone else at our table was as comfortable with our little triangle situation, but they were congenial and dinner was delicious.

I may have made some gaffes (that I am blissfully unaware of) that day, but I didn’t drink too much and I left before the dancing started. Maybe the foot-curse is over. Or maybe I’m just finally learning from my mistakes. I don’t think I’ll ever be a relaxed wedding guest but, if invited, I will always attend. Every married couple needs a wedding guest horror story. I’m nothing if not willing to oblige.

 

 

The Back End

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Some of you probably already understand that the learning curve for blogging is pretty steep. It’s not just about having something to say or promote. There’s a whole lot to the technical back-end. I know that if I ever want this blog to help me, career-wise, I must market, market and market some more. Marketing requires using tools to optimize site visibility. Using tools first requires knowing they exist, finding them, figuring out which ones are appropriate, and then understanding how they work. When I started doing this, I didn’t even know there were tools for increasing visibility. SEO? What’s that? I just wanted to write a little blog to get my creative juices flowing and build an audience. I was aware that I couldn’t just start blogging and be an overnight internet sensation. I knew that there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t even know that I didn’t know, if you know what I mean. In the month since I started doing this though, I have discovered that audience-building requires a PhD in something. I don’t even know enough to know what that degree would be called.

I’m not going to try to explain what I’ve done thus far to try to promote my site or review and explain any of the tools I’ve been using. Mostly because I still don’t understand any of them terribly well, but also because I’m not entirely sure what all I have done or how it has affected my site’s visibility. Oh, I know how to check my site stats and it shows where my views originate from, by search engine, site referral, and geographic location and I think I’ve written down the pertinent information for the tools I have selected, but I’m still a neophyte at the rest. I would only be doing a disservice to you–and be displaying my ignorance more fully–if I pretended to be qualified, even as a newbie user, to explain any of these tools. However, if you didn’t know there were things like that available, now you do.

I am also embarrassed to say that I haven’t been paying much attention to copyright issues. Former lawyer? It’s probably not an acceptable excuse that I never did anything copyright-related and know nothing about it. No, it definitely is not an excuse. It is something that has been tickling the back of my brain every time I posted a picture or meme with my articles though. I believe using quotes, properly attributed, is OK. A couple of the photos are my own, so no issue there. But the memes, e-cards and other pictures pulled from the internet probably pose some problems. I came to this realization while I was reading tips about making it onto the WordPress Freshly Pressed page. (great free exposure if you can get there) The people who review sites for publication there want to make sure they are not complicit in allowing anyone to plagiarize or engage in copyright infringement. Very prudent of them. (The picture at the top of this post is one of my own. It’s a view of the grounds at a Chesapeake Bay area hotel where I stayed once.)

Now, of course, I have to go back through all my posts, try to remember where I got each picture and attempt to get retroactive permission to use them. I think I set up a way for my site to reflect these permissions, once I get them, but it remains to be seen if I did that correctly. Some photos may have to come down but I will replace them with properly credited photos.

The other thing all this copyright stuff brought to my attention was the need to copyright the stuff I post here, on this blog. There are plugins available for that and I think I’ve figured out how to use one of those as well. I’m not entirely sure why anyone would want to claim my failures as their own, but now I think I have established legal recourse if someone is crazy enough to do that. That also remains to be seen. I doubt it will be an issue unless or until I actually have some otherwise-published work to my name but better safe that sorry I suppose. I still have to figure out how the whole pseudonym thing figures into it all as well.

Since I do not have the expertise to advise anyone on any aspect of the whole back-end to blogging, or about what may or may not be helpful for expanding visibility or avoiding legal action, I have included a couple of links that may be helpful below for those who are interested. Good luck!

That Lawyer Thing

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OK. So the lawyer thing.

What I should say is: “Ugh! The Really Big Failure Thing.”

Before I begin, I would like to say that I had a nice weekend. (Yes, I’m aware that it’s Tuesday now.) I spent Saturday working on other writing projects and doing some housework. On Sunday I had a lovely brunch with a group of lovely women, then drank wine and laughed all afternoon and evening. At the end of the evening, after a hysterical conversation about Minions and punching bartenders, I went outside for a smoke. The wine must have fogged my vision because, on my way out, I slammed straight into the career-ghost from my past.

A couple of my friends were already outside, smoking and having a conversation. As I walked out, one friend (I’ll call her Sparkplug) said to the other (I’ll call her Minister), “There’s the person you should be talking to.”

Uh oh.

Those words, when used in reference to me, often mean that someone has a legal problem or question. My typical reaction involves turning tail and running, after mumbling something about not being a lawyer anymore and having never had any experience with whatever area of law is in question anyway. For my friends though, I am happy to listen to their issues and then tell them I never had experience in that area of the law. If the problem is serious enough, I tell them they should find a currently licensed attorney who specializes in their problem area. Often I can recommend someone. Pointing someone in the right direction is the only thing I am legally allowed, or willing, to do now.

Since Sparkplug and Minister are my friends (and the wine, as wine does, had already drowned my better instincts), I allowed nicotine and curiosity to dampen my flight response and waited for an explanation as to why I was “the person” Minister “should” be talking to.

Minister did not have a legal problem. No problem then, right? Wrong. That would have just required me to listen, deflect and direct. I wish it had been that simple. As it turns out, Minister is thinking about going to law school. My typical reaction to someone who says this is some variation of, “Why the Hell do you want to do that?!” I’m pretty sure I didn’t deviate too far from my norm with Minister. I may have been a little more polite and possibly skipped the reflexive, accompanying eye roll. Unfortunately my skepticism must have been too subtle, and the rhetorical nature of my response query, if noted, went unheeded. The result was a two-hour discussion on the practical, economic, and ideological pros and cons of law school and lawyer-dom.

[I should say here that, even when I was a licensed, practicing lawyer, my response to anyone telling me they were considering law school involved skepticism and eye rolling. That could have been a sign . . .]

We talked about LSATs (law school entrance boards), the potential cost, employment, possible income, and the reasons why Minister thought she wanted to take on a bazillion dollars in student loan debt and engage in conflict for a living. The conversation was lively and not unpleasant in any definable way. Minister is a thinker and debater by nature and I have no doubt that she will be a more than capable attorney if she does decide to take that path. Neither her desire nor her reasons for wanting to go to law school were a problem for me. Then what the heck was my problem with our conversation?

My problem was my career ghost. All through the conversation, I could feel that ghost brushing against my skin and whispering panic and humiliation in my ear. I don’t like to think about the fact that, if you count preparation for law school and the Bar Exam, I spent more than three years of my life, and a whole boatload of money, on a career I can barely even reference in a résumé any longer. Knowing I disappointed my family and friends and let my clients down is also not a great feeling. I failed as a professional and as a provider, but even that isn’t the worst part. The worst part is the Question that raises the ghost: “Why?” Why did I cut my career nose off to spite my relationship face, and why did I follow that up with an excellent ostrich imitation? I don’t like the Question. I don’t like when other people ask it and I don’t like asking it of myself, but I have. A lot. And I’ve spent a lot of time working through the complexities of how to answer it, for myself, for my friends and family, and for potential future employers. I’m pretty sure I know the Answer now, but I don’t like it any better than I like the Question, and I have been fearful that it will never be enough to satisfy anyone else or put my ghost to rest.

As a result of that conversation, my ghost has been restless these last two days. On Monday, the echoes from Sunday’s wine masked some of the chain rattling. I was also busy cat sitting and work-men supervising for an out-of-town friend, and the hammers, drills, and caterwauling gave some additional sound-proofing. The bugger screwed with me in other ways though. Yesterday and most of today were plagued by writers’ block and it was 9 o’clock last night before I noticed that I had been wearing two vividly different-colored socks and had my shirt on inside-out all day.

I have been known, when highly distracted, to get in the shower with my underwear still on, so today I skipped a shower. I tried to drown out the moaning and chain rattling with Candy Crush and last night’s recording of The Voice but eventually I realized that the ghost was not going anywhere until I let her speak. I’m glad I did. She told me that time and new experiences will help her rest and that, if I keep my head out of the sand, forgive myself and move forward, I will be OK. Today I realized she is my own ghost and not some stranger come to frighten my future away. She is the past. I am the present. The future is not afraid of either of us.

 

 

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