November 24, 2010

An Order of Birthday, Happy on the Side

I thought about calling this "An Order of Birthday, Hold the Happy," but I decided that wasn't really accurate or honest. I don't want to hold the happy, I'm trying to embrace the happy. It's just that it's not front and center for the the first time on my birthday.

Birthdays have always been a big thing in my family, something I've probably written a few times here on this day in the past. But celebrating one without my mom here just seems...incomprehensible. There's not much more I can say about it than that.

I'll be spending the day, and Thanksgiving, with my now-smaller family and I'm grateful for that, just as I'm grateful for all the kind wishes that I'll receive from my friends. I just don't know if I'll be able to get through the day without bursting into tears and thinking, "She should be here. She should be here. She should be here."

The fact that I'm fighting to keep my dinner down right now tells me that I'm going to have to leave it at that. For those of you who are all about honesty and being real and revealing yourself on your blog, there's nothing more honest or real or personal I've ever written than that.

November 09, 2010

One Ping Leads to Another

I need to write. I know I need to write. But deciding what to say and how to say it ties me up in mental knots. Because this blog has always been a balance between the impersonal and the vaguely personal; it has never been something like a diary. That's not me, that's not what I do. Others do and it works for them, and I say good on them if it's what they want, but my blog is just that: mine, however I define it. And laying bare all my thoughts and feelings here is as alien to me as saying no to chocolate. It just doesn't happen.

But I'm not sure I know how to "just blog" while there's all this distracting emotional stuff in my head following my mother's death. It feels like there's simply nothing else for me to write about at the moment, and while I've happily taken a blog break before, that's not what I really want to do.

So, how do I bridge that gap? How do I go from talking about the universal to the personal, and still feel comfortable and true to myself? The only thought that comes to mind is: Baby steps.

I'll start with something that occurred to me today, and what really prompted me to finally sit down in front of the keyboard and at least try to start moving forward.

The biggest problem I'm having is that there are so many things -- so many, many things -- that remind me of Mom, and they pop up constantly, pinging on my consciousness. Our lives had become so intertwined, and I was so used to caring for her and thinking about getting and doing things to help her, that thinking about her when I'm out and about is second nature. I've always been a person who has a very visual memory. I see a stuffed lion and I think of my dad, because he was a Leo. I see a "Back to the Future" poster and I think of the summer we spent in Maine, the year it came out. I see an owl and I think of my mom, even though she stopped collecting them almost two decades ago.

Going to the grocery store is a mini-nightmare. Get a cart, go in, see strawberries, think of Mom. *ping* Keep going, see the apples she liked, think of Mom. *ping* Push on, see the oranges, think of Mom and resist the impulse to buy her one because it was a thing we liked to have on hand for when her blood sugar was low. *ping* Get out of produce, go down an aisle. See the biscotti she liked to have with her coffee each morning. *ping* Look to the other side of the aisle, see the braunschweiger (don't ask) Mom loved to have on crackers. *ping* Continue on, another aisle, remember a conversation we had right there about Eggo waffles. *ping* The hits keep on coming and finally I get to the checkout. Oh, and there are the pumpkin seeds that she loved and that we were buying constantly the last year to help her fiber intake. *ping*

Each of these reminders has a different feeling; some are somber, some are melancholy, some are funny, some are regret-inducing, a few are a little painful, some are surprising, while others are just "Oh, Mom would have liked that" kind of moments. (Not all of them are related to food, I swear. The grocery store was just where I was tonight -- the first time I'd gone back to that one since Mom died, as it happened -- thinking about it.) All in all not really bad things, but I just feel bombarded by them in a typical day. When I'm overwhelmed by them, I tend to think about and recall the more painful aspects of losing Mom, like the last 48 hours in the hospital and the last few minutes of her life. When I flash on those, and they tend to get gloomier the more I think about them, that's when I start to feel down and teary and like I will never stop feeling like this, like the bottom has dropped out of my life.

Then, as I was driving along tonight, it hit me that I need to find a way or simply get to a point where these reminders bring me moments of happiness instead of pings of sadness. For some reason, just realizing that and feeling like it can happen seemed really significant to me. It doesn't give me the slightest bit of insight on how to get there, but it feels like a starting point, at the very least.

So, there's the first pylon. Or whatever it is you use to start a bridge. The real question is, will it be the Bixby Bridge (short, scenic, stylish and leading to sunshine), the Bay Bridge (long, winding, keeps breaking, closes down every once in a while and its repairs won't be finished for years), or the infamous and least-desirable Bridge to Nowhere? (If I need to explain that last one, all hope is lost and you should move along to LOLCats or some such.)

I have no idea. I'll just be pleasantly surprised if I can successfully build it.

October 12, 2010

A Eulogy

My mother, Betty Ann, died on August 26th of this year after a long period of being in and out of hospitals and nursing homes. What follows is a modified version of the eulogy I delivered at her funeral service. It's modified because my eulogy followed my brother's, and it wouldn't have entirely made sense the way it was, as I made reference to a few things he said. He declined to become my first guest poster, and I can't blame him for that. (Except that it was really good.) Obviously, I wrote this at the time, but it has taken me this long to be able to edit and post it. I am, to put it gently, adrift. I miss my mom more than any words I can scribble down will ever capture.

The last few days have been filled with more laughter than you might imagine. My family is not a somber group and while there has been reminiscing and missing going on, there is still life, humor and joy. I'd like to think that Mom would appreciate that.

Though it might sound trite and somewhat underwhelming, to know my mom was to like her. But being universally well-liked is actually a rather impressive thing. Not that many people really pull it off while being genuine. Mom was. She was certainly a lot more likeable than I am, but I could never quite figure out what her secret was. Maybe I wasn't supposed to; everyone has their strengths and that was hers, not mine. And her strengths were often extraordinary.

This year was really rough for Mom, health-wise. I know there were times when she felt like it was all a little too much. She kept tackling each problem, though, even when she might not fully have wanted to press on with yet another procedure. But she did want to, for us, and we were there with her at each step, trying to keep her spirits up and keep her laughing, too.

She and I spent a lot of time together in the last twelve months, even more than normal, and I am thankful that was the case. Until she went into the hospital, we had developed a pattern of going out one day, getting the medical stuff out of the way and then enjoying the day with as much fun as possible; eating out, running errands, going to the library, getting a favorite treat here or there and, most importantly, shopping. Then we'd spend a few days at home, cooking when we were up to it, perusing cookbooks when we weren't, doing the crossword in the paper, reading, watching her favorite shows and, most importantly, shopping. On TV. My cousin Michael asked the other day if my mom and I had stock in QVC. He came across a stack of invoices and drew a logical, if smart-alecky, conclusion. (I send my apologies to QVC for the dip in their profits over the last few months, and I promise to honor my mom by making up for it as soon as possible.) But really, being able to shop that way and keep up to date with what was going on was important to her, and helped her feel less restricted that she might have otherwise. In many ways, our living situation may have resembled The Odd Couple more than Gilmore Girls but somehow it worked for us and we were friends as well as mother/daughter housemates.

For me, there was always a lot to admire about my mom. She raised two kids, mostly on her own, to be independent, self-sufficient and unafraid, which is quite an accomplishment given that she had a lot of fears of her own. But for the most part, she didn't let her fears hold us back. She supported us even if she didn't completely agree with or get what we chose to do, which is a lot more than many kids can expect from their parents. She trusted us to blaze our own path. She just reminded us to be careful at every turn.

Mom reminded us about a lot of things. She was the one who kept the memories for us and was our touchstone of family and history, as well as right from wrong. Whereas my brother, Sean, hears her voice in his head when making decisions, for me it was more a matter of just following her example to where it became a part of my thought process; my fearlessness tempered with her caution, my adventurousness balanced by her practicality, my impatience mitigated by her reasonableness, my procrastination...curbed...well, no, I guess there was no accounting for that. Suffice it to say that she softened my harder edges and I provided the encouragement for her to push past her reluctance to try new things. In that, we made a good team and, with Sean, an even better, closer family.

I will miss you, Mom. But I will always be grateful for everything you taught us, told us, showed us, put up with, laughed over and, more than anything, for the way you loved us.

August 20, 2010

Words I Like

I love words. I love trying to use them in interesting ways, while at the same time preserving them. I am loathe to use the popular and, to me, heretical short forms of so many words in our language today; I use "through," "doughnut," "light" and "night," "you" instead of "U," "for" instead of "4," that kind of thing. Even on Twitter. To me, it's worth the extra characters.

English isn't an easy language, and it may not even be a beautiful language all the time, but there is something so inherently wonderful about its ability to be both flexible and traditional at the same time. It is such a amalgamation, having adopted and absorbed so much from many other languages and cultures, but keeping its identity. Its rules are many and complex, and are often confusing, but it has become the de facto global language so it must be doing something right.

I've gotten into discussions with people about what I call the bastardization of our language (and here I mean American English, just to be clear) when I'm in a bad mood about it, or the diminishment of it when I'm in a...better...mood about it. While I recognize that language is changeable -- it has to adapt and grow to survive and remain relevant -- I also believe that it shouldn't be compromised just because we're in a hurry and shorthand is easier. Contractions are a part of that adaptation, certainly, but there's a difference between contractions that developed through verbal changes to the language over time and shortcuts that I feel are just lazy and don't further it in any way. "Nite" may be a phonetic way to write "night," but it doesn't change it in any significant way, with respect to its meaning or usage, for instance.

And that wasn't at all where I intended to go with this post. Sometimes I get worked up about the subject, obviously. The point behind this was that I love words, and there are some I love more than others. I've done a fairly miserable job of keeping up with my lists, so when this one occurred to me, I ran with it.

List 6*: Words I Like

- Alpenglow
- Bailiwick
- Bespoke
- Bijou
- Cattywampus
- Defenestrate
- Flummoxed
- Ignominious
- Kerfuffle
- Lollygag
- Onomatopoeia
- Perambulate
- Portmanteau
- Preternatural
- Quaff
- Repose
- Rubenesque
- Sumptuous
- Twitterpated
- Vermilion

Care to share any of yours?

* If you're keeping track, though I sincerely doubt anyone is, my last list was marked "List 2" in error. It was actually List 5. Just thought you should know.

August 18, 2010

The Unknowable Story

In the weeks prior to my trip to New York, I'd been keeping my eye on a bird's nest outside, which had been built up above the walkway on our floor.

I stopped short the first time I noticed the nest, spotting the one beady little black eye of the mother bird, sitting ever so still as I approached, keeping me in her sight and hoping I'd just keep going. It was a Mourning Dove, which, if you aren't familiar, are some of the dumbest birds on the planet. They're so sweet looking, and make such a lovely sound when they coo, however, that you can't help but look at them and admire them.

Of course, I stopped and just stared back at her for a minute. She never moved, not even a twitch, as I was too far below her to be an immediate threat. Mourning Doves are very devoted parents and their eggs are almost never unattended. I know this because I've had them lay eggs on my porch in previous homes, in some of the dumbest places a bird could put a nest. (Thus my assessment of their smarts...or lack thereof.) They'll nest most anywhere, even if it's somewhere people are all. the. time. and they have to fly away 200 times a day, then come right back.

Every day I would walk under her on my way out to the carport, then again on my way back, each time looking up to see if she was there. She always was. I got into the habit of saying, "Hi, Mama," each time, even though I knew it was silly and she was probably more afraid than comforted by my attention. I left for New York, anticipating that the eggs might be hatched by the time I got back and looking forward to hearing the persistent little chirps of hungry baby birds each day.

When I got back from the trip, it was very late and very dark, so I wasn't able to see anything as I trudged on by with my luggage. The next day I didn't even think about it, as I rushed out to go see my mom after being gone; I'd fallen out of my habit.

But coming home later that day, I remembered to look up as I got close. And stopped short again. Mama Bird was gone. There were no little bird heads, no little hungry bird chirps. Nothing but a nest that looked sadly empty.

Crestfallen, I looked down, looking for the tell-tale signs of little eggs that had fallen out of nest or, worse, little birds that had. Nothing but four, smallish, odd-shaped drops of something black, which could have been droppings or something more heartbreaking. There was no way to tell. I looked around me as through there were going to be someone there to tell me what had happened. Looked up again. Looked down some more. Still nothing.

I live in a complex with mostly senior citizens. It's possible that I was the only one who ever saw the nest, as the average eyesight of my neighbors is probably closer to "legally blind" than "20/20." There simply wasn't anybody to ask about what happened. The bird certainly wasn't going to come back and tell me anything. There's no way they could have hatched and fledged in the short time I was gone. The location was such that I really don't believe a cat could have wreaked havoc and hurt Mama or the babies. I just couldn't puzzle out why the nest was now empty. I felt a little hollow.

Day after day, I've kept looking up to see if Mama is back, hoping against hope. She isn't, of course. I still stop each time and look up, look down, look around, looking for answers that aren't there. If anyone actually saw me, they'd probably think I was missing a few screws in the noggin...or that I fit in around here a bit more than they realized. But there is never anybody about to see anything. 

Today, I finally realized that this is the unknowable story. It's a small, insignificant mystery that will never be solved. The final pages of a book that don't get written. Lacking closure, as the vernacular would have it.

I never thought I would be sad that a Mourning Dove had left my life unexpectedly. Dumb bird.

I miss you.

August 10, 2010

BlogHer '10 - A Moment-ous Occasion

This year's BlogHer conference was this past weekend in New York.

New York. In August.

I keep saying those four words just like that because, a year after I first learned that's where it would be, I still can't wrap my mind around voluntarily going to Manhattan in the dead of summer. I'm a native New Yorker, I know what it's like there in August. But my need to be with a group of people who totally get me and who buoy me the other 361 days of the year outweighed my (extreme) dislike of heat and humidity.

There were so many incredible and wonderful moments I experienced at this year's conference. There were many at last year's in Chicago, as well, but there were also some bad ones that left bad feelings. The beautiful thing is that the bad moments and feelings from last year created the very opportunities for the absolute best ones this year. That's a lesson that is not lost on me.

Because of the best of those moments this time, I saw the snake in my woodpile clearly and fully for the first time. But instead of seeking a mongoose to take it out, I merely jostled the woodpile so that it had no choice but to slither out and expose itself, chasing it from my personal space. It's a far more satisfying feeling.

Once that was taken care of, there was nothing to do but throw myself into the vortex of BlogHer and enjoy every minute, taking mental pictures left and right because I didn't want to waste time dragging out my camera to capture them tangibly. There was such a sense of sharing that swirled around every corridor, room and elevator of the hotel. Little things and big things, silly and serious, in earnest or in jest. People shared and people absorbed. People cried and people laughed, and laughed well. I came away feeling infused with ideas and thoughts and smiles that overwhelmed any of the negativity, which was blessedly in short supply. I left feeling refreshed and energized even though I stayed up every single night far, far later than I perhaps should have. I learned so much, met and re-met so many fantastic people, more than I could possibly all mention here, packed into four short days.

I discovered that three of my favorite people, Duchess Mama, Walk The Rope and Domestic Extraordinaire, all have the most amazingly silky arms and were willing to let me, um..."reacquaint" myself with this fact on an embarrassingly regular basis. I have set a goal for myself to pamper my limbs between now and next year's conference so that I can be just as silky.

I learned that Tom the Girl gives hugs that you never want to end and kisses that are full of love. I kind of figured that those were true, anyway, but it was so lovely to find out first-hand that I was right.

I got wise to the fact that I really don't need a few drinks before hitting the dance floor because, dammit, that's where all the fun is and so what if I've got more to shake than some of my fellow bloggers and have a dearth of actual moves? That I caught on to this after enough drinks to propel me out there at the very last party is inconsequential. (Someone may need to remind me I said this next year when we're in San Diego, however.)

I learned that a cab ride that could have been from hell was instead a near dream by connecting with Sara and Kikarose and forming a bond that this shiksa will treasure forever.

I found out that Vodkamom is practically my twin sister and, surprise! I have two really cool nieces, which is great because I also moved from being a Not-A-Mom Blogger to being an Auntie Blogger, thanks to Sara.

Most significantly, I realized that what I expressed in my post about The People I Know was as true as I felt it to be. Geography means little when it comes to friendship; it's only important when it allows you to be in the same room with those friends from time to time, to reinforce in your mind what your heart already knew.

No one's post about BlogHer can really capture the feeling or, dare I say it, the zeitgeist of the whole event. Because, to me, it's not about the parties or sessions we went to, the "checklist" of people we wanted to meet and did meet, the swag or prizes (though there were plenty of all of the above); it's nothing you can quantify with a "...then I did this" kind of re-telling. It's the collection of small moments, planned and unplanned, you take with you that make it so memorable.

You can almost re-hear the brief but meaningful chat you had with someone you unexpectedly connected with while sitting on a floor in the lobby, and you get that warm feeling all over again. You look at one of the pictures and think back to the moment it was taken and remember how right it felt to have that person's arm wrapped around you while you both grinned like idiots at the camera. You chuckle when you remember someone reading aloud their Twitter conversation with someone you love who couldn't be there, yet who was a part of it through Twitter and text. You recall that moment of delighted surprise when you realize the person you've been talking to and really liking is someone you've talked to on Twitter for ages. You can feel the strength of that first hug you got from a true friend that you're getting to see for the first time. You almost taste the bites of street food you swiped off someone's plate, sitting on the streets of Manhattan at two in the morning, wondering how you can bear to not have this right-here-right-now camaraderie for another year. You find yourself taking these moments out to look at, again and again, and they get burnished with wonderfulness the more you do it.

Those things mean little to anyone except the people who were right there with you, so how can you ever convey them to anyone else? We'll try, most of us. We'll try because we're writers and bloggers and tweeters who need a way to let those people we were with know how much it meant to us to share those moments; that time, that experience, that laughter, and those photos.

Me (L) and Duchess Mama (R)

July 21, 2010

How To Lose a Limb: A Cautionary Tale

As I write this, I'm sitting in the hospital, next to my mother's bed. She has dozed off but I can tell after many, many hours of watching her sleep that she's only sleeping lightly and can be wakened with little effort. She has become a champion sleeper during her time in the hospital (then the skilled nursing facility, then the hospital once again); you have to be to get any rest with all the noise and interruptions a hospital brings. I've seen her sleep through blood draws. It's really quite impressive.

I just wish this were a skill she hadn't had to develop. She's tired of being in the hospital. She's tired of the needle pokes, vitals checks, blood sugar tests, IV flushes, bed repositionings, med distributions, ultrasounds, procedures, catheter adjustments, blood transfusions, nursing shift changes, doctor drop-ins and, of course, hospital food. I'm tired of all these things for her, too, because it's hard to watch her endure them day in and day out. (Although I think the food is better than she does.)

And we're not done yet. I've been hesitant to detail exactly what has been going on with her for a couple reasons. 1) I wasn't ready for all the questions; sometimes I don't do well when a lot of questions are thrown my way. After a while, I start to get defensive -- it's a personality flaw I'm aware of and it's one I'm trying to get past. So bring on any questions. If it doesn't violate her privacy, I'll do my best to answer it. 2) Then there is, you guessed it, her privacy. If you've been reading here for any time at all, you may have realized that I don't talk about super-personal things here. I don't fault bloggers who do use their spaces in that way, it just wasn't ever what it was about for me. I figured that if I don't talk about my own personal health issues here for the most part, how could I talk about hers? But her health issues are about to change my and my entire family's life in significant and unavoidable ways. Now that this time is here -- it has always been in the offing, but we've been keeping it at bay best we could -- it's now part of my life and this blog has always been about my life, in one way or another. So it's relevant and it's what I need to write about. 3) It wasn't certain what was going to happen. She has a lot of medical concerns and it wasn't clear which one was going to "get" her first. I think perhaps I felt like not defining things here kept them nebulous enough to avoid dwelling on them. Does that constitute denial? I'm not sure.

As I alluded to in my last post, Round 2 is here and it's time to take it on. My mom has had Type II diabetes for decades. This has caused a myriad of medical problems for her, especially over the last decade. The most problematic has been her circulation, especially in her legs, and she has had: two femoral bypasses, one in each leg; surgery on her carotid artery to unblock it; two heart catherterizations that have resulted in multiple stents being put in her heart; multiple laser eye surgeries to stop bleeding in her retina; the onset of congestive heart failure; foot ulcers and dry gangrene; and the amputation of four of the toes on her left foot. She has also been on the brink of kidney failure for about a year, which has required blood tests every two weeks for that time, and we know that dialysis is almost certainly in her future. Another round for another day...or year.

She has come through each of these things, some more easily than others, with a lot of effort, a lot of love, a lot of tears, a lot of pain and a lot of time. It does get harder each time, however, and though each was serious unto itself, life always went back to normal eventually. That's not going to happen this time.

Tomorrow morning my mom's right leg will be amputated above the knee and she will likely never walk again. Because of her age and weakened condition, she may not be able to get or adapt to a prosthesis, so we anticipate that she will be in a wheelchair from here on out. I hope that it will be one she can move herself, but she has little upper body strength so I am not sure that will be possible. (An electric one is, of course, an option but she has an aversion to them and they're a little too big to use in her condo.) I am her primary caretaker and while she has been the center of my life for the last year, this surgery will probably double the effort required to do pretty much anything and everything.

I will do the best I can, with a lot of help, but there's no doubt that it's going to be overwhelming at times, for all of us. My mom's biggest concern, as I imagine it is for most parents in this kind of situation, is that she is going to be a burden to us. I can't say absolutely that, at times, it won't be a burden; I think in part it depends on how you define "burden." I don't approach it as a burden, but I know that it is weighing on her mind so heavily that I worry it can affect her ability to recover and rehabilitate and I know that it is life-changing. The emotional part of it has been, and will be, very hard. But, to me, that's part of family. It just is.

Another part of family is knowing the best and worst parts of your family members, and how who they are affects who you become. Case in point: I know that my mom has always put us first, to the detriment of her own health. She was told in the mid-70s that her blood sugar was high and that she should just cut out sugary soda and other foods. This was right before we moved from California back east to New York and our lives were turned completely upside-down. We all switched to diet soda and kept right on going, trying to make the best out of some crappy circumstances for the duration of the 80s. Mom made sacrifices for us and was always there for us, working full time and taking care of us and the house, while putting up with two kids and a husband who had a boatload of his own problems. She dealt with money issues, worked day in and day out until retirement, got us both through college, became a widow, took in her two elderly aunts and nursed one through the ovarian cancer that eventually killed her, helped us move back to California (each of us moved out here at different times), packed up a huge house and sold it, and moved to California, too.

During most of that time, she ran on stress and adrenaline and didn't take great care of herself. She was too busy taking care of us to dwell on how she was feeling. I come from a family of stoics, and she learned those lessons well. Too well. In the late 80s/early 90s she was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and had to make significant dietary changes and start taking medicine. But really, it was too late and the damage had already started to impact her health.

The consequences of not addressing her own well-being in favor of taking care of her family for all those years led us in a straight line to today, on the brink of major surgery that has her worried about how she will live the rest of her life and how it affects her children. It's this last part that has me shaking my head over the irony of the situation; this is far worse than if she had said no, we can't do that because I need a break, or you're going to have to skip that birthday party because I need to attend a class on nutrition, or I'm not going to be able to take you to the mall because I need to work out for hour or two. We would have been okay, if disappointed at that time -- or, okay, as teens we would have been devastated...for all of an hour -- but we also would have been better off for seeing our mom make her own mental and physical health a priority. This fear, this worry, this emotional draining now is so much harder than it might have otherwise been if she had said "no" to us and "yes" to herself just a little more often. I think it's this part that is more of a burden than any difficulty we will face as she learns to transition from a wheelchair into a bed: She loved us more than she loved herself and now she's paying a steep price for it.

Now it's time to go wake her up so she can have a last few drinks of water before it turns midnight and she's not allowed anything to eat or drink, pre-op. Tomorrow will be another stressful and emotional day. We'll get through it together, barring any of the many complications that could arise, and we'll be back here tomorrow night, with me watching her sleep and wondering about how the next day will go.

June 30, 2010

Ode to June

Hello June, you little minx. You crept in while I wasn't paying attention, snuck on past while I was otherwise occupied and whacked me in the ass before blasting off into July. So, you know, thanks for that.

This was definitely an interesting month, and not all in good ways. My mom has spent the last week plus in the hospital and it has been pretty damned stressful. But, like I said, she's one of my heroes and she's coming through it amazingly well. I do have to give my brother and myself credit for keeping her afloat and moving forward for a couple of those days, when it didn't seem that she had it in herself to do it. I'm hoping that, in the long run, she'll also see it as "keeping her afloat" and not "badgering." We can be pretty persuasive.

I learned a few things, though. I learned that I sure as hell hope that I have as a good a friend as my mom does in her decades-long friend, Pat, when I'm facing my mortality. That woman is in-cred-i-ble. I now call her "The Velvet Hammer." We may be persuasive but it's hard to stay objective when you're staring your mom's possible death straight in the face and I challenge you to do it without crying. Pat was like this calm voice of reason and compassion and straightforwardness, with emotion but not tears. She made me want to do whatever she told me to do! And she uses her power for good, not evil.

I also learned (again) how much I enjoy my cousin Michael's company. He came in pretty much as soon as he heard what was going on, and it was so comforting to have him here. We are a really small family, but what we lack in size, we apparently make up for in...I don't know...awesomeness when we all get together. At the very least, we crack each other up, even when we're all a little shell-shocked by the goings-on.

On the other hand, I also learned that, as sad and devastated as we will be when the day comes that Mom isn't able to rally one more time, my brother and I will be okay in the long run. Every time she was going in for some test or procedure (sure she wasn't going to make it), Mom would say, "You two take care of each other." And we're ready to do that. He's been pretty great and I hope that he thinks I have been throughout this, too. He's more likely to whack me with a soda bottle than ever tell me that, but I think I might be safe in thinking that.

The last thing I learned is that having friends who are available to me online is the most wonderful thing when you're in the middle of a personal crisis. I reached out and they were there. Every. Single. Time. People can make fun of social media, and Twitter in particular, all they want but at the end of the day, they can kiss my ass. It was one of the biggest comforts imaginable.

So, bring it on July. I'm ready for Round 2.

May 25, 2010

Go Fish

Pre-post thoughts: Oh my poor, much-neglected blog. You really got the short end of the stick, getting me for an owner/writer. You probably deserve better. But then, what have you done for me lately? Apart, that is, from taunting me from afar, reminding me how lacking I am. No, you wouldn't do that, would you? Only my own conscience gets to do that. And, let me assure you, it does it quite frequently. Which is probably part of the problem. I feel like I'm constantly being reminded of all the things I have to do, things I should do, things that people want me to do, things that are expected of me, and sometimes that just makes me rebel. Authority issues, much? OK, enough. Either do it or don't. Fish or cut bait. Got it? Got it.

April completely got away from me. On April 30th, at around 11:55pm, I thought, "Oh, I really should post something tonight, or it will have been a month without posts, and I've been trying to be better about that." This was quickly followed by the thought, "Oh, fuck it. It's my blog and I don't feel like it." I think it's safe to say that I have that kind of internal dialogue relatively often. I know that I need more discipline -- I've been writing one particular blog post in my head since March, right after my last one -- but I suppose I lack the motivation to dig down and find it.

I think now would be a good time to go back and take a look at my list of things I want to do this year, as I have actually made some progress on it.

List 1: My Goals For The Upcoming Year - In Progress
  • Take another trip to Los Angeles to visit friends (I went in May)
  • Find or create a job that I can stand (No luck as of yet)
  • Get a new blog design (What I did is all that will be done this year)
  • Put together a disaster-preparedness kit (Nope)
  • Blog more regularly (Clearly, no)
  • Find a volunteer position (The library gig, still enjoying that)
  • Complete some cross-stitch projects (Got 3 completed!)
  • Pare down my possessions (
  • Drink more wine (Some progress here, but not much)
  • Take more photos and organize them (Taking them, yes; organizing them, no.)
  • Watch as many of the movies that "everyone" has seen that I haven't (2 down, many to go)
You know what? That's actually better than I thought it would, given that not quite half the year is gone. There's also one more thing that I mentally put on my list and have actually done it; it's not something I want to go into here, but I want to give myself credit for accomplishing it! Let's just say that I'm trying to improve my social life and I'm taking steps to do that, m'kay?

That brings us to my latest list, which I wrangled with for a long time back in, oh, February. (I have discovered, by the way, that these kinds of lists really tax my memory and creativity. When people ask me questions along the line of "What's your favorite [fill in the blank]?" my mind tends to totally freeze up. I never really realized that about myself before embarking on this list thing.) These are the people whom I consider to be my heroes, in no particular order.

List 2: My Heroes
Many of them are, I'm sure, terribly predictable and would make many peoples' lists. But the ones I've linked to are those that might have you asking, "Who?" If you're interested in hearing the "Why?" then let me know. This post is already far longer than I intended and I need to have something for next time.

March 13, 2010

A Moment In San Francisco

Not a half hour ago I was ruminating on how crappy I've been doing with keeping up on the lists thing, and with blogging in general. I saw another Listography book in the gift store of SFMOMA, which I'd just finished visiting for the first time, and I told myself I could NOT buy it because I'm not doing a good enough job with the one I have.

The thought of that was not enough to make me rush back to the hotel and do a post, but on the way back by bus something happened and all I could think about was, "I have to write about this." I don't even know why, other than it was just bizarre. I'm going to write it as I heard it, and you have to know that going in because the language is not what I would use myself. Read that as "WARNING, UNPLEASANT AND OBJECTIONABLE LANGUAGE AHEAD!" and do not bitch at me in the comments for it. (In other words, stop here if it's going to bother you, m'kay?)

I've been in and out of San Francisco all week and I've depended on public transit to get around because it's just too expensive for cabs, I can only walk so much and street parking is just a nightmare 95% of the time. So I've got a pretty basic handle on the system and feel comfortable taking it solo. In the back of my mind is always the recent spate of fights on the Muni system, recorded by omnipresent cell phones, that I've seen on the news, but so far, so good.

I got on the bus near the museum and was happy to find it uncrowded enough to grab a seat. The next stop, however, brought in what I immediately pegged (perhaps unfairly, perhaps not) as the Obligatory Bus Crazy Person and he set up shop right in the exit doorway, announcing as he boarded that we all needed to move because, "A black guy is getting on...and I've got a big dick. You all need to make room." You will perhaps understand my trepidation? Yes? Good, because it gets better.

He started complaining about the "nasty Chinese people" at the front of the bus who apparently wouldn't let some kids sit down. He continued rambling on, loudly, but apart from a few more "nasty ass" type things, I tuned him out.

The next stop brought in a flood of people and pretty much maxed out the bus. As people filtered back, it got crowded and two guys ended up next to the OBCP. One of them must have gotten that little bit too close because OBCP started making more noise and telling one of the two guys to move his ass. The young man, who was Asian American, was startled and asked if he was talking to him. "Yes, I mean you. Move yo' ass! I don't wanna be bumping asses with you, nigga! If I wanted to touch yo' ass, nigga, I'd reach out and grab it." Grumble grumble grumble.

I glanced over at the Asian woman sitting next to me and she kind of smirked back with shared amusement briefly, before turning away to distance herself from the situation. The young Asian American man moved as much as he could, smiled at his friend wryly and said, "I love the bus."

OBCP didn't like that. "Yeah, you love the bus. You love ass. Don't you bump asses with me nigga. If you was a white bitch, I'd do it. But you ain't, nigga." Grumble grumble grumble.

I realized that my stop was coming up soon and OBCP was between me and the exit. I wondered if I should say, "A white bitch wants to get off, please," but decided that wouldn't be all that wise. I stood up as the bus was coming to a stop, and the other young man moved aside for me. I quietly said, "Careful, you don't want to bump asses!" while smiling my thanks. He smiled back and let me step around him.

Just as I moved past him, OBCP saw me and it was like someone flipped a switch. He went from slightly crazy black man to a proper Southern gentleman. "You gettin' off here, ma'am? Here you go, sister." He moved aside and continued, "God bless you, ma'am, you have a nice evening." Astonished, I replied, "Thank you, sir, you too." (Sir? Sir!? Where the hell did that come from?) I moved down the stairs and off the bus, and as the doors shut behind me --  not letting anyone else on, much to the annoyance of the waiting riders -- I was just flabbergasted at how his demeanor had changed and how surreal my (otherwise dreaded) exchange with him was.

I walked away toward the hotel, thinking, "I have to write about this!" the whole time. I guess you never know when a blog post is going to hit you right between your normally-Politically-Correct eyes.

February 25, 2010

I Have A Spine...Sometimes I Just Choose Not To Use It

So, BlogHer '10. From the minute it was announced in Chicago that it was going to be in New York, I was pretty much set against going.

Why? Four words: New York. In August.

If you don't understand why that was my rationale you have either a) not been in New York in August or b) are one of those slightly insane people who actually enjoy stultifying heat and humidity. There is a reason they were able to get an entire hotel in NYC for an entire weekend in August, folks...all the sane people leave the city that time of year!

I've spent the last six months going back and forth, back and forth on whether or not to go. One day I was thinking, "Hell no!" Then it was more, "Well, maybe it might not be that bad." Then back to, "Oh, HELL no! What are you thinking?!" And so on. February ratcheted up the intensity as early-bird pricing comes to an end at the last of the month. All these people that I would like to see start confirming that they're going. And I get more...let's call it "encouragement" instead of "coercion" go, from multiple quarters.

Now, if I truly don't want to do something, there's very little that will convince me to do it. But I am aware that I'm easily influenced when it comes to things that I sorta/kinda actually want to do, and I think the influencers in this case pretty much know that. And they went to work. In concert. And with gusto.

The other day I decided that, if I'm going to go, I sure as heck am going to get the lower-priced ticket. So I bought a ticket, knowing that I can sell it later if I need to; this thing always sells out and there are always people looking for tickets at the last minute. That was the first step down the slippery slope.

I'll spare you the rest of the slipping and sliding. I've decided to go. I've got a ticket and a roommate and a slate of people I'm looking forward to hanging out with. All that remains is the plane ticket. I will make the same caveat as I did last year that there's a very good chance I won't leave the hotel the whole time because of the weather without a lot of whining. Because no one wants to hear that, right? But you have been forewarned!

February 21, 2010

Winter Bloom

The camellias in this part of California always signal that winter is coming to an end soon. I liked this perky one that recently opened near the house.

I could spend hours taking pictures of flowers. I don't even know if anyone else enjoys the pictures as much as I do, but hey, the first person you need to make happy is you, right?

February 12, 2010

Was A "Social Lie" Called For?

As many of you know, over the Christmas holiday I had a part-time job at a chocolate shop. It had been a dream of mine since I was a little girl to one day work for this chocolate shop company. I not only got to live that dream, I got to live it in the very store that had inspired me as a child.

Recently, they called me back to work there again for the upcoming Valentine's Day rush. I said yes and, as I'm currently an employee there, I'd prefer not to mention the name of the company here just yet. You probably know and that's fine; let's just see if we can avoid mentioning it in the comments, m'kay? ;-)

I worked last night for a few hours and had a moment that left me questioning my response to a customer query. Now, customers ask me a LOT of questions during each and every shift (when I'm no longer working there, I plan to write about some of them) and because a high level of interaction is required, I turn into the perkiest, chattiest Cathy you ever did see. So not me in general, but it's kind of part of the role. I'm used to being questioned and responding in a friendly manner and tonight was no exception. The question this time was a first for me, though.

A nice man (who had been kind enough to let an older lady go first because he was indecisive about what to get), who I would say is around my age, was ordering his candy and I was getting it bagged for him. I think he asked a question or two about what kind of boxes were available and it was a pleasant interaction. Then he smiled and asked, "It must be really hard for your other half to get you something special for Valentine's Day when you work in a chocolate shop, huh?" I didn't really think about it too much, I just replied honestly, smiling, "Well, if I had another half then, yes, it might be difficult for him!"

At least two of the ladies in line visibly cringed and one said, "Ohhhh..." in an "Ooh, you stepped in it, mister," kind of way. I could tell that he didn't really know what to say for a moment, so I continued on in an attempt to mitigate his embarrassment, "But then, I love getting chocolate so it really wouldn't be all that hard!" I kept smiling and finished the transaction. He recovered and was smiling again when he left.

I was left to wonder if being honest (but pleasant) wasn't the right move in this case, however. Because while I didn't mean to put him on the spot, he was making a common assumption I encounter all the time: Coupled, until proven otherwise. I'm used to setting the record straight, so it came naturally and there was no ill will intended in my answer. Now I'm thinking, however, that it wasn't actually meant as a personal question -- it was really just like the ones I get all the time along the lines of "Oh, how can you stand to work here without eating chocolate all the time?!?" -- so perhaps I should have just played it off with a laughing, "Oh, it is!" or something similar.

Was the so-called "social lie" called for in this case? What do you think?

January 30, 2010

We Have A Winner!

So today was the big day; the guesses were all in and tallied last night so all that remained was to see how much money was actually in Mr. Donkey. He and I went off to a local supermarket with a Coinstar machine to get ourselves a winner. There's time for a quick picture to set the stage.

I think he's waving, but it was hard to tell.

Resigned to his fate.

Then it was time to disgorge his contents and see what we had to be counted. He didn't give it up easily, I must say, as I had a hell of a time getting the plug out. [Insert your own joke here.] It took a little more effort to get all the coins out, but finally the silver started flowing.

A little privacy, please.

I selected the UNICEF Haiti Emergency Fund and got the confirmation screen.

We took a look at what we had to offer before starting the big count, then I started to feed the coins into the machine. I was a little giddy with anticipation because I couldn't wait to see how much was actually in there. (If you think I knew, I didn't. There was no way I was going to count all that myself if the machine was going to do it for me.)

Is it just me or does he look a little sad at this point?

The machine went clicky, clicky, clicky, clack for a while, doing its tallying and totaling. At first it looked to me like there wasn't going to be as much as I'd hoped, but then it started to get caught up and when it stopped, this is what the screen said:

Much to my surprise, someone guessed the total on the button: Duchess!! You are the big winner, my pregnant friend! I will send your prize pack off to you as soon as possible.

Thank you to everyone who participated. I had so much fun putting this together and watching the guesses come in. And a special thank you to the good folks at Coinstar, who got involved and tweeted about the giveaway, then very generously donated some gift certificate love (Can you say iTunes, friends?) that will appear in a future giveaway. This was my best blogoversary yet and you have energized me for the year ahead.

January 27, 2010

Ping: My Boy Finn

It has been a long time since I've done any catblogging (and some of you *cough* Kathy *cough* are probably peachy-keen with that oversight).  But when I had my camera out last week to take pictures of Mr. Donkey, I snapped a few shots of Finn and thought I'd share one.

He still hates having his picture taken, almost as much as me, so it wasn't easy to get him to look at me. I have to play on his inability to ignore my little clicky noises for long. He's gotten really big (that vet who told me he'd be "a big boy" sure knew what she was talking about!) but there's still that same kissable nose and chewable ears. He puts up with me accosting him on a daily basis because I can't resist snatching him up for a snuggle or two. But then, I am The Mighty Holder of the Food.

January 24, 2010

Play That Funky Music, White Girl

I went out last night with friends and had a great time. There was sushi and sake, beer and darts; it could hardly have been better. During the course of the evening, the idea of going dancing sometime in the future came up. Half of us were in favor of it, half of us weren't. I fell into the "not in favor" camp.

It's not that I hate dancing, it's just that I'm not all that good at it, I don't enjoy it much and it's not something I look forward to doing. Weddings are pretty much it, and I haven't been to one of those in years. I do, however, really enjoy a lot of dance music. Someone pointed out a few years ago that the songs I turn up on the car radio are almost all dance tunes, yet I don't want to go dancing. True. I'm also that person at a concert who's pissed when the person(s) in front of me to stand and dance the ENTIRE time the musicians are performing. I am paying to see the musicians and hear their music, not watch someone's lame-ass dancing in three feet of space. There, I said it. If you're that person, I'm sorry, but that's how I (and some other people, I know for a fact) feel.

But I digress. When this week's list came up, "List your favorite dance songs," I had to really think about it. I think of songs as just ones I love, in general; I don't necessarily divide them into categories like that. So here, for your ridiculing pleasure, is my latest list, in no particular order.

List 4: My Favorite Dance Songs

  • Crazy in Love - Beyoncé
  • Push It - Salt-N-Pepa
  • Let's Go Crazy - Prince
  • Hips Don't Lie - Shakira
  • Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas
  • Vogue - Madonna
  • Brick House - Commodores
  • Fergalicious - Fergie
  • Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado
  • Love Shack - The B-52s
Clearly I skew toward female artists for my dance tunes, and I have an affinity for 80s music. Feel free to tell me what yours are (or why mine suck *sniff*) in the comments.

January 22, 2010

A Blogoversary Giveaway!

One Ping Only turns six today! Sometimes it feel like it has been forever, but other times it feels like it has been no time at all. I'm not going to wax poetic about it, I'll just say thanks to those of you who have been a part of it during some or all of that time. It means a lot to me, especially your comments (yes, Ben, I do put a lot of stock in the commenting!) and the fact that you are supportive even when I'm spotty on regular posting. OK, on to the fun part!

To celebrate the blogoversary, I'm doing a little giveaway. I'll be sending to one winner the following:
  • A copy of My Life. My Loves. My Lists. (For you to do your own lists this year)
  • A $20 Starbucks card (Or Peet's or the like, if you'd prefer)
  • The new Norah Jones CD, The Fall (I'm loving listening to it right now.)
  • Two single-serve packets of Nutella (In honor of my friends who are big Nutella fans)
  • A six-pack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (Don't need to explain those, do I?)
  • A donation in your honor to the UNICEF Haiti Emergency Fund (Keep reading for info on that one)

Here's the deal: It's a simple affair, no requirement to tweet about it (though if you wish to, you're certainly welcome to); subscribe (again, unless you'd like to), write an essay or otherwise turn cartwheels. All you have to do is submit a guess in the comments, in the form of a dollar amount, as to how much money you think is in this bank:

Though he looks like a hippo, the fine people of Target said he's a donkey. So, it's a donkey bank.

I love banks and I have probably too many of them. I put all my change in them -- my rule is that if any coin makes it to my room in my pants pockets at the end of the day, it goes in a bank -- with one for just pennies and one for silver coins. Mr. Donkey there is the one with silver coins. Usually when he fills up, I take them all out and wrap them up and bring them to the bank for a little mad money.

He's almost full and instead of saving the money, I'm going to take Mr. Donkey to a Coinstar machine when the entry time is over and his contents will be tallied up and donated to the UNICEF Haiti Emergency Fund in honor of the person who can guess how much he holds. To give you some perspective on the size of the bank, here he is posing in front of my laptop next to a soda can. (That is not an ad for Dell, by the way, I just needed a clean background!)

What I'm looking for is a guess of the total that will appear when his contents are emptied into the Coinstar machine. Because there's only silver coins inside, the total will be to the nearest nickel. The person whose guess in the comments is closest to that total wins -- that's it! If two guesses are the same distance away from the correct amount, the person with the guess under the total will win. I was going to limit it to North America, but what the hell, it's only postage, right? (However, I don't think the Starbucks card can be used outside the U.S. so I'd have to leave that out. That would go to the next-closest person in the U.S.) Comments with a guess must be submitted by 11:59pm PST on January 29, 2010 to be eligible.

Let me be clear: This money is getting donated to this cause even if no one enters. I just don't like random number generators all that much and picking names from a hat is a lot of work -- I did it once and that was enough. I thought this would at least be a different way of picking a winner! Also, I have no idea how much is in there; I'll find out when the total shows up on the screen, which I'll take a picture of to share here.

So help me celebrate my blog's anniversary with a little fun and a little giving; two things I believe in greatly.

January 17, 2010

The People I Know

This week's list was an interesting one for me -- "List the children and babies that you know" -- because it goes right to the heart of a post that has been brewing for a while. The thing is, two years ago, here is how that list would have looked:

Would-be List 3 - Children and Babies I Know
  • (None)
The difference between now and then is AllMediocre and Twitter and the incredible people they've brought into my life. And that difference is huge because many of the people I met by those means are parents who are now a part of my life.

List 3 - Children and Babies I Know
The thing that makes this list somewhat different, apart from the obvious fact that it's far lengthier than it would otherwise have been, is that I have met some of these children in person and some I haven't.

But it doesn't matter because I know them; their parents are my friends.

Some of their parents I have met in person, and some I haven't. And that doesn't matter, either.

I no longer distinguish my friends by how I know them. There is no "in real life/IRL" and "online" in my lexicon of friendship any more. None. It's gone. If people ask me to clarify who I'm talking about, I do, but my friendship with The Duchess or Kathy is no less meaningful to me than my friendship with someone I get to see more frequently (or ever) simply by virtue of location. The fact we've seen each other only once or haven't seen each other face-to-face is meaningless to me. That kind of thinking is outdated. How you meet and make a friend does not define that friendship anymore than the length of time you've known someone or their proximity to you defines a friendship. Friendship is far more complex than that and the Internet has broadened our friendship horizons exponentially.

I think some are threatened by that broadening of horizons, so they ridicule and resent the friendships their loved ones have with people they've met in a manner other than what they consider to be "real." One part of me is frustrated by this...and frustrated often. The other part of me feels bad for both my friends who encounter this and their loved ones, because the loved ones are limiting themselves and limiting their partners (or trying) when they feel threatened by what they don't understand. Many of these loved ones cite safety concerns and there are certainly some people online whose intentions are less than good. However, in the same way that the news scares us daily with cautionary tales of evildoing, whether online or in our neighborhood, not everyone can be painted with that same brush of fear or we'd never leave our houses. Doing so toward people who spend part of their lives online is simply another form of discrimination, as they're judging people they don't know based on one facet of those people.

I'm quite certain that these loved ones don't see it that way. I imagine they think they're looking out for their partners (and, by extension, their families) because they love them. What they don't realize, in my opinion, is that they're also trying to substitute their judgment for their partner's judgment to a large degree, and that doesn't honor their bond one bit. Most of us are not dumb enough to blindly trust the people we meet online. We all get taken in by people from time to time; it happens, it's part of life and it's by no means limited to "people from the Internet." When you spend time online, you learn to assess people by their presence there, the same way you assess people in your office or class when you have to decide who you can trust and who you can't. To make an assumption that someone means to harm or dupe your partner just because their connection isn't face-to-face is to question your partner's ability to make that kind of assessment.

It's also ignorant to think that if your partner meets someone at the club or a party or in the PTA, they will make a better friend than someone they met on Twitter. Who exactly do you think is on Twitter? It's the people at your grocery store and your gym, it's the people in your office and your softball league, it's the people living next door to you and across the street. They are, quite literally, as real as you are and denying that does no justice to your own common sense and no credit to your intellect.

I make a real effort to meet my friends in person whenever possible. It's important to me because of this distrust that some of their loved ones have about their "invisible friends" or "Twitter buddies." Sometimes I feel like I'm on a one-woman crusade to prove to them that we're not all actually 30 year-old men living in our parent's basement who pretend to be women online. It doesn't always work and my feelings on the subject have come between me at least one friend, which saddens me greatly. But it matters to me what their loved ones think because they are a major part of my friends' lives and I respect them for that role. It's not enjoyable to know they sometimes don't respect my role in their partner's life because of how they know me.

My life has been enriched immeasurably by the people I consider to be my friends, and I look forward to continue getting out there and spending time with them, their kids and their loved ones whenever possible. And when I can't, my days are made brighter by their presence on my laptop. 

January 13, 2010

Making Progress

I've been taking my list of goals for the year seriously and I'm trying to be mindful of the items on it, in order to look for opportunities to advance them. (I think blogging three times this week -- so far -- is a fine example of that!) I realized that my blog anniversary is coming up, and it would be nice to have made progress on my "Get a new blog design" goal before then.

Last night I decided to take the plunge and made major changes to the layout. I figured that if I pay someone to do a full-blown re-design, I'll have to upgrade it on Blogger in any case, so might as well do that. I've been cobbling together bits and pieces of HTML on the original layout to keep things afloat for a couple years and it just gets harder and harder to make it what I want. That is simply not where my talents lie.

As you can see, if you've ever been here before, things look seriously different. I realize that it's not great just yet, there are still a lot of things that need to be tweaked. I'd let you tell me what you like or don't like, but the biggest problem I've encountered is that my comment function is not working with the new template. I'm sure it's an easy fix, but I haven't been able to puzzle it out on my own. I'm getting some help with it, but people have been coming to visit today and I wanted to thank you and apologize for not having comments working.

Because of this, I've added something now that I'd planned to add later: A link to me on Twitter. I've resisted doing that for a long time, but the reasons for doing so seem less relevant to me now. Twitter has become a huge part of my life and I want to integrate it into my blog. Over there to the right is a rather clunky-looking widget, which I hope to improve on, that will take you to my Twitter page. If you're not already following me there, I hope you'll come by and say hey. If you are, please feel free to leave your feedback there until I get the comments up and running. Because, let's face it, tweets are great but there's nothing to equal a comment left with a post.

So, technically, I've met the challenge of my goal because this definitely constitutes a "new blog design." But I'm not ready to cross it off because it's not the final version and it doesn't meet the spirit of the goal. So let's consider it to be struck through with a dotted line for the time being. I'll keep updating the progress over there in the Welcome message and I hope you'll come back to watch as things develop.

***UPDATE: For the moment, it's essentially back to the old template. But the header and comments are back up. (Thank you Emma!) But the Welcome message I mentioned is gone. This will be a work in progress. Thanks for your patience.***

January 11, 2010

Now Showing: Movies I Missed

I was amused at how much I enjoyed writing and posting yesterday's entry. I suppose I shouldn't be; I know I'm a cyclical kind of person and the things I like to do wax and wane during a year.

But this morning I knew I needed to cross one thing off the list (already, yay!) and add one thing to it, seeing as how they're related.

Crossing off: Find a volunteer position
Adding: Watch as many of the movies that "everyone" has seen that I haven't

"How can these possibly be related?" you may ask. It's a fair question, but they actually are.

Since it was a list of goals for the year, I went ahead and included the finding of a volunteer position. In actuality, I'd already found one and it just started. I'm volunteering at a local library, doing one of my favorite things: looking for books and other library materials when they are requested by patrons. There's nothing I love more than a treasure hunt, and it's like a new treasure hunt every time I go. It's like a little win when I find a title that's on the "We've looked before but haven't found it" list, I must say.

Among the things I get to hunt down are videos (yes, there are still some) and DVDs. When I spent a little more time in the DVD section, I was amazed at how many recent movies were there, as well as many that have been in my "meaning to see" category for ages. That, of course, spawns another list. You might be surprised by some of the movies on it, but there are many popular movies that I don't go to see, especially if everyone is hyping it up. I'm also one of the few people in the country who doesn't use Netflix, or many of these would have been ones I'd have had in my queue and probably would have seen while I was waiting for the newer movies.

List 2: Movies I've Been Meaning To See
  • All About Eve
  • Almost Famous
  • Annie Hall
  • Atonement
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • Borat
  • Breaking Away
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Bullitt
  • Burn After Reading
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Casino
  • Chinatown (I tried to watch this once before, but I fell asleep)
  • Cold Mountain
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Fame (original)
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (I know, I know, but I haven't seen it)
  • Finding Neverland
  • Flags of Our Fathers
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Garden State
  • Giant
  • Glengarry Glen Ross
  • The Godfather Part II
  • Goodfellas
  • Gorillas in the Mist
  • Grand Hotel
  • Harold and Maude
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • The Hustler
  • An Inconvenient Truth
  • Letters From Iwo Jima
  • L.A. Confidential
  • The Manchurian Candidate (original)
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Michael Clayton
  • Meet Me In St. Louis
  • Monster's Ball
  • Moonstruck
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • Network
  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • The Queen
  • The Pianist
  • The Producers (both versions)
  • Ratatouille
  • Ray
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • The Right Stuff
  • Rushmore
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Schindler's List
  • Seven
  • Slap Shot
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Taxi Driver
  • Terms of Endearment
  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • 12 Angry Men
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Young Frankenstein
All over the map, isn't it? It's a lot longer than I anticipated, but once I got started, I decided to go all out. I don't know how many of these the library actually has, and there's no way I'm going to fit them all in this year, but at least I've finally got them down in one place.

January 10, 2010

The Year of Lists

Happy New Year! I figured that I'd let all the other bloggers do their new year posts first, so you wouldn't get overwhelmed.

OK, we both know that's a lie. As usual, I put it off because I don't do resolutions and I wasn't sure yet what I wanted to say for my first post of the year.

Finally, inspiration struck the other day, in Barnes & Noble, of all places. I took my mom there so she could get a 2010 calendar book for her appointments. B&N usually has so many and discounts them by 50% after Christmas/New Years, so we were hoping for a good buy. While she was perusing the selection (which was pretty thin by then, unfortunately), I checked out a few and hit gold. I found a rather unassuming-looking volume called Listography Weekly Calendar: Your Year In Lists.

I love lists. I think most people do. I don't make them as frequently or as predictably as some (e.g., the ubiquitous "My Top 10 List of the Year!"), but there's something incredibly satisfying about making and completing a list, some of the reasons for which I was amused to find here. The Listography calendar, while it serves as a conventional weekly planner, has the additional twist of giving you a topical list to complete each week, accompanied by a quirky illustration. As the back cover says, the lists "range from autobiographical to aspirational to holiday-specific" and I fell in love with the idea of the calendar guiding me to make lists to share here.

Because, let's face it, I'm not always good with the ol' follow-through here at The Ping. The only thing that I successfully did for an extended period of time was The Year of Living Generously, and even that had an element of failure because I felt I couldn't write about it after a certain point. (I did complete it, though, even after being laid off, and I'm pretty proud of that!)

The calendars topics are random enough to keep my interest (I'm hoping), amusing and relevant enough to make for some good posts (I'm really hoping), and already prepared so I won't have to struggle for a topic. The idea of that makes me a little giddy, I have to admit, so I'm encouraged that it's something I can stick with for a while.

As we've completed the first full week of our new year, it's time for the first list (hopefully the first of many!) in no particular order except as how they occurred to me.

List 1: My Goals For The Upcoming Year
  • Take another trip to Los Angeles to visit friends
  • Find or create a job that I can stand
  • Get a new blog design
  • Put together a disaster-preparedness kit
  • Blog more regularly
  • Find a volunteer position
  • Complete some cross-stitch projects
  • Pare down my possessions
  • Drink more wine
  • Take more photos and organize them
Thoughts? Questions? Goals of your own to share? Hit me up in the comments and let me know.