All of this has happened before

‘Tis the season of lists. Christmas wish lists, shopping lists, to-do lists. Best of and worst of everything lists. Lists of changes we’re really – truly – going to make next year. There’s something comforting about looking back on the necessary chaos of life and saying “I’ll just put this bit in order now, and then I’ll move on to the next thing.”  It might just be a reaction to the calendar, but I think these dark, cold days bring out our natural need to brood and mull.

So I’ve been mulling. And obsessing. And listing – all of the bad things, the unfair things, the ways I haven’t lived up to my own expectations and the times I thought it couldn’t get any worse. I built up the idea of this year to the point where it felt like something I needed to outrun. If I can just get out of this year, I can make it. If I can just survive a few more days without incident, all will be fine.  But that’s not how time works.

I wrote those two paragraphs in December of 2013. I found them with a few days left of 2016. I hope you are reading them from the safe distance of 2017, and that everything really is better.

Or at least not worse.

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Ten Years?

I made exactly one Resolution this year: spend less money on delivery Pizza Luce. Not on delivery food in general, or pizza in general, but specifically on delivery Pizza Luce. This has nothing to do with health. This has to do with spending about $150 on Pizza Luce in December alone.

Resolutions need to be that specific to work, I think. Saying “I will lose weight” or “I will get healthy” is too vague for me. “I will not treat this restaurant as my personal kitchen three days a week,” however, seems manageable. I do admire folks who try those other, broader, goals, and I admit I get caught up in it. This is it, I think. This is the month I buckle down and finish all my crafts including the braided rug I started in 1994. But more often than not I come to my senses and amend that goal to “either claim it’s a braided rug for Barbie or give it up. Also you don’t need to DIY floor coverings. You’re an adult with a job.”

If I had one “traditional” New Years goal this year, I guess it would be to write more. Even that is cheating, as I always want to “write more.” About a week ago I thought maybe I’d make a go of it and start writing a blog entry. A few days ago I hadn’t written a word, so I thought maybe I’d search my old writings for ideas/things to plagiarize. And that’s when I realized the internet has changed since I started blogging, and the only way I could access those old things was to change with it. I clicked some things. I downloaded some files. I uploaded some things.

And that is how my old, embarrassing, mostly-about-how-much-I-want-a-nap blog posts wound up imported onto this site. Instead of writing one new entry, I imported about 500, beginning ten years ago.  I was halfway through my freshman year of college; I was immersed in a group of girlfriends I still remember fondly, even though we aren’t close anymore. I was away from my small town – albeit in a different small town – for the first time in my life. I was overly fond of commas and parentheticals. And I was pretty sure about four people were reading what I wrote, which is maybe why reading them makes me think not that I should write more, but that I shouldn’t write at all.

Anyway, it all happened. It all seemed important at the time. In the words of my 18-year-old-self, “I don’t know why I keep doing this.  I don’t have anything remotely interesting to say so I talk about myself, and no one reads it anyway because it’s uninteresting.  And yet…here we go again.”

Well, what were you doing at 18? At least my mom will get a kick out of it.

From The Archives: My Birthday Is Served

(A true story from just before my 22nd birthday.)

This doesn’t happen every day, and it doesn’t happen to everybody.  It only happens to me.

My birthday buddy and I went out for ice cream and exchanged gifts yesterday evening.  My present included silly putty, bouncy balls, a hacky sack, play dough and – my favorite – a koosh ball.  Hers is a “Happy Hour” sign and some champagne-shaped chocolates.  Guess which one of us is older.

When I got to my house, my mom was home.  I showed her my present and started playing with my koosh ball when she told me a man had been by to see me just then.

Oh?

Yes, he’d been by to see me and he’d dropped off some papers.

And what do these papers say?

Oh, just that I’m being sued for fifty thousand dollars.

...Well.

Clearly this problem cannot be solved by koosh.

Apparently, someone with my name is having some legal issues over a three-year-old car accident, and I was served her summons to appear in court.  Our legal system at work.  I read the papers and started to laugh, then said, “This isn’t funny!”  My mom laughed back and said “No, it’s not!”  Then we both laughed some more.

So tomorrow morning I have to call some lawyers and explain that I did not, in fact, cause an accident in the cities in 2002 (when I was barely able to drive out of my driveway, by the way), and I will be paying no one $50,000.  Then I will ask him how difficult the legal process is to change my name to something slightly less common.  I’m thinking Shaquana, Decadence, or Bob.  Not a lot of girl Bobs out there.  The world needs more.

But hey, I’m not bitter.  Not everyone can say, “Remember that time I went out for ice cream and got sued for fifty thousand dollars?”

This doesn’t happen every day, and it doesn’t happen to everybody.  It only happens to Bob.

The Feast of St. Patrick: Another Essay from the Archives

This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote for an English class in 2007. On an unrelated note, it was written for one of those professors you initially can’t stand but appreciate so much after the fact. She passed away just about two years later, but sometimes I still hear her barking “clichéd! clichéd! clichéd!” That’s one way to get me to aim for originality over perfection in everything.

I was baking bread in my roommate’s casserole dish for the third time in a week when my mother called to wish me a happy St. Patrick’s Day. Thanking her, I asked about how long, in her experience, Irish soda bread needed to bake. It was the only step of the recipe I had failed to memorize and never would, no matter how many loaves I made in my lifetime.

“About 45 minutes to an hour,” she responded. When I pointed out that this range could be the difference between the perfect loaf and a kitchen fire, she told me to stab the center with a knife. I glanced at the already pockmarked top of my loaf and thanked her for the advice.

Bread-stabbing is a habit learned from my mother, just a generation away from becoming a tradition. She also taught me to immediately serve one quarter of a fresh loaf of Irish soda bread. I cut a quarter of my casserole-shaped soda bread into slices before remembering I was the only person in my apartment.

One-quarter loaf for the one-quarter Irish, I thought as I took a bite. Sugary and dotted with raisins, it tasted like nothing my Irish ancestors would ever recognize. It connected me only to my mother, and she to the grandfather I never met. His name was Patrick, and I’d often wondered if that was by choice or just the general rule for males born on March 17 in Ireland.

As I was working my way through my third slice of soda bread, my roommate came home. I shoved the plate of bread slices at her and sighed.

“What are you doing tonight?” I asked.

It was a Saturday and St. Patrick’s Day, so I was shocked when she said, “Stay home and sleep.”

She said she felt left out on St. Patrick’s Day because she’s not Irish. I pointed out that we lived in the middle of Minnesota, land of Scandinavians, and almost no one we knew was Irish.

“Yeah,” she said, “But everyone can tell I’m not Irish.”

When my roommate fills out the race/ethnicity portion of surveys, she checks Latina, Asian, and Caucasian. It bothers her to be told that the first two cancel out the last; it bothers me that I have to skip all of the interesting entries just for the last. I was surprised to find her jealous of something that, for once, fell under the scope of my white bread heritage, but I understand the need to check that third identity.

Because of an obsession with genealogy, I have divided myself into fractions. Rather than a pie-chart, I am a Rachel-chart. This leg is Irish, this one is Acadian. My toes are German, my ears a throwback to “a Micmac Indian woman” who dead-ends my family tree. It is a mix that is uniquely mine, and yet rather than make me diverse it has watered-down my sense of heritage. I am a child of the melting pot; I have no single culture to embrace as my own. Instead, I have a half-remembered recipe for a simple variation of white bread.

On what would have been my grandfather’s 95th birthday, I once again ate Irish soda bread and imagined what it would be like to meet him and ask him just one question. As I stared at the remaining three-quarter loaf of Irish soda bread, and I knew I would ask him how it felt to be celebrated whole.

This ends the flashback essay series. Tomorrow, I will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, my grandfather Patrick’s 100th birthday, and the wonderful thing it is to be Irish-American.

Luck of the Norwegian: An Essay from the Archives 2

This was written about St. Patrick’s Day 2009 – a memorable but odd one for sure:

I got my St. Patrick’s kicks in a little early this year, choosing to make bad decisions on a Saturday rather than a Tuesday.  Does that make it a good decision?  Call it a wash.  Anyway, my weekend was great, aside from the parts where I felt like dying.  The other parts were too much fun, and I would do those parts again (which pretty much means I’ll do the “feel like dying” parts again, too).

The actual St. Patrick’s day was going to be low-key, but ended up pretty bizarre.  First of all, there were drunk nuns before noon.  Always entertaining.  Then there was a phone call from my mom, letting me know my dad was in the hospital because of a work accident (found a chlorine gas leak with his face), but he didn’t want me to come home because I should “stay there and make money.”  I never listen to my dad; he never makes sense.  So instead, I spent about two and a half hours in the ICU, watching my pops take in oxygen and watch NCIS.  It was exactly like hanging out with my dad at home, except with a few extra tubes and wires.

Around seven, the doctor checked dad’s O2 levels and sent us all home, telling him not to smoke for a few days because it would irritate the acid in his lungs.  The acid in his lungs.  I take that to mean “don’t smoke because IT WILL MAKE YOU BLOW UP,” and dad takes it to mean “Gonna smoke anyway, because I like a challenge.”  My dad: surviving things he shouldn’t for half a century.

And that’s how I ended my St. Patrick’s day: watching my dad watch NCIS (at home this time) and thinking not about my Irish ancestors, but my Norwegian ones, and wondering if I might inherit some of their luck.  And their ridiculously hearty lungs.

Note: Dad’s lungs are not quite so hearty anymore, but I am so incredibly proud of the work he’s put into quitting smoking in the past few months. Love you Pops! Keep taking care of yourself so I can keep writing jokes about you.

The Wearin’ O The Green: An essay from the archives

If I ever needed an excuse to write about being Irish, St. Patrick’s Day is it. I wrote this in 2008 while working at the Arboretum. Consider this an early St. Patrick’s day gift to my mother.

It is St. Patrick’s Day, and even though the Arboretum is currently under a blanket of white snow, today we celebrate all things green.  This is the day the 25% of me that is Irish (mostly manifested in freckles and Conan O’Brien-ish pallor) overwhelms the other 75% of me.  Today, I make Irish soda bread, tell everyone just how many Patricks are in my ancestry, and remember the time I kissed the Blarney Stone and earned the gift of eloquence (can’t you tell?).

Whether you are lucky enough to be Irish or not, today is the day to wear green.  I have my green sweater, but I also have my brown Arboretum t-shirt: today, I’m giving a shout-out to two different types of green.  I get to be Irish every day, but I have to work at being “green.”  I’m incredibly imperfect at it, but it’s important to keep trying.  By wearing this slightly-mismatched t-shirt/cardigan combo, I’m honoring my past and what I hope to be my future.  And you thought I just got dressed in the dark.

Besides dressing the part, St. Patrick’s Day also gives me a chance to connect with my heritage through traditions.  Every year, I bake Irish soda bread.  It connects me to my ancestors, until I overwhelm the recipe with sugar and basically turn bread into candy.  I’m not much of a chef, and I have a sweet tooth – which is why I find maple syrup season to be the most exciting time I’ve spent at the Arboretum.

For a few more hours, everyone who wants to be Irish gets to be.  Tomorrow the rest of the world will put away its green, but I’ll still be a little bit Irish (and probably a little bit sick from all the sugary bread) – and that makes me feel just a little bit lucky.

PS: More tomorrow!

A lot of energy is coming from everywhere

Yesterday, Steve came to my office, and in explaining how to get to me I said, “And then the desk nun will call me, and I will give her permission to send you up.”  Who else gets to say that at work?  God?

Anyway.

Operation: Leave the House, Try New Things, Figure Out Where the Straight Men Are and Overall Get a Life (tentative title) continues to go well.  Or, at least, it continues.  The first week saw me mainly adding things to the “where the straight men aren’t” list, as after gay bowling and the beauty salon there was Ladies’ Night Out, The Ugly Truth (terrible) and (500) Days of Summer (as great as I anticipated it would be).  Week two included two free outdoor movies, a visit with Lacy, a short film festival at the library, a concert at a new bar, and getting stared at by an old orange man in a speedo at a lake.  Sabrina was involved with almost all of these; gay men were involved in at least two (I don’t want to talk about speedo man).  The closest I’ve come to figuring out where the straight men are was at the bike shop yesterday, when a man continually called me “sweetheart” and a “girly-girl,” mainly due to my dangly earrings, as he sold me a bike helmet.  He’s married with three kids, but at least that means he’s definitely straight.  I’m counting it.

This weekend there will be book sales, art fairs, taking care of Brixie and Captain America (Steve’s cats), and a barbecue.  It’s a full life, kind of.

Ooh la la

I got my hair cut yesterday.  It was not quite long enough to donate, and I was feeling oddly guilty about that until my stylist said my hair grows “twice as fast at the normal human’s.”  So I’ll be back in donating shape in no time.  I brought in a picture of Mandy Moore (of course), which on me translates to something halfway between Tina Fey and “the Rachel,” which is just about right.  Actually I kind of look like Keely, assuming I remember what Keely looks like.  Whatever the case I like it, although I would like to add beauty salons to the “where the straight men aren’t” list.

OUTgoing.

I’m doing this thing where I try to be more outgoing.  Believe it or not, this involves going out more.  The key to my success is saying “yes” to 90% of the invitations that come my way.  Sometimes this involves costume parties, such as the recent “I’m on a Boat” party that saw me wearing my dad’s Navy hat and 4-inch heels (clarification: the heels were mine, not my father’s) in public.  That was a great amount of fun, even if my feet were dead by the end of the night and nobody got any of my Major Dad jokes (nobody else had even heard of Major Dad.  Clearly these people did not grow up in my house).  And sometimes this involves more simple outings, such as meeting my brother for lunch (check), checking out the Electric Fetus with Sab (check), or going bowling with Jerry (oh boy).

The bowling happened yesterday, and it taught me an important lesson: always be clear on the details before you accept the invitation.  Perhaps Jerry’s presence should have tipped me off, or the two other gay men we brought in our carpool, but 3 gay men: 2 straight women (Kristin came too) is about the correct ratio for my social life.  It wasn’t until we got to the bowling alley and walked into a swarm of about 40 coiffed, exfoliated, skinny-jeaned men that I realized something was going on.  Because this was not just any bowling.  No.  This, my friends, was gay bowling.

Once I got over the initial shock followed by peals of hysterical laughter, I had a fabulous (swish!) time.  I even bowled my best ever, missing a turkey by one pin in the final frame.  And in retrospect, I don’t know why I expected anything else out of this evening.  It is, after all, my life; of course there’s going to be gay bowling, and of course I’m going to go to it by accident.  There’s just no fighting fate.

Vacation, all I ever wanted…

Fair warning: This is one of those “and then I…and then I…and then I…” posts, probably the most boring of all the posts, but it could be worse. I could be making you watch a slideshow of my vacation pictures. I’ll try to just hit the most awkward highlights.

And before I begin, I just want to mention that I’m sitting in a coffee shop and a woman just came in with a giant parrot on her shoulder. A fucking parrot. On her shoulder. In a coffee shop. Anyway.

So, Thursday: I got to the airport, had a lovely drink in order to be buzzed for takeoff. Unfortunately I overestimated my tolerance and found myself drunk at 3 in the afternoon, but what does it matter since I almost didn’t cry at all during the plane ride? From now on drunk-flying is the only way I travel by air. I landed in San Diego just in time for rush hour, so I spent my first hour in California people watching at the airport. Not as awful as it sounds, as I saw a man doing drugs in his car. When Andy got there (totally angry at being stuck in traffic, but that’s his default emotion anyway: hatred), we went to his apartment for a bit, then went out for Chinese and to a hookah bar before I completely crashed.

Friday: There was a time Andy almost killed me for dinging his car door, but now he either trusts me or hates his car because he let me drive it around San Diego by myself. He went to work, I went to the zoo (I win). Lots of animals there. I got introduced to an entire busload of people because I was a single rider and the driver “didn’t want me to feel awkward sitting next to people I didn’t know.” Perfect.

After the zoo, I took myself to the Gaslamp district and went shopping. An Asian woman insulted my feet and guilted me into a pair of shoes, but the rest of the day was pretty much just shopping with a side of sunny skies. That actually is perfect.

Next there was some general bumming-around-the-apartment and visiting one of the apartment hot tubs before we went downtown to an Irish pub with some a genuine drunk and belligerent Irishman. I bonded with the other girl at the table, noting that the odds must be good for her working with a bunch of engineers. She responded, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.” Instant friendship formed. We followed up that Irish pub with another Irish pub about a block away, where some random guys took a picture with me and said, “Tell me your name and I’ll tag you.” New favorite pick-up line?

Saturday was beach day: we spent seven hours there. I was technically wearing a tube top and jean shorts for a while, and I really suck at sunscreen. I put it on continually, but missed weird places such as the back of my left knee, the slit in my swimsuit skirt (that burn looks like a treasure map), and my entire back. We completed the Saturday of awesomeness with some grilling and a dive bar.

Sunday, which was only yesterday, was spent at Coronado Island. My family told me I should eat brunch at the hotel, but they failed to mention it costs $75 a pop. My family has a skewed vision of what I enjoy (answer: being cheap). We visited the hotel, the beach, and a much cheaper restaurant down the street before filling me up with ice cream and cocktails for the flight back. I did all of this with a side ponytail, so now I have a half-neck burn to add to my awkward collection.

Now I’m back. I took today off to do laundry, unpack, recover, but I actually just slept until 1 o’clock and came to the coffee shop that is apparently frequented by pirate women. Back to reality (oops, there goes gravity) tomorrow, but until then I’m on vacation. Bliss.