Catching Up

Dear Mom,

You would love the snow that’s falling right now. I can just hear your voice on the phone telling me to make ice cream out of it…. but I don’t think it would taste that good because I’m out of dairy milk and vanilla. I’ve never had soy snow ice cream. I will possibly give it a whirl and see how it goes. Maybe Hayat has some vanilla I could borrow.

You’ve never had soy milk? Really? It’s delicious in coffee and on cereal…. brings out the nutty flavors in each. My favorite is chocolate soy milk and Cinnamon Life.™ No, Mom. Really. It’s good. I’d make you try it the next time I come to your house if you weren’t  so corporeally challenged.

Just like you, I am perpetually cold. I am wearing special long underwear from Uniqlo called HeatTech. The company is Japanese, but for some reason there’s a big banner on the front page that says, “From Finland with Love.” If I thought there was going to be more cold weather, I would buy that shit mañana (I can’t tell if it’s hilarious or terrible that you’re not going to tell me to watch my language). I am also wearing the American Giant™ rugby jacket that Dad got me for my birthday…. only it’s not called a “rugby jacket.” It’s called a Moto. Picture a double-weight hoodie without the hood and you’ve got it. Despite both of these things, I’m still shivering, but it’s not the clothes’ fault. I am my mother’s daughter.

It would help if I could get moving. I love the cold when I’m dressed for it, and I’ve linked up the stuff I’m wearing for my readers because even though this is Old Man Winter’s last ditch effort, the next freeze will be here soon enough…. and I am definitely warm enough outside. It’s not really the cold. It’s that I’m not moving…. just sitting here typing, like the lovable geek I’ve always been.

Going for a long walk to help me sweat would improve my situation dramatically. However, it is actively snowing and I hate it when the precip gathers on my glasses and renders me more blind than usual. The timing of everything is off. Did I get glasses before or after you died? I think it was before, but time is just so malleable that I’ve forgotten. Wait. No, it was before. So you did get to see my cute little frames. I just wish I could remember what you said about them, because new glasses would not have passed without comment.

Now, I have a collection of them. Glasses are the new earrings. I even have some that make me look like a writer, so even when it feels like I’m just faking it, I still look the part. All I need now is a tweed blazer with elbow patches…. you know, for the jacket picture on the novel I’ve been working on for years and sometimes think will never be finished. At least the grey in my hair is coming in. It seems as if all authors have the same picture- jacket, glasses, grey at the temples.

I have discovered that I am, in fact, terrible at fiction. There are plot holes all over the place that you’d see coming a mile away because I don’t know anyone who’s read more books than you. It makes me hope for you that heaven is a big library, even though God knows you’ve already read at least half of them.

I’m starting that process, the one where I read just damn everything I can get my hands on, regardless of storyline. It doesn’t matter. Romance, science fiction, biography, autobiography. Not only am I enjoying myself, I’m working my way up from volunteer to paid reviewer at a book club web site. I keep thinking about how much you would have loved the recommendations on what to read next…. some of them have been quite good. In every case, the novels have been solid stories, but what would have driven both of us up the wall is poor editing. It’s always a shame when the content is so good and you can’t really concentrate on it because your mind is running a thousand miles a minute thinking “no comma there,” “comma needed here,” and “what the hell does that sentence even say?” With those reviews, I am not generous with stars, but I make sure to tell my audience that the content is good. I sometimes feel like a teacher reading a child’s work, because in my reviews, I have to report the number of errors I find…. but only up to 10. With some of the books, I could go on for pages.

It was a good move on your part to become a music teacher. If you’d chosen English, I don’t think you would have had any hair left by retirement.

Speaking of which, how is it that you were a music teacher your entire career and I still can’t read bass clef?

I forgive you.

Love,

Leslie

 

 

 

The Sook and the Book

I am starting this entry at 0613, and it is currently 28º (F) in the nation’s capital. Opinions are mixed as to whether we’ll get any snow this week. Being the snow lover that I am, here’s hoping. If we do get any, Capital Weather Gang is saying it will be the last little bit. Spring is coming early, and the Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled around St. Patrick’s Day.

As long as I’ve lived here (three years in Silver Spring, MD and, in 2001-2, 18 months in Alexandria, VA), I’ve never been. Perhaps I will brave the crowds this year just to take pictures. The Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial make an excellent backdrop for the flowers… so much so that there are plenty of photographers better than I am who’ll sell their images to the media for almost as much as an average IT paycheck. Maybe I’ll skip taking pictures and just “live in the now,” although my camera is an excellent way to be alone in the midst of a crowd.

Photography allows me to feel like I am floating above the fray, which is exactly the way I like it. I have a lot to do before I can think about pictures, though. As I’ve said, I’m now on my second book review. I’m not finished with the book yet, and I have to get a rough draft to my editor by Thursday. This book is also about a group of women, which I didn’t know when I offered to write about it. I was hoping for something completely different just based on the title. However, it is a little different in that the women are British and the slang doesn’t always translate well. Sometimes I can pick it up just from context clues, sometimes I feel dumber than usual. I also have no idea what any of the acronyms mean. I need to get in touch with an ABP,™ which in my own lexicon stands for “Authentic British Person.” That being said, I don’t have any friends in Manchester (I don’t think), and I don’t know how much of the language is regional. My go-to ABP is from Scotland, and I’m sure she’d help me out to the extent that she could, but I think I’ll actually finish the book and then think about reaching out.

I will say that the writing style is different and much more emotional. I got weepy yesterday, made worse by well, sometimes I get the menstrual cramps real hard… Quite frankly, this book makes my insides squish and I think about Argo intensely, because it’s about the kind of friendship we could have had if I’d not been so blind, fumbling around in the dark. I have others to fill the void quite nicely, but no one is her and it’s not like I can go to the Argo store and pick out a new one. The mold broke after she was made… and I’m betting she knows it. It’s pretty good odds. 😛

It also makes me think about Dana, but to a lesser degree. We did have that kind of friendship, but I have truly blessed & released her into the universe because we both broke each other’s hearts. In this case, we’ll never go home again. I am sure I have said this before, but because Dana and I had such a mutually assured destruction, I feel so much less guilt regarding her than I do about being such a loose cannon jackass to Argo. I “clicked off safe” and said things to her that I’d never say to anyone to their faces, so why I did it online weighs on my conscience heavily. It doesn’t work for everyone, but guilt, for me, was a powerful motivator to become a better person…. a constant reminder that I didn’t like that person and I never want to see her again, because she’s so mean……… often not even realizing it until the consequences arrive. Again, blind. Fumbling in the dark. Loose cannon jackass.

My actions remind me of the Billy Joel classic, Summer, Highland Falls……. they say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known, and I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own. I can’t tell you how many times I went to the Episcopal church in my neighborhood just so I could recite this specific excerpt from the prayer of confession and pardon:


Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone
.

Those are the words that every week would beat me into submission, because I realized that although God might forgive me for these things, I couldn’t…. at least, not then. I’m doing much better with absolution now. I realized that I couldn’t beat myself up forever, because it was stopping me from moving forward. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you can’t make yourself put on boots in the first place.

But there are always going to be things that trigger me into the past, and I have to work hard not to stay there. I’ve always been this way. If someone sculpted me, they’d call it The Overthinker. Now, though, when rumination eats my lunch, I can find my way out… mostly through great music……

And books to review, because the rough draft is due on Thursday.

When the Weather Report is Wrong

The Capital Weather Gang wrote a long article about how they thought snow was over for the season. I have never been happier that they were wrong. Living in a sub-tropical climate for all those years renders snow magical for me…. especially when it is big, fluffy, ski-worthy weather without ice and sleet. Of course, it could turn into that later on, but for now, the goal of the day is to take my laptop downstairs to the picture window in front of the porch and just think. I finally figured out how to start the clock running on my book review, therefore, I have more time than I thought I did to get it done.

I am finished with the basics, but not the editing. So far, it’s turning out to be interesting, even though the book was not something I’d have chosen on my own. I can’t tell you much, only that I chose it because it covers a subject in which I know nothing, and I love Knowing Stuff.™ There’s enough character development so that it’s not all about the sport at hand, but should I want to engage in such sport later on, I’ve found myself a solid foundation. The web site I’m working with has been around for years, which is how I know it’s the real deal, and not just a way to get authors to submit their work for free…. I also found a web site for freelance authors, but I don’t think I’ll sign up for that one. It’s because I think that the ads for work should be paid for by the employers, and this one is $100/month. It says that satisfaction is guaranteed as long as you can prove you’ve actually done the work, but there are better ways to go about freelance writing than having to pay money in the hope you’ll get something. Besides, this is not a job so much as a side hustle.

I’ve applied for jobs in several restaurants because I’ve noticed that I do not have time to write if I am tethered to my phone and laptop with IT. Now, I would not turn down a job in IT should it come along, but there is something to be said regarding being done with a shift and going home to write, rather than having your phone ding at all hours of the night with clients expecting a 30 minute service license agreement. The hard part is finding a job in a restaurant that will cover all my bills in the meantime. It’s a good thing I put in an application at both Starbucks and Costco, because both pay well and offer benefits. With my fanatical devotion to good coffee, it also doesn’t suck that I’m also gifted a bag a week. I also don’t want to go a minute longer without a Starbucks baseball cap. I had a friend in college that worked there for three weeks just to get the hat and the apron and then quit, because he was a Linux server administrator. I will not be doing that, but it was funny at the time.

For those who are wondering why I would rather work at SBUX than an independently owned shop, it has to do with health insurance and not much else. I also learned that once you’re in the system, you can take a vacation to anywhere and pick up shifts wherever there are stores. This was a piece of advice given to me while I was waiting in line at Dupont Circle, from a barista that “took off a month” and went to the original store in Pike’s Market (Seattle, of course).

The biggest problem I have is in getting around the city, because it would be a godsend to work in Silver Spring or downtown DC. If I got a job in the tech corridor or Annapolis/Baltimore, it would take me over two hours every morning to get to work with what would be a 20-40 minute drive. Of course it would be more than that with traffic, but with computer jobs, there are generally programs for both working at home and off-hours so that traffic would be a non-issue. Fingers crossed. This is because everything on the server is keyed by changes in file time and tied to user account. I could work anywhere in the world, but I am reticent to leave the 32-inch monitor on my desk…. although I did once see a guy drag a 22-inch iMac to Starbucks.

Believe it or don’t, there are even terminal programs for iPads and Android tablets, which, to me means my laptop just lost six pounds. Full-size Bluetooth keyboards have made my backpack lighter and my muscles hurt less. Plus, the weight of my backpack with my laptop and all the things I need in order to keep from going back to the house bothers my corkscrew scoliosis so that one part of my spine is absolutely scraped to bits. I even had Hayat (landlady) cover the rip in Neosporin and a thick bandage, to no avail.

I talked to my old friend Meag, an RMT in Ottawa about it, and sent her a picture. She told me she couldn’t wait to get her hands on me, but nine hours is an excruciating trip without a car…. and would make the trip prohibitively expensive whether I was flying or taking an Uber. If I was going to go to a clinic that specialized in both massage therapy and chiropractic medicne, she’s the only one I’d want to see. In Canada, the requirements for getting licensed are much steeper than in the United States, and she is one of the people on the legislative board who approves others. I have been told that eventually I will need surgery, but not for another 15-20 years or so. Until then, I just have to nurse my pain. Making my bag as light as possible is as good as it gets- for the moment, anyway.

It was nice being able to stash my bag in my car while it lasted, but here’s the thing about that. Like most people, I do not like to exercise. Walking and taking the bus/train is the only workout I get, because I don’t even notice I’m doing it. If the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, the destination is being mentally healthy. Medication and a great diet help, but there is nothing greater than natural endorphins that adds fuel to the fire. Silver Spring Station is only two miles from my house, and when the weather is nice, I’ll generally walk at least one direction, possibly both. Though I don’t often walk fast enough for true cardio, the landscape is hilly enough to add incline. Plus, the bus schedule for the main road back to my neighborhood runs every ten minutes, in those moments where I just cannot even, I have someone to bail me out (Hiiiiiii, George!) It is absolutely amazing how much walking overclocks my processor, though I wish I could add memory….. and then I think to myself, God will provide the RAM.

But seriously, folks, I do my best writing while mobile. My head space is just so positive, and God help me if I don’t have my phone. I used to carry a notebook, but if I write things down, I have to retype everything when I get home. I now use Google Keep, but my favorite words in the English language used to be, Siri… open Notepad. This seems like a no-brainer, but I have to use my phone rather than my tablet (if you have 3G on yours, that’s fine, too) so that the notes sync immediately. I am a nerd that needs my information on all my devices instead of just the one I have to hunt down- because of course I’ve dropped it somewhere in my house and the battery has died.

Still using my old iPhone while I search for my Android. I am operating system agnostic, so the only reason I really want to find my Android is that I am missing the tons of extra space I have on it due to the fact that expansion slots are par for the course. Apple just makes extra space prohibitively expensive. Yes, Apple devices are designed well, but so are Android. And for less than half the price of a new iPhone, I can get an Android with 128 GB of space. It’s especially useful now that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will let you download movies and TV directly to your device. But, if you want to pay $1,000 for a phone that you’ll fill up in two weeks, who am I to stop you?

The amount I know about IT is somewhere between organ grinder and monkey.

Well, that’s not true. At least I, most of the time, remember to buy my own bananas.

The Snowman Cometh (with Apologies to Eugene O’Neill)

I know it’s hard to tell with a still picture, but it’s really coming down out there… and forecasted to continue. We may actually get some accumulation. I am excited about this, because there is nothing I love more than newfallen snow (when I’m dressed for it). Walking around in the pristine white brings me so much joy. I only hate snow after it’s been on the ground for a few days and ranges from grey to black with tire tracks and dripping oil. Although, if I had to choose, I believe the dogs love it more than me… which reminds me of an old Sam story………….20171209_110711

My roommate, Samantha, has parents where one is Methodist and one is Druze, but does not claim any religion for herself. So, a couple of years ago when the snow was very deep, Sam shouted at her dog, “come on, Daisy. Time to part it like Jesus.” I started laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes and said, “ummm, that was Moses.” She just laughed and said, “whatever.” Of course, this is the same person that when, years ago, I got a “Share a Coke with Mark” bottle and joked that all I needed now were Matthew, Luke, and John, has been calling me Mark ever since. In fact, I think that since then she’s forgotten my actual name. I dig it. Fits in with the theme….. Auna calls me “Hipster Jesus.” Being nicknamed after a Gospel writer doesn’t seem like much of a demotion. After all, he was a writer. 😛

I am caught between two ideas right now. One is that I am still in my jammies- cute ones, so that I at least look marginally dressed- and I have two shows to catch up on. The first is Doc Martin, and the second is The Crown. I was going to start with The Crown, but Doc Martin is just so damn funny, and I could use some funny in my life.

The other idea is that there’s just so much to do and see in the snow, and I have the clothes to be very, very, very warm while I’m out. I could go to downtown Silver Spring and ice skate, or I could go to Zoo Lights, or I could just walk around my neighborhood and see who’s already on the ball with the Christmas decorations. The one drawback to this is that it is actively snowing, and when snow gets on my glasses, I can’t see anything, anyway. You would think that an umbrella would help. Not so much. Snow generally blows sideways. Before I make my decision, I will check and see if Zoo Lights is a recurring thing, or if it is only today. The best time to do all this stuff is after the snow has stopped, there’s a satisfying crunch under your feet, and the weather is cold & clear…. perhaps not clear, because it’s usually overcast even when it’s not snowing, but you get my drift (see what I did there?). I am waiting with baited breath to see what happens this winter, because sometimes we get a few inches a couple of times, and sometimes the heavens open up and dump everything they’ve got. Winter before last, it was over a foot and a half deep. Everyone had a different name for it:

  • Snowpocalypse Now
  • Snowtorious B.I.G.
  • Thanks, Snowbama
  • Enforced Captivity
  • Working Without Pants -or- Working Under the Covers (IT doesn’t DO snow days.)

If we do get The Big One,™ I will work out more than I have all year, because it’s more strenuous to lift your knees that high while walking…. because you can either walk on the unplowed sidewalks, or take your chances on the street. I choose knee/ass deep snow rather than getting hit by a driver who thinks they have this snow driving thing down (they don’t). Everyone thinks they’re a friggin’ expert until they spin out, because thinking you’re an expert generally leads to driving way too fast for the condition at hand…. and I have yet to see anyone chain up on a back road. My general rule is “go around me, moron.” I’ll either see them further down the road fishtailed into a snowdrift or being told by the police that maybe they should control their speed. Of course you can get a speeding ticket while going the speed limit when snow is blowing sideways…. or worse, the snow has melted and it’s still cold AF, so there’s black ice everywhere.

The safest way to get around in all this mess is public transportation, because generally, if you’re going to be in an accident, the city bus is going to “win….” and a good bit of the Metro is inside, which is even safer. Plus, with everyone wanting to run their own heaters in their own cars on their way at every possible opportunity, parking is even harder than normal.

Speaking of driving, though, I had a funny Uber moment yesterday. The Uber driver always checks to make sure he/she has the right destination, and I told him I was going to the mall. He said, “in DC? With all the monuments?” I laughed and said, “no… I’m not going to The Mall, I’m going to a mall.” I was in an Uber pool, and the teens in the back laughed and said, “No! In Silver Spring!” I bought all my clothes, got my bag of coffee (finally) and managed to get out of Whole Foods for less than $50. Beat that with a stick.

I even remembered to get more eggnog….. because I’m in my jammies.

Cute ones.