Why I Hate New Year’s Eve

New Years is one of my least favorite holidays.  I am not a fan of any holiday where the main goal is for large groups of people to get as drunk as possible.  New Years is the worst of these holidays by far because it combines over the top intoxication with firearms, two things that go so naturally together.  And who doesn’t like lying awake at night as a child, waiting for the bullets your redneck neighbor shot into the air at the stroke of midnight to come flying back down to earth, through your roof and into your head?  I mean, nothing makes you appreciate the year ahead like surviving random gunfire!  I was probably never in any real danger of one of these bullets finding me, but as a kid it didn’t seem so.  We would wait up till midnight and then as soon as the ball dropped on the television you would hear someone in the neighborhood run outside hooting and shooting.  And always the observation would be made by someone in the room that, “what goes up must come down.”  I was an anxious child and I knew if some freak accident was going to happen to anyone, it was going to happen to me.  But I managed to survive the New year’s festivities of my childhood, only to have more harrowing experiences on the dawning of the new year as an adult.

There was New Years 1999, where I celebrated the impending downfall of civilization by consuming more alcohol than was prudent.  I mean, if life as we knew it was about to me brought down by computers not being able to comprehend the difference between 2000 and 1900,  I might as well get really drunk first right?  I spent most of the evening out on the porch, clinging to the railing because I was sure if I let go, the spinning of the world around me would be so strong I would be flung from the porch and into outer space.  Not the most rational of thoughts, I admit, but it wasn’t the most rational of times.  I knew people who went out and stockpiled supplies and weapons so they could fight off the looters who were sure to overrun the town as soon as the lights went out.  I was talked back into reality by my best friend Dhyana, who always had never-ending patience for my self-created calamities.  She brought me cold pizza and convinced me that I could let go of the railing long enough to eat it.  Miraculously, the pizza stopped the spinning and the world didn’t come to an end at the stroke of midnight.  Sort of a disappointing night.

The following year was the first New Year’s Eve that I was of legal drinking age, so me and some friends decided to take the free bus into the next town and go out to the bars.  This is one of those instances when the difference between being 21 and being 30 is very clear to me.  At the time, nothing sounded like more fun then a free bus ride with bunch of drunk people.  Now, it sounds like something that happens to you while in purgatory.  In preparation for the drunk bus, my friends and I had a pre-party at my apartment.  After partaking of some libations, I decided I needed to pack refreshments for the twenty-minute bus ride to the bar.  I found an empty water bottle and filled it with a combination of vodka and Hansen’s black cherry soda.  My concoction  tasted like really potent cough syrup, the memory of which still gives me the shivers, but I didn’t care.  We left my house and walked to the bus stop, with me cradling my alcoholic creation in my arms like the precious cargo that it was.  At the stop, there was a group of dirty hippie kids waiting for the free ride.  One asked what was in my water bottle and I held it out to him to share.  Just then there was a muffled pop.  I looked down and saw that the top had blown off the water bottle and a puff of white smoke was drifting out of it.  Apparently, the jiggling from the walk over had built up enough carbon dioxide to turn my bottle into an explosive device.  The dirty kid held his hands up in defense and said, “no way I’m drinking that.  You’re more hard-core than I am.”  I left the water bottle at the bus stop, believing that if a dirty street kid didn’t want to drink it, then maybe I shouldn’t either.  The night took a downward trajectory from there and concluded with me discovering what vodka mixed with black cherry soda tastes like after being digested for a few hours.  Eww.

After that, I understandably took a few years off from celebrating New Years.  Then in 2004, I made my triumphant return to bar hopping on New Year’s Eve.  This time I was with my friend Carrie and we found ourselves packed into the small outdoor area at The Shanty, our favorite dive bar.  The whole atmosphere was pretty depressing and I found myself wishing I had stayed home.  Then some guy slammed into me, spilling my beer in the process.  He apologized and offered to get me a new drink and scuttled off to the bar.  He returned a few minutes later with some sort of mixed drink, which I thought was odd since most guys won’t blow the extra few dollars if they know you’re happy drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon.  I said thank you and turned my back to him, hoping he would take the hint that I was not interested in talking to him, but do weird guys at the bar ever take the hint?  He kept asking me how the drink was, had I tried it yet, was it okay.  I began to wonder why this guy cared so much about the drink and then decided he must have slipped a roofie in it.  Now Carrie will tell you that I often decided that someone had slipped drugs into my drink and that I would  leave behind or give away most of the free drinks bought for me at bars.  I guess some of the warnings my mother gave me about creepy guys  stuck in my head.  I bent down and set the questionable drink on the ground, and unfortunately my would-be suitor noticed.  He kept asking where my drink went and what was wrong with it.  We tried to move away from him, but the bar was too crowded.  I was doing my best to just ignore him when out of no where I felt a tug on my hair.  He did not just pull my hair, I thought as I continued to look in the opposite direction.  And there it was again, a tug on my hair, but this time more forceful and accompanied with a slurred, “hey, I’m talking to you.” I try to be a reasonable and polite person, but when I have reached my limits, I tend to explode.  I don’t remember exactly what I said to the belligerent imbecile, but it was something along the lines of asking him if he came from some other country where it was customary to pull the hair of women who were uninterested in his advances, followed by my explicative laced request for him to get as far away from me as possible before I punched him in the face.  As Carrie and I left the bar not too long after that, I knew that this was the last time I would be going out on New Year’s Eve.

And so, my hatred of New Year’s Eve remains, and I think it’s pretty justifiable. This year I will be having dinner with my family followed by a movie which I will undoubtedly fall asleep in the middle of.  I don’t plan on being awake at midnight, but the new year will be there in the morning.

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead

With another year rapidly coming to a close it seems only natural to take a look back at the past year. It was a great one, I must say, maybe the best year of my life. I got married to an amazing man, finished my AA and began working towards my writing degree, turned 30, moved into a beautiful home in an amazing part of San Diego, and watched my son grow from a helpless baby to a little boy who is becoming more and more self sufficient every day. It goes too quick, but we all know that don’t we?

It seems self-indulgent to sit here and recount all the blessings that have filled my life in the last year, but in looking back the blessings are all I see. I know that there were bad times too, arguments over some nonsense, hurt feelings and regrets, but those aren’t the memories that linger. They are swallowed in a tide of gratitude for everything that I have experienced, everything yet to come. It seems that I have gotten to the good part of life, the part of life that makes all the struggle that preceded it seem insignificant. Funny, because I have spent the last decade dreading turning thirty, as if it was some magical age where upon its arrival, I would lose all my edge and everything that made me interesting. And I admit, what little edge I did have is now gone. No more piercings or cutting political diatribes. The tattoos I once thought made me stand out have become an eyesore and a reminder of a time in my life I would gladly not return to. All the things that I thought made me who I am have been revealed to be just the things I hid myself behind.

The real me, the person that I am today, is a woman who is completely content to spend the day cleaning house while listening to NPR. I am a woman who takes as much pride in successfully roasting a turkey as I do in my 3.85 GPA. Hell, the turkey was harder to achieve. I am a person who finds nothing more joyful or fulfilling than watching my son discover the world in his own way. Is there satisfaction in heading a fortune 500 company or overseeing the merger of two giant media conglomerates? I am sure there is but I would argue that it is no greater than the satisfaction derived from a perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies, a tantrum stopped mid scream with a song and a cuddle, or a husband who is happy to come home to his family every night.

I have learned that the things that matter in life are not the grand impacts that we leave on the world, but the simple everyday pleasures that seem so common they are usually taken for granted. I am making no resolutions for the year ahead except for this: to never take for granted the simple moments of happiness that are presented to me everyday. That’s it, but is there really anything more than that?

I wish you all a year of happiness and an overabundance of gratitude.

Bruce Callahan

I was at Starbucks the other day and saw this guy who was around 50-60 years old with slicked back hair that was graying at the temples, a brown leather jacket, super tight black pants, and big aviator sunglasses that he left on the entire time he was inside.

I thought he was so awesome I made up a story about him.  Here it is:

Bruce swaggered into the coffee shop, bringing with him the smell of stale cigarettes and musky cologne.  Bruce swaggered everywhere he went, despite the arthritis in his hip that made him limp, more noticeably today because of the cold.  Bruce didn’t mind the limp, he thought  it gave him the appearance of someone who had a story to tell.  Often strangers would ask about what had happened and he would tell them he got his limp from a motorcycle accident or sometimes he said it was the residual effect of a knife fight during a short stay in county jail.  He never mentioned arthritis.

Bruce reached the counter and leaned over, smiling and peering over the top of his sunglasses at the coffee shop girl who was busy making ice tea.  Her eyes remained down on the pitcher of tea and Bruce became slightly annoyed.  He hated when people didn’t notice him.  He was a man who commanded the attention of others and when people failed to recognize that, he became irritated.  Bruce cleared his throat and rapped his hands on the counter in a fancy rhythm he had practiced.  He was sure the flourished beat his hands created let everyone in the café know that he was a man who knew his way around a drum kit. Eyes around the shop momentarily left their papers and flashed at Bruce.  He smirked and thought, that’s right, you are in the presence of a legend.  Pay your respects.

The Barista rushed to the counter and smiled politely at Bruce. “Sorry about the wait.  What can I do for you today?”

Was that a look of recognition in her eyes?  Or was she just being coy?  Bruce put his hands on the counter and gave her the look he reserved for the few woman he deemed worthy of it.  He slide his sunglasses down on his nose and gave her the full experience of his piercing brown eyes which, though now watery and permanently bloodshot, still had the intensity of the brooding artist behind them.  “You, my darling could do many things for me, but today I’ll just take a coffee,” Bruce said with a laugh and a wink.  The girl looked somewhat puzzled and Bruce laughed again, showing he meant no harm.  Poor girl, Bruce thought, she’s probably starstruck.

“Um, okay. Do you need room for cream?” she asked as she grabbed a cup off the stack.

“Listen darling, I take my coffee like I take my women- strong and hot,” Bruce said pushing his glasses back up.  He used that line a hundred times at a hundred different coffee shops and he never got tired of it.

“Does that mean yes or no?” she said, cocking her hip and raising an eyebrow in a way that Bruce found quite fetching.  Bruce chuckled again and smiled down at her, knowing the girl was falling for his practiced seduction.

“What do you think it means?” Bruce asked, widening his stance so her attention would be called downwards.

“I have no idea, that’s why I asked,” the girl said with a sigh.  She turned her back to Bruce and began pumping coffee from the giant urn that sat on the counter.  Bruce took a moment to enjoy the new view presented to him and then decided it was time to close his carefully laid trap.  He cleared his throat and began humming.

“Here, I left room.  If you want it filled up, just let me know,”  the girl said as she set the steaming coffee on the counter.  Bruce just smiled and kept humming. He watched her,  waiting for the recognition he first noticed in her face to return.  The girl fidgeted with the bracelet on her wrist and looked over her shoulder towards the dish-room.  Bruce hummed a little louder, and the girl sighed and looked back at him.  “Do you need anything else?”

“Do you know that song? The one I was just humming?” Bruce asked.  The girl shook her head no.  “Are you sure?  It was quite popular.  It’s called ‘A Hard Days Rain’.  You don’t know it?”  Bruce asked again, annoyance creeping in to the edges of his voice.  Her coy routine was getting old.

“No, I’ve never heard of it.  Your total is $1.75 if there isn’t anything else,” the girl said, her mouth pulled into a hard line.

“I find that surprising that you’ve never heard of it.  It reached number 67 on the charts in 1978.  They still play it on the radio.  I should know, every time they do I get a royalties check,” he said in a tone of nonchalance.  He raked his hands through his graying hair and waited for the admiration he so surely deserved to come.  When the girl still didn’t reply Bruce added, “I was the drummer in the band that played that song.  The Crinks we were called.  You must know The Crinks!” Bruce said a little too loudly.

“Sorry. I wasn’t even born in 1978.  Guess it was before my time,” the girl said, her eyes bored and tired.  “$1.75 please.”

“For a coffee? You’re a pricey one aren’t you,” Bruce said as he pulled out a worn leather coin purse.  His fingers shook as he searched for the correct change.  He tossed a scattering of coins on the counter and grabbed his coffee.  Bruce shuffled towards the exit, trying his best to hide his arthritic limp.

“Have a nice day sir,” the girl called, the laughter ringing in her voice.  Bruce hunched his shoulders and pushed open the door, never looking back.

The Days Ahead

I was all ready to write my blog last night and then I sat down.  David had just went down and I thought I would take a break and watch The Office with my husband for a minute. I remember laying there with my eyes feeling sleepy and then a voice in my head told me I should rest them for a minute.  I told the voice no because I had to get up and write my blog, but that voice is a tricky one.  It said not to worry, that I wasn’t going to go to sleep, I was just resting my eyes. That sounded reasonable enough, so I acquiesced and closed my eyes.  Next thing I know, Casey is shaking me and asking if I was going to come to bed or sleep on the couch all night.  Stupid voice!  I wiped the drool off my chin (he is so lucky to have married to such a sex kitten) and staggered into our room where I subsequently fell asleep without so much as brushing my teeth or changing my clothes.

I guess all the craziness of the holidays is finally catching up with me.  I spent the day running around with David finishing our last-minute shopping.  He was in a great mood which made things easier.  At Costco he made me laugh so hard I snorted.  We were passing the wine section when David got really excited and started pointing and yelling, “Pop-Pop! Pop-Pop!”  David seems to know where his Grandpa likes to go.  In checkout we had an awkward moment when David started squeezing the arm of the girl boxing up our stuff.  Well, it was more like he was kneading her arm fat like bread dough.  Ladies don’t usually like their squishy parts  treated like bread dough.   She looked at me and said, “Does he always squeeze people’s arms?” to which I replied, “it just means he likes you”.  I don’t think that was a comfort.

Tonight we are off to the zoo to see the Christmas light displays and tomorrow is Casey’s birthday.  I am in charge of the birthday dinner now and I am a little nervous.  I’m a pretty good cook, I’m not amazing but I can follow a recipe and make a decent meal.  I do get nervous when cooking for more than a couple of people though and this is my first time cooking for a big occasion.  Not that Casey or his family would ever complain even if things didn’t come out as intended (well, maybe Grandma would complain but that’s to be expected).  I’m just hoping that last night wasn’t a sign of things to come.

I had made dinner and when I set David’s plate down in front of him, he burst into tears and pushed it away.  Nothing shakes your culinary confidence like someone crying at the sight of the dinner you made them.  He proceeded to sob through dinner until I told him he could leave the table if he didn’t want to eat.  He then happily paraded around the table, jabbering to himself and making grand arm gestures which I’m sure translated into something like, “see evil woman, you cannot make me eat your disgusting pile of noodles!  And did you think you could trick me into thinking it was something different then the slop you fed me the night before by melting cheese on top?  I am not fooled by your edible trickery!  Now I will dance and sing my song of triumph!”

So wish me luck.  I will be attempting to make a turkey breast (!) which I have never done, along with stuffing and mashed potatoes and green beans.  Barb, my mother in law, is bringing cranberry sauce and apple pie, so if everything else fails we can just skip dinner and have desert.  This is the first test of my aptitude as a housewife.  I hope I pass!

While You Were Sleeping

I’m not feeling especially witty today.  I have a huge headache and didn’t get much sleep last night.  David woke up around 3:30 in the morning as he has been on and off for weeks now.  Normally I just grab him and bring him to bed with us, but that doesn’t usually work out so well.   David doesn’t hold still, even when sleeping, and I am left awake and unable to move because David would trap my arm under his gigantic head.  Some nights while in our bed, he just starts laughing out loud to himself, which sounds cute but is actually a very startling way to be woken up.  And I don’t care what is happening, there is nothing funny at four in the morning.

Last night I thought it would be better to try to settle David down and get him to go back to sleep in his crib and not come sleep with us.  I went in his room  and sat on the floor next to his crib while I talked to him and tried to get him to settle down.  He would lay down, but any time I tried to leave he would pop his head up like a meer cat and cry when he saw me leaving.  So I would come back and sit on the floor again and we would start the process over.  I knew it would be easier to just bring him to bed with me but I was trying to stick to what I had started. Good parents aren’t supposed to give in to what their kids want, right?  So I laid on the floor and when I heard his breath start to get into the heavy rhythm of sleep, I would attempt to crawl out of his room like a ninja.  I am not a ninja.  All my attempts at a stealthy escape would be met by David’s cries of sorrow from inside the crib.

We were at a stand-off, David and I, but I couldn’t let him win.  If I gave in he would know that all he had to do was wait me out and eventually I would cave in to whatever he wanted.  With a stubborn streak he inherited from his father, the last thing I wanted to do was to teach him that mommy is a pushover.  Which I am.  So there I am, sprawled out on the rug, surrounded by discarded  Hot Wheels and Legos, humming “You are my Sunshine” while David flopped around in his crib, trying to get comfortable.  I could visualize myself and how completely ridiculous I must look and decided enough was enough.  I got off the floor said good night to David and walked out of the room.  Of course, my exit caused David to start wailing again and I decided I would try to settle him down one more time before letting him just cry it out.  I went in and told David it was time to go to sleep.  When he wouldn’t settle down I reached down and patted his back and that was when I noticed that his sleeper was totally soaked.  Oh yeah, I am mom of the year.

Somehow in my sleep deprived stupor I forgot to check to see if he needed to be changed.  He did and in all the fussing of trying to get comfortable, his overfull diaper leaked, soaking everything- his sheets, his blanket and his clothes.  So after stripping the crib, changing his diaper, giving him a quick wipe down with a wash cloth and a clothes change, David found himself happily nestled in between Casey and I.  As I lay there wishing for sleep while David kicked his feet into my back, it occurred to me that if I had just picked him up and brought him to bed in the first place I would be in the same position only with an hour and a half more sleep.  So much for sticking to your guns.

So that was my night and I was  not ready to get up when I felt David stirring next to me this morning.  I rolled over so that my back was to him, hoping that he would just go back to sleep if he thought I wasn’t awake.  Then I felt a little body crawl over mine and I opened my eyes to see my son’s face hanging upside down in front of me.  When he saw my eyes open, he got a huge smile on his face and yelled “Mama,” while sticking his finger in my eye.  I had to smile, despite how tired I was, because today is another day that I get to be David’s mom.

Does Anyone Actually Watch the Today Show?

We don’t have cable anymore.  When we moved into our house we decided we needed to cut down on unnecessary expenses and cable was the first thing to go.  I don’t really miss it.  I am way more productive throughout the day because I’m not distracted by The Food Network and Project Runway marathons.  The only time I do miss cable is in the morning when I am in the mood for the news and the only thing on is the Today Show.

I use to spend my mornings drinking coffee and flipping back and forth between MSNBC and Fox News.  MSNBC because I like it and Fox News because you should always know what the enemy is up to.  Now when I wake up and want to know what is happening in the world, I am left with no where else to go except  the Today Show.  I don’t watch it often, maybe one or twice a month, but when I do I become mesmerized, like when you catch a stranger picking their nose while driving, and then eating it.  You just can’t look away.  I find myself shaking my head and thinking, did I really just see that?

One of those moments came on Halloween.  The Today Show gang all dressed up like different characters from Star Wars and Al Roker was doing a segment while dressed as Hans Solo.  There were either children or very short adults (I really hope they were adults) dressed as ewoks on stage .  What followed was one of the greatest moments in television history.  Great because of how completely wrong it was.  Take a look for yourself.

WHAT!!!!  That was my reaction when I saw Al Roker being humped on live television by a small adult dressed as an ewok.  And the worst part about it was that it was my beloved Wickett, the ewok I dressed up as for Halloween when I was four years old, that did the humping.  Also keep in mind that this occurred before 9 in the morning.  Humping of any nature is best left till after you have had your breakfast.

But it isn’t only the occasional blooper or segment gone wrong that makes the Today Show so incredibly bad.  It is the entire show, from the uncomfortable couch banter to the poorly timed segments that leave their guests cut off before they could explain the proper way to make a souffle.  Every time I see a guest interrupted in mid sentence to go to commercial,  a table full of holiday gift suggestions left unexplained, I want to pull my hair out.  Not because I care about the “helpful” tips that their poor planning deprived me of, but because it is rude.  You drag these people to your television studio at 4 in the morning,  get them all excited about being on the Today Show (they probably tell everyone they know to get up early to see them), have them wait backstage while they rehearse what they will say over and overagain in their minds, fill them with anticipation of having their big television moment, and then cut them off after a minute and a half of Meredith Viera talking over the answers they so carefully planned out.  It’s just bad manners.

And speaking of Meredith Viera, she is a train wreck like no other.  She for some reason seems to think it is necessary to play the part of a mental defect.   I don’t know if she does this because she thinks it’s funny or that she thinks men like dumb women, but it’s just annoying.  An example of her dumb girl act came one day during a segment with a chef who was teaching Meredith how to make meatballs.  After forming the meat into softball sized wads, the chef told Meredith to “throw” them into the pan of simmering oil.  What did Meredith do?  She literally threw a handful of meat into three inches of scalding hot oil.  When Matt Lauer incredulously asked her what she was thinking, her response was, “well he said to throw it in!”  Hilarious!  I don’t know about you, but third degree burns inflicted on television are my kind of entertainment.

I could not end my Today Show rant without mentioning the crowds of people who flock to stand outside  with their homemade signs and scream while the hosts try to deliver the news.  Who thought of this?  Is there a demographic of people who like to listen to screaming tourists and watch them wave mindlessly in the background while hearing the news?  And who are these people with the signs?  They are always from out-of-town which makes me wonder where the signs came from.  Did they make them at home and then carry them on the plane with them?  Or, even more unbelievably, did they travel to New York and then venture out to a craft store where they purchased poster board and glitter pens and created the signs in their hotel rooms?  And is the opportunity to tell Al Roker that you are from North Carolina and it’s your best friend’s 50th birthday really worth standing in 30 degree weather for hours?  Some things I just will never understand.

Now that’s good journalism!

Quiet

This is a sestina poem I wrote for my creative writing workshop this semester.  It ended up being a sort of lullaby for David that I wrote while I was in the midst of sleep deprivation.  I never shared it in class even though my teacher said it was “quite lovely” but I am sharing it here.  I was thinking of it today because I have a feeling we will be in for some sleepless nights soon.  We are switching David from his crib to a toddler bed and he does not do well with change.  Anyway, here is my poem.

P.S.  If you don’t know what a sestina is, google it.  They are really hard to write.  That makes this even more impressive (haha).

Quiet

Quiet, he sleeps.
Soft breath
on pillow.  Hush.
Quiet, he dreams.
Sweet comfort
found at night

What hides at night
in shadowed sleep,
cannot defeat the comfort
found in baby’s breath.
Soothing dreams
silence fear.  Hush.

Hush now, hush.
As day meets night,
as your mind chases dreams.
Sacred sleep
welcomes a breath
releasing comfort

Chasing comfort
to no avail. Hush,
you racing breath
and revel in the night.
And oh how he sleeps!
while cradled in a dream.

Perpetual dreams
give solitary comfort.
But only sleep
ushers the hush.
Consumes the night.
We take a breath.

Take a breath
sweet baby and dream
your way through the night.
Seek comfort
in the peaceful hush
of a world that sleeps.

In the night, he sleeps.
He dreams now, hush.
Gentle breath brings eternal comfort.