Social Media: The Carnival Ride

I’ve been reading a book by Molly Ringwald titled “Getting the Pretty Back.”  Even though I was never a John Hughes devotee and Ringwald wannabe, I would have had to have lived under a rock to avoid her influence on the teenage landscape of the late 1980s. So when this book landed in one of my secondhand bulk purchases of book, I figured I’d give it a once over. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well written it is, full of humor and thoughtful observations as well.  It impressed me enough that I even double-checked to make sure it wasn’t ghostwritten, and it seems to be all her own work.  Good for you, Molly, it’s so great to see an actress who has more going on than a pretty face.

getting the pretty back

I reached a chapter in the book where Ringwald writes about e-mail and social media right about the time things blew up with the Confederate Flag Debate, quickly followed by the heartwarming (and long overdue) Supreme Court Decision on gay marriage. Naturally, Facebook,Twitter, etc. BLEW UP. For all I know, Tinder and Grindr were going at it, too, only in a much sexier way.

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I stay out of “discussions” online that are about politics or religion. My views almost always clash with my extended family, and while I will happily give my views and the reasons behind them in an honest, face-to-face conversation, I won’t do it online. There’s just no point. Someone’s feelings will get hurt, things are taken the wrong way because there’s no such thing as a sarcasm font, and there’s lots of bad feelings that get put out there in a wholly unnecessary way when people write things online that they would never, ever in a million years say to someone’s face. So, I stay out of it altogether.

In Ringwald’s book, on the section about social media, “My Facebook Space Oddity,” she writes the following:

Social networking sites are meant to be light and funny and glib. They are a performance.

This jumped out at me when I read it, and I thought, “Yes, that’s it, exactly!” Those ideas had been in free form rambling around in the back of my mind, but I had yet to solidify the ideas. My social media performance is comprised of  positive, funny, and/or uplifting items in my Facebook feed. I occasionally share things that aren’t all warm fuzzies, because I”m not perfect, but I try. Anyone on my friends list who routinely gripes and whines or goes over the top gets unfollowed. In a few cases, I have unfriended and blocked people. I don’t have room in my life, in this form of entertainment, for that kind of nonsense. There’s too much of it out there already.

I agree that everyone has the right to voice their opinion.  The constitution protects free speech, but it doesn’t enforce kindness or common sense, which is why I have to set my own guidelines. Thank goodness I have that choice!

The mainstream media is often referred to as a circus.  If this analogy is correct, then social media is a traveling carnival. The rides are thrilling, but also a little dangerous. There are curiosities, “freaks,” rigged games, highlight reels, barkers spouting out incorrect and highly stylized information, heightened emotions, teeming masses of thrill seekers, and the misconception that under the cover of darkness (cyberspace) we are excused from the mundane aspects of our daylight selves, including manners.

not-my-circus

I doubt very seriously that anything I write here will change social media, or anyone’s perspective, I know that. It’s been proven that we all make decisions based on emotion, rather than logic,  and then find the data to back it up. My emotional response to all that nonsense is that it feels bad and I have a choice in the matter, so I choose not to feel bad, and my logical response to avoid all that negativity is to  shoot rainbows out my butt.

rainbows

Dog Toys According To The Dog

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My dog considers the following things to be toys, his toys:

1. Actual dog toys.  I usually buy these at a dollar store, because Winston doesn’t so much consider them toys as fluffy enemies that must be eviscerated or rope things that have displeased him in some way and the only solution is to chew them in half.

2. Shoes.  Watching an 11 1/2 pound dog haul a men’s size 11 shoe and relocating it to the back yard is a sight to behold. Mostly, he sticks to swiping the Hobbit’s shoes on account of them being smaller and the Hobbit’s reaction of running after the dog.  Oh joy!  We are Playing A Game!  Catch me!

3. Socks. Oh the delicious smell of feet!  The socks and be clean, dirty, single or paired.  He’s not picky. And if we are so rude as to not leave any socks out for his doggy pleasure, he’ll fish them out of the laundry.

4. Plastic water bottles.  They make crunchy sounds!  They’re light!  I can run and crunch and leap!

5. Plastic children’s toys.  The Hobbit is learning the hard way that toys left on the floor are in The Dog Zone and therefore Belong To The Dog.  I suppose it’s a good thing he has so many toys Winston can chew his way through.

6. Cardboard.  He chews on boxes and book marks and the edges of books or photo albums.

On most days, our backyard looks like a scenario from the Facebook game crime scene (minus the dead body):

Statue_of_W.cooper

She Sat Down to Write a Blog Post and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

That title is how you’re supposed to lure people in these days.  Every time I see “you won’t believe what happened next…” tagged onto a video or title, I roll my eyes so hard I nearly get a sprain.  It gets up my rebellious side, and I bypass the video BECAUSE it has that tag.  My apologizes to those who do the same. Shock and awe, my hind foot. (Insert derisive snort here.)

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch… I hadn’t intended to start off with a rant.  I’ve been busy. Very, very busy, and enjoying my summer by ticking things off the To Do List.  I’m working on a 30 Day Decluttering challenge that I have gone all Type A Personality on and am accomplishing in 2 1/2 weeks.  It’s merely economizing my time, like opting to drink one espresso instead of four cups of coffee.

After the decluttering comes The Epic Yard Sale.  I have an Epic Yard Sale every year, so perhaps it’s not epic, just very well done. But that doesn’t really attract people does it?  No one ever puts up signs that say “Quality Yard Sale – Organized and Well Done.”  That’s like trying convince people that accounting is exciting.

Once the purging of all the cabinets and shelves and rooms and closets is completed, it’s time to organize all that stuff.  I clean everything, wipe off the dust and grime.  I wash all the clothes and HANG THEM UP.  (I burst out into a Hulk-like fury whenever I drive by a yard sale and people have laid a blanket or tarp on the ground and dumped out all their clothes in a giant heap.  I call this type of sale Sh*t on the Ground.  Only the most desperate, or the most die hard optimist, will go through piles like that. I could go on and on as to why it’s so wrong, and I do when driving past them, but I’ll refrain from it here.) Everything gets priced, grouped, and placed on tables.  I even have prepackaged snacks & drinks, free coffee and take debit cards.  I do it up right, but need to finish the decluttering.

You might notice that one of the lines on that decluttering challenge reads “Data in Computer and DVR.”  We don’t have a DVR, so it’s just Data in the Computer for me, and not exactly in the computer because we recently got a new computer and I had oh-so-smartly transferred all the files over to an external hard drive for safe keeping until I could sort them out and put the important ones on the new computer. Patted myself on the back for that one.

I went transfer and delete files this past Sunday, and much to my horror, discovered the external hard drive wasn’t working. They always work. There’s no operating system or software to go bad or be updated.  It’s just storage.  It would be like your closet suddenly not working.  It’s a closet, it holds stuff, that’s HOW it works. Why aren’t you working, you stupid, stupid storage device?

I tried really hard not to vomit in my absolutely panic-stricken state. The computer wouldn’t even acknowledge that the drive existed.  I tried another computer.  Same thing.  Changed the cord.  Same thing.  Ohgodohgodohgodohgod nooooooooooo!

See, it’s not just files, it’s pictures and video.  It’s ALL my pictures.  It’s every picture of my child since he was born.  I have printed out a few things, I have a completed baby book (ok, books, it spans 3 volumes), but it is EVERYTHING from his life.  Every vacation, Easter, Christmas, first day of school, EVERYTHING.

Did I mention it’s EVERYTHING?

I tried not to panic further, or vomit, from fear and loss. I cried, because that’s what one does when they’re sad and feeling helpless.

I’ve watched CSI and I’m a reasonably intelligent person who knows that data can be recovered.  There’s software and pasty-complexioned, sun-starved computer geniuses out there who can coax fragmented files from damaged computers. We can get it back.  It’s not like the horror one of my cousins faced when she lost everything in a house fire AND her child.  I have, temporarily, lost access to every documented thing from my child’s life.  Deep breath.  It’s gonna be okay. (Isn’t that a great lie to tell yourself?) Deep breath.

The solution is to find the mad geniuses who retrieve the data.  Throw some money at them and get it all back.  Right?  Right.  My darling husband got a quote on what it would cost. I was too distraught to think straight.

how much

So, yeah, we’re looking at $1800 to get back all those precious 0s and 1s of data.

I’m having Mom Guilt over this.  I know I shouldn’t, it’s most likely a hardware failure. I didn’t do anything wrong or irresponsible and it’s (probably) completely fixable.  Still, I feel guilty. Maybe I’ll get mad later, but for now it’s sadness and guilt.  I’m much more accomplished with sadness and guilt.  Anger makes me uncomfortable, even my own, even when it’s justified.

I had read something years ago that basically said we really have very few problems in life, because if you can throw money at it to make it go away or fix it, it’s not a problem, it’s merely an inconvenience. That eliminates pretty much everything except your health, emotional well-being, relationships, and death.  I’m trying to hang onto that and convince myself it’s true while I slog through all our unnecessary, accumulated crap. I’m keeping busy.

That hard drive was one of the few non-living things I would have risked life and limb to save  in the event of a fire or earthquake, and it’s the one thing I have (temporarily) lost. The fact that I lost it while going through the process of decluttering and prioritizing all the other stuff I would have walked away from … Oh the irony.

Wednesdays with Winston

I hear there’s a scruffy faced nerf herder in San Francisco who does a weekly Facebook post about life with his biped, called Fridays with Freddy.  The biped is some guy named Mick Rodeo? Mitch Rolo?  Mike Rowe?  Somethun’ like that.  I ain’t never heard of the guy, but I figured Freddy and me have a lot in common besides our stunning good looks and the bipeds  I got saddled with sure do provide a whole lotta writing material.  So why not?  Thanks for the idea Freddy, here’s the very first Wednesdays with Winston.

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Today has been much more thrilling than my usual Wednesday.  Heh.  I must say, I really kicked it up a notch.  But do the bipeds appreciate it?  Not like they should, so I am forced to seek an audience on the web.  That’d be you.  Prepare to bask in my glory, because today was a doozie.

I started off the morning in a truly spectacular battle of wits and bravery with an invading enemy of the feline variety.  See, I have a couple felines in my garage.  The biped lets me go in and play with them on occasion.  The male cat just sits there like a bump on a long while I give it allllll the right signals.  I wag my tail, I assume the “wanna play” position, perk up my ears and bounce around.  What do I get for my trouble?  Nuthin’.  Then, the cat just walks away and hides under a chair.  How rude can you get?  That just gets my goat, and I start barking.  The biped doesn’t approve and I get taken out of the garage at that point.

The other feline, the female, well, she’s even more rude.  I swear, try to give a lady a compliment and what do you get in return?  A slap in the face, hissed at, and growled at.  I’m not giving up though, I know those guys LOVE me and want to play.  We’re gonna have fun if it kills us.

This morning THE BEST THING EVER happened and I found another feline!  It was out in the giant grassy toilet behind the house, and it wanted to play hide and seek.  With me!  I’m not one to turn down an invitation and don’t mind being ‘it’, so I sought.  Our game led us around the spa and we spent a good long time under the deck.  I’d bark. The feline would hiss and swat at me.  I’d bark some more.  Then there was yelling and stomping on top of the deck.  It’s soooo hard to have a good game of hide and seek when someone is stomping around over your head, but I managed.

Then there was a game changer and someone opened the flood gates.  Water was shooting all over under that deck. What is this, the Hunger Games?  I wasn’t going to let it slow me down, but that cat was such a weenie, which is ironic, considering I’m the wiener dog. It went racing out from under the deck and tried to hide in a stack of firewood.  I’m sure it’s still there.  I’ve been going back to check the firewood ever 3 minutes or so, which is extra fun, because it means I get to climb.  I kill two birds with one stone, playing Hide & Seek AND King of the Mountain.  The yelling gets to me, though.  the biped is all, “No!  Winston!  Down!  Down, Winston!”  I appease her by getting down and wait until her back is turned.  It’s always best so humor the bipeds, since they’re the ones who fill my food bowl.

I needed a little rest after all that early morning cardio and I like to spending my down time under my biped’s desk.  It’s a great place to root around for a missed pieces of popcorn, engage in some extended licking of my nether regions, and best of all, it smells like feet.   Mostly because, I’m laying next to feet.  But this arrangement doesn’t completely meet all my needs.  There’s these annoying cords, see, and they move around when my biped is going tippy tappy on the humming machine.  I’m a proactive kinda guy, so I took care of it.  I chewed through the offending cord.  Problem solved… that’s when the cursing started.  My poor young ears!  Yowza!  You kiss your kid with that mouth?  I mean, sure, I lick my non-existent balls whenever the mood is right, so I guess I don’t have room to talk, but sheesh.  All this fuss over what?  I fixed it!

Then, wouldn’t you know, once the ranting stopped, there was ANOTHER cord invading my personal space.  I waited a bit.  Tried to ignore it, like they tell you do with bullies.  I did some deep breathing and meditation and did my best to coexist, but in the end I just couldn’t hack it, so I chewed through THAT cord.  And one more just to show I mean business.   Again with the cussing! What is up with all this drama?  Can’t a dog just get a little peace and quiet?

Then the biped did something I really don’t like… she left me alone.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to bide my time in the plastic box, but I still hate being alone.  That really freaks me out.  What if they don’t come back?  Who am I going to sleep with?  Who will feed me?  Whose shoes am I going to steal and take out into the giant grassy toilet area?  Just when I have come to the conclusion it’s the End Times and they’ve all died, by biped returns.  Oh happy days!  I tell you, that really gets me goin’.  I’m so happy I just gotta bite something.  Usually a pant leg, or shirt sleeve if I can jump high enough.

Wouldn’t you know it, the biped brought home MORE cords to string around in my den.  The she kicked me out of my own den and moved me next door to what was previously a perfect dog condo.  Now, no condo, but I do get to keep the blanket.

But my day’s adventures didn’t stop there.  Oh no, it got better, because there was FOOD.  Delicious, sweet treats.  I know the biped likes to play a little game with me and puts the treats up high, but I love this game and the pay off is great.  This time, especially.  I scored some Twizzlers.  Oh yeahhhhhhhhhhh.  I’ll probably pay for that tomorrow when Montezuma’s Revenge hits, but it was so worth it.

I tell ya, this day has been exhausting and I’m ready to hit the hay.  I know I’m gonna feel an urgent need to take a piss at 1 am, so I better get in a little nap in before then.  And maybe I’ll take one more trip around the grassy toilet area just to make sure my new feline friend hasn’t come back to play.  One can only hope.

Introducing, Winston! And Item No. 37

winstonMeet Winston – he’s a wire haired dachshund who is about a year old and joined our family last weekend.

This past winter, Winston ended up in a shelter with a broken leg and was marked for the euthanasia list.  A dog rescue swooped in and saved him from that fate.  He was nursed through his broken leg, gotten up to date on his shots, and neutered.  About two weeks ago, Winston was put on the adoptable dogs list and as soon as I saw him, I filled out an online adoption form and set up an appointment for a meet and greet.

He was nervous and wary at first.  A little beef jerky dog treat went a long way, and after playing with him for a bit, we decided to take the plunge and he came home with us.

The first twenty-four hours, he was subdued and quiet, but on day 3 with us, he figured out this was Home and we were His People.  He then proceeded to bark at every person who dared walk down the sidewalk, dogs two blocks away, dogs on TV, and any voice within ear shot, including those half a block away.  We use a mobile vet, and when they arrived, Winston spent the first 10 minutes of the visit barking at them and hiding under my chair.  We were his, and there was no way he was going to let those strangers take him away.  We’ll have to do some training with him when it comes to meeting new people and a potty training refresher, but that’s just part of the deal.

Winston doesn’t give two hoots about playing with balls, but he loves anything that is plush and has laid claim to anything to all plush toys he can reach, as well as a couple shoes, some house slippers, and the occasional balled up pair of socks, which he stashes under the dining room table.  He’s been dragging around a teddy bear that’s bigger than he is and “burying” small toys in the couch cushions.  An empty plastic water bottle was a fabulous toy that he dashed around the back yard with for ages, running like the wind.  The Hobbit and I were in stitches watching his crazy dog routine.

We’ll also have to curb Winston’s dare devil tendencies.  He leaps from the arms of the couch, living out his superman fantasy.  All that’s missing is the cape.  And, he’s got to learn how to live in peace with cats. There’s been growling and barking and hissing and running, with the cats taking about 20 seconds of deliberation to decide that staying in the garage is good for now.

Still, with all the work ahead of us, it’s great to have the ticka-ticka of dog feet running through the house and enthusiastic tail wags when we come through the door.  I think The Hobbit put it best when he said, “Mom, I’m having SO MUCH FUN with this dog.”  I second that.

Fabulous Forty: No. 3 Donate My Hair

Cousin ItThis item on my list was a long time coming, and the idea behind it is what sparked this crazy pursuit of 40 new experiences. First, we have to step back in time a bit.

Three years ago, a motivated (and brave) high school classmate of mine, tasked herself with putting together our 20 year high school reunion.  She started off by setting up a Facebook group for our graduating year and invited people to join the group. People began to join and hunt down locate other classmates and slowly a plan formed for a reunion.  I had fun seeing what people were up to and where their lives had taken them, but reunions and parties in general aren’t my thing, so I didn’t attend the actual reunion.

Through the FB group, I reconnected with a lovely woman who I had been in choir with throughout my high school years, Terri. Terri was a joy.  If you’ve ever been, or known, a teenage girl, you know that puberty is one long dramatic saga.  Even the best of friends can have falling outs over stupid, trivial things.  In four years of high school, not once did I ever have an unkind thought about Terri, for she was kind and carried a happiness in her that bubbled up in a way I envied. She was sunshine and puppies and rainbows, but in a genuine way. I can still recall the sound of her laughter and it makes me smile.

Terri and I discovered we had quite a few things in common as adults and exchanged emails, making each other laugh and delighting in the rediscovery of each other as the adults we’d become. Then, Terri had an irregular medical test. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Awful, awful, awful.  But I read, and it was my understanding that cervical cancer, which serious, is rarely the show stopper that ovarian or breast cancer is, so I had hope.  We all did.  People rallied.  Terri brought that out in people. There would be something seriously wrong with an individual who didn’t immediately become charmed by her and her sweetness.

There was surgery and radiation and tests. Then more bad news. She told me her oncologist used phrases like, “In thirty years of practicing medicine, I have never seen anything like this,” but not in the sense of a miracle cure, but the cancer was not responding to the treatment. Next was intensive chemo and trying to get into a cancer treatment center that would give her a fighting chance.  She sought out ways to change her diet and eliminate GMOs from what she and her family ate, as she was convinced this is what contributed to her health problems.

The news kept getting worse. Her health declined more and more.  I wept with each new piece of horrible information.  I wept for Terri, I wept for her two small children, for her husband, for her brother, for her parents, for her nieces and nephews and for all of us who knew her as the information we received went from bad to worse.

Several times, as Terri revealed each new horror she endured and with each bad test result, she would say, “Life is good.  It will never be the same, but life is good.”  I couldn’t believe it, and I certainly didn’t understand it at the time.  How can life be good in the face of cancer? Well, I get it now, LIFE is good, it’s death that sucks ass and cancer and sickness, but life?  Well, that’s good and full of marvelous things if we take the time to enjoy them.

When it became clear that the radiation did nothing and the chemo hadn’t even slowed things, Terri did the unimaginable.  She planned a party.  She & her husband decided to renew their vows and invite everyone they knew.  It was going to be a potluck and we were all invited to come and take part in life being good.  But then she started getting much, much sicker and the party had to be moved up to accommodate that. And then, the party had to be moved to the hospital because she had to be admitted.

Thank heavens for Facebook and cell phones and digital cameras and the kind people at the hospital where Terri was receiving treatment.  She and her husband were able to renew their vows in front of everyone who could make there in one of the meeting rooms at the hospital.  Sadly, I couldn’t make it, but was able to send flowers.  There were photos galore, video, and people Facetimed others who also couldn’t make it for the event.  Terri was beautiful and glowing, despite the oxygen mask and wheelchair she had to use.  I cried buckets. She died the next morning, and I cried more buckets of tears.

When Terri started chemo, she lost her hair, and that was so, so hard for her.  She had the kind of thick, straight, blond hair that women spends hundreds of dollars at salons to try to achieve, and her hair had stayed that beautiful blond color in adulthood. She mourned the loss of her hair.  Her mom mourned the loss of her hair, too, reminiscing in a blog post about how strangers would stop her in stores when Terri was little to comment on what beautiful hair she had.  I think up to that point the cancer and its treatment had been bad, but losing her hair meant she was Sick with a capital ‘s’, and it was a reality she couldn’t escape.

I think as women the two things that immediately make us recognizable as women to the world at large are our hair and our boobs.  Losing one, or both, due to cancer treatment seems to take away a woman’s femininity. Psychologically, it’s robbing women of a piece of their identity, and it was the one teeny, tiny thing I could do that would in a very miniscule way, help.

3There are many charities and organizations that accept hair donations and provide wigs for those who lose their hair for medical reasons, but I decided to donate my hair to the Beautiful Lengths Project sponsored by Pantene, because it is specifically for women who have lost their hair from chemo.

4I didn’t donate my hair for a pat on the back, and I am certainly not sharing this story to brag. If it wasn’t for my Fabulous Forty goals, I probably would have just mailed off the hair without a peep, but for everyone out there who knows, or has known, a woman who has grappled with the inner and outer horrors of chemo and has uttered the phrase, ” I with there was something I could do to help,” well, there is, and it does make a difference in the quality of life for those who receive these wigs.

5Donating my hair was also a celebration.  I have known several women who faced a breast cancer diagnosis and are still with us today.  There’s my nephew’s birth mother, Karen, who battled back from an initial diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer; my son’s kindergarten teacher, Mardel, who has beat cancer three times; a woman I used to work for, Casey, who had breast cancer twice; the grandmother of one of my son’s classmates; the mother of my husband’s supervisor; and the mother-in-law of one of my sisters, who passed away many years ago, but still proved there’s life after breast cancer.

A ruler for reference. When the hair was stretched out, it was 15 inches long.

A ruler for reference. When the hair was stretched out, it was 15 inches long.

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you have 8 inches (or more) of hair that is less than 5% gray and has not been chemically treated in any way, I do hope you’ll consider making your own donation to Beautiful Lengths to help a woman going through chemo help preserve her dignity and femininity.  And if you aren’t in a position to make a hair donation, then at least try to remember that Life is Good. Be kind.  Hug someone.  Tell people you love them every chance you get.  It’s always worth it.

7

Where Have You Been?

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah!  And a Merry New Year!

I have been getting increasingly more desperate and pleading reminder emails from WordPress about my lack of postings.  Apparently, they miss me.  It’s nice to be missed, but I simply haven’t had the time to keep up with things until now. So in the immortal words of Indigo Montoya, “Let me explain. No. There is too much.  Let me sum up.”

October

I refrained from mentioning this on Facebook or here because I didn’t want my grief to be a public thing.  We had a great sadness in October when our good old dog, Shadow, passed away at the age of 15 1/2 years old.  I miss her every day.

Halloween and All Hallow’s Read was only a moderate success this year. Halloween was cold and soggy and with it being on a Friday night there were a lot of indoor, community events available and free to the public.  We only had about half the usual amount of trick-or-treat participants and I was left with a lot of books and candy.

November

The midterm election and No. 29 on my Fabulous Forty (FF) list concluded the first week of November and ushered in a brave new world as my husband was elected to our local school board.

I completed No. 38 on my FF list with my first ever (in my adult life), Girl’s Night Out.  Loads of fun and it’s nice to have a great group of ladies to laugh with.

We went to Missouri to visit my family and to meet the newest member of the clan, a great-nephew.

Mid-month, I was a vendor in a lovely little craft fair at an Episcopal church here in town, working towards crossing off goal No. 35.

The day before Thanksgiving, another one of our pets shuffled off this mortal coil when my 16 1/2 year old tabby cat, Sydney, died from old age.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know my husband is there for me when I need to bury a body, even if it is just a skinny old cat.  Sydney came with me from Missouri to California all those years ago, and she was the one thing that got me out of bed in the morning when I was going through some depression following my dad’s death.  She wasn’t a very affectionate cat and she had an aversion to using the litter box, so I can’t say she was wonderful, but she was mine and her loss was another ding in my heart.  We still share our home with two cats, Monkey (7 yr. old Siamese of giant proportions) and Amber (14 +/- yr. old Burmese with a weight problem and sleep apnea.  Yes, my cat snores.), but I think I’m ready for a new family dog and I have been scoping out Petfinder.com and Petharbor.com on an almost daily basis.

Thanksgiving was a domestic affair this year and I think we were all a little sad about that, considering we were in Killarney, Ireland on Thanksgiving last year. It was a mostly quiet, and I struck No. 36 off the FF list, “Learn to make tamales.” Ooooo boy, were they good.  I made them again for New Year’s and the second attempt was even better than the first.

November was also the Month of the Runny Nose and Cough. And so was December. Here’s hoping for a mostly snot free January.

It rained.  Hooray!  California needs rain, we’ve been in drought conditions for three years straight.  Then it rained and rained and rained and rained. The house got musty smelling.  The door on the Little Free Library swelled shut and the knob got yanked off. I was determined not to complain about the rain, but wow, it got soggy and I was getting cabin fever.

December

Following the election, there was a lot of making things official, such as swearing in and learning the duties of being a board member AND a conference to attend. You know that saying, “Behind every successful man is an exhausted woman,”?  Well, it’s true.

The Hobbit celebrated a birthday, which meant a party, and there were additional volunteer hours at school in preparation for a winter concert at school.

Also in December, I crossed off numbers 23 and 31 on the FF list:  Get a physical & all the associated tests; and implement a dietary supplement plan. It took me all stinking month to get all the tests done with our crazy schedule.  Clean bill of health, in case you’re wondering.

Between the sickness and scheduling issues and time drain, I didn’t get the Christmas tree up OR start buying gifts until Dec. 21st, which is a first for me.  I’m usually done with both by Thanksgiving weekend. I didn’t even send out Christmas cards.  It was all I could do to muster some Christmas spirit, and then I came down with a cold. Despite the coughing and seemingly endless river of snot that flowed through our lives, we had a nice Christmas and I spent the break from school mainly resting.

That brings us up to January, and a review of how I’m doing with my FF goals. I realized I hadn’t made much headway with it.  There just wasn’t time with all my other obligations, and I started to get a bit cranky and discourage.  I reviewed my goals and realized there’s one I’m just not going to be able to complete.  It’s not working at all, and that would be No. 5:  Complete the BBC’s 100 Big Read List. That goal took something I love, reading, and turned it into a laborious chore. I have barely read anything, avoiding books I want to read and painstakingly forcing myself to pick up books I should be reading.  So I’m changing it.  (My game, my rules!)  I found a reading challenge on Facebook and I’m giving myself credit with some of the books I’ve read since August. If you click here, you’ll see I have modified my goal list to reflect this new goal.  I feel like a huge weight has been lifted!

My wonderful sister-in-law has made a massive contribution to my goals and gave me a ukulele for Christmas. It’s a beautiful Rip Tide soprano ukulele with a gorgeous tone and I have been having a blast sifting through ukulele books and getting to know my new instrument. That means No. 20 on the list is well under way.

I am also tackling No. 30 this month, “Complete a 30-Day Challenge.”  After looking at lots and lots of 30-day challenges, I finally concluded I couldn’t even think of doing any of them until I got things cleaned up and sorted, so I settled on a 30-Day Decluttering Challenge and started it today. I also posted that challenge to the Fabulous Forty list.  I will post a synopsis of my experience with that when I complete the challenge.

That just about covers the highlights, and now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go play my ukulele.