“If each decade of your life was represented by a pop song, what would it be?”

First, let me just say that this is a ridiculously invalid question. It’s true that the first decade of your life can be pretty summarily wrapped up into one tune. But 10-20? C’mon. That’s a HUGELY diverse period of time. You are like four different people during that decade. Sometimes all at once. It’s impossible to pick one. I was into TLC, Michael Jackson, the Backstreet Boys, a slew of shitty punk bands, and finally some decent indie acts all during that time. Anyway, this is my best shot….though they’re not necessarily pop.

  1. 0-10 years = “Good,” by Better Than Ezra. I had an outstanding childhood. Nothing sucked. I remember this song playing during a scene in The Babysitter’s Club movie. I’ve read the entire series and believe that it helped shape my love of literature. Plus, Better Than Ezra is a vastly underrated ’90’s band. 
  2. 10-20 years = “Become What You Hate,” by Midtown. I loved Midtown when I was in high school. I feel that this song represents the emo angst I thought I had back then, and accurately describes my failing struggle to rail against what I am now: a suburban wife who just last week uttered the yuppiest phrase on the planet: “Um, you’d better keep your phone on while we do this T25 workout in case the contractor guy calls.” RIP, you artsy rebel. 
  3. 20-almost 30 years= “I’ll Try Anything Once,” by Julian Casablancas. Most of my 20’s has been this vaguely hedonistic phase where I try to compensate for career-oriented/artistic shortcomings by taking intense pleasure in the ecstasies of life: music, travel, and libations. I alternate between high highs and low lows, trying to find my spot somewhere in the middle. This song is a mellow representation of the middle: somewhere between the obscure and the obvious. Simple but deep. The first time I heard it was during a scene in the Sofia Coppola movie, Somewhere, which I watched at the Oriental theater, alone, on Valentine’s Day 2011. I sat in the middle of my row and sipped on a Two Hearted Ale, dreaming of a life at the Chateau Marmont, with wine on my tongue and salt on my skin.

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Admin. Prose.

JoanYesterday marked the super-ridiculous non-holiday that commemorates the duties and responsibilities of secretaries everywhere. And yes…I said secretaries. I work as a secretary and I’ve never understood why people find the word “secretary” offensive. Joan Holloway-Harris was a secretary for God’s sake…and who wouldn’t want to be her? Anyhow, as an “administrative assistant” I could care less about being recognized. In the immortal words of Pam Beesley, “I don’t think it’s many little girls’ dream to be a receptionist.”

PamOver the years, it’s been tough to process the fact that answering phones and doing desk work might just have turned out to be my “career.” As time marches on, I drift further and further away from my college graduation and from the “freshness” that comes with being a recent grad with up-to-date industry knowledge. Everything seemed so….possible, and now the bouquet of daisies that my colleagues were so nice to gift me with yesterday just seem to stand as a symbol of failure. I can rip a petal off for every interview I botched. Every job I didn’t apply for because I got jaded and lazy. For every time I turned on the TV instead of studying up on SEO and HTML and Google analytics.

At the same time, I do enjoy my work. Most days, anyway. I support three awesome coworkers and we have a blast in and out of the office. I leave my work at work each night, and there is basically zero stress. Yes I wanted to write and come up with ideas and see my words in magazines and on websites and make actual money but…that comes with a lot of other junk too. And sometimes it’s a struggle to know whether or not that junk is actually worth it, or if perhaps maybe I’m just made to support other people who are doing way awesomer things than I can do. Teachers (namely, my husband.) Counselors. Administrators. Kids who are trying to get into college so they can go do awesome things.

I’m good at my job and good at making life easier for other people. I’m lucky to have a lot of people who tell me frequently how much I’m appreciated. And maybe that’s all I’m willing to work for. And maybe that’s enough, and I’m just still working on making peace with it.

Despite all this, Some E-Cards did have some pretty spectacular cards to commemorate the pseudo non-holiday. Alas, cheers to those who have to deal with phone calls, because they are still a thing, those who can make copies like a ninja and fax like nobody’s business. Because that too, is still a thing. Props to those who are two steps ahead, and know that it’s the little things that matter.

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Sur le thème de recommencer.

Quelquefois, il y a des choses que je ne peux pas parler a haute voix.

J’aime faire tout le monde heureux. Et, quelquefois, les choses que je pense, et que je pourrais écrire, ne serait pas rendre les gens heureux. Si tu n’as pas quelque chose sympa a dire, ne dites rien du tout, non? Mais, il aide, quand tu peux écrire dans un autre langue. Alors, il se sent que tu ne dites pas les choses mal, rien du tout.

Parfois, je veux me enfuir, et ne jamais retourner.

Parfois, je déteste tout le monde. Meme tu. Et vous.

Parfois, quand je conduis a chez moi après le travaille, je veux conduire et conduire, jusqu’a je suis dans un autre place. Loin de chez moi. Je ne sais pas pourquoi. Je ne sais pas ou….just un autre endroit. Avec des personnes différents.

Je regarde les photos et je veux essayer quelque chose nouveau.

C’est stupide.

C’est seulement quand tu ne sais pas quoi tu as, que tu veux commencer encore.

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“You are looking down through the skylight as chefs prepare dinner for your ex-fiancé’s wedding.”

The industrial rooftop “terrace” on the very tippy top of the 12-story Regent Palm Desert wasn’t made for lounging. It was made for roaring air conditioner units and greasy janitors shuffling around on pea-sized gravel, clearing vents and changing light bulbs. But when I traded one said greasy janitor a pack of cigarettes for the entry pad code to the industrial oasis of the rooftop, it became my heat-soaked, glass-topped sanctuary.

The massive skylight was probably initially put atop the top-floor hotel kitchen for ventilation. But when I got that code, it became a way to somehow take myself outside of my body and look in at well, something else. At this particular moment, I’m watching men and women in starched aprons plate seared sea scallops, stir vats of French onion soup, and craft truffle-whipped potatoes and tomato-crusted leg of lamb into sheer culinary perfection.

The blessed union happened just a couple of hours ago. He probably dipped the bitch backwards in an inappropriately long and juicy smooch and ran his hand up her thigh while Jesus rolled his eyes. Who the fuck serves lamb at a wedding with 800 guests? I press my back against the glass and stare into the dark desert night. The alien blink of a wind turbine glows red against the black-orange aura of the city.

I toss my cigarette onto the cool gravel and re-tie my apron. The embroidered hotel insignia brushes rough in gold thread under my fingers. But the vanilla creme brulée.

I can’t believe that fucker kept the vanilla creme brulée.

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What a terrible world, what a beautiful world.

Wednesday night kicked off this year’s concert season, as Q and I and a few friends saw The Decemberists play at the IMG_4350Riverside Theater here in Milwaukee. This was our third time seeing this particular band, and it certainly was a charm. The Decemberists never lack for sheer entertainment value. Colin Meloy’s humorous stage banter was upstaged only by the giant whale puppet (maneuvered by two little girls dressed up like the twins from The Shining no less) that gobbled up the band during the ever-popular encore staple, “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.”

As we’d now seen The Decemberists multiple times, I had a much better grasp on their whole catalogue, and knew much of the setlist. It was well-rounded with tunes both old and new, and I was even pleasantly surprised to hear one of my favorites (albeit a little watered down), “Los Angeles, I’m Yours.”

Though April will be a bit of a show-drought, I’m also looking forward to seeing Nick Offerman & Megan Mullaly, and, the probably highlight of my year, Father John Misty in May. It’s still cold outside, to why not immerse oneself in beer and good tunes?

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The matriarchy.

I knew I was going to fall off of the writing wagon eventually, but I can’t believe I haven’t done anything in a whole month. Thankfully I just completed a couple of writing projects for work, but it’s nothing compared to what I should have been doing. For shame, for real.

A topic heavy on my mind lately is the recent death of my grandmother. She lived a wonderful life up until the age of 86, but recent mental and physical declines simply proved too much for her body. On the morning of March 14, I was glad to be in the room with her and my mom and aunts and uncles as she took her last breath.

There was no daycare for my sister and I when we were little: there was simply Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Thanks to all this valuable time spent, and the fact that my mom never moved away from home as her siblings did, we were able to form a very close relationship with both grandparents. While I miss them dearly, it’s a relief knowing that they are now both chilling out together upstairs.

My grandfather passed away when I was 16, but this time I was struck by how different it is to process this type of death as an adult. I found myself aching not only for Grandma, but for my mom, who was Grandma’s primary caretaker. Here she was, used to spending every Saturday with her, the whole mother-child relationship now in full reversal, faced with the loss of both parents. If one thing became crystal clear the last couple of weeks, it’s that I’m in no way prepared to lose my parents, and I can only hope to take as good of care of my mom as she took of hers.

The week that Grandma died was sort of a blur. From the late-night phone call that prompted my drive home, two and a half hours across Wisconsin in the total emptiness of a black Friday morning, to 20 hours waiting and wandering in a hospital. 24 hours without sleep, busying myself with household chores that I didn’t want my mom to have to deal with when she came home. A trip to Madison and back to get my sister from the airport. Scads of family arriving from all parts of the US (birthing six kids eventually results in a whole lot of people, turns out). A drive back to Milwaukee to tidy up the house, check on the cat, pack up our funeral clothes, and work a half-day. Back to mom and dad’s, where even more family had arrived, people dropping in and out so frequently that it felt like my brief trip back to Milwaukee hadn’t even happened. So much food and beer, I felt like the recycling men were going to seriously judge my parents that week.

I’ve never been appalled or frightened by death, and my grandma’s was no exception. It’s easy for me to say of course, but I was at peace with the parting. I had been home almost once a month as of late, and I know the last thing I said to her, that she could hear me say anyway, was that I loved her. We always left each other with a hug and that same sentiment. Most family will attest that Grandma was a crier when it came time to say goodbye to anybody, but she had stopped doing that in the last year or so. It was like she was becoming detached. The last afternoon I spent with her was when I was home in February, cleaning out my parents’ basement, going through old photos and school projects, reflecting on childhood. It seems fitting now.

Goodbyes are hard enough without having to do them over and over again. We say goodbye to Grandma’s body in the hospital bed. And again at the wake. Again during the funeral, and at last when she’s lowered into the ground. I understand that some people need that time, but somehow, it felt like she was already gone and the rest was just theatrics. The sorest spot was thinking of my mom and how she would adjust to life without her mom.

But I was glad that my sister and I were there. I was glad that the last night we spent at home that week was just the two of us and mom and dad. A family of four, like the old days. I was grateful for all the time spent with nearly every single person on my mom’s side of the family. Even the time spent just sitting around the kitchen table. All of that time matters and now that Grandma’s gone, I hope we’ll find happier reasons to all hang out again soon.

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Friday night music update, vol. 1

Current favorite song title: “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” by Father John Misty

Current favorite song lyrics: “Philomena,” by The Decemberists:

Oh, Philomena
You in a tawdry gown
Lean to your window
Let slip a ribbon down
A cure to your boredom
If only you’d let me go
Down, down down
Long summer days can lead to lazy vices
Boys all in idle, left to their own devices
Open up your linen lap
And let me go down, down down

All that I wanted in the world was just to live to see a naked girl
But I found I quickly bored, I wanted more, I wanted more

So I’ll be your candle and I’ll be your statuette
I’ll be your lashing loop of leatherette
Aw Philomena, if only you’d let me go
Down, down down

All that I wanted in the world was just to live to see a naked girl
But I found I quickly bored, I wanted more, oh, so much more

So I’ll be your candle and I’ll be your statuette
I’ll be your lashing loop of leatherette
Aw Philomena, if only you’d let me go
Down, down down
Go down, down down
Go down, go down

IMG_4266Current favorite album to listen to in the dark on a Friday night while writing and procuring a shiraz-stache: “Archive Series Vol. No. 1,” by Iron & Wine

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