Freelance by Jen

Consider me the No More Tangles of your writing needs.

My mom says I’m a catch.

Today is Monday. It’s cloudy. I don’t have to go to work and I’m still grumpy. I 100% know this is because of the choice I made to bake chocolate chip cookies at 11 p.m. last night and eat more than I cared to count, because sometimes you DO NOT WANT TO COUNT HOW MANY COOKIES YOU EAT. Actually, do you EVER want to count how many cookies you eat? Do you? Unless it’s a competition and every cookie matters?

Please don’t misunderstand. All cookies matter.

At any rate, I had a mostly great weekend and got my hair cut right off and dyed all the way to heaven and felt great about it and worked in the yard with Josh and worked on my virtual trivia stuff and watched a couple great movies, and then I ate cookies and now I feel like literal junk.

But they were really, really good cookies.

So that’s the thing, really. Moderation is great, and recommended, and let’s all do it to master life, and let’s hashtag it and filter it and smugly drop it into conversation after we lose five pounds and people ask how we can possibly do it all and still eat what we want, but sometimes you just want to, need to, eat all the cookies.

These are not the posts you see on Instagram. But I kind of wish they were. It might make me go on Instagram more, because it’s kind of a turnoff seeing so much positivity and community-building and MLM stuff when you’re lying, not quite uncomfortably enough to vacuum it up, on a recliner-bed of your own crumbs.

Please don’t misunderstand. All Instagram posts matter. I just like the ones from bakeries most. (Magnolia, looking at you.)

Ultimately, we all want the same things: love and validation. How we best receive those things may vary from person to person, but they matter. It’s why Reddit has Toast Me AND Roast Me subs. It’s why social media worlds keep turning. It’s why people love to dramatically announce they’re leaving a group because of the negativity/crudeness/cruelty/off-topic content posted.

We just want to matter. We just want to count. We just want to feel like, at the end of all of it, we’ll be remembered.

But it’s important to remember, too, that nobody, no matter what their abs look like, no matter how many followers they have, no matter what their house/car/career looks like in photo form, has all good days. We have no idea what anyone’s everyday lives are, aside from our own. We know highlight reels. We see struggles as wispy hints only, as “before” pictures when there’s already an “after,” as alluded asides dropped in under a picture of laughter and sunlight.

Everyone has had their bed-of-crumbs days. Their rejections. Their failures.

All days matter.

No matter how much those days might absolutely crush you, I promise you’re learning along the way. And I promise that you’re not alone, not ever.

Movie of the day: Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics, Netflix. As a kid growing up in the very anti-drug 80s, I developed a terrifying picture of drugs. I wish I had been watching docs like this instead.

Show of the day: After Life, Netflix. This is dark and very hard to watch, particularly if you’ve ever watched someone you loved die, but Ricky Gervais is absolutely brilliant.

Song of the day: Popular, Nada Surf. This feels very on-the-nose for today’s blog. Plus it has brought me so much enjoyment over the years, and I hope it does for you too!

YouTube channel of the day: my friend Nathan Jones has a great channel covering movies, from their existence to blu-ray collections to Criterion to vinyl, and I like it a lot. I got to talk about snacks and the future of movies with him recently, and it was a lot of fun.

Absolute beauty.

Yesterday, a co-worker of mine sent a text indicating that he wasn’t sure how it was mid-May when he didn’t really remember April happening.

It was a huge relief to read that text, and realize that I’m not alone.

While the world is slowly resuming normalcy, my industry is not there yet. Larger venues designed to create close quarters are cautious. We do. not. want. to contribute to a resurgence, a second wave, further illness, etc.

And I love it, honestly. For example, today, I woke up at 5 a.m. because it was storming, and couldn’t go back to sleep. Insanely busy job me would have been so stressed about that, knowing that I had a full day ahead and that staying alert would be super hard.

Current me was like, hey, whatever. I have a thing at 1:00 p.m. and a quick call at 5:30, and if those seem too difficult, I just won’t do them or whatever.

I just won’t do them or whatever. A Zoom and a phone call. Roughly one hour out of a 24 hour day, and I’m still like, whoa, what am I, a CEO now?

For the record, I’m doing both, but also for the record, both were fun things I wanted to do.

There are a few things that are important to me every day. These are things that I can’t NOT do: make my bed. Shower. Write.

Then there are things I stopped doing for awhile and had to get back quickly, so as to not devolve into a pit of despair: work out. Eat responsibly.

Then there are things that mean a lot to me personally that I want to capitalize on while I have the time: volunteer work with The League of Women Voters and Ozarks Literacy Council. Help my friend Cindy with her Give a Child a Voice anti-bullying campaign.

But ultimately, I do all of those when I feel like I have the headspace and desire. And none of them take long.

How in the hell am I going to want to return to a workforce that demanded like, everything I had to give? How am I going to turn away from my family, to the point where they don’t contact me because “I know you’re so busy.”?

I won’t.

When life does begin to resume, I can’t go back to the way things were before. I never put my phone down. I checked email from the time I woke up to the time I passed out. And I responded. I stopped drinking a couple of years ago, which made me all the more likely not to shut down my communication at night, because before I would put my phone away so I didn’t answer an email at home whilst buzzed. Not drinking gave me no excuse, in my mind, not to respond. And respond eagerly. And over-promise. And say yes to everything.

I ran social media pages and answered quickly in a quest to perpetually achieve that “responsiveness” badge. I had lists upon lists upon lists broken down by day, week, month, and year, covering community outreach, programming, interactive events, bar events, memorial events, and on and on.

Just typing that made me feel anxious and kind of pissed off. And then, on top of that? I did volunteer work and went to the damn gym every day.

There is NO WAY I can go back to that life. There is no way I want to go back. And so, now, I daydream of how I do want to structure my days.

I think I drop the gym membership. I’ve acclimated to working out at home, and there are so many videos available online, apps on smart TV, that make that possible. I’m really crushing on Beachbody on Demand right now, and just had my first Shakeology today, so I’m one of those people, and I like it. Do you know how rare it is to drink a DELICIOUS protein shake? It’s basically unheard of, tbh.

I think I choose my volunteer work carefully. I’m passionate about voting, and I’m passionate about literacy. So I keep those.

I think I have to keep writing. It clears my head. But more importantly, I can share my passion for presidential gossip with you all. OMG did you even KNOW how close Rutherford B. Hayes was to not being president, guys? (And the guy who almost WAS president instead had a name that was nowhere NEAR as cool as Rutherford. Hand to heart.)

So anyway, two months into furlough, I’m figuring some shit out, is my point. And I’d love, love, love to hear how you’re doing. Have you figured out things about yourself, or confirmed what you’d already suspected? Do you have all the time in the world, or none of it? Tell me. Let’s talk about it. Possibly on Zoom, over snack cakes.

Oh, and snack cakes! Did you even KNOW that raisin cream pies are basically like cakes that don’t taste like raisin at all? But that CREAM be delightful.

Movie of the day: Crash, 2005, Prime. Josh and I have shifted from the AFI Top 100 American Films to Best Picture Winners, and holy SHIT, is this a good one if you think breathing is too easy.

Show of the day: Dead to Me, Netflix. I loved Season One, and Two just dropped. Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini bring it, hard.

Song of the day: Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World. I love this mix, and the simple beauty feels so right as we all scale back what life used to be.

Yesterday was my mom’s 70th birthday. As careful as I’d been about hashtag staying home hashtag stay safe stay home life hashtag doing my part, there was zero chance I wasn’t going to see her. I figured as little as I’d been moving, surely I was even safer than she was (she’s always had a bit of trouble staying still).

So anyway I was home, at her house, in the bathroom, as will happen, and I noticed that her little seashell shelf (say it fast and successfully, I’ll wait) needed dusted. And THAT threw me into a whole flashback about the dangers of my siblings and me saying “I’m bored” within earshot of my mom.

Her answer was always a variation of, “oh, you’re bored? Well, now you’re dusting/cleaning this thing/dishes need unloaded/feed your damn dog,” which taught us SO QUICKLY to keep our minds and bodies occupied. It’s probably a big reason I joined everything I possibly could as a kid/teenager/freshly-minted adult. And I’d say it’s why I hate dusting to this day, but I’m pretty sure literally everyone is born with an aversion to dusting. If you love to dust, please drop me a note in the comments and tell me the one simple trick that makes everyone hate you.

Anyway, I dusted the seashell shelf as best I could with toilet paper and water because I’m a really great kid who is also exceptionally good at half-assing tasks. Not to toot my own conch or anything.

And then, the next night as I was driving back home, I listed to Manoush Zomorodi’s TED talk on how boredom can lead to creativity.

To boil it down, having a cell phone has really crushed the luxury of boredom. We grab these pocket computers instinctively, automatically, almost unconsciously, and spend minutes, hours, and ultimately years (did you know that we spend close to two years of our lives, on average, exclusively on Facebook, for example?) on social media. I don’t even want to know how much time I’ve spent on Yahtzee.

So today, I put my phone down. I had real things to do. Virtual trivia hosting was at 2:00. I had two resumes to knock out. I’m going to be on a great show, Splice It, tonight at 8 p.m. and I needed to make sure my t-shirt was clean since I just found out dickies DO still exist, but I don’t have any TODAY. Plus, I needed to work out.

And what’s crazy is that it’s 4:15 p.m. and I’ve done all of that. The resumes are done, I hosted my first no-last-minute-errors-due-to-lack-of-preparation-trivia, AND my t-shirt is clean. I even cleaned the mirrors in my house.

Boredom also took me in an unexpected direction. My segment on Splice It tonight is about Oscar winners. I started to think about how I don’t know nearly enough about Oscar winners, and I should really try to learn, but I really only love comedies and documentaries. Then I started to think about how it was a real shame there wasn’t a huge documentaries award show. It could be called The Docs, and the statuette could be like, Bugs Bunny-shaped, and he could introduce the Best Doc award every year at the end, and then maybe the In Memoriam could be called the Doc Holliday In Memoriam, and Dr. Phil would never be invited.

Anyway, to the Academy, maybe think smaller, okay?

For those of you interested in watching an Instagram Live show hosted by puppets, Splice It starts tonight, at 8pm CDT!

After this week, it moves exclusively to Twitch, so definitely check it out!

Movie of the day: Arkansas, Prime. I love Vince Vaughn when he’s not just playing for laughs, and John Malkovich is always welcome.

Show of the day: The Masked Singer, Hulu. I only started watching this on Season Three, and I’m terrible at guessing, but I DID KNOW WHO TACO WAS.

Flower AND song of the day: Scarlet Begonias. This is not only a song I love from The Grateful Dead, but also a beautiful little pop of life and color. I’m planting some today, so I thought I’d do a whole two birds thing.

Holy COW, you guys. As you may recall, I’ve started making myself learn all the United States presidents so I can say that this time off actually made me smarter in some way aside from snack cake debates.

This, then, is Part Two of a presidential Hot Goss series. Plenty to dissect, so awayyyyy we go!

As if James K. Polky, as I call him, and all of his shenanigans in gettin’ that 49th PARALLELLLLL weren’t enough, Zachary Taylor comes along being all rough and ready and disheveled and up and DIES a year into office, paving the way for Millard Fillmore, who couldn’t fill me with LESS enthusiasm, and Franklin Pierce, who got to kind of coast a bit, relatively speaking considering this whole slavery topic was definitely getting people killed.

Whew. Anyway, just wait. JUST YOU WAIT. Because I was really, intensely curious about who the president was right before Lincoln, and thought I knew, but when it was confirmed, I seriously did a happy little jig in my kitchen. To be fair, I do that literally every day anyway when I’m about to eat, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but it also WAS a huge deal in that I did a non-food-related jig in my kitchen.

My non-food jig was because our 15th president was JAMES BUCHANAN!

James Buchanan had a LOT on his presidential plate. While his predecessors for sure knew that the new states were beginning to square off regarding individual stances regarding slavery, each had managed to dodge what seemed to be an increasingly certain path to civil war. And in the beginning, Buchanan thought the coast would remain clear in his presidency, as well.

Having gotten a hot tip from some people in the Supreme Court KNOW, Jimmy B, as I call him, was comfortable saying in his inaugural address that the whole issue was about to be resolved “speedily and mightily” in the Supreme Court.

Two days later, the Dred Scott verdict was handed down. And it did NOT resolve anything speedily or mightily, unless “anything” was “pissing people way more off.”

And as if THAT all weren’t enough, people were way into knowing about James Buchanan’s personal life. Why? Because he was the only president to be a lifelong bachelor.

Now if I were James Buchanan, probably the first thing I would have done upon awakening every morning was dance around the White House singing, something like “I’M A SINGLE PERSON LIVING IN A GIANT HOUSE LALALALALALA.” But seriously, like this guy doesn’t have enough going on, y’all? He had a really divided country to deal with; did he really need to worry about who he was dating or not dating? Specifically, could he not just have a guy friend who was also a bachelor (one William Rufus DeVane King of Alabama) without people popping off with speculation?

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing William Rufus DeVane King was guilty of was having a bangin’ name.

Anyway, James Buchanan seems like a solid dude to me.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, so my movie recommendation of the day (and I say this with trepidation) is I Am Mother (Netflix). I recommend doing a Netflix Party for this one and roasting it as you go with friends/fellow movie lovers. Our Springfield Film Club group did that, and it was way funnier than it probably would have been had I gone it alone. Hillary Swank’s in it.

Show of the day: Party Down, Hulu. I had never heard of this, and Josh found it over the weekend. WHAT A FIND. Love it. Adam Scott? Jane Lynch? Ken Marino?

Yes to all.

Song of the day: Head Over Feet, Alanis Morissette. Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and also the day I found out the concert I’ve waited the last 26 years to attend will be postponed indefinitely, so in honor of that, we have the song I played ad nauseum when my son (who, had he been a girl, would’ve been named Alanis) was born. Because I was head over feet when he showed up, and I still am. He’s for real the best and coolest person in all of time and space, and I will fight you about it if you get in his grill.

Tree of the day: Maple. Something about spring has kicked in my oppositional defiance, and I’m dreaming of the gorgeousness of a maple tree in the fall. Or dreaming of the fall because it’s the earliest I might see live music again in person. One of those.

*James Buchanan photo courtesy of Smithsonian Mag

“I blew it” is probably not what James K. Polk told himself!

Guys. I’ve been gone for awhile, but once you find out what I’ve learned, I think you’ll totally forgive me.

FIRST of all, not to get too juicy right off the bat, I decided I needed to learn something while I’m on furlough, and that something turned out to be “more about every U.S. President.”

And guys? Wow. I hope you’re sitting, and definitely get buckled in, because we’re going on a hot goss TRIP.

First, before anyone makes some crazy assumption that this is about George Washington, IT’S NOT. Everything you need to know about George Washington can be found right here anyway, so let’s take a respectful moment after watching that video to honor the first U.S. President who was also a stepdad (let us not forget, by the way, that Martha Washington was a hip lady).

Nay, this is about that crazy one-two punch of James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor, who fall in numbers 11 and 12 on the presidential sequential lineup, but are fast moving up the sequential lineup of my heart.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Jamie P, as I call him, was a little bit of an unknown, but it’s not like news traveled fast back then. Whigs be like, “Who’s James K. Polk?” (that was their actual anti-Polk campaign slogan), but as it turned out, James K. Polk be a VISIONARY.

James K. Polk has often, at least in the single book page I read about him and also in the White House Dot Gov article I read, been called a bit of a “dark horse.” If “dark horse” means gotta get that laaaaaaand, then yes, he certainly WAS a dark horse! This guy just wanted to form a more perfectly large union, and that union included California, New Mexico, and Oregon. But Jamie K to the P., as I call him, also didn’t really wanna fight about it, so that whole Oregon push of claiming the entire area from the California boundary northward to a latitude of 54’40’, the southern boundary of Russian Alaska seemed a bit much. Extremists proclaimed “Fifty-four forty or fight,” a rally cry that some of you may very vaguely remember from class without being able to assign it to anything in particular, but Polky, as I call him, was like “or how about Fifty-four forty or fight OR…hear me out…neither?” because the guy definitely didn’t wanna do war about it with Britain. It felt a little too close to dredge THAT all up again, you know?

Anyway but he did totally sass it up with the British a bit and kicked up a nice little share of fluff when they said not EVEN to the compromise of the 49th parallel, so then they were like, fine, even, so he got it.

That’s all a super long-winded way of telling you about the guy he sent to deal with the California situation. Remember learning about how there used to not be cars or planes? Well, this was then. So he sent this guy a realllly long way to check out the stats on California and New Mexico country, specifically this hot spot on the Rio Grande border.

This guy was no Polk, I can promise you that. Polk’s like, let’s chat about this. This guy was like, nope, let’s fight about this. I ain’t got time for talk, and I ain’t got time for politics, while we’re at it.

This guy had spent 20 years both making sure there were no issues with the Indians, but he was a bit of a mystery in that he also hated slavery. A bit ahead of his time in that fashion, but here we are.

And that man’s name was, omg you’re gonna freak….ZACHARY TAYLOR. GENERAL Zachary Taylor, thank you very much.

I could type all day about this, and probably will, but for the purposes of THIS little gossip rag, will cut it short.

As you might imagine, expanding the hell out of the country in a time during which the country was young and brash and spoiling for a fight can take a lot out of a man. While Jimmy KP, as I call him, got us swoll with gainz, he also got us swoll with gainz of North-South angst. It hurt him, and he left office super stressed both physically and mentally. His health suffered swiftly, and he died a few months later.

But General Zachary Taylor was all, hey, I got this. You know what? I’ll be president, and I’ll fight about getting that stuff you were talking about earlier, but like, in very specific ways.

They called him “Old Rough and Ready.” His appearance has been described as “disheveled.” That obviously already makes me love him, but also? Also? He like, REALLY hated slavery. The guy he ran against, Cass, was like, hey. Hey. How about what we do is let each state decide if it wants slavery? And ZT, as I call him, was like, HOW ABOUT YOU LOSE THE ELECTION TO ME?

And Cass did.

Wow, I’ve been talking for awhile. There’s plenty more hot goss, no need to drop it all TODAY.

Back to present day for a moment:

Movie of the day: The entire Back to the Future trilogy, Netflix. Good thing Marty and Doc didn’t end up in 2020, amirite?

Show of the day: Amazing Race, Hulu. My son had never seen this show, and there are like, 29 seasons on Hulu, so we watched a bunch. It’s so emotional and stressful and great. Also, I have no sense of direction.

Song of the Day: Forever for Her (Is Over for Me), The White Stripes. I love it. I’ve loved it for, like, 15 years? More? Awhile. And I’m listening to it right now, which made this easy.

Podcast of the Day: Dolly Parton’s America. Hunter and Shelby told me about this, and I’m so glad they did.

Tree of the day: birch. I love the little peely bark! So unique!

*Presidential picture thanks to The Antiques Navigator

One of the songs, after Kenny Rogers stuff, that I’ve loved the longest.

May the Fourth be with us all today, as the statewide “Open” sign is back on and people are leaving their homes.

I am among those people, in that I am driving straight to my son’s house, (provided my car starts and is up to the challenge of actually moving). I started to go grab some food to take with me this week as we prepare delightful and not-at-all-destructive dishes as a family, but upon arriving to the parking lot I saw that 1) I forgot my mask and 2) there were a lot of other people who looked as though they had also forgotten their masks, so I decided not to go inside after all.

I’m just not ready to assume my life as it was, is kind of what I’m getting at here. I signed up for Beachbody on Demand and started that today, I loaded up on my vanilla Ka’Chava superfood supply (I love this stuff, especially mixed with oats, a serving of blueberries, and Jordan skinny syrup), and last but not least but definitely most devastatingly, I tried to put on jeans today.

It hurt a lot in every sense: physically, mentally, and emotionally. But it needed to be done. While my job isn’t really a thing for another four to six weeks, I also really don’t want to blow my first paycheck on bigger clothes. Who does, amirite!? So I think I’m going to do the responsible thing and start trying to wear real clothes for a small-but-gradually-larger amount of time every day.

The only other thing I’ve really got happening is my night life. By night life, I mean my active dream life since I got these new Sleep Well gummies to wean Josh and I off of what had become a pretty bad dependency on diphenhydramine. It only kinda worked, and I notice that it gives me body aches that then lead me to take an arthritis-strength acetaminophen, and anyway the whole thing smacked of drug dependency. So I got these gummies (5mg of Melatonin, but then also some chamomile and something else I can’t remember and am too lazy to look up) and promptly took three of them.

And then a series of events began that’s made sleepy time a real adventure these past couple of nights.

The first night, I was convinced that Josh was hiding in the office and trying to pop around the door to scare me, like a weird game of peek-a-boo. At the same time, I thought I had removed the entire contents of a jar of peanut butter and was somehow holding this miraculously-still-jar-shaped mass, which was rapidly devolving into a blob-shaped mass and dripping on my shirt. I was also sleep-talking, asking Josh if he was in the office (he was in the recliner literally right next to where I was on the couch).

There was no peanut butter, thankfully.

Then, when I fell all the way asleep, I dreamt that I had gotten mixed up in a cult with a mission based neither in religion nor government conspiracies, but before I could find out what the hell we were so angry about, the violence started and I pretended to be dead under a pile of cardboard for days and then almost did die.

Guys, none of that actually happened, so big relief all the way around, but the weird part, both the first and second nights (I took two on night two, the recommended dosage), was that I have continued to dream the same narrative after waking up to go to the bathroom every time.

The point is, nighttime is fascinating now, and I’m all about it. Try those gummies if you want to feel like you’re on drugs without doing anything illegal or (hopefully, it’s early yet) dangerous.

And! Today’s movie is Gods and Monsters (Amazon). I had not watched it completely, and I’m glad I did. It really made me research James Whale and George Cukor. Damn, what a story! And it’s even partially true.

Today’s show is Upload, the new Amazon series. We binge-watched the whole first season yesterday, and I really liked it. The idea is that people upload themselves to alternate worlds upon death, and while their bodies are still totally dead, they have avatars that are like the version of themselves they most like. Hijinks ensue.

Today’s song is above, Popcorn, by Hot Butter. This was the first 45 record I ever owned after my first grade music teacher, Mrs. Ball, played it for us in class and I pestered my parents until they found a copy for me (no easy feat in 1981 Nevada). I really want a group of children to do an interpretive dance of this song at my funeral, not that I’ll be there.

I’ll be uploaded and shit probably.

I just love them so, so much.

Remember Woodsy Owl, from the 70s and 80s? He, along with Smokey the Bear, trained me early and often to take care of what I left behind. Fortunately, though, I also had extremely surroundings-mindful, hippy souls for parents. “Leave everywhere you go a little cleaner than you found it” was my mom’s credo; my dad’s, “Pick up for yourself plus one more.”

I was terrified of fire, and also of getting spanked, so I see why my early self absorbed these important lessons so wholly. That, combined with my brother being a slob and my mom paying me $2 to clean his room (the toys were everywhere; the floor, almost invisible), turned me into the uptight neurotic cleaner I am to this day.

I tried to teach my son by demonstration when he was young, but I was also in my Twenties and real unhappy with my job, so I barely gave him time to put anything down before I picked it up. While he was pretty messy as a youth, he has now grown into a male version of me, fidgeting and picking things up to clean, rarely sitting when people are in his house.

I automatically face store shelves. I clean up public restrooms – at least picking up scattered paper towels. And I pick up trash…in parking lots, and on the river.

That brings us to today. Josh and I were on a stretch of river and stopped to sightsee. And when I went to get back in my kayak, I noticed two cans, almost invisible because they were so deeply embedded into the earth. It took a bit to pull them out, and when I did, I noticed that one was a very-old-model Mountain Dew can, bleached by sun and almost unrecognizable, and one was Coke (as a past aficionado of both beverages, I know more than I’m usually comfortable admitting to myself about the styles of can through the years).

And that made me think of my perception of litterers vs. the reality.

What always helps me when I find trash in the rivers, aside from throwing it in my boat, is imagining the circumstances that led people to leave it.

I like to picture one of two things. The first, a capsized boat and a swift current. The boater is saved, but dragged, screaming and flailing, to land, while they scream “SOMEONE GET THE CANS!!!! PLEASE GOD, I CAN’T CONTRIBUTE TO DESECRATING THIS EARTH!!!!”

But the cans are gone.

The second is more friendly (everyone lives, before you get uppity). The mom of a family heads out from the stopping point to poke around and decides the family may as well leave too. The kids are jerks and toss their cans down when they hear their mom calling for them to get going.

What’s actually likely: empty containers blow out of boats. People are drunk. And, yes, some people don’t care.

I preach not judging people, but the truth is that I 100% do. I have no patience for people who leave messes, even if I know them to be great people otherwise. People who leave trash behind automatically at movie theaters, or self-bussing restaurants, are automatically darker in my mind. I think I see this happening:

“I HATE PEOPLE AND I HATE THE PLANET.”
Photo: http://www.allwallpapersfree.org

But the truth is way more complex. People have distracting thoughts, or they’re hurried and dealing with a bunch of kids, or they’re just trying to hold it together and trying to get out of a public space before they have a panic attack. They may have entrusted trash pickup to another member of the party who just didn’t do it.

There is a definite benefit to raising children, and teaching people around us, by example and by patience, that we all just pick up after ourselves. But the older I get, the more gray everything is. The more forgiving I find myself becoming, the less uptight I get when my stepkids throw stuff on the ground and walk away. I mean, I absolutely make them pick it up, but I’m not nearly as hard on them as I was on my poor son.

And the more beautiful the nature around us has become, the healthier the planet has become from the shutdown, the more I really hope that we can all make small changes to allow it to continue. While I know that it’s corporations causing the vast majority of pollution on this scale, I also know that it’s people that work at corporations.

So…give a hoot! Whaddya say?

And while you’re giving a hoot, I have these recommendations:

Movie of the Day: Airplane!, Hulu. It’s zany and will remind you of a time when we used to get on airplanes!

Show of the Day: Six Feet Under, now on Hulu. It’s gorgeous, and it wasn’t available anywhere streaming for a long time. There has never been a show with a finale that struck me so intensely. Take advantage!

Song of the Day: In keeping with my favorite bands that I would kill to see live series, we have Langhorne Slim & the Law’s “Changes,” (above) because we’re all goin’ through ’em.

Plant of the day: coleus. I love these, and there are so many gorgeous varieties. It’s my go-to, and grows inside and outside very well! Get ya some!

Yesterday was rough, as I mentioned, but today is a little less so. I set an alarm, just for the luxury of shutting it off, but I also got out of bed before 10, which was automatically a huge improvement. I showered immediately. I did a lil’ dance workout. And then Josh and I went and bought a toilet.

Let me tell you about toilets. There are a lot of options, and almost every one of them looks the same. Except the ones that don’t. What I really wanted: to get the $999 smart toilet just to confirm that I love my bathroom. Alternatively, to get the all-one-piece toilet because I live with boys. Fortunately, I’m unemployed, so we kept it nice and cheap and basic but also a little on the side of saving water. And then we looked at vanities because every year we say is the master on-suite or whatever the hell it’s called now year, and every year it has continued to not be. We have a shower that’s got all the tile busted out of it (our project in 2018) that I have never showered in, in the five years I’ve lived here, because it doesn’t work. We have a very old vanity that I’m positive was original to the house with a sink that I will never drink out of, no matter how thirsty I am unless I’m trapped there more than a day-ish.

And, on the way home, Josh showed me the response to a meme he’d sent on our group text with my son (Hunter) and his girlfriend (Shelby), and then asked me “Did you not see it?” and then showed it to me and I said “I did now” and then he quietly mumbled “do” and I said “YOU SAID DID SO I SAID DID FOR EFFECT” and he said “It’s tense” and yes it was funny okay but sometimes I need him to not even though I love him a whole bunch and then I gave myself a mental backhand to the face because really is this the hill you’re gonna die on and then wondered if it was maybe better that Springfield is opening up Monday (I’m not, though. Theaters, not happening until MAYBE July around here).

And THEN we got home (and he moved the toilet into the garage by himself and I love him so much) and I came in to post the Facebook poll of the day on our Springfield Film Club group and instead saw that my gym is opening back up Monday.

And then I took a pause.

While, yes, I have proven to myself that I am not good at working out on my own, I already knew that. I have longed for my gym so often these last six weeks. But now that it’s happening? I’m not sure I’m ready for that. But now that I know that my account’s gonna get hit for a month either way, I’m really wondering what I’m going to do.

I miss my parents, and I want to visit them. I don’t want to put them at more risk than seeing them already would, but my mom’s having a milestone birthday (70!) in mid-May, and I’m going to see her no matter what. I don’t want to germ it up first. Though we’ve allegedly long since hit our apex, I also know that people aren’t exactly lining up to get tested, and even if they were, tests are still in very short supply.

I also miss Hunter and Shelby, and I AM going to visit them Monday for a few days. They’ve been sheltering at home exclusively, so there’s that guilt, but I also know that his days at home are numbered at this point, and I want to take advantage of the time we have left.

So that’s where today is. I definitely don’t want to be part of the problem, and definitely want to still only leave the house when we need to (while our current toilet is jacked beyond simple repair, we didn’t HAVE to leave the house to buy it today…I just didn’t want to go on a weekend), but I also want to gain back the mental health that my gym boosts for me.

Is anyone else feeling similarly guilty? Or are you like, screw this, I’m goin’ out there and I don’t even care?

While you’re thinking about that…I present:

Movie of the Day: Parasite, Hulu. It won a pile of Oscars, and while it’s subtitled, it wouldn’t kill you to read. It guarantees that you’re focused on the movie, and that’s a good thing.

Show of the day: Arrested Development, Netflix. If you’ve never seen this, you’re in luck, because, thanks to Netflix, there’s a couple new seasons! It’s ridiculous and perfect.

Song of the day (above and here): Welcome to Your Life, Grouplove. It’s just so happy!

Plant of the day: I’m still just crushing on our gorgeous rhododendron. Every day it brings us a new treat in its beauty, and there are few things that immediately boost my spirits like this time of year for our little rhod do.

My phone and WordPress don’t mix, so here’s an also-very-pretty rhododendron from The Farmer’s Almanac.
This song has been my salvation since 2013, which is basically forever.

Today, for me, has really just started.

It’s 4 p.m.

I couldn’t sleep last night, so I ate my kitchen due to sheer boredom. Like, I ate four pieces of jelly toast because my friend Callie delivered this redbud jelly to me and oh my GOSH I had no idea how incredible redbud jelly is and then also I had some snack cakes and played Yahtzee and watched bad movies til I passed out around 4a. And had a real moment today when I wondered how much longer I could go on basically eating myself into food comas regularly and just wearing stretchy pants.

I’m seeing the worst side of myself at the same time I’m seeing other people post so many amazing, creative things…the highlight reel syndrome of it all. Even though I logically know these are obviously the coolest things people are doing, and not sharing the hours of existential crises they’re undoubtedly also feeling, I still feel like I’m wasting a lot of time. I’m falling victim to, as my therapist husband says, letting good be the enemy of great.

I’m not soaking in the sheer freedom of freedom, because I’m allowing myself to feel guilty for not doing more. I’m eating too much sugar, and letting myself beat myself up and then eat more instead of shining grace upon myself for being human. I’m not moving as much, and then worrying about the ground I’m losing for not moving as much.

And when we go back to our lives, I’ll beat myself up for not teaching myself to live in the moment more, instead of in dwelling in super negativity. I won’t look at the cool things I did do…the writing and trivia creation and movie watching and saving so much money.

Anyone else feeling a little down on yourself? A little like you’re just not doing the right things when you finally have the time to do all the things you swore you’d do when you had the time?

I get you, man. I get you, and you’re not alone. We’re all struggling, you know? I think you’re great, and I’m proud of what you’re doing or not doing. This is the rest you needed if you’re home. If you’re working, know that so many of us are rooting for you and are proud of you for being a general badass in adverse conditions.

So for today, my goal is kindness and forgiveness. And maybe ordering NutriSystem for Men because they’re all over tv.

Tomorrow, though? Probably going to get on the river in the morning. I love cold and rainy days for the relief it gives when I don’t go outside, but the water is beautiful and hopefully will be deserted that early.

So take your thing – even if that thing is Animal Crossing or online shopping and then closing out the tab before you purchase or making a collage of your favorite foods – and put your whole self into it.

Also, it’s Wednesday.

Today’s movie recommendation: Taxi Driver, Netflix. Robert DeNiro gives one hell of a performance, and it has led me to watch a lot of his other movies I hadn’t seen (God, so many).

Series: Waco, Netflix. I remember Ruby Ridge and Randy Weaver, and I remember David Koresh, so this was just bananas in that there were so many things I either never knew or had forgotten.

And today’s song of the day, because why not, is above: The Loneliness and the Scream, by Frightened Rabbit (lyrics). A friend turned me onto this band in 2013 and I have fallen back on their music, particularly this album (The Winter of Mixed Drinks), in troubled times ever since. I would love to see them in concert – definitely at the top of my music bucket list with The Lumineers.

I read this once, at the end of a relationship and thought something smugly wounded, like: “NO SHIT. Be careful what you wish for, ladies.”

I was in my 30s then. I drank. And I convinced myself, pretty easily, that I was in the right, overall, as a person.

The first half of my 40s, on the other hand, has convinced me exactly opposite. I’m a mess. And as much as I’ve consciously tried not to continue as such, I’m regularly reminded, via Facebook memories or just a bad flashback, that I was just really an all-around disaster of a person.

I have plenty of time to think about this now, is the point. I tried to get lost in movies, but I’ve passed the 100-new-movies-since-unemployment mark and cracked the code to winning Yahtzee tournaments, so those dual achievements have really freed up some headspace.

What’s weirder is that the internet knows my thoughts in a newly invasive way. I wonder, IN MY OWN HEAD because people don’t need to be knowin everything, if something is weird, and within a few days, my daily email at mindbodygreen.com confirms that it’s totally normal, or that I’m totally on the right path in some way.

Recent scorching topics include:

Quarantine Constipation (it’s real!)

Having Weird Dreams? Well, Pandemic.

Bar Soap vs Liquid Soap: Was the money you just spent through Etsy since the farmers markets are closed worth it?

And then, today, I brushed my teeth, put my phone in the drawer, grabbed the toothpaste, and headed outside before I realized what had happened. And then I was washed in a wave of sadness for the toothpaste, as I wondered about products being even more quarantined than people are really, and how they rarely leave their one tiny space unless they’re being used or thrown away, and how callous that is of people, and how much research has REALLY been done on whether products have feelings, I mean, plants and flowers scream when you pull them from the earth so…

And then, when I started to put products in my fridge after my weekly terrifying sojourn for absolute necessities at the store, I decided I had to totally clean out and wash the inside of the fridge again and then had a few moments when I thought, holy shit, haven’t I already done this since I’ve been home or was it only the freezer? Have I been home long enough for TWO COMPLETE CLEANOUTS? Why doesn’t this BOTHER ME? HOW AM I GOING TO BE ABLE TO HANDLE A LIFE OUTSIDE MY HOUSE AGAIN IF I DON’T EVEN REMEMBER THIS ONE THING. Ooooh, I’m hungry.

Anyway, I’m so SICK of my own shit! My feelings toward myself right now are benevolent patience, like you would treat an elderly relative who’s stayed at your house a little too long but you still are pretty sure they’re leaving next week so you’re almost there. It’s all I can do not to ask Josh every few minutes how he can possibly not be sick of me, because oh my GOD, I am.

But I’ve mastered a few things. First, I’m able to wear one of two pair of black leggings every day and always have a clean pair on. I just wear my robe during the wash. Side note, my robe is getting washed at least weekly, and I’m wearing it less than I was the first few weeks. Second, I made myself access all those classes through LinkedIn and find one that didn’t make me want to hammer my head against the table, so I’m finally learning the more subtle nuances of typography, as well as what a little sasspot that instructor Ina is about her fonts. I may even be able to USE some of it to keep this from looking like a whole bunch of blah.

And, finally, I’ve learned that I can’t promote my love of Premier Protein drinks enough. They’re so incredibly easy to drink, and the containers can be burned after using. This contradicts my desire to re-use things and drink out of my gallon reusable water jug every day, but here we are.

Also, my achievement, in addition to my securing of the new “Game Show” backdrop in Yahtzee, is that I got to see this little guy blossom. And it’s just beautiful.

Just two days apart!

Oh! And you should really watch McMillions, on Hulu, if you haven’t already.

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