2018 Year In Review

I sit here, a day away from my last blog post of the year, and I’m not sure what to write about.  I have blogs lined up for next year (or at least the beginnings of them), so what to write about this month?  I prefer to have the blog written and edited at least a week before the due date, but my brain has been taken up by other things this month.  Heck, I never even sent out Holiday cards to anyone (sorry, guys!)

A “year in review” blog might seem a little corny (kind of like the “year in review” letters some people send out with their Christmas cards), but since it’s been such a whirlwind year, maybe it’s warranted.  If it still seems corny to you, please accept my apologies.

The beginning of the year started with Craig losing his job, but then very shortly signing up to do his first stint as a Storyboard artist!  We knew he’d be let go from his day-job the previous November (yes, the company was nice enough to let him work through the holidays before letting him go), so it wasn’t a shock, and he was thrilled to be doing something even remotely connected to animation.  He wound up doing storyboards and animatics for an auto company (whose name I can’t say) for several months, and he enjoyed it very much.

I also began a new day-job in January at a company in SF.  It was supposed to be a temp-to-perm assignment, but in March, Craig and I decided that we were going to move down to LA in the summer, after Athena graduated high school, so I had to tell my new bosses that I wouldn’t be able to stay on with them.  They were bummed, but I offered to stay until they interviewed and found my replacement, which relieved them a lot.  I’d given my end date as the end of June, so they had three months to interview and bring in a new person, who I then stayed on to train.

Right about the time I was ready to leave the company, they told me that an assistant in their LA office had quit and would I be willing to fill in down there while they interviewed potential candidates (since I was moving to the area).  It was a win-win situation, since it meant I wouldn’t have to look for work when we got here, and they wouldn’t be too long without someone taking care of their executives.  They wanted me to stay, but sadly the commute was horrendous, and I didn’t enjoy the job enough to want to stick around.  So I told them I’d hang around until the end of September.  There was a wedding in Michigan that I had to attend, so it felt like the perfect time to separate from the company.

Craig and I went back to Michigan for the wedding, which was beautiful (oh, and the happy couple is now expecting their first baby!), and then I went to Chicago to visit some friends and old haunts, while Craig visited a part of his past as well . . . Putt-Putting!  He and a friend of his used to tour the Eastern side of the country doing Putt-Putt tournaments.  Since his friend still lives in Michigan, it seemed like a great time to revisit some of his glory days.  We had originally hoped Craig could do this trip right before our wedding in 2012, but the money and time weren’t there, so this worked out perfectly . . . especially since he turned 50 this year.  A nice way to celebrate that milestone.

Back in LA, I’ve been at a sort of crossroads.  I haven’t been able to find work at a day-job that seems like a good fit.  The pay down here is much less than it was up in SF, so I’ve balked at taking such a huge pay cut, especially since the cost of living isn’t that much cheaper.  Also, since I’ve been working towards a Certificate in Media Production for the last few years (I transferred my credits to a community college down here), I’m not sure that I want to keep doing the same ol’, same ol’.  This has meant that the last few months have been tight for us, financially, but I still feel like I’m making the right decision in holding out for the right opportunity.  As for Craig, he’s gotten some work in Legal Graphics (which he did for years before we got together), so that’s been good for him.

Part of the reason for the move down here was so that we could both be closer to the industries that we want most to work in, but I think we both assumed we’d make connections faster than we have thus far.  We’ve since revisited our expectations, and realize that it’ll take us at least a year to settle in and find the places to meet people we want to connect with, so we’re just focusing on getting acquainted with the LA area.  It’s a LOT more driving than I’m used to, but all in all, it’s okay.

There are some plans already in the works for next year, so it’ll be exciting to see what comes about.

As for the pre-planned blogs for next year . . . Over the years, I’ve had kernels of blog ideas pop into my head, and have written a line or two about them (to remind me for when I actually write them out).  Well, I’ve got 16 of those kernels sitting in my “Drafts” folder, and I plan to use 12 of those as my monthly blogs in 2019.  It’ll be interesting to see what the topics are, and whether or not I can remember what I wanted to say about each of them.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year, and I hope that 2019 brings you much happiness and great stories to tell!

Too Much Automation

While I enjoy many of the perks available to us in this digital age–I love being able to access information quickly and easily–I also feel that technology is invading too many parts of our lives.  It’s more than just people being super-glued to their phones (which is DEFINITELY a problem, IMO).  We’ve become so dependent on technology, that engineers see this as a request to develop more and more ways for technology to take over for some functions we used to do ourselves . . . which only makes us dumber.

For instance, our cars.  We’ve got rear-view cameras now (which are mandatory in all new cars), to “help” us with backing up.  This “assistance” is actually ruining our spatial awareness, and making us too reliant on this machine.  What happens if it breaks?  What will people do then?  And don’t even get me started on self-driving cars.  Ugh!

Another example is our cell phones.  People use their phone’s GPS to get from Point A to Point B . . . even if the distance between the two is less than a mile.  There’s now an entire generation that doesn’t know how to read maps, and wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get to their destination with one.

And now, we’re able to just speak to our phone to ask it to do anything from dial our mother’s number, to looking up movie times for the latest Tom Cruise flick.  I mean, seriously?!  How lazy have we become??  We can also do that in our home . . . which is where things get really scary.

Back in May, an article came out about a couple whose private conversation was recorded (without their knowledge) and then sent to someone they know.  It seems Alexa’s voice recognition “thought” it heard words instructing it to do this.  My own phone has actually turned itself on based on a word or phrase I’ve said while talking to Craig.  When it says “I don’t understand your request to [fill in blank],” I get pissed and turned the entire phone off.  I don’t like the idea of my phone (or home) deciding what to do on my behalf.

Now, I’m not a full-blown conspiracy theorist–I don’t believe that airplanes are emitting some sort of mind-controlling gases into the air–but I DO believe that Big Brother has been monitoring us for years, and here we are, happily giving them even more access to us and our information.

I mean, we’ve already got cameras at intersections photographing when you run a red light, and now there’s talk about facial recognition stuff at the airports.  Even worse, Amazon recently had a meeting with ICE to market its facial recognition software.  This is a HORRIBLE idea, if you ask me, and is akin to the whole “National ID” crap that’s been proposed a few times since 9/11.  Here’s what the ACLU has to say on the idea of a National ID.

Why are we (as a group) so keen on releasing our rights and independence?  Is it really that difficult to back up your car with only your side and rear-view mirrors to help?  (It wouldn’t be if we brought Driver’s Ed back to high school, but don’t get me started on THAT again.)  Do we really think facial recognition at the airport will make the wait through security go any faster?  Do people not connect the hacking that’s going on with their email or bank accounts to what could happen if we go completely digital?  Did nobody see the Sandra Bullock movie, The Net, or the Will Smith/Gene Hackman film Enemy of the State?

I honestly never would’ve thought of myself as a luddite (second definition, not first), but the more that society embraces technology doing things for them, the less I want to have anything to do with it.  I used to watch The Jetsons and think it would be cool to have your food instantly cooked and on your table, but if that means that your food cooker might one day overhear a conversation and accidentally piece together the words “poison” “husband” . . .

Well, let’s just say the thought scares the bejesus out of me.

Jen & Jess

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending a wedding for a woman who I’d babysat from the time she was an actual baby.  It was such a wonderful, emotional experience for me, and I was so happy that she asked me to attend.

Before I go further into the wedding festivities, I need to delve into a little backstory to give you an idea of the players . . .

Larry and Carol got together later in life.  Carol had a son, James, from a previous relationship, and Larry had a few kids from his own past relationships.  His youngest daughter, Krista, was about the same age as James when Carol and Larry got together.

Some time after Carol and Larry got together, my mom met them (I think through a bowling league, or something).  And shortly thereafter, Carol had Jennifer (who we also sometimes call Jen).  I don’t think Jen was even a year before I began babysitting her, but I know I was eleven at the time.  James lived with Carol and Larry, so I usually babysit both Jen and James.  And, every once in a while, I got to babysit Krista, too.

Carol, Larry, and the kids would often come to our house for holidays, weekend bonfires, or even New Year’s Eve, and we’d all watch movies, or play board games, and when it was time for the younger kids to go to bed, the three adults and me would play card games into the wee hours.  Feeling estranged from my own extended family, these guys became my family.  There was love, laughter, and lots of fond memories.

Many summers, my mom, Carol, and Larry would go on a trip together for a week or two, and I was in charge of all the kids.  We had SUCH fun times.  Nighttime Hide and Seek was a favorite game for us to play (there were lots of shadows around my house), as was “Classroom,” or even just regular board games.  Sometimes we joked about what kind of influence I had on these young people’s lives, since they were around me so often, and I was a bit of an odd duck.  But the kids loved being around me, and I them, so we didn’t care what other people might think later in life.

Well, life went on, and I moved around in the world, while James, Jennifer, Krista and their parents stayed in Michigan.  I would often see them when I came home for a visit, but after a while, I had other places to see, and I didn’t make it back as often.  But thankfully, the bond was still there, and when I did see them, it felt like no time had passed.

Then, about eight years ago, James asked me to come to his wedding.  I was honored that he wanted to include me in this moment in his life, and had a great time seeing him and my heart family again.  It was great seeing Jen, too, and we spent a lot of time reminiscing about our times together way back when.  We connected on Facebook when that came out, and whenever she came to California for a visit, we’d often meet for a meal or a hug.

She started seeing Jessica (also called Jess) shortly after James got married.  Apparently they had lived across the street from one another for years, but never met until seven years ago.  Jess is a bit younger than Jen, so that might have something to do with it, but you’d think they still would’ve at least seen each other around town.  But I guess not.

I met Jess when she and Jen came to my wedding six years ago.  And I liked her there and then.  I saw how happy Jennifer was with her, and that was good enough for me.  I also got to visit with the two of them when they both came out to California, so I got to know Jess better, and I was thrilled when I learned of their engagement just last year.

When Jen told me the date they wanted for their wedding, and asked if I would be able to come, I told her there was nothing that would keep me from being there.  And, like with James, I was honored that she wanted me to help celebrate this momentous occasion with her.

Well, the day came, and when I saw them walk down the aisle, I had this wave of emotion rush over me.  I don’t know if I’m making more out of it than it is, but I felt what I imagine a parent feels when s/he watches his/her child getting married:  Pride, love, hope, and just this outpouring of emotion for the beautiful person standing there about to embark on a new journey in life.  Even now, writing about it, my eyes well up with tears of joy.

Their ceremony and reception were beautiful and showcased their unique flair.  And when it was time to go, Craig and I went back to Carol’s place (she’s now with someone else), and Carol, Craig, my mom and I all sat down and played some cards into the wee hours of morning.

So, to Jen and Jess . . . Thank you for inviting me to your wedding!  May you have a wonderful, long life together, filled with joy, laughter, and opportunities to grow as individuals, as well as a couple.

I love you both, very much!

The Audacity

There are numerous ways of saying this phrase, but essentially it boils down to asking for what you want in life, because the worst that could happen (usually) is that you’ll hear the word “no,” but the best that could happen is that you get whatever it is you’re asking for.

I like that philosophy and try to use it myself whenever I can.  Whether it’s traveling (asking for a free upgrade), or help in the house (with chores, etc.), I truly believe that it never hurts to ask.

However, there are times when I do feel that sentiment gets abused, and it seems to me that more and more people are abusing it lately.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that sometimes people need assistance with paying for an expensive surgery for themselves or their pet.  No, those aren’t the people who I feel are abusing someone’s generosity.  I’m talking about those who take advantage of crowd-funding in order to pay for their lifestyle choices.  For example, the Bridezilla who expected her guests to pay for her wedding at $1,500 a pop, then went on a tirade when they didn’t.

Or worse, people who have plenty of money, but don’t want to dip into their own pockets to pay for lawyer fees; like Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney.  He set up a GoFundMe account for $500,000 so other people could pay for his lawyer fees.  Yes, the very famous lawyer (who may or may not have tons of illegal money stashed away somewhere), is trying to collect money from people to fight his own legal battle.

And then – in news that shocks nobody, I’m sure – another of Trump’s cronies, Roger Stone, began asking for $2 million in legal fees.  And his request is preemptive.  He hasn’t been charged with anything yet.  He just worries that Mueller is going to charge him with a crime and wants money to help battle this imaginary attack.  He’s asking for this money because – in his own words:

“This attack on me is designed to bankrupt me and destroy me and my family financially. Mueller knows I cannot afford the expensive legal fees to defend myself.  My defense cost could be more than $2 million — money I do not have.”

Now, I don’t know either of these two men personally; I’ve never seen their bank statements.  But I’m fairly certain that both of them, while maybe not part of the 1%, are more than likely in the top 5% of this country, income-wise.  If you mingle with the likes of Donald Trump, chances are that you’re worth at least the in high six figures, if not seven figures.  So for these bozos to ask that the general public pays for their legal fees takes a hell of a lot bigger balls than I could ever hope to have.  The audacity of it just drives me insane.

It’s like “Awww, poor little rich man doesn’t want to have to sell some of his possessions in order to pay for legal fees because he got caught doing something illegal (or at least barely legal).”

I have NO sympathy for someone like that who might have to pare down his possessions to keep his butt out of jail.  Personally, I hope they DO get thrown in jail, or at the very least have to “slum” it by owning only one vacation home or a smaller-sized yacht than before.

It’s these kinds of things that prove how huge an issue income inequality is in this country today.  On the one hand, you’ve got people asking for a couple thousand dollars to help get their dog a transplant or new hip, and on the other are jackholes asking their guests for a couple thousand dollars to attend a wedding, or worse, a couple million dollars to keep them out of jail.

It’s enough to put a sour taste in my mouth as far as crowdfunding is concerned.

Captain Obvious . . . Moving

I think I’ve written on this topic before, but something happened recently to make me shake my head again at the inane and unnecessary questions people ask even when they’re staring directly at the answers to said questions.

Craig and I recently moved from our lovely little island of Alameda, down to the Los Angeles area. Athena has graduated high school and will be making her own road in life, so it was time for Craig and I to focus on our careers – his in animation, and mine . . . well, voicing the animation. We’d been packing things for months (and even that wasn’t enough time in the end), and had rented a 26-foot U-Haul truck to take all our stuff down with us.

So, there we are, HUGE, orange moving truck up in our driveway and even blocking half of the street, and sure enough, someone walking by asks “You moving?”

Now, Bill Engvall had a whole routine on questions like these. If you haven’t heard it before, you can see it on a video here.

His routine is funny as hell, but honestly, what is it that makes people ask the most answer-obvious questions? Is it their weird way to make small talk? If so, said small talk could also be approached by simply asking “Where are you moving to?” or “Are you moving far away or locally?” Both of those are perfectly valid questions and no more intrusive than the first one, especially since everyone who asked if we were moving subsequently asked “Where to?” Why not just cut to the chase and ask that in the first place?!?!

I mean, seriously. A 26-foot moving truck–prominently painted with the company’s logo, so there’s NO mistaking that it is, in fact, a moving truck–parked in a driveway with people entering the truck carrying boxes and leaving it empty-handed . . . what the hell else would we be doing? I’m sure there is at least one person in the history of moving trucks that has rented a large truck for some other reason, but you’re safe in assuming that 99.9% of the time, it’s because someone’s MOVING!!!

Is it fear of sounding stupid for assuming? Why? I mean, it’s not like accidentally congratulating a woman on being pregnant, when she merely has a large stomach. Most people won’t be offended if you assess the situation and assume that a move is imminent.

By the time the third person walked by and asked us the same question, I told Craig that I would likely scream at the next person who asked. Thankfully, there was enough of a break from the Captain Obvious-inspired question that I didn’t actually scream at the person, but I did laugh at him before answering. At first, I felt kind of bad for laughing, but another part of me didn’t. By then I was exhausted, and my natural abhorrence for people not using their common sense was stretched thinner than usual. Packing everything on the truck had taken MUCH longer than we’d anticipated, and though we had hired movers to help us, after three hours it was clear that it would have taken several more for them to finish the job for us (at $85 an hour), so we let them go and finished packing up the truck ourselves. All in all, it took us 10 hours to load everything into the U-Haul, and we wound up leaving several items on the curb, because we had more items than available space.

Of all the people that stopped by to inquire about our activities, one lady thankfully said “I’m sure this is a ridiculous question . . .” before asking if we were moving. At least she was aware that her question was a ridiculous one, and acknowledged it.

We’re currently staying in a transitional dwelling, while we look at neighborhoods and apartments down here, and our stuff is in a storage facility. I’m sure that when we move stuff from the facility to our new place, we’ll have lots of people asking us the same question, but at least this time will be a little more acceptable, because they won’t have seen us before, and the question will likely be “You moving in?”

But I’ll probably still get annoyed by the 4th time that question is posed.

Unusually Enriching

When confronted with something new, many people’s first reaction is to think it “weird,” or maybe even “stupid.”  But over time, you get used to the unusual thing and then it’s just “unusual” or you don’t even notice it anymore.

I felt that way when I first started seeing unusual spellings of “everyday” names.  I know, I know, where do I—who chose this spelling of my name—get off making remarks about the way someone’s name is spelled?  But, in my head, at least the “y” still sounds like a vowel and it was an easy switch.  No, I mean names where people are using numbers instead of letters to spell the name, or maybe insert a “silent” letter for what reason I don’t know.  Those still seem “weird” to me, but I’m running across them more and more these days, so it’s becoming less jarring.

Also, with our culture becoming more diverse, I’m seeing lots of interesting names, and spellings.  Just look at your Uber or Lyft account, for example.  If you take a look at the trips you’ve taken with them, you’ll see all sorts of unusual names.  Names like Esvin, Fnu, or Ekkaphot show up regularly in your account (at least, if you live in larger cities).  Yes, sometimes they pose a pronunciation challenge (which I enjoy), but I also am fascinated to see these names and wonder what the origin is for them.

The same is true with clothing.  Back where I went to school, if you didn’t wear Jordache Jeans, Jellies, or other clothes popular in the 80s, you were mocked, a lot.  And I’m sure this was true of many other times throughout history.  But nowadays, I walk down the street and see someone sporting the current fashion walking next to someone wearing mis-matching colors and patterns, or maybe someone wearing MC Hammer pants.  While a sight like that might initially be a shock to my eyes, a few moments later, I realize that people are able to be who they are; to let their fashion freak flag fly, as it were.  Which is awesome!  I’m certainly not someone who’s up to date on the latest clothing trends—and sometimes, the latest trends are ugly to me—so I think it’s great that you can find whatever style floats your boat in the stores nowadays.  There’s no limit on choices, and people are less likely to be publicly mocked for proudly displaying their personal fashion sense.

Things like these are why it’s so important to get out of one’s comfort zone and see more of the world.  Even if it’s a big city within your own country, you grow so much as a person when you experience new things and meet new people.  It might be something as simple as finding a new dish that you love, or something deeper, like learning a new philosophy.  But if you can be open to new things, there’s no end to how your life can be enriched.

But I think some people are afraid of learning new things, because they’re afraid of losing hold on their old life.  What they’ve known for most of their life has become comfortable to them; even the parts about it that they hate.  If you experience the same frustrations, then you know how to react to them.  But when something new comes along, you don’t know how to react.  And for some people, that’s scary.

But not for me.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Gemini, or if it’s just the way I was born, but I often become bored with things that happen the same way all the time.  It’s part of why I can’t stand a lot of the music right now . . . too repetitive.  I even need variety in how I go home; I get bored if I take the exact same route every day.  So I switch it up every now and then, just to keep things interesting.

So, as jarring as it might be to occasionally see names spelled unusually, or to see “weird” combinations of clothing, I would MUCH prefer that, as opposed to everything and everyone looking the same.

A Hero’s Fall

Whenever I see the question “Who is your hero?” on a cute little quiz (like Buzz Feed, or even in some magazines), I’ve never really known what to answer.  I used to think I didn’t have any heroes.  Sure, there have been people who I respect quite a lot, but I always thought that a “hero” was someone who you looked up to in a way that you wanted to be like them.  And, in fact, that’s actually the second definition of the word, according to Dictionary.com

2.    a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal:

Well, my mom had thankfully taught me that it was better to be my own person, than to try to be like someone else, so wound up looking inside of myself to form my moral compass, rather than looking to others.  Another thing she taught me was to not put people up on a pedestal, because the more you idolize them, the higher they get placed on said pedestal, and the harder they’ll fall when you see them for the real human being they are.

I saw that first-hand when I learned that Sherlock Holmes was not only a brilliant detective, but he was also a drug user.  Although fictional, Sherlock was probably the closest thing I ever had to a “hero.”  I used to love how he could use logic to solve any crime, and I still use logic to this day to solve problems, or even to figure out “whodunit” in movies and books.  But when I first learned of his drug use, I was absolutely crushed.  I had no desire to use drugs, and had always viewed drug use as an unhealthy escapism that only “weak” people do because they can’t cope with life.  Yet, here was Sherlock—whom I’d always thought was highly competent and strong—taking drugs as a way to escape his life.  And, in truth, he was escaping the doldrums of his life when not on a case.

I did eventually get over my disappointment in my youthful hero, and came to fully comprehend what my mother was saying about not putting people too high on a pedestal.  And since then, I’ve been able to accept people much better for their flaws as well as their good points.

That viewpoint helped me to see that idolizing athletes, movie stars, or other people in the public eye was NOT a good thing.  Sure, much of what we know about them is fabulous, and something to be envied, but you never know what lurks in the shadows.  Ghandi wasn’t quite the wonderful human being people initially thought him to be.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. allegedly cheated on his wife, repeatedly, as did JFK.  Even Billy Joel (who I still consider my favorite musician) has quite a few skeletons lurking in his closet.  And in today’s society—where dirty laundry is being aired as a form of “entertainment”—it’s getting even harder for people to hide their own personal Mr. Hyde.

In many ways, the fact that secrets are being told is a great thing.  I fully believe in openness and honesty in this world. Not only because it’s the morally higher ground, but also because, the sooner we’re all honest with each other, the sooner we’ll learn to accept each other as full human beings, and we won’t think ourselves such horrible people, or that “I’m the only one who [insert “bad” personality trait].”

However, the downside to all of this new openness, is that we’re going to see more and more of our heroes’ foibles.  Especially in this MeToo movement.

First, there was Harvey Weinstein.  Then Bill Cosby.  And there have been others along the way whose inappropriate behavior has crushed us in various ways.  I wasn’t surprised to hear about Harvey.  I was surprised and saddened to hear about Bill, and even Kevin Spacey.  But the one that’s just recently been brought to the fore has shaken me most of all . . . Morgan Freeman.

I had loved Morgan as Easy Reader on the show The Electric Company.  I thought he was the coolest cat, and he really did help instill a love of reading in me.  After that show ended, I didn’t see him in anything for years, until the movie Teachers.  I was thrilled to see him again, and have enjoyed watching him in many movies over the years.  He conveys a calm presence with a hint of a wink so well, that even when he plays the villain (like in the movie Wanted), you still can’t help but like him.

But to hear that he’s almost as inappropriate in his words and actions towards women as Harvey Weinstein, honestly breaks my heart.  So, maybe I have more people that I consider “heroes” than I thought I did, but maybe they’re people who influenced me as a child.  And, maybe, like my mom said, those childhood heroes hit pretty hard when they fall off the pedestal that I (unwittingly, perhaps) placed them on.

Oh how I hope I never learn anything truly negative about Jim Henson.  That one will crush me for sure.

Successful Jealousy

Some people think that fear of failure is what keeps them from achieving the goals they think they want.  But there’s another school of thought suggesting that fear of success is what actually keeps many people from . . . well . . . succeeding.  I think it’s probably a little bit of both, but for today’s purposes, I’m going to discuss the fear of success.

I don’t think everyone who sets out to achieve their goals is afraid of succeeding; there are many people who are able to visualize what they want so strongly, and never waiver from it.  And I say “Good for them!” for being able to do so.  I know that for a while in my younger days, I was actually afraid of success, though–if you’d told me that back then–I would have vehemently disagreed with you.  But as I got older, I started to hear niggling voices in my head about what so and so family member would think if I succeeded.  I’d already heard people say that I was “too skinny,” or that I thought I was “better than” certain members of my family for wanting to eat at “uppity” restaurants like Olive Garden (I’m not even kidding).  So, the thought of being richer than my family was very scary, because I worried how “snooty” they’d think I was if that happened.

Then, when I began to read more about celebrities who’d come from “nothing” to achieve their dreams of success, I’d often hear horror stories about people coming out of the woodwork trying to get into their good graces (most likely hoping for a handout).  Even worse are those who seem so jealous of someone else’s success that they do their best to run a smear campaign against said celebrity.

Case in point, is the family of Meghan Markle.

Now, I’ve never met Meghan, so I don’t know if she’s the nice humanitarian that she appears to be, or if she’s really someone who’s let fame and becoming a Royal go to her head.  Nor do I care.  But the sheer number of spiteful articles out there from her family leading up to the wedding makes me think less about what kind of person Ms. Markle is, and more about the kind of people the rest of her family are.  And if you haven’t seen how much of a smear campaign they’ve been running, just type “Meghan Markle sister” into any search engine and you’ll see a ton of articles where Meghan’s sister criticizes her for one thing or another.  Meghan’s brother also jumped on the bandwagon, as well as her father.  No wonder The Queen was livid with them.  By the time the wedding rolled around last weekend, I was not only sick of hearing about Meghan’s dress, or the wedding, but I was even more tired of hearing about her stupid family.

Meghan’s sister had labeled Meghan all sorts of snotty names that show nothing more than the bitterness of someone who is jealous of another’s success.  Then,  in his own set of articles, her half-brother claimed Meghan is a “phony,” and that he thinks she might be “embarrassed” of her family.  Well, no duh!  When family airs their jealousy and crappy feelings on international news, I don’t wonder why Meghan hasn’t had as much to do with them over the years.  I know that I wouldn’t want to speak to someone who talked shit about me just to get their 15 minutes of fame.

But this is one of the unfortunate side effects of being a celebrity nowadays, it seems.  So many rags looking to get the “latest scoop” on someone, and they’re willing to scrape the bottom of any barrel they can find to dig up even the smallest spec of dirt.  Throw in some disgruntled (and seemingly white-trashy) relatives, and BOOM, you’ve got fodder for years.

So, even though I don’t know Ms. Markle, I want to applaud her for staying strong and not reacting back to all the bad press her family tossed around before the wedding.  I hope that I act with as much dignity and strength if I ever become famous and have similar issues.  Because, honestly . . . I fear I might lose my shit.

Un-Healthy Relationships

Today’s gonna be a rant about movies and TV shows that deal with romantic relationships.
Craig and I are finding it harder and harder to watch those kinds of things without getting utterly pissed off at the writers.  I’ve heard that most people write about what they know about, and if that’s true, then it’s no wonder that there are so many divorced people in this country (and possibly the world).
 
Granted, Craig and I have only been married for 5 years (together for 9), so we don’t have “all the answers,” nor do we necessarily think we’re experts on healthy relationships.  But I can tell you that we don’t fall into any of the “classic” traps that you see in relationship-based entertainment.
 
Our biggest pet peeve with these stories is communication, or lack thereof.  Every time we see a scene where a couple has a “misunderstanding” because they weren’t completely honest with each other, we throw up our hands in disgust.  If we’re watching said show at home, we even pause it to discuss where the couple “went wrong,” which then leads to a discussion about how frustrated we are that these kinds of unhealthy relationships seem to be considered “normal.”  When one member of the couple answers “I’m fine,” or “Nothing” when asked “What’s wrong?” by their significant other, we again get disgusted and have to discuss that for a long time.
Another annoyance for us is when couples are mean to each other.  Case in point, the TV show Black-ish.  We used to LOVE this show when it first came on.  It was funny, well-written and gave us points to ponder and discuss.  But over the last couple of seasons, it seems the writers have been upping their abuse of Rainbow.  It’s always annoyed us that her mother-in-law, Ruby, verbally abuses her (while Dre says nothing), but lately Dre himself has been increasingly abusive to her.  So much so, that we’ve often wondered why she stays married to him.  We used to be excited for a new episode to watch, but now, it’s one of the last shows we think to pull up in our streaming list, for the very reasons listed above.
I’ve even started watching less and less romantic comedy movies due to these issues.  Craig still enjoys them a bit more than I do, but he agrees that the communication and crappy behavior in them causes him to enjoy them less than he used to.  I just can’t waste my time anymore on a movie where two people seem to hate each other so much, or whose relationship is based on a lie . . . but then suddenly fall in love with each other (usually after having sex) and everything’s “okay.”  Films like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Failure to Launch really hit a new low in my opinion, so I’m even pickier than I used to be.
What we’d like to see happen is for writers to stop writing about what they know, and start writing about how things could be.  You know how some people say that we learn by what we watch (which is certainly true for children)?  Well, why can’t people start writing about healthy relationships?  I’m not talking about The Brady Bunch which I HATED because of how unrealistic it was, but there’s definitely a happy medium between Everybody Loves Raymond (Ray’s mother . . . grrrrrr!) and a Stepford family.  There are still plenty of interesting and dramatic things to discuss in relationships without everything having to be so secretive.  Craig and I have plenty of drama in our lives, but we sit down and discuss things in a calm and respectful manner.  I don’t think I’m always right and him wrong, and he doesn’t treat me like I’m “the little woman.”
Maybe the viewing audience wouldn’t be interested in that sort of thing right now (especially with the current fondness for hyped-up drama from “reality” shows), but I personally would love to see TV and movie execs give something like that a solid chance.  Because, how can we change our reality into something better, if we don’t know what that looks like?

Wanderlust

As I’ve said before, I moved around a lot as a child.  By the time I was about 33, I had lived in as many dwellings.  Not all of them were new cities, and there were years when I stayed put, but I had packed up and MOVED 33 different times by my early thirties (with about 10 of them happening before the age of 16).  Basically, my early years were spent as a vagabond of sorts.

There are several “consequences” that can come from a life like that.  One, is that someone might establish roots somewhere, and never, ever, ever leave, because they’re looking for stability.  They might end up living in the same house for the next 50 years of their life, because they’re looking for stability.

Another possible outcome–as in the case with me–is that I don’t know how to stay in one place.

When I first lived on my own in Chicago, I had a great apartment.  It was very close to work, close to amenities and transportation, was affordable, and in a neighborhood that had once been a bad drug area, but was recently cleaned up, and starting to become the new “hot spot” in town.  As great as it was, after about a year there, I started feeling this itch to leave.  I didn’t want to leave Chicago, because I loved it.  I had a great landlord, who was very responsive, and always brought me flowers for Valentine’s Day (something he did for all the women living in his units, including his daughter in the back).  But yet, there was still this itch to leave, to change something, to shake things up.

Thankfully, I eventually resolved the issue by rearranging the furniture to give me the appearance of a new space.  But this is an itch that crops up every now and then with me, and–while it now takes longer than a year before the itch kicks in–when it hits me, I feel this wanderlust growing inside of me, and I feel like I need to go.  To leave wherever I am and look for what’s over the horizon.

Lately, that’s what I’ve been feeling about where I live now.  I don’t necessarily want to leave Alameda, because I love this little island.  And I don’t necessarily want to move to a new place, because we have an AMAZING apartment at a SUPER cheap rent.  We would never be able to afford something like what we have anywhere else in the Bay area.  Hell, the only reason we have such a sweet deal here is because our landlords inherited the place, and wanted good, responsible tenants more than they wanted a thick bank account.

And I DEFINITELY don’t want to leave my husband, Craig.  I love him, and I love our life together.  I had no idea just how badly I needed his sweetness and unconditional love in my life, but oh, how I did and do!

And yet, there’s still this urge inside of me to leave.  To be somewhere, anywhere other than where I currently am.  To have a new vista, or new something to do.  And I know that–if Craig and I weren’t together–chances are, I’d be gone already.  Being with someone can put a serious crimp on the vagabond lifestyle.  But, again, his love and support help make up for it.

But with this latest bout of wanderlust, I’ve been feeling a sense of guilt along with it.  Like I should be mature enough, and settled enough in myself to stop “running” every few years.  I’m 47 years old, for goodness sake!  Shouldn’t I be more interested in buying a house, or getting a better mortgage than I am in wondering what “else” is out there to see or do?

We’re led to believe that, to be truly happy, you need to stop wanting that “something else.”  There are sayings all over the place that quip “True happiness is not in having what you want, but in wanting what you have” and other such stuff.  The guilt running through my head is a direct cause of these kinds of judgemental quotes.  Then it morphed into a sort of depression over the internal war about leaving versus staying, where I wondered what’s “wrong” with me for wanting “more.”  Where I felt badly that all the wonderful things I have in my life wasn’t “enough.”

But on the other side of that depression, I can see it for the judgement that it is.  While I agree, that acquiring tangible “stuff” can’t make you happy, there’s nothing wrong with wanting new experiences, or new towns.  It’s part of what makes me such a well-rounded person.  Part of why I find it pretty easy to adapt to changes in life (even the ones I haven’t instigated).

So, maybe all I need to do is just take off for a trip somewhere soon.  Maybe going someplace I’ve never been before (even for a weekend) will help satiate my need to rove for a while.

Excuse me while I go check on flights . . .

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