Monday, December 31, 2018

365/365/Happy Free-for-All

Kim, Susan, Sabine/Maureen, Dona/Cedar Waxwing, Linda/Mali, Helen, Bridgett/Vesper Sparrow/Sally Bridge:

You are the only readers for this blog. I didn’t want to open it up—I wanted a safe space. Turns out I really needed it sometimes. Thanks for listening. If I’d had any idea this year would turn out to be This Year, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to the project. But it’s been great getting to read you, and I’m glad I did it.

Please, all of you, keep writing (every day if you want to!), and don’t lose touch. I want to keep reading you, and I always want to know how and where to find you.

Indigo Bunting

*as Gordon would say.

364/365/Happy Free-for-All

I wrote about Kim in my first 365 project (although I’m not completely sure of my use of ornery there—it’s not wrong, but not perfect, but hey—I had 44 words).* Now here she is in this one, in a feeble attempt to continue to praise her and to brag about sharing, like all selfless people do:
Aren’t you glad I roped Kim into this?
Do you see that her writing is bliss?
This world’s greatest shame is
That Kim isn’t famous
And they don’t even know what they miss.
*100/365 Another Kim
She was my idol in poetry workshop. The prof thought we were lovers. I did love her red specs and raw talent. She dropped out of that ornery MFA program to raise a family. On my selfish days, I feel the world’s been cheated.

363/365/Happy Free-for-All

The outside world seems to be embracing my alcoholism and gifting accordingly. We received several bottles of wine. One sister-in-law gifted me another White Whale mixer (previously, The Mob Man, to mix with rye; this year The Filthy Liar, lychee based to mix with gin). Another gave us a bottle of fig vodka and some Fever Tree ginger beer to make figgy Moscow Mules (which I attempted for the first time last night—quite good!). The step-father-in-law found the book The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog: Mixology and Mayhem: The Story of John Morrissey and the World’s Best Cocktail Menu, a bar I’ve been to twice, neither time under perfect circumstances, and he was surprised to discover I knew it. And this (may I say my very favorite?): a bottle of Havana Club Añejo (7 Year). I don’t know whether I love it because one can’t buy it in the U.S. or if I love it because it’s so good. Maybe both. Our Czech neighbor got it for us over the summer and sat on it til Christmas. A round sticker slapped on the box announces, “Yes! Now you can take Havana Club into the US!” I had carried it once for a friend. Now a friend has done that for me.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

362/365/Happy Free-for-All

I am nine items away from getting rid of 2018 things in 2018. Admittedly, this year’s progress was not as visible as 2017’s, what with me having no time whatsoever to deal. So a lot of recycled paperwork from my office is going into this count. Still, I’m almost there.

361/365/Happy Free-for-All

Because of traveling, I missed everyone’s gatherings: Meghann’s solstice party on Friday, Eric’s dinner party and Katrina’s solstice party on Saturday, Margaret’s holiday party on Sunday, Eric and Will’s dinner party and Amy and Ken’s annual party on Christmas Eve. I missed some good times and avoided a couple of difficult choices. I got back just in time to accept an invitation that I’d earlier turned down in case I couldn’t get back in time: a trip to Hartford to see Hamilton. And that was a happy, if hectic, thing.

360/365/Happy Free-for-All

In a way, it was the easiest holiday season in a long time. I mailed the baskets of DarnTough socks and maple syrup, just in case the weather turned bad and we couldn’t travel. Tim and I had already bought ourselves our big gift. I was never really in a store playing Christmas music (at least not since mid-November), so I didn’t get sick of Christmas—I didn’t even think about it. I wasn’t presented with a Christmas cookie until December 24th at my mother-in-law’s, so I wasn’t on a constant sugar high/crash cycle. We didn’t put up a tree, just the wreath with the rail-trail weed/cowboy arrangement. So really, none of my stress was holiday stress. (Which doesn’t mean there wasn’t stress, of course.) No holiday stress is a happy thing.

Monday, December 24, 2018

359/365/Happy Free-for-All

At the previously mentioned low-key ladies night, it was revealed that someone had believed in Santa Claus until she was in the fifth grade. In her defense, her father ran a sled along the flat roof by her bedroom window, even leaving signs of deer scat. For the later youngest daughter, the elder kids would climb the nearby hill and flash a red flashlight, assuring her of Rudolph’s nose.

358/365/Happy Free-for-All

We have been getting fresh fish delivered to a drop-off in Parts West for five years (anniversary is this week!). It’s crazy that we are this lucky. Last week I ran into a woman from the bigger town a half-hour away picking up for all the (wealthier) folk there who participate—they take turns sending someone to pick up. I just have to drive about a mile and a half. Once, we even skied it.

357/365/Happy Free-for-All (but not for vegans)

Stir together 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Beat in 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, 4 ounces smoked bluefish* (skin discarded, fish chopped), and ¼–½ teaspoon pepper with a spoon until combined well. If you like, stir in 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives. Serve with crackers.

*or smoked trout

Friday, December 21, 2018

356/365/Happy Free-for-All

My 365ing group: Kim, Susan, Sabine/Maureen, Dona/Cedar Waxwing, Linda/Mali, Helen, Bridgett/Vesper Sparrow/Sally Bridge. Simpatico.

355/365/Happy Free-for-All

My neighborhood walking group: Rhonda, Sarah, Deb, Martha. Simpatico.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

354/365/Happy Free-for-All

Low-key ladies night at the farm down the road last night was lovely, chill. One of the male persuasion did show up—their little dog, Paul. An older but still spry gentleman, Paul was perfectly happy to let me have my way with him, despite my love-them-then-leave-them ways.

353/365/Happy Free-for-All

I went back to the ice rink. This time I shared it with about ten other people, all of whom were better skaters than I will ever be. All but one—he was probably three years old at most, just getting the hang of things, taking sudden clown spills from a standstill.

352/365/Happy Free-for-All

I believe that shortbread is nature’s perfect food, and it turns out that my co-worker, Sam, is one of the best shortbread bakers in the world. Our begging resulted in her baking two for another co-worker’s birthday: one topped with some crushed peppermint, the other with a layer of Ghiradelli peppermint bark baked into a middle layer. I worried that these flavors might detract from the perfection of her shortbread, but reader, they did not.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

351/365/Happy Free-for-All

I went to the ice rink for the first time this season. I almost didn’t go because public skate is from 1:00 to 3:00 now, and maybe a school group would be there and if it would be crowded, and it was cold and miserable outside and I wasn’t sure that I was up to exercising in the cold, and it was almost 2:00 already so I might not get my 45 minutes in by the time I got on the ice, but the rink’s been open almost two months already and will close in another two, so I figured I’d drive by and check out the scene. There weren’t many cars in the parking lot. No buses. I went in, and there was one other guy on the ice. And the guy who seemed to be in charge of the rink was really cute. So I paid admission, put on long undies, laced up my skates, and practically had the rink to myself for 40 minutes (alone for the last 15). Given that all I can do on skates is skate forward, it almost seems wrong that someone like me should occasionally have a private rink, but I have to admit: It’s fun.

350/365/Happy Free-for-All

When we walked by our neighbors’ house on Tim’s birthday, Emma and Anton were out, and I mentioned it was Tim’s birthday, and their faces filled with joy and they threw themselves upon him with hugs, and I found myself wishing that people could have/maintain that kind of unselfconscious spontaneous joy for always in their lives.

349/365/Happy Free-for-All

Our neighbor found herself in possession of a bottle of 1995 Lafite Rothschild, which she had been wanting to share with us and one other couple, so for Tim’s birthday we had them all over, and he made osso bucco, and the other neighbors brought several fine Italian wines. The Lafite was special indeed (although I can’t imagine the coin one would have to have to legitimize purchasing something like this). We will likely never sip another one, and we were so honored that it was shared with us and among such wonderful friends.

348/365/Happy Free-for-All

It’s been a tough year, but a pretty good live music year for me, especially given my limited time: Rachael and Vilray, kd Lang, Nicole Atkins, the Decemberists, Flanders Quartet, Courtney Barnett, STIG, lots of Hoagy Carmichael coverage at the jazzfest in Bloomington (where I developed a crush on Janiece Jaffe’s voice), Dayna Kurtz, Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Mary Elaine Jenkins/Lula Wiles, Frank Fotusky—some of these in small, intimate venues. Don’t know someone? Look them up!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

347/365/Happy Free-for-All

A nearby town puts up speed-reading signs, showing if you’re going above/at/below the speed limit as you approach, flashing at you if you’re speeding. In December, they change the flashing red warning to “Naughty” and the green, nonflashing, limit-or-below message to “Nice.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

346/365/Happy Free-for-All

Ever since I heard that monkeys peel bananas from the bottom, not the top, I do it that way. (I have never checked to see if that’s actually true.) I think it is easier to peel bananas this way. And the thing is, when I peel bananas, I peel a bunch at a time, because after I peel them, I break them up and freeze them in smaller pieces, because almost every morning Tim and I have a frozen-banana–based shake (with other fruit and soy milk or coconut milk, peanut butter, etc.). But when I do that—i.e., peel bananas from the bottom—I discover the downside: the underneath of my thumbnail, which digs into that base, becomes completely black, and it—i.e., the thumbnail—isn’t as easy to clean as one might think. Maybe you should all try it, dear monkey friends—and report back.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

345/365/Happy Free-for-All

I got a massage.

Monday, December 10, 2018

344/365/Happy Free-for-All

Even though we will probably get to Maryland and Pennsylvania to visit relatives over the holidays, I decided to mail all the presents, just in case. This year all the families are getting a basket filled with DarnTough socks and a half-pint of Parts West maple syrup—a Vermont care package. Yes, they’re socks, but they’re the best socks. (And they cost enough that I hope they go appreciated or that they send them back to ME.) Anyway, I mailed them today. So it’s done. So I’m happy. And I hope they will arrive at their destinations, which will make me even happier.

343/365/Happy Free-for-All

Emma and Anton and their dad Petr stopped by our house to see if we wanted to go to the firehouse breakfast with them and see Santa and they showed us their Christmas caps and a glow-stick necklace and played with the roller shade on the front door that sometimes snaps up well and sometimes doesn’t but did for them but we had already had breakfast so I went upstairs to my calendar and penciled in next month’s breakfast because I always forget about the breakfast and miss it and next month maybe we can go with them.

342/365/Happy Free-for-All

Tim and I took a walk on the rail trail and he gathered milkweed and cornstalk and other wispy weeds to place in the Van Gogh–looking vase under the cowboy painting that we put under the fragrant wreath he bought at market, and he ran white lights through the whole of it and that will likely be the extent of our holiday décor this year.*

*Which means Helen’s pickle ornament may not make appearance. Ooops, I didn’t mean to go sad on this post.

341/365/Happy Free-for-All

Our office holiday party included a lovely dinner out (there are just eight of us), then a rousing Secret Santa exchange. A couple of my co-workers added a twist: Wrap your gift and put it a brown paper bag. Each person opens one present. There’s a score card, on which you record who you think gave what to whom. The winner gets a gift card to a local eating establishment. I joked in advance that I’d likely get more points if I wrote down my to/from (2) but then guessed that each gift was for me (2 more). Turns out I was right, as I scored a mere 3 points. But as terrible as I was at it, I had to admit it was fun.

Friday, December 7, 2018

340/365/Happy Free-for-All

I went to book group for the first time in thirteen months, and the book was treecentric, so Elizabeth brought acorns she’d gathered from her woods and placed them at each place setting, and I said that when I was a kid we’d use the caps to make shrill whistle sounds, and none of them had ever heard of that and they asked me to demonstrate, as Julie’s cap had fallen off her acorn, and I said flatter caps were best, and the one I was handed was decidedly not flat, which I joked would be my excuse if I couldn’t do it, but after a few tries I got it, and everyone was very impressed.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

339/365/Happy Free-for-All

On my way to work, around the spot we call Corvid Corners, a flock of twentythirtyish birds (“‘Is it a starling or a blackbird?’ said Pooh. ‘That’s the whole question,’ said Rabbit. ‘Is it a blackbird or a starling?’”) rose up and flew just above and just ahead of my car, following the curve of the road, just at a place that I could watch them and still keep my eye on the two cars ahead of me and any potential oncoming traffic, so it felt like I was following them, almost flying too, but not quite. And then they veered off.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

338/365/Happy Free-for-All

When I get to Portland, I try to remember to stuff my coat pocket with dollar bills before I go out. There are plenty of homeless people on the street asking for money, and I won’t open up my purse once I’m out there.

On Friday, I gave a man a couple of bucks, but he tried to get me to stay for conversation. I told him I had someplace to be, which was only half true. He told me I looked like a prominent person. I assured him I was not. He asked me if I remembered when I was young and I would hear a voice telling me to do something. I thought I knew what he was getting at and said Maybe. He said, Always listen to that voice. I told him it was hard to do. But he repeated it. And I told him it was good advice.

That pushed me in a direction I was headed in anyway. A friend of mine (the one whose shirt we stole) published a self-help book last year. I bought it, I read it, but I wasn’t connecting to it the way I should, given what I know about her. I couldn’t turn off my copyeditor side completely and was aware of that—little things bothered me. And I had to pick it up/put it down, and I lost the thread a little. And did I mention it’s a self-help book? (subtitle: discovering the finest, truest place within you)

Not long after, she recorded it, and I knew I would eventually want to listen to it, in her voice. I was sure—at least I hoped—it would be a completely different experience for me. Amazon has been sending me Audible free-trial offers, and at last, with the homeless guy’s voice in my head and the determination for this to be a month to write about happy things and get into a happier place, I got my free download of Anna’s book.

I’ve listened to it during two workouts now, and so far, I’m loving it. So much of that is hearing her ideas in her voice. I’ll let you know when I finish, but I’d recommend the listen.

Monday, December 3, 2018

337/365/Happy Free-for-All

In September I wrote a letter to one of my authors, Bob, who writes charming letters, another man who refuses to enter the computer age, but a few weeks later the letter came back to me, and I checked with a co-worker to make sure I had the address right, same as in the membership file, and they indeed matched, and Bob doesn’t have e-mail but I just couldn’t bring myself to dial his number because I was frankly afraid he had died too, and for awhile I checked the obituaries, but there was nothing, and I think the reason I didn’t call was because I couldn’t take the news of one more person gone, but today, when I went to work because another friend/author, Peter, was dropping a painting at the museum, Peter arrived, and Sara looked out and said, “I think Bob is with him,” and he was with Peter, so Bob is not dead (he said the mail’s been a problem since he’d had it forwarded to Maine all summer), and Bob’s not-deadness made me extraordinarily happy today, plus in the past he’s sent me articles about John Prine and Neil Young and other musicians, so I got to tell him that I was finally going to see the Rolling Stones, and he told me that the last time he went to see the Rolling Stones…well, of course, he’s seen them multiple times. Of course.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

336/365/Happy Free-for-All

Thanks to an 18-year-old friend who could wait out the phone lines, I am now in possession of two tickets to see the Rolling Stones <insert possessed-sixtieslike-chick-jumping-and-screaming here>!

335/365/Happy Free-for-All

While they were working, Diane told Tim about the great black hawk in Deering Park, so on our way out of town we stopped there, thinking we wouldn’t even getting a parking spot, but we did, and even before we turned into the park proper I told Tim I saw something the size of a turkey standing on the ground by a tree, and sure enough there were birders all around it, keeping respectful distance, of course, and we only had to get out and park and set up our scope—on the other side of the bird from the bulk of birders—and we could watch this rarity from Central/South America tear apart his meal of squirrel.