I’m coming back home tomorrow, to 14th Street

There are a few things they don’t tell you when you start working in a newsroom.

First off, it looks NOTHING like this. NO ONE WEARS TIES!

First off, it looks NOTHING like this. NO ONE WEARS TIES!

They don’t tell you you’ll probably be scraping by, pay-wise.

They don’t tell you that your work doesn’t exactly end when you leave the building.

They don’t tell you your news-brain will get turned on and you are always thinking news news NEWS. Do we need this? If so, only on the website, or in the paper? Does it need to hit social media immediately or can it wait a bit? Is it going to cause a rash of insane comments on social media, and do we have someone who can police those for the next few hours? Did we already have this yesterday? What do you MEAN, we covered this last week? Are you sure? Then why does the local news have it today as if it’s new? Is this on one of the feeds we can use? No, Buzzfeed isn’t reputable. No, we can’t use that. No, seriously, I mean it, stop that.

They don’t tell you that you’ll be really, REALLY tired. Like, almost all the time. It’s amazing any newsing gets done with how tired the staff of our news organizations are.

They also don’t tell you, however, you will love this job so much you don’t MIND the above. That you’ll work those extra minutes that add up to extra hours and not even notice you’ve done it. That you work through the exhaustion. (Especially on election night, which never, ever ends. I might still be working last election night, is how long that night lasts.) That the news part of your brain being turned on all the time is actually something you’ll like. That your teeny-tiny paycheck’s tough to handle, but since you’re working insane hours, when would you have time to spend that money, anyway? Mostly you’re spending it on fast food and your cell phone bill anyway.

You kind of put your head down and work and work and work, and then on your days off sometimes you work from a distance and try to run a few errands and sleep and sleep and sleeeeep. You kind of forget there’s an outside world except you see it a little on television. It looks nice. There’s sunshine and people seem to fall in love a lot there. How do they find the time? It’s utterly perplexing.

HOWEVER! Sometimes a magical thing comes up that reminds me that there is, surprisingly enough, life outside of work! And I can take advantage of it! Yes! IT IS TRUE!

Many moons ago, when I was just a baby blogger, I came across the lovely Lisa, who was (and remains) one of the funniest people I’d ever (virtually) met. She introduced me to many other amazing bloggers and we were quite the little blogging community, for a while, until the world moved on (as it does, especially on the internet, which tends to move faster than you’d think.)

However, we have kept in touch and have had many good times over on Twitter and on the Book of Faces and I did warn her once that I was going to come visit her in Texas via hopping a train, as if I was a hobo, with a bindle over one shoulder and probably a hat with a patch on it. I have always wanted to visit Texas, where things are supposedly bigger, and in some places weirder, even though sometimes the politics there scare me.

Me & my hobo lifestyle, yo.

Last week, Lisa sent me a message that she’d be in New York City soon. Well! This is MUCH better and less-likely to end in me being stabmurdered than me hopping a hobo train! So after some finagling (ok, finagling really just involved me asking my wonderful supervisor, “Can I have this date off?” and her saying, “You got it!” because my coworkers are the best EVER) I am set and prepared to meet Lisa in REALLY REAL LIFE. Eeee!

I have, stupidly, moved a zillion miles away from New York City. I moved in exactly the wrong direction. It used to take me a little under 3 hours to get there; now it will take me about 6. My options are a long drive and a reasonable train ride or a short drive and a VERY LONG bus ride. There are pros and cons to each of these options. I have about a month to decide which of them I’ll choose, so I’m not rushing that yet. It’s not like it matters, because at the end will be Lisa!

We have already decided there will be many shenanigans, no matter what we decide to do while we are there. We’ve known each other virtually for…oh, almost three and a half years now? It’s high time for some face-time shenanigans. We will be bringing Andreas along in spirit, because the only thing that could make this trip better would be having Andreas along for the ride. Lisa thought maybe he could create a wormhole and travel to New York to be with us with that since he is, after all, Lucy’s Football’s Science Fellow, but I’ve asked and he said it wasn’t feasable. SIGH, SCIENCE! Letting us all down!

One should never go too far without one's Science Fellow. Who knows when you'd need to science? Without him there, you'd be bereft!

One should never go too far without one’s Science Fellow. Who knows when you’d need to science? Without him there, you’d be bereft! (Also, having spent substantial time with Andreas over the last couple of years, I can tell you he is one of the best humans in the world…but he’ll deny that because he is also VERY humble.)

So: yes. For the most part, I couldn’t be happier to be an underpaid, overworked employee of the best newspaper in Northern New York* (*fine, I might be a little biased, but I’m also right.) But it’s also nice (better than nice) to have a little life to look forward to after this very long, very slow-death winter is close to over with. New York City in the spring is filled with singular magic. It couldn’t be more perfect for meeting one of the most magical people I know.

Happy weekend, people. May you all have happy thoughts and wonderful friends and favorite places to pull you through long, gray, seemingly endless winters.

Oh – and shenanigans. May you always, always have shenanigans. Or what’s it all about, otherwise?


How to make enemies and alienate people

We’ve discussed here before how to win social media, both on Facebook and Twitter. Most of the advice boils down to Wheaton’s Law, which is:

Surprisingly, this is very, very difficult for a lot of people. I’m not sure if this is because they truly like being dickish, or they don’t REALIZE they’re being dickish, or it’s too hard to think, so therefore they just say whatever crosses their minds the minute they sit down at a keyboard…but whatever the reason is, the dicks seem to outnumber the people with something real and helpful to say online, most specifically in the comment sections.

Most people I know are, for good reason, aware that if you read an article online, you don’t, under any circumstances, read the comment section. Why? Well. Because here be dragons, of course.

For every kind, helpful and relevant comment online, you have to wade through people being racist, sexist, or just downright weird, and it starts to turn your stomach and despair for the human race.

But what about if you CAN’T avoid the comments? What if it’s your job to be the one to POLICE the comments?

I will never not love this guy. FAVORITE POLTICIAN EVER!

I will never not love this guy. FAVORITE POLITICIAN EVER!

One of the aspects of my current job is social media. Five days a week, I’m in charge of the work Facebook page and Twitter account (along with my other multitudinous tasks, of course. I’m a busy bee. But I am a HAPPY busy bee, so there’s that, then.) I not only schedule the posts our readers see, I’m in charge of reading their comments for a few reasons – to see what they’re saying (it might come in handy in the future); to see if there are problems (sometimes they tell us about typos/errors in the article or on the site, which we can hopefully quickly fix); and to make sure things aren’t getting off-topic or squirrelly.

Things often get off-topic and squirrelly.

Twitter isn’t bad, only because people in this area don’t use Twitter as much as I wish they did. (It’s a great resource for a newspaper – we can get the news out almost immediately and have a constant stream of it going to our readers. It just hasn’t taken off around here like it has in more populated regions. I think it will, eventually; we’re just late adopters.) The people who follow us on Twitter are respectful and polite, for the most part, and I never feel like I’m wading into The Princess Bride‘s Fire Swamp when I check our Twitter page.

fireswamp

The Facebook page, however, is a very different beast.

Now, please don’t go into this thinking I don’t appreciate – and even enjoy – a vast majority of our commenters. We’d be nowhere without our readers, and I love that they’re out there and paying attention.

It’s the fringe contingent that worries me. And keep me busy hiding their comments. And sometimes shaking my head and thinking, “oh, I don’t…oh, oh no.”

SO. For those people, I’d like to give you a quick list of pointers. You are very quick to complain when your comments disappear, vocally and angrily; you are very quick to shout “CENSORSHIP!” and “THANKS, OBAMA!” when you think you’ve been silenced. Hopefully, this will help you navigate the waters of our social media more successfully.

HOW TO NOT BE A DICK ON PUBLIC SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES

  • Watch your language. I don’t know if you’re aware, but Facebook has a helpful function for those of us that moderate a public page. We can choose to have comments with swear words immediately hidden, so only we can see them. We very much utilize this function, as we have every intention of being a public page, and the last thing we want is some hapless child stumbling upon you cussing the hell out of a news story. Also, you kiss your mother with that mouth? Good grief, yo.
  • Stay on topic. Of course, there’s leeway here. I’m not saying there’s one path to greatness, people. But if we put up a post about, say, a fundraiser picnic, and you start rambling on about how angry you are that there are so many mosquitoes this year and there’s no global warming because of that LIAR AL GORE!, that’s just confusing and you might be a conspiracy-crazy. I’m not saying I’m blocking it, but people are going to think you’re a looney.

    Except for you, Mulder. You can comment any old time.

    Except for you, Mulder. You can comment any old time.

  • Remember: since it’s a public page, everyone on your timeline, as well as anyone in the world, can see what you’ve said, and hover over your icon and see your profile. It’s just the way Facebook is set up, my little chickadees. You give up your anonymity when you comment on a public page. If you’ve got your page locked down, when they go to look at you, they won’t see much…but you’re still not anonymous. Your name is there. EVERYONE NOW KNOWS YOUR NAME. And your comment shows up in your friends’ newsfeed. I have a friend of a friend who’s very involved with commenting on social media sites. Every time he comments on our paper, my friend says, “I see So-and-So commented on your work Facebook page again!” Everyone’s seeing what you say. Keep that in mind when you comment. If you’re not being a jerk, you have nothing to worry about. If you are, however…well, your mom’s probably seeing that (assuming your mom has Facebook. My mom doesn’t. I’m one of the lucky few.) Do you want your mom seeing that? Are you sure?
  • Personal insults? Really? What grade are you in? We have had to take down entire posts because people randomly started insulting the other commenters, the people in the article, random politicians (seriously, if I never see another non-ironic “THANKS, OBAMA!” it’ll be too soon), and, in one weird thread, God. (Yes, some guy started really insulting God, like, over and over. SO MAD AT GOD.) That counts as off-topic, and it counts as just downright mean, people. STOP IT. I get it. You are filled with all of the hatred. You are ready to explode like a hatred volcano. Sometimes *I* am the target of the hatred volcano. Sometimes my beloved coworkers who wrote the articles are (and it takes every bit of my precarious self-control to not respond with a very biting “WE ARE RUBBER YOU ARE GLUE!” rebuttal, because when it comes to my coworkers, I am such a Momma Bear.) But if you go too far, I’m hiding your comments, buckaroo. I don’t like meanness. I don’t like the idea that people are walking around with a stomachache because someone was mean to them for no reason on our social media. Make a new plan, Stan, and screw off home.

    Oh, is THIS who's to blame. UGH THANKS OBAMA

    Oh, is THIS who’s to blame. UGH THANKS OBAMA

  • Why you gotta be so dirty? SO MUCH NAUGHTINESS. I’m immediately hiding your comments saying female politicians got to where they are “on their knees” or that the local taco place sells “fish tacos that remind me of my ex-girlfriend.” Seriously? What are you hoping to accomplish with this comment? Like, cracking up your friends with a “HEE HEE DIRTY COMMENT ON A PUBLIC SITE?” or “UNGH I AM SO SEXY THIS IS LIKE AN OBSCENE PHONE CALL FOR *EVERYONE*!” I don’t even know. I have ALMOST the least tolerance for this. The LEAST tolerance is saved for…
  • On my watch? No racist, sexist, homophobic comments. Not going to happen. Don’t even try. And if they happen when the other people I work with are on social media, I’ll sometimes randomly check and hide your comments EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT WORKING. Yeah, you heard me right. I FEEL SO STRONGLY ABOUT THIS, I DO THAT SHIT FOR FREE, YO. You don’t get to have a public forum to spew your hatred. Sorry. I know, right, FREE SPEECH? Well, we run the page, and you lost your right to free speech when you commented on it. We have the right to moderate. And until the day my fingers fall off, I will not allow you to put hate speech on our site.
  • Acting too cool for school is actually the stupidest thing ever. We get a lot of “who cares?” or “slow news day” comments. Did you really take time out of your day to write that? Actual time you could have been spending on something else? YOU obviously care, because you took that time out of your day. And no, it’s not a “slow news day.” There’s no such thing. If we posted the article, we think someone can benefit from reading it; if it doesn’t resonate with you, maybe…oh, I don’t know, don’t feel like you have to comment? It’s not like you have to comment on everything. No! Really! You don’t have to! I know, freeing, right?
  • Maybe spell/grammar check? I’m a little more stringent about this than others. I hate ALL typos. It’s what I do for a living; you can’t really blame me. Most people don’t care if you make a few. But I’m talking about the people who write a comment like “For teh all people eat fodo there waffles, good yunger.” I don’t…what does this mean? Do you even know what it means? Is it a puzzle? If I solve it, what do I win? (Is it waffles? That’s a worthy prize. I’ll take it.)
  • Don’t try to sell me a car. We randomly get a Ugandan businessman who spams about 15 of our posts with a huge long “CARS FOR SALE!” comment. We block him; he comes back in another incarnation about a month later. We’re going to keep blocking you, buddy. No one wants your used Buicks. And how would they even GET here from Uganda? Logistical nightmare.

These all seem common sense, right? Yeah, you’d be surprised. If you’re looking at the comment section of a public site, know that most likely, even though your blood pressure is up? Most of the worst comments HAVE ALREADY BEEN TAKEN DOWN. I know. Humbling, right?

So the next time you’re going to comment on a public page, take a deep breath, think, “Is this a dick move? Should I do this? Am I building someone up, or knocking someone down? Do I have a valid point? Is there even any REASON for me to make this comment?” If you can answer all of your questions and still look yourself in the eye in the mirror…you are welcome! Comment away! If not…maybe start a blog where you can say what you want, with no fear of The Powers That Be shutting you down.

...or you'll make Ron Swanson annoyed. You don't want to make Ron Swanson annoyed. Trust me.

…or you’ll make Ron Swanson annoyed. You don’t want to make Ron Swanson annoyed. Trust me.

And, to those of you with actual, helpful, intelligent comments to make? THANK YOU. You make my day/month/year. Keep on keepin’ on, you guys. You make what we do worthwhile.


That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird

So, the biggest news of the week, publishing-wise, is that Nelle Harper Lee, the beloved author of To Kill a Mockingbird, will have a new book coming out in mid-July. Go Set a Watchman is supposedly the book Lee submitted before submitting Mockingbird, and follows Scout as an adult, going back to the small town that shaped her. Cassie wrote a beautiful piece about the upcoming release, and asked that I write about my thoughts about the release, and I told her I was scattery (as I am!) but I’d been thinking about it a lot this week. I didn’t think I had it in me to write a whole post about it, but started writing…and here we are.

I’ve talked about this before (probably ad nauseum) but Mockingbird is, most sincerely, one of my favorite and most formative books. I think it’s the same for so many people. We want to be (and hope we are, deep down) Atticus; we identify with tough little scrappy Scout; our collective hearts break for Boo. Some of the most beautiful lines in literature come from the book…

“Atticus said to Jem one day, ‘I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. ‘Your father’s right,’ she said. ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’”

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” 

His lips parted into a timid smile, and our neighbor’s image blurred with my sudden tears.
“Hey, Boo,” I said.
“Mr. Arthur, honey,” said Atticus, gently correcting me. “Jean Louise, this is Mr. Arthur Radley. I believe he already knows you.”

“Atticus put his face in my hair and rubbed it. When he got up and walked across the porch into the shadows, his youthful step had returned. Before he went inside the house, he stopped in front of Boo Radley. ‘Thank you for my children, Arthur,’ he said.”

 And in looking for these online to get the wording exactly right, I teared up at the power of them. It’s been so long since I read the book for the first time – I don’t even remember the first time I met the Finches, honestly, whether it was in high school or early in college – and I’m still moved to tears by the simple beauty in Lee’s words.

I’ve read the book more times than I can count; I held off on watching the movie because I didn’t think it could possibly have the power of the book, but oh, was I wrong. Gregory Peck was Atticus Finch. His calm authority gave me chills. I saw a beautiful production of a theatrical version of it a couple of years ago which moved me to tears; the actor who played Atticus gave the most beautiful reading of “Thank you for my children, Arthur,” perfectly tear-choked and stiff-upper-lipped, and I audibly sobbed in the theater. (I wasn’t alone in that.)

All of this to say, when a friend posted that Go Set a Watchman was going to be published in July, my heart jumped. Of course it did. These characters have become my family over the years. A book showing me what happened to them? A book following Scout into adulthood, giving us a peek at Jem, seeing if they’ve kept in touch with Dill, letting us know if Atticus has kept his idealism with everyone around him trying to beat it out of him, letting us know if Mayella turned out alright? How can I not want that?

Then news started coming out that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t what Lee wanted.

Short version: Everyone knows that Mockingbird was Lee’s only book. She’s been a bit of a recluse ever since – not Salinger-level, or anything, but not going around the world singing “I WROTE MOCKINGBIRD, WHOO-HOO, LOOK AT ME!” (And side note, there have been rumors for years that her dear friend Truman Capote actually wrote Mockingbird – because of course a woman couldn’t have written something that luminescent, and she never followed up on it, so WHAT IS SHE HIDING? And then there are other rumors that Lee wrote Capote’s In Cold Blood, so how about we just assume they each wrote their own books and let people have their successes as neither of them have, that I know of, ever accused the other of nefariousness?)

Her sister was her lawyer for years, until she recently passed away. Lee has had a stroke and, by most reports, isn’t of sound mind. Her sister was very protective of her, and it’s come up that it’s very suspicious that this long-lost manuscript has suddenly surfaced upon her death. People are saying she’d sign anything anyone put in front of her these days, and without her sister to look out for her, she just might have signed off on a book she never wanted published. It’s a savvy move from the publisher – the book was announced just a few days ago, and is currently #5 on Amazon’s pre-order list of Contemporary Fiction and#10 in the Kindle Store for Contemporary Fiction. And Mockingbird? #1 with a bullet, baby. Topping the list currently on Amazon in the Kindle Store for Literary Fiction, #1 in Literature and Fiction in the United States, and #1 in Legal Fiction. Take THAT, John Grisham! I’m not saying, if this is true, it’s not a completely slimy move…but financially, it’s savvy.

She's kind of adorable, right? I want her to be my neighbor. I want to hang out with her and talk about birds and crocheting and words, words, words.

She’s kind of adorable, right? I want her to be my neighbor. I want to hang out with her and talk about birds and crocheting and words, words, words.

So what’s a reader to do?

There’s no way I couldn’t read this book. I have to. Everyone’s going to be reading it. It’s going to be like when the last Harry Potter book was released and I couldn’t go three feet without seeing someone with that gigantic book in their hands because they didn’t want to go even minutes without reading it. This is going to be a global discussion when it comes out. A global discussion about a book? How can I not be part of that? And the sheer fact that more people are reading Mockingbird – how can I not love that? But I’m torn. What if Lee – this woman who introduced me to Atticus and Jem and Scout and Dill and Boo – didn’t want this book flying around in the wild? What if it’s not up to her standards and that’s why it hasn’t been released until now? Don’t I owe more to this woman who’s been such a force in my life, whose given me so much? None of us will ever really know what she wants, will we? Do we let the book speak for itself?

Yes. Of course I’ll read it. And I have the highest hopes that seeing all of my old friends again, these people that I consider family, will be everything that I hope it will be. I will talk to my most beloved readers about it and we will discuss and argue and fight over our favorite lines and characters and it will be glorious.

And I will hope in my heart of hearts that my beloved Nelle Harper Lee, even if she didn’t want the book released, will understand that I’m reading the book out of love. I’m being given another chance to see people I love. How can I say no to that?

It’s just that it feels a little like killing a mockingbird.


A not-so-sweet saga

Let me preface this by saying, there are a few things in the world I am very good at, and I *know* I am very good at them.

I think we all have these things. Like, your thing might be painting, or you always seem to pick the best books out of the library even though you know nothing about them like you have the best radar at it, or you just know which line in the grocery store will move most quickly even if it’s not the one with the fewest people in it.

We’re brought up to hide our lights under bushels. Bragging is seen as wrong and rude. Well, I say fie on that. If you have weird talents, CELEBRATE THEM. Sing your praises to the high heavens about your weird talents! It’s not like anyone else is going to do it!

I am passing average at a lot of things, I am downright terrible at MOST things, but I am very good at a few things. Those things are:

  • somehow winning people (and animals) over with my quirky charm and making them laugh even when I’m not trying to (ok, the laughing only applies to the humans, here, and I guess it might apply to hyenas but I don’t know any hyenas);
  • crocheting (I know, this is totally my apocalypse skill, I can make you all very warm blankets);
  • shopping for the best, most appropriate gifts for my loved ones for special occasions, and
  • baking cookies.

My mother taught me the crocheting and the baking when I was young and I randomly carried these skills over with me into adulthood. I think the winning-people-over thing came from Dad. We’re very good at being sociable, even though we don’t like it much. No idea where the shopping thing came from. Guess that’s all me.

I taught myself cookie-making tricks. There was a lot of trial-and-error. I learned things like good ingredients really do make all the difference, and that parchment paper saves the bottom of cookies and makes them look like restaurant cookies and you need to check on the cookies quite often to make sure you take them out of the oven at JUST THE RIGHT TIME! and refrigerating the dough beforehand stops them from spreading too much so you don’t have these weird flat crunchy too-thin cookies. There were a lot of fails. But sometimes, fails lead to wins.

DELICIOUS WINS.

I promise I never look like this. I'm usually covered in flour and/or chocolate and who has time to curl their hair? Good grief.

I promise I never look like this. I’m usually covered in flour and/or chocolate and who has time to curl their hair? Good grief.

I have a number of tried-and-true cookie recipes that I fall back on time and time again. Every now and then, I’ll find five more or so, and try them all, and if they work out, I’ll add one or two more to the repertoire, but mostly I make the following:

  • Chocolate Rads (these are the most labor-intensive cookies you can imagine, and involve melting chocolate and a double-boiler and letting the dough rest in the refrigerator until it’s a rock-hard chocolate block and making them into little balls by hand until you’re so covered with chocolate you look like maybe you’ve murdered someone that works at Hershey but it’s SO WORTH IT because they taste like brownies mixed with cookies and also have espresso in them so they make you VERY SPEEDY)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies (but before you’re all “duh, who can’t make these, mine are like the ones you get in restaurants, only better, and involve many steps, very expensive chocolate, and Paula-Deen-esque levels of butter)
  • Rum Balls (I only make these for BFF, because he loves them to distraction, and even getting too close to them gives you a contact high, whoo!)
  • Maple Shortbread (imagine the butteriest shortbread ever, but it tastes like maple syrup. But not so much that it gives you a sugar high. Just enough that it’s like a hint of pancakes. AMAZINGNESS)
  • Anisette Toast (forget the Anisette Toast you can get in the store that’s all stale and crunchy; this is moist and licoricey and slightly sweet and very dense)
  • Peanut Butter Kisses (yeah, I know, boring, but they’re Dad’s favorite, and whenever I’m bringing cookies home, he says, “I wonder if there will be any of those cookies with the kisses in the middle because they’re really the only good ones,” so it’s not like I CAN’T make them)
  • Nutella Cupcakes (these things frost themselves with Nutella. They’re like magic. MAGIC, I TELL YOU!)
  • Gooey Butter Cookies (these are embarrassingly good and involve a ton of cream cheese and butter and a box of cake mix. Don’t ask. They are chemically delicious heart attacks.)

I know I can go back to these time and time again and they’ll work out well. I’ve made them over and over; I know the quirks of the recipes and I know they’re crowd-pleasers. (I like to be the one that brings the best thing to a potluck. I like people to say, “YOU MUST GIVE ME THIS RECIPE.” I like to hear from across a room “who made these cookies?” when their mouth is FULL of the cookies and it’s like they’re having a mouthgasm. These things are really pleasing to me. I like the plate to be empty when the night is over, even if it means I don’t get to bring home leftovers.)

This is all leading up to an EPIC FAIL. Stick with me.

So. In news of things that are out of the ordinary…I was invited to a party. A REAL PARTY THAT IS OUTSIDE OF MY HOUSE.

You know my theory about parties, right? That theory is no, hell no, OH hell no, and I think I have to wash my hair all night long sorry nope uh-uh nope nope NOOOOOPE.

To add to this, it is a SUPERBOWL PARTY. This is a party REVOLVING AROUND SPORTSBALL.

However, sometimes things happen that are out of your control, like, the party is being thrown by one of your most favorite humans, who has been so kind to you the entire time you’ve been new in town, and makes you laugh so hard you sometimes almost cry, and one time you yelled at this person because you were having a REALLY BAD MOMENT and it was forgiven, like, immediately? And some of your favorite work people will be at the party, so really, how bad can it be? And the fact that you were invited at all was SO, SO NICE? And there will be food there! Delicious snacky sportsballing food! And you’ll just have gotten out of work and you’ll be starving and all that delicious food will be there and your work friends will be there happy to see you!

So I grudgingly said, “So, I was thinking of going to your party” and got a “YES YOU SHOULD COME!” response so how could I not go, you know?

So we were all asked to bring something. Of course, cookies, I mean, it’s not like I’m going to bring a meatloaf. (Yes, I make a kickass meatloaf, but that’s not the point, because that’s not really the thing you bring to a party. It seems like an odd thing to bring along. “HEY HI THANKS FOR THE INVITE I BROUGHT THE LOAF OF MEAT,” you know?)

No, not YOU, Meatloaf. Put that madface away.

No, not YOU, Meatloaf. Put that madface away.

So! I got up early. I was out of baking soda, of all things. I ran to the store. OUT OF BAKING SODA. Another store. OUT OF BAKING SODA. (SIDE NOTE: is this a thing used to make the drugs? Why are so many stores out of baking soda, of all things? There’s a lot of meth being made here. Are people using baking soda to make meth? I suppose I could look that up, but then Time Warner might think I was a drug addict on top of a terrorist.)

HOLY CRAP! Does anyone KNOW about this? I JUST CURED CANCER BY USING THE PAST!

HOLY CRAP! Does anyone KNOW about this? I JUST CURED CANCER BY USING THE PAST!

So I finally got the baking soda and I came home and did a million things and then it was cookie-making time and I made the dough and and and…

…somehow, it did not work.

It wasn’t dough. It was sand. There was not enough liquid. I followed the recipe to the letter. I thought, oh, well, I will cook them. Maybe that will help. NO! They turned out like little rock-hard hockey pucks. Little chocolate-studded hockey pucks. I thought, “maybe they will be ok?” but after they cooled I’m pretty sure they could have been used as weapons if hurled at an intruder. You cannot bring these sorts of things to a party. Well, you could, but you’d get a lot of fake faces and “oh! Aren’t THESE good!” and I can’t even deal with such things.

I would take a photo but you can’t tell from looking at them that they are filling-destroying cookies. They just look like cookies. It’s misleading.

So. 9pm. ANOTHER BATCH OF COOKIES. The solution seemed to be COMPLETELY MELTING THE BUTTER. This has never been an issue before, I have no idea why this time the recipe decided to be so touchy.

You will be pleased to know the second batch is lovely and not at all too hard. Just right. Something I’ll be proud to arrive at the party with. (Whew.)

The moral of the story is: even if you are very, very good at something, sometimes you can fail.

Doesn’t mean you can’t shout from the rooftops how good you are at it. Just means that sometimes you have to scramble to do it over again when it fails.

(And you have an extra batch of VERY HARD, yet very chocolately and still edible, if you work at it, cookies, all for you. So, not a total loss, then.)

Wish me luck, jellybeans. Go go sportsball teams. Win kick run. Fully inflate your balls. Rah rah sis boom bah.

ME AT THE PARTY. Note that I'm not paying attention to the sportsballing. But I WILL be eating all the foods. YUM.

ME AT THE PARTY. Note that I’m not paying attention to the sportsballing. But I WILL be eating all the foods. YUM.


Confessions of a night owl

I’ve always been a bit of a late-night junkie.

When people in my family hit puberty, we lose the ability to sleep. It’s like clockwork, really. HORMONES BAM WHY DO YOU NEED SLEEP? It’s impossible to FALL asleep, and once you’re there, you have to be very, very careful to STAY asleep, because once you wake up, all bets are off. You might get an hour’s sleep, or six hours, but if you wake up too much, there’s no falling back to sleep. Or you might wake fully up for no reason at 3 a.m. and there you have it, then! That’s all the sleep you need! (It’s not. Not at all. You’re sleepwalking all day and you yell at people, and sometimes walls and/or your own feet for being stumbly.)

My grandmother and great-aunt never used their beds because why bother? They slept in their recliners with the televisions on. That way, they figured, if they woke up, they could at least watch some fine late-night television. My dad’s currently getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night. That’s actually quite a bit for him.

(Ironically, Mom sleeps like the dead. She’s in bed every night by 9 and up by 4-5 a.m. and she’s one of those “I’m up, let’s sing songs of little BIRDIES!” people that make you want to throw things. Talk about opposites attracting.)

A normal 9-5 workday never worked out for me. I hate alarms. I hate getting up early. I hate going to bed before I’m tired. If you’re an insomniac to begin with, going to bed when you’re not even tired is a waste of time. You just lie there and every stupid thing you’ve said in your ENTIRE LIFE goes through your mind.

I was a little nervous about the new job. See, I’m working weird hours now – til 1am three weekdays a week and over 10-hour days on the weekend days (I have to get up kind of early those days, but I get out at 8.) I worked the late shift at the answering service quite a few times over the years, and it never bothered me that much (things always slowed down a lot, and mostly we could chat and laugh, which was always good) but a job where you were actually WORKING and expected to be MENTALLY ALERT until 1 a.m.? Eeesh.

Well. Come to find out, this works PERFECTLY for me. Who knew the solution to over almost 30 years of insomnia is shifting your sleeping/waking hours? (FINE, I’m sure some scientist knew this. Everyone has Circadian rhythms, right? Well, who’s to say mine aren’t much different from everyone else’s? I mean, my brain seems to run at a different weirdo speed than most of the world; I wouldn’t be surprised if my rhythms are all off, as well.)

It took a bit of getting used to (a month or two, to be honest) but come to find out this is kind of perfection. I get to go to bed when I’m tired. I only have to set the alarm twice a week. I can let myself sleep as late as I want 5 days a week. Let that sink in – I can sleep until NOON if I want to FIVE DAYS A WEEK. (I don’t – I usually get up between 9:30-10 – but I COULD.) I’m actually perfectly alert until 1 a.m. (well, most nights – some nights the copyediting and proofreading is very, very dry, and my most favorite cheerful goofballs happen to have the night off, and there’s a lot of hurry up and wait, and on those nights I get a little yawny. But who wouldn’t, even during a normal day of work?) Then I get to go home, and it takes about an hour to unwind, and I’m off to bed. AND I CAN ACTUALLY SLEEP. I’ve been getting almost 8 hours of sleep a night for months. IT IS GLORIOUS.

ME EVERY NIGHT. (Plus about 40 years, let's be honest.)

ME EVERY NIGHT. (Plus about 40 years, let’s be honest.)

(Well, side note, not EVERY night; there’s a certain cat who’s QUITE sure that once the sun comes up, it’s playtime. So he leaps into my bed and tromps all over me and says “MEOW MEOW MEOW” all up in my face and I say sleepily “No no good boy go lay dooooown” and he is VERY EXCITED to hear my voice and then there is MORE tromping and meowing and “HEY MOM HEY MOOOOOM maybe it is time for wet food? Mom mom MOOOM! Meow meow meow PURR IN YOUR FAAAACE!” and sometimes there’s tickling my nose with his whiskers, which is not optimal, and sometimes even WORSE, there’s licking of my forehead, which he knows makes me giggle and squirm and put my head under the covers. That’s a VERY fun game for him because it means he’s won! Man, is that guy lucky I adore him.)

BUT! If you work nights (or want to sleep many hours into the sunrise) you have to follow many rules, such as:

  • DARKNESS! I had dark curtains but they weren’t enough. Em recommended blackout curtains and I got some for Christmas. They make ALL the difference. Those, plus closing all the bedroom doors most of the way (sadly, not all of the way, because there’s a certain cat in this household – YES, the same cat mentioned ABOVE – who cannot bear closed doors and would caterwaul and throw himself at the doors until I opened them, and that’s not going to help you sleep, because he needs to come and go or he can’t handle his FEEEEELINGS – are keeping my room dark like a TOMB and it is GLORIOUS.
  • QUIETNESS! There’s only so much of this I can get, because of the cat, you see, but quietness is important. I live on a somewhat-busy street, and the cars start being loud early, as do the children waiting for the bus and the upstairs neighbor who has a normal schedule and gets up early in the morning. I have mostly solved this with a very loud fan. I suppose I could use a white noise machine, but those make me nervous. Someone gave me one once, and my choices were “forest” (every now and then this very loud frog would be all “RIBBIT!” and how is that white noise?), “ocean” (which would have been fine but whoever recorded this put on screechy seagulls and also it made me have to pee all night), “wind” (which kept having these gusts which made me think the house was about to fall down and I was having nightmares about Auntie Em and the storm cellar) and “storm” (rain is soothing, except for the having to pee part, but random VERY LOUD THUNDERCLAPS are not. I’M AWAKE NOW IS MY HOUSE ON FIRE?) So I just turn on my fan and angle it away from my bed and it makes just enough whooshy white noise that I don’t hear much of anything except for the time some man came to my house trying to collect a debt from the prior tenant and knocked on my door AND all the windows (and you can be sure I reamed him a new one and he left apologizing and I think is so scared of me now he will never return.)
  • MEDICALLY INDUCED COMA! OK, so this one might not be for all of you, but I’ve been on meds for my sleeping issues for…oh, most of my adult life, and I take a teeny tiny pill every night that helps tip me over into slumberville. It doesn’t always work, but I’d say 90/100 times it does the trick. Aaah, prescription zzzzzs.
  • BEING COMFORTABLE! Comfortable sleep clothes are a MUST. You can take your sexy negligees and wear ’em to your heart’s content, my friends, I’m wearing flannel and t-shirts and, on very cold nights, a sweater over that, and maybe furry socks. And sometimes the cat is allowed under the covers because he is a warm little furry hot water bottle. You also need to know what kind of covers you need. Lots? Few? (Me, I’m a 4,000 blanket person. I like to feel MUMMIFIED under blankets. So I can barely MOVE. It is just my best thing.) How about pillows. Squishy? Hard? Feather? Foam? GET YOURSELF COMFY, YO. The more your bed’s a happy safe haven, the more you’re going to want to stay in it longer. There’s nothing worse than waking up because you’re freezing or in a pool of sweat. Plan ahead. And, related to this…
  • DO NOT DRINK ALL THE BEVERAGES BEFORE BED. Seriously, do you want to crawl out of that warm little cocoon you’ve so carefully constructed to pee like 14 times all night long? Especially when you KNOW when you get back the cat will have taken the warm spot in the bed and then you have to move him and he’s all “MEOW MOM YOU ARE THE WOOOORST” and then decides “Well, I’m awake, can I climb on you like you’re a mountain? Who cares, I’m gonna” and it takes forever to get back to sleep. Just curtail your orange soda after a certain time of night. You’ll be fine, my little gumdrops. You can drink all the soda in the morning, if you want. I won’t tell anyone.

SO, to sum up: I am getting the best sleep in my life by working weird hours. And when I tell people what hours I work, I get that face. That “oh, I feel so BAD for you” face. But I get to work with people who are ALSO happy to be working weird hours, and we’re kind of like kids who get to stay up all night and sleep in all day, and if anyone says anything about it we can say “I WORK NIGHTS” and this makes people kind of back away from you as if you might be radioactive (you kind of might) but little do they know, you’re actually kind of working the best hours ever.

(This all might be moot if you have children, or are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t understand weird hours. I decided about a month into this I was only allowed to date either other newspaper people, or writers, or maybe people who do long-distance truck-driving because who else is going to be up at these hours?)

Also, there is nothing better than doing errands in the middle of the day on a Thursday. NO ONE IS IN THE STORES! You can get in and out and it is like MAGIC! Yes, all of the employees think you’re unemployed, but who cares? YOU WIN QUICK SHOPPERY! Also, if you leave work at 1 a.m., no one’s on the roads, so you can drive really slow when the weather’s bad and NO ONE IS THERE TO CARE! It’s all very “I own the world, this is mine now” and empowering.

Now you know a secret: people working at night don’t always hate it, after all. Just don’t tell anyone. Then EVERYONE will want to work nights, and who’d open the stores early then? THE WHOLE AMERICAN ECONOMY WOULD COLLAPSE. I’d feel TERRIBLE. Eek!

And if anything goes on before, say, 10am on a weekday, you guys will let me know, right? Good, good. Much appreciated. All the love. *smooooch*


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