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Category Archives: recap

What Have We Learned?

Once upon a time, upon reading one of my blog posts, the most excellent Elaine told me that someday, I should write a book called What Have We Learned? as I used to end a lot of my blog posts with that phrase; I’d write a post and at the end, write “what have we learned?” and sum it up with something sarcastic.

Now, let’s be honest: I often don’t have time to do LIFE things on a regular basis, like read, eat on time, or go out with friends I actually care about, so writing a book’s probably not going to happen anytime soon. I mean, someday, maybe when I’m, I don’t know, retired, or something, I’ll have time to sit down and put my thoughts down on paper…or maybe I’ll never get to retire, because apparently when I get to that age, Social Security will have disappeared and I’ll be one of those old women handing out salsa samples at the grocery store. You know those old women. The ones that have those pathetic “PLEASE LOVE ME!” smiles and listen, no one wants their salsa. NO ONE. I’m going to be one of the salsa ladies someday, ladies and gentleman; please be kind to old-lady-of-the-future-me as I attempt to foist unwanted salsa upon your personages.

PLEASE TAKE MY SAMPLES I AM SO ALONE!

PLEASE TAKE MY SAMPLES I AM SO ALONE!

But “what have we learned” is too good of an idea to go to waste. So when it came time to write a post about looking back on the year, I thought…what better than to think about what we have learned in 2013? Because I’m pretty sure we learned some things, didn’t we? 2013 was all about learning things. Whether we wanted to learn them or not, sometimes.

So, ladies and gentlemen and…well, it’s the internet, so kitties and such, too, I suppose, of the interwebs:

What have we learned in 2013?

Sometimes you need a little help.

Sometimes things get a little much. You can try to handle it alone; you can work really, really hard to fight genetics and upbringing and years and years of learned behavior but sometimes you can’t do it alone. There is no shame in getting pharmaceutical help when things get to be too much. You might think there is; our society has trained us to think there is. But you’ll realize, once you find medication that actually works, you’ve been walking around with about two hundred pounds of weight on your back you didn’t know was there, and once it’s gone, you can walk upright again. You can breathe again. You can laugh again; you can go out in public again; you can trust again; you can stand up for yourself again. The very things you were fighting against, that you considered weaknesses? They saved you. There’s nothing weak about needing a ladder to help you out of the pool in which you’re drowning.

You are only as good as the friends you keep.

And good heavens above, do I have some of the best. I have been so lucky in my life. I have somehow come across some of the world’s most amazing people, the kind of people you could only dream of being friends with – and can you even imagine? THEY WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH ME. Me! Dorky, goofy, constant-foot-in-her-mouth, over-the-top, ALL-CAPS, me! I don’t know, either. I’m not going to question it too much, because when you start questioning it too much, I think that’s when you wake up and it’s all been a dream, like in that episode of Buffy where she’s been in a mental institution the whole time? If I’m anything, if I make you laugh or cry or think or anything? Thank them. They make me the person I am today. They’re my scaffolding, you know? They’re my bones. They keep me upright.

Silver linings aren’t just in tacky 70s overcoats.

Just when you think things are at their worst, sometimes something magical happens and it’s like that rose growing out of the sidewalk. Surprise! Beauty where it doesn’t belong! I’ve spent the last year working the best full-time job I’ve ever had; not only do I love where I work, I love the people I work with, and I get paid enough that I can actually LIVE, and not just subsist. I fell into theater reviewing, and that’s been such a blessing; not only do I get to travel, I get to see amazing theater, and I get to write, and I get published, and I get paid for it. An entire year of expecting the other shoe to drop and for me to be back where I was last year, unemployed and desperate. It hasn’t happened yet. Kind of amazing, really.

Time spent alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely.

I stepped back from things this year; left the volunteer work at the theater, pulled back a little from the internet, cut back on the blogging. This gave me a little more time for myself. “What will you do with yourself?” people asked, as if I was going to wander around my place like a little lost ghost. What I did with myself? I read a lot. I watched movies and television. I spent time with friends, both virtually and real-life-ily. I watched a LOT of theater, most of it very good. (44 shows this year! Totally a personal record!) I spent time with the furriest roommate anyone’s ever been lucky enough to have. I wrote a lot of words, some published, some private. I…well, you guys. I enjoyed the hell out of my life.

Not all endings are the end.

Sometimes you come to the end of something, and your heart is broken. Sometimes, that is the end. I’m not going to say it’s not; endings happen all the time. But sometimes, just sometimes, the end isn’t the end at all. Sometimes it’s worth holding out hope; that childish little flame of hope that stubbornly refuses to go out. Not always. Not at all. But it’s that sometimes that gets you. It’s that sometimes that’s where the magic lives. I am so thankful for that magic.

Your comfort zone is a warm cocoon but get out of it, sometimes, dammit.

The times I’ve gone out on a limb this year and tried something scary and new, something that I was sure I’d hate? Almost every time, it’s been kind of amazing. It gave me a panic attack leading up to it, most of the time, but afterward…it led to me meeting people in real life that have become some of my best friends; it’s led to me saying things I was afraid to say that led to amazing things happening; it’s led to me going places I’d never have gone; it’s led to me being braver than I ever thought possible and making changes in my life that needed to be made in order to move forward from places I was miserably stuck. So sure, your comfort zone is warm, and safe…but that place right outside of it, or even WAY outside of it, sometimes, can be pretty damn fine, too.

Never underestimate the power of words.

Words have been around long before we were even dreamed of, and will last long after we’re gone and forgotten. Never, ever think they don’t mean anything. There are the words in books – the sweep and fall of poems, the truth and heartbreak of prose, the sharing of lives and ideas in nonfiction. There are almost an infinite combination of words, and when you find the ones that get inside you and hit the chords you’ve got so carefully placed in your heart and your mind, it’s a sort of magic, isn’t it? But it’s not just books (or magazines, or blogs, or, hell, status updates or Tweets); it’s the words you get from your friends, the conversations you have, the long emails you get just when you need them the most, the back-and-forth where you share the kind of things you’re not often comfortable sharing with people; those words are just as important as any other, and it’s a shame to underestimate those. They should be taken just as seriously as any other. Your words have the power to help and the power to hurt and the power to heal; your words have the power to lift people up just when they need it, and never think, with just your words, you can’t show people how much they mean to you, and how much you love them. You owe it to your words to give them the weight they deserve; with a combination of letters, you can move the world.

It’s never too late to start over.

I’ve had people re-enter my life this year that, for reasons varied (and some more foolish than others) had been absent. Some for quite some time. Starting over can be scary – but it can also be something very amazing. There’s nothing lost in trying again – and there’s sometimes more than you ever thought to be gained. Letting old grudges go is the lightest feeling you can imagine – and opening your heart is even better still.

All you need is love, love; love is all you need.

And that, ultimately, is what we’ve learned in 2013, isn’t it? There’s nothing that can be done without love behind it. The love of family, and friends, and yourself; the love of what you do, the love of life. If you put love out there, you will get love in return. Why bother putting out negativity when it’s just going to come back to you? Do you really need that in your life? More of that? There’s enough of that as it is. Love. And love, and then love a little more. Put love in everything you do. Put love in every interaction you have. And you’re going to be amazed at what you get back. I am surrounded by the best people in the world. Their love and support of me knows no bounds. And I hope I’m able to return that in the same manner they give it; I hope I live up to their standard, their very high standard, of friendship. They deserve that, all that and more.

Those are a lot of things to have learned, right? Important things. Good things. 2013 had a lot to teach me. I only hope I was able to learn my lessons as they were presented; that’s really all we can do when they come up, try to learn them as best we can.

Happy New Year, people of the blog. Thank you for reading, and for being here. May you shake off your 2013s and step into your 2014s with bright eyes and happy smiles and all the hope for the future; what else are new years for, other than starting over (and, most likely, learning a whole NEW set of lessons?)

May you be up to the challenges, whatever they are. I have all the faith in the world in you. Each and every one of you.

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Hippos eat hippo bread: Christmas recap, Nephew-style.

I am finally at rest, after a day of running around like a crazy and doing all the things. Dinner is in the oven and there will soon be delicious ham and vegetables and rolls and chocolate, all provided by Mom (thanks, Mom!) and then I will go into a food coma. I have been attempting not to nap for a while. I have to work tomorrow, and I’m pretty sure if I fall asleep and nap at 5pm, sleeping tonight is going to be nigh-on impossible.

I hope you all had lovely Christmases (or Wednesdays, if Christmas isn’t your thing; I’m perfectly ok with you having a wonderful Wednesday.) Today worked out very well here in Amy and Dumbcat-land; it was a very good Christmas. Very happy all around.

This morning I went to visit The Nephew – and yes, as predicted, not a single photo was taken. Too busy hanging with my best little guy. I always do that. He greeted me at the door with an epic case of four-year-old bedhead and wearing the happiest pair of Christmas pajamas you’ve ever seen, with Santa and the reindeer in rocketships. “AUNT AMY!” he said. “Hey, buddy, Merry Christmas! Did Santa visit you today?” “YES!” he said. “Do you want to see my presents?” “Yes, I do, but I have to take my boots off first, ok?” He sighed, a long-suffering sigh. “Oh-KAY,” he said, and waited none-too-patiently for me to take off my outer layers so I could look at all of his Christmas goodies.

He got LEGOS! And an ANT FARM! And a TRUCK! And a SPIDERMAN THAT CLIMBS THE WALL! (That one confused me; I had utterly no idea how that thing was staying on the wall, to be honest. It was loud like a vacuum. Maybe it was vacuuming itself to the wall? No clue. It was pretty neat, though)…

This is the Spiderman that sounds like a vacuum. He also does sweet donuts on the wall which make Nephews laugh and laugh.

This is the Spiderman that sounds like a vacuum. He also does sweet donuts on the wall which make Nephews laugh and laugh.

…and some games and books and cars and a game for his LeapPad where he got to be a pirate and “get DOUBLOONS, Aunt Amy!” He wanted to make things with his gigantic Lego set, but it was time for brunch and that was going to be a whole thing. So we lured him away from Legos with the promise of cinnamon rolls, which he called “monkey bread” and said was his favorite food of ALL TIME! and then we had a conversation called “what animals eat.” “Do you think monkeys eat monkey bread?” “Yes!” “What do you think rhinoceroses eat?” “RHINOCEROUS bread!” “What about hippos?” “Hippo bread!” “What about nephews?” “NEPHEW bread! But also monkey bread, because it’s my favorite!”

This is The Nephew's FAVORITE! (Also universally enjoyed by monkeys, apparently.)

This is The Nephew’s FAVORITE! (Also universally enjoyed by monkeys, apparently.)

Then we opened presents. I got him books, which he was ok with, but then he was like, “Aunt Amy, is there anything else for me, do you think?” and I said, “Yes, I think there might be” and then he opened his remote-control plane and he was MOST excited and ran around driving it here, there and everywhere and laughing when it ran into people and his mom said I won because that was the longest he’d played with ANY of his toys that day. I WIN! (I do so like to win Christmas.)

This was a pretty neat plane, if I do say so myself. You could control it with your body AND a button. Very high-tech and swanky!

This was a pretty neat plane, if I do say so myself. You could control it with your body AND a button. Very high-tech and swanky!

I also got lovely presents like the most beautiful jewelry! The Nephew’s mom is very good as shopping. She has excellent taste!

Then we played Superhero Chutes and Ladders. I got to be Iron Man. (I kept saying, “I AM IRON MAN” in my best Robert Downey Jr. voice, which made me totally happy.) He wanted to be Ice Man, who was really Silver Surfer but when The Nephew says “NO! IT IS ICE MAN!” you listen to him, yo. So we Chuted and we Laddered and when The Nephew realized he wasn’t going to win he was like “I think I don’t want to play anymore” and then cheered for his mom, but then I SNUCK IN FROM BEHIND AND WON! Much like Iron Man would, I think. And then The Nephew said, “I wanted you to win all along, Aunt Amy” which was a very politician-like thing to say. Well-played, The Nephew. Well-played.

Damn you, chutes! DAMN YOU!!!

Damn you, chutes! DAMN YOU!!!

Then it was time for me to go home, so The Nephew could go to his other grandparents’ house for ANOTHER Christmas (he gets lots of Christmases!) and so I could open MY presents. YAY FOR PRESENTS! The Nephew told me he loved me and Merry Christmas AND thank you and gave me a heroic little hug with his cuddly pajamas and poky-uppy sleepy hair and my Grinch heart grew three sizes that day.

Then it was home for me, and I totally put off opening presents for another hour while I emailed and generally futzed around on the internet because a., I wanted to tell my people Merry Christmas, and b., because the longer I could put off opening gifts, the longer Christmas would last. I’m no fool!

But then it was opening gifts time. And whoo, was there a lot of opening gifts all up in here! I got money and an ornament shaped like sparkly bacon and gloves that are specially formulated for using your smartphone while staying warm, and sparkly nailpolish, and honey to put in tea (because for some reason my grocery store is hiding it, and I really wanted that while I was sick and was SO SAD I couldn’t find it) and gift cards and warm socks and super-cuddly pajama pants and lots of soap and pampering-myself things because I am obsessed with them and these solar light things that look like little frogs that I can put on my porch, and a toy for Dumbcat that’s supposed to be a mouse that runs around in a circle but he’s just confused about it and walks away from it whenever I turn it on, and a cookbook of bacon-related recipes called Fifty Shades of Bacon (hee!) and salt and pepper shakers that look like kissing penguins and lip gloss that smells delicious and pins to put in my hair to make me look like a lady and delicious chocolatey treats and all the orange Tic Tacs because I am obsessed with them and MANY MORE THINGS that I probably should have documented but I’m not the best at such things. In summation: I got all the things for Christmas. No one else got any things, apprently, because I got them ALL! (Thanks, Mom and Dad and BFF and Nanny and The Nephew’s Mom!)

Crappy photo of gifts, post-opening. I'm not the best at documenting things.

Crappy photo of gifts, post-opening. I’m not the best at documenting things.

Then I made a delicious meal, thanks to my mother, who provided all the items FOR that meal, and now I am completely all’s-well-with-the-world and watching television and lazily thinking about going to bed so I can be prepared to go back to work tomorrow. Work’s going to be quiet this week. Most people took the rest of the week off. Which was probably smart, but I’m planning on saving as many of my vacation days as I can for next year…because BAM, I’m going to need 10 of them for late May/early June, yo. You need a couple of weeks if you’re flying off to Europe to visit some of your favorite folks, you see. IN LESS THAN FIVE MONTHS NOW! I mean. Not that I’m at all psychotically excited about it or anything. NO NO NOT ME.

So. It’s been a wonderful Christmas. It made up for last year’s terrible Christmas. MORE than made up for it. Also, were you aware that sometimes, the best gifts you get for Christmas aren’t even something you can wrap? I got a few gifts over the days leading up to Christmas that weren’t the kind you wrap, or the kind you put in a gift bag – and you know what? Those gifts won Christmas. They were the kind that you can’t put a price on, because they’re priceless. Actions and deeds and kind gestures. So as much as I like winning Christmas (and I do, I SO do) – don’t underestimate the weight of a simple action, or word, or deed, especially around the holidays. They sometimes mean just as much, or more, than a gift you spent months shopping for, and wrapped in the prettiest of paper tied with a bow.

Huh. Guess you were right about this one, Grinch, you nasty, wasty wump!

Huh. Guess you were right about this one, Grinch, you nasty, wasty wump!

Hope you all had the best of Christmases, or Wednesdays. One more week until 2014. Can you even imagine? Come on, new year, let’s do this thing!


And now, the end is near

As I get older, I muse a lot on the mutability of time. (And a lot of other things. Do you find your thoughts wander onto these epic large thoughts as you age? I mean, assuming you’re aging. Maybe you’re 18 or something. If you are 18, I think I can tell you with some certainty that as you get older, you will start thinking about these things, like time, and death, and aging, and love, with this almost disturbing depth and breadth.)

I have been on vacation since last Friday at 3:30pm. A little over 8 days ago. I leave for home tomorrow morning sometime between 8-10am, depending on how late I sleep in. (I’d like to get home sooner rather than later, so the earlier I get on the road, the earlier I can get home and start unpacking and preparing for my life to start back up on Monday morning.)

A normal 8 days goes by at a normal pace. It feels like 8 days. (Sometimes it feels like more, depending on how tough the week is or how exhausted I am or various other things. You know how those weeks are. Those weeks that seem to last a million years and you can’t wait til they’re done.)

A week on vacation, however, seems to last about three days. I feel like I just got here. I can barely remember the days I’ve been on vacation because they zipped by TOO QUICKLY. They squished into one mega-day, and now that mega-day is finished, and I have to go back to the real world.

And the real world is fine; I’m not complaining about my life. It’s a very good life. I like my job, I don’t hate my part-time job, I adore my reviewing job. I love where I live and I love my home and I have wonderful friends. All’s well.

But vacation’s just so NICE, you know? You can stay up as late as you want and read all the books and take naps and spend serious time on writing and email and thoughts. I live a very zip-zip-zip real life where I am going every minute until I crash out in bed. It has been SO NICE to just slow down.

The same amount of time in my real life has compressed and squished and feels like just a couple of days. I know this happens to a lot of people on vacation. It’s not just me. It just sucker-punches me every time it does.

I am feeling bittersweet and end-of-vacationy. Please forgive.

So, because I need to finish loading the car tonight:

Goodbye, Helper Mule!

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Goodbye, my favorite nephew!

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(Side note: on our way back from the movies, my brother ran into the store to grab something to drink and left me in the car with The Nephew. I said, “I’ll stay here with you, kiddo!” He hesitated for a minute, then said “You’ll stay here. With your favorite nephew!” I call him that almost every time I see him. I almost always say, “Look who it is! My favorite nephew!” AND HE REMEMBERED! I love this kid more than life.)

Goodbye, strange, creepy, borderline racist clown pottery thingy I found at camp behind a bunch of things, and Mom said, “Good grief, Amy, you could have at least dusted that before you post it on the internet!”

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Goodbye, Morris the Moose who hangs over our camp fireplace!

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Goodbye beautiful full moon and gigantic campfires!

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Goodbye golden lion balls of Vermont!

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And goodbye, my most beloved fishhole!

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I should be home tomorrow early-afternoonish, and then it’s back to the daily grind of work and more work and theater reviews and hanging with Dumbcat back in his normal environment and being able to use my laptop again and sneaking in emails whenever I get a spare moment.

I will miss you, camp. Next year, let’s do it again, ok? And in the meantime, let’s start planning another adventure. Where shall we go next, I wonder?


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