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We got our lease renewal in the mail today.

Up until about two weeks ago, we were thinking of potentially breaking our lease early to find a place in the wild where we could live amidst nature and barbecue our breakfast and play catch with our dog (which we would finally be allowed to have) without having to walk 3/4 of a mile to find an open space to do so. But, things change, and now it looks like we may be here another two years.

Billy is starting a nutrition studies program this semester so he can finally get out of the retail rut and do something he enjoys. While he could probably finish in a year, it’s probably best to do it in two, particularly since we sort of need his income and being in school full time and working full time is just crazy. Since the school is here in Queens, it looks like we’ll be sticking around for another couple years.

In all honesty, though, I may be disappointed, but this does give me more time to make the case for moving somewhere warmer instead of somewhere colder.

New Old, Same Old

At this time of year, there are lots of people taking assessments of the previous year and planning adjustments for the coming one. Initially, I had been resisting that urge, but as I’ve given it some thought, I realize that there are some reflections worth noting now, whether it is the start of a new year or just a new day.

This Christmas was a really good one for me, and also a very hard one, which is just to say that I had to work really hard to make it good. But I did it, and I’m glad. One of the things I did was go to church for the midnight service on Christmas Eve. I haven’t been to church in a very long time, mainly because I’m not exactly the world’s most religious person. Spiritual, yes. Religious… not really. But this year I think I wanted a little push in the right direction, to wake up the spirit in me.

One of the things the pastor talked about was this idea of pure joy, and the fact that it’s one of those things that is only accomplished when we find ways to fill up the God-sized hole left in us when we’re born. His message was that God fills this hole up for us, and that the birth of Jesus was his Christmas gift to us. (By way of disclosure, this is all just my interpretation of his sermon, but honestly, my point is less in what he actually said and more in how it moved me.) I sat there thinking about it, honestly feeling a bit disappointed. Because I’ve done the church thing, and I’ve really believed in Jesus and tried to let him fill that hole for me. And you know what happened? I inspired a lot of people while my hole just got bigger. There were many nights I showed up to church completely drunk, led worship, had people coming up to me saying how inspired they were, and then slipped off to the graveyard behind the church to sob because no one could see how empty (and positively wasted) I was.

So what does that mean? Did I pray wrong? Do I not believe enough? Am I the exception? This was not the Christmas message I was hoping to get.

But I’ve given it some thought, and I think that maybe not everybody finds God in a church. There are other things that fill me up in the way God fills up our pastor. Things like going on a long hike up a mountain and sitting at the top, enjoying the silence in the clouds and an incredible view. Or the thrill of riding a really fast roller coaster or jumping out of an airplane. Or creating something – a short story, a photograph, a knitting project, a drawing. Traveling to places I’ve never seen before, getting to know and understand a new culture, visiting old friends. Helping people. These things are my church, and even though I know they fill me up, I let them go, every day, in the name of Routine.

I read this blog post last week and it really inspired me, especially the last paragraph:

For me this year in 2011 I am going to focus on what it means to live this life. To be alive. I want to reinvent what living means to me.

And I think that’s what I want, too. I don’t want to change who I am, or lose weight, or find my way from point a to point b (though those things would be nice side effects). I want to find ways to augment the things in my life that fill me up.

There are specific things I’ve come up with to accomplish this. I don’t know if I’ll follow through on them all, but the beauty is that I don’t have to do these specific things. It could be anything that accomplishes the same goal. But here goes, because lists are a nice way to look and see what specific accomplishments have been made.

  • I joined the Appalachian Mountain Club and plan to attend their backpacking seminar so that Billy and I can go on our first backpacking trip ever this spring, summer, or fall.
  • I filled out an application to volunteer for Free Arts NYC, which will allow me to work with underprivileged kids on art as a way of coping with life.
  • Billy and I are hoping to go to meet Siggi and Brett in Germany this summer, so I’ve been attempting to learn German on my own. So far I’ve gotten to where I can say to Billy, “Du bist ein affe!”
  • I’m thinking about writing a book. This is actually a really huge undertaking, and I’m not positive it’s something I really want to tackle right now, but I’m thinking about it, and I’m saying I’m thinking about it. That’s a good first step for now, I think.

So is this a turning point, as we turn the page from 2010 to 2011? I don’t know. Probably not. I think all of life is about little turning points and big ones, and they don’t always coincide with the numbers on the calendar. But it’s probably as good a reason as any to think about it, and so here we are.


There have been many projects going on in the month of December. None of any real significant consequence, but I’m happy with them. Here are two that I’m working on now.

I started this blanket in early September on a whim and vowed to finish it in 2010. Technically it’s not finished, but I am done with the knitting, so I say it counts. It will look nicer once it’s blocked, and I’ll share again.

I added this drop stitch scarf to my list of projects to start during the summer when it was a bit more fashionable. I finally started it about a week ago. This one will also need some serious blocking when it’s done.

A few notes about my holiday playlist

I created a holiday party playlist for a party I went to recently, and as I was listening to it I realized that some of the selections were, shall we say, a little nontraditional. But I stand by my choices. Want to know more about The Best Holiday Playlist Ever Made? Here you go. Just remember, you asked for it.

“All the Way,” by Billie Holiday: Well, the answer’s in the artist’s name. Plus, when is Billie Holiday ever NOT appropriate?
“Angel,” by Sarah McLachlan: I don’t know about you, but at Christmastime, I could sure use the touch of an angel’s arms to lift me out of my strife.
“Believe,” by Lenny Kravitz: “If you want it, you’ve got to believe.” That, my friends, is the epitome of Santa Claus.
“ChamPain,” by Cee Lo Green: Everyone drinks champagne on Christmas, right?
“Clocks,” by Coldplay: Doesn’t the piano sound sort of like Christmas chimes to you? I thought it did. It’s on the list.
“December,” by Collective Soul: Answer’s in the title. I don’t even know what the lyrics of this song are about. I’ve never listened to them.
“Elegantly Wasted,” by INXS: That pretty much describes Christmas dinner for me. Although this year, not for me since I am now almost five months sober. Still a good song.
“Faith,” by George Michael: Really? Do you have to ask? What is Christmas all about if not about faith?
“Fat Bottomed Girls,” by Queen: What do we expect after eating all those holiday cookies?
“Feeling Alright,” by Joe Cocker: Christmas had me feeling alright this year. Add it to the list.
“Figure Me Out,” by Jennings: I discovered this band at an art show on Governor’s Island this year and I really love them so they are on every playlist I have. They qualify for everything right now.
“Fireflies,” by Owl City: The image of millions of fireflies lighting up seems very Christmassy to me. Even if there are not generally fireflies around here during the winter.
“Georgia,” by Cee Lo Green: Someone must travel to Georgia for Christmas. OK, even I’ll admit, that’s a little weak.
“Holiday,” by Madonna: Holiday! Celebrate! What could be more appropriate!
“I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” by the Scissor Sisters: I almost always feel like dancing at Christmastime, but that’s kind of the irony of this song, right? It totally makes me want to dance, every time I hear it.
“I Say A Little Prayer,” by Aretha Franklin: This was a special year for me because I actually went to church on Christmas Eve. And I said a little prayer. For you.
“I’ll Take You There,” by the Staple Singers: They’re obviously singing about taking you to the North Pole, right?
“Let it Be,” by the Beatles: Billy really doesn’t get this one. But it’s all about Mother Mary! Come on!
“Love Train,” by the O’Jays: OK, this one is kind of an inside joke for me, since it always reminds me of that one Christmas party where we played this song after lots of people were already pretty drunk, and I remember we conga-lined ourselves into the bedroom where a friend had passed out. She had a chihuahua jumping all over her and a room full of people screaming the words to “Love Train” and she didn’t stir. But did we check for signs of life? No, we just sang louder. Perfect holiday song.
“Low Shoulder,” by Toro Y Moi: This actually came off a best of summer CD, but I thought it was appropriate for Christmas, too. You are free to disagree if you wish.
“Maria,” by Blondie: This song just rocks. Christmas rocks. Works for me.
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: I have to be honest. I don’t know what the hell this song has to do with Christmas. I just liked it.
“New Soul,” by Yael Naim: Christmas is kind of about birth, right? Maybe rebirth? Hm, maybe not.
“Nightingale,” by Norah Jones: I love bird-watching around the holidays.
“Peel Me A Grape,” by Diana Krall: Honestly, I regret adding this one to the list. I don’t like it and I don’t think it fits with the theme of the season.
“Poker Face,” by Lady Gaga: Tell me this song doesn’t raise the spirit of the season for you. Srsly.
“Recognize,” by The Juice to Make it Happen: “Gonna to take a second to recognize why I need you by my side…” It’s a love song all about Christmas.
“Rehab,” by Amy Winehouse: Try to make me go to rehab? On Christmas? Are you fucking nuts??
“Scenario,” by Tribe Called Quest: Hm. This is another one I’m not sure I can answer. But it’s another kick-ass song that somehow seems to end up on all my playlists. And for good reason.
“Suspicious Minds,” by Elvis Presley: This was actually added by request. Billy wanted an Elvis Christmas song on the list. I hate “Blue Christmas,” so this is what he got.
“Touch of My Hand,” by Britney Spears: The instrumental bits of this one feel very old-world and spiritual to me. I have no idea what the lyrics are about, but they’re irrelevant anyway.
“Umbrella,” by Rihanna feat. Jay-Z: When it snows outside, wouldn’t YOU want an umbrella??
“Unskinny Bop,” by Poison: I kind of debated on this one, but Sharon said that if Die Hard can be classified as a Christmas movie, then “Unskinny Bop” can be a Christmas song. And I think she’s right.
“Wake Up Call,” by Maroon 5: Who doesn’t dream of blowing off the head of their girlfriend’s boyfriend at Christmastime?
“Warm Ways,” by Fleetwood Mac: So many Christmas songs are about being cold and the snow. It’s about time someone came up with a Christmas song about being WARM for a change.
“Your Precious Love,” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell: Everyone’s love is precious at Christmastime, and what better song to remind you of that!

If anyone wants the complete list, or for me to burn a CD for them, let me know. This list is as awesome as it sounds.

This year’s Christmas menu

Breakfast: bagels and lox with capers and homemade scallion cream cheese

Lunch: garlic and cheese fondue with French bread and apples

Dinner: Thai pork skewers with peanut sauce, coconut rice, and improvised Thai salad

Dessert: peppermint brownies and peanut blossoms

Ho Ho Yo’ mama.

You know you have created the ultimate holiday playlist when the first song that comes on is “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley. I know it’s arrogant of me to say so, but I honestly think that people who don’t appreciate my taste in music (and my interpretation of holiday songs) are crazy. Everyone should blare my playlist as loud as possible as often as possible AND LOVE IT.

Maybe it has something to do with denial over the utter lack of holiday cheer in my cold, black heart these days, but I have been trying to play up the Santa bit lately. I’ve created a holiday songlist that includes Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face” and pulled out glitter and glue to make holiday cards. I even plugged in the piano for the first time this year so I could try to remember how to play B-flat-maj7 in “Silent Night.” I’m knitting like mad and planning my trip to the post office to pick out this year’s letter to Santa to answer.

It’d all make me puke if I actually believed it was making me happier. I don’t want to accept that I’m unhappy. Again. Better to live in peppermint bliss and gingerbread-scented ignorance.

For brief, hazy moments, I even find myself thinking it’s actually working.