Last one here, turn out the lights...

So, I moved to Dreamwidth, same Journal/Username. On the one hand, it was easier than I thought it would be. On the other hand, I haven't figured out how to find anyone else, so if you see me stumbling around, feel free to take my hand and lead me to the light, otherwise it's going to be bruised shins all around.

Less Flouncing, more Adulting

We all know that someone, maybe multiple someones. The "I'm a drama free zone" people. The "I had to quit "whatever" because of the drama. I can't be friends with this person because they're such a drama queen. If you hang out at Renaissance Faires, maybe you've seen the pins: "Drama-free Zone" or some variation on that. (Of course, if you hang out at Renaissance Faire, by definition a multi acre site occupied by actors and wanna-be actors and then declare yourself a drama free zone...you're sort of betting against the odds, there.)

You on facebook? if you're lucky, this hasn't happened to you. If you're normal, then you've had a "friend" announce that they're DONE, they can't handle it, they're leaving Facebook (or insert social media of your choice). Or, they can no longer be friends with/be in the same space, even look at someone else because that person is nothing but drama.

Here's the thing. When you wear that pin? When you publicly shut someone out of your life, when you declare that you DON'T DO DRAMA?

You're actually being a drama queen. You are FLOUNCING. See, you could just not tolerate drama, you could not have someone as a friend, you could just block their posts. And not tell anyone. That's actually just being an adult. Making a point, making a scene...um, that's actually being dramatic.

I mean, what is drama? It's having an audience. You can't do drama on your own. You need someone to see it. You need to involve someone, ideally someone not intimately or naturally involved. That's drama.

So, when you decide that someone in your life is creating unnecessary drama and you just stop seeing them, stop replying to them, stop inviting them, just gently and effectively cut them out of your life (because I'm all about setting effective personal boundaries) but are still polite and coolly cordial when you run into them in a social setting, that's actually just being an adult.

Dude, I get it. You want a clean break, you want people to know that you...wait, no, now you're looking for an audience. And that, my friend, is the very definition of drama.

Adult means doing the right thing and not caring whether someone sees you do it, because you're doing the right thing. Look, everyone needs some affirmation from time to time, but good heavens, try and be self-sufficient when it comes to maintaining your personal comfort zone. And when it comes to leaving behind people who create drama, that is a perfect time to be self-sufficient. Don't be like the very people you're trying to cut out!

I have zero drama in my being life - despite managing a renaissance faire, despite being surrounded by lovely people who have just a bit too much of a flair for the dramatic. How do I manage it?

Well, for starters, don't feed it. When people come to you with drama, just refuse to hear it. Smile, hold your hand up flat in front of them (oh, poppets, you cannot underestimate the power of the gesture. Smile, but hold up the stop sign, do the wave off...make the pfft noise, the rolling of the eyes, the shrug of the shoulders) and then tell them you just don't want to hear it, you just don't care. I don't want to hear it.

It's remarkably effective. Making it clear that you don't give a rat's patoot. They want sympathy, they want you to care, too! Just don't. Refuse the agitation. There are a times when people deserve sympathy and empathy -- ask yourself "is this really the time?" I pretty much always answer "no". And yet, the people I adore still seem to love me. So, seriously, try this.

Also, you have another tool, if you're more extroverted and assertive. Solve their problem. Hard, fast. They start to describe the issue...and you just jump in with "Well this is what you need to do." There may be sputtering. Don't let it distract you. Push your solution (delete their e-mails, stop taking their phone calls, move on, tell them how you feel, give less fucks, whatever it is, demand a hard stop). Smiling. You know what drama queens hate? Solutions. Because it ends the drama. Because they either need to do it, or stop bitching about it. Right? When you've told them how they should fix it, and they don't and then they want to talk to you about it... ask "did you do the thing?" and they're going to say "No, Reasons" and you're doing to hold up the stop hand again and say "do the thing and then we'll talk, otherwise, I got shit to do." I wield this like a boss.

Oh, Poppets, it's game over, then. You've effectively become a drama non-conductive zone. They get no affirmation, only instruction. Oh, drama queens HATE that. Solutions and non receptiveness are the drama killers.

You don't want it? Then don't feed it. Smile, stop hand, solution. They're not bad people. Just bad habits. Help them to be better, help yourself to be happier.

It's almost Love Yourself Day!

Yep, it's that time again, hearts and flowers and chocolates, oh my!

Did I leave out the pissing and moaning about how it's all commercial bullshit designed to make single people feel like losers? Yeah, that's going to happen, too.

I originally titled this "Tough Love Day" because that's what I like to dispense, especially around this holiday, but I thought I would reach deep inside my compassion pouch (which is narrow, hard to get into) although, as usual, it was empty, so I had to justify "Love Yourself" on a technicality, which is that I'm dispensing the Tough Love in advance of February 14th.

Which means you've got a couple of days to get your shit together and act like a fully functioning adult.

Here's the thing: You are an adult now. You are responsible for your own joy.

"But Valentine's Day is just a reminder that everyone else has someone to celebrate with and I don't!" "Everyone else is happy and I'm not!"

And some of you are going to make a point of "today I'm going to protest by celebrating singlehood!" While I applaud you celebrating your singlehood...I urge you to restrain your desire to shit all over someone else's holiday. That's like me declaring "fuck all of these women getting cards and dinner and gifts for being a mother, I'm going to celebrate my malfunctioning ovaries and useless raisins of eggs!" By the way, you might think that the "so THERE!" is silent on that, but it's not, we can totally hear it. Try not to be a third grader, okay? Let everyone else enjoy their holiday and stop trying to make a damn point. You celebrate your Egg Raisins on some other day -- THAT'S cool. Rule #44: By all means, celebrate your thing, but don't shit on someone else's celebration when you do it.

Maybe you've never been in a relationship or maybe your past relationships were nothing but heavenly until they abruptly came crashing down around your ears like Trump University. But, newsflash, some of those people going out to dinner, getting cards, flowers, chocolates, jewelry are not necessarily happy. Some of them sort of wish that the person sending them would die in a fire. Some of the people sending them sort of wish that the person they're sending it to would drown in their bath. So console yourself with that.

You wish you were getting chocolates and flowers? You're an adult now. Treat yourself to chocolates/flowers that are just a little bit above what you think you should spend on them. Why the hell shouldn't you have them? You are indeed loveable. I have flowers delivered to my office every year. (Yes, I have three partners. But apparently, my "type" is brainy, balding and complete rubbish at gift giving.) And I know that if I want a thing, I should make the thing happen. I get them delivered because it's a treat to not have to go buy them and then drag them into the office. And yep, I get some fancy chocolates because it's the one time of year where I can have them completely guiltfree. I'm celebrating my overall loveableness and man oh man my loveableness deserves me some fine chocolates and my body image can just shut the hell up for a couple of days.

And let's stop making this a "shower the chick with gifts" holiday. Think it feels weird to send your guy flowers or chocolates? Okay, it's not, that's actually just you being weird. But my guys are getting bacon this Valentine's Day, so feel free to break with tradition in more than one way.

Aromantic? Single and an orphan? Don't have anyone to send anything to? Shame on you. You do so. Now's a great time to thank a friend, a mentor, someone who's supported you over the past year. You don't have to make it a Valentine's Day thing, but since V-Day's happening whether you like it or not, use it as a positive force to remind you that there are people in your life who deserve a little love back from you. Just send them a funny card, a heartfelt thank you card, a felt heart in a card, whatever.

Look, I feel you, single people who really want to be a in a relationship. Despite having a veritable wallow of loving partners right now, I've been there. But here's the thing: if you don't love yourself, if you can't find some measure of peace and fulfillment within yourself without being reflected in the mirror of someone else's eyes...you're not likely to find it in a relationship. A relationship should amplify your happiness because you're putting two happy fulfilled people together. Otherwise, you've got two half empty shell people looking for someone else to fill their shell with happiness. Which means that not only will you be struggling to fill your own happy/fulfilled, you're going to have be constantly draining some to fulfill your partner's happy/fulfilled bucket. You're still going to wind up half empty at some point if you expect someone else to drain off their happiness to fill your emptiness.

Fill yourself. Buy chocolates, send yourself flowers, treat yourself to an expensive steak, have a lovely bottle of wine, dress up and go to the theater, stay in a fancy hotel with a spa, shower love on other people in your life. Go out to dinner with a friend -- and don't celebrate your singlehood...celebrate your friendship. Celebrate being a loveable person who might want someone else in their life, but is pretty damn okay all on their own.

Burns Night 2017

It somehow feels so self-indulgent and even wrong to write about anything that isn't "WTF is going on in this country" but sadly I think this is going to be going on for a while and I gotta pace myself.

So, indulgently, while my country was going to hell in a handbasket, I spent yesterday preparing for a Burn's Night Dinner. My ex-husband and his wife host one every year and it's such a joy to show up at someone else's house, with them having done all of the work. I don't get off scot-free (ha, see what I did there?) as I've been going for 9 years now and am generally on the hook for making dessert and with the exception of one year, been asked to give the Lassie's Reply.

There's a long history of celebrating Robert Burn's birthday with a very traditional, formulaic dinner. Generally speaking, there's whisky and poetry reading and haggis and speechifying and toasting. We say the Grace he wrote before we eat, we pipe in (or in our cases, since no one plays bagpipes, we all do a very, very bad imitation of piping) the haggis as it comes out to the table, then read Burns' Address to a Haggis before serving it, we randomly read Burn's poems during dinner, each toasted from one of the 7 or 8 bottles of whisky on the table, there's a Toast to the Lassies - a speech written by one of the male attendees, that is a gentle roasting of the ladies, referencing Burn's body of work. And then the Lassie's Reply, which is me. When I say speech, or technically toast, you need to understand that we're talking about a good 8-12 minutes long, so it does require some prep. The Lassie's reply is not as gentle as the men's toast to the women and meant to be bawdier and meaner, before circling back to why men are wonderful and toastworthy.

I have to admit that I'm fond of recycling material from one year to the next - pulling bits from several previous speeches. After all, it'd been a year and lots of whisky so who would know...except a lot of the other folks have been coming for years as well, so it really was time to start fresh and write some more original stuff.

So, here, in its entirety, is this year's Lassie's Reply. There was definitely some more ad libbing and a couple of other bits that played off the Toast to the Lasses but there was also a lot of whisky going on, so that material's sort of lost.

This year, for the first time, I really had a hard time trying to write this. I’d be fine and then I’d come across a reference to Burns standing up for women’s rights

"While Europe’s eye is fixed on mighty things, the fate of empires and the fall of kings.
While quacks of state must each produce his plan, and even children lisp the Rights of Man.
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention, The Rights of Women merit some attention"

and I’d think “fuck me, it’s been 200 years how is this still a thing?”. But let’s not talk politics, for I’ve had whisky and I’m already feeling a bit fractious.

Luckily for you guys, I’m a New England WASP so I will channel my fury into humor. There may be more swearing.

So, my neighbor works for the Smithsonian and she was giving me a tour of their storage facility out in Suitland and she was showing me all sorts of cool stuff, freezers full of decomposing dolphins, closets full of elephant tusks, drawers full of whale penises. Did you know that the blue whale’s penis is ten feet long, a foot in diameter? At least when it’s not all dried up in a drawer. I can’t even make a joke about that. It’s that amazing. Anyway, we were moving into the storage area for hominids and on one shelf there were two brains in two jars. One was smaller and sort of tired looking, the other was big and plump and shiny. My feminist ire fired up when I saw that the shrunken one was female and the bigger one was labelled male. Kerry put her hand on my shoulder and said “hey, let’s face it, only one of them got used a lot in its lifetime.”

But back to Rabbie Burns who wrote “Mither Nature, her prentice hand she tried on man and then she made the lasses.” And we know that Rabbie loved the lasses. I know that most of you, certainly those who’ve been here before, are familiar with the list of women with whom we know that he had relationships, never mind all of the possible ones we just don’t have evidence for. So I ask you to think on this: Rabbie Burns on Tinder.

He wrote:
To see her is to love her,
And love but her for ever;
For Nature made her what she is,
And never made anither!

Seriously, that Dude NEVER swiped left. "Never made anither"Rabbie, darling, c’mon Nature made a lot. And you tried out as many as you could. You yourself wrote, "The sweetest hours that e’er I spend are spent among the lassies". And there was definitely an “s” on the end of lassies. If Burns had been born during the time of Tinder, I have no doubt he’d be wearing a wrist brace from all of the swiping right.

Although with 13 children in 11 years, and well over 700 poems, essays and songs, Burns could be one of the few men throughout history that could successfully multitask.

Now I’d already be fond of Burns because he gives us an excuse to get together once a year and have fun and he gets some of you men into kilts, which is always nice eye candy. But in addition to writing poems in honor of all sorts of women, he wrote a poem in honor of food. And not just fabulous food, which is easy, but to Haggis, of all things.

Hey, when is a man like a Haggis? After a Burns dinner when he’s a stuffed paunch reeking of whisky. Raise your hand if you were worried I was going to reference the stabbing it with a knife and it was going to be all “Trenching your gushing entrails bright”.

Speaking of which, I don’t understand why some people think that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. The place that houses knives and fire.

But back to Burns and his women. I say I’m fond of him, but probably more fond of him because he’s dead and I’m not dating him. Although, who knows, maybe all of his women knew about the others and was okay with it. After all, he wrote:

Let not Woman e’er complain of inconstancy in love;
Let not woman e’er complain – fickle Man is apt to rove.
Look abroad through Nature’s range, Nature’s might law is change…
Mark the winds and mark the skies, oceans ebb and oceans flow
Sun and Moon but set to rise, round and round the seasons go
Why ask then of Silly Man to oppose great nature’s plan
We be constant while we can.

Oooh, I can’t help it, it’s nature’s way!

Yeah, that sort of makes me feel stabby again. But wait, let’s talk about nature for a minute, Rabbie. I mean, you’ve got black widow spiders where the female regularly eats the male after copulation. Heck, most spiders worth this way, although some male spiders are smart enough to bring a little packet of food, tide her over, keep her from being hangry. (Valentine’s Day is coming, gentlemen, so if you haven’t ordered your mate a packet of lovely chocolates, word to the wise, be a smart little spiderboy)

And praying mantis. Once they’re done...sometimes not even finished...munch, she’ll just eat his head while his poor little body keeps going. Although actually, true fact, they only do that if they’re being observed by a human, and rarely in the wild. Can you imagine, a mantis says to her partner “oooh, there’s that damn peeping tom entomologist again. I have an idea, this is going to be great, he’s totally going to freak out, let’s just start doing it and then I’m going to...oh, just roll with it, it’s going to be hysterical, I can’t wait to see the look on his face.”

Even Octopus females will often eat a couple of the male’s arms, sometimes just dragging the poor dude off to her cave like a female Blackbeard.

Komodo dragons don’t even need a male, they can fertilize their own damn eggs, thank you very much.

Topi antelope only come into heat one day a year and on that day, the female becomes extremely aggressive and spend 24 hours hounding all of the males in the area into exhaustion.

Female anglerfish are much bigger than the males which are just inches long. The male finds a female, attaches himself to her body and then just atrophies until all that’s left are his sex organs hanging off her that she uses whenever she wants fertilized eggs.

Sorry, clearly I’m enjoying this too much. And poor Rabbie didn’t have the benefit of Animal Planet and the internet, otherwise he never would have leaned that hard on Nature’s Plan.

Look, the man was a fine poet. “I never had the least thought or inclination of turning poet until I got heartily in love. Then rhyme and song became the spontaneous language of my heart.”

We may not be poets at this table, but we know love. And tonight we honor a man who gave us such wonderful words, and toast to the men in our lives who have brought so much love into our hearts. To Burns and the laddies!

Hang on, Slim, there might be a baby in that bathwater

So, in the aftermath of the election, there are going to be a lot of really upset people; people who are concerned that they're embarking on four years of hell, in danger of losing everything that they consider the best of the United States.

And if you're on the winning side, you probably think they're idiots. If you're on the losing side, you probably think the people who voted for the winning candidate are idiots.

Here's the thing though: most of them really aren't.

The other day I was listening to the radio and one of the on-air personalities (I'm old enough to still think of them as DJ's, although that's something completely different...remember that, children, when I'm in the Home and trying to communicate through the curtains of dementia) was talking about how that morning, one of her dogs got loose while on her morning walk and ran out into traffic. And there she was, freaking out on the side of the road, trying to figure out how to get the dog back, how to get the traffic to stop, while still maintaining control of the other dog.

And a bunch of people, about ten, she said, on their way to work, stopped their cars, got out, stopped traffic, corralled her dog and got the animal safely back to her. By the time she'd fixed the dog's collar and gathered her wits about her, everyone had gotten back into their cars and driven off. You know, they had places to go and had done their Good Samaritan bit and were on their way.

Now, I can guarantee you that some of those people were Clinton supporters. Some of them were Trump supporters. (There's a possibility that there was a Johnson or Stein supporter as well, but let's not stretch statistics too far on this one.) And maybe they all had different motivations -- cared about the young woman freaking out on the side of the road, cared about the dog, were worried that the damn dog would cause an accident and foul up traffic -- but they were all motivated to help make the world just a little bit better.

I just did our big Halloween event, where the houses on our street decorate and host thousands of trick or treaters. Every house spends money, time and effort on decorations, spends about $150-$200 on candy to give away. And I can guarantee you that some of them are Clinton supporters, some Trump supporters, and yes, in this case, I'm not stretching statistics, there's at least one Stein supporter. But on the days leading up to Halloween, that night, the next day cleaning up...each of them pitched in to make the world just a little bit better for a bunch of kids and their parents.

Each of us fears that we'll lose something that we value in this election - rights, a way of life, freedoms, progress, whatever. And you think the other person is completely wrongheaded about it. I get that.

But let's remember to separate the IDEAS from the PERSON. Politics aside, you may well have a lot of things in common...your humanity and your desire to have a better world. Understand that fear does indeed make us stupid -- that it's easy for wrongheaded, stupid ideas to lodge in a brain. That social media, regular media are all doing their best to froth up that fear...make us more stupid...corral us into us and them, making each of us feel victimized...making us gullible and accepting of bullshit. And if you think only the OTHER side believes some bullshit...if you think only the other side is capable of believing some stupid shit...well, I hate to tell you this, but you're wrong. And you KNOW that, deep in the cockles of your wrinkled little brain.

Critical thinking is all well and good on a frictionless surface...sitting around the table, glass of bourbon in your hand, free of fear (wait, that might just be me, the bourbon, fine, imagine your own damn prop) with plenty of breathing room and headspace.

But it's a hell of a lot harder when you're scared and when people are pumping out all sorts of lies and fake news and you've now defriended or been defriended by people who believe differently from you, so you just hear the same bullshit over and over again, surrounded by people who agree with you, search engines now editing your information to help support your current beliefs even more, rarely showing you the opposite viewpoint, a whole goddamn cycle of supporting and perpetuating the ideas you already have.

::Deep breath::

Now, I get it -- you want to, and you have a certain right to, protect yourself from people who are dangerous to you, hurtful to you. I'm aware that in this case, I'm rocking some serious privilege -- white, middle-aged, tough and to a certain extent, a little bit inurement to misogyny. And there are indeed awful people on both sides of this particular fence...and over there, standing in the Johnson/Stein/Write-In/Whateveruselessprotestyou'remaking paddock. And yes, someone who's motivated by hate? Expletive them. Belligerent assholes? I'll do what I can, but you shouldn't feel badly about distancing yourself.

But remember that a lot of THEM are very, very much like you -- just wanting it all to be better. Heck, if it weren't for social media, you probably would have spent the rest of your life being friends with them and might not ever have noticed that they had some ideas diametrically opposed to your own. And you can be all "oh, man, I never knew that person was such a raging asshole" now that you've seen their twitter/facebook posts. Although you could be thinking "huh, we've been friends for years and worked on all sorts of stuff together but NOW I HATE THEM." Newsflash: That last one? You're thinking that? You might be a belligerent asshole yourself.

You want to get those wrong-headed ideas out of their head? Calling them an idiot is not going to do it. Separate ideas from the person; they're not necessarily the same thing. Recognize their humanity, figure out what you do have in common, try working side by side on less contentious things...you're far more likely to get them to move to your side of the fence than if you just build that fence higher and cover it with barbed wire.

Or you could shove them all away, let them be surrounded by people who think just like them, a social circle filled with people who hold the exact same stupid ideas/beliefs and they can spend the next four years reinforcing all of the bullshit and we can go through this again.

Communities get built from within, my darlings.

I organize a neighborhood event for Halloween -- we shut down the street to car traffic, decorate all of the houses on the block, host about 3,000 trick or treaters and people who just show up for the scene or to show off their own costumes. We collect some donations, which pay for some of the streetwide decorations/supplies, and have some stock decor that people can borrow, but really, each house funds its own display, buys its own candy, works really hard to set up something cool, so we can host a three hour party for 3,000 strangers.

It's a lot of work, but the looks on the faces of the kids and visitors usually makes it seem worth it. (I say usually, because by about 3pm on Halloween, having been up and decorating since 5am, I often have a crisis of conscience and think that I'm an idiot who should develop a hobby that involves more sitting around. But that passes. It always does.)

We've gotten a vanload of kids who live in an inner city neighborhood, who've never trick or treated because their own neighborhood isn't safe and think that our street must be what Disneyland is like. We've had foreign exchange students who reported at the end of their stay that this event was the thing that most represented the United States to them -- only here would people, on their own, with no government or social program, with their own money, just do something like this for the enjoyment of others. (I don't know that that's true, necessarily, but it's a nice compliment.)

People say to me all of the time, oh, I wish my neighborhood was that social and united. Look, I can't take credit for starting it -- the event was going on when I moved here, I just sort of got involved and then wandered into being in charge. (I've said in the past that like Tyrion Lannister "I drink and I know things"...which is true, but MORE true is "I drink and I make things happen") When I moved in, we had to buy 400 pieces of candy per house. We're now up to 2,000. I have a tendency to escalate things. And I'll take credit for keeping it alive through some rough patches when people wanted to cancel or bail -- 9/11, a local sniper attack, random rounds of apathy.

But here's the thing:
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Be the pebble, my friend.

Here, let me give you another way to be a happier person.

Be gracious.

Yep, that's it. I don't mean "practicing gratitude" as it's often referred to -- where you consciously think about the good things in your life, the things you're grateful for. I mean, okay, that's not at all a bad thing. But it's pretty expletive self-centered. I'd prefer you think about the good things that are in the WORLD, like just being glad that things like chimney swifts and olunguito and grimpteuthis exist. But, okay, baby steps, and if you're mired in all of the things in your life that are going to hell in a moldy handbasket, conscious recognition of what's NOT in that handbasket can be helpful. So, you go do that. And then come back, because I've got some wisdom to deliver.

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In which I command you to eat your vegetables

Let's talk about how you treat your vegetables. Side dishes in general, but vegetable side dishes in particular.

Go ahead, take me to a restaurant that serves up giant horsecarrots and zucchini slices, cut on the bias like that's going to help, barely blanched or practically raw with a random grill mark on them, with a little bit of salt and pepper. I won't make a scene because I'm genetically predisposed to not making scenes in restaurants, but there will be heated muttering and moues of disgust.

Note: I'm fine with raw vegetables. Really. I will just eat a bowlful of cherry tomatoes, or snap peas and be happy as a clam. But a lot of people are confusing "al dente" with "not bothering to cook" and it's pissing me off.

I will be less disappointed with a restaurant that does something lovely with the veg, but then buries it underneath the protein treating it as just another flavor note to complement the protein. Then again, composed dishes always irritate me. I like to taste each component on its own and then in different combinations. I will allow that that's a personal quirk, but still...

Show the vegetable some love! Let it shine! Elevate it!

If I were enough of a masochist to start my own restaurant, the menu would be composed of vegetables and sides. I'd suggest some combos, but you could mix and match as you please, or have them all as small plates. There would be a couple of protein choices, but they'd all just be high quality, very simply prepared, so that they could complement all of the sides. Because seriously, it's not that hard to cook a good steak if you start with a good piece of beef and then don't fuck it up. But to make people swoon over broccoli or zucchini? That's what I'm proud of.
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Be Happier.

Hey, you want to be happier person?

I have some hints. Hard to believe, especially if you know me, that a misanthropic curmudgeon like me could possibly be happy, much less school other people in happiness. But seriously, I totally can.

Despite my growly attitude, I find things that make me deliriously happy every day. And I wallow in those like a a pig in mud. Although to be fair, a pig would actually prefer a fly free environment and clean bedding. But let's not get distracted by animal husbandry.

Hey, there are plenty of people who have it way worse than I do. Playing "whose got more troubles" it is a pointless exercise. Of course someone's got it worse. However, let me assure you that the fact that the guy on the other side of the emergency room has two broken arms does not actually make your broken arm any less trouble. So, yes, I am armpit deep in misery and woes and obstacles and the only saving grace of working and volunteering so hard is that I only have so much time to wallow and feel sorry for myself.

So, whatever. But all of the shit I'm struggling with, and more, plus a personality that is basically irritated at the very existence of humanity, I'm still actually a very happy person.

Because you know that work I put into everything else? I also put that into the happy making as well.

It doesn't come naturally to some of us, my friend. Oh, some people are just naturally happy. Fuckers. That is not me. Maybe it's not you. You should feel okay about that, but seriously, you might have to work it, just like me. I've got more than three hints, but since I honed my merchandising skills working at Conran's Habitat, it's three or five, always. And I don't have time for five today.
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Create a happy place. A safe place, a sanctuary. My thing is my deck. Which honestly, is a shithole. Seriously, I'm afraid to powerwash it because I think the mold and dirt are the only things that are keeping the whole thing from collapsing. But I've filled it with planters that have colors and textures that make me happy. I've a plant that makes flowers that look like vampire bat faces, a jasmine whose scent makes me swoon, a baby olive tree because I think olive leaves are stunningly beautiful. A fig tree so that I can occasionally steal a fig from the wasps and squirrels. All sorts of plants that feed the birds, bees and butterflies. I can sit there and just be intrinsically happy because colors/textures and fufilling needs are things that make me happy.

I kept feeling inadequate about the crappy deck, which is attached to the crappy addition and bordered by the rusty chain link fence, all of which need to be dealt with, until I had an acquaintance over one evening and she said "Oh, you'e created a beautiful little sanctuary here." It helped me see beyond the work that needed to be done, the warping picnic table...that I should feel happy and proud of what I created, even it it wasn't perfect.

Hey, you could be into gaming -- and you've got a corner of a room or a room and you create the perfect setup. What do you want to see, what do you want to be surrounded with. Your roomate, spouse, SO does NOT have to like your stuff. If that Frazetta poster rocks your world, than save up, use a coupon, go get it framed and hang it in your space. If a cozy bedroom to retreat to, to read in bed, nap, whatever, then yeah, what are the colors and texture that make you happy -- dark colors, sunny colors, splurge on a pillow or new sheets. Stop worrying about all of the other things that need to be done/fixed and have at least one corner that makes you happy. Personally, everytime I see Stubb's Whistejacket painting, I'm gobsmacked. So I found a good reproduction, saved my spare change and am nearly ready to throw down some doss to get it framed. And I'll hang it in my bedroom where I can see it before I got to bed and when I wake up, because every time i look at it, I'm happy.

Make a happy space and then give yourself permission to enjoy it -even if you have to set a bloody alarm and commit to just 15 minutes of enjoyment.

When they say slow down and stop to smell the roses...that's actually brilliant advice. Although don't be me, lose your balance and fall into the damn rose bush. This is why I try to grow things that don't have teeth. But seriously. You get caught up in the big stuff and forget that there's little beautiful, enjoyable stuff all of the time. This afternoon I looked up and the clouds were so white and fluffy, the sky so blue, the air so clear that it was breathtaking. And yeah, of course I had something "better" to do. But just sitting there and looking at it, making a point to enjoy it? That's a NEEDFUL thing. Find a small thing that you find pleasure in and indulge it -- a special tea, a vase of cut flowers, find a mug for your coffee that's a beautiful glaze or shape. Your life might suck right now in myriad ways. But look at that coffee mug...someone poured their heart and soul into making it, the depth of color is amazing and it's in your hand. Worry about the rest of the stuff later. For now, look what you've got. Look at that mug, isn't it fabulous? Look at the intricacies of that bunch of lilies. Isn't it cool that flowers like that exist? You've got art hanging on your wall, when was the last time you sat and really looked at?

Stop thinking that achieving the big goal is the thing that will make you happy. If you don't learn to appreciate the little gifts, if you can't ring joy out of those...the big accomplishment probably won't make you happy either.

Here's a harder one: Take joy in other people's joy.

Now, I'm not talking about taking joy in making other people happy. If you're not already doing that already, you may be an asshole. Maybe you are, but you're phoning it in. Step up your game, my friend. You don't have to be a joy vampire like I am (hat tip to thatliardiego for introducing me to that term) but seriously, you need to pay that shit forward. But now I'm talking about someone else's joy that you had no part in.

Okay, so it's definitely human nature to judge. That's why reality television is so popular -- you can watch those people doing a thing, being horrible, or being a screw up or being dumb and feel better about yourself. My take-away from the Real Housewives series (I will admit to having watched three different episodes) is that well, okay, they might have more money than I do, and they may look better than I do, but I'm clearly a nicer person, plus my face still moves because it's not all jacked up with Botox.

But seriously, how superior do you need to feel on a daily basis? Try and kick that addiction. The other day I was at the gas station and a older man got out of the car behind me and he had on these crazy floral print shorts. And by crazy, I don't mean fun crazy. I mean like the kind of floral pattern you'd see on your grandmother's couch maybe, chintz or something. And the cut was...I dunno, they really didn't look like men's shorts. And there was my brain, starting to all knot up in judgment, dude, those look a little ridiculous. And then I thought "you know what, he got up this morning and decided to wear those shorts. He LIKED the way they look." And then I thought, why the fuck not? You rock those shorts, sir! Good for you for doing what you want. And you know what - I felt a great sense of relief, followed by the happy. It made me smile all day.

It's a natural reaction to push away the thing we don't understand, to diminish or ridicule. The music, the fashion - pretty much anything kids are doing some geezer disapproves of. "It's all utter crap...in MY day we had real music." Oh, seriously, is your memory that bad? Because when you were a teenager that music that you now treasure, yeah, your elders thought was crap. You think walking around with your pants hanging down around your butt is dumb? Go page through some old magazines, my friend, because I don't know that kids today have a corner on dumb trends.

Here's the thing: You don't have to like it yourself in order to appreciate that it other people do. If it's making someone else happy, quit raining on their parade. It's THEIR thing, not yours -- take joy in their joy. I used to think that fan fiction was sort of dumb - like, how could you be so obsessed, move on, get a life, you know those are imaginary characters, right? But here's the thing: when I got to know people who were into it, I found that they were creating beautiful works of art, and poetry, and fiction. (And some utter crap, to be honest -- but you know what? They felt inspired and were creating a thing. WHO THE FUCK AM I TO JUDGE?

Look I haven't lost all of my curmudgeonhood -- I will still judge your bad decisions, your bad choices, your stupid attitudes. And sometime I have to judge someone's performance. But ask yourself, if criticism, or sneering or belittling starts to rise in you -- am I tearing this person down to make me feel superior? Does whatever they're doing affect me or harm someone else? Are they happy in this thing? Happier than I am?

Then maybe I should just take joy in their joy.

Perils of Online Dating #74

So, there comes that moment in every online dating exchange, when you've exchanged enough semi-awkward social pleasantries via the dating app and now it's time for the next step: running away from the computer and swearing off dating forever.

Wait, no. That's sort of what I'd LIKE to do...but then I calculate the odds of me just running into someone that's going to fit my criteria (available, not a recovering alcoholic, not allergic to cats, willing to date a smart 50 something woman who leans a bit on the fierce side of her personality, enjoys the company of women, oh, and poly.) are extremely slim. It's happened once...I'd be an idiot to not try to stack the odds a bit.


I tend to like to leave that as step three, right after arranging a meet-up. Then comes the phone number -- as a logistical tool, really. The "running late" or "here, left hand corner of the bar" thing.

But I've come to realize that I'm letting my personal feelings about phones drive that. I'm getting better at using my phone for all sorts of things...but still, I'm wont to leave it at work or at home by mistake. I'm pretty sure no one under the age of 40 ever does that. And most of my generational cohort doesn't either. But I've also hated phones...so it's been an uphill climb developing a facility for texting, and actual chatty conversations...well, let's just say I can do that if I know someone really well.

Anyway, so I'm trying to not be so resistant -- I mean, sometimes the guy will suggest moving off the app into e-mail, which is great, totally my medium. But more and more, it's hey, here's my phone number, what's yours.

So, in the interest of embracing the 21st century, and once I've gotten a pretty good feel for whether the guy's likely to be sane, serious, and safe, I take a deep breath and type out my phone number.

No, I'm not worried about phone stalking or harrassing...I'm pretty good at shutting that stuff down. You're talking to someone who unleashes the fury of a thousand suns on people who are rude to waitstaff or retail workers.

No, a much more mundane reason. So, I'm taking a break from work and chatting with a work friend who lives vicariously through my dating, now that she's safe on the other side. And I tell her that I've been e-mailing back and forth with this guy, seems pretty cool, but now we've exchanged phone numbers. And some pleasantries via text. So far so good.

And while we're talking, he sends a text. And I have the phone on vibrate, and my internal comedian just can't play it cool and has to go for the overreaction. Which shouldn't be funny anymore...but hey, when y'all stop laughing at it, I'll stop doing it.

"So, what'd he say?" she says.

"I dunno. I'm sort of afraid to open it".

"Why not?" she says, clearly forgetting her until just-last-year dating experiences.

"It's a picture" I say.

"Oh, God" she says.

"I know, right?"

"C'mon, open it up" she says.

"What if it's a dick pic? I'll be so disappointed. As long as I don't open it, I won't be disappointed."

"Promise you'll show it to me if it's a dick pic!"

"Do you really want to see it?" I ask.

"No, not really. Well yes, but then I'll regret it."

"Okay, let's do it." And then we both lean over the phone as it loads, softly chanting "don't be a dick pic, don't be a dick pic, don't be a dick pic".

Thankfully, in this case, it was not. A lovely innocent picture, actually. For which I was grateful.

Because here's the thing. I haven't even met YOU yet, much less your private parts. Even your less than private parts (that's me giving you the side-eye again, Ab-Guy). Hey, maybe we'll get to know each other and then maybe I'll be fond enough of those parts that I might like an occasional reminder. But not until then.

For now, you send that crap and I'm deleting you so fast, I might chip a nail. And what you just did? Clearly telegraphed that you have a poor understanding of women and even poorer understanding of consent.

Not to mention, we're totally going to make fun of it. Seriously.