The roundups continue! I wrote a similar post about 2014, but apparently we didn't learn anything in 2015 (haha)
1. Moving is hard.
This is not a revelation. But considering how we moved for the FOURTH CONSECUTIVE SUMMER in 2016, we had the opportunity to learn this lesson once again. We are well aware of how ironic it is that we keep moving to places and then kick and scream about moving away from those same places (well, most of them at least), but there you have it.
2. There is a better way than the Cone of Shame.
Last Christmas break (but still in 2015) both Matt and Ellie had knee surgery on the same day (Matt's was planned and was not caused by barbed wire, vice versa for Ellie). Matt had the CryoCuff of Shame which worked out just fine, but Ellie was given one of those terrible awful plastic cones to wear and it was disastrous. She couldn't eat, couldn't walk up the steps, tried to convince me to just leave her out in the middle of the night in the snow and cold because coming in simply wasn't worth the effort. I researched and discovered the Zen Collar, which I ran out and bought immediately and made her wear it without incident in January until her stitches healed. It should be required for dogs undergoing medical care everywhere. File that away in case you or a Dog Person you love needs this life lesson.
3. I like what I like.
Also not a revelation in any way shape or form, just a very strong reminder: as I was looking through some pictures this week I stopped dead in my tracks at this terrible one I took on my phone at Tinkertown, the wonderfully kitschy little place tucked in the Sandias that I visited with Gracie and Bridget last spring. I took the picture because the poster style caught my eye among the 97 billion other things arranged in that wonderful little place, and then I promptly forgot about it. It wasn't until I was looking again two days ago that I realized it's the same artist, Bob Coronato, that designed one of the most popular CFD posters of all time in 2015—one that we immediately purchased and had framed (for us and for Grandpa and Grandma Rodeo) even though it broke our house rule that requires we attend anything we frame with a date on it in our house. We even met him at the annual Art Show during CFD this past summer, and I wanted to cash in our savings and buy everything he was selling. HA!
3a. I may never get caught up on CFD stories.
I wlll try, but it just might not ever happen.
4. Anyone can learn to ride a horse.
I think this particular CFD story has been covered : )
5. There is more dressing up in Cheyenne than in any other town.
In the last six months, there has been: Cowgirl Elizabeth [dressy, business, and casual versions], Late 1880s Elizabeth, Turn of the Century Elizabeth, Disco Elizabeth, Fancy Air Force Ball Elizabeth, Semi-Formal Air Force Occasion Elizabeth... (Dress-up Elizabeth also usually comes with an appropriately dressed Matt doll)
6. Painting 100+ year old attics takes 17 times longer than you think it will take.
I painted and painted and painted and painted some more this summer; for some reason I seriously thought it would take maybe four days tops to paint two small attic rooms and the long hallway, but instead, it took weeks. Multiple months, even. But oh, it's so much lovelier now, even with my "aiming for 80% quality work" standard. One of these days I need to post the after photos!
7. Braces are amazing!
Braces are expensive and hurt-y, but they are also doing their good work to fix jaws (and crazy teeth). This is one year and six days difference. Bridget is on the two phase plan, which means she'll eventually be in braces again for a second round after these come off in another month, but all the awful palate expansion and chains and general unpleasantness has really paid off.
8. Purchasing Denver Nuggets basketball tickets is not unlike the plot from Rumplestiltzken.
Our big family Christmas gift this year: five tickets to see the Cavs play the Denver Nuggets in March (pictured above: Matt's clever golden ticket idea for communicating this news to girls). It was not easy to secure these tickets; Matt was surprised that signing over one's first-born was not actually part of the process. Apparently the purchasing process is legendary (not in a good way) and involves scanning one's driver's license and credit card, blurring out certain pieces of information with the online email receipt printed and then used as the background for the license and credit card scan. Denver, we're not sure what weirdo online shopping deal you made with your shopping cart host, but it might be time to enter the 21st century. 👀
9. Gold friends are worth their weight in... gold.
Maddie has had these good friends for a long time now. They don't all live in Wyoming any more even though she is the only military kid in the bunch—but these families moved mountains when the possibility presented itself to get them ALL together for the first time since 2013. All the moving around has been hard what with all the figuring out how to fit in and make new friends all the time, and it was glorious to hear old friends be old friends, no fitting in required. Both these pictures are in their time capsule, created after four years of friendship in 2013, to be opened in 2020.
10. You just never know.
It's a life lesson best shared over coffee or liquor, but the gist of the story is this: sometimes you can't imagine how life will turn out. We made the decision to switch gyms in November; this picture represents a fresh start we never would have dreamed of in a trillion years. We have long relied on the power of fresh starts in this house. Gambling on them doesn't always pay off, but in this case it did.
Bonus: You are capable of far more than you think.
Not going to lie: we don't know how we manage to keep the 37 ring circus running most days, either. But when you put one foot in front of the other—whether it's knowingly biting off work that represents more than one might reasonably chew, refocusing after a big fall, moving again, quickly establishing a home, serving the Air Force, volunteering in the community, or just getting from Point A to Point B reliably—it's good to know it's possible to do seemingly impossible things when looking back at the the evidence that proves it. We did ___ [fill in the blank]. Hopefully I will be looking back in January 2018 thinking exactly the same thing.
Welcome to another installment of the weirdest most eclectic iTunes catalog you know! It felt like kind of a slow year for music purchasing as we went a few months without buying anything new... and then December rolled around and there was some iTunes gift card spending and we ended up with exactly the same amount of new albums added as in 2015. Pictured left to right:
Harry Connick, Jr. Eleven
Gary Clark Jr. Blak and Blu
Taylor Swift Speak Now
Vance Joy Dream Your Life Away
The Wood Brothers Paradise
Ray LaMontagne Supernova
Megan Trainor Title
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Lumineers Cleopatra
Grieg: Piano Works Håkon Austbø
Mandolin Orange Quiet Little Room
The Avett Brothers True Sadness
Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016
Rhiannon Giddens Tomorrow Is My Turn
A Tribe Called Quest We got it from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service
The Record Company Give It Back To You
Kings of Leon WALLS
Shovels and Rope Little Seeds
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (A Little Something More From)
Pentatonix That's Christmas To Me
Blackberry Smoke Like An Arrow
Drive-By Truckers American Band
Various Artists A Very Special Christmas
Trombone Shorty Backatown
+ I think I officially own every single Harry Connick, Jr. album ever released now. I don't know why I didn't have this one, recorded when he was actually 11 years old (it's pretty amazing!) but now I do.
+ Gary Clark Jr. is a little bit blues, a little bit rock, a little bit R&B, a little bit soul. It's a solid album.
+ Taylor and Bridget are still going strong. This was a Christmas 2015 iTunes gift card purchase. Bridget was TICKED when she learned recently that she missed Taylor at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 2009.
+ It took me a while to decide I actually liked Vance Joy enough to look into purchasing his album—but once the switch flipped, I really like him.
+ The Wood Brothers are up there in my top 25 bands. Matt is not 100% sold on them but whatever. He can't be trusted, he bought Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits last year.
+ Supernova is not going to be my favorite Ray LaMontagne album of all time, though I feel like I need to keep working on it. It is awfully hard to beat his earlier stuff.
+ You can't put Meghan Trainor back into the bottle once you let her out. Even though I've tried. (Also a Bridget Christmas 2015 iTunes gift card purchase)
+ Gracie went with some classic Beatles with her iTunes gift card last year—you can't really go wrong with the Beatles!
+ I just love the title song from Cleopatra. It's a really well-written song.
+ OK, OK, it's true: I bought Grieg and Beyonce on the same day. HA. 2016 was the year I went on a Grieg kick in my own piano playing. Once again the point is proven that classical music is the best value for your music-buying money, because there are A LOT of songs on this album. And oh, Beyonce... Lemonade is a masterpiece. If you haven't watched the visual album of the same name, put your children to bed and watch it. Then read all about it—approximately 20 billion essays were written after its release, each more interesting than the last. It might not be your thing, but it's still brilliant. It is not kid friendly. It probably squeaks in as my #1 album of the year. She is not the Beyonce that she once was, is all I can say.
+ Matt loves Mandolin Orange. They're one of the bands he might follow around post-Air Force when he's a beekeeper with a foot-long beard.
+ The Avett Brothers album was released on our anniversary (thanks a lot for that title, Avett Brothers!) and it's a departure in some ways from previous albums but still excellent as usual. Definitely in my top 3 for 2016.
+ Jack White can do no wrong, and this collection of acoustic songs covers a lot of territory.
+ Rhiannon Giddens is 1/3 of Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group I adore—she can sing. Her solo album is a little more wide-ranging in style.
+ I am a longtime fan of A Tribe Called Quest and it was fun to see this pop up after a long absence on the music scene. I like most of it very much, and a little of it not that much at all.
+ We have a second radio station to listen to these days—still love Morning Music on Wyoming Public Radio, but a new station came into existence during our three year absence from the Front Range: The Colorado Sound. They have introduced us to a lot of good stuff and The Record Company is one of those bands.
+ For years Matt and I have gone back and forth on whether or not we like Kings of Leon enough to actually buy an album. 2016 was finally the year in which we made our first Kings of Leon purchase.
+ Rounding out my top 3 of 2016... Jain. Oh, I love this album. I saw a video linked on a blog and watched it, and then watched a bunch more, then immediately purchased it and listened to is about 23 times in a row (not even kidding). Best of all, Bridget loves it too. She was sorely in need of an American pop intervention. Jain is French, but with an African and Middle Eastern upbringing. Excellent.
+ Shovels & Rope has earned "old standby" status for me. They are solid every single time.
+ Not sure how I missed the little EP from Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats until a few weeks ago...
+ Gracie and Bridget are both on a huge Pentatonix kick. HUGE. They spent their iTunes cards on two full albums (there is hope!) recently, and have been playing it nonstop ever since.
+ I decided to replace my 1987 cassette of A Very Special Christmas with the digital version this year. I know this album forwards and backwards and upside down.
+ Blackberry Smoke: this just appeared. I haven't listened to it yet... Matt is the Blackberry Smoke fan. They perfomed at The Outlaw when we lived here before, but we didn't go—and now they're probably too big to come to The Outlaw.
+ Drive-By Truckers just appeared too, though I bought this one for Matt to find. (We both very much like Drive-By Truckers.) It's not as much fun to give people music for Christmas in the post-CD age, but I tried.
+ Can you believe this is the first Adele we've ever bought?
+ Finally, Trombone Shorty gets to join the full-album club! Gracie bought a single song last year and decided she wanted the whole thing (double hope in raising future album buyers!). He is opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers at Pepsi Center in March; Gracie would LOVE to see him but I'm not so sure about taking a 12 year old to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert. Heh.
In addition to full albums, a small number of singles found their way to us this year: most hilariously, Macklemore's Downtown which I bought for $1 so Matt could have a new cassette tape to listen to in the Subaru, hee hee. Who releases tapes? Macklemore, that's who. It was also the year of Pitbull (HAHAHA) because Gracie chose his Bon, Bon as her floor music this year. We had to buy it to submit it to the company that mixed it for her. Interestingly, it traces all the way back through its many renditions as a sampled song to a 1956 Italian language song called Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano. Maddie chose a song called Bom Bom by Sam and the Womp for her floor routine—it was not planned, all this Bon Bon Bom Bom business. Taylor Swift popped up in single form a few times, and I bought a White Stripes single from 2000 that doesn't appear on anything else we own titled Lord, Send Me An Angel.
This was also the year of the Shazam. I Shazammed over two hundred songs this year on my phone (!!) and Matt Shazammed a little over sixty on his. I Shazammed songs for many reasons: because I couldn't remember who sang something due to old age, because I wanted to know the album name, because it was super-catchy and I wanted to remember it later, because it was something the adorable little old man on the UNM public radio station played on his Tuesday night show in Albuquerque and I knew for a fact I would never hear it again anywhere else so I had to figure out what it was before I lost my chance forever, because I had fallen off my chair at our former and beloved New Mexico orthodontist's office, simultaneously mortified and quietly laughing to the point of tears to hear something like 2 Live Crew playing on his otherwise wholesome Sirrius XM station while no one else in the office seemed to notice besides me and Maddie. In fact, I can attribute all seven gangsta rap and early 1990s hip hop Shazams in 2016 to his office. Hee. I saved my list of Shazams so I can start to figure out any patterns (i.e. I need to check this Margaret Glaspy person out, because apparently she caught my ear four different times in 2016).
In case you're wondering: we have no plans to subscribe to Apple Music, Spotify, or any other streaming service. More than ever, we want to own our share in the music we love for as long as we're able. Our 2008 iPod Classic continues to hold it all (knock on wood) and we care for it like the rare and precious outdated piece of technology that it is, because once it's gone, we'll be lost. But for now, we're happily listening to both new and old favorites every day like the modern Luddites we are.
It's book report time, hooray!
I did not come close to my amazing total of 36 like last year, but a rather anemic 27. However, I did black out my bingo card for my online Book Bingo group for the third year in a row (🎉) and I regained two old book clubs—the one at the elementary school that Maddie and I were members of for three years (and now attend with Gracie and Bridget), and a new incarnation of my old Wyoming grownup book club. It is so nice to be back! I wouldn't give up Book Bingo for anything, either. The card has grown from 25 squares to 35 this year, so we'll see if that affects my total books read for 2017.
Here are notes on my five-star books for the year:
+ I have always been a bit of a Romanov family buff, and this was a really great investigation into the family that included a whole lot of detail that was new to me. This is technically a Young Adult non-fiction book, but I would recommend it for anyone with interest. Candace Fleming is a favorite picture book author of ours (Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! and others) and it was fun to read something different from her.
+ I think everyone has read All the Light We Cannot See by now, yes? It's a unique spin on another angle of World War II. Interestingly, I did not write a review over at Goodreads when I finished it, but it's definitely worth adding to your list if you missed it.
+ I read Me Before You last year—it was the right book at the right time. Sequels don't always stand up for me but this one was yet again the right book at the right time. Do not be deceived and let someone convince you Jojo Moyes' books are fluff—they are gritty, messy, and absolutely satisfying with multi-layered characters and a very strong voice.
+ Brian Selznick is a genius. This one is just as confusing as the other two he's written/illustrated until suddenly it isn't confusing at all, and it's just brilliant.
+ I reviewed Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal here. Definitely one of my most favorite books of the year.
+ I picked up Yaa Gyasi's book in the Dallas/FW airport because I love to buy a book in an airport (OK, that's an excuse but it is a highlight of any trip) and it lived up to all the debut author hype that I had read about her. I was actually a little annoyed when the chapters moved so abruptly from character to character at first until I realized the reason she was doing it—and then I just fell into the family tree and enjoyed it immensely. She doesn't shy away from hard things. This is one I'll reread at some point.
+ Stella By Starlight is a jFiction book that somehow manages to introduce the horrors of the KKK to children without being overly frightening (it's frightening, but I'd still recommend it for 3rd graders on up). I loved Stella and her family.
+ Very Married is the second book authored by my brilliant sister Katherine! (You can read all about her first book here.)(And, oh, man, I can hardly bear to read about those babies who are even more grownup now.) I still stand by the truth that it is extremely weird to read about the intimate details of someone you're related to but wow, did she ever write an honest, beautiful book about marriage and her vision, struggles, and victories within her own. This would make an excellent book club book, an excellent study book for a religious small group, or just a good book to read if you want to think about both the macro and micro implications of marriage as an institution. it isn't so heavy that you'll drag through it, but you'll finish it feeling like you are both smarter and more aware of what marriage means. Do you need a link to buy it? HERE YOU GO.
+ Naya Nuki: read for the elementary school book club, and used for the square on my bingo card "a book you would not normally read." I never in a million years would have picked this one up on my own, but it was a great story and led to an excellent discussion on book club night. I think I (and people in general) are a little more critical of books written about Native American characters these days vs. when I was growing up, and this was a good one. It was written in 1983, so well done, Kenneth Thomasma.
+ Riding the White Horse Home was a memoir read by my grownup book club, written by a new 2016 inductee to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame, Teresa Jordan (Miss Frontier 1975; outgoing Wyoming U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis was her Lady-in-Waiting). It was so good. I immediately bought my own copy after reading the library one, and two more which I have earmarked for gifts. Her writing is just beautiful. It was also fun to read a book in which I recognized both geography and a couple of local family names. You don't have to live in Wyoming to appreciate it, though.
+ Shooting Kabul was a reread (for elementary school book club, read first when Maddie was assigned to read it in 6th grade) and it was just as good as the first time around.
+ I realized when I was figuring out what classic book I could read to black out my bingo card that I had never actually read A Christmas Carol before—obviously I know the story (thanks Muppets! And no less than five other movie/stage versions!)—but I hadn't actually READ it. I loved it. It was fast and festive and very enjoyable.
+ Whoo boy, one of the reasons you join a book club is so you can read character-building books that you might not get to otherwise. Such was the case with The Sympathizer, which was truly a masterpiece and also required a lot of focus and occasionally a strong stomach. It is a slow read; I would read and read and read before I went to bed and feel very accomplished until I realized I had read only ten pages. I'm so glad I read it though.
+ Trevor Noah's new book, Born a Crime, is not just a book written by a comedian but a sharp look into the era of apartheid in South Africa. I have always been immensely interested in this chapter of history, and reading about it through the eyes of someone super-funny made for a different experience than you'd get from reading a more traditional non-fiction book.
Other good books that made the four-star list: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward; One Plus One by Jojo Moyes; The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I rated more books with three stars than normal, and no books with one star this year (whew!).
I don't count picture books toward my yearly total of books read but I did read a whole bunch of those, too; I wrote about some of them in my only piece for Nerdy Book Club in 2016.
So let's hear it! What were your favorites in 2016?
It is somewhat alarming to me that I thought all those other Decembers were a little crazy, because this year we were truly running a 37-ring circus in this house. WHOO BOY. If you aren't a fan of eleventy-billion photos (many of questionable technical quality) in overly long blog posts, I'll be back soon with other, shorter 2016 roundups and you can move right on past this one : )
I had a meeting that ended in a quick jaunt up to the Tom Horn room via secret elevator; actually, I was told it was a secret elevator and to ask at a certain location about its whereabouts and the woman I asked assured me it was not secret at all and I had to tell her SHE WAS RUINING THE STORY. Heh.
Abby came over for calm and relaxing Christmas Project night, where she made a little felt cat to jump from stocking to stocking in her handmade advent calendar and I made a whole bunch of moderately bow-like bows to hang on our outside garland. The girls did stuff too. We ate cranberry pie, and it was most fun. I think Matt was on alert during this fun, though I can't really remember.
We had exactly one open window of opportunity to acquire a tree, which happened to be the day after Bridget was stricken with stomach flu. We dragged her along because she had stopped throwing up for at least 24 hours and was just post-flu miserable. Ellie was forced to get into the Christmas spirit, and Gracie thought she might perish in the act of placing the tree topper this year (she didn't). But, see how pretty our fresh mountain-cut tree is that the wonderful people at Riverbend Nursery retrieved for us since hiking up to the mountains was once again not an option this year?
Window swap day (FINALLY) which was kind of the bane of our existence. Coincided with Maddie's turn at stomach flu—Ellie was super happy about being locked in the basement with the yakker. Matt was on his way to National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas at this point. There are five houses left on base that still have the screen window/storm window system; this requires a swap twice a year and about seven workmen running in and out of the house all day. More than once this month we had to repeat "historic houses are charming" over and over. [Not pictured: the four times it took for our boiler to get fixed so it would finally work]
The girls and I managed to get our Angel Tree shopping done (I'd have to check the metadata for the date by this point). We purchased gifts for a baby girl who needed clothes and a six year old girl who just needed some Christmas fun.
Ellie and I did not win any awards for mileage this month but we did manage to knock down a few, despite the stomach flu and all the bitter cold. Pictured here: my stretching coach, who really doesn't care one way or another if I actually stretch so long as I sit still for a bit after returning home.
I had another lunch meeting and got to hold a sweet little four month old baby the whole time! It was lovely. I put her to sleep, and her mama was able to eat her lunch with two hands. I have not lost my edge at eating a meal with one hand.
Birthday day for our new 12 year old! Not sure whose idea it was to have a baby in December, but whatevs. She had as lovely a day as could be.
Gracie's and Bridget's elementary put on the MOST AWESOME elementary Christmas program I have ever attended. Seriously. Gracie is dressed in not-Christmas clothes (front center) because she played Yoshi from Mario Bros in a commercial during the show. It sounds weird but trust me, it was a brilliantly produced program.
Maddie also had a lovely Christmas concert—perhaps one of the better ones we've been to as well. In order to get to the concert I had to play a game called Hem a Velvet Dress With No Scissors or Fusible Hem Cheat Stuff. It's a good thing she cleans up so nicely.
The girls' new gym (long story to be explained later) had a great Christmas party in which they all exchanged fun socks. They had to be stuffed with inexpensive yet clever things (just call me Christmas elf). I also went to an ornament exchange party and decided to make my own ornament vs. buy one I didn't love; I trashed my craft room for about the fourth time in December working on it. But, cute! Gracie's annual gingerbread house birthday party was on Saturday. I know the date—December 17— because in full disclosure, December 16 was Meltdown Day around here. I think it might have been last year, too, as that was the day the lady totaled my van in Albuquerque. December is oh so fun and oh so frenetic.
I got scared TO DEATH by a squirrel for the second time this month (the first time the stupid squirrel jumped out of the trash can at me with jazz hands). Jimmy Johns kept us from starving (ahem, more than once). I went on a wild goose chase for lard so I could make this town some biscochitos (and ended up visiting TWO DIFFERENT WALMARTS in the same day). I visited the secret post office that every town has (except Cheyenne's isn't a post office, but rather a seedy UPS warehouse that you have to know about to know about and is only open three hours a day).
Yet another long story that has some explanation coming: our good friends from Colorado Springs treated us to lunch and the Broncos vs. Patriots game. We happily booed the donkeys while wearing our super-protective Browns gear and had a wonderful time with our friends. IT WAS SO COLD.
Matt very helpfully came down with the stomach flu on chocolate-covered cherry making night. It takes four times as long to do this two-person job by oneself. Gracie started avoiding me, because I started threatening her that I was going to dip her in bleach. [She still hasn't come down with the stomach flu so knock on wood]
I laughed as this status passed through Timehop on December 22. TRUE STORY, SISTER. Maybe we really do run the same 37-ring circus every year and I just forget.
While there is no picture to prove it, I mailed about 60% of my Christmas cards at a respectable point in the month. The rest got mailed from a closed post office on Christmas Eve. Sigh.
Abby and Wes graciously gave the girls the gift of being Chicken of the House over break (does anyone say that but my family?) and each of the girls got a time slot in which to bask in the fun and magic of the Peterson home. It was glorious, and they had the time of their lives. (Bridget's day was before Christmas, Maddie and Gracie were after).
We scrambled to make Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve; not our very best effort of all time because most of our toppings were discovered missing too late to remedy and I got distracted and only put four cups of flour in the mixer vs. four and a half. Ah well. Next December!
The day after Christmas we braved the RIDICULOUS wind and cold and took Ellie on a no-leash adventure around the base lake. It was awesome. She had the time of her life. Lucky to report that no barbed wire injuries occurred this year. Or knee surgeries.
Oh yeah! Did I mention I squeezed in a little creative work in December? I did. Joined the Paislee Press creative team, did some other design and photography work, including a shoot at the library soon—which will mark my third time working there in some capacity in 16 years.
I know I missed all sorts of things—like multiple gym practices and private lessons where many skills were worked on, lots of phone calls and laughs and holding-on-for-dear-life moments, a number of intense sports games on TV, etc. But this seems to be the right place to end: with our sweetest dog, happiest when we're all finally done with the circus and hanging out together as a pack.
December, see you next year.
It's December, and in the memory-keeping/scrapbooking world that means just about everyone is participating in Ali Edwards' December Daily®, a great project in which you capture a story each day and document it. For years I've had every intention of doing the whole daily part of the project, only to remember around the 4th of the month that December is tied with May for craziest schedule month of the year. And so, I faithfully take scores of photos then share them all at once here at the end of the month or in January. This year I decided that I actually kind of love my December All At Once™ (heh) approach, and I'm not fighting it this year. I'll take photos of the truly unbelievable calendar of events, and look forward to rounding up all the fun at the end of the month. I even started an album that will hold our December photos and stories; it's liberating to finally recognize that this approach just works better for me! I wish everyone who undertakes December Daily® all the best of luck—I love seeing all the December fun pass through my Instagram and Facebook feeds—but don't feel bad if you end up dropping out...you can pick back up all at once, I promise.
It was the best kind of Thanksgiving break: fresh food and beautiful pie (all the girls made a pie this year—cranberry for Maddie, pumpkin for Bridget, apple for Gracie), serving in the base dining facility, a birthday and a movie all together, knitting, reading, and listening to Jim Dale's Harry Potter for the 300th time, stressful but victorious football and other games, not driving a car for an entire 24 hours, thousands of people at the Christmas Parade (and first time being in it vs. watching it), hours and hours spent ironing and sewing for the Great Curtain Project of 2016 (five down, many to go). December will be anything but restful, so we especially enjoyed some down time.
I've become a magpie of sorts since the day after Election Day, collecting words at an alarming rate. I'm a big news reader/listener already, but I've even alarmed myself at the amount of news I've read/listened to in the past couple of weeks; something about knowing is better than not knowing, awareness is better than complacency. With decreasing amounts of melodrama, I can still say I am not in any way shape or form convinced that everything will be OK in the world, no matter what people try to say to suggest otherwise. To put it lightly: I have concerns.
I've been making an effort to collect other words, too, though, to adjust the ratio of my outlook for the better. I've gathered words from Toni Morrison and Andrea Jenkins, Colton Whitehead and my friend Missy. I've gathered words from writers I didn't know before, pointed out by people I do. I've bought words at the bookstore and chosen more at the library. My subconscious has been more adamant about the importance of physical books than ever. I don't want these words to return to the ether of forgotten pixels when I'm done; I want them to become shared words, ideas, actions. I've added The Once and Future King to my list of books to read on the recommendation of an old friend who shared an excerpt that stopped me in my tracks:
"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn." —T.H. White, The Once and Future King
See also: making, creating. I said some nonsense in the last year about only being able to affect one's own small corner of the world, and I see that for the nonsense it is now. There is no small corner, because there is no corner. A corner implies something flat. Which of course the world is not, only a myth that was somehow spread about people's beliefs in the first place.
One of of my favorite radio shows, Morning Music from Wyoming Public Radio, pointed out some more words this morning in the form of a Decemberists song I hadn't heard before:
So raise a glass to turnings of the season
And watch it as it arcs towards the sun
And you must bear your neighbor's burden within reason
And your labors will be borne when all is done
—from Don't Carry It All
I'm adding them to my collection.
Yesterday morning I decided to search for a weird piece of trivia: how many times Jackie Robinson played in the World Series, and how many times his team actually won. He went with his Brooklyn Dodgers six times, and the team only won once between 1947-1955. Considering he is one of the greatest baseball players of all time, I was surprised at this ratio—but also ever-so-slightly comforted by the perspective, too: of course winning the World Series is the ultimate goal, but not winning doesn't erase the accomplishment and legacy of a wonderful baseball career. I thought about this a lot yesterday while fighting back the tears about my own beloved team falling short of the ultimate goal, for the third time in my life. It's a little different this time around: in 1995 I knew there would be another chance, and in 1997 there was—but the fist-shaking anger and disappointment of that loss is not the same as this one, where the absolutely valiant effort of an entire team past the bitter end simply wasn't enough.
I've avoided reading anything about this World Series since Wednesday night. My heart can't take all the "epic" and "historic" descriptors. I've avoided Facebook like the plague, and I deleted the news stories about the Cubs from my Morning Edition playlist on the NPR app yesterday. Immature, yes. But still self-preserving, because it never served anyone to walk a dog around a neighborhood bawling. Gracie, our first true next-generation baseball fan, wanted to stay home from school yesterday and I felt like the worst mother ever for making her go because I totally get it, kid. Your parents didn't want to face the world yesterday, either. There will be a parade for the victors, and their fans deserve to enjoy it, of course. It deflates one's disappointment just a bit, even if it does feel ever-so-slightly like a case of false equivalency—but being a good sport means not pointing out the Bears, the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the White Sox, and the Fire and their long list of championships. Being a good sport means clenching one's teeth and sending a message of congratulations to a good friend who no doubt would have done the same if the outcome had been different. And then moping around the rest of the day.
Here's what it means to be a Cleveland Indians fan: it's a gift passed from one generation to the next, through good times and many more bad. It's holding an earliest memory close of attending an Indians vs. Yankees game around age three, and thinking it was funny to crack a joke (at age 3!!) that just maybe I'd go sit with the Yankees fans—knowing full well the horrified reaction that would provoke. It's remembering a game at Municipal Stadium where the only way you could see Nolan Ryan pitch his last game against your team was to lean around the ill-placed steel column in front of your seat. It's taking one's seven week old baby to her first game at the Jake and making her watch to soak it all up. It's not talking to your family for a month after a World Series loss because what words could you say, anyway? It's holding a grudge for 19 years and running against a pitcher who blew a save in a Game 7 even though everyone knows grudges are ridiculous and bad for your health. It's driving hundreds of miles to another team's ballpark just to cheer them on. It's chattering nervously with old and dear friends, holding hands and vigil across the country in a way that makes you proud of who you know and how you caught that baseball fever in the first place, even when everyone else is squawking about football becoming the national pastime. It's being so nervous that you make yourself sick to your stomach and screaming so loudly you're afraid you might get the cops called (and that's just in the occasional regular season game). It's a lifetime of internal conflict over logos while knowing full well you're going to root for your team no matter what. This is the hard lesson that I'd like Gracie to learn, one that I'm still learning myself: with great sorrow comes great joy. To be invested in a sport that isn't "just a game," but is also American history, vicious and honorable strategy, an escape from the clock and life's too-fast pace, the most and least relaxing way to spend time depending on the day—it's more than "just a game." And one of these days, that investment will be rewarded in full and someone else can repeat the words "someday, someday, someday." Please, please: just one before I die.
I finally broke down and peeked at one article in the very safe place that is the Cleveland Indians home page. Already the talk is of next season, spring training, and playing for an Indians nation that is firmly behind its team. They didn't win and it's a shame. But there is no shame in how they played.
April 2, 2017. We'll be waiting.