The Five Stages of Winter Sickness

  1. Denial: Is that a tickle in my throat? No. I probably just drank something weird. I walked past a smoker. It’s kind of cold out today. Yeah. That’s what’s going on.
  2. Misery: Oh god I’m sick and this is the grossest thing that’s ever happened and I cannot believe this happened to ME or to another human CURSE YOU WHOEVER DID THIS TO ME I SWEAR TO GOD WHEN I HAVE STRENGTH AGAIN I WILL COME AT YOU AND
  3. Acceptance: I will never have strength again. I have always been sick. I am the Alpha and the Omega. The Dayquil and the Nyquil. I have used many Kleenex; their carcasses littered around the trash can I attempted to toss them in like sacrificial lambs brought to a volcano only to tumble down the side because my arms are noodles. Do we have noodle soup? Nooooodles.
  4. Lingering: I’m not better but I’m good enough to drag my animated corpse into work. I still look like trash? I sound awful? I shouldn’t be here? I know. Oh, I know.
  5. Morning: Just one day I wake up and feel normal again.

 

Morning has to be coming. Right?

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Support Quality Journalism. Now.

Ladies, gentlemen, and friends outside the binary, we’ve reached a tipping point in our relationship with the media. Journalism has finally reached that critical mass required for real change.

I could sit here and dissect why this has happened, but frankly, it’s better left to others and we don’t have time for that. We’re in a crisis and the only thing that can fix it is cash money and your eyeballs.

We, the consumer, MUST change our media consumption habits. Now.

We, the consumer, MUST demand better reporting and reject clickbait, entertainment gussied up as news, and opinions dressed up as reporting. Now.

We are the ones with the control.

The dirty secret is that all that bullshit that’s being touted about as journalism doesn’t exist if we’re not there to consume it. We need to stop looking at trash. Now.

Our president has been very vocal about his dislike for the media, as I’m sure many of your friends and relatives have been. So. If you don’t like it, how can we change it? Talk does nothing. You’re going to have to put your money where your mouth is.

Journalism requires money. Quality journalism requires more. There’s a reason why reality shows are so prolific. They’re cheap to produce and inherently lack developed content. Journalism has gone the same way. The institutions that haven’t died off yet have had to change to meet our expectations so they can scrape together what little cash they can and keep their doors open. We cannot expect good journalism for free.

I’m not saying the media is faultless, not by a long shot, but again. We are the source of the revenue. The reason this milquetoast, underdeveloped, bullshit thrives is because we’re literally paying for it. We click and say, “Yes, this is adequate.” We keep coming back for more of the same.

On the other hand, the answer is not to get disgusted and throw up our hands, either. We need to find the good reporting that exists and support that. A rising tide lifts all boats. We need to demand quality by rewarding quality. Now.

How do we do that?

  • You’re going to need to read. Find news sources that are doing the work. If you’re not sure, find articles that have been shared with you and go beyond the headline on your Facebook wall. Dive in. See what that organization has to offer. Read.
  • Turn off AdBlock. If you’re blocking ads, you’re blocking revenue. Support good reporting with your eyeballs.
  • Read the article on the website of the people who reported it originally. Aggregators websites do not create content. They just steal and regurgitate it. This means you will need to follow your news organizations directly, visit their site, their app, their Facebook page… Otherwise, they do not get the ad revenue. Someone else who stole from them does.
  • Subscribe. Do they have a print edition? Sign up. Do they have a digital subscription? Even better. Less dead trees, more money to support good reporting. USE YOUR MONEY. VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLARS. YES, I AM YELLING.
  • Ignore nonsense. Shit is too real for you to care about what quick trick is going to trim inches off your waist, which celeb was caught red handed, 13 times a pizza was the realest, or what tattoo you should get based on your name and the street you grew up on. This is not news.

 

We, the consumers, need to take an active role to control the future of journalism. Blame is bullshit and counterproductive. We need to change. Now.

It starts with you. It ends with you. Do it. Now.

Yes, Virginia, I still mail Christmas cards.

We never sent Christmas cards out when I was growing up. Our family is tiny so there was no one to send them to. …So I’m not sure where the idea of sending Christmas cards came from, really. But I can remember as a teenager scraping together cash so I could buy my first pack of cards. They were Hallmark cards (so fancy) with a picture of mugs of cocoa and a heartwarming sentiment inside. Feeling it needed to be “Christmasier”, I also handfed the cards through our inkjet printer to add Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening to the interior of the card.

Teenaged Lauren, you were such a dork.

I sent the cards to my far-flung friends that first year. Everyone seemed tickled by the sentiment… probably because I’m such a geek. The next year, my list quintupled. (Gotta love the in-laws!) OH MAN. CARDS FOR EVERYONE!

One year, I handmade cards. Like I said – Lauren of back then was a total dork. I did not realize what a huge undertaking it was going to be. Still, they didn’t turn out so bad!

 

(I haven’t done it since.) (I usually go to Papyrus after the new year and scoop up cards in bulk at 70% off.) (I hope not paying full price at Papyrus doesn’t ruin the Christmas magic, in-laws.) (Parentheses are like secrets in writing, right?)

I know it’s antiquated, especially in this digital age. But I like it. I enjoy sitting in front of the TV and writing until my hands are sore. The sense of accomplishment at throwing fistfuls of cards into the mail… So good. This year we got a stamp for our return address and stickers to seal the envelopes, so I think I’ve hit peak Christmas card lady.

I don’t have a lot of traditions. But this one is mine.

Short Stories For Short People #4: Get In

She was stuck in rush hour traffic when the rumbling started. Earthquakes weren’t typical around here and, frankly, it didn’t really feel like one. There was something about it. Didn’t feel like it originated in the ground. It was in her chest, her arms, and legs somehow. After a solid 30 seconds, it stopped.

She flipped from music to the local NPR station. Something about strange activity. Communications from outer space. A wash of excitement… quickly replaced by fear. Sure, aliens maybe, but the thousands of strangers surrounding her was her more immediate concern. Cars were starting to honk. A white SVU ahead of her sideswiped a Prius to get over to the shoulder. He sped off.

Things were about to get crazy.

She put the car into park and began to mentally assess where she was in town, what supplies were in the car, and if she thought it was safer to stay in here or head out there.

Another couple cars zooming by on the shoulder. Maybe it was safer in here for now.

She noticed the wind picking up to the point where the car was shaking. She looked out her window, peering up.

A jet or… a spaceship? Hovering in the air above her car. She gawked at it. It was black, shaped like a fighter jet that had been stung by a bee. It didn’t seem too far away, but she was a terrible judge of distance.

Then, her cell phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Do you see me?”

“Honey?”

“Yeah!”

“Are you the goddamn space jet?”

“Yeah.”

“…you don’t work for the post office, do you?”

“Nope.”

“I knew it.”

A ladder unfurled and bumped the side of her car.

“Get in. We’re going on a trip.”

Lessons For The Modern Homemaker #2: How To Set Up Your Christmas Tree

Step 1: Approximate the area where your tree will live for the season. It’s just like that old saying – location, location, location! You want something central to your living space, but out of the way enough that it’s comfortable to navigate around and sit near.

Step 2: Clear away any furniture or fragile pieces from the area where you’ll be working on the tree set up. Sure, things will be discombobulated for a few weeks but, hey, ’tis the season!

Step 3: Gather up those ornaments and sort them by color and by type. No one likes to get the entire tree decorated and realize they forgot their handblown German gingerbread man ornaments! It would be like leaving the house without your pearls on!

Step 4: Get yourself in the holiday mood! Put on some Christmas music. Get yourself some mulled wine. Oh, you should put on that Christmas classic you have on DVD.

Step 5: Fall asleep on the couch watching the movie. Wine is warm and tasty. Just give in to that comfortable feeling. Catch some Zzzs! You deserve it!

Step 6: Dream of adventure. Dream of fire and wind and the earth below your feet as you run. You see the city in the distance, peeking out of clouds and mist. You call to the skies. You feel a strength inside you that you’ve never known in the dreary, grey day-to-day of your waking world. You see your friends and you call to them. You can laugh with them and see them and walk with them like you haven’t in years. They haven’t aged a day and neither have you. It is joyful. When evil comes to threaten them, your anger is palpable. You take your sword and shield and fight for them. You can fly. You can fly, dammit. Why haven’t you been flying? How did you miss that this was something you could do? It’s just like second nature. You start to fight. You are strong. You never feel fatigued. You just feel strong. You fight some more and you win. A talking bear tells you that you did a good job. The wreckage of the battle resembles your high school, but, somehow, like, it’s not really? You’re in your underwear.

Step 7: Wake up.

Step 8: Forget the tree.

A shoutout: Left As Rain

Left As Rain is a music blog I discovered many years ago. Anytime I’ve recommended a song that has made me seem solidly cooler than I actually am? Well, odds are I heard about it here. The blog is simple. Songs are posted and you can listen to them. Shuffling songs is an option, too. That’s it. I love it.

Even though some songs were posted years ago, you’d probably never know it. They sound as fresh as ever. I’ve discovered things here that I find myself listening to over and over. My current obsession? Derek Simpson’s Baby Come Home. Before that? Big Data’s Dangerous and Car Seat Headrest’s Drunk Drivers Killer Whales, two really strong singles that are now in heavy rotation on the indie/college stations.

They have a great ear for timeless music. They pointed me to Chvrches way before they blew up.  Foster the People. Metric. Phoenix. Zero 7. All this indie cool stuff. And if you don’t like something? Skip it. On to the next song.

It’s just nice to have a place to find music that isn’t bogged down in its own BS reviewing music telling you if something is good or not. They offer it freely. Hell, your ears will review it shortly. They have two small ads on the side, sure, but the site is elegant so you barely notice them. I usually buy singles/albums of anything I’m obsessed with by just googling the artist. The guys aren’t getting some huge kickback. To quote their bio page, they’re, “simply dudes trying to share some good music while letting the listener know what’s on our mind”.

Oh – and they have a solid appreciation of covers, which are one of my favorite things ever, so bonus points.

So yeah. Check out a thing I like. As a side note, over the last couple weeks they have been the reason for my peace of mind at work. Some primo music to be the soundtrack of my flurry of activity has been so helpful. So yes. Is good. Go listen.

So I can’t dump Trump.

Well that was a hell of a thing, wasn’t it?

I know you’re probably electioned out. We all are. Enough so that roughly two out of every five Americans didn’t even show up to vote Tuesday, according to the United States Election Project.

I don’t want to write another hot take on the subject. Frankly, this week has been rough so I’ve barely absorbed things. I know. That’s on me. But I’m not really a journalist anymore. This is a personal blog and I’m tired.

But I did go back and re-read my article about Trump from last summer with the perspective that he is the president-elect. Reading it, I think about the wave of intimidation I felt from him and his supporters as I stood in that press pool at the rally. I think about other groups that Trump has targeted since.

At that rally, we were over a year away from the election. I didn’t think he would be the nominee, let alone win the thing. The room was intense but I knew I could escape that place. Walk away. Go home. But the people he’s targeted, and subsequently some of his supporters have targeted, don’t have the luxury of escaping that anymore. This is their reality. Our reality.

 

Sorry. I probably re-wrote this a half dozen times. It’s just… I’ve seen first hand that he’s a bully and that like any good bully he incites a mob mentality for other bullies. It sucks the bully won. It sucks a bunch.

I’ve seen a couple pieces about how this is the chance for us to take care of each other. Oh, sure, be sad or angry initially, but then take action. Join groups that support your causes of choice. Be proactive. Engage. Could the next four years be what shakes 43% of Americans out of voter apathy? Maybe. But Americans are overworked. We don’t sleep well at night. Just to name a couple non-political cultural issues that extend beyond the dude that shows up in DC in a few months.

I don’t know, guys. I just know I’m pretty bummed out. But I plan to stand with those who need support. Because I don’t want to be like the bully.