Saturday 9: It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve

Saturday 9: It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve (1977)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

Welcome to the last Saturday 9 of 2017! Thanks for a great year, everyone.
1) In this song, Barry Manilow declares New Year’s Eve is “just another night.” How do you feel about 12/31? Is it a special occasion or just another night? A small special occasion–it comes a week after Christmas and I wouldn’t rank it as high, but I wouldn’t say it’s the same as any other night, either.

2) Barry sings that in the past year, “we’ve made mistakes.” What in 2017 do you wish you could do over? I don’t know that there’s anything I’d like a proper redo on, but I wouldn’t be disappointed to get a do-over where I could manage my time better.

3) He also sings of happy nights with friends. Tell us about a really good time you had in the past year. I’ll pick a recent one–my friend Sarah’s family has a Christmas party every year, and we’re always invited. This year, friend Marion and my cousin Meredith happened to be in town, so the three of us were all over with Sarah. Due to a messy falling out, I don’t see or talk to Marion much anymore, but we were all there drinking and doing karaoke and having a general grand time.

4) The song references growing wiser, as well as older. What’s something you learned or discovered in 2017? I just answered a similar question! I can’t pinpoint many big things I can cite, but I’m always taking in new things. But I learned a lot about the American insurance/healthcare industry from the book An American Sickness, and everyone should read it.

5)  What do you wish you had spent more time doing during 2017? I mean, there are always tons of things I want to do in any given day, let alone year, so I could rattle off a whole list of things that got put on the backburner because I was doing paid writing gigs or planning a wedding or whatever. But the reality is they’re things I would’ve done given the time, and I had good reason for using my time in other ways, so honestly…I wouldn’t change any of that. But since I won’t have a wedding to plan in 2018, I’m looking forward to maybe doing some of those things.

6)  What was the smartest thing you did all this past year? Took advantage of overtime, got the ball rolling on house hunting, really went hard on paying down credit cards.

7)  As this year comes to a close, what are you most grateful for? My husband, my family, my friends, and the wedding, which might be a weird one to throw in, but they were all there and everything people says about feeling loved at your wedding is true. So I’m grateful for that feeling.

8) When this week’s featured artist, Barry Manilow, was a jingle writer, he wrote the famous “You deserve a break today at McDonald’s” song. When’s the last time you visited the Golden Arches? Sometime within the past couple months, but it’s not somewhere we usually go. And when we do, I typically order either ice cream or salad, like a boss.
9) Random question: In high school, were you more popular with the boys or the girls? Girls.

Friday 5: One Is Silver, the Other Gold

  1. Who made you laugh most in 2017? Probably my husband. I’m around him the most, and our weird senses of humor mesh really well together.
  2. What’s something you learned or discovered in 2017? I don’t know that I could pinpoint one thing, because I read and watch so much (especially at work on that last one) that I’m usually learning something. And I’m retaining it and using it, I just can’t say, like, “Here is one specific thing I learned.” Although I will say that one of the books I read was An American Sickness, and I learned a lot about how the insurance and healthcare industries function, specifically how the whole thing has become so profit-motivated and how the system is in obvious need of fixing. Every American should read it.
  3. In what way was 2017 better than 2016? I got married, although we’d been living together and have been a couple for seven years, so the marriage was just kind of making it legit and hasn’t changed anything about our day-to-day lives. But on the flip side of that, as lovely as our wedding was and as fondly as I look back on it, for the last few months of 2017, we had no wedding stuff to do anymore because it was all over, and that’s pretty nice, I have to say. Weddings are fun, we felt really accomplished at having pulled it off, but good God, is it nice to not have to do anything for it anymore.
  4. What was your most pleasing purchase in 2017? Does said wedding count? I also accumulated, as usual, a lot of great books and music. Oh, wait, no, all my concert tickets were my most pleasing purchases. Every single one. Plus our season tickets to the ballet. That one, strangely, might edge out concerts a tad just because it’s something I’d been talking about wanting to do one day and seemed a little more expensive and out of reach than it really was, and when I saw that their season had three ballets I wanted to see, I went for it.
  5. When in 2017 were you pleasantly surprised? You know, I think I felt that way last night when I was scrolling through one of those posts someone made compiling positive news stories of the year. There were a lot that I missed, and there was some really great news in the midst of, well, the rest of this that was good to hear.

As always, from Friday 5.

Well, I did it again! I got sick around the holidays.

I woke up Christmas morning with a little congestion and a dry throat, but I just attributed it to winter grossness and thought it was nothing some green tea couldn’t cure. Turns out I was wrong, and here I am, having missed three days of work and hoping I don’t make it four.

But let’s backtrack. Because the silver lining is that I didn’t feel like shit until late in the evening on Christmas and that aside from that, I had a really nice holiday, albeit a busy one where I was pretty busy and didn’t sleep as much as I probably should have, which is probably how I ended up here.

From Friday night on, it was kind of all Christmas fun. With so much of it happening closer to my parents’ house, it made a ton more sense for Paul and I to just spend the weekend there. So I was gonna go to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which he skipped this year–I’d go into the city with Brandon since my mom was very opposed to me riding the T totally alone, and I’d ride in my parents’ car and stay with them for the weekend.

Of course, I thought Brandon and I had made a plan, and then he texted me asking what the plan was, but he picked me up at my place to go see TSO while I ran around trying to gather an overnight bag and then what other things Paul would need to bring me for the rest of the weekend. We decided to take the T in, as usual, but that meant I couldn’t lug everything I’d need for the whole weekend. So I struck to the necessities for 24 hours and piled the rest in shopping bags in our living room, then messaged Paul a list of everything else I inevitably forgot or just wanted to be really, really sure he’d remember.

The concert was really good, as it always is, but with an extra touch of sad this year, as one of the founding members and the touring bassist both died over the course of the year. So it wasn’t the same.

But Night 1 of my weekend stay pretty much was. If you ever want great, purely innocent entertainment, wake up a puppy from a deep sleep who hasn’t seen you in a month. I have never seen such a confused pup, but after he went out to pee in the cold, he woke up and was sufficiently excited to see me.

And then I had a snack, went to bed, and slept so deeply myself that for a split second when I woke up, I forget where I was.

Saturday 9: Happy Holidays

Saturday 9: Happy Holidays! (from the archives)

1. As you can see, Sam loved giving her annual wish list to Santa. Yet some children are reluctant to climb into Jolly Old St. Nick’s lap. Did you enjoy the tradition or were you shy? Or did you by pass it altogether — either because you wrote him a letter or because your family didn’t celebrate Christmas? I was a shy kid, but I’d go sit in Santa’s lap. It didn’t really bother me. My brother, however, when he was little, cried every year. There’s a great series of photos that tons of families have where I’ve got a nice, big smile and my brother’s crying and has wriggled halfway onto the floor.

2. Are you currently on the Naughty or Nice list? How did you get there? I’m on the Nice list because I’m a good person, damn it!

3. Did you ship any gifts to friends and family this year? If so, which one traveled the farthest? I didn’t. My brother-in-law and his wife in California are owed gifts, but they may be moving back in early 2018 so I’m just holding on to them.

4. Did you buy yourself a gift this year? I am notorious for buying myself things while I’m supposed to be shopping for other people, and although I did do it again this year, it wasn’t as bad as it has been in years past and it was mostly clothes. I do try to avoid getting myself things that would make good gifts, especially if I can just point them out to my husband. Although it’s worth mentioning I got almost none of the things I showed him this year.

5. What’s your favorite holiday-themed movie? Have you seen it yet this year? It’s The Muppet Christmas Carol, and I try to make sure I watch it every year. We put it on at my parents’ place on Christmas Eve.

6. Thinking of movies, Christmas is lucrative for Hollywood. Have you ever gone to a movie theater on Christmas Day? I don’t think I have. Two of my cousins used to go every year and I was invited a couple of times, but I’m a Christmas couch potato. I like to open presents, park it, eat, and probably nap.

7. Have you ever suffered an embarrassing moment at the company Christmas party? No–my company only did the office Christmas party for the first time this year, at least since I’ve been there. Since I started, we used to just do a small potluck in the conference room, but we have new management and they decide to bring back the proper office Christmas party. So we had a really nice dinner at a hotel in Pittsburgh, and my husband and I used our two drink tickets and behaved. However, near the end of the night, the DJ–I assume by request–started playing a lot of raunchy ’90s rap, so that was fun and interesting and showed me a whole new side to the company. And in a fun coincidence, when we took dance lessons before our wedding, one of the instructors is in a long-term, committed relationship with one of the women on a different shift. He taught us a couple of times in group classes and a little privately, so when he saw us at the party, he grabbed me and spun me around the dance floor a few times. It was fun and I kind of loved it. It wasn’t at all embarrassing, but it was one of those things where the whole time, I was very aware of what a different side of me it was showing my supervisors and coworkers. I’m quiet at work, and there I was being taken around a dance floor by a proper professional dancer.

8. What’s your favorite beverage in cold weather? Tea or hot chocolate. I don’t necessarily have one particular go-to, though.

9. Share a memory from last Christmas. My cousin and his new wife announced that she was pregnant, and my uncle whipped out champagne to do a toast. It was a neat, exciting moment, and so this year, there’s a new generation included in our festivities.

Friday 5: Seasons

  1. What foods are most representative of each of the four seasons? The only ones I think of are the obvious ones–pumpkin pie and soups in the fall and winter, fresh fruit and things like corn on the cob in the summer. But I don’t have any definitive options or go-tos for spring.
  2. What are good songs to represent each of the four seasons? As much as its associated with a Christmas ballet, the waltz of the flowers by Tchaikovsky in The Nutcracker for spring. I could make entire playlists for summer–The Beach Boys, pop songs that are perfect for sunshine and windows down. “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire. Winter is easy, with Christmas carols and The Nutcracker. 
  3. What would be good films to represent each of the four seasons? I mean, my favorite Christmas movie is A Muppet Christmas Carol, so that’s the clear winter winner. I’m stumped on the others.
  4. If you could divide the calendar year into four seasons some other way with some other theme besides weather or major professional sports, where would each seasons begin and end, and what would each be called? What about making it so that the calendar is structured around the seasons in a more logical way? Like, have the start of the year correspond with the start of, say, spring, so you don’t have this stretch of winter spanning the end of one year and the beginning of the next.
  5. What’s something in your area that’s extra fun in the winter? Ugh, nothing. I mean, if you like snow, sure, it’s fun, but I don’t.

As always, from Friday 5.

Well, our original plan yesterday was to go see Star Wars with my brother, sister-in-law, and her sister and her boyfriend, but Paul came down with an ear infection. It started Friday night, peaking after MedExpress hours, of course, and it wasn’t the kind of thing either of us felt warranted an ER. He ended up sleeping a long time into Saturday morning and felt better, but we figured the smart thing to do was stop by MedExpress. We were both pretty sure it would be an ear infection, and we were right. Then we grabbed dinner, ran a few errands, and came home and watched The Witch. He’s still asleep now.

We did have a plan to go see Star Wars on our own today, if he felt up to it, so we’ll see. Either way, I’m trying to tackle as much of my to-do list as possible–laundry, putting a kitchen table together, getting wedding thank-yous out to our vendors, send Christmas cards, write, house hunt, update my résumé, look at job listings, submit some writing around the Internet, clean…I know there’s no way that’s all happening, but the more, the better.

Saturday 9: Silent Night

Saturday 9: Silent Night (1957)
Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.
1) How well do you know “Silent Night?” Without looking up the lyrics, could you sing along with Elvis? Oh, easily, but the deeper into the verses you get, the less I know.

2) The Christmas with Elvis album hit the stores in October 1957. Were you already preparing for Christmas back in October? Absolutely not. I love Christmas in general, but one of the things I do not love and hate, in fact, is this whole thing of pushing it for nearly half the year. I get why Christmas albums and things need to come out far enough in advance for hype and sales, but this sort of fervor long before the holiday is what makes it seem superficial and materialistic as opposed to a religious holiday. I think that’s a far bigger crime against the holiday than people saying, “Happy holidays” to accommodate non-Christians.

3) Clearly Elvis liked a flocked white Christmas tree. Is your tree flocked, aluminum or pine green? Real or artificial? Or do you skip the whole tree thing altogether? The last couple years, I’ve skipped it–I just don’t have the space in my small apartment, especially now that I have a husband in it, too. When I did put it up, I put it right in front of my sliding glass doors, but at the moment, there’s a TV there I didn’t have when I first moved in and small boxes of husband’s stuff that have nowhere else to go.

4) Back in the late 1950s, Elvis left his hair its natural brown color. In the 1960s he began having it dyed black. Do you have a salon appointment scheduled between now and year end? I do not, because I had it dyed (pink!) right at the end of November, and she and I agreed that I ought to wait and see how it fades before scheduling. We also thought we might see each other in the meantime, and we still could, but the plan was that she’d be able to gauge when she thought I should go back. In any case, I’ll probably try to get in in January.

5) Have you ever peeked, looking for a Christmas gift you know is hidden for you somewhere in the house? No, I like to preserve the surprise. I was never one of those kids that went hunting for my Christmas presents.
6)  Which do you prefer, candy canes or gingerbread? Gingerbread.
7) Is anyone receiving a home made or do-it-yourself gift from you this year? No, which is a slight bummer because I do enjoy making things, I just don’t really prioritize it anymore. One day…
8) Do you wrap holiday gifts in paper, or do you take the gift bag route? I usually use gift bags because I’m not a good wrapper. I didn’t inherit my mom’s meticulous gift-wrapping gene. But if it’s something that could be easily wrapped, I do it, especially since being gift-bag person means I run out easily. Or I have my husband do it, as long as it’s not a gift for him.

9) This time of year is big for charitable fundraising. Here’s your chance to plug a cause or organization that’s near and dear to you. I’m going with where my year-end donation is going, which is gonna be local animal shelter Fayette Friends of Animals. My parents adopted two dogs from them when I was in college, and the youngest, our beloved beagle, Duke, died in the fall. So I decided I was gonna give something to the shelter that brought him into our family, and they have a neat sponsor-a-dog option, so that’s the plan. My apartment doesn’t allow pets, so between my relatives’ and friends’ animals and this, I’m gonna live vicariously.

Friday 5: Finding a Way

  1. What’s something you’ve been unable to find? The damn prepaid card to use the laundry in our building. I keep on a little shelf mounted on the wall next to the door  and I always put it there when I’m done, but I must not have done that last week because it’s not there and we can’t find it.
  2. How’s your sense of direction? Okay. I can generally get to where I need to be.
  3. How good are you at sitting still? It depends. I can be a fidgeter, but I haven’t really noticed myself doing it a lot lately. I do think I play with my hair a lot more than I notice while I’m reading, watching movies, etc.
  4. What’s something your parents always said you needed to get better at? Nothing stands out that they said to get better at, but I remember cleaning always being a thing. I didn’t keep my room very clean.
  5. In what way are you a better person today than you were ten years ago? 10 years ago, I would’ve been 18. I do still think I was a pretty mature, responsible teen, and I think I’m still that and have grown into it more. I’m not as in secure–somewhere in my late teens an early 20s, I went through a rough bit of what I look back on now and think was probably a depression, and insecurity and low self-esteem was a huge factor until my early 20s, about until I had a nasty falling out with some friends and was at a really low point and built myself back up from there. I’m better with money now, partly because I have to be because I’m paying the bills but also because you just learn. My husband and I always say everyone makes a couple really dumb decisions with money, whether it’s not prioritizing or getting hit with some late fees, and that’s normally all it takes to make some better habits. I’m more generous, partly because I can be. I’m more informed and politically involved.

As always, from Friday 5.

Finally, after years of rarely socializing with each other’s co-workers, Paul and I accidentally crammed it all into one weekend.

First, his. Now, I’ve been invited out with his co-workers a few times now, but they manage to always do it when I have articles due–and it doesn’t help that I volunteer to take big chunks of articles revolving around holidays that have staggered due dates such that I’m almost always working on them. I’ll probably have a few weeks’ break, if that, before I throw myself into Valentine’s Day ones after I finish New Year’s. And though I’m in the middle of those, I had the whole weekend to finish them, so I tagged along on Friday night. It also meant we paid a visit to a local bar, and we’re kind of not too familiar with those outside of a few restaurants. So it was kind of good to know where we could go if we want a drink and bar food. And his co-workers were pretty fun. We ended up staying a couple hours, at which point Paul went to hang out further with one he’s closer to and I did the responsible thing and went home to get something productive done.

On Saturday, it was my company Christmas party, and we haven’t have a proper one in the few years I’ve been working there. Apparently, it was something they used to do, but as long as I’ve been there, it’s been a conference-room potluck. Now that we have a new parent company, it seems to be something we’re returning to–or at least I hope so, because it was a pretty good time. They had it at a nice hotel in Pittsburgh and although not a lot of our department went, it was pretty full of people I do know, and most of the crew I eat lunch with was there. We were all joking about actually interacting for once, since we’re on computers all day, and how Monday morning would come and we’d be back to barely speaking if we’re on different shifts or work on opposite sides of the room. And that pretty much held true, but I think we all had fun.

One of our dance instructors is dating one of my co-workers, so he pulled me out on the dance floor a couple times. And we saw him teaching a few others, too, and kept joking whenever we saw him that he was on the prowl for someone new to dance with. And then he showed off with a salsa.

The highlight for us, though, was a supervisor who had just enough to drink to hilariously shatter his quiet, reserved workplace demeanor. We loved it. It was the best.

I had more fun than I thought I would in the end. I mean, I definitely expected to have fun, just not quite as much as I did have.

Saturday 9: My Church

Saturday 9: My Church (2016)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) This song is about a woman who loves singing along with her car radio. Is that something you enjoy? Oh, yeah. By myself, I belt.

2)  The video begins with Maren Morris finishing her cigarette before getting behind the wheel. Do you allow smoking in your car? I’ve never driven with a passenger who smokes. I might consider it once or twice, but if I was regularly driving someone who was a heavy smoker, I’d probably deny them. I don’t want my car smelling, and exposure to lots of cigarette smoke bothers my sinuses.

3) In this song, Maren admits she’s lied. What’s the last fib you told? Can’t remember. I don’t really lie.

4) She mentions having her radio on the FM dial. Are you loyal to a single radio station? Or do you spin the dial? I have a few stations programmed in my car that I like and tend to stick to. I spin between them, but I don’t really scan outside of those unless I’m traveling and my go-tos aren’t coming in.

5) Maren was inspired to write this song while on a long car trip from Nashville to Los Angeles. When do you get your best ideas? (In the shower, behind the wheel, over lunch with friends …) In the shower, but not early-morning showers getting ready for work. Or when I’m lying down trying to sleep. I’m a writer who only dabbles in fiction, but some of my better fiction ideas have come from dreams. With my creative nonfiction, it’s not so much ideas but something clicks on how to handle a certain subject, and the tends to come hard and fast after reading writing I’m really impressed by. It happens a lot after I go to public readings.

6) She performed this song on Saturday Night Live last year. The host that week was John Cenna. Do you follow professional wrestling? I don’t, but after seeing some episodes of Lucha Underground at my job, I totally get the appeal. It’s so entertaining.

7) In 2016, when this song was popular, Alex Rodriguez played his final Major League Baseball game. He has embarked on a second career as a broadcaster. Would you be comfortable on camera? Probably, after a brief period of getting used to it. Whether I’d be good at it is a totally different consideration, and I definitely wouldn’t want to ever watch myself back.

8) A 2016 study revealed that 43% of Americans own mutual funds, many in their 401(k)s and IRAs. Are you involved in the stock market? Not actively, but that is where my retirement savings is going. I’ve been meaning to sit down with my mom, an accountant, and look over it to make sure things are going where I’d want them to and I’m getting as much out of it as I can.

9) Random question: You have something awkward and embarrassing that you simply must tell a pal. You know your friend will not be happy with the news. Would you prefer to deliver it by email, in a phone call, or face to face? I mean, if it’s something I can’t really keep to myself, I do it in a text or some sort of other message. Plus that way you’re spared the full brunt of the reaction if it’s really bad. Although if it’s the kind of story that would be kind of funny in person, save it.