Makin’ Me Cray-Cray: Words to FINALLY Retire in 2016

Out with the old, especially when they’re annoying as all hell. Here are my choices for words and expressions that need to disappear with the last of 2015:

13. “…and then she does THIS,” or “until she did THIS” or “but I never thought she’d do THIS,” or whatever THIS

We’ve all seen these headlines. We’re all just plodding through this tedious world where nothing can move or surprise us anymore, and then THIS came along and lifted our hearts away from suicide and restored our faith in humanity and showed us that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. It was a hook of a headline, about 3 times. It’s played out, and is almost never justified anyway. I won’t even click on something with this kind of headline anymore.

12. “I just threw up in my mouth a little.”

Gee, thanks. Now I did, too.

It was always gross. Now it’s overused and gross.

11. As annoying and pervasive as the idiotic “hack,” please, please, for the love of all things holy, stop calling everything “passive-aggressive.” This has become the trendy term for anything and everything, particularly if it involves leaving a note for someone who is being an asshole. The vast majority of the “hilarious passive-aggressive” notes people leave on the office fridge or other people’s windshields are in fact rather assertive, along with being sarcastic and/or retaliatory. “Hey, jerkoff co-worker who keeps stealing my lunch, you should know that yesterday I spit in it just for you” is pretty active-aggressive.

It makes no difference whether the writer of the note is identifiable or it is unsigned. “Anonymous” and “passive” are not synonyms.

“Passive-aggressive” means to hurt another through inaction. If I let you leave the ladies’ room without telling you the back of your skirt is stuck in the waistband of your underwear, that is passive-aggressive. Letting my despised boss turn in an important report without telling her about the potentially embarrassing error is passive-aggressive. A bit less blatant, but still passive-aggressive, are the tactics of consistently frustrating things by chronic lateness or absence, “forgetting” to do things, doing a substandard job, sulking, or retreating instead of actively participating. Consistently. Forgetting something once isn’t passive-aggressive; it’s just forgetting.

10. “That’s so gay.”

Are you homophobic? Or simply too lazy to find a word that doesn’t insult a good portion of the population? Come up with something else.

“That’s so straight.”

Hmm, maybe.

9. “Epic” and “Awesome.”

No, usually not. As with “THIS,” I don’t even click on headlines with these words anymore. “Awesome” means “to inspire awe,” like a spectacular singing performance or the view from the ISS. “Epic” correctly refers to feats of heroic proportions or difficulty, or a long struggle, or both, such as Homer’s Odyssey or the centuries-old fight for women’s rights. Your lunch is not “awesome.” A snappy comeback to a fat-shamer, no matter how well-deserved, is not “epic.”

I have become more aware of my own hyperbolic usage of “awesome” and am making a conscious desire to cut it out. I’m so awesome.

8. “This. So much this.”

Stop. Just, so much stop. I can’t even.

7. “I can’t even.”

Sure, you can! Find your words.

6. “I really wanted to like this.”

I’m not sure why it was so important to someone’s sense of personal fulfillment to find a movie or book or restaurant or whatever to be pleasing. Chance after chance after chance, but it still failed to live up to expectations, or hype, worse than wanting to like a new romantic interest who, it turns out, won’t stop texting during an expensive dinner. A desire for conformity, maybe? I find it easier to conclude that I have more discerning taste than the philistines who surround me.

5. Bae, cray-cray, nom-noms, totes adorbs, and so forth. Actually, I can accept these from teenagers, since I’m assuming they’ll grow out of it and I remember being young and uttering idiotic things too (“Neat-o!”). If you are an adult and you use these expressions, I am laughing at you.

4. “My bad.” Your bad what? OK, yes, I get it, you’re acknowledging a mistake.  I guess it’s okay if it’s a minor mistake, but absolutely not if it’s used in place of an apology.  That’s lazy and unacceptable. If the misstep is serious enough to warrant an apology, then apologize. Properly.

3. “Huh?”

When I hear this I feel like I’m trying to converse with a cow. Again, use your words. “Excuse me?” “I’m sorry; I didn’t catch that,” or even a mannerless “What?” are better than the boorish “Huuuuaaaaah?”

2. Random.

Used these days to mean cool, unexpected, unique, as in “look how irrelevantly awesome I am! “ No. “Random” means without design, purpose, or discernible pattern, not cray-cray. (It’s also the name of one of my favorite Roger Zelazny characters in some of the best fantasy fiction of all time, but I’m not sure I expect anyone misusing the word to know that.)

1. Still in the number one place is calling everything a “hack,” although I’ve noticed it has dropped off since I griped about it some time back. I’m going to go ahead and take credit for that.

The crusade continues.

Mick Jagger by Philip Norman (Book Review)

Mick JaggerMick Jagger by Philip Norman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’m on a biography kick lately and wanted the other half of the Glimmer Twins. The Mick half is a big snore.

One thing we all probably want out of a biography is detail, but there’s way too much of it here. I mostly skipped the childhood chapter, but I have to be fair and admit that it’s difficult to make anyone else’s childhood interesting to me. I yawned my way through two more chapters, not caring much about what kind of jersey Mick wore when he finally sang for the first time with the band that had become the Rolling Stones. At that point I gave in to the urge to just flip through the pages. I managed to pick out the sections on Brian Jones’ death and Altamont, where I didn’t learn anything new, although I did see enough references to the Mars bar non-incident to know that somebody’s a wee bit hung up on it. I’d have been interested to read about life with Bianca and Jerry, but I wasn’t up to sifting through all the minutiae to get there. DNF’d.

I am disappointed that the story of one of rock’s most charismatic and controversial frontmen is such a tedious slog, but I suppose Norman did a creditable job given that his subject wouldn’t cooperate. The photos aren’t that great either; you can find better with a Google image search. If you want personal insight and what someone actually thought and felt about it all, read Keith Richards’ autobiography instead. The truthfulness of either book is not for me to know, but Life gives a lot more satisfaction.

UPDATE ADDITION: It was bugging the crap out of me that I hadn’t finished the book so I went back and skimmed through all 600 +/- pages, although I did start after the photos section in the middle, skimmed to the end, and then skimmed from somewhere near where I’d originally left off near the beginning, to finish up in the middle. I doubt it made much difference. Still tedious, and also quite definitely some tit-for-tat in re Keith’s book going on there, so much that I kept muttering, “Oh, grow up” and rolling my eyes at each catty new potshot. The exaggerated phonetic translation of Mick’s singing, such as “Yes, I used to looeerve her, bu-u-rd it’s awl over now” and “Wawld, wawld hors-es, we’ll ride them serm-day” and making “lerve serm-tahms…so fahn” for every single song lyric I came across became annoying as all hell. And what’s with referring to him as “Sir Mick” every single time after his knighthood? Yes, I know he really was “Sir Mick” at that point, but it seems…suck-up-y. I did come away with big admiration for Jerry Hall – now there’s class. I’m revising up to two stars partly because I went back and “finished” the book, but mostly for Jerry.


Your Best Christmas

roslyn via Flickr/Creative roslynyoungrosalia
I was thinking about Christmas in a strange land, again, and wondering if I’ll ever get used to it. It’s not so much that it’s a strange land anymore. We’ve more or less acclimated, the rain and the traffic and the recycling. This will be our third Christmas in this apartment. It’s still not what it used to be. We moved from a four-bedroom home in Nevada into a two-bedroom apartment in Washington that we rented online. We were in a hurry so I could start a new job, so we placed many of our belongings into storage in Nevada, figuring we’d be able to move into something bigger and return to Nevada for the rest of our things in a few months. That was stupid. That was almost three years ago. We still do not have the Christmas things I have collected over more than 30 years.
In my recent cleaning frenzy and discovery of The Troll Diary, I got to pondering The Troll time of my life. It was chaotic, depressing, hopeful, confused, tear-filled. It was a period of my life I had to go through in order to get where I am now. That first Christmas after I left him, The Troll had stubbornly refused to return to me any possession I hadn’t immediately taken in my brief window of opportunity, and I’d used that window to take the essentials. He wasn’t going to give me a damned thing else without a court order. (Have I mentioned that he’s an asshole?)
I was broke. I had two children who needed a Christmas tree. Who is a tree for, if not for the kids?
I badly depleted my skimpy holiday fund for an artificial tree I found on sale for $30. The description on the box made it seem small indeed, but when I put it together in our tiny apartment, it was plenty big enough. I found a website with printable patterns for paper snowflakes, and the kids and I spent hours cutting those things out. I spent my last three bucks on pipe cleaners (if you’re going to be health conscious and politically correct they are now called “chenille art stems,” but to me they’re pipe cleaners, used to clean residue from tobacco pipes, and the memory of the wonderful smell of my grandpa’s pipe tobacco is something PC cannot take away from me). The red and white ones we twisted together and bent to make fuzzy candy canes. Green ones were bent into circles and embellished with glued-on Red Hots candies to make little wreaths. When we were done, the carpet was littered with so many tiny bits of paper it looked like it had snowed inside, but we had ourselves a by-god Christmas tree, decorated with three dollars worth of pipe cleaners and paper snowflakes. More snowflakes were stuck to the window with clear tape. You would understand what an accomplishment that was for me if you knew how clutzy I am when it comes to crafts.

Leonora Enking/Flickr/Creative Commons

We had Christmas. That Christmas remains in my memory as one of the best Christmases ever. In a sea of everything going wrong if it possibly could, that Christmas was an oasis of making the joy happen anyway.
A couple of months later my divorce was final and I had my possessions back, at least the ones The Troll hadn’t destroyed or thrown out. My vinyl collection, some of it autographed, was gone, but he hadn’t made it as far as my Christmas things. The following Christmas it was such a relief to put my tree together with old favorites.
I think about this now, as I look at the small tree we’ve purchased for our small Washington apartment. It’s a pretty enough tree. I have a fireplace over which to hang stockings, and I’d better enjoy it because I probably won’t have a fireplace after we move in a few months. But I want my advent calendar. I want our special handmade stockings, and the special ornaments collected over the years, given as first anniversary and new baby gifts, bought on trips to San Francisco’s Great Dickens Christmas Fair and that beautiful Christmas shop in Virginia City, proudly created in my children’s grade school classrooms. I want my stuff.
I’m learning that this may be the best time of year to avoid social media, for two reasons. It may seem obvious that seeing other people’s picture-perfect holidays should make me feel happy for them, but it doesn’t. It just doesn’t. It just makes me want my own picture-perfect holiday back. I’m also sick and tired of this supposed “War on Christmas,” one of the most infantile things dreamed up yet for people to fight about. If someone takes the time to wish me happiness at this time of year, I’m happy for the wish, no matter how it’s phrased or what -ism it’s based on. Someone who’s not capable of sharing something as simple and universal as a holiday season is probably not capable of sharing much else.

It’s time to unplug and to quit morosing around. Dream Girl and I are doing our gift shopping today. No, it won’t fix everything, but I’ve just added pipe cleaners, or “chenille art stems,” or whatever you want to call them, to the list. Later we’ll have some hot cider (I don’t like eggnog, so sue me) and watch the Grinch. I am trusting that somewhere, in my blahs and doldrums, is hidden another surprisingly wonderful Christmas. I’m also trusting that I’ll have the ability to see it when it’s smacking me in the face, because I still have so very much to be thankful for.

However you celebrate this solstice-based winter holiday, I wish you your best one.

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (Book Review)

Running with ScissorsRunning with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There is some debate about whether this really is a memoir. Even if it is all true, while it may be cathartic for the author to write it, me reading it doesn’t accomplish anything. I see lots of shock value and little else. Ick. Abandoned.

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The Troll Diary (and a bit about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo)

Some trips down Memory Lane are not so good.
I had just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Inspired and beyond sick of the clutter that surrounds me, and mourning the neatnik I was before motherhood and decades of constantly picking up after others wore me down, I dove in. School is out for winter break and I’ve got time. Like the author recommended, clothes first.
I was happily purging belongings, feeling virtuous and efficient, until my words and my wounds from 20 years ago ambushed me. The journal was hiding at the bottom of a dresser drawer. How it had hidden itself so well is beyond me; I last wrote in it 17 years ago and have moved house four times since then. My mood plummeted. It chronicled my last 18 months or so in a horrid marriage to a miserable and abusive man I call The Troll. (I originally called him The Toad, until I realized that was dissing toads big time, and I couldn’t think of anything good about trolls and renamed him. This was before comment sections on the Internet when the word “troll” took on a whole new meaning. But the sentiment is much the same.)
My wave of accomplishment collapsed in on itself as I read my own scrawled words. I was transported back instantly, to a pit of despair and a self I hated being. By the time I forced myself to stop reading and throw the notebook in the trash bag, I felt exactly as I had whenever The Troll ambushed me with some new bit of marital devilry. Now I was angry with him all over again, and angry with the journal too. It felt like the journal had done what The Troll himself used to do, lurking and springing some new outrage on me when I was least expecting it.
But then I remembered what I had accomplished all those years ago, what that outpouring of thoughts and words had led to. I had secretly started seeing a counselor. I had fought through a Shelob-worthy web of depression and oppression to plan an escape and get myself and my children out to something better. I had cadged and hidden money for an apartment and other unforeseen expenses, and lined up a secret A-team of support I would surely need. I saved my own life.


Kreg Steppe, Flickr/Creative Commons
These last few years have been difficult ones, again, but it’s been getting better. Our rent has been raised enough that we can’t afford to stay where we are. Once again, I don’t know where I’ll be six months from now, but that is not as unsettling to me as it would have been two years ago. I’m getting to where I’m once again okay with where I am. I’m coming to terms with some loss and I’m working to accept some unacceptable facts. I’ve taken the time and effort to be kind to myself. With the love and support of the Tominator and Dream Girl, not to mention another counselor worth 100 times her hourly rate, I’m coming out the other side of another rough patch. I’m even okay with a bit of uncertainty, which is huge for someone who thrives on routine and a comfortably padded niche.
A big part of that has been examining and jettisoning many elements of my life, both emotional and physical. The premise of the cleaning-out book I was reading, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is not just to get rid of things that don’t fit. It’s not about clever ways to store a bunch of crap we don’t need. It’s not even about deciding what to throw out. It’s about deciding what to keep, specifically keeping things only if they “spark joy.” If it doesn’t “spark joy” when you hold it, then toss it. It is an excellent approach to dejunkifying your personal space, but it’s even more about creating an environment with purpose. It’s not just physical. It’s cerebral, and it’s spiritual. It’s a way to look at every element of life, not just tangible possessions.
Back to cleaning. I’ve already hauled two big bags out to the dumpster, have another partway full, and have two more full of things to be donated. I can see my closet floor for the first time in two and a half years. That’s joy right there. And when I look more closely at how far I’ve come from being the woman who wrote that journal, that’s some serious joy.
Sometimes you have to be reminded of how much you can do. Let Memory Lane take you there.

Looky-Loo (Flash Fiction)

Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers December 9, 2015 flash fiction prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a looky-loo:

The woman beside her looks out the window as the bus grinds along Third Avenue, twisting her neck to peer toward the top of Columbia Tower. Office workers stream out as the skyscrapers dazzle in the deep twilight. The woman shifts from cheek to cheek in the seat, hands clutching and reclutching her shopping bag, gray streaks in her hair belying the excited child within. No sophistication in her hair or clothes. Her mouth is a little O of wonder.

Oh, to see the city that way again, for the first time. Before familiarity, and other things, bred contempt.
atmtx/mostlyfotos, used under Creative Commons license.

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory (Book Review)

The Boleyn Inheritance (The Tudor Court, #3)The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“This is Henry of England!…This is a man who has been the death of three wives and is now building the scaffold for a fourth! There are no guarantees. He is a murderer. If you put me in his bed, I am a dead woman.”


“Those people like my grandmother, who are so free with their insults and their slaps, who say that it is a tremendous honor and a fine step up for a ninny like me, might well consider that a fool can be jumped up, but a fool can also be thrown down; and who is going to catch me then? “


“‘The clerk’s pen is poised; I can feel the words in my dry mouth. It is over. She is ruined, he is a dead man, I am on the brink of betrayal: again.”

A regal, savvy woman who had queenship down; a vain, flirtatious pinhead just asking to be a stepstool for someone else’s climb to the top; and a jealous, grasping woman scorned; all played out in the looming shadow of the Tower of London. The multiple-POV is done well here with good juxtaposition and good tension among two of Henry VIII’s wives and one lady-in-waiting. I was pulled right along even though I already knew who lives and who gets the axe. Excellent fictional take on Tudor history.

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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Book Review)

A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you love Zen and quantum physics and time entanglements and multiple universes and time slippages and converging realities and 104-year-old priestesses and Schrodinger’s cat, read this book! It is about love, hope, sorrow, the future, the past, the end of times, and being present in the here and now. “I’d much rather know, but then again, not-knowing keeps all the possibilities open. It keeps all the worlds alive.”

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