Puzzles and Lights

Right now I’m holed up in the house on a fine Sunday afternoon even though I had big plans in my head about doing lots of things today. I was going out to breakfast, then I was going to the record store, then I was going to my favorite coffee shop to work on some tutorials on Glitch, then I was going to see Annihilation.

This is, of course, a familiar pattern of mine: rocking the homebody vibe. It’s a pattern that I’ve long been comfortable with and usually just accept as a part of being me. But recently I’ve started to wonder if my homebody ways are doing me harm. One of the great things in my life is having a good, challenging and rewarding job that allows me to work from home. I enjoy it and I am without question most productive when working outside of a traditional office setting. But working from home means I have to literally force myself to see people. Unless I make an effort (or go to shul) I can go a week or more without having an out-loud (as opposed to typing) conversation with anyone other than my wife. And I’m comfortable with that. It feels normal and fine. But should it? I’m not sure.

I went out with friends last night and had a really lovely time. It was a genuinely fun event and I got some great one on one time with a friend I’m terribly fond of. So why don’t I do that more?

When I hosted “Let Them Tweet Cake” I had a good reason to be more sociable than I normally am and I loved it. People have asked for “Let Them Tweet Cake” to be revived and I have wanted to do it. But I haven’t because I’ve been overwhelmed by the details of organizing it. Is that true though? Or is it that my social skills have atrophied so much that it’s not something I can do anymore? If someone said to me “I’ve arranged the meeting space and the date so all you have to do is show up and host” would I say “that’s great, let’s do it!”? Or would I come up with an excuse not to? I honestly don’t know.

I also don’t know why the thought of going out to do things I know I would enjoy (record store! coffee shop! movie!) seems so overwhelming. This is new.

I like being introverted. I enjoy time alone. I enjoy spending entire days reading books or writing letters. Being with people can really drain me and I often a need a day or two after social events to recharge. But right now it feels like I’ve moved well past introvert and am instead standing far closer to the hermit end of the spectrum. I’m not sure that’s where I want to be but I also don’t know how to move back the other way.

The only thing I know for sure right now is that I wish more of my friends lived closer so we could just text and meet up at the bar 10 minutes later.

I chugged the Gatorade

Tomorrow one or more medical professionals will examine my colon. Yes, I’m having a colonoscopy. Today is the “prep” day. Consume gallons of clear liquids and chug a shit ton (all allusions intended) of Gatorade mixed with a laxative. 💩 It’s not a terribly pleasant experience if we’re being honest. But it was colorectal cancer that killed my mother. She wrote me a note before she died full of regrets at not having a colonoscopy before she got sick. She was sure that if she had the cancer would have been detected early and she would have survived. It’s heartbreaking to think she might be right.

So here we are.

I’ve been promised burgers, Black Panther and videos of friends taking a pole dancing class as my reward for enduring tomorrow. For today I’m all about distractions. So feel free to send me your entertainments on the interwebs.

Untitled

Two facts

The new neighborhood coffee shop

1. We still haven’t found a house to buy.
2. A new coffeeshop opened up in our neighborhood. It’s fantastically charming and the lattes are probably the most delicious in town.

These facts go together because the longer it takes to find a new house the less open I am to leaving my neighborhood. When this house buying process first started I knew it would be damn near impossible to find a house that meets our most important criteria in our neighborhood. But now? I’ve discovered it’s damn near impossible to find a house that meets our most important criteria in any neighborhood.

If we’re going to end up buying a house that we have to transform into something we can love? And I mean transform through sheer force of will and lots of Tall Yanqui Dollars*? Then gods damn it that house can be in our neighborhood. (So say we all)

*Miss you Aaron Hawkins

One Feeling

1. My mother loved the song “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan. A one-hit wonder from 1972, that song has no right to be played on any radio station in 2018. And yet. I’ve heard it no less than 3 times in the past week on various Sirius stations while in the car. I cry every time. The ball in the box keeps hitting the pain button.

I Don’t Remember How to Do This

I haven’t blogged regularly in several years. I’m obviously very rusty and this post should probably be called “Hello World!” for it’s newb level quality. But I’m going to tell you a secret. I loved blogging. I loved the act of writing on a regular basis. And I got to know some of my very favorite people in the world through blogging. Some of the friendships I made in the early 2000s through blogging are still some of the most important relationships in my life. Blogging brought nothing but good to my life.

I know the internet has changed, but hear me out: would it be so bad if personal blogs returned to being a small niche thing that allowed people to get to know each other through their writing and make strong personal connections?

This is all to say I want to get back in the habit of blogging regularly. Make me do it friends, nudge me if don’t.

2017 Year in Review

This is the least fulfilling year in review I’ve ever written. So many months have almost no entries because sadness filled my days. But I’m writing this so that when I write next year’s review I can look back and see how much things have (hopefully) improved.

Month by Month

January
– Took a long weekend in Nashville just to get away from everything for a few days. We needed that trip a lot. Basically we did nothing but eat a lot, drink a lot and read a lot.

February
– Got the kitchen floor replaced as part of Project Sell This House and Buy a Different One.
– My sister spent her birthday weekend with us, it was lovely.

March
– Travelled to Toronto for work. It’s very very cold in Toronto in March. I honestly didn’t mind it though. I just walked between the office and the hotel in frigid temperatures and enjoyed being away from all the grieving I was doing at home. I wouldn’t mind going to Toronto again this March. But don’t tell my boss in case I change my mind.
– Got the flu. Was sicker than I’ve ever been as an adult. I was sick for two weeks including one entire week off work.
– Paid off all our credit card debt.

April
– Bad month for grief.

May
– Had the exterior of the house painted as part of Project Sell This House and Buy a Different One.
– Mini family reunion at my cousin’s wedding.
– Some good things happened at work.

June
– Painted the basement as part of Project Sell This House and Buy a Different One.
– Started studying Python.

July
– Turned 41.
– Spent a really lovely weekend at my sister’s house. Drinking, laughing, lying in the sun reading books.

August
– Staycation that included visiting local museums, seeing movies and lots of naps.
– Frustration at not being able to find a house to buy.
– Almost adopted a senior dog but someone else adopted her before we took the leap.

September
– Read Torah on Yom Kippur.
– Super frustrated with house shopping.
– Insurance refused to cover a colon cancer screening because I’m too young for the procedure to be deemed medically necessary. When told my doctor wanted the test because my mother died of colorectal cancer insurance then decided I was too high risk for that test.

October
– We stopped actively looking for a house since we still hadn’t found anything we were interested in. In the meantime we’ve been saving money for the eventual new house. We’ll pick the search back up in January.
– Went to “Boo at the Zoo” with our nephew.

November
This was a month of pure grief for me. I didn’t write anything down in my monthly journal and I don’t have any recollection of things I did during the month other than work and play Assassin’s Creed.

December
– Work trip to SF. Those are always stressful for me but this trip I got to spend time with a lot of my favorite work people so it was well worth any travel stress.
– First holiday gathering with my mom’s side of the family since she died.
– I scheduled a colonoscopy.

Mourning

For three years in a row my year in review has had a “mourning” section. Last year in this section I said “please may 2017 be a year in which I don’t have a mourning section in my year in review.” But here we are. No one I was close to died in 2017 but the largest part of my energy in the year was spent on grieving. And as much I hate to say it I suspect 2018 is going to be the same.

I honestly wasn’t prepared for grief like this. I knew I’d be sad. I just didn’t know how all encompassing it would be. I didn’t know that a year later it would still be so bad.

Music Consumption

Spotify did a good year end roundup. According to it I listened to 94,978 minutes of music. Seems about right.

Top Artists
1. The Avett brothers
2. George Strait
3. Harry Styles
4. The xx
5. Nina Simone

Top Albums
1. True Sadness by The Avett Brothers
2. Harry Styles by Harry Styles
3. I See You by The xx
4. The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Top Tracks
1. Once by Maren Morris
2. Good to Be Back Home by Charles Bradley
3. Astral Plane by Valerie June
4. Love by Lana Del Rey
5. Trouble by Cage the Elephant

I still don’t have a good music discovery flow. The demise of Rdio really messed with music discovery for me. At the end of the year I’m listening to the KCRW best of 2017 playlists and am finding a lot of stuff I like. I wish KCRW put out more curated playlists more often.

Movies/TV

It was mostly an action movie year for me. The ones I enjoyed most were Thor: Ragnorok, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Atomic Blonde and Wonder Woman.

On the television front we fell hard for The Good Place. Other network comedies we still enjoy are Black-ish and Speechless. In terms of drama we basically just watched every single British crime show we could get through various streaming channels.

Video Games

I played video games a lot this year. It would probably be really shocking to tally up the total hours I spent playing. But playing helped me. It took my mind off grief and sadness. It was a blissful distraction.

By far the best game I played was Horizon Zero Dawn. It actually became my favorite video game ever. After completing it I turned right around and played it two more times all the way through. I took a month off and then played it through a fourth time. And just last month I played the first expansion pack.

My second favorite game of the year was Assassin’s Creed Origins. I’ve been a fan of this series for a long time and this was one of the series best installments.

Books

I read 53 books in 2017. I forced myself to read books from a variety of genres and motifs this year since in 2016 I mostly read dystopian fiction. The books I liked best:

1. Dinner At the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander
2. The Heirs by Susan Rieger
3. Moonglow by Michael Chabon
4. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
5. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Work

Next Friday will mark 3 years that I’ve worked at Slack. I’m still very proud to work there and I’m still proud of the actual work that I do. Slack has given me the opportunity to do the best work of my life. I try to take full advantage of that opportunity every day.

The Year Ahead

One of those end of year things came around asking what the best thing you did or the best thing that happened to you was. I couldn’t think of anything for either of those questions. That’s bullshit. I’m going to be better in 2018. I’m going to find some goals, find some new hobbies. Find something to make a mark in.

And I’m going to take some fucking vacations.

The Third Post About Grieving

It’s harder now than it was a month ago. I can’t explain why. But everything reminds me of my Momma now. And then I remember I don’t have a Momma anymore and I break into tears. I’ve cried in bed, in my car, at my desk, at the grocery store, while doing dishes, while doing laundry, while walking the dog, while paying bills, while watching tv, while adding a new key cover to my house key, while writing this, while listening to voicemails. Oh and every time I have to listen to a voicemail I also listen to voicemails from my mom that I’ve saved. And guess what happens then? That’s right, more crying.

It’s been a busy, exciting time where I work and that’s been good for me. Work keeps me focused and distracted from the sadness. But before and after work (and if I’m honest, sometimes even at work) I’m always thisclose to tears. I didn’t anticipate that grief would rise and fall like waves. I thought with every day that passed it would be better and better. And so I had a false since of “making progress” in early January. I felt better than I had in December and thought I was on the right path. Then January progressed. It was like I’d hit a peak in healing and then started sliding back down the hill. I’m still on that slide.

The grief alone would be enough but the full weight of guilt has hit me now too. Though she never said it I know I must have disappointed and failed her and hurt her in so many ways. I don’t know how to get past the guilt for that. So for now, I’m just stuck. I don’t know how to move forward.

2016 Year In Review

I’m editing this just after I heard that news that George Michael has died. I think we can all agree that his death is a bookend to a year that has been completely horrendous. I know people die every year and horrible things happen every year but 2016 has been the worst year of my life personally. And I think objective historians will look back on 2016 and say “Holy shit what an awful year.”

I’ve been keeping my “month by month” journal for years now. I’m usually pretty diligent about it. But for this year most of the months only have an entry or two and almost all are about my mom’s very rapid progression from cancer diagnosis to dying.

In a way it feels wrong to do this review. Because in addition to my “month by month” stuff I usually talk about the music I listened to over the year and the books I read and the movies I watched. How can it be right to talk about those trivial things when my mother just died? The truth is they aren’t trivial. Video games, action movies and British crime shows were the things that allowed me to not lose my shit completely during this year. They helped turn the hurting in my brain down a few notches, at least temporarily.

Month by Month

January
– Had my wisdom teeth taken out. The recovery was brutal.

February
– I got a promotion at work.
– My grandmother died.
– My mother had surgery for a tumor on her sacrum.
– She was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer.

March
– Mom started chemo and radiation.

April
– Mom started suffering from “chemo brain.”

May
– Visited Los Angeles and while it was wonderful trip I managed to have a serious tonsil/throat illness and my mom was hospitalized for an infection while our plane was leaving Louisville. But I got to see some of my very favorite people in the world so the trip was worth the worry, endless boxes of lozenges and the trip to urgent care in a weird ass neighborhood somewhere between Long Beach and Los Angeles.
– We decided we want to sell our house and buy a one story house. That severally limits our neighborhood selection in Louisville.

June
– Mom decided that she would not continue chemo.
– The sadness became so overwhelming. I had to start taking meds to help sleep.
– Began “lets get this house ready to sell” project to give me something else to focus on besides being sad all the time.

July
– Turned 40
– Had a birthday lunch with my mom, Belinda and my aunts. It was the last time we were all together when my mom was awake and lucid.
– My siblings (who don’t have the same mother as I do) came to visit for my birthday and suffered through Star Trek and video games. They’re good siblings.

August
– Doctors told mom that at best she had 6 months to live.
– Could honest-to-god barely get out of bed most days.
– Mom bought Belinda and I a lot of jewelry and gifts because she knew she wouldn’t be here to give us gifts in the future. You try keeping your composure when your mother tells you that.

September
– Traveled to San Francisco for work. The trip included an “off site” in Sonoma. It was lovely to spend time with coworkers and do some work things. I still love working from home most of all though. The hotel in Sonoma had the best smelling shampoo I’ve ever used in my life. When I got home I was going to order a bottle of it but it was $50 for 8 ounces.
– Dixie Chicks concert

October
– My mom entered home hospice

November
– The Wednesday before Thanksgiving my mom went to sleep and for the next week there were only hand a handful of moments in which she was awake and never truly lucid. We sat vigil at her bedside for a week. She died at about 9PM on November 30.

Belinda was home in Louisville at the time but somehow she got there shortly after my mom died and then she got me home. It’s weird that I only have a few memories of that night after my mom died. I don’t remember the funeral home people getting there, I don’t remember leaving my mom’s house, I don’t remember arriving back home in Louisville. There are just gaps of time completely missing from my memory.

December
– My mother’s funeral and cremation

Mourning

For two years in a row my year in review has had a “mourning” section. That could explain why my soul feels so tired all the time these days. I’m writing about grieving my mother in individual posts so I won’t rehash that here. I’ll just say please, please may 2017 be a year in which I don’t have a mourning section in my year in review.

Music Consumption

Spotify did not compile a “year in review” for individuals this year. They just have the 2016 global roundup and “Your Top Played Songs of 2016.” That’s very disappointing and I guess for 2017 I’m going to have to go old school and setup some last.fm scrobbling or something. And of course Lemonade never made it to Spotify so their data isn’t a true reflection of my listening for the year.

So here’s what I can pull together from my top played songs lists and my memory.

Top Artists
1. Beyoncé
2. Adele
3. Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats (horrible band name)
4. Chris Stapleton
5. Nina Simone

Top Albums
1. Lemonade by Beyoncé
2. 25 by Adele
3. Changes by Charles Bradley
4. This is Where I Live by William Bell
5. Traveller by Chris Stapleton

Top Tracks
1. All Night by Beyoncé
2. Hold Up by Beyoncé
3. Reaper by Sia
4. Fire Away by Chris Stapleton
5. All Your Stories by William Bell

Again, I don’t have strong data on my listening habits but it will surprise no one that I listened to a great deal of sad music during 2016. So while the above lists represent a lot of my music listening in 2016 it’s not a complete picture.

Songs that break my heart but I listen to a lot anyway
1. The White Trash Period of My Life by Josh Rouse
2. When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die by Moby
3. My Father’s Gun by Elton John
4. Six O’Clock News by Kathleen Edwards
5. Talking in Code by Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s
6. Everything Trying by Damien Jurado
7. September When It Comes by Rosanne Cash
8. Hope She’ll Be Happier by Bill Withers
9. Falling Awake by Gary Jules
10. Not Dark Yet by Bob Dylan

As an aside, the older I get the harder it is for me to find new music that I like. Part of that is Spotify’s fault I think. Its audience seems to skew much younger than Rdio’s did. No matter what I listen to on Spotify it is always trying to get me to listen to what the kids are listening to these days. I’m too old for most of that.

Garden & Gun and The Bitter Southerner were probably the places I got the best music recommendations from this year. Toward the end of the year I started streaming KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” and found some good stuff there. So I guess I should listen to KCRW more in 2017.

In September we saw the Dixie Chicks live. I had gotten some bonus money at work so we splurged and got second row seats. It was worth every penny. It was an absolutely amazing show. And they even covered a Beyoncé song!

Movies/TV

We saw a few more movies in theaters than we did in years past. Part of that relates to the trend of awesome, giant recliners in movie theaters. Comfortable seats, less crowded environments makes theater going much more pleasant for me. Part of it relates to me needing as much distraction as possible. That being said we still watched the vast majority of our movies at home.

In 2015 we watched all of the Bond films. In 2016 we watched all of the Star Trek movies. All of them, even though some were really bad. I say that as someone who really loves the Star Trek universe. We also watched almost all of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” movies, I think. It’s hard to keep track of all those.

Basically it was an escapism action movie year by and large. However my favorite movie of the year, without question, was a delight from New Zealand called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

If you watch this movie and don’t love it don’t tell me. We won’t be able to sustain a friendship with such a crack in the very foundation of our relationship. I watched it the night after we picked out the casket for the funeral and urn for my mother’s ashes after her cremation. It let me stop crying for at least a little while.

In terms of TV I enjoyed Luke Cake and Westworld a great deal. The fourth series of DCI Banks and the second series of Happy Valley were very good. On the comedy front Black-ish continued to be excellent and we’ve been delighted by Speechless.

Books

I stepped up my reading game in 2016 and finished the year having read 50 books. In the year that my mother was dying I read a lot of dystopian fiction, that’s something I should talk about with a therapist, probably. In any case here are some of the books I really loved this year:

The Door by Magda Szabo
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Work

The first week of January will mark two years that I’ve been working at Slack. Since I wrote about it last year Slack has grown tremendously (I think we have something like 600 employees now, there were less than 100 when I started). I’m still extremely proud to work at Slack. I’m proud of both the product that we make and the values we embody as a company.

My mom was very proud that I work at Slack. She loved the animals commercial and was super excited when one of my cousins told her that she uses Slack at work. I’m really glad my mom got to see me in such a good place professionally. I think she was proud but also happy that I was happy. A few years ago, after a lifetime of doing something she didn’t love, she got into real estate. Got her license, was a serious realtor, the whole deal. She absolutely loved it. It breaks my fucking heart that she only got to do it for such a short time. So I like to think that it pleased her to see me do work that I enjoy and find meaningful.

The Second Post About Grieving

Cremated remains are a lot heavier and more dense than I expected. In “feel good” movies where someone has died they are often used for comic relief. You know what I’m talking about: someone is spreading the cremains (god, what a portmanteau) of someone they love and inevitably the wind picks up and the cremains get blown back onto the person. After handling my mother’s cremains I’m calling bullshit on all those scenes. It would take a big fucking wind to throw up cremains that easily or a really fucking stupid person to throw all the ashes at one time.

It’s been one week since we spread some of my mother’s ashes at her parents’ gravesite. Her ashes are going multiple places so we spread just a little bit at the cemetery. It was a brutally cold day. I took my gloves off, put my hand in the box and sprinkled the only physical component of that which was my mother’s body onto the ground.

Afterwards I didn’t know what to do with my hand. What could I do that would be respectful? I couldn’t put my glove back on. I couldn’t wipe my hand on my pants. I just stared at it for a really long time.

My mother’s funeral was really just a visitation at a funeral home and there wasn’t really a ceremony at the cemetery when we were spreading her cremains. I didn’t write a eulogy to read. I should have. My aunt read from Ecclesiastes but I should have said something.

I wasn’t ready to say anything but I regret not writing something, I regret not saying something.

I haven’t cried every day this week. That’s an improvement over the previous week. But when I do cry, when the pain hits, it’s just as sharp.

I’m not good at this mourning thing. I’m following the rituals I’m supposed to but they feel performative. Like I’m just doing them for people to see me doing them. I guess that’s the heart of the expression “fake it until you make it?” I don’t really know. I’m also not good at letting people help me. People ask “how are you” and I think that’s a dumb question. My mother has been dead for less than 3 weeks I’m awful. But when I thought about calling my stepfather I couldn’t think of what I’d say to him other than “how are you?” and now I know I’m a jerk for not just translating it in my head to what people mean: “I’m sorry your mom died, I don’t know how to help but I care about you.”

Thank you to the people who care about me, I’m sorry I’m not better at this.

The First Post About Grieving

My mother died last week after being diagnosed with cancer in February. She outlived her father by one year and two months. She outlived her mother by 9 months. She was 59. And now she’s gone.

Like many children of divorce who grew up in the 80s the relationship I have with my parents is complicated. For reasons, it was sometimes very complicated and messy with my mother. But I loved her. Fiercely.

My mother was beautiful. I suspect most daughters think that about their mothers but I’m telling you, objectively, my mother was very beautiful. It’s actually kind of hard to have a beautiful mother. Your awkward and gawky years are even more awkward and gawky when compared to her beauty. But then again you kind of swell with pride when people notice that your mother is beautiful. At least I did, as you can see for yourself.

My mother was funny and she had a great laugh. Her sense of humor was a little dark, a little twisted. Of all the gifts I ever gave her I think her favorite was a pair of earrings in which (wooden) human legs were dangling from a shark’s mouth, the head and torso ostensibly having already been consumed. She’d jingle the legs and laugh hysterically.

My mother loved dogs. At the time of her death she had three, all rescues, who are very good dogs Brent. They are just the latest in a long line of rescues and strays who found the best home they could ever imagine with her.

When I was little my mom took me to see The Fox and the Hound and forever after anytime a hound dog was mentioned she’d say “I’m a hound dog” like so:

Her favorite movies were It’s a Wonderful Life, Overboard and Romancing the Stone. I had a fantasy of renting out an entire theater just for a screening of Overboard for her. She didn’t go out to the movies much but she would have loved that. I honestly thought I’d do that for her one day. See, for as much as I’m a pessimist and expect bad things to happen I never expected my mother to die young. I assumed we’d be old women together (she’s only 19 years older than me after all) and that I’d be able to afford the grand gesture someday.

Some days I make it hours before I remember that my mother is really gone. Other days, from the instant I wake up until the moment I fall asleep, it’s all I can think of. To be honest I’m not sure how to do this whole grieving thing. I’ve had loved ones die before but never quite like this. And of course I have Jewish mourning rituals to follow. But I’m finding grief to be very powerful, very odd and very unpredictable. So I guess I’m just going to have to figure this out as I go along.

2015 Year in Review

Though I haven’t been writing here much I have still been tracking things that happen, by month, in my journal. As ever some of the things I write down are terribly important, some are silly, but all are things I want to document and remember.

Month by Month

January
– Started working at Slack
– Our heat stopped working and we woke up to a 55 degree house
– Finished “The Bond Project” (meaning B and I watched every single James Bond movie ever made up to that point)
– Finished knitting a scarf for B
– Got a very nice “you’re doing great” message from my new boss  that gave me a confidence boost I needed
– Got to meet Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg when she came to Louisville. Her book, Surprised By God, was very influential to me years ago so meeting her was a true joy. She’s a very lovely person.

February
– Met with a friend to discuss serious concerns about another friend’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.
– Visited California for the first time when I went to San Francisco for work. I got to work out of the Slack offices for a few days and attend the company’s first anniversary party. It was very festive.

March
– Bought a new MBP
– Significant (significant for Louisville any way) snow storm
– Felt a little out of touch with my colleagues. Partly due to being remote, partly due to my generally being introverted
– Decided to buy a new car after being a one car family for nearly a year.

April 
– Various health and age related issues caused some serious thinking (and maybe a little freakout?) about mortality and aging.
– Seder at The Z’s
– N briefly hospitalized
– Grace turned 14
– Bought a new car

May
– Started writing a Charitable Giving Plan to be more thoughtful and deliberate about charitable donations
– Made plans to go to DC for my birthday
– Grace’s health started declining
– Decided I wasn’t completely happy with Rdio and started comparing streaming services in earnest

June
– We discovered froyo. It was the summer of froyo and toppings.
– Got TSA Precheck. Amazing decision.
– Friend we were concerned about in February confirmed she’s suicidal
– Named a Slack Windows release
– My marriage became legal in all 50 states

July
– Celebrated my birthday in town at an arcade and playing miniature golf with friends
– DC trip which included seeing some of my favorite people, lots of good food and great museum trips
– Confirmed my love of 17th century Dutch landscapes and seascapes
– Led the memorial service for a very lovely person who died much too young
– Found out our house needed a new roof
– Decided to switch to Spotify for music streaming
– Started feeling much more connected to some of my colleagues. They’re my friends now and it’s wonderful.

August
August was awful. I’m crying now as I write about it.
– My grandfather died after a brief illness
– Led the funeral/memorial service for my grandfather
– My beloved dog Grace died

September
– B got a commendation at work
– Holiday celebrations at various friends’ houses
– Adopted a new dog, Scout

October
– Received a very beautiful ring as a 20th anniversary gift from B
– B and I started a new Sunday ritual of bagels, coffee and the New York times and it’s really really lovely

November
– Started taking Scout to doggie daycare sometimes because he needs an outlet to get his energy out while I’m working
– Got new chairs for The Listening Room and they are amazing. It’s now a perfect room to sit in while reading and listening to records
– Emergency dental visit which confirmed I need to have oral surgery
– Met with oral surgeon who lived up to every stereotype you’ve ever heard about surgeons. I found another surgeon to perform my procedure
– Went to the Slack mothership in San Francisco. It was really lovely to be in the office for a few days but it also made me appreciate my remote home-office situation.

December
– Received an internal award at work and it was extremely gratifying and came with an epic illustration of me holding a no beets sign and Scout wearing a Slack coat
– Scheduled my oral surgery
– Fourth night of Hanukkah at the nursing home again

Music Consumption

Since I switched from Rdio to Spotfy halfway through the year and Rdio closed shop at the end of the year my listening statistics aren’t as accurate as they’d been in years past.

However Spotify’s year end wrap up had a mostly accurate overview of my listening habits.

Top Artists
1. Nina Simone
2. Hozier
3. Johann Johannsson
4. Sam Hunt
5. Coldplay

Top Albums
1. Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
2. Hozier by Hozier
3. Montevello by Sam Hunt
4. Coming by Leon Bridges
5. Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes

Along with several of my friends I became (and am still) obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack. It’s amazing and I can’t wait for the day I can see the play in person.

Top Tracks
1. Earned It by The Weekend
2. Show Me Love by Sam Feldt
3. A Sky full of Stars by Coldplay
4. Believe by Mumford and Sons
5. Single for the Summer by Sam Hunt

The track data is a bit skewed because during July and August I drove back and forth to my hometown quite a bit and was in such a funk I just had one driving playlist on repeat each time I went. The tracks that Spotify lists as my “Top Tracks” were all on that playlist.

So with that in mind here are top tracks not based on Spotify data but what songs I remember listening to and remember being important to me:

1. From Eden by Hozier
2. When We Were Young by Adele
3. Both Sides Now (Both Sides Now album version) – Joni Mitchell
4. A Song for You*
5. Here Comes the Sun – Nina Simone

* I have a playlist that consists of nothing but different versions of “A Song for You” and I play it often. Donny Hathaway, Ray Charles, Amy Winehouse and Willie Nelson are all on it.

Movies/TV

Our trend of not going to movie theaters continued. We watched a lot of movies at home but I didn’t keep a list other than all the Bond movies.

We watched a lot of British crime dramas this year. Like all of them I think.

Books

I read 35 books this year, far short of my goal. Of those 35 here are some that I really enjoyed:

Euphoria by Lily King
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Expats by Chris Pavone
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Technically I read 38 books this year but 3 of them were about dog training so I didn’t count them in the list.

Mourning

My grandfather and my dog died within two weeks of each other. Comparing human loss and canine loss is unfair and difficult and complicated. My grandfather was a good person and had a really wonderful, wicked sense of humor. He had a good life including a 60+ year love story with my grandmother.

I’m very sad that my grandfather died. I was briefly devastated by my dog’s death. For 14 and a half years she had been my constant companion. She’d been with me for so many changes and stages in my life. Life without that dog seemed overwhelming. I depended on her more than I even knew.

As hard as it was on me it was even harder on B. During our initial mourning period we discussed whether or not we’d ever get another dog. The sad quietness of the house led to us deciding yes we would get another dog and sooner rather than later.

Though the timeframe was quick we had gut wrenching discussions about whether we were trying to replace Grace or whether we were ready to love another being the way a companion dog requires being loved.

In the end we adopted Scout. He is as different from Grace in every way possible. Grace was very much a lady. She was a purebred poodle who hated the rain and mud and liked people far more than she liked other dogs. Scout is a boy who is ready for every adventure even if that means sprinting through mud puddles or walking two miles in a torrential downpour. He also really loves other dogs. He likes people ok but to be honest he’s suspicious of most men. After he gives them the once over he’s usually ok with them but god help you if you’re a man and you try to reach over Scout to hug myself or B. He will give you the business with a quickness. He also hates the mailman more than just about anything.

Scout being so different from Grace is a very good thing. We met two poodles who, though they were different colors and sizes, reminded me far too much of Grace. I think it would have broken my heart every day to look at one of those dogs and see so many physical similarities to Grace but not have Grace.

Scout and I have bonded now though we still have a long way to go. We adopted him from a no kill shelter. He had been moved there after a stay in another shelter after he was found roaming the wilderness in Michigan. He was house trained and even knew how to “shake hands” when we got him so clearly he lived with humans at some point. We don’t know whether he was abandoned or ran away and couldn’t get home (he likes to bolt out open doors). We do know he’s suspicious of men and at times cowers like he’s afraid of being hit. So we think he maybe didn’t have the greatest early years (he’s about 3 or 4 now). He has some habits and manners that definitely need improving so we’re working on it, together.

Work

Last year at this time my work with ThinkUp had just come to an end. In last year’s year in review I wrote “Outside of building Menu and Hours, being part of ThinkUp has been the best work experience of my life. “

In what can only be described as the greatest stroke of luck imaginable, my job at Slack has continued my streak of really excellent jobs. I love my job, my company, the product we make and the people I work with. I am truly very fortunate to work there.

Alternative Sheva Brachot from the Great American Lesbian Jewish Wedding

A friend asked if the alternative sheva brachot I created for our wedding a couple years ago were still online somewhere. Turns out, no! So here again are our blessings in all their glory. We had the traditional brachot (well as traditional as they could be for an awesome lesbian wedding) sung by our cantor and we had dear friends read these.

1. Blessed are those who find joy in all of creation

From Wendell Berry’s The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable.

Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.

2. Blessed is humanity in all its infinite variations

Human Family by Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences in the human family.
Some of us are serious, some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived as true profundity,
and others claim they really live the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple, tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas and stopped in every land.
I’ve seen the wonders of the world, not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women called Jane and Mary Jane,
I’ve not seen any two who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China, we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea, and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland, are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ, in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends than we are unalike.

3. Blessed are those who see each other completely and love each other entirely.

A teaching from Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

When I say, ‘I love you’ it has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I’ve seen your kindness and your strength. I’ve seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You’re the one.

4. Blessed are they who embrace their community.

From the Divine, source of all energy, we call forth an abundance of love to envelop this couple. We highlight today joy and gladness, delight and cheer, love and harmony, peace and companionship. May we all witness the day when the dominant sounds through the world will be these sounds of peace, happiness, the voices of lovers, the sounds of feasting and singing.

5. Blessed are those who seek to real love.

Adapted From The Velveteen Rabbit

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit.

Said the Skin Horse: “It’s a thing that happens to you. When you are loved for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loved, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“It doesn’t happen all at once. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

6. Blessed are partners divinely joined.

From Sir Hugh Walpole

The most wonderful of all things in life is the discovery of another human being with whom one’s relationship has a growing depth, beauty and joy as the years increase.

This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvellous thing; it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of divine accident, and the most wonderful of all things in life.

7. Blessed are those who find beauty and wonder in science.

From our teachers Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin: Hobbes, What’s it like to fall in love?

Hobbes: Well… say the object of your affection walks by…

Calvin: Yeah?

Hobbes: First, your heart falls into your stomach and splashes your innards. All the moisture makes you sweat profusely. This condensation shorts the circuits to your brain and you get all woozy. When your brain burns out altogether, your mouth disengages and you babble like a cretin until she leaves.

Calvin: THAT’S LOVE?!?

Hobbes: Medically speaking.