2018 Year in Review

Sadly, I can’t honestly say that this year’s review is much better than last year’s, save a few exceptions. I don’t know if I’m still swimming in my grief, having a mid-life crisis or just not living right. The only thing I know for sure: I need to up my game in 2019.

Sunset in the new backyard

Month by Month

January
– House hunting resumed.
– Solidified our status as “best aunts” with our nephew’s birthday gifts.

February
– Had a colonoscopy. Because my mother died so young of colorectal cancer I’m supposed to do this regularly.
– My sister and stepmother came to visit and we indulged in perhaps the most stereotypical “girls day out” activity with pedicures. We had a wonderful time.
– Belinda’s father entered hospice.
– House hunting continued.

March
– My colonoscopy results came back clean.
– House hunting continued.

April
– Lots of social activity. Drinks and brunches with friends, seders with friends. It was lovely.
– House hunting continued.

May
– Finally, after what felt like a decade of searching, we found a house to buy.
– Submitted an offer on the house.
– A nice weekend on the farm which included my, stick with me here, sister’s boyfriend’s daughter. That kid is great and she loves me. We’ll call her W here on the interwebs.

June
– Dual purpose trip to SF: I went for work, Belinda went for a conference.
– Some very lovely people from work had a little get together for us. It was the single best time I’ve ever had in all my trips to SF. I’m lucky to work with such wonderful folks.
– As luck would have it Jason was in SF for work at the same time so we got dinners and drinks and laughs. It was so very good for my soul.
– We did some touristy things in SF that really helped my attitude toward that city.
– Our vet unexpectedly retired. She was Grace’s vet her entire life and she loved Scout. We still haven’t found a permanent replacement.
– Took our nephew to see a movie in the theater for the first time (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom).
– Belinda’s dad died.

July
– Closed on the new house.
– Moved into the new house. My family was incredibly helpful during this process. Special shouts to my sister who helped us pack and helped us unpack.
– Melle was the first visitor at the new house. Scout instantly fell in love with her. We had a wonderful time while she was here.

August
– Accepted an offer on the old house.
– Had a plumbing nightmare in the new house.
– My sister came to visit again. Our new guest room is getting used a fair bit and we couldn’t be more delighted about that.

September
– The plumbing nightmare continued. In the end I’m glad we had the ability to just replace the vast majority of the house’s plumbing (it was still the original plumbing!) and move on.
– High holiday meals with the Z’s, the S’s, the other S’s (including our godchildren) and The T-S’s.
– Sukkot was extremely rainy so we only had one meal in an actual sukkah.

October
– Closed on the sale of the old house.
– My sister visited again. We love it when she does that. This time my stepmother came as well and we had a very lovely weekend shopping for art even though it was 8 million degrees and we all nearly collapsed of heat stroke.
– Had a mammogram that had “inconclusive” results. This required a follow up mammogram and an ultrasound. Eventually those results were determined to be inconclusive too but probably nothing to worry about. Just come back in a year they said.
– Had an x-ray of my skull done for weird medical reasons. I think I’ve hit that age where literally everything in my body is beginning to fall apart/break/malfunction.
– Saw Elton John in concert. The best show I’ve ever seen thanks in part to the amazing seats Belinda got for us. He just put on amazing show. To call him a professional is perhaps the worst understatement possible but every detail of the show was built to give the audience the best experience imaginable. I’m not ashamed to say I cried a few times during the show.

November
– Heavy cycle of grief began.
– For the first time in many many years Belinda and I were together on Thanksgiving.

December
– We got old, fast.
– Grief is just the worst.
– Family holiday gatherings including a sleepover with W. She and I had a great weekend.

Mourning

For four years in a row my year in review has had a “mourning” section. I don’t have anything new to say about mourning. So I’ll just slightly modify something I said last year:

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 two years later it would still be so bad.

Music Consumption

According to Spotify I listened to 85,677 minutes of music. That’s nearly 10,000 minutes less than last year. I think my lack of travel (both long drives and plane flights) contributed to the decrease but it doesn’t completely explain it. I’ll have to think on it.

Spotify’s top lists were untrustworthy this year. There was an artist in my top 5 that I barely listened to all year. So these lists are a mix of what Spotify said and what I actually feel were my top picks of the year.

Top Artists
1. Lee Ann Womack
2. Janelle Monae
3. Aretha Franklin
4. The Avett Brothers
5. Mac Miller

Top Albums
1. The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone by Lee Ann Womack
2. Swimming by Mac Miller
3. Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae
4. Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves

Top Tracks
1. Make Me Feel by Janelle Monae
2. Hollywood by Lee Ann Womack
3. Numb by Tyminski
4. Space Cowboy by Kacey Musgraves
5. Remember by Seinabo Sey
6. 2009 by Mac Miller

Beginning in late fall I started spending a lot of time with both my local public radio station, WFPK, and KCRW to help with my music discovery flow. This is another partial explanation for my Spotify listening time decreasing so much. I’ve been turned on to some good stuff through both stations so I’m going to try to spend more time with them in the new year.
For a while Spotify was excelling at personalized playlists for me but for the past couple months they’ve been really off. So I haven’t discovered much stuff to love there in a while.

Movies/TV

The four movies I saw at a movie theater this year: Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Oceans 8, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I loved the first three. The last one was so bad I am still mad at everyone involved with it.

In terms of streaming I recently watched Reaching for the Moon and it has stuck with me like nothing else has in a long time. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about it.

It terms of television I still think about the final season of The Americans a great deal. Killing Eve was absolutely incredible. We caved and got CBS All Access and it’s worth it for The Good Fight alone. We are still charmed by The Good Place. Salt Fat Acid Heat was delightful.

Video Games

Spiderman got more hype and I did like it a lot but Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the game of the year for me. It’s very much a choose your own adventure game and my hero was a badass lesbian who had a lot of um, lady friends, and kicked a lot of ass.

Books

I read 45 books in 2018. A little off my 2017 pace but I also re-read all three books in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy in the wake of the movie. I didn’t include those in the count.

1. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
2. The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
3. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
4. America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
5. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

I’d really love for the author of The Wedding Date to write a lesbian love story into one of her upcoming books. Her style of romance novel is smart, fun, sexy and feminist.

Work

Next Saturday will mark 4 years that I’ve worked at Slack. I still feel grateful for the opportunity to work there. I hope the company continues doing good work and that I can contribute to that good work in significant ways.

The Year Ahead

In general I’m not very good at setting goals. Whenever I try to sit down and think about big picture stuff for life I kind of freeze. Recently though several goals have developed organically so I’m paying attention to them in the new year:

Money
I want to level up financially. We leveled up significantly in the past few years so we’re in good shape but we can be in better shape and it’s important to me that we do that.

Life Outside of Work
I want more hobbies and lord help me, more socializing. I want to get back into knitting and I think I maybe possibly want to learn to play the piano. I’m open to other hobby suggestions. The only hobbies I really have right now are reading and playing video games.

I want to go to more community events. Festivals and performances, what have you. I also want to meet friends for drinks regularly instead of the oh, maybe 5 times a year I’ve got going on right now.

Those vacations I mentioned last year in this section
This year didn’t allow us much time, energy or money for travel. Buying a house, selling the old house, moving and losing another parent kept us close to home. In 2019 I want to take at least a few trips that focus on complete relaxation or seeing my people. I’m not necessarily looking for adventures or hot new things to visit. So I predict we’ll be hitting DC and maybe Key West this year. Other trips will hopefully be spent rendezvousing with our chosen family. Fam, where should we meet up?

In Albums We Trust: The Lonely, The Lonesome and the Gone

A poor music discovery experience is something I’ve been complaining about for years. Relying on playlists and singles to find music to add to my rotation hasn’t been a winning formula for me. So this year I’ve been making a concerted effort to spend time with new albums or even albums that are just new to me. The key word here being album. Instead of adding a song I like to a playlist I’m instead spending days, sometimes weeks, listening to the entire album it came from.

It’s worked out so that I’m focusing on one album roughly every month. I didn’t find anything in January that really stuck with me so let’s slide straight into February.

The Lonely, The Lonesome and the Gone by Lee Ann Womack

One of the most frustrating things about Spotify is the damn near erasure of women in country music. Most of their country playlists are filled with country rock dudes and that’s just not something I’m into right now. So I’m taking a more proactive approach to finding women in country to listen to.

In February I spent a lot of time with Lee Ann Womack’s The Lonely, The Lonesome and the Gone. Womack had a giant pop leaning hit that made her name in the late 90s/early 00s. This album doesn’t sound much like that. This album is country to the bone and I keep going back to it again and again. It’s got humor, passion, love and of course, it’s got heartbreak.

On an album full of good songs it is the ones about heartbreak that really stand out. That’s because heartbreak isn’t a one note event and the album doesn’t treat it like one. Sometimes heartbreak is a quiet and passive ache, like the marriage that hasn’t been nurtured and has fallen into a state of lonely complacency in Hollywood. Sometimes it’s when we realize our parents are just people with pains and sadnesses of their own like in Mama Lost Her Smile. And sometimes, well sometimes, heartbreak is a song Johnny Cash previously owned now sung by a woman with restrained, quiet pain vibrating out of every note.

If you like country music even a little, you should spend some time with this album.

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.