Thanks, Autocorrect

On Friday, I received the following text from my dad:

Dad: You failed me.

My heart sank into my stomach when I read it.  I’m very close to my family but we’ve had our share of clashes this year, so when I read it, I immediately thought, I must have done something wrong again.

I texted back:

Me:  What do you mean, Daddy?

I waited nervously for a couple of minutes. Then the phone rang.  It was my dad, and he was laughing.  I had accidentally dialed him about ten minutes before, so he had meant to text me “You dialed me.”  But Autocorrect made some assumptions and decided to send another message, instead.

Thanks, Autocorrect!


My Brother is Officially a College Graduate

Yesterday, my brother graduated from college. Now for a lot of people, graduating from college is not a surprise; it’s expected. My graduating from college was as predictable as watching the sun set every day. I always liked school and was a fairly decent student, so I never imagined my future without having a college degree.

Not my brother.

Ever since my brother was little, he did not like school. At all.  Even in kindergarten, he would beg my mom not to let him go.  He was very disinterested in things like deadlines and assignments.  And once he figured out the social aspects of school, forget it.  My parents learned to lower their expectations with his grades.  One time I brought home a low B in economics, and my dad asked me, “What happened?” But with Patrick, I think they were just relieved when he passed every year.

But here’s the thing – I’m fairly certain that if you gave us each an IQ test, I would test as having an average intelligence, but my brother?  He’d be borderline genius/Mensa level, guaranteed.  He’s so ridiculously smart, so much smarter than I could ever be.  And I think that’s partially why he never cared about school – he was never really challenged. He was bored. If Patrick liked a class and was challenged, like computer programming, he did really well and would make A’s.

The whole time Pat was in college, it was easy to see that he did not want to be there.  He nearly dropped out a couple of times.  Last year was the closest call, but my mother managed to convince him to wait one more year. And he did.  I’m proud of my brother for many things, but I’m especially proud that he persevered and got his diploma.  He stuck it out and got a Bachelor’s degree in business and Management Information Systems.

This morning, my parents and I were in a state of shock.  When I got the program this morning, I turned to the College of Business page and looked at the list to see my brother’s name. It was surreal seeing his name there.

While we were waiting this morning for him to go on stage, some thank you videos from the graduates were playing to keep the audience entertained.  Then Pat’s popped up.  He thanked my parents and me for always supporting him.  Tears were shed.  Then I watched him filing in with the other graduates and felt so, so proud.  When they called his name on stage, my heart swelled.  He did it.  He really did it.

When we were growing up and my parents wanted to congratulate us for a big accomplishment, they would wake us up by playing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” (which partially explains why I love Queen so much).  My dad played it this morning for Pat, and I am posting it here in his honor.

Congratulations, dude. You did it.  I am so, so proud of you.

What Are We Really Celebrating?

When I was a little girl, I would go over a friend’s house and see an inordinate amount of presents under their tree while on Christmas Day, Pat and I would get one or two presents.  As a child, I couldn’t help wondering why some children had a lot of gifts under their tree, and we didn’t.  I didn’t understand at the time that we didn’t have a whole lot of money, and that my parents wanted us to celebrate the spirit of the season instead of focusing on material wealth.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become very appreciative of the way I was raised.  My parents never defined life by how much material wealth we did or didn’t have.  Instead,  they emphasized that family always comes first, followed by education.  This attitude has really affected my life.  I really love the holidays because it’s all about spending time with my family and friends.  I don’t get stressed out buying gifts for a bunch of people I don’t care about. I only buy gifts for my family.  Not even my closest friends and I exchange gifts.  We all know that we love each other; we don’t have to buy each other gifts to prove it.  Spending time together during the holidays is all we need.

I am writing this post because I’m completely disgusted by the rampant materialism and commercialism that has consumed this country.  What an embarrassment it is to log into Youtube and see ridiculous videos of people acting like monsters at a Walmart, tearing up displays because something is on sale.  Pepper-spraying everyone because you want something?  Seriously?  Black Friday-type sales really bring out the worst in humanity, and I completely dissociate myself from these people.

Yesterday, my friends, brother, and I Skyped with Tap’s sister, a writer who travels the globe.  She is currently in Turkey, and she said that while the news was reporting serious issues from other countries, it focused on Black Friday for the United States.  Is that really what we want to be?

I had an amazing day yesterday.  Tap’s mom hosts a belated Thanksgiving every year – yesterday was our third with them.  Tap’s mom, like my mom, is European and an amazing cook.  We then had our second-annual Songwriting Showcase, where we split into teams, compose a song in two hours, and then perform it for Tap’s parents. Afterwards, we jammed while Tap’s parents watched.  It was such a beautiful evening.

After we left Tap’s house, Pat and I went to jam with some musician friends of his.  These guys are ridiculously talented, and I include my brother in that category. You guys don’t know how intimidating it was to walk into that room and listening to them all play – just two years ago, Pat and I would go out to their shows.  And now I was expected to jam with them?  They are on a whole other level than I am (more like 20 levels above mine), but they were really encouraging with my contributions.  It was such a fun night, and several hours of jamming just flew by.

As I watch people get stressed out over the holidays, camping out in tents so they can be the first in line for some ridiculous deal, I can’t help feel like they are missing out on what makes life really great.  They are celebrating commercialism and materialism – what empty causes to be celebrating.

The holidays are really about celebrating life, love, and happiness with your family, closest friends, amazing food, and good music. That’s what life is all about. I’m sad that people see these holidays as a way to spend money or to get gifts from people because, damn, they are really missing out.

Thank You!

I really wanted to dedicate a post to everyone who helped me complete my marathon. As you can tell, it really takes a village to run a marathon. There’s just no way you can complete the training without the love and encouragement of supporting people in your life.

I thank –

-My lovely blog friends (YOU GUYS!) for always being so encouraging
-All the waterstop volunteers and supporters for both the training runs and the actual race.  Wow, y’all are amazing.
-Dave Grohl – I have never met you, but you have changed my life. I couldn’t have finished my run without your music to keep me going.
-The No Excuses running group for being so motivating and positive, especially on that last mile
-The TRC running group – I cannot wait to start training with you all for February
-USA Fit – I met so many awesome, encouraging people there.  You all made waking up at 5:45 on a Saturday morning something to look forward to! A special thanks goes out to Coach Jodi, for being so motivating and awesome.
-Tap, Shark, Conrad – I love you guys.
-To my “adopted grandfather” Terry, for all the running advice over the years
-My Zia Lucia, Uncle Kenny, Tony, Kenny, and especially my Amanda – I love you all.
-To Patrick, who always had something funny and motivating to say about my training (“I went to war running a mile the other day.”)
-To my sweet Mom, who always supported me no matter what
-And finally, to my dad.  I wouldn’t be running today if you hadn’t taken me out for that three mile run back in July 1992.

My Brother Patrick – “Sincerity”

My brother Patrick recently performed at his first open mic last Saturday.  He put on an awesome show, performing songs from John Frusciante, Foo Fighters, REM, Nirvana, Feist, and Offspring (and in true Patrick fashion, he picked songs that were not singles).  He was so brave to be up there all by himself, with just his guitar, but he pulled it off with a crowd rapport that belied his inexperience at performing. You can bet that I was the proud, dorky sister up in front taping the entire show.

Pat wrote a song that I think is ridiculously beautiful.  I’m not biased. Ok, maybe a little, but I promise that I would think it’s a great song even if he weren’t my brother.


A Regression While Playing Donkey Kong Country

Jen:            Patrick, I want to play now.
Pat:             Wait, no.  You already died and it’s my turn.  You can’t be changing the rules
like that.
Jen:            But you play this game all the time.  I want to play now.
Pat:             You always change the rules to benefit yourself.
Jen:            No I don’t.
Pat:             Remember when we would play Super Mario World, and you would die, you would restart the game so you keep playing?
Jen:            I don’t know what you’re talking about.  You’ve already played this game
forty-thousand times.  Let me play, you dick.

(We both start struggling over the controller)

Pat:              Mom.
Dad:            Let your sister play, Patrick.

I wouldn’t blame you all if you think this conversation took place sometime between 1994 to 1996, but this conversation I posted above proves that a 27-year-old and her 23-year-old sibling can regress back to their childhood at any time with the proper medium.

Playing on Repeat

It’s funny how when you’re a kid, you unknowingly start picking up on your parents’ habits. I can’t say that I’ve adopted every one of them.  For instance, both of my parents are front loaders and deal with problems as soon as they occur.  They renew their car registration on time, and basically complete all the boring adult duties as they should.  My brother and I are the opposite.  We are both total procrastinators.  I’ve found that it’s hard to motivate myself without a clear, looming deadline, preferably one that is less than 48 hours away.  As for my vehicle registration….eh.  I’ve gone three months without renewing it before.  My only motivation to getting it renewed was realizing that when I went home to visit, I didn’t want to hear my dad get on my case about it.  (Yay! I’m turning thirty in three years! Isn’t it awesome how grown up I am?)

But one habit I’ve undeniably adopted from my mother is her music listening habits.  Basically, my mother will listen to a song over and over until it’s dead to everyone else around her who is forced to experience the song all three-hundred forty times with her.  When she finds a new group she likes, she quickly becomes a die-hard fan.  My mother recently became a fan of Foo Fighters (my dad is not excited by this development at all and derisively calls them “Foo Foos”).  Meanwhile, my mother shrugs this off by catching up to the level of fandom that took my brother and me nearly three years to cultivate, and plays live versions of the Wasting Light album at dinner.

I can trace my childhood with songs that she listened to.  When I was a toddler, they were the cassette tapes full of Italian songs that my uncle would send my mother to the States.  Years later, those songs would haunt me as an adult, and I’d type in half-remembered Italian phrases into Google, trying to find the names of those songs.  In 1992, my mother started playing the Grease soundtrack a lot.  To this day, “Summer Lovin'” brings me back to third grade, a time when my dad played his Cars Greatest Hits album a lot and played Wolfenstein on his computer, and when my Uncle Kenny was in Virginia for the winter.  When I was in my Hanson phase in 1997, Mom would play their album over and over in the car until one day when my dad said, “I’m sorry guys, I can’t take this anymore,” and hit the eject button.

I didn’t enjoy all the music my mother enthusiastically played on repeat.  In 1993, my mother went through an Air Supply phase.  To this day, if I hear the opening strains to “Lost in Love” on the radio, that shit gets changed within ten seconds.  In the summer of 1996, Mom decided she loved my dad’s Best of Steely Dan album and needed to play it ALL THE TIME, especially when we would drive back from the pool.  The song she loved the most on that album was “My Old School.”  I’m not going to lie, guys, when that CD went missing (I swear to baby kittens that I had nothing to do with the disappearance), I was SO HAPPY BECAUSE I NEVER HAD TO HEAR IT AGAIN.  But the universe ended up winning the struggle on this battle – I now like Steely Dan.  When Tap sings “Reeling in the Years” at karaoke, I smile, and hearing “FM” on the radio reminds me of long summer days of sunscreen and reading marathons in my room.

As I’ve grown more and more into music these past ten years, I’ve wholeheartedly adopted my mother’s immersive approach.  I will love a song so much that I can listen to it twenty times on repeat and not be tired of it.  Entire albums will stay in my car for weeks as I play them over and over again or focus on favorite songs from them.  I had to take a break from Pink Floyd for a long time simply because I had listened to them so much in college.  If I’m going through a rough time, I’ll focus on one artist or band.  Red Hot Chili Peppers brought me out of a challenging experience in 2007.  I listened to a lot of Elton John in 2008 when I was trying to wade through the stress of living in a new city, working a new job, and dealing with the aftermath of a car wreck at the same time.  Late last year, when I was going through my latest disaster with men, I listened to so much Jeff Buckley that if I mention in passing that I’m listening to him now, I’ll get a concerned message from a friend saying, “Are you having guy problems?”

One of my mother’s favorite bands when I was growing up was U2.  I was always indifferent with U2.  I could never embrace them like my mother did and was torn between hating and loving their cloyingly dramatic antics (like Bono’s performance at the 2002 Superbowl Halftime show, when he tore open his jacket at the end of “Where the Streets Have No Name” to reveal an American flag sewn inside – I secretly loved it).  Mom would always put on their Joshua Tree album when she was doing chores.   I can’t remember when she got that album – it was released in 1987 and she must have had it since the early 90s.  It was one of those albums that I grew up listening to without understanding just how good it really was until I went to college.

I recently bought the album and as I listened to it again, I was struck just how amazing it really is.  I don’t think I’ll ever lose the soaring feeling I get when I listen to “Where the Streets Have No Name.”  I always forget how good “Red Hill Mining Town” is until I hear it again.  I think this is one of my new favorites from that album:

The prose in the lyrics is spare but so moving.  The part that really gets to me is, “You got to cry without weeping/Talk without speaking/Scream without raising your voice.”

I’ve had the album for a week and I don’t think I’ve heard it all the way through yet, because I keep stopping on my favorite songs. Like my mother, I play them on repeat.