Saying Goodbye to 2011

First things first – after nine years of blogging, I have finally purchased my own domain.  You are now reading jennyquixotic.com (yes, I just linked myself. Shut up).

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like an old lady, this year has flown by, has it not? 2010 and 2011 were years that I started living outside of my comfort zone, so I will always look back on these years with much fondness and happiness.  Without getting too personal, 2011, like any year, had its share of ups and a few downs.  It was a full year, and I can say with certainty that I lived it. The personal accomplishments I am most proud of are getting published and finishing a marathon, which were childhood dreams of mine.

I would say the biggest lesson of 2011 is embracing the messiness and chaos of life.  I can be overtly analytical and cerebral in the way I approach life, where each decision becomes like a science project.  I liked keeping every emotion and situation neatly in its place.  But I’ve learned that being spontaneous, going with my heart, and embracing the inherent messy glory of life is really living.

I do have goals for the new year (I refuse to call them resolutions) but am a little hesitant about posting them here. Maybe I will post a couple of them later.  Most of them are personal and rather boring, and others are just creative projects that I’d like to accomplish.

I have a feeling that new experiences are in store for 2012, and I cannot wait to see what will happen next.

Thank you for keeping me company on my adventures (and misadventures) this year.  I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year.  Please, please, please be careful and do not drive intoxicated.

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My Christmas Gift to You

Before I post my gift for you lovelies – understand that my love of music goes through phases of little obsessions.  I like to listen and absorb different music at all times, but concurrently, there is always an artist I am re-obsessed with (I say “re-obsessed” because these are cyclical little obsessions with a fairly consistent set of favorite artists).  For instance, this fall, the re-obsession was with Freddie Mercury.  (What am I talking about? I still have Sheer Heart Attack on constant rotation.)

I think you can guess what my latest re-obsession is.

Merry Christmas.  I hope that you will always be inspired by art, music (Jeff Buckley, I love you), culture, literature, happiness, science, family, friends, the thought of love and being in love, and the sheer thrill of waiting to see what is coming next.

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.

A Trip Down Halloween Memory Lane

First things first – are you all familiar with the site I’m Remembering?  If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, get ready to waste half your life on this site.  You’re welcome!

Looking at 80 pages of this site put me in a nostalgic mood.  Since it is (almost) Halloween, I thought it’d be fun to share some Halloweens of yore with you.

1985

I have a weird memory.  I have to write all my action items at work on a list or else I’d forget my responsibilities and get myself fired.  But I remember the most random things from my childhood – where I was when I first heard a song playing, or memories that should have been way too early for me to remember.  My first memory is from a plane.  My parents were changing me in the tiny stall; there was some turbulence, and I remember almost falling.

When I recounted my memory to my mother as an adult, she frowned.  “There’s no way you remember that,” she said.  “That happened when we moved from Italy to Virginia.  That was March 1985.  You were only eight months old. You probably just remember us telling you the story.”  BUT I REMEMBER IT, MOM.

So that’s my first memory, but since my mother continues to insist there’s no way I can have any recollection of that event, here is my first “official” memory.

This is little Jenny, Halloween 1985.  I was fifteen months old.  (SEE? I WAS BORN A BLONDE).  I wonder whose idea it was to dress me up as the devil? Maybe Dad’s. I love it, especially since it’s a nickname my family gave me after I would get strong laughing fits during Catholic wedding ceremonies (it’s the way the priest would just start singing spontaneously and so earnestly…how is that not funny?)

I don’t remember much of that night, but what I do remember is hiding behind a couch. My sole mission was to sneak up on my dad, who was sitting on another couch. It’s funny, because I can remember my thought process from that time – even though I couldn’t verbalize my intentions, I remembering wanting to remain hidden – it was Operation DON’T LET DADDY SEE ME.  I thought I was so sneaky, apparently not even realizing that my mother was snapping away photos of my not-so-covert mission with the Polaroid.

1989

This was the second Halloween I was spending with Patrick, who was not quite two.  I was really excited because my kindergarten class was going to wear costumes to class on Halloween and participate in a parade.

So when did I tell my parents that I needed a costume? The day before the parade, naturally.  My poor dad had no idea back then that this was just an early warning sign that his oldest child was going to be a big procrastinator.

After a couple of, “Why didn’t you tell us that a week ago, Jennifer Nicole?”s, my dad promised that he would get me a costume.  Back then, he used to be a volunteer EMT on his days off, so he promised he would get me a costume while he was on duty that night. I remember going to sleep, excited about what my dad was going to bring me.  It was almost like Christmas! Would I be a princess?  A Barbie doll?  A witch?

When I woke up the next morning, my costume was on the kitchen table.  I looked at it.  “Super Mario?” I said, frowning.  This was not a girl’s costume.  My mom said, “That’s what happens when you wait until the night before to tell us that you need a costume.” Then she guilted me by telling me that all the girl’s costumes were gone by the time that my dad went searching for the costumes.  He and his EMT partner had gone to several drugstores to look for the costume.  This costume had really been the only one he could find, but Mom told me that he had been excited to see my reaction to it.  Even at that age, I knew better than to act ungrateful, so I dutifully suited up in my costume.  It was your standard red Super Mario uniform with a plastic Mario mask.

It wasn’t until I arrived at school and saw all the princesses and witches and Barbies in my class that I began to appreciate being different.  I was the only Super Mario in my class, and I marched in that parade with pride.

Later that night, Dad took Patrick and me trick-or-treating.  Hell if I know what Patrick dressed up as (unfortunately, we do not possess photographic evidence of Halloween 1989).  Besides being a budding procrastinator, I was already a huge sugar fiend.  I ate as much Halloween candy as I could when we got home, then promptly threw up in my Super Mario mask and all over my costume.

1991

We had a little Halloween party in our second grade class.  It was your standard fare – Halloween-shaped treats, classroom games that the kids loved and tested the patience of all the adult volunteers.

My teacher took Polaroid photos of the party, and somehow, I was able to get one in my possession (I don’t know how I got it.  My second grade teacher was mean and I definitely was not her favorite student).  I’m on the far left.  My neighbor Emma is on the far right, and Sarah is the unfortunate mummy (you can tell by her expression that she’s having so much fun, right?) I love this picture because it perfectly illustrates how horrendous early 90’s fashion was.

Let’s analyze this outfit, shall we?  First, I’m pretty sure those are high tops that I’m wearing, and I see that I’m rocking the horrendous neon colors on my shoelaces that were so popular back then.  I’m wearing acid-washed mom jeans with suspenders – why were my jeans so high?  Where was the flood? Why am I even wearing suspenders? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS OUTFIT?  WHY, MOMMY, WHY?

1992

This year, Mom and Dad thought it would be fun if we stayed home and handed out treats.  Rather than spending money on costumes, we rummaged through our parents’ clothes and decided to wear whatever item we liked.  (This is probably why I never buy my costumes now).  I asked my mom if I could wear my wedding dress, and, here’s how cool my mom is – she had no problem with her hyperactive eight-year-old wearing her wedding dress.  It is a gauzy creation from the 80s.  I put on some earrings and dubbed myself a princess.  (I guess I felt like I had to make up for my tomboy Halloween of ’89.)

My brother decided to be a pirate.  My mom tied a bandanna around his head, then pulled out a gold hoop earring.  It was completely innocuous – the stereotypical pirates wear one earring on their ears, and I guess my mother wanted my brother to have the complete pirate experience.  No one really expected Patrick to flip the eff out.  He was not even five years old, but even back then he knew how to stand his ground.  He didn’t care if pirates wore earrings; he would not be wearing one tonight, thank you very much.  Mom cajoled him, insisting that there was nothing wrong with wearing an earring, that boys can wear earrings. Patrick stubbornly refused.

I’d love to say that Patrick stood his ground and won, a triumph for toddlers.  But…I can’t remember who won that argument. And when I asked him tonight, neither could he.  “I know we have a picture,” he said.  “I’m just not motivated to find it.”

I kind of think my brother would kill me if I posted the picture of us from that Halloween.  Actually, what am I saying?  If I had the picture on my computer, I would totally post it.  But since I don’t, let me describe how we look.  I have my arm around Patrick, my mom’s wedding dress worn over a clearly visible Little Mermaid’s shirt.  I wear a grin on my face while my chin is tilted at an unnatural angle.  (I went through a stage where I posed with my chin tilted upwards, so all pictures from that year make me look like I have an Adam’s apple.)   My brother has a hand on his hip, his little chubby face smug as he smirks for the camera. Perhaps he wears an earring in his ear; perhaps he doesn’t.

Now

I’m going to risk sounding forty years older than I actually am, but I’m so grateful to have grown up in the generation that I did. I really feel like mine will be the last to remember how things used to be back then,  when computers and cell phones didn’t rule our lives.  Halloween was spooky and scary and fun.  The Halloween specials (Garfield, Charlie Brown, Tiny Toons) were required viewing.  We’d watch them while eating candy and feeling the cozy chill of autumn.  We looked forward to watching the Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and get terrified (or was it just me?)

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the responsibilities and stresses of being an adult…but sometimes, all you need is a little walk down memory lane to remind yourself to remember what’s important – family, friendship, love, and the cozy anticipation of a spooky holiday.