So this showed up in my Timehop this morning:


Well, that answers the question raised in yesterday’s post: according to my old tweet, the last (and probably only other) time I got my Christmas Cards done early was 8 years ago.

So that got me thinking. I was curious if there were any similarities between December of 2009 and now that would explain why I managed to get them done that year. I knew I was living in Seattle at the time and was also working on my book so perhaps that had something to do with it? Maybe my momentum from writing carried over to my greeting card correspondence? I was also working at a bookstore at the time so could that have helped? Perhaps I’d had a set enough schedule (like I do now) that facilitated my being productive?

Fortunately I’ve been doing Morning Pages (a la “The Artists Way“) since I first went to Japan in 2003 so I have an entire shelf of notebooks detailing the last 14 years of my life. I figured I’d just go reread my entry from that time, figure out the parallels between then and now, and then do a cool blog post about it.

I first sensed something was up when I noticed the label on the spine of the notebook I was looking for read “1/29/2009 – 1/19/2012”. 3 years in one journal? I usually fill 2 or 3 notebooks a year! Maybe it was a typo?

But, when I flipped through the pages, I realized it wasn’t a typo. In 2009, I did a grand total of 9 entries, the last being in October. Then there was a 5-month gap (right over the date I was looking for) before the next entry. Then an 8-month gap. Only THREE entries in 2010. (Ouch!) 5 more entries around my birthday in April of 2011 and then a small gap before I started journaling regularly again from June 23rd, 2011, the day after I was hired in a job that would get me out of Seattle, also the day after a 2-year relationship ended.

I don’t know why I stopped doing my journals shortly after the start of 2009. I think that was around the time when I really started to focus on writing my book. I guess I thought that time spent writing in journals was not time spent working on my book so I just stopped doing them. In retrospect, a terrible idea. I didn’t know at the time how important self-care and self-reflection was. That could explain why I was always so depressed in Seattle. (Well, that and 10 months of rain.)

As far as I can tell, I pretty much put my whole life on hold for a year or two. Maybe that’s why I managed to get my Christmas Cards done on time.

While I’m sad for the time I lost, I’m grateful that I’m now in the much healthier position to be able to write and work and do Christmas cards… and still have a life.


Christmas Miracle

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever gotten all of my greeting cards sent/Christmas shopping done before December 25th pretty much my entire life. If I ever managed to get them completed at all (which was very rare), they wouldn’t arrive to the receiver until mid-to-late January, always with an excuse about how busy I’ve been. “That’s life [as a server/in a theme park/on a cruise ship]! Holidays are our busy time! But hey, better late that never!”

I never wanted my Christmas cards and presents to be late but I guess my intentions were always too good, my sights too high. Despite being legitimately busy during the holidays, I had grandiose plans of sending handwritten cards and specially crafted gifts to everyone on my ever-increasing, meticulously curated lists of friends and coworkers from all around the world. But, like so many things in my past, I’d unwittingly set myself up for failure and, once I did inevitably fail, I’d beat myself up over it because the reason was never that I’d set unrealistic goals but because I wasn’t focused enough, organized enough, disciplined enough.

So I worked on getting organized and narrowing my focus and finding some discipline yet, while it got me better at managing the process of being overwhelmed, it never helped me complete anything.

But this past year, my attitude changed. My plans evolved. It stopped being about completing a series of (much too) big projects, and instead picking a direction towards a goal and then just doing what I could that moved me towards that destination.

I’ve read somewhere that, in the desert, a place where everything can look the same, large metal barrels have been placed a certain distant apart so that, when one drives past a barrel, then next one is just visible on the horizon. To get across the desert, one doesn’t have to know the entire route, one only has to see as far as the next barrel. That’s how I’ve been treating things. And it seems to have been working.

As a result, despite all the crap that’s happened in the past 12 months, it’s been one of my most productive years yet: I advanced to the top at work, I’ve restarted a blog, I literally helped “Save the Cat” and, as of this afternoon, I got all my Christmas stuff done BEFORE Christmas.


The Gift of Gifts

It’s as easy to get caught up in consumerism around the holidays as it is to roll your eyes at those who do. The Christmas Season now starts days before Thanksgiving and, at some stores and theme parks, lasts until the end of the first week of January. People say that we’ve lost the true meaning of Christmas but I’d argue that there was probably never a “true” one to begin with. What began as a pagan winter holiday became co-opted by Christians only to be co-opted by companies trying to sell you something. And it’s all this commercialism that can turn people off. But, please don’t be mad at the gifts.

Gifts can be important. Gifts can show that you care, or that you’re cared about. Gifts don’t have to be extravagant or expensive to be special. And, even if you don’t like what you’ve been given, it shouldn’t negate the act of the giving. Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“, believes that the giver’s joy happens the moment the gift is given. (Hence her also believing one shouldn’t feel guilty about throwing out or regifting items you don’t want. Considering she comes from Japan – a country with omiyage, or “obligational gifts” – this is probably not a bad idea!)

Anyways, gifts were a big part of making today special. I gave two small, simple gifts at work which helped ease some long-running tensions and, later, a coworker gave my fiancé and me the most incredible of hand-made gifts. And it turns out she got as much joy out of making those gifts as we did from receiving them. At a time when most people only seem to care about themselves, and being selfish is about to become law in this country, I’m grateful for days like today.

Hey Man, I’m Just Talkin’ About SHAFT

Moved to Los Angeles.
Despite overwhelming odds, managed to get job in entertainment industry.
Despite overwhelming odds, found soul mate in fellow performer.
Despite overwhelming odds, both of us got steady work as performers.
Got engaged.
Next year, we’ll be married and finally earning a good living as performers.

[opens Hollywood Reporter]

Study: New Tax Bill “Shafts” Working Entertainers But Stars Are Untouched | Hollywood Reporter

A married couple, both performers, who earned about $65,000 (or about $32,000 each) paid $1,228 in taxes but would have owed $4,535 under the new law, an increase of $3,307 or 269 percent. In other words, their taxes nearly quadrupled.

Well, shit.

Can’t Sleep. Mud Will Eat Me.

can't sleep

I heard something both fascinating and horrifying today.

I’ve been listening to “Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History” podcast lately and today I finished part 5 of his 6-episode WWI series “Blueprint for Armageddon”. Near the end of the episode, he started talking about the “Battle of Passchendaele” and how the rain had turned the barren battlefield into thick, soupy mud in which many soldiers ended up drowning.

He then quotes the following passage from Adam Hochschild’s “To End All Wars“:

A party of ‘A’ Company men passing up to the front line found … a man bogged to above the knees,” remembered Major C. A. Bill of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. “The united efforts of four of them, with rifles beneath his armpits, made not the slightest impression, and to dig, even if shovels had been available, would be impossible, for there was no foothold. Duty compelled them to move on up to the line, and when two days later they passed down that way the wretched fellow was still there; but only his head was now visible and he was raving mad.”

I’ll just be over here having nightmares.

My Top Songs of 2017

I was recently inspired by a few bloggers sharing Year-End lists of their favorite books and movies and I wanted to do the same here but, while this past year was great for me advancing at work, sadly, it wasn’t the best for watching movies or reading books.

I suppose I could go back through my Netflix history to see what all I ended up watching but, if nothing is immediately coming to mind, it certainly doesn’t seem worthy to blog about. Even worse was how few books I finished in 2017. At the start of the year, I shared this “Reading for Fun Challenge” with my fiancé and, while she’s halfway through her last book on the list, I didn’t get a single check mark. Embarrassing. I know I can’t be a good writer if I’m not reading so I’m really hoping to make that a focus in 2018.

But, one thing I DID do this past year was listen to music. A lot of music. Records and MP3s and a few cassettes and, according to an email I got recently, just shy of 40,000 minutes on Spotify.

While I don’t love the direction that Spotify has been going this past year, ESPECIALLY with their iPhone App, I have embraced having such a large library of music at my disposal. So, let’s review what, according to my listening habits on Spotify, were my Top Songs of 2017!


My Top Album of 2017:  Struts – Everybody Wants

I realize this album originally came out in 2014 and was reissued last year but I only discovered it this year (thanks to my brother) and couldn’t get enough of it.

My Top 10 New Songs of 2017 (in no particular order):

My Top Song That I Didn’t Discover Until 2017:  Hall & Oates – It’s Uncanny

My Top Movie Score of 2017:  John Ottman/David Buckley – The Nice Guys Score

My Top Audiobook of 2017:  Jocks Willnick – Discipline Equals Freedom

Spotify made me a playlist of my top songs but it was full of tracks that were work-related, movie scores (which I use for writing) or were audiobooks. So I’ve made a playlist of just songs that I started listening to in 2017.